Broken Windows, Breaking People

Matt Taibbi, in Rolling Stone, “The Police in America Are Becoming Illegitimate“:

… Law-enforcement resources are now distributed so unevenly, and justice is being administered with such brazen inconsistency, that people everywhere are going to start questioning the basic political authority of law enforcement. And they’re mostly going to be right to do it, and when they do, it’s going to create problems that will make the post-Ferguson unrest seem minor…

The ostensible goal of Broken Windows is to quickly and efficiently weed out people with guns or outstanding warrants. You flood neighborhoods with police, you stop people for anything and everything and demand to see IDs, and before long you’ve both amassed mountains of intelligence about who hangs with whom, and made it genuinely difficult for fugitives and gunwielders to walk around unmolested…

But the psychic impact of these policies on the massive pool of everyone else in the target neighborhoods is a rising sense of being seriously pissed off. They’re tired of being manhandled and searched once a week or more for riding bikes the wrong way down the sidewalk (about 25,000 summonses a year here in New York), smoking in the wrong spot, selling loosies, or just “obstructing pedestrian traffic,” a.k.a. walking while black.

This is exactly what you hear Eric Garner complaining about in the last moments of his life. “Every time you see me, you want to mess with me,” he says. “It stops today!”…

David Roth, at Deadspin, observing the other side of the battle lines:

… In variously amplified voices, from the first moments after Michael Brown’s killing but with a new peevish unanimity after the Rams’ hands-up entry in Week 13, the declaration has gone out: enough is enough. Not that enough police impunity was enough; or that enough unaccountable shield-thumping aspiring robocops rolling out of armored personnel carriers are enough; or that we’d at last gotten a bellyful of seeing fellow humans killed without reason or repercussion by the state. Decidedly not that.

This is more of a stern, parental Enough Is Enough, an exasperated bark from the barcalounger that the kids need to keep it down, last warning. Of all the scandals that these last weeks have forced upon us—interlaced and dreadful inevitabilities and tear gas; various brutalities written in violence and carefully expressed in press conferences; the procession of aggrieved and supremely sore winners, so salty-sour at the ungraciousness of the defeated—the thing about which both commenters and commentators have decided to be scandalized is the terrible inappropriateness, the inconsiderateness, of the people making all that noise…..

It is bleak, just extremely bleak, seeing a discourse split between the strenuous justification of every new authoritarian excess on one side and fusty rhetoric-policing on the other. It is not exactly new, but it nevertheless feels like an apotheosis of sorts for a culture that’s both abstracted and aggrieved in the most inane ways imaginable. It takes a special and singularly stupid sort of narcissism to have the predominant response to a crowd chanting a demand that their lives be taken seriously be “you are making me uncomfortable and talking much too loud.” But this happens to be a particularly American type of narcissism, and so this is the response we are hearing…

And Justin Peters, Slate‘s crime writer, has an excellent expose of “racist, classist origins of broken windows policing“:

… The broken windows theory was first articulated in a 1982 Atlantic article by George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson, who argued that “disorder and crime are usually inextricably linked, in a kind of developmental sequence.” That idea is rooted in the work of a midcentury political scientist named Edward Banfield. (Wilson studied under Banfield at the University of Chicago.) Banfield specialized in refuting the main tenet of modern liberalism, the idea that the state should take an active role in improving the lives of its most vulnerable residents. Banfield contended that state intervention could only make things worse…

Banfield argued that class divisions were based less on finances than on one’s life outlook and capacity for long-range thought. Members of the upper class were future-oriented, and, thus, able to postpone short-term pleasures for longer-term rewards. Members of the lower classes—urban blacks, in large part—lived from moment to moment, and acted out of a desire for instant gratification. They were also unambitious, “radically improvident,” antisocial, and prone to mental illness. Their problems were a matter of pathology, not racial prejudice (which Banfield argued was on the wane)…

Like many people, Banfield believed the urban unrest of the late 1960s had been stoked by matters of civil rights. But Banfield believed the problem was that the lower classes had too many of them. Criminal behavior was human nature—or, rather, in the nature of a specific subset of lower-class humans. “So long as there are large concentrations of boys and young men of the lower classes on the streets, rampages and forays are to be expected,” Banfield wrote. The clear solution was to remove these lower-class youths from the streets posthaste.

“There are individuals whose propensity to crime is so high that no set of incentives that it is feasible to offer to the whole population would influence their behavior,” Banfield wrote. The most effective way to prevent violent crime in cities, Banfield theorized, would therefore be to pre-emptively abridge the freedom of the “mostly young, lower-class males” who were likely to commit crimes in the future. What’s that? You say that “abridging the freedom of persons who have not committed crimes is incompatible with the principles of free society”? Well, said Banfield, “so, also, is the presence in free society of persons who, if their freedom is not abridged, would use it to inflict serious injuries on others.”…

Of course, the educated middle class has been publishing variations on this “broken window” theory for at least a couple of centuries — we still read the response to those justifications of the unjustifiable in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey characters alarmed at the Corn Riots, the Parlimentary speeches that broke Reverend Swift’s heart during the Great Famine, most of Dickens’ novels, Mark Twain in Huckleberry Finn and A Connecticut Yankee and Pudd’nhead Wilson, Sherlock Holmes’ scheming not-English Moriarty versus the plucky-if-underfed Baker Street Irregulars, even Bruce Wayne’s noblesse oblige defense of his fiefdom against a never-ending plague of degenerates, cripples, and social strivers. But at the dawn of the Reagan Era, James Q. Wilson’s promulgation of Banfield’s Broken Windows theorem (further) braided the old classism with America’s foundational racism under a new, sanitary, “scientific” branding.

67 replies
  1. 1
    Buddy H says:

    I remember a co-worker of mine, a 22-year-old white guy. Stoner. Cop stopped him for speeding. The cop saw a hash pipe on his dash board. You know what the cop did? Said “Put that thing away” and gave him a warning for the speeding.

    My co-worker didn’t seem to understand that a young man of color would have experienced a somewhat… different interaction.

  2. 2
    BR says:

    I posted in other threads but I guess this is the right one — Berkeley had a police riot last night, with police contributing basically all the violence (tear gas, batons, rubber bullets, etc.) against largely Berkeley students who are in the middle of final exams. If police react this way in Berkeley, a city with a history of protest, to peaceful protesters protesting police violence (and they don’t get the irony of that), it’s a sign that there are probably very few places in the country that don’t have this problem. It was the police presence that made us afraid to go outside, not the protesters (I mean who would be afraid of a bunch of Berkeley undergrads and a few anarchist wannabes?).

    Please do contact your councilmembers — because if it hasn’t happened in your town, I don’t think it’s not a stretch to say that it will.

  3. 3
    aimai says:

    The thing about the whole “broken windows” philosophy is that it should, ideally, have little to do with policing and everything to do with public spending on public spaces in poor areas. Broken windows, busted schools, public housing without stairwell lights or air conditioning or other normal ameneties. Absentee landlords and busted heating. Schools without afterschool classes, without art, without good nutritious food. These are all prime examples of social disorder and decay which needed to be rectified so that people in these communities felt safety, security, hope–so they could satisfy natural ambition in terms of education, work, and family life.

    We’ve poured money into “policing” and taken money out of schooling and public hospitals and the places that ordinary working class people use everyday. That teaches people that their needs can’t be met and won’t be met, that their children have no safety and no future. Far from preventing societal decay a “broken windows” approach that doesn’t fix the damned window rather than arresting everyone standing near the window is contributing to decay and despair.

  4. 4
    Mnemosyne says:

    @BR:

    This is how bad that is — LAPD hasn’t brought out the tear gas yet. LAPD is showing more restraint than the cops in Berkeley.

  5. 5
    Kay (not the front-pager) says:

    Every time I hear or read this statement by Mr. Garner I’m reminded of the young Tunisian fruit-seller whose self-immolation started the Arab Spring. He just couldn’t take any more of the corrupt officialdom demanding kick-backs, arbitrarily taking territory for friends/family members, etc. He protested in the only way he felt he could. It seems to me Eric Garner was making a similar stand that day.

    “Every time you see me, you want to mess with me,” he says. “It stops today!”…

  6. 6
    Roger Moore says:

    Banfield contended that state intervention could only make things worse…

    Unless, of course, that state intervention took the form of punishing the poor and the weak. In that case, it’s guaranteed to make things better. It’s amazing how many people who are willing to argue that the state is incapable of getting anything right are willing to ignore that when it comes to police and military action.

    Members of the upper class were future-oriented, and, thus, able to postpone short-term pleasures for longer-term rewards. Members of the lower classes—urban blacks, in large part—lived from moment to moment, and acted out of a desire for instant gratification.

    Ignoring the obvious point that it’s much easier to delay gratification and take a long-term outlook when your immediate short-term well-being is secure. People who don’t know where their next meal is going to come from or whether they’re going to be able to pay this month’s rent have a much harder time focusing on long-term goals.

  7. 7
    Incitatus for Senate says:

    @Buddy H: White guy here, when I was (much) younger pulled over stoned off my ass. Cop sighs, shakes his head, and says “Go home”.

  8. 8
    Roger Moore says:

    @Mnemosyne:
    This isn’t the Darryl Gates LAPD anymore. They aren’t even the Bernard Parks LAPD. I won’t pretend that they’re perfect, but they’ve been getting better, especially at dealing with street protests. The last time they botched their response to a street protest- one of the May Day immigration demonstrations- heads actually rolled and the rank-and-file got retrained. I think it helps that LAPD isn’t the primary target of the protests this time around, so there isn’t the same level of animosity between the police and crowd.

  9. 9
    Baud says:

    There are individuals whose propensity to crime is so high that no set of incentives that it is feasible to offer to the whole population would influence their behavior,” Banfield wrote.

    Coincidentally, none of those individuals are within my particular social class.

  10. 10
    Mike J says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Ignoring the obvious point that it’s much easier to delay gratification and take a long-term outlook when your immediate short-term well-being is secure. People who don’t know where their next meal is going to come from or whether they’re going to be able to pay this month’s rent have a much harder time focusing on long-term goals.

    Even more than knowing where food or rent money is coming from, what’s the point of planning for the future when you know that everything you’ve worked for can be taken away by a thug in a uniform with no consequences to them?

  11. 11
    Ruckus says:

    @aimai:
    This. Cause and effect is an unknown thing in conservative thought. Never look at an issue and find a rational solution to make the situation better, always come up with a way to spend money only on punishment. Calvinism pure and simple. And that’s why when it doesn’t work, it’s never that the solution is wrong, only that it wasn’t applied with enough vigor.

  12. 12
    Ruckus says:

    @Baud:
    Or I would imagine, the same race. Could be wrong, wouldn’t be the first time but I’d bet not.

  13. 13
    KG says:

    @Buddy H: my sister got so upset with me the other day because we were talking about a lot of these police issues and I raised the issue of white privilege. So much so that she just walked away. We grew up in a wealthy town, we know a lot of cops, and her default position is “if everyone would just follow the rules” and when I point out that it’s a nice thought but doesn’t seem to work that way in real life, she was just unwilling to accept it.

  14. 14
    Mike J says:

    @KG:

    and her default position is “if everyone would just follow the rules” and when I point out that it’s a nice thought but doesn’t seem to work that way in real life, she was just unwilling to accept it.

    The question for her is, “why?” If you can’t get ahead even if you work hard and play by the rules, many people won’t see a downside to bypassing rules.

  15. 15
    Baud says:

    @Ruckus:

    I’d imagine that when Banfield wrote, that was a distinction without a difference.

  16. 16
    Ruckus says:

    @Baud:
    That would be an easy bet.

  17. 17
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    At least we have all the good cops speaking up against the few bad ones.

  18. 18
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @KG: The 12-year old kid in Cleveland and the other young man who was shot in Wal Mart weren’t breaking any “rules” when the cops shot them down. Your sister (and people who think like her) needs to open her eyes to see what is actually happening and stop living in la-la land.

  19. 19
    Ruckus says:

    @Mike J:
    A better question would be why are the rules different for people in other race and economic groups. She, I’m sure, doesn’t even know the rules aren’t the same. They never have been.

  20. 20
    Dr. Omed says:

    The trouble with Broken Windows Policing is that the police are ready and willing to break the windows themselves.

  21. 21
    KG says:

    @Patricia Kayden: oh, believe me, i know.

  22. 22
    Pogonip says:

    @Roger Moore: You got that right. I clawed my way out of poverty, literally a dime at a time at first. I don’t think it would be possible today with minimum-wage employers’ haphazard scheduling.

  23. 23
    Corner Stone says:

    @Pogonip:

    I don’t think it would be possible today with minimum-wage employers’ haphazard scheduling.

    I think, piggy backing off Kay’s “Three things” post, that it would be impossible due to the amalgam of wage theft employers are allowed to get away with, more and more.
    People wonder why the economy hasn’t seemed to really benefit people who work for a living. I think we know why. They have artificially suppressed wages and kept the crab bucket mentality first and foremost so they can make sure people don’t feel secure enough to speak up.

  24. 24
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @KG:

    “if everyone would just follow the rules”

    I tend to speed. I’ve been known to jaywalk. Hell, I am often fairly cavalier with a lot of the smaller rules. My interactions with the police when they happen at all (which is infrequently) always involve the cop being polite and respectful. Yes, I am a white man of upper middle class-ish appearance. Why do you ask? It’s not following the rules; it’s who are are and what you look like (but then you already knew that).

  25. 25
    Redshift says:

    Of course, the educated middle class has been publishing variations on this “broken window” theory for at least a couple of centuries

    In addition, “Broken Windows” was yet another in a long series of “new” ideas for policing that become popular, are given credit for improvements in some city (and generally make some police chief or mayor famous) and then are applied in lots of places because it’s “proven” that they work. In pretty much all such cases, nobody bothers to look at whether the place that applied the new theory is the only place seeing such improvements, and in pretty much all such cases, it isn’t.

    “Broken Windows” was BS from the start. Crime went down where it was used at the same time it was going down in a lot of other places. It would be great if we could have policy based on actual scientific study, but those will likely cost money and not make some mayor or police chief famous, so we’ll undoubtedly just get another policing fad in a few years.

  26. 26
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Roger Moore:

    True. They even decided that the police shooting last December after a high-speed chase was not justified. That’s definitely a step ahead of where they used to be.

  27. 27
    RSA says:

    There are individuals whose propensity to crime is so high that no set of incentives that it is feasible to offer to the whole population would influence their behavior,” Banfield wrote.

    Banfield might have been talking about Wall Street, but sadly was not.

  28. 28

    @Corner Stone: Capitalists don’t want full employment, since the reserve army of the unemployed keeps the employed in their place.

  29. 29
    eemom says:

    @Ruckus:

    A better question would be why are the rules different for people in other race and economic groups. She, I’m sure, doesn’t even know the rules aren’t the same. They never have been.

    A very good piece from earlier today about how it was ever thus.

  30. 30

    I have read the original “Broken Windows” paper. It is a highly abstract paper based on game theory. It has little relation to reality.

  31. 31
    Mnemosyne says:

    @aimai:

    Exactly. What it should be is cleaning graffiti, sweeping the streets, replacing bulbs in streetlamps, and otherwise making even “tough” neighborhoods physically clean and orderly places to live.

    I’m starting to wonder if, as part of a package of police reforms and re-training, cops should have mandatory (paid) community service days. Days when they get out of the patrol car, walk down the street, and do things like clean up the local park or paint over graffiti. It would let them have non-threatening contacts with residents and might reduce some of the Them Vs. Us mentality that is causing so many problems.

  32. 32
    Pogonip says:

    @Corner Stone: And there are no more pay phones. I used to walk down the row of pay phones at the airport checking for forgotten change. On a good day I could find as much as a dollar.

  33. 33
    Corner Stone says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I’m starting to wonder if, as part of a package of police reforms and re-training, cops should have mandatory (paid) community service days. Days when they get out of the patrol car, walk down the street, and do things like clean up the local park or paint over graffiti. It would let them have non-threatening contacts with residents and might reduce some of the Them Vs. Us mentality that is causing so many problems.

    I’d prefer that we actually pay community service individuals to keep those neighborhoods in relatively normal condition. And pay police officers for in-service days where they receive professional training for community outreach, negotiating tactics, ways to deleverage stressful encounters and other LEO main topics.
    I don’t want my professional police force painting over graffiti, or re-planting bushes that have been run over by a drunk driver. I’d rather they learn how to not choke someone out after a high speed chase down a side road, or how to recognize a 12 year old in a park as minimal to non-threatening.

  34. 34
    Corner Stone says:

    @Pogonip:

    And there are no more pay phones. I used to walk down the row of pay phones at the airport checking for forgotten change.

    Interesting. I hadn’t thought of that. Why do you think that is?

  35. 35
    Liberty60 says:

    @aimai:
    In addition to the disorder brought about by underinvestment in the public sphere, we should also question the entirety of the “Break Shit” disruption philosophy; what is this, if not the same self-absorption and instant gratification that we condemn in the underclass when they graffiti a wall?

    I don’t think the problem is the concept that social disorder brings about crime; I think the problem is that we selectively choose to only be disturbed by the disorder which is convenient.

  36. 36
    Tree With Water says:

    Republicans have spent the past 44 years denouncing the 1960’s, when all along they were pining for them. “There’s a man with a gun over there telling me I got to beware”. Only this time they mean to finish the job. They believe our War in Vietnam was righteous, that it was “lost”. The conspired to unleash the 2003 Iraq War, and believe it too was righteous. And on, and on. Americans best start drawing a bead on the GOP beast, or we will be forever recalled as the generation that acquiesced in the suicide of American democracy.

  37. 37
    satby says:

    @Mnemosyne: That was the point of community policing, cops walking a beat and interacting with the people in the community, advisory boards for each precinct with community members, etc. No longer in vogue I guess.

  38. 38
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @satby:

    No longer in vogue I guess.

    It’s hard work.

  39. 39
    satby says:

    I’ve mentioned before that I come from a cop family, in fact this year is the first in over 100 years that some family member is not on the force here or in Ireland. My father and his two brothers who were cops are long deceased, but I do know that my father at least never had to shoot his gun in over 20 years on the Chicago PD, and he was a top gun in his class at the academy. Even when we thought someone was breaking into the house, my dad passed up getting his gun and grabbed his high school basketball trophy to use as a weapon. He was a homicide cop and he knew the devastation left when someone got killed, he lived in fear that he might kill someone or be killed because of that reluctance. But that was the job.

    He also hated the bullies that were attracted to police work, he reserved special contempt for the small towns and suburbs that handed out badges without doing any psych testing of their recruits. None of the brothers wanted wanted their kids to be cops; they saw the changes begin before they died. They weren’t angels, but they were good cops, and it would kill them to see what happens today.

    And their grandchildren hate cops. Because they’ve all been hassled, even though they’re white kids, and not just because they hang out in mixed crowds. The cops just are authoritarian jerks now.

    Edited to add: and it makes me sad, because society does need cops. We need the guys who protect, we need the guys who will go into burning buildings to get people out (and that’s not always firemen), we need peacekeepers, which used to be a lot of what a cop on the beat had to do.

  40. 40
    Pogonip says:

    @Corner Stone: Cell phones. You’d be surprised how much change was left behind by people in a hurry.

    I think the only way you could climb out of poverty now would be to live in a rural area and go off the grid (“poverty” is meaningless when no one uses money). All those millions of poor people in cities are pretty well stuck.

  41. 41
    Ruckus says:

    @eemom:
    Even in my limited life it has been different. I used to own a business on the edge of south central LA, Watts. The LAPD would drive around in unmarked cars, 6 huge burly men, all well over 6 ft looking for trouble where they could get out and beat the shit out of someone. It was supposed to be a gang task force, but there was no gang activity around. It had to be imagined to be found. Yet there they were. It was street “justice” handed out for no reason, no trial, and most important, no witnesses other than those in the subject group, in this case blacks. A few miles away in east LA it was latinos. And yet where I lived in the SF valley, I never saw any gang task force cars. Wonder why that was? The neighborhood was not a whole lot different, other than the color was a bit lighter.

  42. 42
    Pogonip says:

    @Corner Stone: By the way, we still do not live an extravagant American lifestyle, nor do we wish to–the higher up you are, the more the radar picks you up, and the bigger the splat when you fall. We don’t have cable TV and don’t miss it. We don’t smoke anything. We don’t shop as entertainment. Etc.

    My strongest suggestion for people wishing tI make their money go farther is to turn off the damn TV, and ignore ads, so you won’t be persuaded to buy stuff you don’t really want. Never look at advertising unless you have already decided to buy something and are comparing prices, and only look at ads for whatever it is you are after. Do this all year and, with a modicum of luck, in December you will be able to buy whatever your children are dying to have.

  43. 43
  44. 44
    Roger Moore says:

    @Mike J:

    If you can’t get ahead even if you work hard and play by the rules, many people won’t see a downside to bypassing rules.

    Likewise if there’s no safety in following them. If minorities could simply stay safe by following the rules, they might do so even if they had no realistic hope of getting ahead. But being an innocent, law-abiding citizen is no protection; the cops are gunning down people going about their business and facing no consequences for it, and that erodes respect for the law far more than just the lack of opportunity.

  45. 45
    Matt says:

    Well, said Banfield, “so, also, is the presence in free society of persons who, if their freedom is not abridged, would use it to inflict serious injuries on others.”…

    Proof positive that Banfield was full of shit: that sentence wasn’t immediately followed by “So, that’s why I’m immediately having my fascist ass committed to a facility where I can’t harm anyone further”.

  46. 46
    Matt says:

    Related: the “law ‘n order über alles” crowd insists that things like mandatory minimums and three-strikes laws “deter crime”. Let’s see how serious they are and propose a 20-year mandatory minimum for cops convicted of using excessive force. Gooses, ganders, etc.

  47. 47
    Ruckus says:

    @M. Bouffant:
    I know what gangs look like, I know somewhat what makes someone join one. I know what they do. Yes they are a problem but beating the shit out of or killing random people solves absolutely nothing and in fact makes everything much worse.
    I know that wasn’t your point in linking that article from 30 yrs ago but that’s the area I lived in and while there may have been issues none of the causes the police thought or think were the issues are. It’s money. It’s the ability to make some to live or even move out of the poverty. It’s the cops beating the shit out of people and if nothing else, just harassing people for being somewhere. It’s the feeling that your life doesn’t matter in any way, shape or form. Gangs give power to those who have none. Gangs give something to have pride in, however misguided because otherwise you have none. You fix that and gangs will pretty much fade away. Not quickly mind you but they will. But for the last how many eons people have always looked at people different than them as competition for the crumbs of their lives and will do anything to keep those crumbs. There will always be the haves and the have less but we can insure that the number of have nothings gets smaller rather than larger. Society creates the atmosphere that allows gangs and hate and poverty and shitty cops. Society can change that but I don’t think enough of it wants to.

  48. 48
    Lurking Canadian says:

    @KG: I’ve seen some very disturbing commentary in the wake of the Ferguson shooting that everybody should immediately obey any and all orders or requests from a police officer and that anything else, refusal, talking back, running away, and so on, should be expected to be met with violence up to and including deadly force.

    What the fuck is wrong with people that they think like that?

  49. 49
    Ruckus says:

    @Matt:
    All well and good, but if a cop (or anyone else) is convicted of say a homicide or assault and battery, there already are penalties. The problem of course is that they very rarely even get charged or tried, let alone convicted. You could create all the new crimes and penalties for the police you want and still nothing has really changed.

  50. 50
    samiam says:

    Yawn…I’m guessing Taibbi has another book to sell. He should be right at home at a place like Rolling Stone that doesn’t seem to be concerned with things like facts.

  51. 51
    Roger Moore says:

    @Lurking Canadian:

    What the fuck is wrong with people that they think like that?

    They don’t think it could happen to them. That might have been true at one time, but I’m not convinced it is anymore.

  52. 52
    Ruckus says:

    @Roger Moore:
    They don’t think it will happen to them. They think they are always law abiding citizens, even when driving 15 mph above the speed limit on the freeway, texting away. And they don’t see cops often and interact with them even less. And none of their friends have had the shit beat out of them for the crime of shopping at a convenience store at 11pm or even 11am while black.

  53. 53
    ed says:

    C/o Frank Herbert :

    If there is no enemy, one must be invented. The military force which is denied an external target always turns against its own people.
    … and… Men are susceptible to class fixations. They create layered societies. The layered society is an ultimate invitation to violence. It does not fall apart. It explodes.

  54. 54
    Mart says:

    @samiam: 20% of freshmen woman are not sexually assulated because a Rolling Stone contributer may have exaggerated. Problem solved, right asshole?

  55. 55
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Mart: Samiam’s a troll, looking to derail via ad hominems. Best punishment is to ignore it.

  56. 56
    Roger Moore says:

    @Ruckus:
    I think we’re saying more or less the same thing, but I think their faith in their immunity is strong enough to classify as believing that it couldn’t happen to them, not just that it wouldn’t happen to them. In a sad sense, they have a strong point, though it’s their skin color, and the way it fails to trigger fear and hatred among police, that protects them more than their being law abiding citizens.

  57. 57
    Mnemosyne says:

    This may be a pretty good place to drop this NYT article again, because I found it fascinating:

    When Youth Violence Spurred “Superpredator” Fear

    The “superpredator” theory is from around the same era as the “broken windows” theory and had about as much validity. I looked John J. DiIulio Jr. up on Wikipedia and hadn’t remembered that he was the guy who worked for the Bush administration and called them “Mayberry Machiavellis” after he resigned in disgust.

  58. 58
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Mnemosyne: Thank you — that’s an informative article.

  59. 59
    Ruckus says:

    @Roger Moore:
    Yes probably the same thing, maybe different degrees.
    I was trying to say that part of the problem is that they have little to no exposure to cops. They have never been in the kind of place/situation that they could learn anything other than conventional wisdom from, cops are the good guys. It’s the news, cop shows, that’s their exposure. Maybe a traffic ticket once in a great while. Everything in their world is that why would cops do the kinds of things that we know they do every day. They don’t have the variables to do the maths. It just doesn’t compute. They don’t have to be racists, although that helps, they just lack even the possibility of experience.

    ETA It’s like my friend my age who attended a Cal State college in the early 70s. She commented that she couldn’t understand at all how someone would have a huge debt from going to college, especially a state school. She doesn’t know anyone of college age, she hasn’t kept up on current costs, even rents in college towns. No frame of reference.

  60. 60
    Barry says:

    “That idea is rooted in the work of a midcentury political scientist named Edward Banfield. (Wilson studied under Banfield at the University of Chicago.) ”

    I’m solidly in the camp of ‘No More Chicago’. That nest of sh*t has done far too much evil.

  61. 61
    sm*t cl*de says:

    A lot of neuropsychology behavioural-control researchers got decent grants out of the popularity of Banfield’s belief-system, so it wasn’t a total bust.

  62. 62
    sm*t cl*de says:

    Members of the upper class were future-oriented, and, thus, able to postpone short-term pleasures for longer-term rewards.

    I see that Wall Street has already been mentioned.

  63. 63
  64. 64
    Roy G. says:

    The proof that ‘broken windows’ is a crock of sht is that the Wall Street boyz have been breaking windows and much much worse going on for almost 2 decades, with barely a pat on the wrist. It’s a handy excuse to beat down the poors, browns and other powerless people.

  65. 65
    BruinKid says:

    BTW, looks like the libertarian crowd is flailing around trying to defend their savior Rand Paul after he blamed cigarette taxes for Eric Garner’s death. A sampling:

    Gonna wreck the NYC case real quick using the states own legislation.

    Mr. Garner was detained for resisting arrest. No crime had been committed. It is not possible to be arrested for resisting arrest. That’s called kidnapping, which is a felony. Now during the commission of a felony, a homicide has taken place.

    And for all of you stupid fuckin race baiters, the supervising officer, a black woman, stood idly by and let this happen. It isn’t a racial issue. It’s an authoritarian issue.

    Why, yes, that poster appears to be white. Why do you ask?

  66. 66
    JustRuss says:

    he thing about which both commenters and commentators have decided to be scandalized is the terrible inappropriateness, the inconsiderateness, of the people making all that noise…..

    I just got this from my Mormon nephew, and of course there’s no racism, the cops just killed a couple guys whose blackness had nothing to do with it. I pointed out Ferguson is mostly black, yet happens to have a mostly white police force, which issues an average of 3 citations per household. But of course race has nothing to do with it.

  67. 67
    Tim in SF says:

    The “Broken Window Theory” is not a theory, it is a hypothesis.

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