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The Mistake Of Conflation

A disturbing tendency to conflate unrelated incidents has marked any discussion of police use of force recently. This has fueled the movement to “defund” the police, but has also fueled riots. At issue is whether it is the job of police to use force. If it is, how much? If it isn’t, what is the alternative? These are questions that have answers, but not simple answers. Our society is nothing if not ravenous for easy answers to consume, for simple boxes to check. Along the way, we forget that similar things are not identical things, and people’s businesses and homes get burned down as a result.

The most basic of conflations taking place right now is the notion that because one — or even several — police officers abused his (or their) authority, all cops abuse their authority. Because all cops abuse their authority, all cops are always abusing their authority. And because all cops are always abusing their authority in every situation, at least some of those situations involve black citizens, and therefore police are motivated only by racism.

The statements make no sense, do they? Yet that is what we are told. Worse, we are told that all police uses of force are equally invalid, equally abusive. Thus, a man who was killed because a callous police officer knelt on his neck for 9 minutes is every bit the victim as a man who wrests a weapon from police and then fires it at them. In the former case, justice was served; the cop was arrested, as were the police officers present for George Floyd’s death. In the latter case, justice was immediately subverted; the cop was fired and may face charges because, per his training, he shot a violent suspect who had stolen and was attempting to use his taser.

The two incidents are not at all alike. The overwhelming majority of police uses of force are not abuses. The overwhelming number of suspects who are arrested for crimes actually committed those crimes. But through the miracle of conflation, one incident is another incident, all are illegitimate, and all police uses of force are wrong. We are left with a society arguing that all police departments everywhere should be “defunded.” If you argue that you want to be able to phone a well-funded police department with enough resources to help you should your home be burglarized, you are told that is your “white privilege” talking.

Why should you be able to call for police when other people have been arrested? Yes, the conflation is that silly and that obvious, but it occurs nonetheless.

When reasonable people object to the disbanding of police based on this conflation, they are told, “We used the word ‘defunded,’ but that’s not what we meant. It’s just that we want to take the money from police departments and funnel it into a variety of social programs that might or might not actually accomplish anything.”

Well, fair enough… except that others are far less circumspect in their desires. There are, right now, Americans actively demanding that the police be disbanded. What will happen when there are no authorities? Well, in a libertarian society, individuals would be free to arm and protect themselves. In the world as it exists today, the same people who want to disband the police want to take your right to own and carry a weapon for self-defense.

It’s hard to imagine the end game for people who conflate in this way. Are they self-destructive? Certainly, the end result of applying left-wing or progressive thought to society is destruction. The chaos in the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, aka the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHAZ or CHOP, respectively) is proof of that. The same people who hate Trump, want open borders, and believe “All Cops Are Bastards” (which is why they spray-paint “ACAB” everywhere in conjunction with generous sprays of “BLM” or “Black Lives Matter”) immediately set up borders, began checking IDs of anyone coming and going, extorted local citizens and businesses, and used the threat of violence to bully and even assault all who opposed them. That’s what happens when progressives have unfettered control of any area: Their self-destructive stupidity is free to assert itself. The results would be hilarious if it were only the progressives suffering.

The same conflation has been extended to popular entertainment, of course. We can’t have any positive (or even neutral) depictions of police in popular entertainment, because all cops everywhere are bad all the time. Only censorship of one viewpoint is sufficient to fix the problem. Meanwhile, cops are being assaulted on the job in horrific numbers. They’re also being fired and charged for crimes on the flimsiest of pretexts in what can only be an overreaction to the blanket accusations against them. The result is that more and more cops are leaving the force, opting out of this insanity before their own lives are ruined.

It is only a matter of time before nobody left wants to be a cop. I have had my own negative experiences with law enforcement. Some of them were self-righteous; some of them gave me tickets for no other reason than that they could. I’ve been mistreated by police who didn’t realize I was not a criminal, but rather that person who called in the crime. Yet I’ve also had perfectly civil and pleasant interactions with police. That’s because police are human beings, and human beings are a mixed bag. Some are good, some are bad, and some shouldn’t have power over anyone.

Until we learn not to conflate those three categories, we will continue to cut our own throats while shrieking that it’s for our own good. One wonders if the bloodletting will stop before we’ve completely ruined whatever hope we had of living in a reasonably civil, reasonably free society.

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