One of the favored rhetorical tools used to secure our subservience to government authority is the Appeal to Guilt. We ought not question the government's use of force abroad, we are told, because right now decent young men and women are being killed and maimed for us while we sit on the couch eating bon-bons. (Never mind that our questions might revolve around whether the young men and women's lives should be spent like that; the Appeal to Guilt is not really heavily logic-based.) So shut up and accept what your government tells you.
The Appeal to Guilt is especially popular when the topic is law enforcement. When cops harass people for wearing turbans or shoot your dogs in a botched drug raid or devote public resources to making young men pull their pants up, we're told that we have to cut them some slack, because they are all that stands between us and mere anarchy, and they are putting their life on the line for us. So shut up.
Cops do have very stressful jobs. And their jobs are dangerous — compared to, say, mine. But rhetoric aside, they simply are not the most dangerous jobs around. They're less dangerous than fishing, logging, roofing, or driving for a living, for instance. Now, nobody has asked me to show deference to roofers. Nobody feels an obligation to Please Come Again or buy more big gulps from the guy at the Kwiki-Mart when he asks just because he's got an unpleasant chance of getting shot by some hype. But of course, roofers and Kiwki-mart clerks are not the instruments of enforcing social order and compliance with government demands. No roofer is going to shoot your dog with a nail gun when he comes to roof your house instead of your neighbor's house because he got the address wrong. Plus, we don't have dozens of prime-time shows mythologizing the work of roofers and Kwiki-mart clerks.
On this topic, Rogier of Nobody's Business has a story about how law enforcement uses the "we're the thin blue line" rhetoric to excuse questionable tactics and allocations of resources. Asked to defend a vast use of police resources to pester some hippies agitated about something or other, British police asserted that the rightness of their cause was illustrated by the fact that 70 of their brave men were injured. What kind of injuries? Well, uh . . .
But data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act puts a rather different slant on the nature of those injuries, disclosing that not one was sustained in clashes with demonstrators. … [I]njuries reported included "stung on finger by possible wasp"; "officer injured sitting in car"; and "officer succumbed to sun and heat". One officer cut his arm on a fence when climbing over it, another cut his finger while mending a car, and one "used [his] leg to open [a] door and next day had pain in lower back". A separate breakdown of the 33 patients treated by the police tactical medicine unit at the climate camp shows that three officers had succumbed to heat exhaustion, three had toothache, six were bitten by insects, and others had diarrhoea, had cut their finger or had headaches.
So, next time you want to criticize police for roughing up protesters or tasing a guy in a wheelchair or something, remember — that guy could be getting stung by a possible wasp for you. So shut up, like a good citizen.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Popehat Goes To The Opera: Un ballo in maschera - August 19th, 2017
- Department of Justice Uses Search Warrant To Get Data On Visitors to Anti-Trump Site - August 14th, 2017
- America At The End of All Hypotheticals - August 14th, 2017
- Lawsplainer: Why John Oliver Is Anti-Diversity Now - August 11th, 2017
- Anatomy of a Scam, Chapter 15: The Wheels, They Grind - August 10th, 2017