I don't recall exactly when I concluded that Spike Lee is an asshole, but I think it was around the time he told Esquire “I give interracial couples a look. Daggers. They get uncomfortable when they see me on the street.” I've long viewed hostility to interracial couples a reliable tell for self-involved douchebaggery, and now that I have a multiracial family my impression is only confirmed. Nobody wants some fashion-victim goateed dwarf glaring balefully at them during a romantic stroll. It's liable to make you anxious about whether you set the DVR right for Game of Thrones.
So: color me utterly unsurprised that Spike Lee is acting like an unprincipled asshat in relation to George Zimmerman's shooting of Trayvon Martin. I haven't written about that shooting yet; even though the undisputed facts trouble me. Right now the case seems to be a hot mess of unsourced rumors, punditry by Nancy Grace aspirants, racism, and this-fact-favors-my-side-so-it-must-be-true wankery. I advocate a thorough and responsible investigation followed by due process of law — a rare luxury, but good to have when you can get it.
So how does the shooting provide Spike with an opportunity to be like himself? Well, as the Smoking Gun documents, a Los Angeles man named Marcus Davonne Higgins found what he thought was George Zimmerman's address and began publishing it with exhortations to "REACH OUT & TOUCH HIM." He eventually tweeted the address with a request that EVERYBODY REPOST THIS. Spike Lee obligingly reposted the address, and substantially contributed to the tweet going viral.
Among the problems with this was that Marcus Davonne Higgins is dumb and/or a shitty researcher. He got the wrong Zimmerman family, and the wrong address. The Zimmermans who live at the address that Higgins and Lee tweeted are in their 70s; the wife is a lunch lady at a school. After getting hate mail and being pestered by dumb reporters, they left for a hotel. They assert that they attempted to reach out to Marcus Davonne Higgins, and received the response "Black power all day. No justice, no peace." This seemingly self-justifying response is odd. I've certainly litigated against people who are shitty researchers and frankly a little slow, and some of them seem proud of it, but I've never observed them to be disproportionately members of any ethic group.
But the issue is not merely that Marcus Davonne Higgins is a reckless idiot who tweeted the wrong address, or that Spike Lee is a gullible creep who retweeted it to a vast following. The issue is that both were highlighting the home address of a person accused of a crime with the rather clear intent to incite violence against that person or, at least, put them in fear. Exhortations to mob violence are the marks of thugs who are part of the American tradition of lynch mobs, not the American struggle towards justice. By urging angry followers to REACH OUT AND TOUCH Zimmerman at his home address, Higgins and Lee were urging violence, and risking not only Zimmerman's life, but the lives of his family, the lives of neighbors, the lives of law enforcement, and the lives of — as it turned out — the utterly unrelated people who lived in the house that the moron Higgins identified. That was the work of thugs. It deserves our open scorn.
As far as I can tell, neither Spike Lee nor Marcus Davonne Higgins has apologized — not for scaring the hell out of a lunch lady who shared the name of someone they hated, and certainly not for their mob-justice tactic of publishing a home address to angry followers. I doubt they will. If Spike Lee says anything, I suspect it will be something along the lines of "it's typical in racist America that the media is talking about this instead of about violence against African-Americans." The media might, indeed, not focus enough on violence against African-Americans — what with pretty white girls being so prone to getting lost — but that's really not the point, and if Spike Lee said words to that effect, it would be a contemptible dodge.
It's very rare that reporting a story legitimately requires emphasizing the subject's home address. Occasionally it's hard to tell a story without talking about public resources or documents that might lead a reader to a home address; in those cases, caution is warranted. But I submit that it is never anything but vile to publish a subject's home address and exhort followers to go harass them — not when the subject has a political position you don't like, and not even when the subject has been accused of a terrible crime. That's why I called out the asshole Mike Troxel (who, like Marcus Davonne Higgins, was a shitty researcher who published the wrong address, leading to harassment of the wrong party), and that's why the targeting of Michele Malkin was wrong.
Publishing twitter accounts, Facebook accounts, email accounts, and other methods of communication that can be cut off? That's fine. But publishing a home address and sneeringly pointing it out to followers and inviting them to "have a chat," or words to that effect? That's a threat. Threats are for thugs. Don't be a thug. Don't be like Spike Lee and Marcus Davonne Higgins.
I might be wrong, but I think "THEY" probably means "the Jews," or something.
Edit 2: Thanks to commenter Phil for pointing out that Higgins is now tweeting apologies for tweeting the wrong address — though not for tweeting an address in the first place. Scumbag.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Free Speech Triumphant Or Free Speech In Retreat? - June 21st, 2017
- The Power To Generate Crimes Rather Than Merely Investigate Them - June 19th, 2017
- Free Speech, The Goose, And The Gander - June 17th, 2017
- Free Speech Tropes In The LA Times - June 8th, 2017
- I write letters - June 1st, 2017