Police violence and public opinion

After watching Straight Outta Compton, I looked over the recent violent arrests of black people (e.g. Sandra Bland, the video with subtitles was deleted, but you can always watch just video and read the transcript of the dialogue here). In the movie, a few interactions with the police from the end of 80s were depicted. It is worthwhile to compare what have changed over the years. Also, reading comments in the link above made me think that most internet users do not have a benefit of many points of view. Pretty much all agree that the officer who arrested Sandra is not suitable for his job. For me, however, reading his description of the accident at the end of the transcript was worth it. He seems genuinely surprised by what happened. Chances are, this is his first time trying to give ticket to a social activist, or even just a person who knows his rights. I don’t know what kind of people live in Texas, but it seems that all off them switch into “Yes, sir” mode when being stopped. I would go even further and switch into “please don’t fine me I’m a poor student” mode.

Now let’s look at the movie. The main characters always maintain their cool: when face to face with police officers, they don’t raise their voice, don’t show emotions (though they are angry as expressed in their songs), and don’t resist slamming their faces into much more solid objects like cars and sidewalks. They are not really in the “Yes, sir”, mode, they stand their ground. But they have a very clear understanding that using force against the police is a bad idea. They try to make a cultural change instead, make problems of criminal neighborhoods a topic of public discussion.

Modern day activists also do that, but they somehow fail to understand that protesting in single individual cases is not going to change the whole picture. If you want to change the way police works, get a job in the police, organize seminars on gender biases etc. like Las Vegas police does. I think modern day activists are way too obsessed with their sense of justice towards self, and therefore every person of authority has to treat an activist 10 times nicer than he would treat an ordinary person. And activists would say that authorities ought to treat everybody that nice. But the problem is, it will reduce the efficiency of police workers, and increase their risk at work. Imagine taking your ordinary police station. Now make everybody in that station 10 times more nice. What’s gonna happen? First of all, there will be a slick criminal who will take advantage of that. There are actual cruel crimes that can be stopped by randomly pulling over cars and asking a few questions. Police can stop people on drugs before they car-crash into someone. Police can stop human trafficking, illegal gun ownership etc. etc. by randomly pulling over people in cars. Of course, it does not statistically make sense to pull over single women drivers.

So the proposal of the modern day activist is that police should have two faces: one when dealing with “normal people” who “clearly” mean well – the “10 times nicer” face. And another for dealing with “actually suspicious people” – there the “10 times nicer” face will fail, and police should be cruel but effective. And the logical fallacy of this approach is clear even from the wording: once we split the people into “normal” and “suspicious”, there will be 10 times more offended voices of those who think they are unfairly categorized in the suspicious group. Like in the movie, when N.W.A. was outside a recording studio in an all-white neighborhood, policemen who saw them immediately pulled out guns, thinking they are on some gangster business.

Who’s having fun in the feminist subculture?

After looking at wave after wave of internet justice, viral stories of the abused, I can’t help but wonder – is there anyone having fun in this “friendly and supportive” community of, say, allies of women in STEM? Or is it just a sad place full of people who’ve been treated unfair? Certainly people who got a job, e.g. popularizing science, creating empowering women images etc. are having a lot of fun with their creativity. Some of the internet shaming walls are making fun out of the abusers, which probably makes someone happy as well. But for me somehow, the interaction with the women-allies community did not have any particularly fun episodes. The shaming walls are entertaining, but just as much as they are cruel and blind. I’ve participated in some of the “girl-scientist” projects, where we did fun things to interest them in science. That was a very good experience, but somehow you need to be a special kind of person to enjoy working with kids. For ordinary folks, it’s exhausting! Also, it’s a little bit besides the point, because obviously the girls themselves didn’t know that we were making this event because feminists told us so. We never explained to them how they should become empowered as soon as the classroom stops pushing them into their gender roles. So this event never mentioned anything about underrepresentation of women in STEM, much less about issues of harassment. It was just a fun event, but technically we cannot call it a part of what is “feminist subculture”.

I’d like to point out that reading viral news can be addictive. Everyone of us has an offense-seeker inside, and a very fine sense of justice for people on the other side of the globe that we never knew existed. So every time the news mention something about an offensive statement of a politician, or a harassment scandal – we click, not expecting that much fun, but expecting gratification of our disturbed sense of justice. One can compare reading viral diversity news to cigarettes – few of the smokers would say cigarettes are fun, but surely they bring momentarily satisfaction.

Are educational meetings fun? The ones where the concepts of consent are explained to clueless audience, and such. For a sensitive person, they may inhibit your communication skill completely, as you’re afraid to get into a story. But if you are a little bit more tough, then they might be a good place to meet social justice-minded people. But not a good place to argue with them. Whatever the modern political correctness is, if you think it’s a good idea to point out inconsistencies in it to the authorities who enforce it, it’s not. It won’t be a very good experience for you to get into that argument, mostly because that same authority figures get a lot of outlandish accusations, so even if your suggestion is constructive and useful, they are likely to discard your opinion as just another troll’s.

But if you actually have a troll friend, it may be a good idea to bring him in one of those meetings and enjoy the mess and anger that he causes. I personally never enjoyed trolling, but it’s always nice to feed a friend a tasty meal. Be aware, though, that as much as there are tough-skinned people, there are also actual victims around. If someone is actually getting hurt by words, maybe it’s better to tell your friend to shut up.