Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Half-formed thoughts and delicate emotions

Via BenSwann.
Oh, Brooksy. For some reason, possibly involving the fact that there is finally, as of last Tuesday, film of a policeman murdering an unarmed black man (Walter Scott of North Charleston, South Carolina, on April 4) so plainly brutally that it can't be dismissed or denied, he's on about cops wearing cameras, which he has decided to support (as does this page). Only the whole column is about what a bad idea it is, which makes it a tad confusing. He was for it before he was against it, but then he was for it again in the last paragraph.

Driftglass is way ahead of us on this one, and Roy Edroso has found it necessary to weigh in, so there's really not much left to say, but a couple of Brooksological points deserve consideration.

One is the problem of privacy in police-civilian interaction:
Privacy is important to the development of full individuals because there has to be an interior zone within each person that other people don’t see. There has to be a zone where half-formed thoughts and delicate emotions can grow and evolve, without being exposed to the harsh glare of public judgment. There has to be a place where you can be free to develop ideas and convictions away from the pressure to conform. There has to be a spot where you are only yourself and can define yourself.
I've noticed that a lot, how cops, criminals, and crime victims all tend to let their half-formed thoughts and delicate emotions grow and evolve, in a process that would be totally wrecked by body cams. Also,
When a police officer is wearing a camera, the contact between an officer and a civilian is less likely to be like intimate friendship and more likely to be oppositional and transactional.
I'm not sure I want my contact with an officer to be too much like intimate friendship. I think I could settle for casual acquaintanceship.

He seems to be especially worried that cops are likely to put your videos on the Internet:
The videos of the naked crime victim, the berserk drunk, the screaming maniac will inevitably get posted online — as they are already.
Call me old-fashioned, but I would really hope police officers would be less likely to do this than civilians are with their damn phones, to say nothing of one's intimate friends. And if they do, that they would get caught.

as a journalist, I can tell you that when I put a notebook or a camera between me and my subjects, I am creating distance between me and them.
We've been through this before; you haven't put a notebook or a camera between yourself and a subject since the couple of months after graduation in 1983, or around 32 years ago, when you had what amounted to an internship with the City News Bureau in Chicago before heading east to take up a more genteel internship with old Mr. Buckley. I'll bet you appreciated the distance then, and I can assure you that the beat officer and the resident do too, both of them. They'll appreciate a moderate friendliness, but respect on both sides is the most important, and intimacy is really not necessary.

Most murders, in fact, are committed between intimates, and hardly any, I would say, between people who respect each other. Murder is, in effect, an extreme form of disrespect for another person's dignity. The North Charleston officer wasn't feeling excessively cold and formal when he shot Walter Scott in the back eight times, he was excessively hot and extremely ill-mannered. Speaking of respect, I'm surprised a fluent Burkean and believer in the maxim that manners are more important than morals fails to see that if the body camera creates a distance, that distance models respect even if the officer doesn't really feel it. And as Burke might well agree, though he wouldn't put it in psychobabble terms, the officer and the neighborhood tough guy can both learn by modeling respect to give themselves room to experience respect. Which is a pretty desirable outcome.

That intimacy you get when you're not encumbered by a camera. Photo by Paul Weiskel via ACLU Washington State.

No comments:

Post a Comment