Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Perpetraitors.

You've probably seen the video of those dozen-or-so Philadelphia cops enthusiastically beating three black suspects back on May 5. Yesterday the city announced that four of the cops would be fired as a result of the incident; disciplinary action remains pending against several others. And now, predictably, the local Fraternal Order of Police has come to the cops' defense, alleging a rush to judgment and vowing to get all of the officers reinstated within eight months.

Among other things, the FOP argues that (1) the public hasn't heard all of the relevant facts, and (2) Philly cops were in an overwrought state of mind during the period in which the incident took place. It's true that just two days earlier, on Saturday, May 3, one of their own, Stephen Liczbinski, was fatally shot while trying to apprehend three bank-robbers fleeing the crime scene. Still, that doesn't justify street justice. (Even if the trio in the May 5 incident had been Liczbinski's killers—which the May 5 cops already knew was not the case—would that entitle the cops to beat them?) Just as Sharpton loses all credibility when he organizes ad hoc rallies in defense of blacks who clearly broke the law, police apologists lose all credibility when they go to the mat on behalf of cops who clearly violated policy—and broke the law. Assault is assault, regardless of whether the perp is wearing a badge.

As for point (1)... I can even see an argument for shooting a suspect before beating him; one can certainly mount a plausible defense for killing a suspect who turns out to be unarmed. Those are split-second judgments made in the heat of the moment, under tense circumstances where the cops' own lives (or the lives of innocent bystanders) are at peril, or the cops honestly believe them to be. I'm not one of those bleeding hearts who insist that cops must be willing to give a suspect a free shot before they pull the triggers of their own guns. Generally speaking, a cop who believes he is facing deadly force has the right to shoot first and ask questions later.*

But how do you justify kicking the living crap out of three men who are on the ground in a fetal position while you're wailing away at them with feet, fists and batons?

I had hoped for more from the FOP. I had hoped that someone might step forward and say, "Look, we have some bad apples in the department. And you know, we understand that these episodes might make the public wonder about the types of people who go into law enforcement in the first place. The last thing society needs is a bunch of bullies or vigilantes wearing a badge. Especially racist bullies or vigilantes."

I guess such candor is too much to ask for in a culture where the standing policy seems to be, "CIRCLE THE WAGONS! When attacked for any reason, under any circumstances—no matter how egregious—just deny, deny, deny." So it is that when doctors are hauled into court to account for a sensational instance of malpractice (like, say, sawing off the wrong limb), the AMA nonetheless finds a dozen reasons why the criticisms are unjust, unfair and politically motivated, while reminding us of how society needs to be protected from those money-grubbing opportunists who call themselves personal-injury lawyers. On the other hand, when evidence suggests that some personal-injury lawyers are just money-grubbing opportunists, you can count on the ABA to step forward and pontificate about how its members are the only things protecting us from those knife-wielding incompetents who call themselves doctors.

I say again: We need to stop thinking like blocs or interest groups and start thinking more like Selves. If there's one question I've been asked more than any other during the 200-some radio shows I've now done in connection with SHAM, it's this one: "But Steve, if the self-help you write about is no good...then what's the alternative?" The alternative is: Be yourself. Think for yourself. Don't identify with other people who are "like you." Just be you. Never expect to find your personal answers in some one-size-fits-all-program. Refuse to be categorized or pigeonholed. Never define yourself based on labels—cop, collegian, cancer patient, white, black, Catholic, Muslim, husband, wife, father, mother, man, woman—and refuse to be defined by a label.

That is how we'll get to be a colorblind, gender-blind, fair-minded society that respects the Individual and can call a spade a spade without falling back on demagoguery or demonizing. That is when each of us will sink or swim on his or her own merits.

* This does not mean that any given cop can go around indiscriminately shooting citizens. If an officer develops a history of firing upon people who turn out to have been unarmed, that situation must be investigated thoroughlyand preferably by an agency outside the PD itself. And it should go without saying that if the facts show malice or even reckless disregard for human life, the mere loss of his job is not enough. The officer should be prosecuted to the fullest extent.

66 comments:

Anonymous said...

" The alternative is: Be yourself. Think for yourself. Don't identify with other people who are 'like you.' Just be you. Never expect to find your personal answers in some one-size-fits-all-program. Refuse to be categorized or pigeonholed. Never define yourself based on labels—cop, collegian, cancer patient, white, black, Catholic, Muslim, husband, wife, father, mother, man, woman—and refuse to be defined by a label."

I could not agree with you more. Yet it seems to be the one area that people have the biggest problem with.

Steve Salerno said...

Isn't it, though?

Why do you suppose that is? Is it fear, do you think? The humbling notion of standing on your own two feet and being fully accountable?

RevRon's Rants said...

"Generally speaking, a cop who believes he is facing deadly force has the right to shoot first and ask questions later."

I live in Texas, where *everyone* has that right.

"I had hoped for more from the FOP."

My last duty station was in Philly. All I can say is, "Rizzo lives!"

Carl said...

Wow Steve this was unexpected from you, you can't convince me to be down on cops, the job they face is enormous and something most of us can't even imagine. Now and then they're going to crack a little bit and do something out of character just like our boys in Iraq. But you can't have looking over their shoulder and worrying about how their behavior is going to look on video. Just let them do their jobs, it sounds to me like the guys they beat weren't exactly choir boys!

Steve Salerno said...

So wait a sec, Carl--I have to ask: Are you actually saying that since these "guys weren't exactly choirboys," it's OK that they got beat up?

Anonymous said...

"Why do you suppose that is? Is it fear, do you think? The humbling notion of standing on your own two feet and being fully accountable?"

It's not easy to be yourself and truth be told, most don't want you to be yourself. That is the ugly secret of SHAMland and most people. Facing yourself honestly warts and all is hard. If you are true to you, other people will have to ask who they are and most don't want to know. Most people do not even like the question of finding out who they are. It is easier to conform or identify with a group, gender, occupation, political party, intelligence, or whatever than to figure out who that person is. To me, it is a form of dishonesty and a betrayal of one's identity. I think we live in the Land of Easy. It is not easy being yourself and that is why the SHAMland flourishes. It is so much easier to think someone else knows the answer than to admit they are just as clueless as the rest of us and to get those answers independently. This is not only in SHAMland. This happens everywhere. How many times have I heard someone repeat some misinformation he or she garnered from another source? No one questions where that information came from or if it is really true. I rarely hear anyone's original opinion anymore. All I hear is what was picked-up by someone else. It's easy to find a group who agrees with you, but it takes more work to come up with an opinion that you came-up with based on research. People want easy and as long as they want easy, SHAMland will continue.

Cal said...

I can see both sides of the issue. I do think the cops in this incident were clearly over the line, especially when there was a TV helicopter overhead taping the entire encounter. I thought that every police officer would operate under the assumption that may be videotaped, especially after Rodney King.

But, as Carl alludes, the mental strain is enormous. It seems that the Philly PD would have been on alert for this behavior after the cop killing and had meetings to let the officers know not to take this out on suspects. Because, after all under our Constitution, they are considered suspects until charged.

Steve, does your encounter with the cop who was abusing the suspect in NYC all those decades ago color your judgment in these matters? Just a question, because I definitely would have thought you would have sided with the cops on this one.

I also agree with your particular statement on Sharpton. The recent Sean Bell case was an example. Rev. Al screamed racism, but I don't see how when several of the cops that were involved were black themselves.

Also, I had never heard any of your radio interviews before and, therefore, never heard your voice. But I found an interview with skeptics guide from 2006 where you are discussing James Frey's bogus book. Was your only TV interview with CNN? If there are other TV interviews, are there any still available on the Web?

Steve Salerno said...

As usual, Cal, you raise a multitude of issues--but that's a good thing. (I just apologize for not always having the time to do them justice.)

First of all... Yes, I do think my encounter with the cops in NYC has affected my judgment--or at least my visceral feelings. I saw a lot of things in Harlem that I wish I hadn't seen. Far too often, I saw police acting with a terrible, unabashed contempt for the citizenry. (This was true of the black cops as well, I might add.) So I suppose there have been lingering effects. Times change, and we hope that people do--though they sometimes show us otherwise.

Two things you say really leap out at me, Cal, in an eyebrow-raising way. First, there's your remark about how you thought I would've sided with the cops. I would ask--as I asked Carl as well--how can you ever "side with" people who are administering a beating? Especially when they're doing it under color of law, as the saying goes.

Secondly, I'm struck by your remark about how the cops were "clearly over the line, especially when there was a TV helicopter overhead taping the entire encounter." Maybe I'm interpreting it wrong, or maybe it's not exactly what you intended to convey, but as written, it seems to imply that it's basically understandable if cops beat people now and then, as long as they just make sure there are no cameras rolling to document the event. I.e. the old "just don't get caught" rule. As the Rev asked me just a post or so ago: Am I missing something here?

Finally, yeah, there are a bunch of my SHAM interviews sprinkled all over the Web. I also did FOX (twice), MSNBC (Tucker Carlson), and a few others. I would think you'd be able to dig some of 'em up if you looked hard enough.

roger o'keefe said...

This is an interesting one that I think is far more complex than you assume, Steve. I agree with you that beatings should not be part of the cop repertoire. But then, I often think that society needs a little bit of overcorrection now and then to keep the bad guys in line. I hope I can say that on this blog of all places without being accused of racism, because I am not in any way identifying "bad guys" with "blacks." I'm simply saying that I think most Americans by this point are fed up with crime, and our number one priority needs to be to empower (sorry) the police to keep the streets safe, not to worry about a handful of cases where the cops may go overboard.

I think this is similar to the climate after 9-11. We had to have a period where individual rights and privacy took a back seat to the imperative of combating terrorism. Laws like Patriot Act could never have been enacted were it not for what happened on 9-11. But suddenly everyone understood that our foremost priority had to be protecting America from attack, and if some people's individual rights got abused in the process, so be it.

Cal said...

Steve,

I didn't not mean that it is OK to beat someone if there aren't any TV cameras around. I just thought cops would be sensitive to the fact that every encounter they have may be under scrutiny and that it would enter (consciously or sub-consciously) into their actions. So, in this case, maybe they would have beat the guys if the cameras weren't there, but the presence of the cameras would have made them "call off the dogs".

Isn't this why some jurisdictions equip their cop cars with cameras to help in case of a dispute?

Your first exception to my points (I know I'm out of order here) was that I believed you would have indicated that maybe the cops beat the suspects because they felt their lives were in jeopardy, and maybe the tape doesn't give an observer that feel because the view was from an overhead shot and there was no sound. I know this was one of the defenses in the Rodney King case.

I apologize if I'm all over the place in my comments. Obviously, I didn't take a journalism editing class. Did you teach that too? I know I sure could have used it.

Steve Salerno said...

No prob, Cal. All I care about is that people take the time to weigh in. Feel free to make your points out of order. I'm a writer by trade, and editors sometimes tell me I do the same....

Elizabeth said...

Going back to the main(?) theme of your post, Steve, I think that between "refuse to be defined by a label" and "be yourself" there is quite a chasm for most of us, filled with anxiety, if not sheer terror, which we tend to quiet down with activity and assorted beliefs about who we are and what our lives mean.

Anon says, "it (identifying with group, etc.) is a form of dishonesty and a betrayal of one's identity" and this echoes your words, Steve, from a while ago -- and your major theme on the blog.

But, and this time I am not being a devil's advocate, do we *really* know what that means -- to be yourself (other than standing in some sort of opposition to, or independence of -- sometimes real, sometimes imagined -- social and group mores and pressures)? Are we even able to ask this question, honestly ask ourselves, without reaching for pat or knee-jerk answers?

Anon, you go on identifying being yourself, if I read correctly, with an independent search for truth, not based on accepting easy answers provided by others.

But again, and again I'm not being DA here, what does that really mean? I.e. how are we able to discern the truth on our own, without resorting to already existing guidelines, which have been laid down by, well, others in one form or another? (Here I am being somewhat DA, but only somewhat.)

Cal said...

By the way, you were right. I found your Tucker Carlson interview on AOL right away.

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz, your remarks remind me of something a sly college professor of mine used to say to/about members of the Vietnam/Make Love, Not War/Tune In etc. Generation: "I know how vital it is for all of you to be yourselves. Now if you only knew what that was..."

Elizabeth said...

This is exactly it, Steve. And I am not trying to be sly, BTW. I honestly do not know answers to these questions, not for myself, not for others.

That's perhaps why I find this call to "be yourself!" so perplexing.

Anonymous said...

"But again, and again I'm not being DA here, what does that really mean? I.e. how are we able to discern the truth on our own, without resorting to already existing guidelines, which have been laid down by, well, others in one form or another? (Here I am being somewhat DA, but only somewhat.)"

Everytime you think something-ask why? Instead of a "knee jerk" reaction, ask "why?" Why does this cause a "knee jerk" reaction? Why am I so eager to judge someone or something? Why do I think this? Why do I say this? The answers to those questions will be quite enlightening.

Anonymous said...

"Going back to the main(?) theme of your post, Steve, I think that between 'refuse to be defined by a label' and 'be yourself'there is quite a chasm for most of us, filled with anxiety, if not sheer terror, which we tend to quiet down with activity and assorted beliefs about who we are and what our lives mean."

Actually, this statement just tells me your experience. I would feel anxiety if I did not go looking for those answers. It makes me anxious when I do not question something, someone, or myself. My first response is usually "why?"

Anonymous said...

"This is exactly it, Steve. And I am not trying to be sly, BTW. I honestly do not know answers to these questions, not for myself, not for others.

That's perhaps why I find this call to 'be yourself!'so perplexing."

I have been reading SHAM for quite along time and I have to say, if this is not a joke, this is the saddest comment I have ever read.

Elizabeth said...

Anon, you say, "Actually, this statement just tells me your experience. I would feel anxiety if I did not go looking for those answers. It makes me anxious when I do not question something, someone, or myself. My first response is usually "why?"

Yes, I "get" that. I also think we may be talking about the same thing, Anon, at least when it comes to the necessity of questioning. Though, personally, I value asking questions more than finding answers, which, IMO, do not always tell us the truth but rather reflect our perception of truth in a given moment. Such is my experience indeed, as you've rightly noticed. :)

And of course your experience may be -- and most likely is -- different, but I would say that the kind of existential anxiety I've had in mind talking about the "chasm" is part of a universal human condition (though "universal" here certainly does not mean that *everyone* has to experience it).

Elizabeth said...

Anon, you said, "if this is not a joke, this is the saddest comment I have ever read."

I gather then that an appropriate response would be to ask, why? -- or, more precisely, what makes it so sad for you?

Elizabeth said...

Steve, you say, "Be yourself. Think for yourself. Don't identify with other people who are "like you." Just be you."

I'm all for "think for yourself," Steve, and I also agree with your call to not overly(?) identify with our social roles and groups; but would like to put in an additional comment here to expand on my earlier thoughts.

The call to "be yourself" or "just be you" can, and obviously does, mean different things to different people. A psychopath, for example, embraces it fully and without reservations -- being himself is of paramount importance to him. This is what he does best, as he does not want to be encumbered by others' rules and expectations, and is unable to experience self-doubt. However, for the psychopath, the call to "just be you," if realized fully and literally, is a disaster for everyone around him.

On the other hand, some of the most creative folks out there do not have a firm sense of what it is to "be yourself," but struggle to define it through their creative endeavors and efforts at (genuine) self-improvement, according to their ideal of their own personality. These efforts may and often do last a lifetime. Their self, or the sense of it, is more or less in a flux, which, BTW, is an asset in many creative pursuits as those permeable boundaries -- more permeable than in a typical, well-adjusted individual -- allow them to experience reality more vividly and strongly than those whose sense of self is well-defined and settled.

P.S. Steve, you also ask, "how do you justify kicking the living crap out of three men who are on the ground in a fetal position while you're wailing away at them with feet, fists and batons?"

In addition to the arguments already presented here by you and others exploring possible motives behind this behavior, there is also a possibility that one or more of those cops were their psychopathic "self" (or selves) doing what comes naturally. Just a thought to consider, in light of our discussion.

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz, I sense that you think you played a winning hand here, and though I normally lay back and wait to see what others bring forth--and btw, there is NO implication in that last remark that I regard myself as the final arbiter in any of these matters--I do feel compelled to jump back in with a few points in direct response:

1. There is still the overarching social contract to consider. As the old saying goes, "My rights end where yours begin." The fact that I exhort people to "be yourself!" does not mean that I condone the ritual beating of (black) suspects by people who consider brutality "part of their being." For the record, nor do I condone serial killing, torturing other people's pets, or sodomizing random teenagers who pass by. (NOTE to any Catholic priests who may be reading this: That last one applies to you, too.)

2. Arguments such as those you raise here remind me of that old chestnut that's supposed to rock religious folk back on their heels:
"Yeah, well if God is all-powerful, can He create a stone that's too heavy for him to lift??" One doesn't win an argument with rhetorical artifice. It's also like the (probably more relevant) question of whether a democracy that votes to become a dictatorship is still a democracy--because the dictatorship was, after all, voted in. The answer is, simply, NO. In fact, in a constitutional democracy, the very idea of voting for something other than a democratic way of life would be illegal/unconstitutional by statute. Even if the majority supported it. The constitution would have to be changed (amended) first. At which point we would've revoked our standing as a democratic nature anyway.

3. In the end, even leaving gov't and morality out of it--it would all work out in the mix, simply through the interaction of people with various/respective agendas of their own. If the Self that I am intent on being is not something that blends neatly with the rest of society, then at some point I have a decision to make (a predetermined decision, I might add, but--to me, in the moment--a decision nonetheless). I happen to think that most people can find a more satisfying form of personal "success" by staying as true as possible to their essential natures than by selling out or trying to ape some generic version of success (and then hating themselves for it). But that's just me.

Elizabeth said...

Naw, no "winning hand," Steve, just expanding on why the call to "be yourself" is perplexing to me personally, bringing up examples from the area I know best.

And I would certainly never imply that you advocate, in any way, psychopathic behavior (god, no).

Again, only using examples from my "neck of the woods" to illustrate my earlier point(s).

This is certainly one of those topics that "keep on giving," i.e. invite a variety of viewpoints and remain open to interpretation (with the exception of the abusive priests and their ilk). (IMO).

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve - I think your item #3 is the real key. No matter how influential are external forces - be they societal/cultural dictates or peer pressure - if an individual endeavors to assume a persona inconsistent with their true nature, the end result is self-loathing. If we believe we have to be "different" than what we actually feel ourselves to be, the requisite belief is that what we "are" simply isn't good enough. Even if we are successful at maintaining our faux persona before the world, *we* know that it is a deception. In addition to not being "good enough" in the first place, we would tack on the knowledge that we were lying to the world.

Sociopaths notwithstanding, I would think it impossible to lead a productive, satisfying life when one knows that life is based upon the double-whammy of being both defective and deceptive.

Anonymous said...

I just watched the video and their looks to me to be many more then 6 cops involved - How did they choose which were guilty?

Anonymous said...

Cal

Can you share your wisdom with the rest of us who can't find Steve's interviews and send in the links.

I can't wait to hear Steve's voice!!!!

Londoner

RevRon's Rants said...

"A psychopath, for example, embraces it fully and without reservations -- being himself is of paramount importance to him."

Inwardly, perhaps. The true psychopath, however, prides himself (or herself, of course) in having the chameleon-like ability to blend in with observers' preferred image of him. The typical psychopath goes to great lengths to charm and manipulate through deceit, basking in his ability to sway others to his projected image. It is only when cornered and the faux image is exposed that the psychopath stands firm in being "himself."

Steve Salerno said...

Roger, I wanted to direct this comment to you, but somehow I got sidetracked.

I don't understand your ostensible theory of "permissible overreaction." Yes, I understand how it can easily happen--as with 9-11, some of the more onerous aspects of the Patriot Act, etc.--but I don't understand how (or why) we can/should just shrug and tolerate such excess as "the way it goes." In fact, you even appear to be making a case for not just tolerating it, but regarding it as "a necessary evil" in furtherance of restoring order to crime-ridden streets. I don't see why we need to authorize police brutality in order to get the laws enforced. And once you give the law enforcers license to ignore the laws as those laws apply to them...where does it stop? And what kind of moral authority can police hope to have thereafter?

Elizabeth said...

RevRon, a good point on the skill of mimicry seen in (some) psychopaths (wait, there is more:). Though I'm a bit confused on the "true" psychopath -- as opposed to a "fake" or "pretend" one?

There is a range of behavioral characteristics in that population, as you know, so there are those who, like Manson, revel in their open disdain for society and its norms; and others, whom you describe here, more adept (and/or willing) to mimic adjustment to societal expectations for personal advantage. Various con men and white collar psychopaths belong here, among others. But what they all share is the disregard for social norms and expectations, either because they have learned to reject them or because they have never internalized them (a more common scenario), even though some of them learned to pretend to "get along" to get what they want.

One could say that psychopathy represents the extreme end of individualism, a pathological and unreflective (as in, almost(?) purely instinctual) expression of the "be yourself" dictum.

And, for the record, Steve, I know that this is not the kind of be-yourself-ness you are advocating in your post. I'm just making a point, in my usual nit-picking fashion. Being myself, y'know. ;)

Anonymous said...

“I gather then that an appropriate response would be to ask, why? -- or, more precisely, what makes it so sad for you?”

It’s not sad for me; it’s a sad reflection on you. It is disingenuous. If you want to raise a provocative question, just do it. If you have an agenda, just let it out. Don’t play games with the posters or Steve to prove your points.

Anonymous said...

“Yes, I ‘get’ that. I also think we may be talking about the same thing, Anon, at least when it comes to the necessity of questioning. Though, personally, I value asking questions more than finding answers, which, IMO, do not always tell us the truth but rather reflect our perception of truth in a given moment. Such is my experience indeed, as you've rightly noticed. :)”

This is not a very honest statement. You do know things Elizabeth. You have shown this in previous posts. The truth is not quite as flexible as you are slyly trying to imply. The sky is not pink, rocks are not marshmallows, and it does not rain lollypops. The faux humility is getting old.

Steve Salerno said...

Hmmm. I gave the matter some thought before approving those last two for the blog (which I suspect are from the same Anon--though I could be wrong). I let them go because I feel that, at heart, they are more a comment on the nature of the debate than the debater himself (or in this case, herself). Faux himility still kind of makes me wince, but again, it appears to be a reference to rhetorical style (even though, of course, by implication, it indicts the stylist). So we'll see where this goes a bit, if anywhere.

Anonymous said...

"Faux himility still kind of makes me wince, but again, it appears to be a reference to rhetorical style (even though, of course, by implication, it indicts the stylist). So we'll see where this goes a bit, if anywhere."

I just call it like I read it.

Anonymous said...

“I let them go because I feel that, at heart, they are more a comment on the nature of the debate than the debater himself (or in this case, herself).”

It is a comment on the debating style. If one is trying to have an honest debate with someone, why not be direct? Why play a game that insults the other party? This style of debate is quite common these days and I find it appalling and immature. It is a classic case of what CMC calls, “gottcha!” The one posing the question has an agenda and is luring the other party into a trap to prove his or her point or to go into a dialogue that proves the one who started the debate already had an opinion and just wanted to voice it.

Elizabeth said...

Anon, I don't get where you're coming from or where you're going. Not to mention that I/we do not even know who you are, which makes your whole involvement here, including your obvious agenda, not credible. You keep hiding behind your safe Anonymous status while throwing what I see as escalating cheap shots. I think I've been patient enough talking to you, despite my aversion to debating faux entities (aka anonymouses).

I keep making what I think are reasonable and relatively (as far as I can manage) well articulated arguments, but somehow you are not satisfied. You keep belittling my comments, consistently misunderstanding and misrepresenting them, judging them and demanding, as I see, that I conform to some nebulous standard of humility or integrity set in your mind. One thing I have noticed for certain is that you tend to personalize my comments, seeking in them and finding "proofs" of some preconceived notion of who I am or what I do. Only you know why.

Steve, I thought we are debating ideas here and not engaging in popularity/humility contests. But apparently I was mistaken.

I have no time or desire to continue serving as an object of anonymous ad hominem attacks from people with hidden personal agendas and/or wounded egos. (And, I'm sorry, Steve, but I am disappointed that you have allowed it to continue.)

Anonymous said...

"Anon, I don't get where you're coming from or where you're going. "Not to mention that I/we do not even know who you are, which makes your whole involvement here, including your obvious agenda, not credible. You keep hiding behind your safe Anonymous status while throwing what I see as escalating cheap shots. I think I've been patient enough talking to you, despite my aversion to debating faux entities (aka anonymouses)."

Then why did you start the dialogue with me? I thought you wanted my "anonymous" opinon?

RevRon's Rants said...

Eliz - Nit-picking, aside, that skill in mimicry is evident in the vast majority of psychopaths, whereas the refusal to even feign adherence to societal dictates - a la Manson - is pretty rare.

I used the word "true" to differentiate between psychopaths and individuals with less severe antisocial personality disorders. Though the most recent editions of the DSM lump both in the same category, I agree with the theory that the severity of the disorder exemplified in the psychopath warrants a more specific definition, clearly differentiated from that applied to literally millions of functional and overtly well-socialized individuals.

I didn't think it necessary to go that deeply into the evolution of the diagnosis in my initial comment. Sorry to have confused you by the omission.

RevRon's Rants said...

Interesting turn in the dialog here... I can't really relate to anon's level of irritation with Eliz, even though I can see where making statements like "I'm confused" can come across as really meaning, "You must be confused."

Sure, it's a debating style or tactic. So what? Recognize it and if you feel so inclined, address it... preferably with the same level of civility you'd show at a friend's cocktail party.

Such tactics are quite often applied in debates to unnerve opponents, as has obviously been successfully done here. Once one of the participants gets that upset, the debate ends pretty abruptly, and the pi**ing match begins - again, as has obviously been the case here.

I do disagree with Eliz's assertion that one's credibility is effectively negated because they choose to remain anonymous. Anonymity is part and parcel of the Internet. For all anyone here really knows, I could be a blonde supermodel*, and Eliz could be Hulk Hogan. Shifting the focus from the points being discussed to the "suspected" identity of the person making those points doesn't further the dialog any better than coming unhinged at a debating tactic.

* Although, if that were true, I'd be standing naked in front of a full-length mirror right now, rather than posting comments on a blog! :-)

Anonymous said...

"Sure, it's a debating style or tactic. So what? Recognize it and if you feel so inclined, address it... preferably with the same level of civility you'd show at a friend's cocktail party."

So now you know what my cocktail parties are like.

Cal said...

Londoner,

1) Go to http://video.msn.com; and in the search box type in Salerno, and the first video below will show a caption of Steve's interview with MSNBC. Click on the video to see the interview.

2)Go to
http://www.theskepticsguide.org/archive.asp

and do a find (press CTRL and F at the same time) and you will find two times that Steve was interviewed here that you can listen to.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Cal, you're a star.

Steve, its nice to finally put a face and a voice to a name and a book.

Londoner

Anonymous said...

This is a low point for your blog. I've posted here before, but don't think I will after this. Who wants to talk when his or her motives and character are attacked and smeared? The moderator's job is to keep destructive lunatics from spreading their sickness on his blog. You blew it.

Anonymous said...

So Steve have you been guilt tripped enough today?

sassy sasha said...

THANK YOU ANON, i may only be 22 but i think some of you here need to GROW UP. jesus if this is what you call being attacked you need to get out more often and see what its like out there. i disagree with steve too sometimes but come on, this is like a cyber coffeehouse and there are going to be disagreements that sometimes get a little personal or sound that way anyway.

get over yourselves!!

roger o'keefe said...

Was it EB White who wrote "one man's meat"?

I'm with you, Sasha. People with such thin skins have no business blogging.

Talk about strange bedfellows.

RevRon's Rants said...

Bartender! Quick... a round of bran muffins, and put them on my tab! Better make those doubles! :-)

Steve Salerno said...

OK, folks. I do appreciate the show of support. At the same time, I'm sensitive to the criticism as well. I never purposely let anyone serve as a sacrificial lamb or a whipping boy/girl. (Nor, for the record, do I ever purposely coddle, or pander to, anyone.)

Anonymous said...

“I never purposely let anyone serve as a sacrificial lamb or a whipping boy/girl. (Nor, for the record, do I ever purposely coddle, or pander to, anyone.)”

I’m feeling déjà vu. This goes back to your main point and very apt title of your post, perpetrators. When do people become responsible for what they say, write, and do? This reminds me of how reporters have to keep their tapes for two years, because most of their subjects don’t like the way they sound. After the story comes out, they want to sue the outlet. Shoot the messenger, because the subjects don’t like the message they are consciously or unconsciously sending. Why does one person's feelings matter more than another? I actually think you are much kinder than I would ever be to some. I guess we now know why it is so hard so be ourselves. No one wants to let us.

Mary said...

Here is a pearl of wisdom that always helps me, a person is telling you who they are by what they accuse you of. Keep that in mind. Here is another one, if you can't eat it, don't serve it.

Anonymous said...

I gotta say I agree with Anon at 1:35 pm. There are plenty of crazy people out there and some of them end up on your blog, Steve. You say that you never purposely let anyone be a whipping boy/girl for whatever reason, but you let it happen anyway purposely or not. Who needs that? Maybe this is why so many of us prefer to post anonymously I know I do.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the bulk of what Anon 6:29 said about posting anonymously, but I also understand that Steve cannot please everyone. Steve has always maintained he likes a lively debate. Blog at your own risk.

Anonymous said...

I try not to take sides, but sometimes one has to. Anon at 5:27 pm says that "I guess we now know why it is so hard so be ourselves. No one wants to let us."

Amen to that.

What purpose does it serve to question another blogger's motives? Especially when it is evident that the troll's own issues are behind the questions. It poisons the debate and shuts up those who'd like to contribute but won't, rightly fearing some vindictive, if not insane, form of character assassination.

Is that what being yourself is about? Throwing rocks at others from behind a wall?

Anonymous said...

"It poisons the debate and shuts up those who'd like to contribute but won't, rightly fearing some vindictive, if not insane, form of character assassination."

This is true to some extent, but some bloggers ask for it. Why ask someone’s opinion and then knock him or her down for giving it? Why keep badgering Steve if you don’t like his answers? Just find another blog. Some bloggers try to take over Steve’s blog and that gets annoying. Why does Steve have to conform to someelse's idea of what his blog should be? Heck we have this debate once a month about who should and should not blog.

Steve Salerno said...

OK.

I don't want to encourage potential contributors to go the anonymity route. Not only does anonymity create obvious procedural confusion (with all those silly time-stamp references that one must include so we can all locate the appropriate antecedent comment), but I think that--by its shadowy nature--it definitely does create some doubt about the legitimacy, sincerity and motivation of the person making the comment. It's no different from what I face in journalism all the time; if I make use of anonymous sources or use so-called "blind quotes" in my article, I can expect my credibility to be impeached. For similar reasons, defendants in criminal trials have an absolute right to confront their accusers (except in pedophilia cases, and then only in some jurisdictions). It's easy to throw accusations around from behind a shroud. This is also why trial lawyers are given greater latitude in questioning witnesses formally labeled as "hostile." It's assumed that there may be an unspoken ax to grind, and the testimony might not be altogether unbiased.

That's a long way of explaining why I'm allowing somewhat more aggressiveness in the repartee among our various anonymous commenters. Besides--let;s face it--if you're posting anonymously, the remarks others make don't "follow you" as they would if you were posting by name. (You can effectively become a new contributor with each comment.) Finally, I think that the issue of anonymous posting, and some of the attendant issues that have arisen during this thread, may be the one area (or at least are one area) where the already blurry line between personal and political blurs to nonexistence.

Steve Salerno said...

And incidentally--somehow I feel the need to get this on the record, given the nature of some of the comments--I am absolutely NOT making any of these anonymous comments myself.

The Crack Emcee said...

Anon (5:20),

As much as I appreciate you bringing me up as you did (and here I was thinking I had no friends!) I really don't see where Elizabeth was playing "gotcha": she's stated her confusion about the nature of her existence, before, so I accept it. It's not a problem in my life (meaning I know who I am - warts and all - and what I'm about, and I don't feel an over-riding need to look at other blacks as my "group") but, for Elizabeth and (from what I can see) many others, it's an issue. Probably one of the main ones that leads people into cults, religious groups, SHAM, etc.

Personally, I'm glad Elizabeth's honest about it; that she recognizes it, rather than being like most and getting all loud, just to finally admit "I don't know" after putting someone else through the hassle of cornering them. And I find her honesty refreshing: too many people - women especially - are reluctant to expose themselves, in just that way, for fear of how it'll appear weak or confused. I think it's brave, actually - much braver than putting up a front, which most do, only to resent others in secret - so I've never felt the desire to dump on her for it. Nor have I ever felt like she was trying to manipulate me into siding with poor widdle her. I'd much rather hear that she's confused about who she is, than positive who's "Lord," that's for sure.

Steve,

As far as being "yourself" when you're a cop, I think you're asking too much: cops have to be cops. I'm reading The Politics Of Deviance right now and it's becoming clear that 1) social deviance (a lot of times posing as being spiritual) is what disgusts me so much these days, and 2) because we've had this, cowardly, post-60's "non-judgmental" climate foisted on us - more than any other part of society - cops are the ones who have to deal with the fallout, face-to-face. For instance, they got called to my house three times when my marriage fell apart, and I'll never forget their world-weary, seen-it-all, faces as I was going on about my wife and her cults. I know they felt for me but, even in all that mess, I felt for them too - just because they were there to see it.

I'm with the folks who say to cut 'em a break. We ask too much to say, "We're going to allow an 'anything goes' society," but, when the ugliest crap hits the fan, you guys/gals deal with it - and always, always, always, act like perfect gentlemen/women when you do so. It's not realistic.

I've got some experience with our "mean streets," and I'm (clearly) disgusted, so one can only imagine what an All-American type feels (which a lot of cops are) when confronted by the mayhem society allows, mostly, for appearance's sake. (I once saw a woman being gang raped in front of a huge crowd - right in front of San Francisco City Hall - and, as far as I could tell, nobody else did anything. I broke off from the group and called 9-1-1 but I didn't go back: it was a fricking zoo.) I've got all the compassion in the world for the underdog and all that, but, damn it, as adults, eventually we've got to say there are limits to what we'll accept and if somebody who deserves a beating gets one - even the kind they weren't planning on - well, there's a part of me that wants to know if they were expecting a cookie, instead. I mean, Rodney King wasn't no angel, but merely a thug who finally got caught. It was a bad night all around but, I betcha, there are many other people who suffered a bad night at his hands, and those of his friends, as well. I think even he has said that beating turned his life around, somewhat. (The guy's still a mess from what I read.)

As for the rest of us being "ourselves," like Steve, I don't know what to tell, say, Elizabeth, except to buck up, be reflective - and extremely self-critical - and have the guts to "walk the walk". Alone.

I know a non-existent God, religion, or spiritual "teachings", ain't the answer. I don't know anything else though, because - like I said - it's never been my problem (when I was like, 5, people called me "Mr. Dixon," because I was so in possession of myself.)

I do know how I sound usually, being so judgmental of most who suffer with it, but they cause so many heinous problems for others - by demanding we don't be judgmental - that I see no choice but to regard them as a problem. Like when I'm told not to always dump on spiritual types - when I know their beliefs drive them to convert others to act on outlandish beliefs - it strikes me as asking Alice to enjoy the lunacy of Wonderland's Red Queen. I probably could if, like Alice, I could turn on the attacking army and say, "You're just a deck of cards!" and - poof! - make them all go away, but this is real life - not their fantasy world - and I've already been hurt by them - and, still, see it happening everywhere else. So, just like with the rape, I'm not going to stand by and watch it happen, no matter how "peaceful" they claim to be: I know better - and too much - now.

I guess (looking at all this rambling) what I'm trying to say is most cops wouldn't be beating the snot out of people - and the rest of us wouldn't have to be dumping on folks all the time - if more people would, willingly, choose to get real. I don't know what it's going to take, to make that happen, but I, for one, am certainly trying to do my part.

Anonymous said...

"I am absolutely NOT making any of these anonymous comments myself."

Hmmm... Should we take your word for it? See, this is the problem with letting people hide behind anonymity while embarking on personal vendettas. Yes, it could be anyone, including you. How would we know? Some of these comments do sound as if written by your alter ego. Stranger things have happened on blogs.

Anonymous said...

"don't want to encourage potential contributors to go the anonymity route. Not only does anonymity create obvious procedural confusion (with all those silly time-stamp references that one must include so we can all locate the appropriate antecedent comment), but I think that--by its shadowy nature--it definitely does create some doubt about the legitimacy, sincerity and motivation of the person making the comment. It's no different from what I face in journalism all the time; if I make use of anonymous sources or use so-called "blind quotes" in my article, I can expect my credibility to be impeached."

I don't mind being compared to Deep Throat.

Steve Salerno said...

So, I just had to reject three of the last five comments that came in. We have now devolved to the stage of "debate" where the argumentation goes more or less as follows:

"You're a moron."
"Who's a moron?"
"You're a moron."
"No, you are...."

I am hereby summarily calling an end to this thread. If anyone's feelings are hurt at this point, too bad. I have lots of patience, folks--I taught college--but this is ridiculous.

XYZ said...

I must say, people are not as confused as they claim to be. I think most people have a good idea who they are, but they are not very honest about it. I have a hard time believing that someone can get to middle-age without any idea of who they are. I know people can be clueless, but not that clueless by 40. I think they just don't like themselves and that is another blog.

On another note, why must we like each other? Why can't we just not like someone? Has anyone thought that maybe some people just will not get along or like each other? I am getting tired of having to "make nice" with people. Oh my world is going to crumble, because XYZ misunderstood or did not like me. So what? There is a growing industry of how work place dynamics should take place and it is nausiating. Some people just don't get along with each other. Fish don't get along with cats, but nobody cares about that. Criminals and cops pretty much do not get along with each other. So why must we guilt trip everyone into this idea of "getting along?" Why must we emotionally blackmail each other into "feeling" things? If you are a sensitive person, than say so! Be honest that you are sensitive, but don't "bond" with someone who does not want to "bond" with you. Allow a "non" sensitive person to tell you to "get lost." Why must so many people make others responsible for their feelings? They are YOUR feelings. Remember a few blogs back when you were trying for a government job and wondered why we say "nothing"? Why our wording has to be so careful? Remember that? Well now you know why governments and corporations are so careful with their wording. Can't hurt anyone's "feelings."

Elizabeth said...

"You're a moron."
"Who's a moron?"
"You're a moron."
"No, you are...."

LOL. Finally people are just being themselves. Or perpetraitors. Or is it the same thing -- especially when anonymous, no?

Kidding (just in case I need to mention it). I know the thread is closed, but I'm sending it anyway. And no, Steve, I am not trying to take over your blog (just in case I need to mention this too).

Steve Salerno said...

XYZ, people are fully free to not like one another. The problem for allowing that attitude on a blog is that very quickly, "not liking each other" becomes the de facto point of the blog. People focus far less on ideas than on personalities. We've seen it happen right here on SHAMblog in cases where people lost their cool and I didn't police matters as well as I should have. (Or take a look at the discussion forum on a site like, say, Mediabistro, which fairly drips with that typical East Coast condescension and ill humor that so endears New Yorkers to the rest of the world.) Eventually, if people "engage" with someone else's ideas at all, it's purely for the purpose of shooting those ideas down or making the other person feel as silly/stupid as possible. It becomes about firing off (supposedly) winning zingers, not thinking things through in a fair and open-minded manner.

Everybody is free to do what s/he wants to do within the limits of law. But I can tell you forthrightly that I'm not going to keep spending the dozen-plus hours that I spend on this blog weekly if the Comments section deteriorates into one big bitch-a-thon.*

And let me say one final thing. I'm sort of with Rev Ron here: If you're really committed to not liking someone...do it in person. Do it face to face. Do it in a setting where you can get your ass kicked (or your head blown off). Don't do it with a smirk from behind a computer screen.

* That is not a comment on gender, but rather tenor.

XYZ said...

I know you want to close this thread, but I am not speaking of just your blog. I am speaking of life in general. I think we live in a society that is trying to make others hostage to THEIR feelings. As you have previously stated, it is not allowed in courtrooms for a reason. Judges give some leeway in questioning, but the best law is about getting out of the realm of “feelings.” You cannot really debate “feelings.” That’s how juries get swayed and bad convictions happen. Juries overlook evidence and convict on how they feel about a defendant. Judges have to be mindful of this, but they are human too. Get a "feeling" jury and the defendant is in trouble.

As for the anons, I belong to a few professional forums where are real names are used. We never really have weighty discussions. We are always mindful that we are under scrutiny and our professions could be on the line. I understand why people are anonymous. A lot of contributors have jobs to worry about. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to use their real names without sacrificing their livelihoods. I think you understand this as a journalist. A blogger name on an account does not mean much. If I said I was Grizzly Adams that is unlikely, so how does that really help you? It only helps to keep the thread. If a poster does not want to engage an anon or a contributor, do not engage the anon or contributor. It is that simple. Ultimately, it is up to you how you run your blog, but I just wanted to explain my post a little better. Oh, my name is not XYZ for the record.

Anonymous said...

Yes, "XYZ," we get it already--you really don't like Elizabeth. Get your own blog if you can't stop talking about it. It's time to move on here.
Thanks Steve for closing this "debate."

Voltaire said...

I think one reason why this "circle the wagons" mentalitiy prevails is due to polarization. Opponents of the FOP seize every opportunity they can to paint the police as just a bunch of crooked, brutal, jack booted thugs. This picture of the police isn't correct either.

Of course the FOP is one example; there are plenty of others. I've been on the receiving side of many semisane rants about the evils of mainstream medicine and how alternative medicine is so much better I can safely say I'm tired of hearing these kind of lopsided and unfair characterizations.

Real people are more complex than a simple comic book dividing everyone up into good guys and bad guys. I'm convinced most cops and doctors, for example, really are trying to make the world a better place and only a few of them are bad. And of course it's more complex than that; in a moment of weakness many very good people have done something bad that they never intended to do.

At bottom I see here a problem of being too simplistic in judgement. Of course that's one of the underlying themes of SHAM: rushes to judgement on incomplete knowledge.

RevRon's Rants said...

"At bottom I see here a problem of being too simplistic in judgement. Of course that's one of the underlying themes of SHAM: rushes to judgement on incomplete knowledge."

This tendency seems to be the underlying theme of virtually every extreme faction of society. One need only look at the news - or read this blog - to see blanket derision, based on both incomplete and incorrect knowledge.