You Know What’s Worse Than Bad Cops Who Beat, Shoot, and Kill Innocent People? Libertarians.

Friday, April 13th, 2012

I gave up on having any sort of meaningful discourse with the Balloon Juice blog a good year ago or so. The noise over there is just too damned loud. But a post last night by front-page blogger Ann Laurie deserves some attention. It really goes above an beyond the usual ignorant Balloon Juice blathering.

Here’s what happened:

Earlier this week, I pointed you to the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project, a one-man project run by David Packman that, as the name indicates, catalogs police misconduct around the country. Packman understandably is having problems keeping the project going while also working a full-time job, and indicated he may have to shut the site down unless he can make other arrangements.

I was delighted to learn yesterday afternoon, then, that my old supervisor Tim Lynch is interested in bringing the project to the Cato Institute. Cato would provide a great platform for the project, bringing Packman’s work and the issue of police misconduct the sort of national exposure and broad institutional support both deserve.

As it turns out, Packman also received other offers to take over the project—a good indication that others have recognized the value of his work. So Packman decided to put the offers to a vote, and allow his readers to have a say in what happens next.

So yesterday afternoon I received an email from my friend Johnathan Blanks, who is Lynch’s research assistant, someone I happen to know is pretty passionate about these issues, and the guy who would likely be overseeing the project if it were to come to Cato. Blanks’ email, sent to a small circle of people he knew used Packman’s site regularly, explained what was going on, pointed us to the poll, and urged us to vote. Blanks also explicitly urged us not to post the poll on our blogs, Twirter accounts, or Facebook accounts. His thinking, which I think was appropriate, was that the fate of Packman’s site should be determined by the people who read it regularly. He didn’t want it to look like Cato was using its institutional might to overwhelm the poll with people who aren’t already familiar with what Packman has been doing.

Enter the idiots at Balloon Juice. A trolling twit from that site who goes by the name “Joey Maloney,” and whom I’ve banned from this site after repeated warnings, emailed Balloon Juice blogger Anne Laurie about Packman’s poll, asking her to direct the site’s hivemind to go skew the poll against Cato. And she complied, telling Balloon Juicers to go vote for “anyone but CATO [sic].” To top it off, Ann Laurie admits in the post that she has never read Packman’s site. Which means she really has no idea what the hell she’s writing about. But no matter. On any issue. No matter what. Anyone but Cato. And of course the Balloon Juicers then mindlessly carried out her command.

Here’s the thing. Cato published and promoted my paper on police militarization. In fact, Cato had already published another paper on the issue in 1999, one that noted how the trend was affecting poor and minority communities. This was a good 12 years before mainstream liberals really started giving a damn about this issue, which was once heavily militarized cops started beating middle class white kids at Occupy protests. Cato has also been maintaining an online map of botched SWAT raids since my paper came out in 2006. But you know, anyone but Cato.

Also, Anne, Cato has been filing amicus Supreme Court briefs on police and prosecutorial misconduct cases for years, now. They often team up with organizations like the ACLU and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. In recent years, Cato has hosted forums on asset forfeiture abuse, ending the drug war, and hosted a screening of a film directed at minority communities about how to protect their civil rights when dealing with cops. Cato scholars have recently written about police GPS tracking, the inequities of juvenile justice, the overuse and unfairness of plea bargaining, police militarization, New York City’s stop-and-frisk happy police commissioner Ray Kelly, the importance of preserving Miranda rights, the First Amendment right to record the police, and debunking the notion that immigrants are disproportionately prone to criminal behavior.

But sure, Anne. Anyone but Cato.

The thing is, Cato won’t be hurt in the least should Balloon Juice’s poll jacking send Packman’s project elsewhere. But you know what will happen? Packman’s great, systematic work exposing and documenting police misconduct will get less national attention than it otherwise would. Which means the issue of police misconduct itself will get less attention than it otherwise would. And Packman’s project will go to someone who lacks the budget and institutional support of a place like Cato. But hey. If the issue of police misconduct must get less attention so a petty Balloon Juicer blogger can casually register her loathing of libertarians by sending the blog’s sneering idiots to swarm a small poll put up by guy who’s just trying to preserve a worthy thing he started, well, I suppose that’s the price we all must pay. Good job, Anne!

Of course, in the end this is Packman’s project, and it’s his to do with as he pleases. My scorn here is for Laurie. Her casual, knee-jerk contempt for Cato is a tidy example of the depths to which the discourse at that site has sunk. Because she’s ignorant of Cato’s work on police abuse and criminal justice, she readily buys into Joey Maloney’s nefarious characterization of Cato. Because Cato supports lower taxes and less regulation, everything they do must be opposed, even if it’s stuff that a good liberal like Laurie ought to otherwise support. That principle extends out even to actively undermining causes liberals ought to support, if doing so in a particular instance might bring some small benefit or credit to a nasty bunch of Rand worshippers like Cato. I can only guess that in all her cunning, Laurie somehow sleuthed out Cato’s covert plan to contract the entire police misconduct project out to Haliburton. Also, something about Nick Gillespie’s leather jacket. And a bunch of Internet cliches. Butt-hurt. Derp!

Watch. I give it a month before a Balloon Juice blogger puts up yet another post about how libertarian organizations like Cato are just fronts for the Republican Party—because they never devote any real time or resources toward civil liberties issues.

(Side note: I know I’ve promised a post on the Koch vs. Cato controversy. That’s still coming.)

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161 Responses to “You Know What’s Worse Than Bad Cops Who Beat, Shoot, and Kill Innocent People? Libertarians.”

  1. #1 |  Other Sean | 

    Since we’re the only two people still in this discussion, let me be the one to remind you that your points have already been asked and answered (by Balko) much earlier in the thread.

    The National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project needs a sponsor now and not later. Cato stepped up now. If anyone wants to claim they did so with sinister intent the burden is on him to supply some evidence. Merely invoking the name of the Koch brothers is not a form of evidence, and no one actually knows what will or won’t happen after the lawsuit is decided.

    And then there is the key point Balko raised way back in #26: If the project’s mission is threatened at some point in the future, it can always go somewhere else.

    Or are you worried that the brothers will somehow turn Packman into the Manchurian Candidate of copwatch bloggers, so that one day he’ll snap and start telling his captive audience that they must henceforth trust the police in all things?

  2. #2 |  Laertes | 

    Well here’s me, learning something. I’d gotten the idea that Packman intended to hand the thing over to someone else and then walk away. If it’s true that he’d remain in control of the project while it’s under Cato’s sponsorship, and free to take it and leave if Cato turns into a hostile environment, then I’d enthusiastically agree that Cato is an excellent choice.

    Are you sure that’s true?

  3. #3 |  Other Sean | 

    Of course I’m not sure about that personally, but it is very clearly implied in one of Balko’s responses: “….If Koch takes over Cato, the worst scenario is that they stop supporting the project, at which point Packman could take it elsewhere…”

    What I meant was that neither the founder of the site NOR his readers would have to stand still if the project were suddenly twisted into a mouthpiece of conservative police jingoism.

    Whether Packman runs it or someone else, folks like you and me wouldn’t just fail to notice (or fail to protest) if people like Heather MacDonald or Victor Davis Hanson started appearing on the by-lines.

  4. #4 |  TimPundit | 

    I used to read BJ once in a while.

    But, after this….it’s like they turned into the Tea Party, mindless villagers intent on burning down the observatory to protect the world from meteors.

    Balloon Juice, you’re off the bookmarks.

  5. #5 |  Seerak | 

    Because Cato supports lower taxes and less regulation, everything they do must be opposed, even if it’s stuff that a good liberal like Laurie ought to otherwise support. That principle extends out even to actively undermining causes liberals ought to support, if doing so in a particular instance might bring some small benefit or credit to a nasty bunch of Rand worshippers like Cato.

    It seems to me that your concept of what a “good liberal” is, needs a rather sharp adjustment to these facts — or you need to stop confusing Leftism with liberalism. “Liberalism” has been nothing but an Edgar suit for those cockroaches for a long time now.

  6. #6 |  Spinoza | 

    Liberals fear true freedom, because it leaves them exposed and requires that they justify their own existence. They embrace state power, because as long as the state is more powerful than any individual, they do not feel threatened.

  7. #7 |  deepelemblues | 

    Balloon Juice is one of the best examples of the Green Blackboard Theory of the Internet:

    You can be an asshole, just because you can! It’s a never-ending circle jerk over at John Cole’s place.

  8. #8 |  Who Needs Goldstein When You Have Libertarians? « Questing for Atlantis | 

    […] then, as reported by Radley Balko, there’s the case of the Cato Institute getting blasted by a liberal blog […]

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    @144 – So, “banning” cheeses. Oh, you mean preventing deceptive advertising. HOW TRAGIC.

  10. #10 |  Tracking Police Misconduct « All Things in Moderation | 

    […] Of course, it is from Cato.   And apparently that’s created a bit of a blogosphere dust-up, as we all know that inside a libertarian is a Republican dying to get out.    For those interested in that see Radley Balko. […]

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