Patrick McLaw, Skepticism, And Law Enfocement's Obliging Stenographers

Imagine a local news channel in a small city. The channel starts running stories fed to it by criminals, thugs, and n'er-do-wells. The stories are uncritical and unquestioning. "Local methamphetamine dealers report that their product is more reasonably priced and safer than ever," goes one report. "Consent: is it an unfairly ambiguous concept?" goes another. "A career burglar explains why alarms are a bad investment," goes the third.

Seems ridiculous, like something out of The Onion, doesn't it? Yet we endure the equivalent all the time — news stories that are indistinguishable from press releases written by law enforcement or government.

Take the story of Patrick McLaw or Maryland. Several writers are posing troubling questions about whether McLaw was suspended from his teaching job, subjected to some sort of involuntary mental health examination, and his home searched based on the fact that he wrote science fiction novels set in 2902 under a pen name. Jeffrey Goldberg explains:

A 23-year-old teacher at a Cambridge, Maryland, middle school has been placed on leave and—in the words of a local news report—"taken in for an emergency medical evaluation" for publishing, under a pseudonym, a novel about a school shooting. The novelist, Patrick McLaw, an eighth-grade language-arts teacher at the Mace's Lane Middle School, was placed on leave by the Dorchester County Board of Education, and is being investigated by the Dorchester County Sheriff's Office, according to news reports from Maryland's Eastern Shore. The novel, by the way, is set 900 years in the future.

Though I am generally receptive to believing the worst about law enforcement and local government, I was skeptical when numerous people emailed asking me to write about this. I suspected that more than two books were at issue. Subsequent reporting suggests that McLaw may have sent a letter that was the trigger of a "mental health investigation":

Concerns about McLaw were raised after he sent a four-page letter to officials in Dorchester County. Those concerns brought together authorities from multiple jurisdictions, including health authorities.

McLaw's attorney, David Moore, tells The Times that his client was taken in for a mental health evaluation. "He is receiving treatment," Moore said.

Because of HIPPA regulations mandating privacy around healthcare issues, he was unable to say whether McLaw has been released.

McLaw's letter was of primary concern to healthcare officials, Maciarello says. It, combined with complaints of alleged harassment and an alleged possible crime from various jurisdictions led to his suspension. Maciarello cautions that these allegations are still being investigated; authorities, he says, "proceeded with great restraint."

What's more, he told The Times, "everyone knew about the book in 2012."

We need more facts before we draw firm conclusions, but for the moment, I think there is reason to believe that the story may be more complicated than the provocative "authorities overreact to citizen's fiction writing" take.

But it is not at all surprising that people would leap to that conclusion. Two factors encourage it.

The first factor is law enforcement and government overreach. When schools call the police when a student writes a story about shooting a dinosaur, and when law enforcement uses the mechanism of the criminal justice system to attack satirical cartoons or Twitter parodies, it is perfectly plausible that a school district and local cops would overreact to science fiction.

The second factor is very bad journalism. The Patrick McLaw story blowing up over the long weekend can be traced to terrible reporting by WBOC journalist Tyler Butler in a post that was linked and copied across the internet. Butler reported McLaw's pen name as a sinister alias, reported as shocking the fact that McLaw wrote science fiction about a futuristic school shooting, and quoted law enforcement and school officials uncritically and without challenge. Faced with the bare bones of the story, any competent reporter would have asked questions: is this only about the two books he wrote? Was there a basis, other than fiction, to think he posed a threat? Are there any other factors that resulted in this suspension and "mental health examination?" Was the examination voluntary or involuntary? Is it reasonable to suspend and "examine" someone and search their home over science fiction?

Even if authorities refused to answer those questions, a competent reporter would discuss them. "Authorities declined to say whether any factors other than the two books led to the investigation," Tyler Butler might have written. Asking the questions and reporting on them might have restrained our temptation to believe the worst. Instead he gave us this:

Those books are what caught the attention of police and school board officials in Dorchester County. "The Insurrectionist" is about two school shootings set in the future, the largest in the country's history.

Journalists ought to ask tough questions of government and law enforcement, to present us with the facts we need to evaluate their actions. But too often they don't. Too often journalists run with law enforcement "leaks" without considering how the leaks impact the rights of the suspects, or asking why the government is leaking in the first place. Too often journalists allow themselves to be manipulated by law enforcement, not recognizing the manipulation as the important part of the story. To often journalists accept the headline-grabbing take rather than the less scandalous but more correct take. Too often journalists buy access with the coin of deference. Too often journalists report the law enforcement spin as fact.

That's why when a local news channel reports matter-of-factly that a man was detained and "examined" over science fiction, it doesn't occur to us to question the story. Just as it's entirely plausible that the government might do it, it's entirely plausible that journalists might report it without criticism, analysis, or apparent consciousness of how outrageous it would be.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

Comments

  1. Dan Weber says

    WTF is "HIPPA"? Is it the large-boned cousin of HIPAA?

    While I'm beating up small-town journalists:

    "The Insurrectionist" is about two school shootings set in the future, the largest in the country's history.

    The largest future in the country's history?

    This is what happens when you don't teach kids to diagram sentences!!!

  2. Bob Brown says

    I'm no lawyer, and I've been away from health care for a decade, but unless David Moore (McLaw's attorney) is also part of McLaw's health care team, I don't believe he is constrained by HIPAA. I am very curious to hear the opinion of someone better informed than I.

  3. Angstela says

    @Bob Brown: Logic! How dare you, sir! In my experience, HIPAA has become the giant bogeyman everyone blames when they want to deny you information — even when you're asking for information about yourself.

    In a similar vein, a friend's mobile plan recently changed the "free talk" hours and he only found out at the end of the month when he got a large bill for what he had thought were free hours. His provider explained they couldn't notify him of the change, as looking up the people who had that plan and mailing them would be a violation of their privacy. Har!

  4. Dan T. says

    It sounds to me like rather crappy science fiction… just the fact that it's set in the year 2902 and is about a "school shooting" shows great unimaginativeness… it's nearly a millennium in the future and we still have things so commonplace as "schools" and "shootings" instead of some nearly unrecognizable forms of education and violence?

  5. Mac says

    From the Amazon excerpts, it's not the best book, no. (I actually went off in high dudgeon to seek out and possibly buy the duology, but the writing is really not good, the ebooks are nearly $15 apiece, and I'm on a budget both cashwise and timewise.) It's highly overwritten and looks like the work of someone who might be an excellent writer in the near future, with some guidance and editing, but is not quite there yet. On the other hand, the man is just 23 years old. It would be nice if he did turn out some good stuff in the future — after over a decade in magazine publishing, where everyone and their father-in-law's cat is 'working on a novel,' I'm impressed by anyone who actually sits down and finishes the novel that they start. Let alone a sequel. So yeah, I wish him well, whatever the facts of the case turn out to be, and hope this experience doesn't stop him from writing more later on.

  6. says

    @Anton: the question is what's in the letter, which we don't know.

    If it's a "you suck" letter, that's no grounds for these actions.

    If it's a "all of you conspirators against me shall feel the wrath of my terrible swift sword of justice," that may be a different story.

  7. Rick says

    Sadly having been raised in the in the People's Republic of Maryland and a prisoner until I was able to flee over the Iron Curta…errr, PA border I'm familiar enough with the commissars…err, local government officials to parse their groupspeak (it's doubleplusungood) to see this:

    "It didn't start with the books and it didn't end with the books," State's Attorney for Wicomico County Matt Maciarello told The Times. "It's not even a factor in what law enforcement is doing now."

    …and zoom directly to to the word "now." That's what they might be doing now that they're a national laughing stock…but what about prior to "now?"

  8. Karen Junker says

    WBAL radio just posted a story that had even more inflammatory accusations — I won't repeat them, but the article is no longer online. When I called the AP office in Maryland to complain about the slanted reporting from WBOC, the guy who answered the phone laughed and said, "What do you expect me to do about it?"

  9. says

    The fact that we are being told nothing about the letter in question disturbs me. What was in said letter that set off the alarm? Had he been confronted by some superior over having written/published the books and gone on a rant about First Amendment rights? Was it something related to law enforcement overkill in the wake of the Ferguson shooting and riots (remember, this is a young black man only five years older than the dead man in that case)? Or was it something more disturbed/disturbing that would rightly triggered scrutiny? The fact that the letter was not initially disclosed by any of the involved government agencies combined with the fact that they are still not answering questions about it is troubling and raises suspicions in my eyes.

  10. The Wanderer says

    Dan Weber:

    I suspect that the relative frequency of this error is due to people misparsing it as something like "Health Information and Patient Privacy Act", rather than "Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act". I keep having to look it up to be sure that it isn't "Information" regardless, myself.

  11. Tony J says

    I am one of those that immediately jumped to the not unreasonable-conclusions you brought up in your post. Thank-you for the reminder to slow down and think it through for a minute.

  12. K. Kaprow says

    "Though I am generally receptive to believing the worst about law enforcement and local government, I was skeptical…"

    You may have been skeptical, but the anarchist rubes at Reason.com swallowed it hook, line and sinker. Well after the story blew up in the beaks of the gullible parrots who repeated it, Reason's Robby Soave was issuing "updates" (never retractions, because libertarian "journalists" never, ever make mistakes!), and the ever-loyal commentariat was ready to forgive and forget, because the propaganda — if not technically accurate — was in keeping with the confirmation-bias racket at Reason.

    Welcome to blog journalism, where ethics and integrity go to die.

  13. Patrick Maupin says

    Occam's Razor says that the reporter in question would have probably been too stupid/lazy/clueless to find the book connection on his own.

    Which says that the sheriff gave it to him.

    So the books were apparently relevant to the investigation, and that's apparently all the journalist got out of the sheriff.

    So if law enforcement being portrayed as heavy handed and insensitive here, I think there's only one party to blame, and I don't think it's Patrick McLaw, his lawyer, or even the reporter in question.

  14. Dion Starfire says

    Welcome to blog journalism, where ethics and integrity go to die.

    Psst, Popehat's also a blog that links to and comments on other peoples' news stories.

  15. says

    I held off writing about this when I read about it earlier today because the initial reports are never correct and it sounded like the reporter failed to ask a lot of basic questions.

    But what I found most interesting is how easily everyone could believe that our authorities would do exactly what the article implied… jail a man for writing a novel. And we all believe they could do so because similar things happen all the time now. In fact, I think most of us will be surprised if the government is not found to have violated McLaw's rights in some fashion once all of the details come out — though likely not in the manner initially implied because journalism in this country is just that bad.

  16. David L. says

    Terribly off topic, but just wanted to mention something. I realise that Popehat has a dedicated following and might not care about new readers, but until Ken made this post there where two or three pages of Clark and Patrick trying to tag-team the world. I bet it would make a lot of first time readers bounce. Maybe the posts tagged 'Effluvia' should not display by default? Or maybe just exercise a little restraint in how many you post at once?

    Then again, maybe you want to keep the lightweights out, I don't know.

  17. says

    Actually, it was Instapundit day, and announced as such on our Twitter and Facebook feed.

    Opinions differ as to whether the point is to post Instapundit-style content, to comment on the style, to punk readers, or to gather the traditional annual complaining and entitled emails and comments.

  18. En Passant says

    If it's a "all of you conspirators against me shall feel the wrath of my terrible swift sword of justice," that may be a different story.

    Yeah, never mention weapons, it makes them all twitchy.

    Better to say "I'm already purple up to my taint from stamping the vintage out of those wrathful grapes. I'll invite you to snort it right after I crush a few serpents with my heel."

  19. Narad says

    @Dan Weber:

    WTF is "HIPPA"? Is it the large-boned cousin of HIPAA?

    I harbor no fantasies about the AP Stylebook.

  20. Wasteland Wanderer says

    Dion Starfire
    September 2, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    Welcome to blog journalism, where ethics and integrity go to die.

    Psst, Popehat's also a blog that links to and comments on other peoples' news stories.

    K. Kaprow is a longtime troll who's antics were single-handedly responsible for Reason implementing commenter registration back in 2011, despite steadfastly resisting it up into that point. She has been at it for years. It's kind of sad, really.

  21. Donald C says

    @Dan Weber; My feeling about HIPPA and other 'privacy' laws is that they are used NOT to protect the person, but to protect the pompus administrator that made a bad ruling and now wants the cover of darkness over their actions.
    As with many other education issues, be it some guy denied due process when a girl decides a month later it was rape, or the young child suspended for his gun-pop tart, the educational institutions always suddenly become 'concerned' over the privacy of the person whos life they just trashed. All power, no accountability… what could go wrong?

  22. Bill in NC says

    Hopefully he's smart enough to keep his mouth shut until the 10-day psych hold expires.

    Then he & his attorney can plan their next move.

  23. says

    I found most interesting is how easily everyone could believe that our authorities would do exactly what the article implied… jail a man for writing a novel. And we all believe they could do so because similar things happen all the time now.

    This is "happening all the time now"? Really? Looks like classic confirmation bias to me, or better yet — stimulus and response. Pavlov repeats a poorly sourced and inflammatory story and the dogs salivate. This sort of conditioned response is so common now on the internet that it seems normal to most of the actors involved. But it's a very old routine indeed.

    By the way, when was the last time an American was jailed "for writing a novel"? So many gullible puppets out there, begging for their strings to be pulled. And so many manipulators, willing to oblige.

  24. says

    "…when was the last time an American was jailed "for writing a novel"?"

    I'm not sure, but I can tell you when was the last time a man in America was jailed for making an uncomplimentary video about Mohammed.

  25. JR Nance says

    To date, there has been only ONE article that refers to "some" 4 page letter that McLaw supposedly sent to the schools admin.
    Other websites link to just this one article.
    Where are these pages ?
    Do they even exist ?
    Am I the only one who has doubts concerning them ?
    There are too many holes in the reporting of this mans plight for any type of realistic conjecture.
    The biggest question ….. is he still being held some where ?

  26. L says

    Actually, it was Instapundit day, and announced as such on our Twitter and Facebook feed.

    As awful as Popehat was on Instapundit day, it was still way better than I've ever seen Instapundit to be. Try harder next year.

  27. L says

    I'm not sure, but I can tell you when was the last time a man in America was jailed for making an uncomplimentary video about Mohammed.

    And I can tell you about a man in America who was jailed for criticizing George Bush.

    I mean, as long as we're making things up, I can tell you about him.

  28. Matt says

    But what I found most interesting is how easily everyone could believe that our authorities would do exactly what the article implied… jail a man for writing a novel.

    This is the part that maybe I'm missing – why would law enforcement / prosecutors / etc want to give out the story this way? I mean, would they not realize how idiotic it would make them look? Wouldn't the letter be a more credible starting point for these things? (And then we find out it's some bizarre overreaction to 2 novels?) I mean, you can't discount human stupidity, but…

    Or have I misread this entirely?

  29. says

    The fact that the 4-page letter aspect got under-reported and the "oh noes! he wrote teh ebbil BOOKS!" thing is over-reported is an artifact of how the modern news reporting engine sadly runs on outrage. <Yoda> Outrage leads to shares, and shares lead to clicks, and clicks lead to ad revenue, and ad revenue leads to SUFFERING. </Yoda>

    I get annoyed at satire sites like the National Report for making up just barely plausible fake news to reap shares of outrage, but the flip side of the coin is supposedly reputable news sources often stop mining for further facts when they hit a nice rich pocket of outrage in a story.

    These days, you end up having to train yourself so that your first reaction to an outrageous story is skepticism. It's sad, but it's just the times we live in, I guess.

  30. ZarroTsu says

    Are authorities afraid the author will carry out the school shootings 900 years from now via time travel? Or are they afraid it will mark the beginning of 'zombie school shootings,' wherein he'll rise from the grave to carry it out?

  31. Haze says

    Too often journalists (and their editors) work at the beck and call of newspaper owners and station managers who are variously incompetent, overly deferential to authority, and/or disinterested in any journalistic standard much above that of a reality TV show (or a journalist wage scale much above fast-food pay).

    Don't blame the journalist (or any employee) for incompetence: blame the BOSS.

  32. says

    Jailed for writing a novel? Not sure. But you'll note the quote said "Similar things". Such as being too sarcastic in online forums: http://www.popehat.com/2013/07/11/the-first-amendment-protects-satire-and-rhetoric-lol-jk/ .

    If you feel that there's no logical reason to believe "If the cops would arrest you for joking about school shootings, it's plausible they might arrest you for writing about them", well… that's you. I do not find it all implausible. Given the absence of concrete facts right now, and the well-documented history of police over-reaction to presumed threats, the assumption that the story is mostly as presumed seems the sounder one. As new facts become available, opinions should be revised in light of them.

    If we have a dozen documented incidents where the shepherd boy shouted "Wolf!" when there really WAS a wolf, which is saner: To assume he's telling the truth the 13th time, or go, "Nah, this one's probably false. Got to be. I'm going out for a stroll, after slathering myself in lambchop grease."?

    Mmmm… lamb chops….

  33. En Passant says

    Matt wrote September 3, 2014 at 6:54 am:

    This is the part that maybe I'm missing – why would law enforcement / prosecutors / etc want to give out the story this way? I mean, would they not realize how idiotic it would make them look?

    Maybe they just don't care. They don't have to care. They are unelected government officials for the most part.

    The Federal Bureau of Prisons already operates two "communication management units", one at Terre Haute, IN, and one at Marion, IL. Prisoners' outgoing mail is heavily censored, No "contact" visits are permitted, ostensibly to prevent prisoners organizing criminal conspiracies from within prison. But prison officials have also admitted they censor for "attempts to recruit or radicalize" as well.

    There is no reason that states would refrain from doing the same, by any means available, including mental health conservatorships. The late unlamented Soviet Union used that method extensively.

    In most states it is remarkably easy for any government bureaucrat to have anybody held incommunicado for a few days on a "mental health hold". All that is necessary is some official's word. If some cop or bureaucrat says he thinks you are insane, you can be held. After some statutory time limit for "evaluation", the prisoner is entitled by law to a civil trial on the issue of his mental fitness.

    But such prisoners are not generally entitled to an attorney at government expense if they can't afford one, because they are not charged with a crime. So, good luck with being found not insane or mentally disabled, and not a danger to self and others, if the bureaucrats want to lock you away indefinitely. And even if you are found sane, you will still be impoverished because owe the government their steep fees for their "services" in imprisoning and evaluating you.

    This particular case may be a matter of bad reporting. Or it may be a case of power-crazed officials hiding behind the prisoner's HIPAA "privacy" to conceal what they are actually doing, and why they are doing it. If a government official stonewalls a news reporter, there isn't much the reporter can do to force them to reveal any facts.

    As to Brett Kimberlin, he was imprisoned for a crime which he committed, and for which he was convicted in a trial with his full panoply of rights observed. He was not locked away on the word of some government official, based on "evidence" that the government declined to reveal.

    But Mr. McLaw apparently has been imprisoned based on evidence that has not been made public, at least so far.

  34. Bob Brown says

    Actually, it was Instapundit day, and announced as such on our Twitter and Facebook feed.

    Twitter? Facebook? What are these strange words which you write, and why might any of us know about them?

  35. Bob Brown says

    Matt posted a link to MyEasternShoreMD above, and I'll repeat it in a minute so you don't have to hunt it down. It quotes Sheriff James Phillips Jr.

    [McLaw] is no longer in the area. He is currently at a location known to law enforcement and does not currently have the ability to travel anywhere.”

    Phillips said the added police presence at Mace’s Lane Middle School will continue for the rest of the week.

    In other words, "We've locked this guy in the nuthatch and he's not going anywhere, but we're going to keep cops around the school just so everyone stays on edge."

    AAaarrgghh!

    Here's the link again: http://www.myeasternshoremd.com/news/dorchester_county/article_f34bc33b-0a51-5217-a3a7-62bce57ca631.html

  36. mazz says

    I fail to understand how being incarcerated for writing a "concerning" letter is more normal than being incarcerated for writing "concerning" books.

  37. says

    K. Kaprow is a longtime troll who's antics were single-handedly responsible for Reason implementing commenter registration back in 2011

    Sheesh, so many inaccuracies in this acorn of agitprop. Where to begin? Does anyone really care? I'll tell the story anyway, for fringe-site posterity.

    Reason.com — the libertarian propaganda site that was for years unduly proud of its unmoderated, anarchistic comments protocol — finally surrendered and admitted that anarchy doesn't work very well in a place dominated by trolls, goldbrickers and argumentative narcissists, in April of 2012, not 2011. I'll be looking for your retraction — I mean "update" — Wasteland Wanderer.

    And thanks for the compliment, but I can't take any credit for Reason's comments model blowing up in their faces. Anarchy has a funny way of becoming its own destroyer, and that's what happened to Reason.com. Reason's devoted defenders — Wasteland Wanderer being one of them, I guess — have invented an entire mythology surrounding that site's capitulation and institution of a cumbersome, glitchy, joke-of-a-comments-model.

    Every failure requires a scapegoat. Prior to the new and much maligned registration mandate, some of the fellas (libertarians are almost always men, as everyone knows) outed and doxed one of their loony ideological enemies (the now-supernatural "Mary") who, in retribution, spammed the site with pasted-in nonsense. And — in keeping with their narcissistic personality disorder impulses — the chat-room lifers responded, creating an ever-escalating war of insults, counter-spams and bizarre conspiracy theories, culminating in the Great Capitulation.

    The lifers never forgave "Mary" for that, while never admitting their culpability in the apocalypse. I, humble Kizone Kaprow, somehow have become the central figure in these lunatics' fever dreams because, following the registration mayhem, I became critical of Reason and its puppet commentariat. In fact, I was critical of them well before the Capitulation, authoring several jabs that have since become sturdy and deathless Reason memes (e.g., "Nothing Else Happened", "Dance, Puppets!"). Reasonoids in their conceit — never imagining that they could have more than one detractor — assumed "Mary" and I were one in the same. Thus an entire mythology was born. But "Mary" was never that clever. She was at best a meandering, unfocused, semi-lucid vanity blogger. Any imbecile could tell the difference in style and substance between "Mary" and I. But we're talking about Reasonoids here, a special kind of imbecile.

    These days, whenever a new and unfamiliar commentator dares to buck the echo-chamber narrative at Reason, he or she is instantly suspected of being the Great Doppelganger, "Mary." It happens all the time — just recently to a fellow named Mike Hihn, who was harassed and insulted and accused of being "Mary," until he was forced to prove his identity, much to the embarrassment of his thuggish attackers, who then sarcastically and unconvincingly apologized. Read all about it here, if this kind of thing interests you: http://reason.com/blog/2014/08/30/hillary-clintons-millennial-problem-and#comment_4739957

    I'll continue to amuse myself by exposing Reason-brand™ libertarianism for the fraud that it is, but I'm not "Mary." And the Reasonoid lifers will hold tenaciously to their little myth. But what's an obscure fringe-clique without a shared enemy?

  38. Rick says

    I fail to understand how being incarcerated for writing a "concerning" letter is more normal than being incarcerated for writing "concerning" books.

    That's a good question. Best I can come up with is timing as the books predated his employment, and the letter did not.

  39. says

    Well, we're speculating, because we don't know what is in the alleged concerning letter.

    However, a letter directly to someone is more likely to be seen legitimately a true threat than a piece of fiction.

  40. AlphaCentauri says

    Having been in middle school myself once, I somehow imagine this scenario:

    "Turn off that video game and do your homework."
    "I'll do my homework later."
    "No, you play video games after homework. School work is more important."
    "School is bogus. You should see the new teacher we have. He writes books about school shootings."
    "He WHAT??"
    Cue pearl-clutching parents calling administrators and "liking" each other's posts about it on Facebook. No one, of course, is going to spend the $15 to buy one of the books to find out what they're actually about. By the time anyone has actually spoken to the teacher about this, school administrators are all feeling the heat from parents and local elected officials. Their communication to him is totally out of line from his point of view, he responds angrily, and the rest is history.

  41. En Passant says

    Ken White on September 3, 2014 at 4:29 pm:

    Well, we're speculating, because we don't know what is in the alleged concerning letter.

    True on both counts.

    However, a letter directly to someone is more likely to be seen legitimately a true threat than a piece of fiction.

    Question which I hope clarifies some speculation including my own:

    I think the usual law enforcement practice against any "true threat", whether delivered by mail or otherwise, is arrest and prosecution, not a civil psychiatric hold.

    Since we know nothing about the contents of the letter upon which the police said the psychiatric hold was based, I assumed (perhaps in error) that the letter did not contain a prosecutable threat. I assumed the letter displayed some indication of mental instability that would arguably satisfy the usual criterion for psychiatric hold and evaluation: that the person appears to be a danger to himself or others.

    I think that is different from "true threat" eligible for prosecution.

    On the other hand, one official said something like "he is being treated", which indicates to me something beyond a psychiatric hold for evaluation.

    Am I reading too much into your comment? Or am I missing some known facts? I certainly haven't found many facts beyond the sparse and ambiguous news reports.

  42. David L. says

    Ken White September 2, 2014 at 8:40 pm
    Actually, it was Instapundit day, and announced as such on our Twitter and Facebook feed.

    Opinions differ as to whether the point is to post Instapundit-style content, to comment on the style, to punk readers, or to gather the traditional annual complaining and entitled emails and comments.

    Ah, ok. I'm not on Twitter or Facebook much and do not frequent Instapundit enough to be familiar with its style. As for the entitlement, guilty as charged. ;) I have a bad habit making suggestions where the observation would have stood on its own.

  43. says

    I fail to understand how being incarcerated for writing a "concerning" letter is more normal than being incarcerated for writing "concerning" books.

    Well, it depends on was in the letter. If it's a screed that concludes saying he's going to show up Monday and shoot the school board or threatens violence on someone else, it's a matter for fairly severe concern. If he does the same and then informs the recipiant that he's telling them this because the voices in his head are forcing him to, that's also a matter for concern.

    the problem is that this letter is currently unknown. I don't know if they're required to keep it confidential or have chosen to do so, but as yet for all we know it as a four page letter complaining about the years lesson plan set up.

    And that's the problem, because the state has imprisoned a man and pretty much said: he's a crazy person to the entire nation. I want evidence and it had better be good. Also, as a former teacher (sub mostly), this guy's career is dead, dead, dead. He will never, ever get another teaching job, regardless of how this plays out. So the state has already done tremendous damage to a man who by all accounts was a conscientious teacher before they've even gotten to the point of filing charges, if they ever do.

  44. En Passant says

    Baltimore Sun has two updates on the mysterious letter, of which the second has dateline yesterday (Sept. 3) evening.

    Raw URL: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/education/bs-md-teacher-folo-20140903,0,102429.story

    From which:

    … Matthew A. Maciarello, the Wicomico state's attorney, said officials had to release some details about the case to quell an online furor over how McLaw, 24, was taken from his home last month for an evaluation at a local hospital and placed on leave from his job at Mace's Lane Middle School in Cambridge. …

    Maciarello said he only released portions of the letter, which was pertinent to why health officials believed McLaw needed to be evaluated. In the letter, McLaw said recipients could consider it his "memoir," "farewell address" or "resignation," and that he just wanted to be heard, according to Maciarello.

    The letter was entered as an exhibit in a hearing before an administrative judge last week regarding McLaw, Maciarello said.

    Moore said the letter was open to any number of interpretations — including that McLaw was simply writing a farewell to his employment. He also said the teacher's complaints about McLaw visiting him were resolved, and that the name of a character in his novel could be considered "poetic license."

    Moore represented McLaw at the hearing but declined to reveal the disposition of the case or his client's whereabouts.

    The earlier Baltimore Sun report yesterday is at:

    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/education/bs-md-threatening-teacher-20140902,0,4127675,full.story

    It has all the official rationalizations, best summarized as "Public safety! Think of the childrenz!"

    Bob Brown above, September 3, 2014 at 9:44 am, nailed the official actions exactly:

    In other words, "We've locked this guy in the nuthatch and he's not going anywhere, but we're going to keep cops around the school just so everyone stays on edge."

    Officials never miss an opportunity to ramp up public schrecklichkeit. It keeps the public submissive and eager to kiss their jackboots stomping every available human face forever.

  45. AlphaCentauri says

    They received consent to a limited search, Maciarello said, and "found a couple of other things" that caused concern. They included writing that referred to an "execution." Maciarello described it as three or four paragraphs written as "a letter to Antichrist from Antichrist's servant."

    It's a good thing C.S. Lewis never taught at that school. ;)

  46. dave says

    As I understand it, the original story of him being detained over his books was given out by a police spokesperson. The 'it was a letter that done him in' story came a few days later, from another police spokesperson – who by the way, also said they'd found 'Columbine materials' in his home and a model of a school.

    Don't fiction authors normally research their subjects?

    If it truly was about the letter, why did the police provide a different story the first day?

    And where is this poor bastard now anyway?

    Is this a totally phony run-up to another mass murder where the perp is taking psych drugs but hasn't been identified as dangerous? Why is the story being changed and falling apart so soon?

  47. says

    "The channel starts running stories fed to it by criminals, thugs, and n'er-do-wells."

    Uh, no reason to talk about hypotheticals. That is the actual situation we face today.

  48. En Passant says

    Update with dateline today, 8 Sept 2014, here:

    http://www.drakezeke.com/teacher-admitted-to-a-mental-health-facility-after-writing-a-novel-about-a-school-shooting/

    From which:

    TOWSON, Md. (WJZ)– For the first time we are hearing from a Dorchester County school teacher placed on administrative leave and admitted to a mental health facility after police say he wrote a fictional book depicting a school shooting. …

    … The teacher spoke by phone from Sheppard Pratt saying things are being taken out of context and he does not need mental treatment. …

    … “Law enforcement has not tried to contact me, they have been misinterpreting information,” McLaw said.

    In a phone interview from Sheppard Pratt in Baltimore, where McLaw is being treated, he says he does not need a mental evaluation.

    “They have been disseminating information incorrectly to the psychiatrist and medical professionals up here who have been making diagnosis that, you know, are invalid and irrelevant,” McLaw said.

    Sheriff deputies say the investigation into McLaw didn’t stem solely from his writings.

    “Within hours we received information of perhaps an inappropriate relationship involving a student so we had some concerns,” said Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis.

    The 23-year-old teacher is banned from school property. Investigators say inside of a shed, they recovered a handmade model of a school.

    But McLaw says what has been taken as a threat is nothing more than a hobby.

    “This entire situation is a complete, and total misunderstanding. And it is unfortunate that it has come to this,” McLaw said.

  49. says

    Within hours we received information of perhaps an inappropriate relationship involving a student

    Doesn't pass the smell test. If there were hints of rumors of an inappropriate relationship involving a student, it would have been shouted from the rooftops immediately.

  50. Rick says

    “Within hours we received information of perhaps an inappropriate relationship involving a student so we had some concerns,” said Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis.

    "Perhaps." Also, "within hours" of what event? "Concerns" after the fact of the involuntary incarceration? That sounds like a fishing expedition to me.

    This whole plot line is an onion of vagueness.

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