Police Abuse

Criticism Does Not Kill Cops

Tarring opponents as accomplices to murder is deadly to debate.


After Jared Loughner killed six people and wounded 14 at a Tucson shopping center in 2011, talk radio titan Rush Limbaugh ridiculed attempts to blame the mass shooting on inflammatory right-wing rhetoric. But after Micah Johnson killed five police officers and wounded nine in downtown Dallas last week, Limbaugh did not hesitate to blame the violence on the Black Lives Matter movement.

Limbaugh was right then, and he's wrong now. Tarring one's political adversaries as accomplices to murder while calling for greater civility in public debate is a neat trick if you can pull it off, but it's still a trick.

"I understand the First Amendment," Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told Fox News the day after the Dallas massacre. "I understand freedom of speech."

Yet in the next breath, Patrick insisted that "you can't go out on social media and mainstream media and everywhere else and say that the police are racist, that the police are hateful, the police are killers." He argued that "too many in the general public who aren't criminals but have a big mouth are creating situations like we saw last night."

It must be said that the alleged connection between Johnson and criticism of police is more plausible than the alleged connection between Loughner and the bare-knuckle politicking represented by Sarah Palin's notorious map with crosshairs over the congressional districts of Democrats targeted for defeat. Loughner had no discernible ideology, and his motive for trying to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) remains obscure, while Johnson, who deliberately shot white cops, was avowedly avenging the police shootings that prompted the Black Lives Matter protest during which he opened fire.

Still, it is neither fair nor reasonable to judge a cause by the people who commit violence in its name, which is what Patrick and his allies would have us do. On his show last Friday, Limbaugh declared that Black Lives Matter is "quickly becoming a terrorist group committing hate crimes."

Limbaugh's guest, Heather Mac Donald, author of The War on Cops, said President Obama is also implicated. "President Obama lied to the nation last night, and he embraced the Black Lives Matter myth that there is a racist war by white officers against black civilians in this country," she said. "And we see the results."

What Obama actually said was that "all of us as Americans should be troubled by these shootings," referring to the deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota—incidents in which police killed black men who seemed to pose no threat that would justify the use of lethal force. "These are not isolated incidents," he said. "They're symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system."

Obama cited statistics indicating that blacks are more likely than whites to be stopped by police, to be searched, to be arrested, and to be shot, and that they tend to receive longer sentences for comparable crimes. "When incidents like [these shootings] occur," he said, "there's a big chunk of our fellow citizenry that feels as if, because of the color of their skin, they are not being treated the same."

Contrary to Mac Donald's gloss, Obama did not say anything about the motives underlying questionable police shootings, let alone charge police with waging "a racist war." In fact, he expressed his "extraordinary appreciation and respect for the vast majority of police officers who put their lives on the line to protect us every single day."

One can question the significance of the disparities Obama cited (as Mac Donald does), and one can question his focus on skin color when the problem of excessive force transcends race. But if this sort of mild commentary is beyond the pale because it might inspire murder, any discussion of controversial issues has to be seen as a threat to public safety, an attitude that makes free and open debate impossible.

© Copyright 2016 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. “Tarring opponents as accomplices to murder is deadly to debate.”

    Killing debate is what they want. “No conversation, just accept what I say. If you don’t, you’re wrong.” A common attitude in politics today…not just in the US.

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    2. By peddling the notion that there is “systemic racism” in police departments across the country, Hillary Clinton and President Obama fueled rage among people like the Dallas shooter.

      It is odd that Sullum repeats this claim by Obama, without noting that it is entirely explained by the higher black crime rate (and blacks who commit “comparable crimes” tend to have a longer rap sheet and more prior crimes):

      “Obama cited statistics indicating that blacks are more likely than whites to be stopped by police, to be searched, to be arrested, and to be shot, and that they tend to receive longer sentences for comparable crimes.”

      None of these statistics show racism at all, as this link explains: http://goo.gl/k7xD6l

      As the black lawyer and civil-rights commissioner Peter Kirsanow notes, blacks are stopped more by police because they commit traffic and moving violations at a higher rate than whites. As a commenter notes below, a recent study by a black Harvard professor finds no police bias in shootings.

      Blacks are arrested at a rate twice that of whites (as Obama said) because they commit crimes at a rate more than twice that of whites (something Obama will never admit). Blacks commit murder at a rate eight times higher than non-Hispanic whites, according to FBI data.

      Blacks do not actually “receive longer sentences for comparable crimes.” They only seem to, if you wrongly ignore their prior arrests and convictions (black offenders tend to have more prior convictions).

  2. Harvard Economist: No Racial Bias in Police Shootings

    But when it comes to the most lethal form of force ? police shootings ? the study finds no racial bias.

    “It is the most surprising result of my career,” said Roland G. Fryer Jr., the author of the study and a professor of economics at Harvard. The study examined more than 1,000 shootings in 10 major police departments, in Texas, Florida and California.

    The result contradicts the image of police shootings that many Americans hold after the killings (some captured on video) of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.; Tamir Rice in Cleveland; Walter Scott in South Carolina; Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La.; and Philando Castile in Minnesota.

    1. So, Obama actually did lie?
      Where the hell did I put my shocked face?

      1. IIRC the discussion about this study, they found disparities between lots of things, but not people actually killed by police.

    2. This trend of citing a single study or a few studies that reach conclusions you like in order to ‘prove’ that you’re correct is silly. Especially the social science studies, because there is no science to be found there. People usually don’t even wait until the studies are replicated, let alone until there is actual scientific consensus and the matter has been studied extensively.

      It would be smart to refuse to play this ‘Cite A Recent Study’ game, but bullshitters tend to love it because they are dishonest.

  3. Can we still at the very least blame gun owners for owning guns and making cops nervous and jumpy and shooty and killy??

    1. The problem is not enough gun control, because one more law, or three, would have stopped that Dallas sniper.

      1. We’re so close!

      2. The problem is not enough gun control, because one more law, or three, would have stopped that Dallas sniper.

        Not quite shocked enough to pay off the lien on my shocked face, but the brazenness with which they suggest disarming the targets/victims in Dallas is astounding.

        Also, I must admit, the situation does help clearly delineate the useful idiots from the zealots. When you point out that even if no civilians were armed and only the police had guns that, in the end, they gave up on a shooting solution and blew him up; you quickly sort out the people who haven’t thought the gun situation all the way through from those who explicitly don’t care to.

    2. Well, then banning all guns will make them more jumpy and shooty and killy. You know why? Because then they’ll be all more jumpy and shooty and killy because people will have ‘illegal’ guns, which everyone knows are way more scarier and magically killier than legal guns.

  4. I blame Obama and the media’s divisive rhetoric and a political class that is now completely out of touch with the average citizen.

    For all of the talk about how Trump is not presidential like enough to be president, is he any less presidential than the divider in chief that’s occupying the Whitehouse now? Admittedly, I can’t see Trump as POTUS, but no president in my memory was anything like the petulant thin skinned narcissist we have now. Trump couldn’t be worse, he’d just be unpresidential in a different way. And what about Hillary? A screeching old bat who would stay completely hidden from the public for long periods of time while plotting up every shady corrupt deal that you could possibly imagine and worse. I don’t know how we avoid a dictatorship within a few more elections if we keep heading down this path. For this, I blame the voters.

  5. I would bet that if this entire BLM narrative wasn’t being hyped so hard in the media and elsewhere on the internet and in protests, the guy probably wouldn’t have killed the cops.

    In Loughner ‘s case, as I recall the guy never even knew Palin or her crosshair maps even existed. But let’s suppose he did and his craziness was motivated by them.

    You can’t limit the rights of 300 million people over the (apparently) one-in-300-million possibility that some nutjob will get carried away. We’re all a million times more likely to die some other way first. When people talk of the limits to rights, such odds mean these rare incidents should never even be considered as a valid reason.

    1. The BLM movement wouldn’t exist if cops didn’t have a get-out-of-jail free card for murdering and beating people.

      1. Maybe not, but all these groups are astroturf and if it wasn’t this it would be something else to help charge up the black base which is needed to help the dems win in November.

        1. You realize you’re making the exact same arguments against BLM that dems made against the Tea Party?

          1. BLM is funded $30 Million by Soros. The Tea Party did not have that kind of funding. You are hard pressed to find violence and damage by Tea Party groups, and they left the parks in the same shape they found them, not burned to the ground.

          2. Same argument, but not the same basis in fact.

            Original TEA parties were not astroturf. So much not so that the establishment GOP also helped shut them down.

      2. I’d also bet that cop and jury behavior is a direct result of the violence level of the country itself. And then my post here and your response, all preordained by fate. But I talking about principles and rights. These require the concept of free will and no one gets a pass at that point.

      3. BLM wouldn’t exist without the $30 million supplied by Soros. This is a paid political movement to agitate and create discord in the nation.

    2. It’s also perfectly possible to understand that the narrative that BLM is pushing may have motivated this guy without holding BLM morally or legally culpable for speaking out.

  6. Tarring one’s political adversaries as accomplices to murder while calling for greater civility in public debate is a neat trick if you can pull it off, but it’s still a trick.

    It’s not really that hard to do, since everyone who calls for “greater civility in public debate” is only talking about the other side.

  7. But words are violence!!!!! /progtard millennial snowflake

  8. “I understand the First Amendment,” Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told Fox News the day after the Dallas massacre. “I understand freedom of speech.”

    There doesn’t need to be an actual “but” for the rule of “everything before the ‘but’…” to apply.

  9. Since BLM has called for the killing of cops, which is different then criticizing them, you can blame them for inciting violence. Rush Limbaugh and other radio commentators have not called for violence, You know this so why leave that important fact out? Is it because it destroys your chances of street creed with liberals

    1. And libertarians call for the woodchippering of federal judges.

      I’m not sure it’s fair to say “BLM has called for killing cops”. Anyone can say they are affiliated with BLM and that they want to kill cops. That doesn’t make it some kind of official position of the group. Reminds me of people talking about all the terrible things that the Tea Party stood for whenever some self identified TPer nutcase said something offensive.

      1. it was a BLM protest where they were chanting about frying pigs in a blanket. that is a violent threat.

        1. ?and? You don’t think crazy shit gets said amongst groups of libertarians?

        2. And it was a Libertarian convention where a guy stripped on stage.
          And it’s every Christian church or Jewish Synagougue in America that has a holy book calling for the stoning of gay men.

          To be clear, it’s reasonable to forgive “your side” of excesses that you won’t forgive the “other side” of doing. It’s human nature, imminently understandable.

          But just ’cause a double standard is 100% understandable and reasonable, doesn’t mean it’s not a double standard.

        3. No, that chant was hyperbole. But transgenders should use the bathroom of their birth gender isn’t even close to being hyperbole, let alone a threat about killing gay people.

      2. “how do we want cops, dead, when do we want it, NOW!” “pigs in a blanket, fry them like bacon.”

        I would consider those protest marches as a call to action. This wasn’t a nutjob, but in organized marches in various cities.

        1. Based on the number of line-of-duty deaths of law enforcement over the past two decades, if that’s a “call to action” it’s one of the most piss-poor calls to action ever.

  10. Fuck the police. Also, fuck BLM for turning the problems of a militarized police force and police accountability into a racism narrative.

    1. ^^THIS^^^

  11. I guess we’re going to have to outlaw black people. If it saves just one cop.

  12. “there’s a big chunk of our fellow citizenry”

    Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the great orator.

  13. Star football players are penalized more often than below average players. That too is evidence of bias. Right?

  14. any discussion of controversial issues has to be seen as a threat to public safety, an attitude that makes free and open debate impossible.

    Time to move from the soap box to the ballot box.

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  16. “Still, it is neither fair nor reasonable to judge a cause by the people who commit violence in its name […]”
    What, like a one-off instance? Sure, that’s unfair.

    But if there’s a clear pattern over years and years that shows up in statistics and can be measured?

    Kind of a different story, no? Isolated incidents are one thing?. Repeated consistent patterns are another.
    ?And to be clear, even with Dallas, 2016 is still on track to have fewer police officer line-of-duty deaths then 2015. Even the Officer Down Memorial Page, which has a very broad definition of “line of duty deaths”, has the trend over the last decade going down with 2016 part of that trend.

    Data from ODMG:
    Year : Line-of-Duty Deaths
    2016 : 62 (in progress)
    2015 : 130
    2014 : 145
    2013 : 123
    2012 : 139
    2011 : 180
    2010 : 177
    2009 : 140
    2008 : 161
    2007 : 204
    2006 : 161
    2005 : 166
    2004 : 166
    2003 : 152
    2002 : 160
    2001 : 242
    2000 : 164
    1999 : 152
    1998 : 178
    1997 : 179

  17. I saw a tweet the other day asking if the left who say that criticism of Islamic radicals causes them to commit jihad, will acknowledge that badmouthing police causes things like Dallas. Seemed like the argument gets twisted in the middle. The sad thing is that we have been talking ‘war on cops’ for a long time. Some start it after Ferguson, but we have been using that term for years before that. And when you tell cops that they are at war with the people they serve for a long time, you change their relationship. All this when we see over 30% fewer annual police deaths in recent years than in the 1980s. Raw numbers. If you adjust for a growth in population (assuming roughly proportional growth in policing), it would be down by about 45% relatively. Still, both sides need to tone down the rhetoric to move toward a better situation.

  18. Gee really? You don’t say?

    Yes “WE” need to stop doing this. The Progressives can go first…… But there’s no chance in hell they will.

    They can get back to me about “acceptable conversations” when they’re willing to try having one, just ONE of them.

  19. Yes, criticism DOES kill cops, depending on its origin and its intensity. Obama’s persistent criticism of the “mistakes” and so-called systemic racism in law enforcement has directly contributed to the climate of suspicion, and BLM outrageous calls for killing cops has directly contributed to the climate of murderous hate. Let’s not exculpate the merchants of hate while excoriating those who stand between us and lawlessness and mayhem.

    1. Yes, criticism DOES kill cops

      Really now? So you can point to instances where someone criticizes cops, and then those cops magically die? Or could it be that the criticism isn’t killing the cops, but some people who take violent actions are?

      If someone sees criticisms of cops and then chooses to go out and murder cops, they are personally responsible for their own actions. You can choose how you react to someone else’s speech, so there is no one at fault but them.

  20. Notice that the “suspect” in the Dallas shootings was killed by police without due process, by what amounted to a drone strike. At the time he was killed, he was not a threat to anyone. Worst of all, this “cop justice” didn’t happen in a back alley, it was right in front of the whole world. Also, they blew him up with explosives. Did Dallas PD just happen to keep a locker full of bombs handy or did they whip up an IED on demand. What is the legality of that? Militarized indeed, along with judge, jury, and executioner.

  21. you people hide the TRUTH………..

    Dallas Mass cop murderer’s Arabic name was Fahed Hassen – racist domestic terrorists ‘Black Lives Matter’ and their Comrades

    “During the search of the suspect’s home, detectives found bomb making materials, ballistic vests, rifles, ammunition, and a personal journal of combat tactics.”
    ? Dallas Mass cop murderer’s Arabic name was Fahed Hassen
    ? Dallas Mass Cop Murderer was Follower of Nation of Islam

    ? Chaos in St. Paul – Police injured after #BlackLivesMatter Attacks Cops With Rocks, * Rebar, Bottles, Fireworks, Molotov Cocktails, July 10, 2016
    ? Gunfire hits San Antonio police headquarters, July 10, 2016
    ? Violence at another Black Lives matter event in Chicago, July 9, 2016
    ? New Black Panther Leader: Cop Killer Micah Johnson ‘Just Got Five Of The Bastards’


  22. No, criticism of criticism of criticism of cops kills cops. Okay, maybe it’s just hypocritical.

    The question that really needs to be answered though is why does it seem like white cops been have had it out for young black males as of late? Could it be that BLM is overstating the problem (especially in light of overwhelming black on black crime statistics and cops naturally profiling) and New Black Panter crazies are just coming up with solutions?

    The bigger casualty of BLM though is any hope that black leaders and prohibitionists will take some responsibility for the absolute breakdown of the black family. No, wait, cops are why blacks can’t get ahead, as if a racist cop wishes he could keep all those Asians down. They’re just so hard to spot driving and all!

  23. This article is as guilty of false equivalence as anything the author purports to see elsewhere.

  24. The TEA parties were broad brushed as racist wackos for much less than what the BLM protests have displayed, displayed with regularity, and displayed without any sort of self policing or corrective measures.

  25. limbaugh might have a point now and then. most people do, if only by accident, but he’s a politician with a radio show, nothing more. the idea that he’d blame his opponents but be outraged when his team is blamed is simply politics by a different medium.

  26. “He who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

    The Obama administration and the left-wing media spent the last 8 years convincing these people that they’re being killed over their skin color. Now they’re killing white people and cops, believing they’re “fighting back”.

    This is not a matter of simple criticism. This is incitement to violence.

  27. Were I Sullum I might find it disturbing that the only commenter who does not seem critical of my argument is Hihn.

    But, you know, maybe that’s just guilt by association.

  28. The problem with BLM is that inflammatory rhetoric is all they’ve got. There’s no discussion, at least at the top, about working with law enforcement and civic leaders, building trust, promoting legislation, etc. etc. It’s like lighting a fuse and not caring what’s at the other end.

    If they believe there’s a systematic state-sponsored program of violence against Blacks, and they want to make that their mission, fine. I won’t presume to tell any organization that they should have a different mission. But create a complete strategy that includes some solutions, not just a few tactics to get everybody all worked up.

    I think BLM’s days are numbered.

  29. Patrick insisted that “you can’t go out on social media and mainstream media and everywhere else and say that the police are racist, that the police are hateful, the police are killers.”

    Yes I can, and I will, because police ARE cowardly killers. The race connection is more tenuous, as cops freely murder people of every race and color (twice as many whites as blacks, but more blacks relative to their population).

    Idiots like Patrick are absolutely determined never to face the real problem, which is coming from the cops, not from the people who write about their misdeeds.

    1. the real problem is the cops? Where have YOU been living? Study out every incident of the past decade or so….. cops wantonly killing or beating folks is far more rare than one would think, given the noise about such things. Remember the stink made when that black thugpunk got his sorry backside killed when he tried to murder a local guy who was taking responsibility to keep his neighbourhood secure? Several recent housebreakings had everyone on edge…. he observed a non-resident of the area lurking and prowling about in folks’ backyards in precisely the area of the housebreakings. The punk jumped him, tried to kill him, and ended up getting shot when the punk discovered his victim’s handgun and said he’d kill him with it. In the tussle, the kid got shot. Turns out we find later on that this kid had been found with stuff from some of those same houses broken into previously. And it was rather strange that, suddenly, the housebreakings ended when the life of the punk did. And yet from Obama on down this was billed as a racist murder of an innocent choirboy……… special prosecutor imported to railroad the victim on murder charges, AtG Holder vowed he’d see “justice done”……

      1. in the end, the local guy was acquitted by a jury of his peers, review of testimony should have had that prosecotor disbarred for drummed up testimony, laying groundless charges, withholding exculpatory evidence, false statements into the media, etc. Holder’s “investigation” was cancelled after the acquittal… he never admitted it, but justice HAD been done. Yet this is still often held up as a perfect example of white on black racist violence…. the media, having falsified the 911 recordings to accuse the victim of racism, also invented the term “white hispanic” to further promote the ‘racist” basis of this incident. The poor guy trying to look out for his neighbours ended up having his life destroyed by the lies and bad publicity.

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  31. quote:

    “Loughner had no discernible ideology, and his motive for trying to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) remains obscure”.

    You missed that call by a wide margin. From all I’ve seen, and I studied it out pretty carefully at the time, Giffords was NOT an intended victim. No, the judge that was killed seems to have been the target. From the record, seems he and the perp had crossed paths officially some time back, and the killer had a “score to settle”. Giffords just happened to be in the way, just as was the nine year old girl that also died. Of course Giffords and her husband Mark Whatzizname play her injury for more than its worth when it comes to trying to disarm those who could have shot back at the perp in Tucson.

    I blame the kinyun charlatan in the white house…. who has waged a carefully metred and contrived campaign based on an imaginary racism. Remember, his only activity ever approaching a “job” was as a “community organiser” in the south end of Chicago. He fomented backlash to falsely perceived racism then, and has escalated since he first ascended the bully pulpit. His constant raving about the near non-existant racism nationwide flies in the face of his own blatant racism and other preferences in his policies.

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