We've Met the Enemy, and He's a Flaming Idiot

Before Roger Federer’s final tennis match at London's O2 Arena recently, an "environmentalist" ran onto the court and set his arm on fire, apparently to protest the private jets some of the competitors had taken to the event. The New York Times' understated report hints at the humor of what happened next: "The protester appeared to immediately regret the decision to set fire to himself, and quickly put out the flames with his left hand while a small fire burned on the court next to him."

As protests go, this one was pretty underwhelming. Thich Quang Duc he ain't. And its effect on "climate change" was negligible, except for the added carbon in the atmosphere from his flaming forearm.

Who You Gonna Call -- the Covid Cops?

Last January, I wrote a piece here on the Pipeline called “When the Sheepdogs Become the Sheep.” In that piece I lamented the ongoing transformation of America’s police officers from crime fighters to Covid code enforcers. Alas, ten months later, that transformation is coming nearer to completion.

There is a growing chasm among two distinct groups of police officers: those who genuinely invest themselves in the fight against crime, whether as a patrol cop or a detective, and those who seek to promote up the ranks to the higher levels in their departments. A Venn diagram of these groups would show a miniscule intersection of the two circles, and recent events will have that intersection grow smaller still.

Among the cops actually engaged in police work, political considerations have no role in their decisions on whom to stop, detain, or arrest. This is not to say every law violator who comes to a police officer’s notice should be arrested and hauled into court. Every good cop knows the value of discretion. Sometimes there are more serious problems that demand his time, or there may be dividends paid in the future when someone is given a pass for some minor violation.

But the cop interested in promotion sees things differently. He conducts himself so as to please his superiors, who like himself in most cases have their eyes on achieving the next rank. Sad to say, but the interests of those superiors are not necessarily aligned with those of the citizens in the areas they serve. In most American cities, the typical commanding officer of a police station has but one short-term daily goal: to keep his phone from ringing.

Just trying to keep the lid on things.

This is of course in the service of his long-term goal, which is to promote to the next rank. To those unfamiliar with the inner workings of a police department this may seem strange. Surely, you might assume, promotions are achieved through the reduction of crime in one’s area of responsibility. This is not always the case. More often, promotions are won by minimizing problems for the people on the tiers above your own, i.e., by making sure their phones do not ring.

In any police department there is a stratification, a bright line—it’s usually at the rank of sergeant or lieutenant—at which most cops below it are in the first group and most above it are in the second. The higher one goes in the department, the more removed one gets from the grime and tumult of actual police work.

Today, every police executive lives day and night in utter dread of that one phone call, the one that informs him a subordinate has been involved in an incident that soon will be blasted across television news programs and social media, bringing protesters and even rioters to the steps of police headquarters, city hall, and points beyond. It is these incidents that must be avoided, even if at the cost of rising crime.

If you doubt this, consider the city of Minneapolis, on which the nation’s attention was focused following the death of George Floyd in May 2020. Floyd’s death caused panic and consternation throughout the city’s government, with politicians and cops at the higher ranks ever so desperately seeking ways to avoid sharing blame for it.

Since former officer Derek Chauvin was convicted for killing Floyd, what news has the typical American heard out of Minneapolis? None. The 16 percent increase in homicides over last year, the 26 percent increase in shooting injuries, the 5 percent increase in robberies, none of these grim statistics has gripped the national attention in a way even close to the way the death of a drug-addicted career criminal did. More death and bloodshed? More robberies? Blame it all on the pandemic; it’s nothing to worry about as long as the satellite trucks aren’t parked in front of police headquarters and the reporters aren’t out there stirring up the rabble.

Meanwhile, in Minneapolis...

America’s police officers are getting the message, and in most large cities proactive police work is a thing of the past. Yes, the police are still responding to radio calls. They’re still willing to put up the crime-scene tape and collect the shell casings at a murder scene while waiting for the coroner to haul the body away, and if they figure out who did the killing, they’re happy to arrest him as long as he doesn’t run or fight or do anything else that will make them look bad on Twitter. But when it comes to looking for the guy carrying the gun and stopping him before he does the killing, forget about it; there is no upside to that kind of police work anymore.

America’s police departments, their ranks already shrinking due to recent events, are being diminished further by the imposition of Covid vaccine mandates in many cities. In Chicago, for example, more than 30 percent of the police officers have thus far failed to report their vaccination status as required under the new city policy, and 21 of them have been placed on no-pay status. Chicago is already suffering from high crime, so one shudders to imagine what would happen if a third of its police department is dismissed for failing to get vaccinated. (The sheriffs in three counties near Chicago have said their deputies would not be sent to assist should the need arise).

Some may be surprised to learn that in most cases the police do not have an affirmative duty to protect the public or any individual. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court held, in Castle Rock v. Gonzales, that police officers in Castle Rock, Colorado, could not be held liable for failing to enforce a restraining order, despite the fact that the failure led to the murder of three children.

So, what is the law-abiding citizen to do in the face of rising crime and retreating police? I recommend the methods adopted by the Eugene, Ore., man described in this news story, who when a burglar entered his apartment in the small hours of Oct. 18, protected his companion and his home as the law allows. Now there is one less burglar to worry the citizens of Eugene, and the town is that much safer for it. If we could but see more stories like this every day, the crime problem would soon take care of itself.

Toolkits of the Trade

Spontaneous protests are among the most powerful forces in our politics, which is unfortunate because they are, generally, bunk. We've written about this before, as when we discussed a leaked protest organizer job posting with an $85,000 salary. That's a lot of green if your job is just waiting around to hear the voice of the people speak.

For the latest example, here's Helen Andrews on an ongoing political tumult in India. It all started with a tweet from well-known environmentalist/truant Greta Thunberg supporting some anti-government protestors in that nation, with a link to a Google docs file included. According to New Delhi police, Thunberg shortly thereafter got a text message from her Indian counterpart, Disha Ravi, saying "Shit shit shit … Can you not tweet the toolkit … Our names are on it." Thunberg quickly deleted the tweet, and put out an "updated" statement, but the damage was done.

So what is in this "toolkit"? Here's Andrews:

[It] describes methods for capitalizing on the farmers’ protests that have wracked New Delhi since November, after [Indian PM] Narendra Modi’s government passed a package of laws liberalizing agriculture markets.... The linked document included sample tweets, suggestions for in-person rallies, and a timeline for an escalating protest campaign climaxing on January 26. Unfortunately, the January 26 protest in New Delhi proved a little too climactic. Roads were swarmed, cell towers were destroyed, and one farmer was killed when, ramming a police barricade, he capsized his tractor. Farmers rushed police lines on horseback with swords.... Hundreds of policemen were injured and many hospitalized.

It was, in short, an instruction manual for disorder, composed -- apparently -- by experienced international activists. And to the Modi government it seemed to be just a part of a wider, coordinated international campaign. They've pointed out, for instance, that not only have leftist political figures like Ilhan Omar and Trevor Noah made public statements in support of the protestors, but even vacuous celebrities like Rihanna. As one government spokesman put it, “These are very concerted efforts... I don’t think [Rihanna] can even point out on the global map where India is!”

Rihanna, you are here.

But what do agriculture protests have to do with environmental activists like Thunberg? Nothing, except for their potential to harm the image of Modi, a figure much despised by correct-thinking lefties in the west. On that score, they've failed, as 80 percent of Indians approve of the government's response to the protest. This importantly includes farmers, for whom the protestors claim to speak.

For her role in all of this, Disha Ravi was eventually charged with sedition, an act which Andrews concedes is probably an overreaction. But in the context of a post-Raj India, ever sensitive to rich western nations meddling in her internal affairs, it makes rather more sense.

Always be suspicious of supposedly leaderless groups attempting to influence public discourse through apparently "spontaneous" public protest. Chances are, they're trying to manipulate someone. Don't let it be you.