Available Now! (click cover)

America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Gates Incident as a Free Speech Case

Harvey Silverglate, a founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), has an excellent article in Forbes on the arrest of Harvard Prof. Henry Louis Gates. For Silverglate -- and I agree with him -- this is entirely a free-speech matter. Gates was arrested exclusively for what he said to a policeman and for how he said it. The incident is less about race and more about a police attitude toward "civilians" that free people should not tolerate. That attitude is exemplified in the current practice of not including police personnel in the term "civilian." This is a recent change. "Civilian" used to mean everyone but the military. This is another sign of the militarization of the police, which is stimulated by the "wars" on drugs, guns, and other things that are not directly connected with crimes against person and property.

4 comments:

John Higgins said...

The militarization of police is true, and it is a problem, but it's not really a shock. Police and military are the same thing. Armed men who occupy territory and demand obedience.

Tom said...

Gates doesn't reject the whole notion of the police state. That is why, I believe, that he injected race into the mix. He and the rest of the conservatoliberal establishment are just against the abuses. This reminds of Thomas Szasz's critique of those who criticize the abuses of (State) Psychiatry. The whole enterprise of the police and Psychiatry are an abuse.

Gates can act as though he stood up to the Man and the pro-police conservatives can posture about being for the good cops, but meanwhile the whole system continues unabated.

MarkZ said...

I like the article, but I think it does a real disservice to the issue by sweeping race and class under the rug the way it does. Granted, the overt "crime" in this case is the afront to free speech, but police action has been the prime vehicle for transforming race- and class-based fear and hatred into oppression behind the shield of the state.

Whether or not Crowley's actions (or even Lucinda what's-her-name's actions) were racially-motivated is something we'll probably never know. The author is WRONG when he considers it "unlikely". He has no basis for saying that -- unless he's buying into the vacuous argument the media's been spouting that it can't be racist because they didn't mention the word "black" during the call or the arrest. My jaw hit the floor when I heard that one on CNN two nights ago. That stance has about as much credibility as the "some of my best friends are black" argument (which, by the way, the other Boston officer invoked yesterday...).

Sheldon Richman said...

I can't say there was no racial element at all. On class, some have speculated there might have been upward class resentment, town versus gown. At any rate, I can see a white cop doing the same thing to a white man who was "defiant" and non-compliant.