Culture Wars Are Fought with Memetic Bullets

Last 5 posts by Clark


  1. bonez565 says

    Unrelated to the post but is anyone else only getting a mobile version of this page?

    Edit: and now it's fixed, nevermind, carry on everyone. Mods feel free to delete this.

  2. No One says

    I think 'bonez565' was referring to WordPress giving him the mobile version of the page. The same thing has been happening to me, off and on, for a few days at least.

    I'd have said something myself but it's not something I can reliably reproduce, and it's only mildly annoying.

  3. says

    The formatting issue has been mentioned by a couple other people (and me) in a few other threads these past ten days or so.

    I come from a country where you are actively afraid of crossing paths with the police at any point (and terrified if you have to call them for whatever the reason). When I moved to the US, I felt relieved that I didn't have to feel the same way…then I started reading Popehat.

  4. En Passant says

    Cue bogus "copyright infringement" DMCA takedown notices from various "Police Officers Benevolent Associations" in 10, 9, 8, 7, …

  5. R says

    I saw the video title and assumed that you were referring to Call the Cops, an Onion like satire site dealing with law enforcement related news and issues.

  6. eddie says


    I think you can still feel relieved, at least statistically speaking. The good news is that most of most people's interactions with the police in the US will NOT result in the kind of life-destroying consequences you read about here at Popehat. I'm not sure what country you come from, but chances are very, very good that the police here are a lot better than the police there.

    That doesn't make them good. People still have their lives unjustly destroyed by the ignorance, arrogance, greed, violence, and power-tripping of cops. Every day. Lots of people every day. But even so, the odds are in your favor; most of the time you have to deal with a cop, you'll come away from it more-or-less okay.

  7. Jack B. says

    I'm guessing Clark has watched this video over a hundred times, not only because he likes the lyrics, but because in his mind, he's working out a prog rock cover of the song.

  8. barry says

    The good news is that most of most people's interactions with the police in the US will NOT result in the kind of life-destroying consequences you read about here at Popehat.

    On the other hand, some numbers suggest you're more likely to end up incarcerated than most elsewhere.

  9. Rick says

    I'm kind of curious what happened the seconds and minutes before these videos a la Rodney King.

  10. Deniable Sources says

    The good news is that most of most people's interactions with the police in the US will NOT result in the kind of life-destroying consequences you read about here at Popehat.

    Well, yes, but the problem is really the combination of two things: (a) the probability is nonzero and growing that even an innocuous contact with law enforcement can escalate badly, and (b) in the event that anything untoward happens, the average citizen (meaning anyone who is not a lawyer, elected official, or fellow LEO) has absolutely no recourse. The police are a law unto themselves and know it.

    Even trying to mitigate the situation is liable to inflame it – if you're being beaten, simply trying to protect yourself from killing blows can be interpreted as "resisting" and result in additional beating, torture, or even fatal injury. And if these things happen, there is very little likelihood that the inflictor of that injury will be disciplined at all, much less punished as if they had not been wearing a badge.

    We are rapidly approaching a point where the police are an active hostile agency in too many cities, one that should be avoided at nearly all cost. Being a victim of a crime may suck, but calling the police to report it can suck a whole lot worse.

  11. trebuchet says

    I haven't watched the video or watched most of the comments but I got what appears to be a mobile version again. On the main page, which is the first time for that. Previously it's just been on the individual post.

    Freethought Blogs had something similar going on a year or two ago, you might see what they fixed.

  12. Stephen H says

    I am so glad I don't live in the US. Unfortunately, however, Australia trains its police in the same way.

    Several years ago I worked with a woman who had recently separated from her husband. He had decided to change careers (from the military), and joined the local police. She asked why he wanted to be a cop. His response? "Power!"

    As long as we recruit people who like power over others into our police forces, as long as we place our trust in people who have not earned and do not deserve it, and as long as police can walk free from almost any crime (yes, in Australia), we do not have freedom. At most we can keep our heads down and hope not to be noticed in the wrong way by one of those "bad apples". Or hope that they will be kept "under control" by a professional law enforcement officer.

    And no, it's not all police. But through the choice of police departments and unions everywhere to treat their officers as always acting on the purest of motives, and the inability to obtain meaningful convictions and sentences for police who do The Wrong Thing, we have encouraged this situation.

  13. Conster says

    I posted this video on tumblr, and someone reblogged it four times. I checked their blog, and those 4 reblogs are the only thing that's on there. It is incredibly creepy, and I blame you for this, Clark. :|

  14. albert says

    The first version of this clip I saw was Hitlers reaction to the news of Google Reader shutting down :) (probably a repost; who knows where the original is, or how to find it?)

    I actually did LOL, because the subject was so trivial. Not so with this version, but well done nonetheless. There are dozens of versions online. Some deal with serious issues, some with silly ones. The silly ones are the funniest, IMO.

    Bruno Ganz weighs in on the phenomenon:

    I gotta go…

  15. says

    @Rick 4:48pm:

    You may be right about the lack of context for a few of the vignettes in this video montage. Most of them, however, appear to show blatantly unprovoked and disproportionate violence by the police against people who were clearly not a threat to anyone at the moment.

    One of the peanut gallery regulars at Radley Balko's old blog, the Agitator, proposed a harsh but quite fair rule for dealing with violent cops: "Jail bed, ICU bed, or morgue slab: bad cops don't go home." Unfortunately, that seems to be exactly what is needed to deter thugs like the two NYPD street crimes officers who initiated the fatal assault on Eric Garner. At heart, cops like them aren't really brave. They usually reserve their violence for people who aren't aggressive or numerous enough to fight back. Just like most non-sworn street gangsters, they can tell when they're about to be overpowered and need to defuse a confrontation.

    The fear of jail time isn't getting through to cops like these, for well-documented reasons, but a realistic prospect of being killed on the spot for serious misconduct will scare the vast majority of them straight.

  16. says

    A further thought on the Garner killing: If I had to choose between encountering Garner on the street and encountering the two cops who started shit with him, I'd choose Garner in a heartbeat. He didn't look scary at all. He was pissed off, and for good reason, but he looked like someone who would have calmed down on short order had he been treated with common courtesy and common sense. The two cops who went after him were a different story. They both looked constitutionally arrogant, belligerent, paranoid, and short-tempered.

    The presence of cops like them on a police force has to have an adverse effect on the broader recruiting pool. The background investigation process alone is intrusive and weird enough to alienate most people (I know this from having applied to the San Diego Police Department, which is one of the best run police agencies in the country). An uncontrolled cohort of coarse, evil cops has to be the last straw for many decent people who would otherwise try to hold down police jobs. In Philadelphia, for example, I'd guess that five to ten percent of the cops are responsible for all of the serious sins of commission under color of authority, but in a workplace culture that doesn't marginalize and expel them, they're enough to negate the good work of the vast majority of their colleagues and to prevent the establishment of a workplace culture hostile to their depravity.

  17. Not Sure says

    "In Philadelphia, for example, I'd guess that five to ten percent of the cops are responsible for all of the serious sins of commission under color of authority…"

    But if you don't know if the cops you have to deal with are in that "five to ten percent" or not, the only safe thing to do is assume that they are. And where does that leave things?

  18. Rick says

    That's a crock. Should we then assume if x amount of blacks in Philly are criminals all should be treated like criminals?

  19. Not Sure says

    If an encounter with a cop has the potential to significantly affect your life in a negative way if it's the wrong cop, why is it a crock to account for that in your dealings with them until you are satisfied otherwise?

  20. says

    I'd say that even 5-10% is probably too high. It might be half a dozen cops. But the ones committing sins of omission is very high. Being a whistleblower is a career-ending move in most jobs, but for cops it can mean dying from "friendly fire." We can't have a system that depends on people taking those types of risks to regulate themselves. There has to be a system of external regulation.

    It would also help if the system rewarded cops for having a crime-free beat instead of only rewarding arrests. They get overtime for going to court to testify, but when Philadelphia announced the dramatic decrease in murders for the past year, no one thought to give the cops a bonus.

  21. Aaron says


    I know the comment wasn't to me, but: I wouldn't want to be on your jury… unless you were guilty.

  22. LJM says

    I understand your point, but the problem with that analogy is that the black criminals in Philly don't rely on the other blacks to cover for them. Cops can only be corrupt when other cops turn their heads.

  23. Rick says

    They don't? Are you not familiar with the "don't squeal" culture, or the culture of always lying to the Po-Po no matter what the situation?
    "Criminals can only be criminals if family and friends turn their heads."
    You're making this an either/or proposition. It isn't. The police aren't wholly composed of sinners, nor are the citizenry saints. Neither population is self-regulating.

  24. bja009 says

    Once a cop has a situation under control to the degree we see here – that is, where they can apply force with impunity, and with little or no fear of meaningful retaliation – they shouldn't be applying force. Continuing to beat and mace and tase people who are already cowed, even if they were violent beforehand, is unnecessary. They should use only so much force as required to end a threat, and no more.

    Cops have to be held to the highest standards, because they're nearly always immune from the consequences of their actions. Giving a few kicks once a person has been incapacitated isn't policing, it's revenge. And I don't want to hear how hard the job is, and how difficult it is to control yourself in that situation. If you can't do the job right, you shouldn't be doing the job at all.

  25. bja009 says

    You have to weigh the relative risks. If 10% of Group are criminals, but their crimes are generally selling weed and knocking down Taco Bells, you might avoid them a little but generally not worry about it. Plus, you can exercise reasonable self defense against them if necessary.

    When their crimes are severe beatings, shootings, false testimony resulting in incarceration, seizure of property, creation of a criminal record, and murder, AND you can't defend yourself without guaranteeing things will get even worse for you, there's a lot more incentive to avoid them even though you stand a 90% chance of surviving an interaction unscathed.

  26. bja009 says

    But cops SHOULD be self-regulating, or they should at least have a third party regulating them. They're immune to the consequences of their actions, and they hold a legal monopoly on violence. We are absolutely justified in our desire to hold cops to a higher standard than everyone else.

    And don't forget that cops don't squeal on each other either, nor are they honest with the enem- I mean, the citizenry.

  27. Rick says

    Also true. I don't know the answer to this one, but I bet if someone researched every incident on that piece of inflammatory propaganda, I'd bet there WERE consequences to their actions. That turgid POS tells one chapter of a story, not the chapter before (as I mentioned earlier), nor the chapter after….

  28. connieboy says

    I find it a bit odd that you say you don't know the answer yet use the phrase "turgid POS" to describe the video.

  29. Rick says

    Not odd at all. Its sole purpose is to inflame people, and as I said earlier, Leni Reifenstahl would be proud, though not of its (lack of) artistic merit.

  30. connieboy says

    So someone makes a provocative music video about a systematic problem in the USA, namely police officers abusing their authority and hurting people without proper cause while typically not suffering any real consequences for their actions, and you compare THEM to nazis? Nice.

  31. Wade says

    The 10% canard is a myth. If there were only a very few bad officers, then the "good" officers would stop them immediately when they lose control. Instead, as most of these clips show, there are usually several officers involved in the abuses and there is no active intervention from the "good" officers. When I read about "good" policemen taking immediate action to stop the bad policemen, I will believe that the majority are something other than another armed gang.

    In reality, we have about 10-15% worst officers (beating, shooting, torturing without justification) and 85-90% bad officers (standing idly by while the 10-15% hurt people).

  32. Anton B says

    Cops should be subject to review and termination by a board of Citizens. Cops should have cameras on them at all times, which they should not be able to turn on and off at will. The camera turns on when they clock in, turns off during lunch, when they can also take their bathroom break, and then turns off once more when they clock out. End of story. This is how we ensure LEO's actually "Protect and Serve" their employers, the tax payers.

    @BaronLurk July 18, 2014 at 3:28 pm
    Along the lines of Stupid Police tricks, this entry:

    I grew up in Ukraine and I was playing outside by my self since I was 6. Since first grade I used to walk to school alone after the first month or so doing so supervised. I came to the US in 4th grade, and until 6th grade was walked to school by my grandfather, which I found extremely unusual and restrictive. You would think that child kidnapping would be a bigger issue in Ukraine, but for something so rare in the US, it's such a major fear here and not there. Such a strange world we live in.

    EDIT: Mods, how do I directly reply to someone with this strange new comment system?!

  33. says

    @Anton B: In this strange new comment system, which is currently configured in exactly the way it has been configured here for years, we reply directly to others in the way I've just replied directly to you. (Any reply you provide will be included as the most recent comment, not embedded beneath the post to which you're replying. In other words, we haven't done threaded comments here, and we tilt toward keeping it that way.)

  34. A.Nagy says

    @Wade 10% of all cops are worst officers the other 85-90% are bad. See in your world you have 10 rooms of 10 cops each, and in each room there is a worst officer and maybe 1 in that group who is fighting against it; that's not really realistic. What's more accurate would be 2 rooms of mostly worst cops and bad cops filling it out; with the rest being a good/bad split, but since the bad cops in this manner don't do things but just sit by silently they don't cause any problems in a group of good cops.

  35. Matt says

    @A.Nagy, that is very true. That is part of…I dunno, the issue if you want to call it that. The worst cops aren't total idiots. They are going to beat down a guy video taping them push a mentally handicapped guy around when he refuses to give them the camera, if they know a good cop is nearby.

    Think about your workplace. I am assuming if you work with a large number of people, after a few months/years of working with them, you know the people's personalities, work ethic, etc. You might know "I can get away with X if Y is around, but if it is Z, they are going to tell the boss about it" or what have you. The worst cops are going to figure out who the other worst cops are and also who the bad cops are. Also who the good cops are. They are going to partner with the other worst cops. If things get sticky, they'll probably try to call on other worst cops, or at most some bad cops to back them up/say nothing.

    They aren't going to pull "criminal behavior" around a good cop. My cousin comes from a big family, he has 4 other sibilings. Growing up and seeing them at holidays and stuff, I knew which cousin was the trouble maker, the cousin who was the constant accomplice, their sisters who'd "keep their mouth shut" and the other sister who'd rat them out to their parents if she saw them doing things*. If the "goodie-two-shoes" sister was around, my cousin who always got in to trouble knew not to do something bad. Which didn't always keep him from getting caught/getting in trouble.

    Vaguely similar principle here. Doesn't make it good, or right, but it really does easily explain how in a lot of cases, even in a BAD department, it can just be a small handful of worst officers, but a large number of bad officers allow the abuses with very few actually participating in crimes/offenses against the citizenry.

    *Lets keep in mind, we are talking "kid things", like stealing cookies and stuff, not shoplifting and robbing banks.

  36. c andrew says

    AlphaCentauri wrote:

    I'd say that even 5-10% is probably too high. It might be half a dozen cops. But the ones committing sins of omission is very high. Being a whistleblower is a career-ending move in most jobs, but for cops it can mean dying from "friendly fire." We can't have a system that depends on people taking those types of risks to regulate themselves. There has to be a system of external regulation.

    I have a friendly acquaintance who is a cop. He started his career by turning in his superior officer – a captain – for hospitalizing a homeless man by rupturing his kidney with a billy-strike – all for the crime of resisting arrest by vomiting on the captain's shoes. He was so drunk at the time that he couldn't stand up.

    Well, the usual police retaliations followed; he'd be sent to a bar fight and his 'backup' wouldn't show, fellow cops would mess with his police cruiser, and, in the grand finale, they tried to manufacture a domestic abuse hostage situation at his home where he was 'suicidal' but that didn't work because he had a brother officer from an out of state police force visiting him. I don't think that they were confident that the other agency would play along with them.

    I don't think that the general public understands what lengths cops will go to to punish a 'traitor.'

    That's why there should never be any such thing as an internal affairs investigation. It either goes to a citizen review board or to an inquest/grand jury.

    His take is more extreme than yours on corruption levels. Aside from the "sins of omission" that you point out and which he is now, admittedly, guilty of, he says that the best departments have about 10% bad cops and that most urban forces sport about 30 percent levels of bad cops.

    One of his pet peeves is the 'punishment' shifts where they put problematical cops on the worst shifts – usually those at night. He says that the very last place you want to put a questionable cop is on the night shift because that gives them the greatest scope for their bad behavior with a paucity of supervision and citizen witnesses available.

    The atmosphere created by the system tolerating these bad cops is corrosive. After 30 years, he is not the same ethical man that I once knew. It's not deliberate corruption; it's fatigue and the extreme downside of any extra-personal (outside of personal conduct) ethical behavior.

    That's why bad cops need prison time. And an absolute prohibition against ever being a police office again anywhere in the country.