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Culture War Roundup for the week of June 3, 2024

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I've been on a True Crime spree habit over the past few weeks. This happens every year or so. This year, among other material, I listened to the audiobook Hunt For The Green River Killer about the initial investigation into Gary Ridgway (I do recommend this book). Additionally, earlier this week, I watched American Nightmare on Netflix about the so-called "Gone Girl" case in Vallejo, California. Netflix streteches out what should be a 90 min doc into 3 almost hour long episodes. The directors also shoehorn in a MeToo theme towards the end and, with some selective editing, make a single female police look like the only pure police hero. They are swimming as hard as they can against the riptide of a poor business model.

In Hunt For the Green River Killer, you see just how complex a "Task Force" investigation at scale is. The various intertwined jurisdictions in and around Seattle threw everything they had at trying to catch (then unknown) Ridgway in the 1980s. The result was so many possible leads and suspects that they drowned in their own noise. At one point, the lab work backlog was over 50 years. At other points, they had at lest two suspects that, at the time, looked almost like sure things. The authors do a good job of then demonstrating how obvious it was that those suspects were in no way sure things. This shows the level of confirmation bias and motivated reasoning that can crop up in these kind of investigations even in otherwise experienced and talented cops.

The Ridgway people even brought in the legendary FBI behavior psych unit (of "Mindhunter" fame). Their composite profile of the killer was along the lines of "white male between 30-50, does a manual labor type job, drinks beer, smokes, may have prior military service or outdoors interests." Again, the authors point out that that profile narrows it down to .... 40% of all men living in Seattle! Interesting and also infuriating to see how far people can build a career off of what amounts to a Forer statement.

As a fun side note: Even back in the 1980s, you had pro-sexworker women's groups who demanded the police "do more!" with the investigation, complete with statements like "if this had happened to a bunch of high school cheerleaders and not prostitutes, we would already have an arrest!" It's turtles all the way down, and Witches v. Patriarchy all the way back up, I guess.

With American Nightmare, due to its recenecy, I won't give out any spoilers. Suffice it to say that the police actually try to employ Occam's Razor and go with a basic explanation first but reality intervenes and a fairly wild story unfolds instead. The initial investigating cops don't come out looking good - although I feel like the Netflix editing team was responsible for thumbing the scales hard in this case.

The question I find myself asking in regards to both is; just how well equipped is American law enforcement (outside of the FBI) for complex investigations without a pretty obvious narrative with a lot of obvious circumstantial pointers? An example of what I mean here is; when a drug murder happens, any decent police in the area will know "this was a drug murder. the victim was a known dealer." A slightly above average police probably has some awareness of the recent conflicts between the locals gangs and can therefore say, at least, "It was probably this crew that knocked this guy off, now I just have to try to figure out who exactly did it."

With the "whodunnits" of serial killer victims and frankly just bizarre circumstances of cases like that of American Nightmare, do cops have a playbook / infrastructure / support to actually perform a full investigation effectively? The simple narrative (which Netflix eagerly jumps to without second thought) is that "Cops are often stupid / lazy / racist / sexist / corrupt and so they don't solve cases." I don't buy this for a whole host of reasons. You can debtate me on that, but I'd prefer we stay focused on the question of "are police departments setup to handle complex investigations?" The Ridgway investigation is particularly illuminating, I think; a bunch of well intentioned and talented cops eventually buried themselves in a volume of work that was utterly unmanagable. They really did pull out all of the stops and, in so doing, pretty much led themselves back to square one where their only hope was catching Ridgway in the act. (What ended up actually leading to the arrest was a 20 year wait and the advent of DNA technology, which is just as much of a magical solution)

The higher level of analysis, however, is; should police departments be setup for this? I'd actually argue they should not. Complex investigations are rare. American Nightmare gets a netflix special and Ted Bundy, Gary Ridgway, and Jeffrey Dahmer get hundreds of books, documentaries, and podcast about them because they are so rare and bizarre. The "murders that matter" to use a slightly indelicate phrase are those that are part of a larger anti-social pattern; drugs, gang violence, preventable domestic violence, etc. I'd much rather have a PD that is doing the leg work day in and day out to know about the goings on in bad neigborhoods so that once a murder does occur, they can jail the offender swiftly and, hopefully, interrupt a retaliatory cycle.

I have only the deepest sympathy for the victims of the "one in a million" crimes of serial killers etc. But I must admit that, at a societal level, these aren't things we can really systemically remedy (same goes for a lot of the more sensational gun violence incidients. See: Las Vegas). What we can do at a systemic level is police and enforce known areas of persistent anti-social behavior aggressively.

So, again, two primary lines of questioning:

  • Can police departments launch effective complex investigations, or are they at a structural / organizational disadvantage here?
  • Should they focus resources on the above capability beyond a small, dedicated "Major Crimes" unit (or some such) or, ought they double or triple down on basic patrol, fast response, and community intel work?

The Ridgway people even brought in the legendary FBI behavior psych unit (of "Mindhunter" fame). Their composite profile of the killer was along the lines of "white male between 30-50, does a manual labor type job, drinks beer, smokes, may have prior military service or outdoors interests." Again, the authors point out that that profile narrows it down to .... 40% of all men living in Seattle! Interesting and also infuriating to see how far people can build a career off of what amounts to a Forer statement.

I don't know much about this case but I assume the FBI had nothing else tangible to evaluate besides the bodies that were found?

They didn't even worry about the bodies.

The FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit reviews the case files to establish patterns and idiosyncrasies in the the actions carried out. They do victim profiling, some demographic analysis, and comparisons with other, similar crimes. Their output product is a "psychological profile" of a suspect.

This is compelling because it plays to the trope of "getting inside the mind of a killer" and because it's more or less the backbone for a lot of serial killer related fiction (the Hannibal Lecter canon is a prime example).

The downside is that it might all kind of be bullshit. As my first post outlined, a lot of the time, the profile feels specific because it's long and includes interesting details. If you zoom out a little, however, your realize that the profiles are actually incredibly broad and mostly representative of the demographics of the locality.

Here's a fun example:

"He's probably young. 20-30 at the most. Takes physical fitness very seriously and is also generally highly disciplined. He has a set daily routine and trains with weapons multiple times per week. While able to control himself at work, he'll sometimes let loose on the weekends and drink heavily and/or engage in other risky activities. He can function in a group but is mostly a loner."

Great! But the body was found near a military base. You have just described 80% of the males on the military base. You are not helping.

The vast majority of homicides are straightforward to solve: the motive, the weapon or even the perp himself are obvious or at least limited to a manageable subset of all possibilities.

Let's say you have a well-dressed man with no wallet or phone found shot in a dark alley. It's obviously a mugging gone wrong or a disagreement over purchasing some vice. You round up the usual suspects, they all have alibis. Maybe some traveling crew? You check all out-of-state plates seen last week in the neighborhood, all are boring civilians.

Okay, stage 2. Maybe it's a hit made to look like a mugging gone wrong? Again, you check the usual possibilities: infidelity, business troubles, money troubles at home. Nothing: the victim was a midlevel manager in charge of a boring department, kids are too young to plot against him, no signs of being gay or having a mistress.

You've hit stage 3: psycho killers. While muggings gone wrong are so common that you have a solid solution template, the template for catching psycho killers is very limited: get all other unsolved homicides and start looking for something in common. Any other similar victims? Similar weapons? Similar circumstances? If there's a match, go through every single detail again and try to find a connection.

Sometimes it's something actionable: you have three similar homicides, you trace the bus routes at each location and find out that there's a bus stop you can reach all three locations from (true crime story from the 90s!). Sometimes it's something obvious and not very useful.

Homicides you solve at stage 1 are cookie-cutter, the biggest challenge is doing the paperwork right. Homicides you solve at stage 2 are "interesting". Homicides you (usually don't) solve at stage 3 are fucking frustrating. However, they are a tiny minority of all cases. It's better to centralize this capacity as much as possible (now matter how heart-rending violated and butchered schoolgirls can be) and concentrate on stage 0: minimizing the number of stage 1 homicides that occur.

Can police departments launch effective complex investigations, or are they at a structural / organizational disadvantage here?

It varies, a lot, even within a single jurisdiction. I've seen indictments where police clearly spent hundreds of manhours chasing down every possible lead, and others where a slam-dunk case gets dropped cause no one could be arsed to handle all the court forms. Baltimore's probably (hopefully?) the most extreme example, where proximity to DC has gotten the police department a remarkable breadth of camera systems, license plate scanners, open-source intel analysts, and investigatory resources, and even for murders and just for those where the investigation has been publicly disclosed, there's a wide disparity that's clearly unrelated to the strength of the initial leads.

There's a reputation for 'missing white girl' syndrome to drive that, and it's not wrong, but elderly couples or young kids of any race can get sizable attention and interest, and even the prototypical gang banger on gang banger violence can (rarely) if there's something about the incident that drives political or local interest. There's a reputation for corruption driving a lot of that, it's it's not wrong. Baltimore's GTTF scandal was probably known by 10%+ of the force, which is appalling when they were shaking down civilians, and shocking when you remember that they were selling guns to people shooting at other cops.

((Sometimes "who" matters in a different way: I've seen grand theft on small businesses that were probably destined for the 'when we get to it' pile, except the business coordinated with other similar small businesses to demonstrate an interstate pattern with a clear direction and unique identifying characters, and while that 'only' gets the equivalent of a national wanted poster, it gets a lot of highway patrols looking for an easy to way make a big arrest.))

On the flip side, there's a problem with the world where you don't. It's very easy to come up with a plan where there's no witnesses and any physical evidence is destroyed! You end up with massive selection pressures toward the most dangerous criminal behaviors.

It's definitely and definitionally not possible to provide above-average effort for every case; there's far too much uncertainty to triage cases in a QALY-like manner; it's definitely possible to triage cases at all and find deep investigation still valuable.

Should they focus resources on the above capability beyond a small, dedicated "Major Crimes" unit (or some such) or, ought they double or triple down on basic patrol, fast response, and community intel work?

I've mixed feelings.

How effective community-oriented or 'broken windows' theory of policing is controversial, and not just for the normal crimonology versus social justice reasons: even the best evidence in favor has been hard to pull apart from normal economic impacts. But the extent that dangerous criminals routinely grow into violent crime from, act on, and rely on casual disruptive law-breaking make Pealian community-oriented boots-on-roads policing very hard to overlook, and it's just not compatible with the All Available Effort approach.

But in turn the overwhelming majority of successful boots-on-roads efforts come in communities with unsophisticated and disorganized criminals, in cultures not predisposed to escalatory violence. They seldom, if ever, can point to clear successes -- even short of actually reducing broad strokes of crime, even just in getting inroads with the civilian populace -- in low-trust societies.

I think, though, this ultimately missed the deeper question: "can they choose"?

A bloodless focus on the easiest-to-solve crimes will near-unavoidably leave cops focusing on trivial but simple-to-prove laws: it's what Sam Francis wanted to be talking about for anarchotyranny. In extreme cases, the knowledge that police will happily pass out tickets or throw someone in jail for selling lossies, but won't handle a serious theft or assault unless the offender is caught redhanded, is strong motivation to never include or cooperate with police at all. Hyperprioritization of serious crime leads to the mirror problem, where those massive investments chasing hard-to-solve crimes end up wasted not just because the crimes are hard, but because the police quickly looses the community relations, familiarity with the domain, and trial experience necessary to bring a case to conviction.

This is a classic Motte comment. Demonstrates the complexity and interdependencies of a problem, relative tradeoffs, real world likely impacts and outcomes, and doesn't use any cliche argumentation, sloganeering, etc.

So, of course, my only response is: Defund The Police because Blue Lives Matter.

While not a direct response to any of your points, Peel's Principles of Policing (yay for alliteration) seem worth reiterating for the sake of discussion.

  • To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.
  • To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.
  • To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.
  • To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.
  • To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour, and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.
  • To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.
  • To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
  • To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.
  • To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

More to your point though, my impression is that the vast majority of criminal activity falls into one or both of the following categories. Criminal on criminal (eg gangs fighting over territory), or known trouble-makers making trouble. I think that you're quite right to call out the availability bias, as i suspect that the above are unlikely to earn attention or "clicks" because they are common.

As for clearance rates, I would expect that as police resources contract they would focus more on the stable/wealthy nieghborhoods because thats where thier efforts are most visible and by extension where they can get the most perceived "bang for buck". After all, who cares about some gang-banger getting shot, or at least so (i suspect) the reasoning goes.

Fascinating to see how contemporary evolutions of both "police-work" and the duties and responsibilities of citizenship have evolved to make some of these clearly obsolete

To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws,

What modern concept of "public favor" is distinguishable from "public opinion," let alone the perceived justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws? What constituency is there for law qua law, independent from the results, or "perceived justice" of the ultimate outcome? In a way, we're all utilitarians now. Kto kago is truly the order of the day.

To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

What private citizen really thinks that stopping people who drive too fast, park in the wrong place, coralling mobs, preventing retail crimes, and investigating serious crimes are all "duties incumbent on every citizen?" Moreover, would we even tolerate a private citizen attempting to undertake any of these tasks?

And those are only the two that seem most egregious to me.

Kto kago is truly the order of the day.

Despite how it’s written in Cyrillic, it’s actually pronounced “Kto kavo” in modern Russian

For the Gone Girl of Vallejo case, I don't think the problem is that the Police Departmnet didn't have the resources to figure out what was going on. The problem is that they went out of their way to be assholes to potential victims. Putting Aaron Quinn's phone on Airplane mode when he was expecting to receive a call from a potential kidnapper was something that doesn't come down to insufficient resources. It was just plain idiocy.

Jimmy Akin did an episode on the case and he also came to the conclusion that the police were especially incompetent in this case.

That said, I agree in principle that the police should only be equipped to handle 95% of the cases in their jurisdiction, and in the 5% that are more complicated there should be some sort of national team that can deploy when needed with all the resources and skills to solve the weird problems.

The higher level of analysis, however, is; should police departments be setup for this? I'd actually argue they should not.

I think about this sketch a lot.

As highlighted by Freddie deBoer, there's so much inconsistency in the standard progressive narrative about what the police are for and what they should do. Cops don't do enough to protect black people, but it's also bad that police allocate disproportionate amount of resources to high-crime (i.e. black and Hispanic) neighbourhoods. Cops don't do enough to protect female victims of crime. Therefore we should defund the police while criticising the police for not doing enough with their already limited budgets.

So much of the debate seems stymied by the availability heuristic. Consumers of true crime content focus on fascinating cases which happened to relatable victims: in other words, bizarre unsolved murders in which the victim was an (A)WF(L)*. Consumers of this content are then bound to come away with the misconception that it's exceedingly common for a man to murder a strange woman and get away with it, which is wrong in almost every way: the overwhelming majority of murder victims are men, most murder victims are killed by someone known to them (although admittedly the American murder clearance rate has plummeted in recent decades, although I suspect that most of the unsolved murders in recent decades were gang violence rather than Ted Bundy copycats). True crime consumers then apply this misconception to their expectations for a functional police force, clamouring for police to Do More to solve murder cases with female victims (but without increasing police budgets in any way, of course).

And sure, maybe if we raised police budgets by 10% every year we might improve the marginal return on murder clearance, solving that 1% of murder cases every year which don't neatly fall into a) gang violence b) domestic violence or c) drunken bar fight. Whereupon the narrative will shift on a dime: "$State spent $10 million sending this Black man with learning disabilities and an underprivileged upbringing who raped and murdered three women to the electric chair! Imagine if that money had been spent on education so that children from similar backgrounds don't follow him down that path." There's no winning.

I think I agree with you that I'm satisfied with a police force that can solve most of the banal murders in a timely fashion, accepting that a small number of really weird cases will go unsolved every year as the price of a free society. I'm not persuaded that increasing police budgets by 10% to catch these weird cases passes a cost-benefit analysis, much like it would be a misallocation of resources to invest millions trying to find a treatment for a disease which only kills 100 people a year.

*"Affluent" and "liberal" are preferred but optional.

Consumers of true crime content focus on fascinating cases which happened to relatable victims: in other words, bizarre unsolved murders in which the victim was an (A)WF(L)*

The entire industry seems to focus on like the same 50-odd cases, though, since those are the ones that fit the heuristics of interest

I think you’re on to something. Blindly increasing the budget won’t work though. To me this comes down to a very simple question of what would give maximum results — what would lower the crime rate the fastest (obviously within the bounds of the law and with respect to civil rights). It seems to me that were I a police chief, I’d focus on getting more best cops, getting them trained to handle the situations that they’re more likely to actually see, and putting them on the beat. The reason being that the response time decreasing would likely both clear the crimes actually being committed, but also serve as a deterrent. If you know that you have 3-5 minutes before the cops show up, you might be deterred from robbery. It’s probably going to be tough to rob a place and get away within that timeframe. And having more cops driving around would also deter crime simply because you are more likely to get caught than if there are no cops around.

The other thing I would do has to do with criminal laws. I want a consistent and sure punishment for the crime. If you use a gun in a crime, you will go to prison for three years. No I don’t care about your background. No I don’t care that you’re poor. You pulled out a gun you go to jail. Obviously if you fire the gun the time goes up, and would double or more if you kill somebody. And this again should deter crime, because now not only are you getting caught, but you’re ruining your life for the stuff you’ve decided to rob from a cash register.

Doing those things: showing up quickly, having a show of force on the beat, and having a sure and known punishment for every crime that actually sticks should lower crime rates by quite a bit.

My understanding as an outsider aligns with yours. The vast majority of murders are either really easy to solve ("he was probably shot by that guy who stole his girl who he's been beefing with for the last three months") or almost impossible to solve ("he could have been shot be any one of 100 gang bangers in the neighborhood"). The genuine who-dun-its are more fun and interesting, but far rarer, and there's probably no systematic way to solve them. At best, you can throw some smart people at these cases and maybe they'll be lucky enough to identify and pursue the right thread. But ultimately, these cases have a terrible cost-to-success ratio for police forces and probably shouldn't be prioritized as a high-level objective. Maybe there's room for private investigators here?

EDIT - Thinking more about it, it makes sense for the FBI to have a system in place for dealing with complex, especially dangerous criminals, like serial killers or Ted Kaczynski types. From a law-and-order perspective, it's probably worth it to spend a lot of money and resources to take these guys out because they set bad precedents and spread social contagions.

Do most serial killers spread social contagions, though? Obviously guys like the Unabomber who've actually communicated with the media are one thing, but it feels like a lot of serial killers targeting the margins of society will never get any meaningful engagement whilst conducting their business. It's only after their investigation, capture and public trials that the real visibility becomes a thing.

I don't know about "most" serial killers, but IIRC, a lot of the most high-profile ones were big in the 1970s and early 80s, and then serial killing went into decline. Like school shootings, it seemed to be partially driven by social contagion.

It comes down to whether they want the attention; I would be surprised if a smart one could not reliably get visibility by putting culture war bait for the media.

If a killer left a note or sent letters to the media saying he was doing it "for President Trump", do you really think the media would be able to contain themselves from making it a national issue? And the right's reaction when there's hints of a killer being trans or an illegal gives little doubt that they'd be just as impossible to contain if they were in a position of power in the media.

Here's something I've always found to be interesting. I think there's a latent political prior model going on that often interferes with political discussion. Namely: What motivates the people in Congress, individually?

Here's what I feel like is a fairly exhaustive list:

  • genuine desire to do the right thing, ethics, or patriotism
  • desire for help some specific people (or people more broadly)
  • mad enough at some specific current thing they decided to run for office
  • well-intentioned but fell victim to their own ideological kool-aid or echo chamber
  • true believer in some strong broad ideological cause
  • in it just for personal wealth
  • pure ambition and vanity of being important
  • just think they could do a better job than the last bloke
  • people you know, or family, pushed you into running and you won
  • wanted to specifically change some law for corrupt purpose
  • you wanted to specifically represent some demographic or other group
  • you are addicted to the feeling of power
  • wanted to avoid some personal or criminal controversy
  • the office is a stepping-stone to some other career or goal
  • backed by a foreign power
  • advancing a specific special interest
  • part of larger group with a secret agenda
  • desire to oppress some other group, political or otherwise

Obviously some of these overlap or could both be true. A few approaches (rank them or something?) but I feel maybe the best is simply to answer the question, "What percentage of people currently in Congress (House and Senate) ran for Congress (most recent election) for this as one of the principal reasons?" Here's my take:

  • Do the right thing: 75%
  • Help people: 60%
  • Mad at a specific: 15%
  • Ideological capture: 25%
  • Ideological purist: 10%
  • Personal gain: 15%
  • Ambition or pride: 35%
  • Better than the last: 5%
  • Pushed into it: 5%
  • Specific corrupt change: 5%
  • Representation: 10%
  • Power addict: 10%
  • Avoiding or distracting: 1%
  • Stepping-stone: 10%
  • Foreign agent: 1%
  • Special interest: 10%
  • Secret agenda: ~0%
  • Desire to oppress: 1%

Of course a lot of these can overlap a bit, but that's fine. I'm talking about major reasons to run for office in any given election. (PS: should I have split help people into generally vs some specific group?)

Do you think these are about right? Too charitable? Too cynical? I bring this up because I was recently talking to a friend who his mental model had pegged something like 60% of people in Congress as in it for the money and power. Another friend thinks that 70% are pure partisans (ideological purists). Another thinks it's mostly special interests and corporations. You can see how these can subtly skew opinions about almost any given topic.

Of course, to me, I'm correct of course :)

No but actually, if we think about the process many go to first get involved in politics, there's only a few common paths. There's being an activist of some sort and then you (or supported by an org) run as a logical next step. There's being fed up of some specific status quo and starting to run for something on a local level and then you end up working your way up. There's being wealthy and/or having connections (famous sometimes) and jumping in to something directly. There's being a pure egomaniac and running just for that. And then there's some group of people where you're minding your own business and you get recruited into it. And that's actually most paths into politics. Seems to me that there are better ways to make money, and better ways to spend your time, so I think most people run because they actually want to. Congresspeople aren't aliens, they have similar motivations to you and I, at least I think. How many people that you've talked to who have idly talked about what they would do if they were in charge, have given a corrupt reason to do so?

I'd like to add another option

  • Wanted to do the right thing, but doing the right thing is hard (building a better mousetrap, except it's a billion/trillion dollar a machine) and there are structural impediments (legitimate & illegitimate) and entrenched interests. Over time, the desire to do the right thing sublimates into doing what's possible. That in turn includes maintaining allies against opposition.

My experience is with Westminster in the UK but having now moved to the US my interactions with politicians here seems to indicate they aren't any different.

I think you are vastly underestimating personal ambition and desire for power. My experience directly with hundreds of those national level politicians is that those are the top motivations for most of them. Some ideological purists but they tend to get ground down over time. Doing the right thing and helping people are what politicians say, but when you are in a room with them hashing out election strategies their revealed preferences show a different side. Maybe they started out that way but by the time you get to national level, your ambitious, power hungry types have outcompeted the rest.

I've worked with hundreds of MPs and there were at best a handful I would call good people who were motivated by helping people or doing the right thing.

If my years in politics have taught me anything it is whatever level of cynicism you have towards politicians it is probably nowhere near enough. Desire for money may be there, but its less than ambition and power because politicians don't get paid huge amounts in general. Though you can leverage it afterwards if you are successful.

No its ambition and power. Top 2, by a lot. If you assume any given national level politician is a borderline narcissist with nuclear levels of ambition, who has to filter that through pretending to be committed to an ideology and to want to do good, then it explains all the various undercurrents in the halls of power.

Politicians are sharks with good PR. That's why they both have big smiles to show off.

You’ve gotten it a little confused. You’re completely correct that politicians are largely motivated by power accumulation, but that isn’t the surprising thing. That a politician should want to achieve power should be no less surprising than that a corporate climber should want to be CEO or that a star athlete should want to win gold. The surprising thing is that most of these people are essentially ideologically neutral or ambivalent. At most, largely by osmosis, they have absorbed some version of the general views of their class and peer circle. What is surprising is that it’s power without real purpose.

Triessentialism would not be surprised that people with an especial intuition of power (its acquisition, maintenance, threats of use used as leverage, etc.) would be ideologically uncommitted.

Assume three basic mindsets of people in this world: people with intuition of power, of logic and reason, or of emotional motivations. I, as a person with intuition of logic (hereafter “a Thinker”), am unfamiliar with power except in its media (nonfiction and fiction) portrayals, and I had to build my own philosophy from scratch for ten years to begin to understand how Feelers use emotions to shape their world.

Movers are intuitive in matters of power, whether they’ve studied and practiced car repair or geopolitics, but without study find logic and emotion to be wastes of time and Thinkers and Feelers mysterious antagonists with hidden sources of power.

I am likely to agree with a Mover if he suggests a course of action. It’s no surprise to me that a Mover would find the most “powerful” Thinkers and Feelers to inform him of what his politics should be; what his purpose should be.

Why should that be surprising? I've worked with politicians nearly my whole working life. That isn't a surprise at all to me.

Because at least I would expect that people interested in politics, even if they primarily sought power for its own sake, had a more-than-average passing interest in ideology. This is because people with a strong interest in ideology who also like power are probably more likely to go into politics than people with a weak interest in ideology who like power (who might go into finance or something else where money is more readily available).

They may have an interest in ideology, but that isn't the same thing as having a firm one yourself. But power and money are different. Money to an extent can buy power, but most people in politics want direct power and influence. Not indirect. Sure they won't turn down extra money, but that isn't the drive.

Ambitious and money hungry you go into the City (well in the UK at least). Ambitious and power hungry, you go to Westminster.

Some few ideologues do make it, and fewer principled ones but it's a shark tank otherwise. And the last 10 years show it, with various sharks eating each other to achieve their own ambitions.

The issue is the way we’ve set up the system. The absurd amounts of money required to win and the connections required to gain access to enough funding to win things like large city offices, statewide offices, and obviously Congress itself. The activist path you mentioned isn’t exactly “I helped in a soup kitchen.” Most that I’m aware of came to prominence in what I call the “professional protest” charities. Advocates for popular causes among the elite and they’re generally high up in those organizations. The professional paths that lead to candidacy are generally the kind that run through getting to know movers and shakers. Working a campaign, professional advocacy, being a lawyer or other elite professional, one does not simply run for office above dog catcher or local school board.

So of course this tends to weed out the altruist fairly quickly. An altruist wants to actually help people, so his charity work would be less about “professional protest organizations” than building or fixing things, feeding hungry people, educating kids, and so on. The kind of work that gets things done other than legislation. But that sort of charity is highly unlikely to get you into the social network that allows you to be a viable candidate for serious leadership roles. You also have to spend a lot of time being vetted by those elites for acceptance both ideologically and socially. You have to start early enough to have introductions to local [party of choice] leaders, and thus be fairly well off before you start. This is why most of our current political leaders are lawyers and mostly from elite schools.

All of this is basically like the old Roman system. Find Patrons, do high level high visibility things that powerful people like. Then once you’ve been accepted as one of them, you can help out on high visibility campaigns and eventually get to run for office yourself. None of which actually solve real world problems, and in fact are a pretty strong headwind against people who want to work on real world problems. If you want to fix infrastructure, get into construction and fix potholes. But it’s not glamorous enough to be the kind of thing that makes you a potential candidate for elected office.

Of course because of this, I think it would be highly unusual for someone to run and win because he wants to fix things in the way you and I would think about it. The system effectively weeds those people out quickly, especially if you’re talking about the federal government. They have to care about the opinions of their sponsors, the opinions of the people attending very expensive dinners, and the opinions of the tastemakers in the media. None of whom care about blue-collar Americans or potholes on main street.

"Do the right thing" is a little too abstract.

I think "personal gain" or "ambition or pride" account for a lot of it, but in a nicer way than you're probably thinking.

People get into a position where running for office makes sense for them. They were involved in politics at a young age, they helped out on some campaigns or worked on the hill, then they find themselves living in an open seat while being sick of their jobs.

The other one is people who became political staffers because they were interested in politics, only to discover that the pay is terrible. So they wait for a redistricting and move into a winnable district without a clear incumbent.

There are people who want to be recognized a pillars of their community, and running for office is a way to get that recognition.

I'm not sure about the ratios myself, but it's for that sort of reason I want to increase Congressional salaries. No one is in Congress for the money, pretty much everyone competent enough to be a federal politician could be making more money in some other job. To some degree that's inevitable- the public sector will never match the sort of spending in the private sector, nor should it. But if we want very competent people to be leaders, we should at least try to pay them half of what they'd get in the private sector instead of a quarter. And I think if being a Congress member was a better job to have, people would be less willing to risk that career by being corrupt.

https://open.substack.com/pub/matthewyglesias/p/congressional-pay?r=62ico

Ambition or pride has to be close to 100%. Not quite literally 100, but high nineties. Even if people have other motivations as well, choosing to be the candidate yourself takes a lot of ego.

Anecdotally, politicians in my experience tend to be extremely vain.

Yeah I struggled with that one. I think that's one question where my phrasing isn't very helpful. Like, are candidates very prideful and ambitious? Obviously yes. But does it make sense to ask whether candidates run on pride or ambition as a major, primary factor, or is it just background or a catalyst for other reasons? I sorta imagined the question getting at the former, but maybe it's not a useful or informative question to ask (what does running on ambition alone even mean? I guess there's sort of 100% overlap with the other categories, perhaps)

One interesting distinction I've heard is "being ambitious" vs. "having an ambition".

A person who is being ambitious might do well in school, put together a good college application, do well in college, put together a good job application, do well at their job, put together a good promotion application, etc. then end up as a multimillionaire CEO/partner/senator/other-0.01%er. They follow the predefined "ambitious" path, reach elite status, and kind of just do normal stuff.

A person who has an ambition starts with an audacious goal (develop a martian colony, change society on a constitutionally-relevant level, break an Olympic record, etc), organizes their life to achieve that goal, and blasts past obstacles that would stop any reasonable person.

Under that framing, a politician who is running on ambition alone ("being ambitious") would be a person who follows the straight line to power/money/status and ends up in government.

This is a commonly overlooked distinction, and good on you for remembering it. That conceptual space of [Having an Ambition] is often what overlaps with [Ideology], as the nature of having a goal to work towards often depends on not only the interests behind the person, but the entire framework that leads them to the conclusion that the objective is worth focusing on above more 'reasonable' things, which is also what gets them critical enablers / associates who empower this. This [Ideology] could be religious or secular, but it serves as a framework for consolidating the [Having an Ambition], as well as a legitimization and cooperation-enabling framework to enable action.

Economics is split into two very different fields. Macroeconomics is the art of economic forecasting. Microeconomics is the study of incentives. In microeconomics, politicians are modelled as maximizing votes in the next election, to the best of their ability.

That sounds off. You'd want enough votes to win but why focus on running up the score beyond that?

Winning the election by 1% invites challengers next election. Winning the election by 20% tells the other party that their time and money are probably better spent elsewhere, so you run against a penniless, unsupported sacrificial lamb and cruise to reelection without having to dip too deeply into your war chest.

Right, it's probably more of a balance combining what they actually want to happen with seeking votes.

So in that model, an incumbent presumably starts to compromise any pre-existing moral principles (because of the incentive of winning) as long as the risk-weighted actions provide a net gain in votes. What about why people run the first time? Why some try to jump from House to Senate? A simple microeconomic model doesn't address these initial conditions, nor does it satisfactorily explain to what extent the incentive of winning distorts principles over time.

What motivates the people in Congress, individually?

Envelopes stuffed with cash, and bars of gold.

This led to a debate between me and the friend about if he was caught, and it's just the tip of the iceberg, or he was caught because the police normally catch this kind of thing. You can see how those schemas are very different, haha.

He was a first-generation college student of cuban immigrant parents who became a lawyer and while still in law school I believe he was an aide to a mayor. It looks like he then spent a decade or two in shady and backstabbing New Jersey local politics (known for being one of the most corrupt states to begin with, I would say). He definitely did some backstabbing himself. The history is a little wild. Why he didn't just go on to be a lawyer is hard to know -- maybe he got pulled into a cycle of power and retribution and ambition? The district got a lot of attention as a swing district. After about 20 years in local and then state politics, he ran for the House and then the Senate.

It seems to me this isn't a very typical political upbringing, and he was further corrupted by power while in office. So I don't know if this case moves the needle of "how much corruption is there" very much for me.

He was caught because he wasn't criminally sophisticated enough to know that the best way to receive bribes is underpriced investment opportunities.

Gold bars and envelopes of cash are seen as gauche.

Why he didn't just go on to be a lawyer is hard to know

It's hard to make money as a lawyer with a private practice. He built up his early career connections in politics instead of getting into the good graces of the local legal community, so he was basically shut out from the high paying jobs.

underpriced investment opportunities

Hillary Clinton is an amazing cattle futures trader. Or her financiers found a (not so) sneaky way to transfer cash to her.

Ehh the best way is high five figure speaking fees. Do twenty speaking engagements a year. Do that for 15 years. Couple that with underpriced investments and you are pretty rich.

Only the top politicians get access to the high paying speaker opportunities. Even your average representative isn’t being paid $5,000 for a 20 minute speech, let alone $500k to show up to a conference.

Depends on what committee you get on, etc.

So I don't know if this case moves the needle of "how much corruption is there" very much for me.

Yes, of course, your stuck prior is in your username.

Haha, it's definitely not always true. But my general political background view is that working within the system works a lot of the time, with enough time. I think it's pretty evidence-supported by US history. I was trying to come up with a new nick for the new forum to disallow cross-looking, I knew a prolific redditor with a similar and memorable nickname, and I was at the time of the opinion that signifying prior inclinations in a username would be helpful information on the forum. So it was a deliberate decision, not an indication that I'm some sort of status-quo warrior. As I noted, there's a specific story of Menendez' political upbringing and it's far from being some "regular senator we thought was a saint turns out to be corrupt" -- a major needle-mover if true -- it ended up being "senator from corrupt state with sketchy personal history ends up being corrupt" which... just isn't all that surprising?

Please refrain from wasting space with a low-effort personal attack (the very definition of rule-breaking, I might add) if you don't have anything to contribute. Would you care to outline what your percentages might be, or at least of a particular category? Part of the point is to get a read on people's priors and see if I'm wildly divergent (or if they are).

"regular senator we thought was a saint turns out to be corrupt"

Which senator do you have in mind? I think perhaps we’d have a better understanding of why you perceive the system the way you do if we had some specific examples of individuals who you believe are in it for wholly altruistic reasons.

For my part, there is not a single individual over the last ~fifty years that I could name. Once upon a time, in my days as a member of the Fraternal Order of Bernard - often called Bernard Brothers for short - I would have said Bernie Sanders for sure. (I also sang the praises of Barbara Boxer, attempting multiple times to convince my cynical politician-hating mother that Boxer was the genuine article, a real paragon of moral virtue, committed to the betterment of her voters and of mankind as a whole.)

Of course, this is when I, like most millennials, believed that big business was uniformly conservative. That leftist politicians couldn’t possibly be taking big money from shady mega-donors and Fortune 500 companies, because why would those entities donate to the party dedicated to curbing their power and influence? And this almost seemed a teeny tiny bit true at the time!

Of course, only a decade later we live in an era where nearly every important corporation not only donates to progressive politicians and causes, but also makes a huge public deal out of doing so. (And that’s to say nothing of slightly more under-the-radar groups like the Open Society Foundation, and of investment firms like BlackRock who literally cut off companies’ access to funding if they fail to sufficiently debase themselves to progressive activism.) So there is basically no reason to believe that Democrat politicians are receiving less money from corrupt companies and cynical mega-donors than their Republican counterparts are; in fact, the dynamic may in fact be the opposite.

Given the obscene sums of money sloshing around in DC, why do you believe that even a person who started their political career with the purest of intentions would be able to withstand the onslaught of venal incentives that are immediately thrust at any politician who gets anywhere close to that level of power and influence?

More of Audrey Hale's Manifesto has been leaked

Audrey Hale, if you don't remember, was a nutjob who shot up a private school, and was also trans. Her manifesto was suppressed, although pieces of it got leaked to Louder with Crowder and confirmed, yep, this nutjob was actually trans. This has been a minor, recurring culture war item. Well, more of it got leaked to the media(https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-13505849/Nashville-school-shooter-Audrey-Hale-trans-kill-puberty-blockers.html):

The Tennessee Star obtained some four dozen pages of Hale's writings that shed light on her female-to-male transition and why she shot and killed six people at the elementary school in March 2023

Obviously this is an interesting story for the media to cover. I'm not sure we've learnt anything new, other than further confirmation that she was indeed crazy. The main culture war angle seems to be that, yes, she was angry at conservative Christians(it was an orthodox Presbyterian school), and also this:

But both city police and the FBI later said the material shouldn't be released because it could hurt the investigations.

There doesn't appear to be any explanation behind that. Some conservative commentators have opined that the decision to suppress the manifesto was taken to try to paint trans in a better light; I'm not sure I buy that, but today's releases are, well, definitely evidence supporting that interpretation.

There's surely culture war hay to be made out of the contents of the manifesto; it's certainly something to cite for the 'trans is really just a mental illness' crowd, and she explicitly blames lack of affirmation for her lashing out.

It's a strange side effect that whether or not the shooter is killed impacts whether or not their writings are kept private.

If she was alive this material would be discoverable and likely submitted as evidence in the eventual case against her.

I have a personal policy of not engaging deeply with the writings of individual loons whose main claim to public attention is some atrocity they committed. I typically don't even read manifestos of random people who manage to not shoot up elementary schools, so why would I give preference to the ones who don't even clear that very low bar of basic human decency?

That being said, I can totally see the cops deciding to hold back the manifesto based on the content, in a way which they might not have done if the perp was a right wing loon instead.

For CW purposes, I think both sides would spin it.

Either you have the young woman caught in the dangerous culturally transmitted delusion that gender is malleable which set her on a path which eventually saw her kill kids (bonus points if she was on testosterone at the time of the crime).

Or you have the trans-man who was denied essential medical interventions for religious/ideological reasons while he was a minor, which eventually lead him to snap in a most unfortunate way.

The purpose is not to engage with the arguments in the manifesto, but to understand the circumstances behind the shooting. If a shooter is motivated by politics, that's important to know, especially if the shooting is used by politicians and activists to promote something that the actual politics of the shooter might disprove.

It seems like common sense to suppress the manifesto. Same reason you don’t publicize suicides. These things all have a huge amount of social contagion.

I agree there is nothing where releasing it interferes with the investigation, but that is a good reason to declare as the reason not to release. She was a crazy person who did crazy person things. It was unlikely she had co-conspirators.

It seems like common sense to suppress the manifesto. Same reason you don’t publicize suicides. These things all have a huge amount of social contagion.

This is one of those things that seems like a good principle but when not applied evenly is a weapon. If the Christchurch shooter's manifesto was suppressible do you think it would be suppressed?

Wasn't it heavily suppressed to the point of people being prosecuted for not deleting it fast enough when totally different people posted it to a website they moderated?
The difference is in the media coverage using the suppressed manifesto as an excuse to hurt their political enemies.

Sure. In New Zealand. In America a PDF of the entire thing was on the front page of Drudge Report for a full week and various mainstream outlets were discussing it for months.

I meant to add that point. So I agree. Everything is shown in a partisan politics mode now.

If someone that can be called right does something bad it’s used to bludgeon the right. If the left does bad it’s like peaceful protest or something and covered up.

A better would would not publicize these things.

The police should tell us the motivations of terroristic acts against all protected classes. They shouldn’t hold press conferences only when it is anti-asian, or motivated against women, or some minority religion. That winds up biasing political discourse. They would never withhold this information if other protected classes were targeted. A Christian targeting transgender people would absolutely get wall to wall coverage.

she was indeed crazy

No evidence of her being crazy. She was radicalized but in a sane mind. Her writings do not seem far from the median young transgender activist’s writings. “I hate parental views; how my mom sees me as a daughter — and she'd not bear to want to lose that daughter because a son would be the death of Audrey.” This is an intelligent, orderly sentence structure that shows forethought and consideration. This is not something a crazy person would write.

I think the thinking of manifesto suppression is based on the idea that one of the motivations for shooters is getting their views signal boosted in the media. If you don't allow them that it may disincentivise future attacks.

The funny thing is, that this sort of damnatio memoriae never seems to actually work. Despite the best efforts of the legal system, we still know about Herostratus of Ephesus. (Though, of course, if wiping out the memory of someone or their manifesto was successful, we'd never actually know, would we?)

Is there a case in the last 15 years where police had the opportunity to suppress a manifesto, but released it anyway? If the option to suppress it is there, then it seems like this is becoming more standard. Most manifestos that make it into the public get directly uploaded somewhere, posted to 4chan, mailed to a newspaper if you're a 20th century terrorist, and so on. Seems like poor form to forget to post your deranged manifesto publicly before committing a heinous act. ** Also, her diary seem less like a philosophical statement, or call to action, than they are the weird doodles and thoughts of a mentally ill individual.

As for the police, Nashville PD, and most police departments, probably don't contain many cops that are too interested in protecting trans ideology. I can buy FBI involvement or pressure decreases the likelihood of a single cop leaking it as it pertains to trans-y ideas versus white nationalist ones. As a counter example, Brenton Tarrant and his manifesto was heavily suppressed in New Zealand and elsewhere following the Christchurch shooting. His manifesto was banned on lots of sites places if I recall. New Zealand also suppressed his name, face, and manifesto, albeit not very effectively.

For media coverage, yes I think it's fair to say there's a bias here. Googling Audrey Hale gets me this which includes a few right wing rags and the Post which may or may not qualify as one. On the flip side, here's one NPR article on Dylann Roof's manifesto. Dylann had his manifesto read out loud in court, but the NPR article predates that. If this was instead white nationalist rage manifesto, then yes it's fair to say there would be American media all over this shouting at the roof tops. Crazy trans radical kills children just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Is there a good argument for police to release every crazy's manifesto? Is there a good argument for media to cover the contents and proliferate the ideas in every manifesto?

Offering free national publicity for each person that gets the bright idea to impose their bullshit on others by killing kids creates a perverse incentive. If the options are coordinate a memory hole or offer them an free publicity-- one seems better than the other. A media ecosystem that could effectively coordinate this would be pretty scary though, wouldn't it?

Isn't it common practice for all police departments to resist releasing manifestos no matter the subject matter? From a police perspective, you'd rather release it when you can tie everything up with a nice bow a year or two later in a larger report -- on top of preventing copycats. I don't necessarily see anything culture-war unique or nefarious in that.

Black lives matter, ... or so you say
Radical progressives and law enforcement

Once when I was visiting my brother-in-law in Vietnam, I noticed his six year old son had picked up a stick off the ground and was playing solder with it. The little boy pretended the stick was a pump action shotgun, pointing it at one thing after another: click-clack-BANG... click-clack-BANG. I got his attention and, with my wife as a translator, showed and told him that the correct technique is to cycle the gun while it is in recoil, before acquiring the next target: BANG-click-clack,... BANG-click-clack. He tried it a few times and then looked to me, and I gave him a smile and a thumbs-up.

A few minutes later, the boy's father (my brother-in-law) warned me not to teach him things like that -- because if he repeats them at school, his family might get an unpleasant visit from the police. I apologized for the mistake and made sure not to repeat it. A few minutes later, my brother-in-law mentioned that his motorcycle had been stolen the week before. I asked him if he had reported it to the police and he said no; they wouldn't do anything about it. In a Marxist police state, that's not what the police are for.



In the United States today, a black person is about seven times more likely to be murdered than a white person, and murder is the leading cause of death among black males under 45. The problem of a high murder rate for blacks in the US is not new, but while it has received little media attention, that rate has skyrocketed over the last ten years. The rate of homicide against blacks increased by around 50% from 2014 to 2020 and has remained near the 2020 level up to the time of this writing. This translates to about 19,000 excess black homicide deaths from 2015 to 2023, over and above what would have occurred if the 2014 rate had continued. That is more than the number of black Americans killed in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War combined, in less time than the total duration of those three wars. Something changed in 2015 that is having the effect of a war on black people in America.

The public conversation about the epidemic of killings of blacks in America looks like something this: some researchers, such as Roland Fryer and Heather Macdonald, along with many if not most conservative thinkers on the subject, have argued that the sudden increase in the rate of black homicide is largely a result of the "Ferguson effect" -- in which police officers are reluctant to patrol and intervene in majority-black neighborhoods because of hostility toward police fomented by "Black Lives Matter" activists. Progressives, in response, say that the causal theory of the Ferguson effect is not true. If we step back and look at the debate, no matter which side one takes, what is striking is that it is generally the conservatives who begin the conversation about the problem. Homicide is the leading cause of death for black males under 45, and has increased dramatically in a short period of time -- and yet the very people who angrily shout that "Black lives matter" have little to say about the issue until they are pinned down on it by people on the other side of the political fence. What gives?

What gives, I believe, is twofold. First, Fryer and Macdonald are obviously correct: what do you expect to happen when you demoralize, and in many cases defund, the police -- and who do you expect it to happen to? Second, I submit that their silence on this issue demonstrates that woke progressives do not actually care about the safety of black people -- any more than Lenin cared about the safety of Russian proletariat. What they care about is the power-gathering narrative that white supremacy is the root of all evil. Black-on-black crime doesn't do much to advance that narrative, and so it is not of much interest to them, no matter how many black lives it takes, or how rapidly the problem grows.

But where did the ridiculous idea of abolishing the police come from in the first place? In fact, the dismantling of law enforcement by radical progressives is nothing new. In the fourth century BC, Plato described a political faction whose agenda included moral relativism, sexual liberation, open borders, treating aliens like citizens, redistribution of wealth, debt cancellation, silencing dissenting speech, the lax enforcement of criminal laws, and, finally, stripping private citizens of the right to bear arms. Sound familiar? Plato's name for this group was demokratiko ántras (Greek: democratic men), and he wrote that when a state is governed by such men, convicted criminals are free to walk the streets. He also wrote that such a state it is on the precipice of tyranny [The Republic, VIII]. In two previous Substack posts (here and here), I have written in more detail about the correspondence between Plato's narrative and the woke agenda.

The gutting of pre-existing law enforcement structures was also a common theme in the communist revolutions in both Russia and China -- though in China, the focus was on prosecutors and judges rather than police officers. I will discuss the Russian case in more detail below. In any case, it seems that going back to the time Plato, the playbook of leftist tyranny has included the following essential steps:

  1. Dismantle the existing structures of law enforcement;
  2. confiscate weapons owned by private citizens;
  3. establish a secret police force to terrorize political opponents.

The secret of the "secret police" is that they are not really police at all, but a gang of thugs who operate by whatever rules they invent as they go, and whose purpose is to terrorize and silence ideological opponents of the ruling party. Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia said that on paper, the Soviet Union had a bill of rights that was better than the American bill of rights, adding "I mean it literally. It was much better" [source]. But the Soviet bill of rights didn't matter, because, in the Soviet Union, there was no de facto remedy for the violation of one's de jure rights. Indeed, a state terror organization like the Cheka or KGB cannot possibly operate alongside an organization that actually enforces the law. Thus, if it isn't really black lives that matter, but establishing a one-party police state, then abolishing the (pre-existing) police is not such a stupid idea after all. On the contrary, it is the first step in a proven plan with a long tradition!


Lenin's Abolition of the Police
Recall that in 1902 Lenin wrote,

The Social-Democrat's ideal should not be the trade union secretary, but the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects; who is able to generalize all these manifestations and produce a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation; who is able to take advantage of every event, however small, in order to set forth before all his socialist convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for all and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat. [Lenin (1902): "What is to be done?"]

In a previous post, I discussed how Lenin urged his followers to blame class exploitation for every problem in the world (and also, to view everything as a problem, even if it was never a problem before). In this article, I would draw the reader's attention to Lenin's description of the enemy that is to blame for all these problems, large and small: a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation. For Lenin, the class enemy of the bourgeoisie was intimately tied with the institutions of law enforcement.

The police forces that existed in Russia before the revolution were under the command of the Tsar, and included a repressive political police force as well as ordinary law enforcement. But in his picture of "police violence and capitalist exploitation", Lenin didn't distinguish between the two. In the Marxist view, ownership of private property was theoretically illegitimate in the first place -- and so the police's role in preventing Bolsheviks and their constituents from stealing money and other valuables that they wanted to steal (or "expropriate", as they put it) was, in their view, a form of oppression. The revolutionaries further regarded laws against assaulting whomever they wanted to assault as a form of oppression: after all their targets were capitalist bourgeoisie exploiters, or alleged to be as part of the justification of the would-be crime, and murder and theft were just what they had coming.

Lenin had advocated open war on the police for years leading up to the 1917 revolution. For example in 1905 he wrote,

Practical work, we repeat, should be started at once. This falls into preparatory work and military operations. The preparatory work includes procuring all kinds of arms and ammunition, securing premises favorably located for street fighting -- convenient for fighting from above, for storing bombs and stones, etc., or acids to be poured on the police, etc., etc.

...To launch attacks under favorable circumstances is not only every revolutionary’s right, but his plain duty. The killing of spies, policemen, gendarmes, the blowing up of police stations, the liberation of prisoners, the seizure of government funds for the needs of the uprising — such operations are already being carried out wherever insurrection is rife, in Poland and in the Caucasus, and every detachment of the revolutionary army must be ready to start such operations at a moment’s notice. [Lenin (1905): "Tasks of Revolutionary Army Contingents"]

Lenin knew that his regime would not be able to operate as planned alongside the existing system of courts and police. On the eve of the October 1917 revolution, he wrote,

The liberation of the oppressed class is impossible not only without a violent revolution, but also without the destruction of the apparatus of state power which was created by the ruling class. [Lenin (1917): “The State and Revolution”]

But what would function in place the “apparatus of state power”? This would be the subject of a diabolical bait-and-switch. Before coming to power, Lenin called for abolition of the police and their replacement by a collective of armed citizens [Lenin (1917): "Tasks of the Proletariat in our Revolution"]. Lenin's followers probably imagined something along the lines of the CHAZ autonomous zone created by BLM activists in Seattle in 2020. Lenin probably laughed to himself and imagined the Cheka.

As the revolution unfolded, the Bolsheviks initially delivered on their promise to abolish the police, including both the Okhrana (Tsarist secret police) and regular law enforcement. Not only were the existing police departments wiped out as government agencies; the 1918 Soviet constitution revoked the right to vote for all former police officers -- along with other alleged class exploiters, including clergymen, former business owners, and anyone deemed "selfish or dishonorable" by the Soviet authorities:

The following persons enjoy neither the right to vote nor the right to be voted for, even though they belong to one of the categories enumerated above [as having the right to vote], namely:

  • Persons who employ hired labor in order to obtain from it an increase in profits.
  • Persons who have an income without doing any work, such as interest from capital, receipts from property, etc.
  • Private merchants, trade and commercial brokers.
  • Monks and clergy of all denominations.
  • Employees and agents of the former police, the gendarme corps, and the Okhrana [Czar’s secret police], also members of the former reigning dynasty.
  • *Persons who have in legal form been declared demented or mentally deficient, and also persons under guardianship. *
  • Persons who have been deprived by a Soviet of their rights of citizenship because of selfish or dishonorable offenses, for the period fixed by the sentence.

The 1918 Soviet constitution further stipulated that "all workers be armed, and that a Socialist Red Army be organized, and the propertied class be disarmed". The collective of armed citizens was off to a good start, at least on paper, but this clause was also the beginning of gun control in the Soviet Union. In the initial phase, the Soviet government only disarmed their intended victims at the time, which consisted of people in categories designated as bourgeois.

Eventually, however, the entire civilian population would be disarmed, and the entire civilian population would also become victims or potential victims -- since anyone, at any time, might do something the authorities deemed "selfish or dishonorable" -- such as say something that the Soviet government did not want other citizens to hear, even if saying it was OK to say and hear the day before. In 1924, all private citizens, bourgeois and proletarian alike, were stripped of the right to own pistols and rifles, and private gun ownership was restricted to shotguns -- which were required to be licensed and registered, and could only be owned for the purpose of hunting. In 1939, the Soviet government confiscated all privately owned firearms. So much for a collective of armed citizens.

The wave of criminal savagery that ensued following the October 1917 revolution was beyond comprehension for most Westerners today. It is difficult to isolate the effect of Lenin's abolition of the police on this crime wave, because a civil war commenced in which atrocities including mass looting and, mass murder, and mass rape were routinely committed on both sides. However, within two months of the Bolshevik coup d'etat in October 1917, Lenin formed the Cheka -- the secret police agency of the Soviet Union that would later evolve into the KGB. So much for abolishing the police.

This translates to about 19,000 excess black homicide deaths from 2015 to 2023,

We have not stated the obvious in the discussion here, for we have missed the forest for the trees. Ask a progressive who is killing blacks, and they will inevitably say it is police who are responsible for black deaths. Till now the progressive media messaging around Kyle Rittenhouse is that he shot 3 black lives matter activists (code: black people), when it was 3 white people that were shot. Perhaps it is my google preferences, but if you google 'who is killing black people' my first page of hits has only one bland academic title hinting that blacks could be killed by other blacks, everything else is news articles or think pieces talking about police.

The genesis of progressive thought on black deaths is that it is all due to blacks being hunted down by a violent and racist police, or violent and racist whites are hunting down blacks. Intraracial violence is impossible for whites who grew up in peaceful homogenous suburbs to imagine, so it has to be some vile external killing blacks. If the police are black it just means that the white man has coopted yet another house nigger to keep the good blacks down. At best progressives who are aware of black on black crime will cite thought terminating cliches like the school to prison pipeline or circumstantial adaptation to a violent white world left behind for blacks, but that is far rarer than progs simply not realizing blacks kill each other.

Re the police, I actually believe the progressives have no idea what to do in a post-police system While the other thinkers cited believe that police are oppressive arms of the current authority and by removing police you are removing the authority (and will replace that oppressive arm with MY oppressive but benevolent arm), progressives believe that police are the inherent source of oppression and that by abandoning police you will remove oppression and bring forth the utopia. My favorite example of this is the 'what will you do in the leftist commune', where the possibility of bad actors doesn't exist, much less racialized externals. This ultimately means the progressive cause is not an instrumental one seeking real change based on observed reality, but a conceptual one borne out of osmosized ideals transmitted by fantasy and perpetuated by displaced religious and maternal ideology.

Interesting, "who is killing black people" turns up result #1 for me: Black-on-Black Homicide - A Psychological-Political Perspective, result 2 is FBI statistics (where the first table shows clearly higher black-on-black violence), result 3 is a NAACP history of lynching, and #4 is a WaPo opinion piece about police killing Blacks. Why are yours so different? A quick search for Black mortality causes clearly shows homicide

The progressive explanation #1 is not police, it's guns. (Police is probably #2 though). I think most true progressives would say that about Black mortality more broadly, inequities in health care is the biggest culprit.

And according to Pew, even the most strident progressives in the Democratic coalition still less than 50% say they want police funding in their area to be decreased. Other Democrats are way, way less supportive. So I don't think this whole anti-police leftist thing is as prevalent as it's pitched here. In other words, it's a caricature of progressives, and so the whole thing feels strongly of straw-manning. Are there really no actual progressives left on this forum that I have to bring up points on their behalf, like an absent father?

Why are yours so different? A quick search for Black mortality causes clearly shows homicide

I have the same search results as you. They surprise me a little (insofar as Google hasn't algorithmically downranked the #1 result) but they don't change my picture of what the conversation looks like. If you hear of the fact that the rate of death by homicide rate for blacks started to climb sharply in 2015, and climbed by 50% by 2020 with most of the increase coming before COVID, you probably heard that from a conservative outlet. I have never heard it from a progressive outlet and I don't expect to. If your mileage varies on that I would like to know.

And according to Pew, even the most strident progressives in the Democratic coalition still less than 50% say they want police funding in their area to be decreased. Other Democrats are way, way less supportive. So I don't think this whole anti-police leftist thing is as prevalent as it's pitched here. In other words, it's a caricature of progressives, and so the whole thing feels strongly of straw-manning.

I don't claim that most progressives want to defund the police. I do claim that if progressives, as a group, really cared about the safety of black people, then they would be talking about the dramatic increase in murder rates since 2014 (at least as much, for example, as they talk about alleged racism in policing) -- and they would be the ones asking the question of whether the Ferguson effect had a role in it.

Bizarrely, the simplest explanation for the progressive myopia here is that when humans kill animals, it's animal cruelty, but when animals kill animals, it's just nature. When an animal kills a human, then it must be because the human provoked it in some way.

The sacralization of "blackness" as a thing to protect and preserve seems to include many types of behaviors and actions that are unacceptable in whites. Blackness is authentic and natural in a way that whiteness is not, and it cannot be judged by white standards.

In the background, there is the lingering thought that, eventually, when true equality and justice have finally been achieved, all these negative things will just fizzle away into history, but in the short run they are just treated as part of the natural order.

It's kind of like the difference between keeping animals in a zoo, where they are carefully protected but controlled, and keeping them in a large nature preserve where they can run wild. Sure, in the nature preserve they might kill each other or whatever, but the sacred "blackness" would be repressed in the zoo. It's not the flesh and blood individual people that matter, which is perhaps not surprising for collectivists.

This model actually explains a lot of apparent progressive hypocrisy on this matter, however ironic and offensive it migt be.

Funnily enough, they adopt the opposite tack with poor southern whites. Poor southern whites get to be people rather than animals, but just bad people that must be dealt with.

People have agency and responsibility, animals do not.

The progressive explanation #1 is not police, it's guns.

It's masterful stroke of 2-birds and 1-stone positions that leftists wield. I think when you boil down my disagreements this is what's left in the pot.

  • It's yet another dismissal of the moral precept of agency, already constantly under attack
  • It's trivially false (gun control laws or ownership rates aren't even correlated with BoB murders)
  • And of course as this whole series illuminates, attacking the right to own firearms is such a blatantly obvious predecessor to unimaginable horrors

I used google incognito and that came up as number 3. Number 1 was aljazeera and number two was NBC news sayinf that police killed black men at 6 times the rate of whites. Geographic differences may account for the difference but at least between yours and mine but I use this as a very rough proxy for the direction of attention.

Re the progressives blaming guns instead of police, I personally lump this into the 'guns bad' category with black-on-black killings being a tool to further the argument rather than black death being the driving force of concern. Given that most black deaths are pistols and progressives focus on 'AR 15 style assault rifle' for mass shootings, this lends (slight) credence to my observation.

Democrat congressional politicians did largely push back against defund, but that was the New Democrat Coalition. If you look at the voting record to condemn the calls for defunding the police, the Congressional Progressive Caucus was the main entity resisting calls for that. By and large democrat politicians have not clamped down on the crazy progressives within their ranks and who make up their voter base, and the sanewashing attempts have largely failed to resonate. It really doesnt help that there crazy progressives only aimed their ire at democrats, making it clear where the political alignment lies. While most actual democrat voters and politicians arent crazy progressives, the crazy progressives are all democrats. The louder they are, the more they taint the democratic brand. Starmer managed to cut out the corbynites, maybe Biden should exile The Squad.

Ask a progressive who is killing blacks, and they will inevitably say it is police who are responsible for black deaths.

Do you think this is a reasonable opinion? I think it is preposterous and obviously so. It is understandable for a single person in isolation to hold this opinion tentatively and weakly, but opinions aren't formed in isolation. If woke progressives actually cared about the health and safety of black people, some of them would find out for themselves that this isn't true; they would make noise about it because it is important; the people who hear that noise would make noise, and it would go viral. And/or the pundits whose job it is to know would find the truth of the matter and amplify it. What goes viral in a community is a function of the values of that community. If they cared, they would know; they don't know; ergo they don't care.

My gut feel is that wokes don't actually care about blacks, they care about signalling to their ingroup. The public prayer is 'white people are evil' and one verse is 'blacks suffer only because of whites', among other increasingly convoluted and self contradictory shibboleths. They don't even listen to Jesse Jackson who sadly said that he was relieved to discover when people walking behind him are white because it means he isn't at risk. Progs were eager to cancel Bill Cosby and throw out his Pound Cake speech, Roland Fryer was unpersoned, Mcworther and Loury might as well not exist. The actual concerns of black people are irrelevant to progs, their usefulness as religious totems is. The BLM fist and Pride flag macbook stickers are the crucifix necklaces for progressives.

Homicide is the leading cause of death for black males under 45, and has increased dramatically in a short period of time -- and yet the very people who angrily shout that "Black lives matter" have little to say about the issue until they are pinned down on it by people on the other side of the political fence. What gives?

I don't think this is true, though you use this as a foundational premise. The conversations just look very different and so you might not recognize them immediately as such. Probably for tactical reasons (not wanting to give ammo to right wingers), it isn't usually highlighted as a problem-alone. There isn't the angst-for-its-own-sake aspect like there is for some other issues (like income inequality). It does actually come up at least sometimes! It's just usually in a hopeful kind of context, paired with a solution. For example, there are still well-publicized pushes for community violence interventions (I've seen them highlighted several times in national, left news outlets). One dimension of the gun control is exactly this. There's also talk about how this kind of violence is the result of the prison and justice system. And as an aside, indeed I am at least a little sympathetic to the particular argument (of many, some of which are bunk) that once you send someone to prison once, they acquire friends and influences that encourage further lawbreaking in the future, including homicide. In other words, there are actual, plausible mechanisms for these beliefs other than a vague

So yeah, they DO talk about this death/crisis. Just not in isolation (not anymore). One of the things that struck me watching the Malcolm X biopic recently was how up-front he was about problems within the black community and taking ownership of the fix (though still he blamed white people for all of this, at least early on in his life). And yeah, that approach you don't see as often (though I can't say I'm like, super plugged in to Black culture and news, so it might show up there) which I do find interesting.

So that's for many modern leftists. I find your talk about earlier revolutionary leftists very interesting. You can definitely see the seeds of later problems in some of what they discuss. Such as the perpetual, mob-conducted non-state violence of the Cultural Revolution in China. Or how untenable abolishing so many groups of people from the vote would be, as per the list you quoted which would eliminate a huge percentage of the population. However, modern US progressives still have much more in common with European social democrats (or democratic socialists) than they do with any form of communism, though they sometimes adopt the same language (the goals are very different).

I don't think this is true, though you use this as a foundational premise. The conversations just look very different and so you might not recognize them immediately as such.

I think if they cared about what they say they care about, they would be discussing, not just "too much gun crime", but the sudden spike starting in 2015 and what might be behind it, and whether the Ferguson contributed to it. They would be the ones starting that conversation if they cared about the lives of black people. They would be discussing that more than they discuss alleged police racism, or at least in the ballpark of as much.

They would be the ones starting that conversation if they cared about the lives of black people.

They do care about the lives of black people. But they also care about not being seen to be racist and paternalistic to black communities. So they will defer solutions and conversations in that space to black people. White people telling black people that black on black crime is a problem absolutely stinks of neo-colonialism to progressives. They can talk about police brutality because black people have raised that as an issue and suggested solutions through the BLM movement et al, (though of course black people not being a monolith the solution space progressives are seeing is a necessarily constrained subset, but that police violence is a problem has more widespread acceptance in black communities than what to do about black on black violence).

Remember progressives just like everyone else have a whole competing stack of interests, and priorities. They have wanting for fewer black people to be killed AND wanting to defer to black voices on black problems. If black communities can agree on a solution to black on black violence and push that up the progressive stack then progressives will start to talk about it.

I think the problem is that your model of progressives is incorrect. They aren't life saving maximizing machines, if they were it would make sense for them to push that conversation. But they aren't so your understanding of WHY they don't do what you think they should do if they hold the values you think they do is incorrect.

Progressives care about lots of things, and those competing desires explain their behaviors. Just like how progressives talk about people who think abortion is murder. "If you really thought that abortion was murder and hundreds of thousands of innocent babies were tortured and killed each year you would do much more about it". And the same answer is the one here. They really do believe that, but they also have a bunch of other things they care about which constrains the solution spaces they can explore. For pro-life people, that might be a belief in law and order, moral precepts that murder is wrong, so killing abortionists is not an acceptable solution, and the belief that the alternatives to democratic options are worse.

For progressives here the answer is that their moral precepts that they should not be enforcing solutions on black communities (that they don't think black communities have asked for) means that is not an acceptable approach to black on black violence.

And part of the problem with that is that black communities are deeply divided themselves, on this. There is wariness about how their communities have been treated in the past, degraded trust levels, and much much more.

TLDR Progressives are not just black life utility maximizing machines, so when they don't do the exact things you think they should do, it doesn't mean they don't care, it means they have a whole stack of other moral precepts and beliefs to balance. Just like how pro-lifers are not all single issue voters.

TLDR Progressives are not just black life utility maximizing machines, so when they don't do the exact things you think they should do, it doesn't mean they don't care, it means they have a whole stack of other moral precepts and beliefs to balance. J

Some underlying variable took off in 2015, which, as I noted, has caused more excess black deaths than the Vietnam war, the Korean War, and World War II combined, in a shorter amount of total time. This is not a nuance thing that could get lost at the bottom of the stack; it has literally had the effect of a war on black lives. You don't need to be a "utility maximizing machine" to notice that, amplify the issue, and look for an explanation. It would suffice to care, at all, about what they loudly claim to care about.

"If you really thought that abortion was murder and hundreds of thousands of innocent babies were tortured and killed each year you would do much more about it".

It's not just that they aren't doing enough (as might be said of pro-life activists); It's not even that they aren't lifting a finger; au contraire, it's that so many of them take to the streets to shout for a policy (defund the police) that predictably harms our community, harms blacks disproportionately, and that is not supported by most blacks -- and practically none of them are complaining about the others doing that.

One is clearly not obligated to be a "utility maximizing machine". One is obligated to exercise due diligence to be intellectually honest and not to do obvious net harm, all things considered. Qualitatively, you could make the same argument about anything, but whether that argument has merit depends on (1) the severity of the harm, (2) the severity of the hypocrisy in ignoring it, and (3) the clarity with which both of these can be discerned by a reasonable observer. In this case I submit that the harm is catastrophic, the hypocrisy outlandish, and the clarity crystal. Here I argue that there must exist cases like that, whether this is one of them or not.

@SSCReader if you want to give a convicting argument, I suggest you point out some of those cases and compare the woke movement to them. For example, you could say "Yes the Nazis were significantly more hypocritical than average (in 1935, before taking power), and yes the Bolsheviks were, too (in 1900, before taking power), but the woke are not -- by quantitative comparison with, say, evangelicals." I won't ask you for evidence; I'd just like to know your opinion of where some ideological groups stand on that continuum. Or do you believe we're all just human and no groups is any more or less hypocritical than any other?

My outgroup does not care about what they claim to care about is pretty much always incorrect. Exactly the same attack is used against pro-life people and it similarly incorrect there. The vast majority of people do not look for explanations for much of anything or weigh their various concerns rationally. That is entirely normal.

My outgroup does not care about what they claim to care about is pretty much always incorrect.

Pretty much. But

  1. every group is someone's outgroup, and
  2. there exist group differences in intellectual honesty between ideological groups. Therefore,
  3. somewhere in the world there is a group G whose outgroup G' has a median level of intellectual dishonesty that is significantly above the median for the general population. But,
  4. everyone is tempted to think that they are group G and their ideological opponents are G', and so
  5. we should be very careful in reaching the conclusion that we are G and our ideological opponents are G'. On the other hand
  6. sometimes, by #3, when someone reaches that conclusion, they are right.

I think the argument in this case are strong enough to meet the burden of proof.

I don't think you've even justified that 2 is true let alone that progressives are in it. I live in a Red Tribe area but i work mostly with Blue Tribe progressives in academia. My interactions with all of them indicate that they do care about the things they say they care about even when their opponents claim their actions show otherwise.

I think you are simply put wrong. I've given you reasons why they don't behave as you expect they do. I think those are correct and you yourself are hopelessly stuck in 7) Because everyone is tempted to think they are in G and their opponents are in G' their ability to unbiasedly evaluate the evidence is hopelessly confounded, even when they think it is not.

Whereas, I don't think there is a difference between G and G' in this respect at all.

I thought #2 was self-evident. Perhaps I was mistaken. Do you believe it is false?

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They do care about the lives of black people. But they also care about not being seen to be racist and paternalistic to black communities. So they will defer solutions and conversations in that space to black people. White people telling black people that black on black crime is a problem absolutely stinks of neo-colonialism to progressives.

I can't tell whether you are saying that (A) this is what's going through their woke minds, or (B) this response has objective merit, so I will respond to both.

Regarding (A):
Telling blacks what what their problems are and how to solve them is the modus operandi of white radical progressives. "When a basic definition of each policy was provided [to 1300 blacks polled], 79% of Black parents supported vouchers, 74% supported charter schools, and 78% supported open enrollment." [source], but Democrats oppose school choice, and oppose it more the more woke they are, saying that they hurt black students [for example here]. Thomas Sowell's book Charter Schools and their Enemies establishes this pattern on charter schools beyond reasonable doubt IMO. I submit this is representative of the bigger picture of white progressives shoving problems and solutions down the throats of the black population. Progs claim that climate change disproportionately impacts disaffected minorities and push for "climate justice"; disaffected minorities want cheaper power bills and don't give an ass rats about climate change. This phenomenon also extends to the issue at hand. "Among those polled, 47% [of black Democrats] say federal budget spending should be “increased a lot” to deal with crime, compared to just 17% of white Democrats" source. It's disproportionately white woke liberals who call to defund the police on behalf of blacks, not blacks who want it.

Regarding (B):
The truth? There is no "black community". There is a shared community in which murder rates are skyrocketing, and skyrocketing disproportionately for our black neighbors -- and sitting on your hands about it because it is "their problem" and not "our problem" is depraved.

Aside from a few outspoken radicals, most blacks want more funding for the police, and almost half of them want "a lot more" (see above). So how, again, are white college girls holding up signs to "defund the police" because "black lives matter" not telling blacks how to solve their problems?

The average white progressive doesn't know many, if any people in black urban communities. So they are reliant on what movements like BLM say.

Now there's an internal contradiction as I mentioned. BLM still has 80% support among black people, but the defund the police option is much less popular but you wouldn't necessarily know that if BLM was your source. In other words whatever movement is the one that was riding the zeitgeist at the time is the one that got to set the narrative.

BLM is also an unhelpfully vague umbrella able to capture a large variety of contradictory opinions within its multitudes. Buy Large Mansions proposes police abolition and abolishing the nuclear family, normie Blacks just wish police won't shoot them for tugging at a waistband. Progs signal vaguely that they are supportive of Good Things for Blacks, and given the extreme complexity of issues facing the community supports default to vague words of encouragement for whichever voice claiming ownership shouts the loudest.

The average white progressive doesn't know many, if any people in black urban communities. So they are reliant on what movements like BLM say.

They would know better if they cared more. In fact, they would know better if they cared much at all. This isn't something that a person has to figure out for themselves; you just have to know somebody who knows somebody that heard about it on a podcast (or read it on a message board), and all three of you (you, the person you know, and the person they know) care about it enough to pass it on. And the podcasters and pundits themselves, whose job it is to know this and inform their audience, certainly cannot plead innocent ignorance.

This is an important theorem. It is the convergence theorem for so-called geometric series, and, to a first approximation, it describes how interesting information items spread in a community. Basically, if everyone who hears about the thing, on average, shares it with r other people, and r > 1, then it will spread until the community is saturated and r effectively becomes less than one (because a high proportion of people in the community have already heard it). That geometric growth to saturation is colloquially known as "going viral". The r-value for a certain piece of information, or video, or whatever has in a given community depends on how well that item resonates with the interests of the community. Long story short, what goes viral is what people find interesting. (Thanks for the tip. right?)

If black lives really mattered in woke culture, the discussion about the epidemic of black homicide would go viral faster than "Hands up don't shoot" -- and if they really didn't want to be patriarchal white saviors, so would the fact that white Democrats are the only group that wants to defund the police.

They would know better if they cared more. In fact, they would know better if they cared much at all.

The average person simply does not invest much time in investigating causes beyond what their immediate social circle is doing. If you are using that to say progressives don't care, then pretty much nobody cares about anything. We are the outliers here, not them.

The average person simply does not invest much time in investigating causes beyond what their immediate social circle is doing.

That's right. Hence, what goes viral in a community depends on it being interesting enough to share with an average of at least 1.001 other people in your immediate social circle. What goes viral in a community tells you what really matters to people in that community. SJW's know about "Hands up don't shoot". They know about January 6. They know about Russian collusion. They know about the hockey stick graph of climate change -- but what they don't know about is the hockey stick graph of murder of blacks -- because, even if it comes to the attention of a random SJW in some dark corner of the internet, that is not important enough to share with at least 1 other SJW on average. Look at what they do have bandwidth for, and look at what they don't, and it tells you what they care about.

It is true that the average SJW doesn't know the facts of the matter we are discussing. It is also true that the reason he does not know those facts is that it is a group characteristic of his community not to care about those particular facts. The ones to who are not hypocritical on this issue are the ones who would be amplifying the issue if they knew about it, and of course there are some of those, but they must be a small minority (or else it would actually be getting amplified). You know what happens to those people? They grow up to be Michael Shellenberger, Thomas Sowell, and Amala Ekpunobi.

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For progressives here the answer is that their moral precepts that they should not be enforcing solutions on black communities (that they don't think black communities have asked for) means that is not an acceptable approach to black on black violence.

And part of the problem with that is that black communities are deeply divided themselves, on this. There is wariness about how their communities have been treated in the past, degraded trust levels, and much much more.

Where in this chain of reasoning do you think the progressives who are championing particular solutions, at a national level, get off this train? Do they think that it's okay for them to enforce their national-scale idea on black communities? Do they just not realize that black communities are deeply divided? (Do they just not care?)

Well, when generalizing there will always be exceptions of course. I'm sure there are some who may believe there is more of an agreement than there is, and others who perhaps care less about being seen to be paternalistic. All movements contain variation.

And yeah, that approach you don't see as often (though I can't say I'm like, super plugged in to Black culture and news, so it might show up there)

If you follow a hyper-black social media page you'll see plenty of highly upvoted calls for ownership of problems and despair at intraracial violence.

But then depending on the day you'll also see glee at black-on-white violence or calls to "free X" regardless of who they victimized.

You can't Buy Large Mansions through self-reflexive introspection. I am curious on the difference in updoots saying 'we need to clean our own house' vs 'whitey is to blame and we need them to compensate us in cash'. At what point a grifter hijacks a legit community activist is difficult to pin down, but my guess is 'the moment white people notice'.

It's possible to be both.

I don’t think it’s dissonance, I think many legitimately believe both are true and that’s what @yofuckreddit is saying. That is to say they have some racial animus towards the majority but also believe the only solution is going to be discipline and self-government from within the community. They may want reparations but they don’t expect they’ll get them.

I'm mostly inclined to agree with you, at least on the modern view of BLM and related movements. But I've been thinking lately about the Communist movements of the late 1800s through early 1900s and wondering, to what extent did they actually have a reasonable point? I'm not going to say I support authoritarian Communism or anything, but it didn't come from nowhere, at least some of the problems they were complaining about were real at the time.

I don't really know what things were like in the 1910s Russia. Maybe the Tsars really were both incompetent and authoritarian themselves, and industry may have been dominated by a clique-ish elite who hoarded the wealth and kept the working-class down. Around that time in America, that wasn't too far away from being the case as I understand it. It was the peak of the time of robber-baron capitalism, with lots of workers getting the shaft. Long hours, terrible working conditions, indifference towards injuries, low pay. Sometimes even worse when it gets into company towns and piles of other abuses that I haven't even heard about. I can see where those of a more angry, retributive, perhaps even revolutionary frame of mind might get the idea that overthrowing the whole system and giving this whole Communism thing a try might be a good idea.

Fortunately for all, we managed to improve things gradually and more smoothly. It turns out that further advances in industry, unionization, market forces making skilled workers more valuable, and relatively lightweight and limited government intervention while maintaining the fundamental tenets of capitalism did a much better job at improving the lots of the ordinary workers than any dictatorship of the Proletariat ever did.

Okay then, but what does that say about the behavior of modern Progressives? I can see how the Bolsheviks weren't right, but at least has a point. Damned if I can see the point of modern Progressives though. How does it make sense that they get all up in arms over a police shooting of a black guy who, upon review of the situation, probably had it coming, but don't care at all about dozens of black men getting killed in the inner cities every weekend for decades, and it actually getting worse when their prescribed solution of "abolishing the police" gets implemented? If Lenin and the rest of the inner circle of Bolsheviks were taking advantage of a shitty situation with legitimate grievances to leverage in their authoritarian tendencies, are the elite of the modern Progressive movement leveraging total nonsense to support theirs?

Damned if I can see the point of modern Progressives though. How does it make sense that they get all up in arms over a police shooting of a black guy who, upon review of the situation, probably had it coming,

Start earlier. Remember progressivism started from the very real discrimination faced by black people in the US historically, just as Bolsheviks may too have had a real grievance about conditions. If you have already lost trust in authority (as many black people have) then that makes sense.

Many Catholics to this day distrust the Northern Irish police service due to how it was used back in the day. And that is after disbanding the RUC, renaming it and mandating a Catholic quota in officers.

That is where BLM comes from. Trust once lost is hard to regain. They are not starting with a neutral view. As for black on black violence, white progressives also don't want to be seen to be racist and paternalistic in forcing solutions on black communities that they did not ask for. And black communities are hopelessly divided on that issue. If they (or at last a large majority) could agree a solution, white progressives would be happy to champion it as they did BLM.

I actually draw a distinction there. I have a greater level of sympathy and understanding towards actual black communities that are wary of trusting the police, since they've actually experienced historic oppression by them. For the whole Ferguson situation, my impression was that the shooting of Michael Brown was technically justified, but it might have been the only correct thing the cops had done there in a long time. Michael Brown's actions were technically wrong, but more understandable, and did succeed in shining a light onto lots of actual misconduct. I admit I don't have any great ideas on how to create law and order in black communities when the relationship with the police is already so poisoned in so many of them.

However, my impression is that I don't see a lot of those people or communities in the BLM movement. That, as far as I can tell, is mostly a wealthy white people movement. Whatever actual black people took part in it are mostly upper-class and already pretty disconnected from actual oppression, even if there may have been some history of it.

I believe that our society has a more general problem of militarization of the police and over-policing of many things that applies to all people. I think that the recent racial focus is misguided and serves to obscure the real problem by insisting on a false narrative and thereby causing people to take the opposite position of excessively defending the police when they see the lies.

Right the BLM movement is spawned from but not controlled by the black communities that are impacted by it one way or the other. I'd agree there.

For the whole Ferguson situation, my impression was that the shooting of Michael Brown was technically justified, but it might have been the only correct thing the cops had done there in a long time. Michael Brown's actions were technically wrong, but more understandable, and did succeed in shining a light onto lots of actual misconduct.

Technically, my ass. The only reason Wilson didn't get railroaded by a system that badly wanted to was because it wasn't remotely a close case. Wilson's actions were fully justified by large margins, and he had extensive physical evidence to prove it.

I believe that our society has a more general problem of militarization of the police and over-policing of many things that applies to all people. I think that the recent racial focus is misguided and serves to obscure the real problem by insisting on a false narrative and thereby causing people to take the opposite position of excessively defending the police when they see the lies.

And see, I would agree with all of this, except for the "excessively defending the police" claim in the same post where you seem to present the Michael Brown case as somehow borderline! Police misconduct absolutely exists, and absolutely should be punished, but you need to use valid examples.

I find it amusing that in this thread, I'm being taken to task both for saying that most people shot by cops "had it coming" - being not sufficiently sympathetic to the suspect, and also for saying that a police shooting was "technically" justified - being not sufficiently sympathetic to the police officer. I don't know guys, I'm just trying to be neutral here!

My actual position is more like, I believe both that there is significant police misconduct and that the vast majority of actual police shootings are fully justified. Misconduct takes place more in the smaller stuff, like excessive force and hostility. Felony car stops for paperwork errors, SWAT raids on houses based on flimsy evidence of minor crimes, raiding the wrong house entirely, destructive searches with flimsy justification, etc.

and also for saying that a police shooting was "technically" justified - being not sufficiently sympathetic to the police officer.

You're misrepresenting my criticism. My point was that your description of this specific situation was wrong, not the degree of sympathy you showed. It is in fact quite a big deal that people know where the line is between good behavior and bad, and saying that Wilson was "technically" in the clear is simply not true. In order to avoid further unjust treatment, it had to be proved that Wilson was innocent beyond a reasonable doubt--a complete inversion of the standards of criminal law--and he did so, meeting an unjust burden. Again, this was not a close case!

I don't know guys, I'm just trying to be neutral here!

Splitting the difference between the truth and a lie is not admirable.

I largely agree with your second paragraph; one of my biggest meta-problems with BLM at the time was that it would prevent meaningful, productive police reform for a generation. I was wrong in that assessment in my undue optimism--the fallout has been much worse than I anticipated.

I can see how the Bolsheviks weren't right, but at least has a point. Damned if I can see the point of modern Progressives though. How does it make sense that they get all up in arms over a police shooting of a black guy who, upon review of the situation, probably had it coming, but don't care at all about dozens of black men getting killed in the inner cities every weekend for decades, and it actually getting worse when their prescribed solution of "abolishing the police" gets implemented? [emphasis added by me, @NR].

Their behavior is indeed baffling if you assume that they are trying to implement a rational plan to achieve the goals they claim to have. But I don't think that is what is going on. If you ignore what they say and watch what they do, what objective does it point to?

As an aside, I think it's a bit cold blooded to say that the offender "had it coming". I suspect that if you or I had been his shoes, and walked in his shoes a while, we might have acted the same way he did -- or at least understood and empathized with his motives. I think it's more accurate to say that the shooting was justified.

I mean "had it coming" in a more immediate sense. Not that the person as a whole deserved to die in the abstract, regardless of what he had done at any particular moment. More that yeah if you try to beat or choke or stab or shoot a cop, he's probably going to try to shoot you, regardless of what motivated you to do that and to what extent it was understandable.

On the first, it's pretty standard for the leaders of a movement to be disingenuous about their real goals. It's the behavior of the on the ground individuals that I find bizarre. It sure doesn't seem like they're sophisticated enough to have a more sinister real goal and to be pushing the beliefs they claim as a cynical ruse to achieve that goal. They seem to be true believers, but about something that's completely fabricated and nonsensical.

It's the behavior of the on the ground individuals that I find bizarre. It sure doesn't seem like they're sophisticated enough to have a more sinister real goal and to be pushing the beliefs they claim as a cynical ruse to achieve that goal. They seem to be true believers, but about something that's completely fabricated and nonsensical.

When an animal gets rabies, it seems to decide to stop drinking water. That is why it is called "hydrophobia". This causes excess viruses to build up in the animal's mouth instead of being washed down, which would happen if it were drinking normally. The little spit that is left in the mouth is thick with rabies virus, so he is said to "foam at the mouth". Then the animal seems to decide to get mad at the world -- so mad that a skunk will attack a German Shepherd, and a German shepherd will attack its owner. To himself the rabid animal is probably thinking the equivalent, "You called my momma a name and I heard it". But what is really happening is that a rabid animal is not in control of itself; it is carrying out the plan of some other agent that has infected it, and the goal of that plan has evolved to spread the virus that carries it.

The locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank; [Proverbs 30:27, ESV]

and industry may have been dominated by a clique-ish elite who hoarded the wealth and kept the working-class down

But I don't think Russia was very industrialized—my impression was that that mostly happened with Stalin? There were many more peasant farmers.

Long hours, terrible working conditions, indifference towards injuries, low pay.

When I read this (especially including low pay), what I hear is that labor was cheap relative to the goods people wanted, unless there's something keeping the markets out. So a large part of what made lives better was labor becoming more expensive relative to the goods it can buy—employers would give more for it.

But I don't think Russia was very industrialized—my impression was that that mostly happened with Stalin? There were many more peasant farmers.

Overpopulation was one of the reasons why the revolution happened. Cities used to be population sinks, but Russian cities weren't big enough to absorb surplus peasantry. A large supply of industrial workers meant that the price of labor was low, turning the proletariat into literal incels, since the only housing they could afford was not a room, but a single bunk.

Forced land redistribution started even before the Bolsheviks took power, they were the one smart enough to legitimize and endorse it (Decree on Land). The resulting yeomanization of Russia bought them about ten years of goodwill, until peasants started switching to cash crops and fodder from wheat.

There's at least three groups among modern progressives. The "Resigned" are very liberal but don't really do much about it. They feel betrayed and left behind by the system and this depresses them and leads to apathy and inaction. There's the College Crusader who are usually white and well-educated, and very politically active, and have socialist sympathies. They are usually the stereotype, where they are in favor of equality and equity and want drastic solutions to accomplish it. They typically don't have much sympathy for opposing viewpoints. Economic and racial lenses on many issues are very common views. Then you have the Radicals. They are a bit harder to define, probably because as a demographic group, they aren't very big (Progressives broadly are only like 12% of US adults, using Pew's numbers). These are the people where actual Marxism might start showing up more overtly. And they are the only ones for which, at least in my opinion, Bolshevik comparisons should be made for.

Zooming out, and looking at one actual mass movement, BLM had broad appeal beyond conservatives because some of the core pieces of the message were generic enough for large parts of the liberal coalition to get behind, on top of a few highly-publicized cases of cops actually doing some pretty horrifying things (not all the time, of course as you note, but the cop kneeling on his neck is a pretty powerful image, whether you think drugs were a big factor in his death or not). But notice how ACAB and stuff specifically didn't actually gain much traction beyond Fox News which loved to use it as a very easy boo-outgroup target.

And when you get into the apparent apathy behind Black deaths, you actually do start to see a split, and not a new one -- it dates back to at least the Civil Rights era. You have some people who think that white people should do something about it -- but feel powerless, and thus redirect this energy into anti-gun and so a lesser extent, anti-police crusades. As noted, much of this group is white, and thus this is all they "can" do. You also have the more Malcolm-X style progressives who think the solution has to come from Blacks themselves.... but the problem? Blacks are rarely progressives. Most Blacks are vaguely generic establishment Democrats on the spectrum, or uninvolved in politics. Here you can see that not only are only 10% of Progressives (themselves only 12% of the total population) Black, but the density of Black adults falls much more among other Democratic sub-groups. So basically, white College Crusaders leave the problem to Black true-believers, but there aren't enough of them to make meaningful amounts of noise in the general space.

Ngl guys it’s pretty cringe that this really interesting comment got a bunch of downvotes.

As an aside I wonder if it’s worth subclassifying your Radicals into further groups around eg the “class-reduction” debate with StupidPol/bro socialist types vs the queer Marxists etc. Then again the former has effectively been exiled from mainstream progressivism so maybe they wouldn’t even count.

The asks question -> receives answer -> downvotes response is so bizarre to me. It's like the forum version of the Who killed Hannibal meme. It makes me think that, in aggregate, the "why can't I understand progressives" question is more rhetorical and boo-outgroup than an actual attempt at seeking understanding, which is sad.

Regarding the actual makeup or splits among Progressives, it's hard to know. Progressives are at least somewhat loud by themselves, but they are also signal-boosted by both right wing outlets looking for a boogeyman as well as left wing outlets who don't want to talk back too loudly or they will betray some cause. But my main point was that they aren't actually a very big group! At least according to the best polling data we have. And at some point, attempting to slice and categorize such a small group becomes both statistically and philosophically questionable.

You bring up a great point however. Classifying them all as Radicals is a bit lazy and is also a bit of centrist bias. Maybe I should do a deeper dive and see if there's some good polling data specific to progressives.

But notice how ACAB and stuff specifically didn't actually gain much traction beyond Fox News which loved to use it as a very easy boo-outgroup target

I still see it in women's online dating profiles.

The way I hear it, it's also used as a filtering mechanism to drive away right wing types. That these women fuck right wingers who ball up and talk to them in a bar is cognitive dissonance expatiated by the progressive Hinge profile enshrined for public presentation.

broad appeal beyond conservatives because some of the core pieces of the message were generic enough for large parts of the liberal coalition to get behind

And not exclusively liberals either. I remember at least one person who's conservative reacting to Floyd dying after being restrained at his neck. Though he wasn't in favor of the riots, of course.

I don't really know what things were like in the 1910s Russia. Maybe the Tsars really were both incompetent and authoritarian themselves, and industry may have been dominated by a clique-ish elite who hoarded the wealth and kept the working-class down.

Basically, all of this is true. In particular, the use of Russian working-class men as cannon fodder in World War I, the inhuman conditions they lived under while at war, and the indifference of the upper classes to any of this, created morbid resentment among the lower classes toward the upper. While the common soldiers had to live under ghastly conditions of privation, cold, lice, disease, and lack of medical care, they witnessed first-hand the relatively cushy lives of the officers, and even more cushy lives of the commanders. It resonates with the American situation in Vietnam, where, because of the college draft deferment, working class and underclass men were often sent abroad to risk their lives for values held more closely by the upper classes. It also resonates with Plato's description of how the working classes lose respect for the rich when they serve side by side in war:

And often rulers and their subjects may come in one another's way, whether on a pilgrimage or a march, as fellow-soldiers or fellow-sailors; aye, and they may observe the behaviour of each other in the very moment of danger --for where danger is, there is no fear that the poor will be despised by the rich --and very likely the wiry sunburnt poor man may be placed in battle at the side of a wealthy one who has never spoilt his complexion and has plenty of superfluous flesh --when he sees such an one puffing and at his wit's end, how can he avoid drawing the conclusion that men like him are only rich because no one has the courage to despoil them? [The Republic, VIII]

The question is how to move forward from it. The Russians picked the wrong answer. Dead wrong.

In the Marxist view, after all, ownership of private property was theoretically illegitimate in the first place -- and so the police's role in preventing Bolsheviks and their constituents from stealing money and other valuables that they wanted to steal (or "expropriate", as they put it) was, in their view, a form of oppression.

Sometimes, I forget how core and radical this is. Then, I see things like this guy's most recent comic. It really kind of baffles me to imagine how they think that's actually supposed to work. What do they really think their life would be like if civilization reverted to essentially the state of nature and nobody was around to care every time a slightly larger hairless ape showed up and decided to take something from them by violence. I know the old joke about pro-capitalist people being 'temporarily embarrassed millionaires', but what are they actually envisioning? Are they 'temporarily embarrassed gang leaders/warlords'?

The problem with the comic is that the author obviously sympathizes with the wolf, not that the wolf is ipso facto incorrect.