The three brigades of commenters discussing these types of cases
The article I wrote on Duane Kerzic has been getting some extensive coverage on the internet (not that the mainstream media has noticed), by bringing out the usual types of commenters from various discussion boards, which are as follows:
- The “police can do no wrong” brigades
- The “police can do no right” brigades
- The “well, yeah, but he was being a jerk” brigades.
These categories were composed by Photography is Not a Crime reader Brendan Loy in August in the wake of Scott Conover’s story where Loy went into great detail about each group.
When I first read the original piece where he introduced his theory, I immediately related because I have seen those same three types of people in the wake of my arrest.
For example, on at least two railroad enthusiast websites (yes, there’s something for everybody), some commenters are insisting that Kerzic is to blame for his arrest because he “provoked” the cops by refusing to delete his images.
Then there is the old “if he did not comply with the police than he is liable to be arrested” argument – never mind the fact that they were giving him an unlawful order by making him delete his images.
In fairness to these sites, several commenters have jumped to the defense of Kerzic, including a former cop.
Mr. Kerzic should be supported, as he’s only exercising his right guaranteed by the Constitution. As far as I can see, in no way was he creating a nuisance by taking some photos after exiting his train.
What is this country coming to? No wonder we’re losing all our civil liberties! I can’t believe the “maintain public order” mindset of some of the posters on this and other railfan message boards. Would they prefer a so-called benevolent dictator to lead and guide us and keep us “safe?”
I hope Mr. Kerzic gets his justice and his day in court. God bless him! (And by the way, I’m a retired police officer.)
Unfortunately, Brendan Loy, former blogger and current lawyer, has been on a self-described hiatus from his blog. But he had the foresight to leave his archives up where I was able to retrieve this favorite post of mine.
Below is Brendan Loy‘s description of the three different types of commenters. Where do you fall in?
* The “police can do no wrong” brigades. These folks are essentially authoritarians, though they don’t realize it. Significantly less common in the somewhat high-brow world of the blogosphere than at, say, water coolers or, better yet, construction sites (or, online, in places like AOL chatrooms and YouTube comments), they are the people who will always give police officers the benefit of the doubt, even when they clearly don’t deserve it, and will justify this position not with specific facts from the case in question, but with blanket assertions about how cops are “heroes” who “risk their lives” for all of us ungrateful bastards — including for know-it-all jerks like Scott Conover, who have the audacity to annoy America’s Heroes in the line of duty, which, if it isn’t a crime, it should be. People in this category do not recognize any civil-liberties concerns related to law enforcement as being remotely legitimate, because police are, again, heroes who would never dream of abusing their authority (of which they should have more, by the way), and anybody who thinks otherwise is a stinkin’ ACLU-loving, tin-foil-hat-wearing, commie pinko idiot. U-S-A! U-S-A! (People in this category, incidentally, generally feel the same way — but even more intensely — about the military.)
* The “police can do no right” brigades. These folks are significantly more common in the blogosphere than IRL; they are the idiots whose helpful contribution to discussions like this is to make statements like “stinking pig cops,” and/or to paint all police misbehavior as part and parcel of a vast conspiracy. Needless to say, they make the rest of us — those who seek to criticize the police only when the criticism is actually justified, and who otherwise respect and appreciate the hard work officers do — look bad. They also make us easy targets for Group #1, which sees anyone who criticizes the police as being in this group. People in this category are unable to distinguish between actual bad policing and the mere appearance or suggestion thereof, because they never give a “pig” the benefit of the doubt; indeed, they would never dream of doing so. The police are bad, bad, bad.
* The “well, yeah, but he was being a jerk” brigades. There is some overlap between Group #1 and this group, but not too much. Generally, members of this group are a whole different type of animal: instead of being credulous believers in the purity and righteousness of the police, these folks are the masters of judgmental snark with regard to the officers’ victims. It isn’t so much that they always give police the benefit of the doubt, as that they never give that benefit to those whose rights get trampled. They can always find some fault in the victim, and they regard this fault as the overriding issue that everyone else is overlooking. Without recognizing that they’re doing so, they pose an almost impossible standard on the victims of police misconduct: unless the citizen’s behavior was totally and completely above reproach throughout the entire incident (and, frankly, it’s awfully hard to avoid getting angry when an officer of the law is blatantly bullying you), the whole thing is really the citizen’s fault, according to the people in this group. The motivation of these folks is hard to divine, but their effect on the debate is clear: they make it far easier for the defenders of police misbehavior to turn the tables on their accusers, or at least obfuscate the issue by putting the victim on trial and spreading harmful memes about his or her behavior. To the extent that some of those memes may have some validity, the people in this group feel vindicated, failing to recognize that, in order for any of us to have rights, jerks must have rights too.
Now it would be great if we can find a graphic artist to create cartoon images to match the descriptions of these types of people.