What the…?

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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15 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    He probably thought that he was speaking to members of “his” particular group where one could say what one honestly thinks without reprimand. There is a “come on, guys, amirite?” undercurrent to the email.

    I suspect the main thought in his head is not some variant of remorse but “who squealed?”

    That said, I’d be surprised if this resulted in more than unpaid leave from the cop job.

    (Standard Libertarian disclaimer making distinctions between “right to free speech” and “right to free speech without consequences for public servants who used government resources to brag about enthusiasm for pepper-spraying innocent people and using racial slurs to boot”)Report

  2. sidereal says:

    Nah. Lemonade #5 is a rhetorical flourish of libertarianism just before undercutting a commitment to free speech.

    Jaybird’s disclaimer is that the BPD is just as free to fire Officer Barrett as he himself is to write non-racist screeds about ‘jungle monkeys’ and non-sexist screeds about women serving him coffee and donuts. It’s prophylactic against the sort of muddleheadedness that makes people think ‘free speech’ means their comments should never be deleted.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to sidereal says:

      Had the guy written the email at home and sent it to the home emails of his buddies and one of them sent it to the news or whomever, I would think that his right to free speech *WAS* violated.

      If that is really what happened, please let me know and I’ll start screaming about Nazis wanting to know about your personal/private life after you go home for the day (I love me some screaming about Nazis).

      I’m under the impression that it was sent from a Police Officer’s email account to other Police Officers’ email accounts and, as such, I’m more inclined to scream for his head and go on rants about how liberals argue that only police officers should have guns and so on, so forth. Maybe something about Nazis, maybe.Report

      • sidereal in reply to Jaybird says:

        Did Nazis endorse or oppose at-will employees being terminated for whatever reason? I forget how they balanced the right to free association against the right to free speech.

        In short, I suck at defending Jaybird. He is one of the muddleheaded bastards!

        Unless the police department owns his home computer and ISP contract, how exactly does firing him prevent him from continuing to engage in his delightful speech?Report

        • Jaybird in reply to sidereal says:

          The Nazis supported termination of millions.

          I support a right to privacy, more or less. If the dude was in his own home, using his own stuff, yelling about stuff he thought about that day, then I don’t see how that’s anybody’s business, really.

          Even if he is a racist prick.

          Now, if he’s racist on Police time? Throw the book at him and then write a rant about how the police union protects the bad apples with as much vigor as the good apples and how that undermines support for the social order.Report

          • sidereal in reply to Jaybird says:

            I dunno. Maybe it comes from working at small startups for a long time or just working in ‘knowledge work’, but I don’t ascribe to the whole sharp work/life distinction that suggests I transform into a different person when I take off/put on a tie. I’m more inclined to see a company as just being a legally trussed up version of any other sort of social group. I mean, it’s a bunch of people getting together to do some task, and then splitting the proceeds.

            Now, I’m perfectly happy choosing to dissociate myself from any person who’s a raging douchebag. And if that dissociation involves kicking them out of some social group, including one in which they derive remuneration, all the merrier. That doesn’t mean I’m going to sniff out his e-mails, but if I find out about it, I’m certainly going to act on it.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to sidereal says:

              Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of at-will work laws. (For once, the unintended consequences are mostly great.)

              And, once again, if the guy did this stuff anywhere *NEAR* “public”, I’d see it as a spectacular reason to fire the guy. If, however, it was private, I’m uncomfortable with his firing.

              That said, he was only discharged (dishonorably?) from the National Guard and his Police Union is going to protect him from termination from his job on “free speech” grounds and, at worst, he’s going to get some unpaid vacation.Report

              • E.D. Kain in reply to Jaybird says:

                I just don’t know if police departments should have such dumb officers on the payroll. Or officers so prone to pepper spraying law-abiding, if irritable, citizens. Calling them “jungle-monkeys” is probably not good for PR either.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to E.D. Kain says:

                Hey, if it were up to me, I’d get rid of the entire “vice” department for all police organizations, get rid of 65% of the SWAT funding, and bring back an absolutist attitude toward the 2nd amendment and couple that with a return to the practice of jury nullification.

                With that out of my system, I can see the police union protecting this guy just as strongly as if he had done something trivial.

                Again: if he had done this under *ANY* color of law (from a work email address, for example), I’d argue that his ass ought to be wearing a mall security uniform faster than you could say… I can’t think of a funny thing to put here.

                If he was doing it from his home email on his own time, it’s the equivalent of a guy yelling at his television in front of friends.Report

  3. Creon Critic says:

    Barrett’s non-apology can’t go unremarked upon, simultaneously sad and hilarious. Barrett does the standard, I’m sorry if you’re oversensitive, “I did not mean to offend anyone.” And he niftily adds, “I didn’t mean it in a racist way.” Gates is a what eating so-and-so? But, no. Nothing racist to see here folks. Kindly move along. He just missed the, some of my best friends are, line – ten out of tens are rare I suppose.

    “I treat everyone with dignity and respect.” Sure you do Officer Barrett. Sure you do.Report

  4. Kathie Brown says:

    I myself am struggling with the free speech conundrum in Barrett’s case. But the email posted at Andrew Sullivan’s joint seems aimed not at a “buddy” but at someone (arguably female considering the “coffee and doughnuts” remarks indulged in twice) who wrote something he disagreed with on a media site. He makes fun of the writer’s competence by betraying his own infelicities of the same sort. Then he seems to accuse her article of putting his own civil liberties in peril and opines that “suspects” don’t have rights when they are suspects. And what about “jungle monkey” (invoked on three occasions) does not strongly imply racial stereotyping? Is “coon” or “ghetto trash” to be preferred? (I won’t outrage the usual suspects by applying the oh-so-threatening term “racist” to the epithet.)

    I’ve defended an almost-absolutist “freedom of speech” stance in the past and do not think most hate speech codes are useful. However, in this case, is this really a “free speech” issue for the police department? They have reasons — and good civilian-complaint fears — to question the effects the man’s stereotyped thinking and condescension to women might have on the streets. Aren’t the kinds of attitudes he demonstrated throughout that email a source of racial profiling and illegitimate use of force in practice? I have been in too many situations where my protest against racial stereotyping (when we’re all white folks together buddies) has been met with “we’re all entitled to have an opinion.” Maybe so, but in some contexts an “opinion” is more than an opinion.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Kathie Brown says:

      The “aimed” thing struck me as a literary device.

      Like, if I had my own blog and responded to your comment there and said “listen, toots, you have the free time to defend the first amendment because of cops pepper-spraying college professors” or similar. It wasn’t *TO* you, it was a “this is what I would totally say to that person, using derogatory language, I tell you what” said in front of his “in” group.

      Childish? Absolutely. Misogynistic? Completely. Perhaps even cowardly? Dude. You read my mind.

      When it comes to the public relations aspect… well, I understand why the police department would want to fire this guy. I think that this guy ought not be a cop at all. I don’t think he’d make a quality mall security guy. I’d hesitate to put him in charge of throwing punks off of the stage at a Plasmatics concert.

      I don’t think he’s a good guy.

      But there is a difference between yelling at your television in your own home on your own time (or yelling at a cop!) and doing so in a public place in front of God and everybody.Report

      • Kathie Brown in reply to Jaybird says:

        Well, if the email was couched in a literary device, then we have the sort of problem that Sotomayour faced in the NYPD case of a clerk who sent out admittedly racist/etc. messages on his free time and faced termination. There she was somewhat a free-speech absolutist (so why think that “wise latina” can’t be fairly down-the-line in defending liberties?). What do we do when a private communication becomes public without the speaker’s permission (NOT “in front of God and everybody” though from one point of view every utterance is in front of God) but has implications in real-life? The ACLU and libertarian response is, in this instance, the same: no repercussions to the speaker. Agreed. Will real life ignore it? No. Barrett will have to be very careful if he retains his police department job. Maybe informal practical consequences rather than legal repercussions are an adequate solution.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Kathie Brown says:

          This is where my lack of pure principle (I think the guy shouldn’t be a cop even if it was a private communication) comes into conflict with what I suspect my principles ought to be (I think that I probably should think that such a private communication shouldn’t weigh into it at all) and both of those will be irritated by the fact that the guy won’t have a whole lot of things happen to him after everything dies down. It’ll be pointed out that he’s been punished enough and, anyway, he’s apologized and, besides, the union contract says that this is something that requires he be no more than written up.

          And it’ll leave a bad taste in everybody’s mouth.Report