Thursday, July 30, 2009

More On the Gates Arrest

It's good to see constitutional scholar Harvey Silverglate pen an analysis, of the Harvey Louis Gates Jr's arrest in Canmbridge, that dovetails nicely with my more pedestrian legal analysis that this is about the individual versus the state, not race.
Check Spelling
Silvergate elegantly writes:

And so, before the dreaded thought-reform charlatans start coming out of the woodwork in order to prescribe yet more "sensitivity training" for Cambridge's finest, everyone should take a step back and ask why so many citizens--including Professor Gates, who, it is conceded, did not assault Officer Crowley--end up being arrested for uttering mere words. Because, whether the words were as perfunctory and non-objectionable as Gates' claim that he asked for Crowley's name and badge number, or as heated as Crowley's claim that Gates let loose a stream of loud and offensive insults, they were, well, just words. Put more simply, why do we as a society so often ignore traditional notions of First Amendment freedom to speak one's own notion of truth to power when one party to the confrontation is wearing a uniform, a badge and a gun?
Two other points.

It appears that Officer Crowley has been caught in another, ahem, contradiction with the facts. In his report about the woman who called in the 911 call, he writes that when he spoke to her she stated "two black males with backpacks on the front porch’’ of the house may have been attempting to breal in. The 911 call clearly shows that as she has been stating, she did not know the race of the men enetering the house.

Point two, There has been a major move on campus to stifle politically incorrect speech. As Silvergate points out that Gates, quite correctly, has objected to this move toward hindering free speech. Silvergate writes:

There is a certain irony, however, that Professor Gates should be caught up in a controversy that, at bottom, is about the limits of free speech in confronting official power. The irony grows out of the fact that two of the major ways in which an American can run into big trouble for mouthing off without adequate self-censorship are: (1) let a police officer know that you're not happy with being, or feeling, hassled, or (2) say something politically incorrect on a college campus. In this regard, both Cambridge and Harvard are more typical than special. University censorship in the name of not "offending" others, including (perhaps especially) members of "historically disadvantaged groups" is now an old story...

Professor Gates, to his enormous credit, has parted ways with the ubiquitous speech police on his own and other campuses. In September 1993, Gates wrote for The New Republic a powerful critique of campus "harassment codes" that outlaw unpleasant speech. Gates was dealing with a typical university speech code, such as the one in force at the time (and still in force on campuses all around the country) at the University of Connecticut, that banned "treating people differently solely because they
are in some way different from the majority, … imitating stereotypes in speech
or mannerisms, … [or] attributing objections to any of the above actions to
'hypersensitivity' of the targeted individual or group."

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