I agree with David when he says, as did the Cambridge police department, that Crowley’s actions were defensible. And what David says about fuzzy laws is also true. That is often what the police have to deal with; they are the ones on the line having to make instantaneous decisions while confronting difficult situations and angry people and a lot of unknowns. But the charges were dropped, and that too makes sense. I don’t think it’s necessary to parse it any further than that. Overall, however, as a New York City resident where an awful lot of ugly behavior is tolerated, I am not a big supporter of the libertarian view that people should be allowed act out their furies in public as long as they don’t harm anyone, as the proviso usually puts it. There are other kinds of harms to a society than the physical. And sometimes physical harm does result when tumultuous behavior is tolerated.
As to Robert’s point that Gates was after all only in his own house and had done nothing wrong: This is true so far as the initial confrontation goes, but thereafter, Gates did do wrong in do wrong in giving Crowley trouble, making him think he had better get backup, and thereby occupying several cops and cars. If a truly serious crime had occurred at this time, there may have been insufficient resources to deal with it. I just don’t think people should be giving the police a hard time, and it is easy to second guess once we know all the facts, facts that the cops simply can’t know at the time. And then of course Gates continued to alarm the onlookers with his tirade, justifying the arrest.
But isn’t it both grimly funny and darkly sobering that Gates could suddenly spout all the academic discourse about race at a relatively mild aggravation? He was even ready with the hip-hop lingo about ”yo’ mama.” To me, it was not about being black in America, but about being left-wing in academia. It goes to show that not only ideas, but words themselves have consequences, and if you spend a lot of time theorizing about racial injustice in the abstract, lowering standards, and elevating street culture, you might be distorting your own perspective on reality. Left-wing academic discourse can have real-life consequences. I mean other than destroying true education. It’s like what Paul says, to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey.