Raw Political Power v. Raw Star Power

That’s all this is about.

Who will win, the police union or Beyonce?  I have to admit it’s fairly audacious of the police union to throw down the gauntlet on this one.

But ultimately this is extremely unhealthy for everyone.  If there’s a rational debate to be had in this country about police shootings of black suspects, a high profile clash between police unions and one of the world’s biggest celebrities isn’t going to enhance it.  This is one of those stories that says something about us we might not wish to ponder.



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2 responses to “Raw Political Power v. Raw Star Power

  1. Police unions hate uppity entertainers with a burning passion. They hate uppity entertainers because they have real, irrepressible freedom of speech and the drive to actually exercise it. It’s a redux of the “love it or leave it” crowd of the sixties and seventies, but with more institutional power. The love-it-or-leave-its got really butthurt over the black power salute at the Olympiad in Mexico City, and now the police unions are getting sore about Beyonce for desecrating a surplus cruiser in a music video.

    In the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting, the St. Louis County Police Department beclowned itself on Twitter by demanding an apology from the St. Louis Rams’ manager for a brief hands-up-don’t-shoot protest by players running onto the field and then annotating this pro forma non-apology with a ridiculously crackpot definition of “apology.” In the following months, though, Jon Belmar effectively took political cover behind Radley Balko and publicly estimated that half of the city police departments within St. Louis County were illegitimate. It’s doubtful that Belmar would have had that cover if the Brown shooting hadn’t focused such intense international attention on St. Louis County law enforcement specifically.

    The Rams players did their part to keep the story alive. Some of the mythology of Michael Brown may be bogus, and Black Lives Matter as a rallying cry may be something of a red herring, but Brown’s killing was just the triggering event in a severely mispoliced county. The trouble goes much deeper than this single incident.

    My general sense is that these celebrity protests are better than nothing. Sometimes they’re used for petty reasons (e.g., the player consensus that Donald Sterling was a racist schmuck), but at other times they can be very effective uses of the bully pulpit. The only people they really backfire with are intractable authoritarians and racists, who are nigh impossible to reach in the best of circumstances. Few people will actually boycott Beyonce, the Rams, or any other entertainment act for political reasons. If anything, these high-power acts are antifragile, thriving equally on positive and negative publicity.

    Another way to look at it is that many more Americans admire Beyonce than admire Javier Ortiz. These people will consider Ortiz the impertinent one.

    The other reason I appreciate celebrity political protests is that they set an example of candid free speech for ordinary Americans and a degree of freedom to which the rest of us can strive to level up our own free speech rights. They show us that we needn’t be wholly owned subsidiaries of our employers if we’d rather be independent, individual citizens.


  2. For another vignette of how self-serving the police unions and their apologists can get, there was a similar incident a few months ago involving a Chicago rapper called Chief Keef, whose videoconference performances were shut down by the mayors of Chicago and Hammond. The kicker was that Chief Keef offended the officials more deeply by dissing them than for having been suspected, but never charged, in a Chicago murder.

    That’s how the police unions think these days. We need more Serpicos, Schoolcrafts, and Tascas. Good cops who give a damn need to stand up and blow the whistle on these gangsters.


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