The Million Man Cigarette and Salt March

In the good old days, when a week was as full of gossipy news as this one was, I’d head off to the bar near the National Press Club. There, amid clouds of smoke and the reek of decades of cheap booze, reporters would sit around and spread the dirt in an atmosphere of bonhomie. Now, to watch reporters at leisure I have to go to some damned net cafe where kids fresh out of journalism schools they went to because their grades in area studies stunk and they wanted “to make a difference” hang out. So I went to the Fair Trade Shade Grown Beans where they sat around trading narratives.

It wasn’t a good week for them. “Campus culture of rape” had taken a body blow when it turned out the claims against a University of Virginia fraternity gang rape could not be substantiated; something the Rolling Stone author who first published the tale might have learned had she or her editors exercised normal investigative journalism caution. (Lena Dunham’s campus rape story also fell apart.)

Looks like the skeptics or “rape denialists”, as we are known in certain quarters, proved right.

Should we opt for a therapeutic approach and justice be damned or do the accused have some rights, too? Tom Maguire explores this notion:

Meanwhile, over at Oberlin John Nolte of Breitbart News had this exchange with an administrator denying him access to seemingly relevant records about the Dunham allegations:

"Asking whether or not a victim is telling the truth is irrelevant," Ms. Hess proclaimed. "It's just not important if they are telling the truth. If this person had wanted criminal justice they would have pursued it."

Hmm. In a slightly different context, most progressives (and conservatives) are familiar with the voluminous evidence suggesting that eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. Yet when the context shifts to an often young, often intoxicated sexual assault victim, 100% credulity to what is probably the most traumatic event of their life is the only acceptable response? That might be an appropriate therapeutic approach, but it poses a serious conflict with any process of justice that is oriented towards investigation rather than affirmation. (And let me note that two Jersey Girls were made of sterner stuff -- their prompt reporting led to prompt arrests in recent assaults at Ramapo College and William Paterson University, but that is not part of the "national conversation").

The same tension arises in reporting on rape allegations. Michael Moynihan at The Daily Beast explains that, yes, journalists actually need to practice journalism.

Still, as they swigged their decaf pumpkin spice lattes, the gang at the Fair Trade Shade Grown Beans was not giving up. “All men are monsters and all fraternities are testosterone filled torture chambers,” said the gal with the Che Guevara t-shirt and the hammer and sickle iPad case to a table of her cohorts. “Maybe they just ought to bring back all single-sex colleges if these are too delicate flowers," muttered to no one in particular.

Along the wall sat three young men wearing “Say No to White Privilege”, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and Trayvon Martin hoodies seemed a bit more upbeat. It’s true that despite the race agitators the Martin case fell apart upon scrutiny and acquittal though the rent seekers and agitators stick to the story made up by local reports in Florida and the Martin family supporters, and the Michael Brown shooting didn’t pass judicial scrutiny either. With good reason, the jury didn’t share the lynch ‘em approach taken by the Congressional Black Caucus member Eleanor Holmes Norton that she didn’t care what the facts were.

In any event, with it being obvious that Brown was a drugged-up felon who beat an officer, tried to grab his gun and resisted arrest, he was less sympathetic than the false, media-generated and widely believed tale of Trayvon as a young boy shot by a “racist “ for wearing a hoodie. Brown’s family was at least as unappealing as Brown, his stepfather having called for protestors to burn down Ferguson and he and Brown’s mother having beat up the grandmother who raised Michael because she was profiting off the sale of Brown t-shirts which they believed they had sole marketing rights to.

Worse though, this kerfuffle and the president and attorney general’s perfidious role in stirring up hatred there seem to be engendering real hate crimes. “This doesn’t look good to the bitter clingers,” said the reporter in the “Hands Up” t-shirt, pointing to the report on his iPad that two black men and an Hispanic in St. Louis had beaten to death with hammers a Bosnian immigrant whose car they were hammering and who had the temerity to get out of it to protest. “Well," replied the “White Privilege” fellow, “the police say they couldn’t be sure it was a hate crime.” He clicked on a Fox report:

Within hours, St. Louis police Chief Sam Dotson rushed to tell the large Bosnian community there that it was no hate crime.

"There is no indication that the gentleman

… was targeted because he was Bosnian," Dotson said.

Not targeted for being a Bosnian? Really? As if thugs who'd use hammers to kill a man could find Bosnia on a map.

That song and dance didn’t seem to have the desired effect of papering over the animus of the crime, because shortly afterward a black gang brutally assaulted a woman when they found out she was Bosnian and this time the police chief was forced to change his tune. 

“We still have the Garner case,” said the skinny guy in the faded Trayvon hoodie garb. “Some on the right said that while they were sorry he died, he had 31 prior arrests and was resisting a lawful arrest.”

“It’s a bit hard to make this out as a racist thing though,” said I as I leaned over to engage them. ”The supervising officer was a black woman and the autopsy indicated he had preexisting health issues and did not die from a choke hold but of cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital. In any event this seems more like a question of overcriminalizing and overtaxing, than it is of racism.” As they looked at me querulously I explained. “The taxes on cigarettes in NYC are outrageous. Smokers are desperate. Selling single cigarettes on the street to the poor seems to be the way around it for people like Garner and his customers .The more laws like this you pass, the more intrusive you make the cops become and the more arrests you make the more likely it is that there’ll be unfortunate deaths like these.”

I don’t think I persuaded them, but I did get a bright idea: Let’s have a million man smoke in march on NYC, maybe even with some folks dressed in giant papier mache cigarette packs and salt shakers.  Let’s do our part to stamp out overregulation and taxation. No Pasaran [More Laws] as we used to say in the Not Friends of the Lincoln Brigade.

In the good old days, when a week was as full of gossipy news as this one was, I’d head off to the bar near the National Press Club. There, amid clouds of smoke and the reek of decades of cheap booze, reporters would sit around and spread the dirt in an atmosphere of bonhomie. Now, to watch reporters at leisure I have to go to some damned net cafe where kids fresh out of journalism schools they went to because their grades in area studies stunk and they wanted “to make a difference” hang out. So I went to the Fair Trade Shade Grown Beans where they sat around trading narratives.

It wasn’t a good week for them. “Campus culture of rape” had taken a body blow when it turned out the claims against a University of Virginia fraternity gang rape could not be substantiated; something the Rolling Stone author who first published the tale might have learned had she or her editors exercised normal investigative journalism caution. (Lena Dunham’s campus rape story also fell apart.)

Looks like the skeptics or “rape denialists”, as we are known in certain quarters, proved right.

Should we opt for a therapeutic approach and justice be damned or do the accused have some rights, too? Tom Maguire explores this notion:

Meanwhile, over at Oberlin John Nolte of Breitbart News had this exchange with an administrator denying him access to seemingly relevant records about the Dunham allegations:

"Asking whether or not a victim is telling the truth is irrelevant," Ms. Hess proclaimed. "It's just not important if they are telling the truth. If this person had wanted criminal justice they would have pursued it."

Hmm. In a slightly different context, most progressives (and conservatives) are familiar with the voluminous evidence suggesting that eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. Yet when the context shifts to an often young, often intoxicated sexual assault victim, 100% credulity to what is probably the most traumatic event of their life is the only acceptable response? That might be an appropriate therapeutic approach, but it poses a serious conflict with any process of justice that is oriented towards investigation rather than affirmation. (And let me note that two Jersey Girls were made of sterner stuff -- their prompt reporting led to prompt arrests in recent assaults at Ramapo College and William Paterson University, but that is not part of the "national conversation").

The same tension arises in reporting on rape allegations. Michael Moynihan at The Daily Beast explains that, yes, journalists actually need to practice journalism.

Still, as they swigged their decaf pumpkin spice lattes, the gang at the Fair Trade Shade Grown Beans was not giving up. “All men are monsters and all fraternities are testosterone filled torture chambers,” said the gal with the Che Guevara t-shirt and the hammer and sickle iPad case to a table of her cohorts. “Maybe they just ought to bring back all single-sex colleges if these are too delicate flowers," muttered to no one in particular.

Along the wall sat three young men wearing “Say No to White Privilege”, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and Trayvon Martin hoodies seemed a bit more upbeat. It’s true that despite the race agitators the Martin case fell apart upon scrutiny and acquittal though the rent seekers and agitators stick to the story made up by local reports in Florida and the Martin family supporters, and the Michael Brown shooting didn’t pass judicial scrutiny either. With good reason, the jury didn’t share the lynch ‘em approach taken by the Congressional Black Caucus member Eleanor Holmes Norton that she didn’t care what the facts were.

In any event, with it being obvious that Brown was a drugged-up felon who beat an officer, tried to grab his gun and resisted arrest, he was less sympathetic than the false, media-generated and widely believed tale of Trayvon as a young boy shot by a “racist “ for wearing a hoodie. Brown’s family was at least as unappealing as Brown, his stepfather having called for protestors to burn down Ferguson and he and Brown’s mother having beat up the grandmother who raised Michael because she was profiting off the sale of Brown t-shirts which they believed they had sole marketing rights to.

Worse though, this kerfuffle and the president and attorney general’s perfidious role in stirring up hatred there seem to be engendering real hate crimes. “This doesn’t look good to the bitter clingers,” said the reporter in the “Hands Up” t-shirt, pointing to the report on his iPad that two black men and an Hispanic in St. Louis had beaten to death with hammers a Bosnian immigrant whose car they were hammering and who had the temerity to get out of it to protest. “Well," replied the “White Privilege” fellow, “the police say they couldn’t be sure it was a hate crime.” He clicked on a Fox report:

Within hours, St. Louis police Chief Sam Dotson rushed to tell the large Bosnian community there that it was no hate crime.

"There is no indication that the gentleman

… was targeted because he was Bosnian," Dotson said.

Not targeted for being a Bosnian? Really? As if thugs who'd use hammers to kill a man could find Bosnia on a map.

That song and dance didn’t seem to have the desired effect of papering over the animus of the crime, because shortly afterward a black gang brutally assaulted a woman when they found out she was Bosnian and this time the police chief was forced to change his tune. 

“We still have the Garner case,” said the skinny guy in the faded Trayvon hoodie garb. “Some on the right said that while they were sorry he died, he had 31 prior arrests and was resisting a lawful arrest.”

“It’s a bit hard to make this out as a racist thing though,” said I as I leaned over to engage them. ”The supervising officer was a black woman and the autopsy indicated he had preexisting health issues and did not die from a choke hold but of cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital. In any event this seems more like a question of overcriminalizing and overtaxing, than it is of racism.” As they looked at me querulously I explained. “The taxes on cigarettes in NYC are outrageous. Smokers are desperate. Selling single cigarettes on the street to the poor seems to be the way around it for people like Garner and his customers .The more laws like this you pass, the more intrusive you make the cops become and the more arrests you make the more likely it is that there’ll be unfortunate deaths like these.”

I don’t think I persuaded them, but I did get a bright idea: Let’s have a million man smoke in march on NYC, maybe even with some folks dressed in giant papier mache cigarette packs and salt shakers.  Let’s do our part to stamp out overregulation and taxation. No Pasaran [More Laws] as we used to say in the Not Friends of the Lincoln Brigade.