A Letter From The Editors

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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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244 Responses

  1. Avatar Glyph says:

    Very classy guys. Thanks.

    I do think that perhaps there were/are valid arguments to be made on the subject, at least tangentially, on topics like visual cues/priming and media presentation/incentives, and how these relate to the shaping of individual and public opinion; but given that the general topic, and the specific example, pretty reliably get blood pressures here up all ’round, more context, thoughtfulness, nuance, and sensitivity were certainly required. If these are all missing at the outset, the conversation has nowhere to go but down (and half the time when this topic is involved, it’ll end up there anyway).Report

  2. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I appreciate the explanation and efforts at transparency.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Kazzy says:

      Not one person has been able to put into words why the post is “offensive.”

      It’s not. Had we seen pictures of Zimmerman as beat up as he was, our national melodrama would not have happened in that way. That was the point of the post, no more or less. That it was cryptic is a hallmark of the LoOG, and in speaking with pictures more than words, it was sophist-proofed.

      Needless to say, I disagree with management’s decision. The post held truth, and was clearly devastatingly effective. That no one can put into words why it’s “offensive” shows the absurdity of this hecker’s veto.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        Tom, feel free to answer this question here, but I’m more interested in you answering it for yourself:

        Is there anything anyone could say about your post, by way of an explanation of its offensiveness, that would make you think it was, in fact, out of bounds? Anything at all?Report

      • Avatar DRS in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        That it was cryptic is a hallmark of the LoOG, and in speaking with pictures more than words, it was sophist-proofed.

        No, it was just dumb. And it offends people when they’re presented with dumb and expected to like it. I said it elsewhere on the thread but seriously – has it ever occurred to you that you’re just not as clever or witty or as good at pulling this kind of thing off as you think you are? You lack the delicate touch of real nuance.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        If the post was devastatingly effective as it stood, why did it need a title making fun of stereotypical black speech? What did that add? I mean juxtaposing the picture and Obama’s words I understand, but you must have noticed that people did not respond to the “devastatingly effective” point you were making- they got incensed by the title.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Rufus F. says:

          Rufus, I used “Din’t” in 2 other posts in the past month, about the elections.

          https://ordinary-times.com/timkowal/2012/10/dint-catch-the-debate-but-ill-tellya-who-won/

          https://ordinary-times.com/timkowal/2012/10/part-deux-dint-catch-the-debate-but-tellya-who-won/

          I’m from Philadelphia. You’ll find “din’t” peppered all through my comments over the years here.

          Also, for any who believe that I was mocking black people: I was thrown off a blog called Southern Appeal for calling for the end of flying the Confederate Battle Flag because of its hurtfulness. True story.Report

          • Avatar DRS in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            Some people get the benefit of the doubt – some don’t. It’s worth pondering why that is.Report

          • Avatar Aaron in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            “I can’t be racist! I was once thrown off a racist website that I was frequenting, as non-racists often do.”Report

          • Avatar greginak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            Tom if you find people keep misunderstanding you and not getting your “devastatingly effective” posts is it possible some of that might be on you?Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            Yeah, I don’t think you’re racist, Tom. I think you titled it in a way that was intended to bait the liberals here. And clearly it worked. But saying they’re incensed because of your devastating point in the text itself is a bit disingenuous. Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Rufus F. says:

              Rufus, I titled it that way because I use “din’t” frequently*. To say otherwise is a disservice to the truth. As for the “outrage,” let’s not be disingenuous. This door only swings one way.

              *https://ordinary-times.com/timkowal/2012/10/dint-catch-the-debate-but-ill-tellya-who-won/Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Okay, Tom, seriously let’s knock off the self-righteous “disservice to the truth” stuff- I’m trying to have a discussion here; not alter the historical record. Here’s how it’s gone, in my opinion:
                1. You said that, clearly, people could not handle the devastating truth contained in your post.
                > I responded that, no, it looked like the people in that thread were upset by the title and didn’t get to discussing the post. As it was described to me in an email yesterday afternoon, it seemed to some of them like you were making fun of ebonics for some reason.

                2. You said it was totally unintentional and entirely misinterpreted by the readers, who happened to misinterpret it in a way that allows you now to grandstand in a totally predictable way about how liberals constantly and unfairly presume racism on the part of conservatives. Also in a way that happens to dovetail nicely with the point you’re making in the post itself about how liberals jump to conclusions based on racial sensitivities.
                > I said this seems like baiting the liberals to me, which is something you’ve done many, many times here.

                3. Now you say that the idea it was baiting is offensive and disingenuous and you’re not getting a fair break.
                > Fine. I have no idea what your motivations are, nor could I. How about this? I’ll buy that it was totally unintentional on your part and you were unfairly misinterpreted. If anything, it seems like a fairly minor reason to kick you off the masthead.

                But, for crying out loud, could you please give your critics something remotely like the charitable reading that you always ask be given to you? The people who said they were offended by the title didn’t do so with some perfect knowledge of every fishing slang term you have ever used here and your Philadelphia history, which now reveals how deeply disingenuous they are about race and about conservatives and so, once again, they’re totally wrong and you’re totally right. They did so because emotions tend to run high in tragic situations, such as a kid getting shot to death in a stupid, needless altercation, and your post came off as flip and cryptic, and unserious. So, fine, they misread you. But, if just once you responded with, “Well, your interpretation is wrong, but it’s an understandable mistake,” instead of always trying to show that the “other side” is deeply dishonest and unfair in everything they do around here, it might lead to an actual discussion, at the very least. As it is, this whole thing went about as badly as it could have gone.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Rufus F. says:

              I’ll say this:

              I missed the alternate spelling when I first read the post (twice actually… I read it, left, came back, and read it again). When someone said, “Typo,” I thought, “Oh, of course.” When someone said, “Racism,” I thought, “Please don’t let it be.”

              I’m a liberal who missed the bait.

              I see three possible scenarios:
              1. Legit typo. Fixed with a quick edit.
              2. Intentional use of uncommon slang that was a best thoughtless and at worst deliberately provocative in a passive-aggressive way.
              3. Deliberately and explicitly hateful and racist.

              I don’t know which it was. Tom told me behind the scenes it was #2 but we didn’t discuss where on that spectrum it fell.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Kazzy says:

                I use “din’t” frequently. It mocks my Philadelphia origins.

                *https://ordinary-times.com/timkowal/2012/10/dint-catch-the-debate-but-ill-tellya-who-won/

                The problem is the presumption of racism on the part of anyone right of MSNBC, not the post or its title.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                The problem is the presumption of racism on the part of anyone right of MSNBC, not the post or its title.

                Tom, see my comment below to see what I think of the post that’s caused this hubub, but honestly, it’s not a presumption of the racism of conservatives, it’s the presumption of racism on your part, because you’ve displayed it before.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Chris says:

                The problem is these vague insinuations of racism without specifics. It’s shameful that there’s no accounting for such innuendo.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Tom, I actually think you got a raw deal here. On the other hand, I think you should have been off the masthead a year ago, so can’t say that I’m terribly upset about it.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                +1. This wasn’t a horrid post, though I must admit it was perplexing, and did not make me want to comment.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Tom, FWIW if you are reading this, I did not and do not think you are racist/bigoted; I thought that you were being needlessly inflammatory/provocative (“trolling”), based in part on the use of the phrase “Din’t They” in the post title. I believe you when you say/show that this is your own idiomatic speech that you have used before in other, less racially-charged contexts, and that the use of that phrase was not intended to mock African-Americans.

                My apologies for jumping to conclusions regarding the use of that phrase.Report

              • Avatar Aaron in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Your “I use ‘din’t’ all the time’ argument would have more wait if you weren’t just posting a link to the same article over and over again.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Aaron says:

                I can’t do anything about the Heckler’s Veto, but the racism slander will not go unanswered. Sir.Report

              • Avatar Aaron in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                O … kay? Not sure what you mean by this. Are you calling me out?Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                I believe he’s asking for a duel.Report

              • Avatar Aaron in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Is dueling acceptable under the commenting policy? Regardless, I decline. I abhor violence, even virtually.Report

              • “Is dueling acceptable under the commenting policy? ”

                Have you seen the picture on the commenting policy page?Report

              • Avatar Aaron in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                No, no I had not — but that is pretty hilarious.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Aaron says:

                Aaron, I count two here but perhaps you’re missing a finger?Report

              • Avatar Aaron in reply to wardsmith says:

                Oh, you mean the one that has the exact same title with a “Part Deux” added to it? You’ll forgive me if I’m less than convinced. It also doesn’t explain why he kept posting the same link.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

                Again, being honest, I don’t see anything wrong with Tom’s post. And I say this as one of his loudest critics, particularly on past Treyvon Martin posts. In fact, I thought his behavior back then was inexcusable, whereas this was merely, well it was kind of cowardly (“Here’s a picture, I’m not going to say anything because if I do I’ll immediately insert my foot in my mouth”). I’m still struggling to see precisely why this one was offensive. My assumption, like yours, was typo, but I’m pretty sure that, having been around Tom (virtually) for what? 2 years? 3? (How long was he commenting on PL?) I know how he writes, and so it seemed pretty natural.

                That said, I think an equal problem is, as I hinted at above, there’s absolutely nothing anyone could say to make Tom think anything he’s said on this topic, or any topic, is out of bounds. Tom is Tom’s biggest fan. And there were some things he said back when that were definitely out of bounds.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                See? Like I said, I don’t think this particular post was problematic. Some of the things you said before definitely were. You’ll never see that, though, because you can’t see it.

                Look, there are a lot of strong personalities here, and I think just about every one of us has said something that we shouldn’t have. I’ve seen pretty much every one here apologize for something they said at some point, because they’d clearly stepped over a line that they shouldn’t have. You are the only one I’ve never seen apologize to anyone for anything you’ve ever said. That says something.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Chris says:

                My preference would have been to give Tom an opportunity to respond publicly and go from there. Maybe that happened but I won’t know because the post is gone.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Chris says:

                Tom did not actually comment yesterday. At all.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

                Kazzy, I would definitely have been preferable. Though I think we see here what the result would have been. Like I said, in this particular case, I think Tom got a raw deal, but he should have been gone a long time ago. I kind of wonder what made this the final straw, actually.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        Go away, you racist dink.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        There was room for fruitful conversation, both about the picture in question and about the overarching reaction to it.

        This is not it.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Kazzy says:

          There is actually room for a fruitful conversation, which I’d love to read.

          For instance, let’s give Zimmerman the benefit of the doubt and say Martin just attacked him, threw the first punches and just messed him up.

          Isn’t that the same self-defense Zimmerman claims? Strange guy follows you in his truck, gets out, stalks you, and comes up to you at night? I’d be pretty terrified.

          So obviously if Zimmerman shot Martin in self-defense, Martin punched Zimmerman in self-defense. But we’re supposed to sympathize with the older, still alive gentlemen who’d never have gotten even a scratch if he’d obeyed the cops request?

          It’s a pretty crap law when two people can self-defend each other to death and no one is even slightly in the wrong, legally.

          Perhaps the lesson was Martin should have had a gun and killed Zimmerman in self-defense right from the start. Or perhaps it’s only self-defense if you have a gun, but fists are assault.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Morat20 says:

            If nothing else, this and another recent incident has taught us hiw dangerous it is to be young, black, male, and unarmed.Report

            • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Kazzy says:

              Somehow, if Martin had shot Zimmerman after being accosted by an armed man while on a walk, I don’t think he’d have gotten 150k in donations.

              Or let walk, ever so temporarily, free. I suspect he’d have been arrested, tried, and convicted.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Morat20 says:

            It’s a pretty crap law when two people can self-defend each other to death and no one is even slightly in the wrong, legally.

            Yeah, that might suggest the policy isn’t particularly well thought out.Report

            • Avatar M.A. in reply to James Hanley says:

              There’s room for a case to be made that two people, only seeing one side of the story from their own position, could both legitimately believe they were defending themselves from the other.

              But as has been gone over ad nauseum, the Trayvon Martin incident does not leave much room to make that case, because Zimmerman disobeyed police telling him not to follow.

              The specific image seems to be thrown around right now so the right wing can crow “we were right” due to arguments in days past as to whether other images showed a valid bruise or bloody nose on Zimmerman. It indicates there was some form of a struggle, but there’s not much else to it.

              How can a grown man, armed with a gun, stalk a teenager for blocks before threatening the teenager with said gun and yet claim self-defense? Something in this does not make sense.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to M.A. says:

                But as has been gone over ad nauseum, the Trayvon Martin incident does not leave much room to make that case, because Zimmerman disobeyed police telling him not to follow.

                That didn’t happen. The exact exchange was:
                Dispatcher: Are you following him?
                Zimmerman: Yep.
                Dispatcher: Okay, we don’t need you to do that.
                Zimmerman: Okay.

                First, It’s not clear that Zimmerman continued following Martin after this exchange. Maybe he did, but as far as I can tell, claims that he did are entirely speculative. Second, “We don’t need you to do that” isn’t obviously an order, nor, as far as I know, would it be a crime for Zimmerman to continue doing so even if it were an order.

                How can a grown man, armed with a gun, stalk a teenager for blocks before threatening the teenager with said gun and yet claim self-defense?

                “Stalk” has a specific legal meaning, and this isn’t it. Following someone as such isn’t illegal, and carrying a gun doesn’t change that. Neither is it illegal to “confront” someone, or any of the other pseudolegal jargon I’ve seen tossed around to explain how Zimmerman forfeited his right to self-defense. Threatening someone with a gun without good cause is illegal, but is there any evidence that Zimmerman threatened Martin with a gun? Not to my knowledge.

                The bottom line, really, is that if someone is slamming your head into the sidewalk, it’s eminently reasonable to assume that your life is in imminent danger, and you have the right to use deadly force to defend yourself. This doesn’t change because that person was afraid of you, nor should it.

                It’s entirely possible that Martin honestly believed that his life was in danger, and I might be sympathetic to such a defense if he had killed Zimmerman instead of the other way around. But “Zimmerman is a murderer” is not the logical inverse of “Martin deserved to die.” Not every tragedy has a villain.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                None of this changes the fact that the police initially did not bother to investigate, to find out what really happened. Nor does it change the fact that all indicators are that Zimmerman’s ill-considered decision to exit his truck was the ultimate cause of the confrontation.Report

              • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to James Hanley says:

                That’s not the argument MA is making, though. The argument MA is making is that Zimmerman is GUILTYGUILTYGUILTY. When, with or without SYG, it appears that it’s going to be really hard to prove. But they’ll prosecute him anyway, to compensate for their earlier error (or the bad publicity surrounding it).Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to James Hanley says:

                None of this changes the fact that the police initially did not bother to investigate, to find out what really happened.

                Is that actually a fact? A lot of the initial reporting on this case was truly, truly awful, and people were saying a lot of stuff that later turned out not to be the case (which hasn’t stopped them from continuing to say it). The prosecution’s case looks pretty weak to me, and it’s not at all clear to me that the initial investigation wasn’t sufficient to establish that there wasn’t really a case.

                Nor does it change the fact that all indicators are that Zimmerman’s ill-considered decision to exit his truck was the ultimate cause of the confrontation.

                A necessary contributing factor, sure, though there were other necessary contributing factors. But even taking this at face value, it doesn’t strike me as having any legal significance. You’re not saying that in doing so Zimmerman forfeited his right to self-defense, are you?

                As an aside, there seems to be some presumption that Zimmerman was following Martin with the intent to confront him. But from the recording of his conversation with the police, it sounds like he may just have been trying to keep track of him until the police arrived. Calling the police and then starting something doesn’t make a lot of sense.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                It is a fact, and it’s partly an ugly consequence of SYG. Dead kid, completely unarmed, shot through the heart. Guy with gun says “He started it!” Under SYG, unless the police are able to disprove that immediately, they have to let him go, rather than arresting him, interrogating him, confiscating his clothing and other belongings for testing, etc. Which is a reasonable amount of effort to go through, even if you later on you can find pictures of the kid clowning with gold teeth,Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                The law (linked in one of my other comments in this thread) says that they can use standard procedure for investigation, which I assume includes collecting evidence from the shooter. And they did take Zimmerman in; there was video footage of that. What changes to the law would you like to see, exactly? All the law actually says is that it’s not sufficient to establish that a shooting has occurred; you need probable cause that the use of deadly force was unjustified.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Dead, unarmed, shot point-blank.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Mike – first of all let me say I understand and respect yr position here. Simply saying, this looked questionable enough that there needed to be a thorough investigation/trial, and if SYG prevents that, then it’s bad law; and being willing to accept the ultimate outcome of the current legal process is all eminently reasonable and fair.

                I do want to ask about yr use of the phrase “point-blank” – is this hyperbole/figure of speech? Because if not, to me this would point more to self-defense than otherwise. Unless it’s an execution-style killing (which seems unlikely and AFAIK no one is alleging) point-blank indicates the participants were in direct contact/struggle with one other.

                I’d be more likely to wonder “did this shooting really need to happen” if the unarmed victim was at distance, since under those conditions the shooter could possibly have backed up or given verbal deterrent (not that he may have been required to under law).Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Dead, unarmed, shot point-blank.

                Of course it is possible to kill someone bare handed. So being unarmed is probative, but not definitive.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Brandon,
                under this law, some black guy comes to the door of a white guy to complain about the white guy calling neighborhood kids n!ggers.
                White guy shoots the black guy.
                White guy tells police “I shot me a n!gger”.

                White guy is not prosecuted. SYG.

                (story courtesy of a commenter on Calculated Risk, who flies an “eat the rich” flag on her house.)

                This law is stupid, the enforcement is stupid, and it’s not a law that ought to be on the books.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                The problem with the law is kind of what Kim points out.

                Brandon,
                under this law, some black guy comes to the door of a white guy to complain about the white guy calling neighborhood kids n!ggers.
                White guy shoots the black guy.
                White guy tells police “I shot me a n!gger”.

                All we need to do is add one phrase:

                White guy tells police “I shot me a n!gger, he was trying to break into my house.

                Black guy, of course, lies there dead on the pavement, not able to offer his side of the story because he’s dead. Murderer-in-cold-blood gets off scot free, because of “Stand Your Ground” law.

                It sounds farfetched until you’ve been around certain people.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Glyph, I know you don’t think that. But I think your attempt at finding the middle ground has consequences and not every situation is best solved in the middle ground. Even if Zim didn’t know Tray was black, his actions and the cops sends a unique message to black folks that it wouldn’t send if Tray was white. It just does. Whether it should or not, it does. That is the reality for black folks, black parents in particular.

                Even if Tray “evaded”, he only did so in response to Zim. Zim was the actor, Tray the reactor. When Zim engaged in a stupid act (and his stupid act began long before he even saw Tray; when he decided to play cops and robbers without the requisite skills or training, he acted irresponsibly), he doesn’t get to point the finger back at Tray’s very reasonable responses from there on out. He could have done a lot of things to deescalate the situation because he created the situation; it is hard to put any onus on Tray for deescalating a situation that was not of his makin and likely felt out of his control.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to James Hanley says:

                ill-considered decision to exit his truck was the ultimate cause of the confrontation.

                James, IANAL, so I do have some questions about this, and it’s in part because I have had my own sort-of Zimmerman/Martin situation.

                A few years back, I was walking out my front door late at night to take out the trash. As I did, I saw sudden furtive movement out of the corner of my left eye – when I turned & looked, there was a man, with a bike, by my locked side-gate (fully in my yard, 25 feet or more inside the clearly-sidewalk-demarcated property line.)

                I asked him what he was doing; he asked me (in Spanish) if I spoke Spanish (which I do, a little, but I wasn’t about to make his life easier at this point). He then tried to explain that he thought this was his friend’s house. I said, curtly, “It’s not”, and he got on his bike and rode down the street.

                I walked to the sidewalk, to see where he was heading; at the end of the street, he looked around, then pulled into the yard of a house at the other end of the street, where I was pretty sure he did not live either.

                So, I go inside, grab my cell, and call the cops. While calling, I walked down the street, to see if I can see what he’s up to, and to give the cops his current location by getting the house #.

                I am in front of the house, standing on the sidewalk trying to see into the dark side-yard, still on the phone with 911. He sees/hears me, and comes aggressively out of the dark side-yard, pushing past me, walking fast with his bike, muttering about how he was gonna “fish me up” (so I guess he had at least some English).

                He gets on the bike and rides off, long before the cops show up.

                Now:

                1.) He may have been truthful, about mistaken addresses – I had some college friends attempt to “break into” an apartment that was not theirs, because they were too drunk to realize they had the wrong apartment;

                2.) He may have just been a wino, looking for a quiet/dark corner to pee or pass out in (my neighbor has found same in her shed at least once); or a drug user, looking for a dark corner to consume his drugs;

                3.) Or, he may have been casing houses for burglary/rape/peeping.

                I had then, and have now, no idea which it was.

                Regardless – was I “wrong” to follow him? Was I “initiating a confrontation”? What if he had decided to “fish me up” – am I in the wrong for “stalking” him? What if he’d jumped me, or pushed me down, slamming my head into the sidewalk, maybe just trying to incapacitate me so he could escape, and I hit & killed him with a bottle or a pipe I found on the ground in the melee?

                How would that look, when I tell you that I am “white”, and he was hispanic, and (I am guessing, it’s hard to judge in the dark) I had a little bit of weight on him (though I am no experienced fighter, so frankly the weight differential would have to be a lot, to matter much). How much does weight/age differential matter, in the dark, with your adrenaline up?

                How many factors can I be expected to take into account, in that state of mind and with limited information available? Am I right to be suspicious, or in fear for my life (I don’t know if he has any weapons, and a blow to the head on a concrete sidewalk can be fatal)?

                I dunno. I can definitely see a scenario where things went really, really badly for me, and I don’t think I am a racist, or a vigilante, or a hothead.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph says:

                Glyph,

                You didn’t exit a vehicle you were in. Your situation began differently. It may not have been wise to follow him, but I can understand why you did it. In the case at hand, Zimmerman was following Martin in his truck, which I have no problem with. Had he stayed in his truck, nothing would have gone down. It was Zimmerman’s decision to leave a safe surveillance situation when he had no need to that was the ultimate cause. That doesn’t make him guilty, it doesn’t prove Martin did nothing wrong. It just means this whole thing began with Zimmerman making a bad decision, a decision that as far as I can tell from all reporting of the incident had no justification.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                whole thing began with Zimmerman making a bad decision

                Debatable. If in fact Martin had been up to no good, losing visual track of him may be the real bad decision – maybe somebody gets hurt later. I left my house/yard, no (real) reason to do that either, under this view – my guy had done nothing more than trespass, purportedly due to mistaken address – and I am not even on Neighborhood Watch.

                I am not trying to say that Martin deserved what he got. He didn’t, obviously, even if he did look “suspicious”, or was sneaking through a side yard to enjoy a surreptitious joint, or whatever.

                But the whole thing, from what I have seen (and if this most recent Zimmerman photo is legit) seems like it could plausibly fall under “tragic s**t happens sometimes when two people fundamentally misunderstand each other in the dark”. Zimmerman thought he was following a burglar, and Martin may have thought he was being followed by Paul Bernardo (and may have been furious when he found out it was really Paul Blart – fear can turn to anger really quickly).

                And maybe it’s because of my own experience that I am reluctant to strongly gainsay Zimmerman’s account without clearer, more damning evidence of malice or negligence on his part.

                Because like I said, I can see a situation where it was me in the dock, and people are calling for my head.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                But Martin WAS being followed. Zim was not watching burglary happen.

                Martin’s apparent understanding was far more accurate and reasonable.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                Kazzy, IIRC Martin was cutting between buildings and this is where the killing occurred (though I think he may have gone there in an attempt to evade his follower, don’t remember?)

                Once Martin left the street and cut between the buildings, wouldn’t he be trespassing (or appearing to flee) either of which would make a Neighborhood Watch guy (even more) suspicious?

                It just seems like there was a cascade of mistaken impressions/suspicions/decisions on both parties’ parts, and I am just not as comfortable as many are in saying *this point* is where it all went wrong.

                I understand that the law can’t just throw up its hands and say “who knows?”, but I marvel at how certain the rest of us, who weren’t there and don’t have access to all the evidence, can be. The whole thing is a tragedy IMO and my heart goes out to everyone involved.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                My point is that Martin likely felt he was being follow because he was being followed.

                Zimmerman thought he was following a burglar because…?

                Look, I don’t think Zimmerman was out to kill little brown kids that night. I don’t think he is an evil man. I think he thought he was doing the right thing. But, here and elsewhere, he showed terrible judgement, such that he should not have been out following people with a gun. Martin, it appears, showed fairly good judgement; if Zimmerman’s story checks out that he was confronted en route back to his truck, that certainly changes that.

                But there is no denying that Trayvon is alive today if Zimmerman never gets out of his truck. Or follows him at all. Zimmerman set off the chain reaction. Unless you want to fault kids for being black or wearing hoodies or liking candy, which I don’t think is your angle. I, for one, will fault a man for following someone around the neighborhood with a loaded weapon for apparently no more reason than he was young, black, and hooded.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Glyph says:

                Glyph, Mr. Blue and BB and others:

                Here’s a comment I’m pasting from a previous thread that sums up some of the confusions about the SYG laws at it applies to Zimmerman. The quotations and references are from/to the relevant statutes, which can be found here.

                Kazzy: A huge issue is that the law does not require that self-defense be made as an affirmative defense in a court of law.

                Me: That may be so. But if it’s distinguished from standard self-defense, the SYG provisions require either 1) that Trayvon was “in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling…” as well as that Zimmerman “knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred”, or 2) that Zimmerman had a right to be where he was, that he hadn’t engaged in any illegal activity, and that there was an imminent threat not to his own life (since that’s self-defense) but to the lives of others, or in the prevention of a forcible felony.

                If Trayvon attacked Zimmerman because he was being stalked, the argument should be that he defended himself. That some people are inclined to argue instead that Zimmerman has a right to stand his ground is, on my reading of the law, incoherent, since Trayvon’s actions and Zimmerman’s beliefs around those actions fail to satisfy the conditions under which the law applies. On the other hand, if anyone has a right to stand his ground according to the “threat to his own life” provision and meet force with force, it’s Trayvon.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                Kazzy –

                Unless you want to fault kids for being black or wearing hoodies or liking candy, which I don’t think is your angle.

                Of course not.

                Zimmerman thought he was following a burglar because…?

                First of all, “potential” burglar or otherwise would be more accurate. Still, the transcipt of Zimmerman’s initial comments can be found here – I think a Neighborhood Watch guy, in a neighborhood where there have been recent burglaries, has some reason to look more closely at any relatively young male who appears to be “out of place”, regardless of color or clothing. To Zimmerman, Martin was walking around in the dark, in the rain – this isn’t a crime, and there can be valid reasons to do so, but it is unusual – and this is key – in FL suburbia, where things are spread out enough that people tend to drive everywhere, all the more so at night when the weather is crappy.

                In my story above, I followed a man about a block, based on nothing more than suspicion that he might be “up to no good”. He may have had perfectly reasonable and non-criminal explanations for his behavior. I don’t think that makes me wrong to be suspicious, and for reasons that have nothing to do with his color or clothing. I don’t carry a gun, but legally I could – and had the guy attacked me (not that we know Martin did this)? What then?

                I agree that “suspicion” is nebulous and subjective, and gets dubiously invoked all the time (“DWB”, etc.) But that doesn’t mean that it’s never valid. And even when it is mistaken, we can’t just assume malice or negligence on the part of the suspicious party.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                But you put Martin in an impossible situation there.

                What was he, 17? Wen I was 17, I walked most everywhere. I had a license but no car and was accustomed to walking. I walked day and night, rain or shine. This is NOT unusual.

                What would have made Martin not suspect? Being white would have helped. A suit and tie likely would have. A day time jaunt would have been safer. A sunny one safer still.

                But how much of that can Martin control? Only the clothes, really. So Martin shouldhave worn a suit and tie. Now we’re back to saying black folks must work 50% harder, be 50% better.

                I don’t think Zim was explicitly racist. I think he was giving into socially conditioned racial biases that encourage us to equate black with suspicious. Something folks working in law enforcement OUGHT* to be trained to overcome. And something that makes the mere notion of untrained but lethally armed “watchmen” downright terrifying.

                * I realize they often aren’t but I think this is a fair thing to expect and I think it is fair to expect more of agents of the state who are authorized to use force in ways most private citizens can’t.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                Kazzy, IIRC correctly you grew up in the Northeast, correct? Suburbia in the northeast is not exactly the same as suburbia FL, for reasons of weather, sprawl, and (car/walking/health) culture. I grew up in the south. I have had a complete stranger, in the middle of the night, ask me for a ride of several blocks to get to her job at the nearby hospital (she was wearing scrubs, so I don’t think it was a scam). People don’t walk if they can help it. They get rides. That doesn’t mean everyone, or that it’s a crime to walk. But it does mean that it looks out of place, especially under certain conditions.

                What I am saying is that these things are definitely context-dependent, and what is ‘suspicious’ in neighborhood A (young male on foot, in the dark, in the rain) is not at all ‘suspicious’ in neighborhood B (maybe foot traffic is more common at that hour in those elements; maybe there have been no recent burglaries there).

                From the transcript it also seems like Zimmerman may not have known Martin was black until the confrontation had already begun (when he tells the dispatcher Martin is now approaching the car, and says he “looks black” when asked), so I am not sure how we are arriving at the conclusion that “black” was part of Zimmerman’s *initial* assessment of suspicion. This seems reasonable, given that it was nighttime and raining (so I expect Martin’s head and face were probably covered, as anyone’s would be as they walk in the rain in their hoodie).

                I suspect “young, male, walking in the FL dark/rain in the middle of an area where there doesn’t seem to be any clear point of origin or destination” were the most prominent triggers of suspicion.

                Again, please re-read my story. Was I wrong to be suspicious? Was I wrong to follow the guy, trying to keep him in sight until the cops arrived?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                Ask black kids whats normal for them.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                It was a black woman who asked me for a ride. 🙂Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Glyph says:

                You was stupid. Is not a crime, but is still stupid.
                Is police’s job to watch neighborhood.
                Ask police to investigate “possibly lost, possibly deranged” person.

                If I hear a car alarm going off, I keep my head down and dial police
                when I can’t be observed.

                (also, on bus, I keep cellphone on, in case of spotted trouble outside).Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                My point is that hour normal, Zim’s normal was not Trayvon’s. and he is dead because of that.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                *your, not hourReport

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                It strikes me that a fruitful conversation could probably be had about urban/suburban/rural contexts; and how what might be suspicious, or a reasonable safe response to (perceived) suspicious behavior, differs from environment to environment; and how what is perfectly normal in one, looks out of place in another; and how that can be dangerous to people unwittingly not conforming to local custom (and, how people outside each context can misjudge what might be considered reasonable inside each context).

                I live in a weird border/transition area that is neither quite suburban, nor quite urban. So we see a lot of weird behaviors that you normally wouldn’t see in either.

                The plus side is you can also get away with a lot of weird behaviors.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                So Zim saw different which he equated to suspicous which he equated to potential burglar which he thought was best solved by follow and pursuit.

                And now Trayvon is dead because he wanted Skittles.

                And you want to say, “Well, both sides have culpability.”

                And you don’t see the problem with that?

                Go tell Mrs. Martin and all the other mothers of black boys that their normal is enough to get them killed.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                To be clear, I am not arguing for assigning fault to Martin – unless he attacked Zimmerman, he appears to have done nothing really wrong.

                But I am also cautious about assigning fault to Zimmerman – this may be one of those situations in which the universe converged in such a way that tragedy occurs, and race may have had little or nothing to do with it.

                I don’t know if this was propaganda (everybody was leaking all kinds of stuff, and the initial reporting was terrible, and the noise from all sides was deafening), but I seem to recall seeing that Zimmerman had advocated in the past for justice for black victims of police brutality – and that some of the cops involved in that alleged brutality, were involved in investigating the Martin shooting (so if there had been a way to get Zimmerman in the dock right away, you’d think they would have taken it, out of revenge. Have I mentioned I don’t trust cops?).

                None of this means that Zimmerman might not have been operating under unconscious biases anyway. But it argues against a straightforward racial bent to the whole thing.

                And I know that this answer (could have been bad luck, basically) is not (and shouldn’t be) automatically satisfying from a legal perspective, or from the perspective of Martin’s family; but I feel like distant observers should do their best to see that the confluence of factors, both factual/situational and legal (self-defense/SYG) makes the whole thing a bit murky to me (and unnecessarily injecting race doesn’t make it less so).Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Glyph says:

                Glyph:

                This is one place where I’m going to have to disagree with you.

                If you’re walking around and goofing off and you bump into somebody, you’re culpable. Usually nobody gets hurt, quick apology, life goes on. If you get in a car, and you’re not driving safely, and you run somebody over… you’re not guilty of murder, per se, but I think we can all agree you’re culpable. The act of getting in the car puts a higher burden on you to behave responsibly.

                If you’re packing a gun, you’ve changed your context. You have the higher burden to behave responsibly. Zimmerman, for whatever causal reasoning, was clearly behaving irresponsibly. He was trying to be a cop, and he isn’t one.

                I’m totally fine with saying it’s his fault Martin is dead. Utterly and completely. I don’t even think that’s arguable. Even if Martin *did* attack him, Martin attacked him because Zimmerman was following him around and acting suspicious. While Martin owns his own responsibility for attacking somebody, it’s not the same.

                If a pedestrian goofs off and steps off a curb and a driver is goofing off and they pancake the guy, the driver is the one at fault for the death. Because regardless of the fact that the pedestrian was goofing off, the driver’s responsibility is weighted to the car. He’s got the lethal weapon, the pedestrian doesn’t.

                What he’s guilty of, in reality, nobody knows. We don’t know what was actually going on in Zimmerman’s head.

                What we do know is, he was packing heat and playing cop. And he wasn’t anywhere near good enough at either to be doing them.

                That’s on him. Full stop.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                Patrick, this is a fair point – and thanks to you and Kazzy and James for, as usual, keeping cool heads and keeping me honest. Carrying the gun may in fact increase his responsibility. (But it also may have saved his life, if he is telling the truth.)

                In my situation, even with no gun, had I accidentally killed the dude (maybe he pushes me, and I push him back, and he falls & hits his head on the curb and dies) seems like it could have the same result – he’s dead, and it’s my “fault”. I followed him. I am not a cop. I shouldn’t have pushed him, I have no martial arts training.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                Glyph,

                Fine. Leave race out. Zim still acted on a presumption of normal that was differentthan Trayvon’s. Why does he, or anyone, get to determine what is normal when it comes to traveling between point A and Point B?

                Also, you say the gun might have saved Zim’s life. Fine. You know what then? If you can successfully confront someone sans weapon or with a weapon, you don’t get to play rent-a-cop. Trained cops have enough troubme with this shit; now we see what happens when untrained idiots arm themselves.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                Kazzy, I say largely leave the gun out too. It’s the man that killed Martin, not the tool that he used to do it. People have noted that Zimmerman outweighed Martin, he could have killed him in a fistfight. Or it could have gone the other way, and Martin killed him. Or there could have been a pipe or bottle on the ground, or someone hits their head on a sidewalk.

                To me it all turns on motive, and what each party reasonably thought was happening at that time.

                We all determine what is “suspicious” in our own environments and according to what we see as our “responsibilities”.

                If I am driving at night in the rain, in my recently-crime-afflicted and non-pedestrian-friendly neighborhood and I see a guy walking with no clear destination, and I slow down to take a closer look and he appears to start evading me, I am going to be suspicious.

                Will I follow him? No, not unless he is in my yard, or my near neighbors’. Basically, his seemingly-suspicious behavior seems probably not to be my business anyway. (Though I may wonder if I did the right thing, especially if I open the paper the next AM to read about a burglary or rape or something near that area).

                But if I am Neighborhood Watch, and I feel “the Neighborhood” is my responsibility?

                Maybe.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph says:

                To me it all turns on motive, and what each party reasonably thought was happening at that time.

                What do you think Trayvon Martin reasonably thought was happening when a man got out of his truck at night and started following him?

                I think I have a pretty good idea.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                Gluph,

                You keep saying Martin was walking without a destination. Why? Was he walking in circles?

                That community was Martin’s home, too. Shouldn’t he have say in what is normal?

                Fine. Leave the gun out. Was Zim trained to pursue and subdue? No? Okay. Then don’t. I’m not trained to do surgery. If I did it and my “patient” dies, I’d be liable.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                James, I have no doubt Martin feared he was being pursued with ill-intent (and I sort of alluded to something similar to your – crazy!!! – story when I made the Paul Bernardo/Blart joke.)

                My point, and your story illustrates, is simply how easy it is for a misunderstanding to spiral out of control. That (idiot, I agree) cop thought you were at least mildly suspicious given the milieu; but he also probably thought he was doing you a favor by handling it casually at first (“don’t want to put the light on the dashboard, and scare the poor guy unnecessarily – why, the feller might just be out for a walk. Insomnia’s a b**ch, I’ve had it myself ever since Ethel passed….what the heck, he’s running away from me! He’s up to no good!!”)

                I am not holding up Zimmerman as an example of “what to do” – I think it’s clear he needed to be more careful. But I also don’t know that what he did was completely beyond the pale, and adrenaline is a funny thing, and if he got jumped on the way back to his car, well, that’s not good either.

                It all seems plausibly within the realm of understandable actions to me – but maybe that’s because I myself did something sort of similar once and luckily came out OK.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph says:

                a guy walking with no clear destination,

                There’s a guy in our town I see on a regular basis. He always dressed in nice slacks and a button down shirt, no tie, and carrying a briefcase. I’ve always wondered where in the world he’s going.

                So I’m just wondering, when you see someone walking through a neighborhood, how can their destination be clear to you, the observer?

                Did Martin need a well-lit sign that said, “I’m returning home from the store”? Because I’m not sure what, short of that, could have made his destination clear to Zimmerman.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                What was Trayvon’a misunderstanding? That he was being followed? Nope. He was. That Zim meant harm? What was Zim’s plan if/when he caught Martin? A stern talking to?

                Seem Martin understood just fine what was going on… A strange, violent man with ill-intentions was following him.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                Zim acted reasonably based on an inaccurate and unreasonable understanding of the situation. If you can’t properly identify a threat, you don’t get to be a watchman.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                RE: clear destination to Kazzy and James.

                Again, I am not sure you guys understand FL suburbia and the way it is laid out. Nobody, and I mean nobody, walks any distance there, even when it is not hellishly hot or pouring rain. (OK, I exaggerate some, but not much. Have you seen the obesity stats for the state?)

                So you see somebody walking on the same block to and from the 7-11? Not weird. You see somebody walking in inclement weather where any 7-11 is at least a mile away? Kinda weird.

                I am saying “suspicion” is necessarily context-dependent and subjective (and as such, gets abused all to hell and back, usually by the guys who have actual blue uniforms). That doesn’t mean that it is itself illegitimate. If you doubt me, I will continually walk up and down the sidewalk on the side of James’ house where his daughters’ bedrooms are.

                What? I’m just exercising. Doc told me I gotta get this weight off.

                (Note to James: this is for illustrative and hypothetical commenting purposes only, dude. Please don’t kill me!)Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Glyph says:

                James,
                walking with a clear destination is generally walking
                1) fast (3mph at min.)
                and
                2) Without looking lost (in NYC, this is the standard “isn’t craning neck to look at skyscrapers”…).

                It’s an essential life skill in a city. People are MUCH less likely to mess with someone who looks like they’re going someplace.
                (if nothing else, there’s someone likely to miss ’em).Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                Glyph,

                Ask black teens in Florida what normal is. Give them guns. Empower them to confront anyone not acting “normal”. Reasonable?

                There is a book out called “Whistling Vivaldi”. The title comes from a black man’s attempt to pacify white folks on the street by whistling a tune that would make him seem unthreatening. You don’t seem to get the base assumption of suspicion black people are associated with and how your willingness to cave to it instead of challenge takes a real toll.

                Again, we are talking about a teenager walking down the street. Not cutting through yards or circling the block or loitering. Walking diwn the street is now off-limits to black teens in Florida. Ain’t life grand.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                Kazzy man, I don’t think that and you know I don’t. But I think both of the following are possible:

                1.) Zimmerman didn’t even know Martin was black when he first became suspicious (hands/face covered by hoodie, due to rain)

                2.) Martin may have made a mistake (tactical, not moral or legal, and “may”, not “did”, and also perfectly understandable) when he left the street to evade Zimmerman – once he left public property and entered private, especially if he did it quickly, he may have increased Zimmerman’s suspicions. Again remember that at this point Zimmerman may not even have known he was black. It wasn’t until the actual confrontation started that this info became known to Zimmerman (though I may be wrong on timeline and geography).Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                Glyph, I know you don’t think that. But I think your attempt at finding the middle ground has consequences and not every situation is best solved in the middle ground. Even if Zim didn’t know Tray was black, his actions and the cops sends a unique message to black folks that it wouldn’t send if Tray was white. It just does. Whether it should or not, it does. That is the reality for black folks, black parents in particular.

                Even if Tray “evaded”, he only did so in response to Zim. Zim was the actor, Tray the reactor. When Zim engaged in a stupid act (and his stupid act began long before he even saw Tray; when he decided to play cops and robbers without the requisite skills or training, he acted irresponsibly), he doesn’t get to point the finger back at Tray’s very reasonable responses from there on out. He could have done a lot of things to deescalate the situation because he created the situation; it is hard to put any onus on Tray for deescalating a situation that was not of his makin and likely felt out of his control.
                (Re-pReport

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                Glyph, I know you don’t think that. But I think your attempt at finding the middle ground has consequences and not every situation is best solved in the middle ground. Even if Zim didn’t know Tray was black, his actions and the cops sends a unique message to black folks that it wouldn’t send if Tray was white. It just does. Whether it should or not, it does. That is the reality for black folks, black parents in particular.

                Even if Tray “evaded”, he only did so in response to Zim. Zim was the actor, Tray the reactor. When Zim engaged in a stupid act (and his stupid act began long before he even saw Tray; when he decided to play cops and robbers without the requisite skills or training, he acted irresponsibly), he doesn’t get to point the finger back at Tray’s very reasonable responses from there on out. He could have done a lot of things to deescalate the situation because he created the situation; it is hard to put any onus on Tray for deescalating a situation that was not of his makin and likely felt out of his control.
                (Re-post due to poor threading)Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                Fair enough. I think we understand where each other are coming from so I doubt we can get much farther. I will simply repeat that I am not attempting to put fault on Martin; just pointing that Zimmerman’s guilt (in both the legal and moral senses) or its degree is not a clear-cut issue to me. I am not sure what else we would expect of a Neighborhood Watch guy, but to, well, watch the neighborhood; so his suspicion alone, or the fact that he pursued what he saw as a suspicious person (according to him, with the intent to keep a location on rather than confront, though I am aware he may be lying) do not seem dispositive to me.

                I’d probably recommend that NW guys all carry pepper-spray only from now on, though they have a legal right to carry guns.

                Weirdly, I get madder when the cops commmit this kind of fish-up than I do a private citizen; because they *are* trained and should know better.

                I have a hard time coming down as hard on a private citizen who thought he was doing the right thing. A mistake? Yeah, for sure. A crime? Not sure.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph says:

                Glyph, if I see a Native American dude with a feather walking past my house, I’ll invite you to sit on my porch swing and chat. If you walk “back and forth” in front of my house, well, that’s a bit different from just walking by.

                But I do hear you about FL suburbia.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Glyph says:

                Glyph,
                My neighborhood watch knows to stay in their cars and call police if necessary.
                It might have helped if he had worn some actual uniform. Looking official is a great way to get cooperation.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Glyph says:

                It might have helped if he had worn some actual uniform. Looking official is a great way to get cooperation.

                More likely, it would have just inflated his cop-wannabe attitude even further and made the situation even worse. Few things are worse than a vigilante who thinks he’s been granted official authority.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                Glyph,
                First let me apologize if I’ve seemed terse. I’m at a diversity conference so I definitely don’t have phasers set to stun. I’m also on a phone so typing is hard. Plus this issue is personal for me in an indirect way and I’m pushing for a comfort with raggediness here so… There ya go.

                Anyway, I don’t think Zim is a monster. I don’t think he was out hunting little brown boys. It’s possible, maybe even likely that he makes the same choices with a white kid. I think he thought he was doing the right thing. But he has also shown a propensity to make bad decisions (including at least one arrest for assaulting an officer, IIRC). People who make bad decisions shouldn’t be on NW, and certainly not with a gun in his hand. Pursuing, confronting, and engaging should be left to trained professionals. Does that rise to th level of a crime? Honestly, I don’t know. But I do know that someone is dead because of a series of bad decisions made by George Zimmerman, many of which took place long before that night. There should be some accounting for that. Tray could have robbed every house blind that night and nothing would justify him being dead. We shoukd seriously examine the form and function of NW if they are doing anything more than calling the police.

                And believe you me… If it had been trained professionals making the same mistakes… Well, I would not be apologizing for my terseness.Report

              • Avatar Aaron in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                It’s entirely possible that Martin honestly believed that his life was in danger, and I might be sympathetic to such a defense if he had killed Zimmerman instead of the other way around.

                Do you read what you write? Martin didn’t just believe that his life was in danger – Zimmerman actually murdered him. This airy, “who can actually know?” nonsense is simply disgusting. The fact of the matter is that an armed man stalked and shot an unarmed teenager.Report

              • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to Aaron says:

                Do you read what you write? Martin didn’t just believe that his life was in danger – Zimmerman actually murdered him.

                Unless the reason that Zimmerman shot him was due to having been jumped. Having been assaulted is sufficient cause for a self-defense killing. Someone following you, then walking back to his truck (as Zimmerman claims) is not sufficient cause to assault him.

                The “who knows?” applies to whether Zimmerman’s account is accurate.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Mr. Blue says:

                Actually, per Florida law, if Martin merely felt Zimmerman was a threat, he was fully justified in shooting him.

                So apparently you believe Martin’s mistake was in not being armed. After all, if he’d shot and killed Zimmerman, instead of hitting him, Zimmerman couldn’t have self-defended back.

                Which is sort of the problem. Zimmerman apparently had a right to self-defense that Martin didn’t.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Mr. Blue says:

                Actually, per Florida law, if Martin merely felt Zimmerman was a threat, he was fully justified in shooting him.

                Well…kind of, maybe. The actual text is a bit unclear:

                A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:

                (1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or

                (2) [Stuff about home invasion or assault, not relevant here]

                So you don’t have a duty to retreat if you reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary to protect you from death or great bodily harm. But is it necessary if retreat is an option? Is it reasonable to believe that deadly force is necessary if the person hasn’t actually attacked or threatened you, but you think he might? It’s not clear to me that this meets the bar, or should. A law that says it’s okay to kill someone just because you’re worried that maybe he’ll attack you strikes me as a really bad idea, and I don’t think that that was the intent.

                So what exactly are you arguing here? That Zimmerman forfeited his right to self-defense because Martin believed that he was a threat, even though Zimmerman himself was not doing anything illegal? Would you like to change the law so that if someone knocks you to the ground and starts slamming your head into the sidewalk because he believes you’re a threat, you can’t defend yourself?Report

              • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to Mr. Blue says:

                “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my client reasonably thought his life was in imminent danger because he was being followed…”

                “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my client reasonably thought his life was in imminent danger because his head was being bashed against concrete…”

                Both, or neither, may constitute self-defense. But if I were to pick only one of them… I’d rather be the lawyer in the second case. Especially if the second guy was responding to actual violence initiated by the other guy, which is Zimmerman’s claim (and the source of “who knows?”).Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Mr. Blue says:

                You keep saying “slamming head into sidewalk” as if it were an established fact, rather than the statement of an interested party who’s a known perjurer.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Mr. Blue says:

                Well, him and the photographs showing blood running down the back of his head.

                And I’m rebutting the claim that even if Zimmerman’s claims are accurate, he’s still guilty of some sort of felony. There’s not much point in citing the evidence supporting Zimmerman’s claims to people who consider them irrelevant.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Mr. Blue says:

                So you don’t have a duty to retreat if you reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary to protect you from death or great bodily harm. But is it necessary if retreat is an option?

                Brandon, you disregard the entire point of the “stand your ground” laws, which is to remove the question of whether retreat was an option.

                SYG laws specifically state that you do NOT have to consider whether or not you could retreat as an option.

                Mr. Blue makes the “point” above that “That’s not the argument MA is making, though. The argument MA is making is that Zimmerman is GUILTYGUILTYGUILTY.

                Of course Blue is lying. That’s not the point I am making. The point I am making is that the police fished up. They disregarded section 776.041 Use of force by aggressor, which specifically states: “The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who:… (2)?Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself,” which is at the heart of ZIMMERMAN STALKING TRAYVON MARTIN WITH A GUN.Report

              • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to Mr. Blue says:

                MA,

                You speak with such authority. Now all you have to do is demonstrated that following someone is stalking someone is either a felony or legally a use of force.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mr. Blue says:

                Of course Blue is lying.

                I’m not in agreement with Blue, but that’s ridiculous. And hypocritical, given the source.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Mr. Blue says:

                Well, him and the photographs showing blood running down the back of his head.

                Head wounds bleed a lot. That proves nothing beyond “scrape”.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Aaron says:

                Zimmerman actually murdered him.

                You should avoid using words you don’t understand. Killing someone who is slamming your head into the sidewalk is not murder.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                It can be, depending on the situation.

                Imagine Zimmerman said “I am going to murder you.” Then started punching Martin. Then Martin hits Zimmermans head into the sidewalk. Then Zimmerman shoots Martin. That is murder. Plain and simple.

                The problem Zimmerman has, IMO, both legally and morally is that he aggressively confronted a stranger (who had committed no crime) while carrying a deadly weapon. He intentionally put himself in a situation where he was likely to have to kill or be killed.

                By analogy, imagine if I carry a gun to the bar and intentionally pick a fight with a man I hate (maybe he is sleeping with my wife). I provoke him, making him suspect I will punch him, so he punches first. Then, when the fight starts to go badly, I shoot him and kill him. Maybe I didn’t plan all of this out carefully. It just happened quickly when I saw the guy, while I was carrying a concealed weapon.

                Morally, that seems on par with killing someone during the course of a bungled robbery. That is, it is murder, though maybe not thoroughly planned “cold blooded” murder. Legally, there is a case for first or second degree murder. Though I am no expert.

                How then is the Martin killing different from the hypothetical case of me killing an enemy during a fist-fight in a bar.

                There is only a difference if you believe that Zimmerman had good intentions as he pursued Martin and that he tried as hard as he could not to kill Martin.

                Ultimately, the whole case turns on motive. If it turns out he was angry and confronted Martin with violence (maybe not death) in mind, while carrying a gun, that is murder, morally and legally. If he had better intentions, and tried hard to avoid the killing, he is guilty of reckeless behavior while carrying a weapon that lead to a death (which should be manslaughter or maybe a civil case, not sure).

                IMO, anyway.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                BTW, I strongly suspect he was planning on beating up the kid, while wearing a gun, and so the killimg is murder. Why bother confronting him just to ask questions? Zimmerman might have aspired to be a cop, but he knew he wasn’t one and that he couldn’t arrest the kid. At the very least, he must have had intimidation in mind, and it is pretty much impossible to intimidate a stranger, quickly, without the threat of physical violence. This would part of my argument, if I were the prosecutor.

                Not sure I could prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, though.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                The problem Zimmerman has, IMO, both legally and morally is that he aggressively confronted a stranger (who had committed no crime) while carrying a deadly weapon. He intentionally put himself in a situation where he was likely to have to kill or be killed.

                This.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                BTW, I strongly suspect he was planning on beating up the kid, while wearing a gun, and so the killimg is murder.

                Maybe. I always figured that it started as a brisk walking chase and a verbal confrontation followed by the inadvisable grabbing of the hoodie when Martin tried to leave while being “questioned.” My experience is that most fights start with something stupid like grabbing somebody who isn’t being a “good listener” or pushing somebody who is “in your face.”

                I find the notion that Martin suddenly and arbitrarily decided to jump a guy on the street despite no prior history a lot less credible than the idea that an armed man who clearly has a cop complex had the confidence to get physical with somebody who pissed him off.

                It always seemed to me that these sorts of laws are an excuse to start a fight and then shoot your opponent once you start losing. If you know there’s a gun in the mix (like, for example, you’re carrying one), you have the highest responsibility not to do anything that could turn a tense situation violent. You know the one and only way that it will end if things escalate far enough.Report

            • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to James Hanley says:

              James, it’s not at all sure that the infamous Stand Your Ground law was even required in this case. Not to say it isn’t bad law, tho.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Mr. Blue says:

                It was required. Stand Your Ground says that if someone claims self-defense, unless that can be disproved up front, that person can’t be arrested or charged. And, as you might recall, that’s what the furor was about: that the whole thing was dropped after a perfunctory police investigation with no follow-through. Not that Zimmerman should be hanged.

                So, yeah, there are two sides: One is that the shooting death of an unarmed teenager deserves to be investigated like any other homicide. The other is that it’s not worth the trouble because he was a gangsta who was asking for it. I have no problem calling one of those crypto-racist.Report

              • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                If Zimmerman’s account is credible, that he was jumped while walking back to his car, SYG isn’t necessary to his defense. Regular self-defense will do.

                The degree of passion went past “Let’s investigate further” and into “Zimmerman is guilty and we need an investigation to demonstrate it” or at least “Zimmerman would be guilty if it weren’t for that terrible law.” That’s what I remember, anyway. Maybe I remember it wrong.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Mr. Blue says:

                I’ll say it one more, and if it doesn’t explain my position, I’ll assume we’re talking past each other.

                The furor was because the police investigation was crap and the case got dropped. SYG was the excuse for dropping it. (If Zimmerman is telling the truth, he has a good defense, with or without SYG, but SYG is the reasons that he didn’t even have to put on a defense.) There are certainly people who got carried away; that’s the nature of furors. But without SYG, there’s no furor. There’s not much of one about Jordan Davis, even though it seems like a much worse crime, because the police and prosecutor are seen as doing their jobs.

                I’m not thrilled about the assumption that a bloody nose excuses a homicide, either, but that’s another conversation.Report

              • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                I get the concern over the original investigation or lack thereof. At least a lot of what people were saying at the time, though, rested on assumptions based on Crump’s narrative that are now questionable. Not just because of the photo.Report

              • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                So, if you’re just arguing that the original anger was justified, I dunno that I’m going to disagree with that. Probably not. It looked pretty bad at the outset.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                I don’t think the photo tells us anything of value at all. Nothing, nada, zero, zilch. Just as likely as “as Zimmerman tried to go back to his truck Martin came after him and punched him in the face, making Zimmerman fear for his life” is “as Zimmerman confronted Martin, he made him feel threatened and Martin fought back in self defense.” So the photo, standing alone, is completely uninformative.

                What is more informative, although not wholly dispositive, is that no foreign DNA was found on Trayvon Martin’s hands.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                I think the initial anger was entirely justified, and that it’s the only reason there was a real investigation. If the result of that and the trial is that it was justified self-defense, so be it. At least as far as I’m concerned.Report

              • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                James, it was considered proof that Zimmerman was lying when that grainy video where you couldn’t immediately see any injuries on on him. Some were suggesting that there was no fight at all or that, if there was, Zimmerman was winning while Martin was screaming for his life.

                But legally speaking, it is very important towards demonstrating that Zimmerman had reason to be in fear for his life. If following someone does not justify Martin’s physical provocation – and it doesn’t, and indications are that Martin did turn it physical – then it matters a lot on Zimmerman’s state of mind whether he did or did not have the bloody pulp beat out of him.

                This is why so much attention was paid to who was screaming for help and who was on top and who was on bottom during the altercation.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Mr. Blue,

                If someone gets out of a truck and starts following me late at night, I’m sure as hell feeling threatened. So apparently the stand your ground law makes any action by Martin justified, contra your claim.

                Here’s a true story. Some years ago I was visiting my parents in the small farm town where I grew up. Having one of my occasional bouts of insomnia, I got up and took a walk at about two in the morning. I passed a house where a guy was coming out the door and getting into his truck. He looked at me strangely, which isn’t surprising. Then about two blocks later I realized he was following me in his truck, which made me nervous. Then he drove past me, pulled into the parking lot of the Catholic school, stopped in the very middle where it is darkest, opened the door and called to me. At that point I assumed he might be trying to sell me drugs, so I kept on walking. He closed the door, pulled out of the parking lot, pulled up beside me on the street, stopped, and got out. At this point I was freaked out, and my fight or flight response was all tuned up, just waiting for the signal. The idiot then pulled out his police credentials and asked why I hadn’t obeyed his order to come over and talk to him. Good, situation turned out ok, despite the cop’s idiocy. But one false move and I was ready to either run madly or fight madly.

                So when you say Zimmerman following Martin didn’t justify a physical response by Martin, my own personal experience tells me you’re being much too cavalier.Report

              • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                James, it’s not my claim. I’ll see if I can find the source. It was pretty unequivocal: following someone is not an aggressive act that legally permits a violent response.Report

              • Mr. Blue, is this your source?:

                The state is unlikely to prevail in arguing Zimmerman was the aggressor because to be the aggressor, Zimmerman had to contemporaneously provoke the force Martin used against him. Zimmerman’s profiling of Martin and call to the non-emergency number were not contemporaneous with Martin’s attack. Even if the state could convince a judge or jury that Zimmerman was following Martin, rather than walking back to his car, rendering his pursuit a contemporaneous act, it is not an act that provokes Martin’s use of force against him. Demanding someone account for their presence does not provoke the use of force.

                Report

              • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Will, that’s not the one, but it’ll do.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                James:
                The part about the DNA is interesting, but since an eyewitness corroborated Zimmerman’s claim that there was a physical confrontation—but was unable to identify which person was which—I’m not sure how much it tells us.

                Also, again, whether Martin’s response was justified is not particularly relevant to the question of whether Zimmerman’s response was justified. Unless Zimmerman bloodied himself up after the fact to justify the shootings to the police, his injuries back up his claim that he was acting in self-defense.

                Mike:
                I’m not thrilled about the assumption that a bloody nose excuses a homicide, either, but that’s another conversation.

                That’s a bit of a strawman. No one’s claiming that if some guy pops you on the nose and then backs off, that that justifies homicide.Report

              • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Brandon, said witness (John, W-6) has always claimed that Trayvon was on top. See Trumwill’s link.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                It was pretty unequivocal: following someone is not an aggressive act that legally permits a violent response.

                Perhaps, as a matter of FL law. I’m just saying that having someone follow you at night really can be frightening, an act that feels aggressive, even if it’s not intended to be.

                We can arrange a demonstration if you’d like. 😉Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Mr Blue:

                Brandon, said witness (John, W-6) has always claimed that Trayvon was on top. See Trumwill’s link.

                That certainly makes the case that Zimmerman could legitimately fear for his life. But when we’re talking about who is ultimately *at fault* for the incident, I’m less concerned about who was winning the fight than who started it.

                If you start a physical confrontation with somebody and then shoot them once they start getting the best of you, it’s hard to argue that you shouldn’t be culpable for the death, even if your life was truly in danger. Since we can’t know who actually started the fight, I don’t see how we can convict Zimmerman of anything. But if I had to put money on it, I know who I would bet on as the instigator.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Good comment, Frog. I agree. And not only on the moral level, but the legal level too, insofar as SYG is still a relevant issue in this discussion.Report

              • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Stillwater,

                On a legal level, it’s a question of who was the first to use force. If it was Zimmerman, Stand Your Ground probably does not apply. Nor does self-defense. If it was Martin, it simply doesn’t matter if Zimmerman was following him or not. Following someone is not legally a use of force or legally a provocative act. Sorry I missed your previous query.

                Frog,

                My arguments are from a legal perspective. From a moral perspective, everyone’s mileage is going to vary. I don’t have a moral problem with Zimmerman’s action if the situation is as he described. Martin being on top only verifies one aspect of Zimmerman’s story, tho. I don’t know what happened.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Mr. Blue says:

                If Zimmerman’s account is credible,

                Problem #1. Zimmerman can lie all he wants, he committed witness tampering when he shot and killed the main witness who could contradict him.

                And he might get away with that too.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Incorrect.

                http://www.husseinandwebber.com/florida-stand-your-ground-statute.html

                776.041?Use of force by aggressor.—

                The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who:

                …(2)Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself,

                I think that covers the situation well. Zimmerman was not validly claiming SYG, and only the good ol’ boys network and the fact that he was a white-looking hispanic who shot a black boy saved him from arrest.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A. says:

                Also, the fact that his last name is the germanic-sounding “George Zimmerman” rather than, say, “Jose Rodriguez” or “Juan Carlos” most likely had something to do with how the cops treated the situation.Report

              • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to M.A. says:

                He’s not exactly white looking, but it’s an unfalsifiable allegation by an unreliable commentator, so there’s not much to be said here.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to M.A. says:

                Although the law doesn’t explicitly spell out what is meant by “provoking the use of force,” I guarantee you that merely following someone doesn’t count.

                And Zimmerman isn’t particularly white-looking. Some of the initial reports showed an overexposed picture of him that made him look whitish, but in the more recent pictures he seems to have a pretty significant dose of Amerindian blood in him.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Which is to say, he doesn’t at all look like the sort of person your standard-issue white racist would be all that keen on covering up for.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                If you showed me a light-skinned guy (no darker than a standard white guy who spends time sunning in Florida) with a crew cut and told me his name was “George Zimmerman”, guess what race I’d guess him to be?Report

        • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to Kazzy says:

          There was room for fruitful conversation,

          I dunno. Last time it seemed to me there was a valid point of view and a crypto-racist point of view. Maybe now that Zimmerman’s statements have some credibility and there is another narrative other than the one put out by the victim’s family, there could be two sides.

          How do you argue with counterfactuals (“had Martin won he would have been convicted” or “had Martin been white…”).Report

  3. Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

    I certainly hope that your actions did not end at removing the post and writing this cryptic post with an apology, but also included “discussing” the post with the author in the strongest possible terms.

    I have two sons, and they look like…

    I’m curious why that post was singled out from all of the other posts and comments that weren’t so different. The same intention is in all of them. Why din’t you delete those?

    Count me as one of the offended.Report

    • Avatar John Howard Griffin in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

      Shorter League: Something really bad and offensive happened. It was so inappropriate that we deleted it.

      Hey, let’s make jokes and not take this seriously at all!Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

      This site has policies with regard to comments: that there must be something of substance within. Don’t just post to troll.
      It can be far more easily argued that TVD has made points, and brought something interesting to the table, in a lot of the other posts.
      (not that I’m taking a position on the comment policy itself, or on the posting policy).Report

  4. Avatar pete mack says:

    Yeah, that post was offensive. I was going to respond with a discussion of the relative value of missing body parts (feet vs eyes), but I ended up offending myself.Report

  5. Avatar Aaron says:

    Not having seen the post in question and having no idea what this is about, I suppose it’s good that you’re taking action to avoid offending people. Not knowing what the post was about means that I have no idea who was offended, or why they should have been, or whether their putative umbrage was reasonable or not.

    That said, I think it’s bad policy to simply sweep offending material behind a big curtain and pretend it was never there. As it stands, you’ve decided that something was offensive enough that you are throwing it down the memory hole, but we have no idea who was responsible or what it was about. Wouldn’t it be better to put this disclaimer at the top of the offending post and close the comments rather than simply disappering it? Shouldn’t we have the right to read what the offending author posted and judge for ourselves whether or not it was offensive — and whether we should bear that in mind when we consider posts by that author in the future?

    As I understand the evolving web etiquette for these things, it’s considered bad form to silently edit posts after the fact. You should strike through the part your changing and make a note of it. That way, in a world we do not have a hard copy of what was published, we can see what you changed and why. It keeps everyone honest. This seems like a larger case of that. This is better than just silently removing the post, but this is a long way from being honest, both to yourselves and to us.Report

    • Avatar Erik Kain in reply to Aaron says:

      I disagree. Some material ought to be removed because we don’t want it on our site at all. As John illustrated above, there’s a cache where the post lives on and can be viewed by those who care to see it. However, I do not think that offensive material should remain even with an explanatory note. Similarly, closing down comments on said post would almost certainly be viewed as clamping down on critics.Report

      • Avatar Aaron in reply to Erik Kain says:

        Well, it’s your website, after all, although I disagree that the current situation is superior. The cache of the site is there for people who saw it in the first place so knew what it was called and so how to find it.

        My larger point is, if you’re going to hand the keys to your website to people who are going to publish material such as this, as a reader I think I have a right to know what kind of material they want to publish. It will certainly affect my view of any posts on a number of subjects that Tom Van Dyke would publish in the future, presuming he will be posting here again. I notice he’s still listed in the masthead.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Erik Kain says:

        You deleted his post so we can’t see his racism, but you keep him on the masthead.

        You are protecting him.

        Did he donate a bunch of Ben Stein’s money or something?Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Shazbot3 says:

          He has been removed from posting privileges and I believe will be off the masthead shortly.

          Erik thought it best to inform him first, as typically happens in professional organizations. Of course, it was also a calculated measure to continue to look crypto-racist, and you figured us out.Report

          • Avatar Aaron in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            And, in the course of explaining how the offending post had been removed, this pertinent information could have been included. I would certainly expect anyone to be given the courtesy of being told something before it goes public, but when he began addressing the situation, this is really something that should have been included as well. Especially in light of what seems to be his ongoing epic bout of not getting it.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Aaron says:

              It’s more like an epic bout of caution.

              Why? Well, I would like to think that people can learn not to be bigoted.

              No, I take that back. I know it for an absolute fact — people can learn not to be bigoted. My whole family did it after I came out. In one particular case, it took years, but it happened. I’m really glad that I didn’t cut them out of my life, and that my door stayed open for them.

              Once we’ve established that there’s room in this world for redemption, it’s just a simple question: Are we going to be a site where that type of thing can sometimes happen? Or are we only going to be a site for the already perfect?

              If we are going to allow some room for redemption, but not infinite room for transgression, then there will have to be some difficult judgment calls among quite a few people working as quickly as they can toward consensus.

              That means (sad to say it) a lot of private e-mailings discussing these matters in the background. And those things take time. And there are always going to be people who get up on their soapboxes in the meantime.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Did Tom ever indicate a willingness to change or even to recognize that he was being offensive? Not at all.

                I have seen people, many people, make offensive comments. But when called on it, many of those people expressed deep regret, they showed that they had a deep desire not to be offensive, even if they stood by the content of their remarks.

                I didn’t see Tom doing that. Instead, he would trollishly try to show that his comments weren’t offensive, which when done regularly enough is offensive in its own right.

                A life lesson: don’t give second and third chances to people who tell you that they don’t want your forgiveness because they think they did the right thing. But always give forgiveness when it is asked, at least a few times.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                I think this comment gets it exactly right.Report

          • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            I don’t see why you would direct snark at me. You now agree with the position that I have held all along. It seems to me that you are embarrassed that you didn’t act earlier and are angry at me because you are embarrassed, and this is coming out in passive-aggressive snark.

            At the time that I posted, you hadn’t yet tossed him from the masthead or named him as the offending author, but you mentioned that you were removing the post. What evidence did I have that you were waiting to remove him? Why shouldn’t I have concluded that you at least might not remove him for the time being? There was none. None at all. So there is no need for the snark.

            So, I was right to call for you to get rid of him instead of protecting him, which you have done all along.

            I apologize for insinuating, jokingly(as was obvious) that you might have bad motivations, but removing him seemed like such an obvious decision for so long, I really did start to wonder why you didn’t. I assumed it was because you liked him (maybe) on some personal level and put friendship over other considerations.Report

  6. Avatar DRS says:

    Maybe you should implement some kind of minimum word rule, whereby an opening post has to contain a fixed number of words so that at least an attempt is being made to put forward a position or post an argument for debate. Because otherwise it’s just too easy for someone to throw a rock at a window and run away laughing at his own cleverness.Report

    • Avatar Erik Kain in reply to DRS says:

      This wouldn’t work. What about the off-the-cuff style light-hearted posts? What about a simple picture with a quotation, or a video?Report

      • Avatar DRS in reply to Erik Kain says:

        Well I agree that it would have a deadening effect overall but the alternative is that certain people might realize that they’re not as witty and profound as they think they are and wise up on their own.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to DRS says:

          I don’t think a formal policy will prevent that sort of potential abuse. I also don’t think it’s necessary. If someone becomes a regular contributor and then it turns into a community problem, it’s going to be an edge case.

          Look, Tom has written many good things, here at the League. Most of the stuff he’s gotten flak for, he’s taking fire for particular interpretations of what he’s said, rather than what he said. The biggest offense I think he’s actually given at the League was more for a belief that was exposed by the edges, not because Tom actually said it. I’m not particularly a fan of his writing style, not because I can’t parse what he writes, but because he writes things that are hard to parse.

          Now, Tom bears a lot of responsibility for that because he toes a line to illustrate a point. There have been times where he’s fairly toed a line to illustrate how easy it is for someone on that line to be misjudged and assigned whole slogs of opprobrium when it isn’t warranted. Tom held up the ugly mirror.

          There’s nothing wrong with doing that to illustrate a point. I’ve done it, myself, on occasion. Tod’s done it. Jaybird does it. But when you’re doing it, by necessity you’re going to be misinterpreted by a lot of people and if you’re not very thorough about cleaning up the aftermath, you’re going to quickly lose good will, and then the next time you toe that line to prove a point, you’ve lost more of your audience that thinks you’re trying to make a point, and you’ve gained more people in the “he’s just throwing bombs” camp.

          Tom is correctly criticized on this thread for having a history of not clarifying what he actually meant, allowing the worst-interpretation of what he writes to become, in the long run, the default-interpretation. The site is about dialogue with dissenting parties. Tom disengaged too often for the number of times he posted things that people would dissent over.

          I don’t think he’s a racist or a misogynist or a bad guy, and I wish he’d stick around in the comments for the times he participated in comment threads constructively. I doubt he’ll do that, and I think that’s a loss for the site. But I have to admit I understand the motivation of the editorial board. There comes a point when, right or wrong, your presence somewhere becomes an issue in and of itself that overwhelms everything else that is going on. Chris is right; that happened a while ago.Report

  7. Avatar joey jo jo says:

    But but but you have to allow that sort of dreck. FOR BALANCE!!!! Or so I have been told repeatedly.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to joey jo jo says:

      I’m a big fan of forgiveness, and of second chances. Third chances less so, and fourth chances… welllll… and then eventually you do have to draw the line.

      But go ahead, pat yourself on the back for being the less-forgiving-than-thou. That’s exactly how to build a tolerant and inclusive society. Said absolutely no gay people who happen to have families.Report

      • Avatar joey jo jo in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        It would be one thing if y’all said, that is wrong but we’ll forgive him. What y’all said was, that’s not wrong because we need balance.
        I don’t want to see him go necessarily. But I do think (and have advanced this in the past) that the biggest trolling job he was doing was against you guys as editors. He was continually begging you to ban him and each time you came up with a tortured explanation of how valuable he was and that everyone else should come second to BALANCE, your credibility eroded. This ain’t gonna put the toothpaste back in the tube.
        Now you are all high and mighty? Please.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to joey jo jo says:

          It would be one thing if y’all said, that is wrong but we’ll forgive him.

          That’s what we said the last couple of times.

          What y’all said was, that’s not wrong because we need balance.

          Factually wrong.

          I don’t want to see him go necessarily.

          Bullshit. The only reason you enjoyed seeing him stay is because it gave you a chance to browbeat the rest of us.

          But I do think (and have advanced this in the past) that the biggest trolling job he was doing was against you guys as editors.

          True. He won’t be doing that anymore though.

          This ain’t gonna put the toothpaste back in the tube.

          Okay fine. If the site needs balance so much, then don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.Report

          • Avatar joey jo jo in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            I’m sorry Jason, but you’re way off with your speculations on my motivations. I hear that you feel browbeaten. I apologize. I did not intend to beat your brow.

            I didn’t understand your motivation to keep him around so I took you at your word (BALANCE!) in lieu of speculating. If you want me to go, you’ll have to ban me too. The LOOG is like comic relief for me. Also, too, ZOMG you said ASS!Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            FWIW, I relate to jjj’s desire that there had been a bit more official statements of disagreement/disapproval with Tom’s approach, but then (perhaps in order that there could have been…?) in the long term also more Tom. I’m not sure I go all the way to agreeing that that is what there indeed should have been (it sits uneasily with a generally laissez faire approach, which I support, though I suppose I could just support a less rigorous commitment to it…), but I relate to the sentiment.

            …And so I think most of the lines of your response to him here are not very fair. I’m not sure I understand how you base these assessments of his motivations, as he says. Maybe I don’t know some history.Report

          • Avatar joey jo jo in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            Maybe you feel browbeaten because you know that you were enabling him?Report

  8. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.Report

  9. Avatar Just Me says:

    Being new on this site, take what I say with a grain of salt. I don’t have all the back stories or histories about each of the posters.

    It has seemed to me that posters usually try to throw out a line that is controversial to generate comments. Have you all thought about when someone throws out a line that is genuinely repugnant to the LoOG community that you decline to comment on said post. I would think there can’t be much worse done to a blogger than to have their words unacknowledged (I could be wrong here). Especially if they are trying to get a raise out of others. I don’t mean by shutting down commenting on a post, but by others making the choice that the post is just not something deserving of a comment. I do understand the need for this blog not to be associated with certain socially unaccepted ideas, to me what speaks to that loudest than seeing a post with no comments, long after its initial post date.Report

  10. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Damn. The meta around this is getting pretty thick. Anyone who’s been involved in a termination understands it’s no fun for anyone involved. People who are terminated for cause run over the line, not one time too many, but as a matter of habit. I knew this day was coming.

    What do you say to someone when they’ve had to do something troubling and necessary? There’s no handy phrase for such circumstances. With successes and tragedies and things gone sideways, accidents and incidents and deaths and births and such, there’s always some pat statement of reassurance and/or commiseration. Mazel tov. My sincerest sympathies. Sorry to hear that. I apologise. Congratulations. Many happy returns.

    But not under these circumstances. Nobody’s happy about this.

    When Job lost his family, his fortune, his health and he sat in the ashes, scraping himself with the potsherd, his three friends came by to visit him. So shocking was Job’s condition, they all sat in silence together for a week. Had his friends just left at the end of that week, they would have gone down in literature as the greatest friends a man ever had. But they had to open their big mouths and say dumb things and question Job about how maybe he’d sinned or somehow deserved what happened to him. Now they go down in history as a curse and a byword “Job’s friends”, the sort of assholes and unpaid psychoanalysts who only make things worse when you’re unhappy.

    This couldn’t have been easy for anyone involved. Maybe we ought not to deconstruct all this right away. No good can come of it. As for Erik et. al. , I support you guys in the decisions you felt you had to make. You made this place what it is and I for one am grateful for it.Report

  11. Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

    To the League: Please accept my apologies for directing my emotions at your joking.

    To the Proprietors: Please accept my apologies for publishing the link of the offensive post.

    It was my fault, and mine alone. I take responsibility for my actions. I have no excuse, and will try to be better in the future.Report

  12. Avatar zic says:

    All the true confessions and angst; nearly a ‘there but for the grace of the editors go I.’

    I’m sorry to see Tom go; I though he was a perfect jerk most times; but I also think he tried to make valid points based on his own particularly twisted world view that was often some merit to his point; often lost in his attempts at Socratic dialogue, but whatever.

    I don’t run a blog with comments for these because there are some real whackjobs out there in the world of Comment Fu, folk like Tom who are mainly interested in provoking. And if I did run a blog, and TVD was participating, it would give me nightmares because my blog would not be the reflection of me I wanted somewhere out there where you’re reading.

    That’s the think about trollish behavior. Some trolls are bad all the time. But most have some really valuable insights and important questions; they just don’t care to ask in a mannerly way, or the want, like Tom, to provoke. There’s troll in all of us; or at least the potential of. You can see that in the stray comments here and there through this post that reek of confession, “I done bad, too,” We all done bad. The heart of the matter is if you know it, repent your trollish ways and try to not repeat.

    It’s the semi-automatic trolling that’s the real problem. Good reason to ban that stuff.

    (And I’m sorry, Roger, for nearly calling you an SOB the other day. I meant the mud to be general, a curse against those comfortable enough to foolishly imply the working poor are without skill and dignity.)Report

  13. Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

    In that spirit of levity, and in condolences to The Editors, whom I thank for making a difficult decision, I offer the following:

    It occurred to me today that the standard euphemism used by the League changed rather drastically the saying:

    Give a man a “fish”, and you feed him for a day.
    Teach a man to “fish” and you feed him for life.Report

  14. Avatar Miss Mary says:

    Of course, the one I didn’t read gets deleted. Eh, must not have been that good anyway.Report

  15. Avatar Sam says:

    For a minute after finding this post and reading it, I had assumed the League had finally cracked down upon my Dave Brubeck rememberance, but then I saw it was still on the front page.Report

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