Why Police Killings Are Different From Citizens Killing Other Citizens

Pictured is a Wikimedia Commons photo of police in Pittsburgh form Sept. 25, 2009.

(Note: Police are citizens and civilians, for that matter, but for the purposes of explaining with clarity, I’m going to make a distinction between police, as members of the State, and citizens, who are not members of the State.)

It’s been a good month and a half since I touched on something political, but sometimes, when I get a bug in my head about something, I have to vomit it out. Anyone who reads this is the one who has to play janitor. My apologies in advance for how ranty this comes across.

I came across this Tweet thread the other day from Thomas Sowell, famed and accomplished economist, who is still going today at 90-years-old. He has written 30 books, and has contributed greatly to the body politic from (what I would call) a conservative libertarian framework.

But this Tweet thread is hot garbage:

Sowell, who again, has numerous degrees, is well-read, and an intellectual giant beyond what I could ever hope to be, should know the silliness of this argument. I try to believe that people I disagree with are acting in good faith. But I can’t fathom he doesn’t understand the difference. Particularly, Sowell as a conservative libertarian, should be able to discern between:

  1. A member of the State (a police officer) killing a citizen of the State; and
  2. A citizen of the state killing another citizen of the state.

At this point, it’s almost redundant to talk about how difficult it is to obtain any semblance of justice when it comes to the former, and worse than that, that when a member of the State kills you, there will be legions of people standing up to say he or she, as a member of the State, did the right thing. That the person who was killed ought not to have done X to warrant being summarily executed in the street or their home or their car.

When the State kills someone, an entire legal and social apparatus manifests to defend them.

We all know this happens at this point. We’ve watched this exact script play out, even with George Floyd, a police killing on video a lot of people rightly condemned, but for which, there were still defenders. (If you come at me with, “But that’s Candace Owens, she’s a fringe actor, let me point you to this.)

In most instances, when a citizen kills another citizen, there is not a legion of people defending them. Most normal-thinking people would decry that sort of violence, such as a recent example, where a 25-year-old man shot and killed a five-year-old riding his bicycle. Show me the legions of people defending that? Show me the legions of people saying, “Well, his parents shouldn’t have let him ride a bicycle.” Or whatever other grotesque rationale.

If people, like Sowell, can’t distinguish between these two things, and why the former has animated Black Lives Matter, protests, and calls for police and criminal justice reforms, and why that is all a distinct issue from citizen violence, then they are being disingenuous — wait for it — and worse, they are doing the thing they say they hate doing: Virtue signaling to their followers, readers, and cultist types who will share it thousands of times, thinking a brilliant point has been made and now Black Lives Matter is fully discredited.

When that five-year-old gets shot, it’s not a guarantee his killer will be found, although he was in this case, (the United States shockingly clears fewer murders than you would think), but it’s even less of a guarantee that any type of justice will come the way of a cop who kills a one-year-old, as one example.

Rest assured, the 25-year-old who killed the five-year-old also won’t have qualified immunity backing him up.

And again, worse yet, is that people will defend the actions of the latter.

Another point worth making is those Tweets are disingenuous because they pretend to ignore the difference between State actors killing someone and citizen-on-citizen violence, but it’s also disingenuous for pretending as if people in communities where the latter type of violence is occurring don’t care about it. First off, on the surface, think about that. If you lived in a community where violence occurred, you’d care, wouldn’t you? Because you live there! But secondly, it’s disingenuous because there are organizations and activists on a daily basis working to mitigate and end that violence.

People like to bring up Chicago. “Why does nobody talk about Chicago?! Look at all the violence there!”

See here. I counted 51 organizations, local, regional and national, that are in Chicago working on the issue. So, how about those folks stop using Chicago as a political bludgeon? Because in actuality, the third disingenuous part about all of this is that the people who try to deflect from State killings with, “What about Chicago? What about black-on-black crime?” don’t actually care about Chicago and don’t actually care about so-called “black-on-black” crime (a ridiculous phrase I’ve addressed before).

I could keep ranting, but I think you get the main point here. I sometimes think people who Tweet stuff like this or do the, “What about Chicago?” nonsense hate the left more than they care about liberty; that they hate the left more than they care about addressing abuses from the State. And I say this as someone who doesn’t consider themselves “of the left” in the way people think of “of the left,” to be vague about it.

It’s all maddening and disgusting. It feels like perpetually being gaslighted.


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