Law & the Courts

What Quentin Tarantino Didn’t Say

Tarantino in 2013 (Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty)
It’s not true that he ‘bluntly referred to police as ‘murderers.’’

Police unions representing hundreds of thousands of policemen have announced plans to boycott Quentin Tarantino’s new movie, which will open on Christmas Day. The National Association of Police Organizations, which represents a quarter-million policemen, issued a statement supporting the boycott as a response to Tarantino’s having “bluntly referred to police as ‘murderers’.” Conservatives ought to support Tarantino — not because they like him or his movies, not because they agree with any of his political positions or because they are anti-police, but because Tarantino did not call policemen murderers. His speech — such as it was — lasted just 30 seconds. This is what he said, in full:

“Hey, everybody. I got something to say, but actually I would like to give my time to the families that want to talk. I want to give my time to the families. However I do just also want to say: What am I doing here? I’m doing here because I am a human being with a conscience, and when I see murder I cannot stand by, and I have to call the murdered the murdered and I have to call the murderers the murderers. Now I want to give my time to the families.”

Tarantino never says, nor does he imply, that he thinks all policemen are murderers. In fact, given the context, it seems perfectly clear that he’s talking only about specific instances of people killed by specific policemen. In later remarks on MSNBC, he said that he was talking about the deaths of Eric Garner, Sam DuBose, Antonio Lopez Guzman, Tamir Rice, and Walter Scott: He believes that these men were murdered, and that the policemen who killed them were murderers. He may have had other specific cases in mind (I imagine he did). Obviously, though, talking about a subset of police shooting is very different from saying that everyone killed by a policeman has been murdered, or that every policeman, by virtue of being a policeman, is a murderer.

POLL: Should Quentin Tarantino Apologize to Police Officers?

Furthermore, I believe all (or virtually all) conservatives agree with him on some of the particulars. Walter Scott, for instance, was the unarmed man who was shot in the back as he ran away from a policeman. The policeman who did the shooting said he had been defending himself; a video showed he was lying; he was subsequently indicted and is awaiting trial.

#share#For reasons I won’t go into, there was a time, when I was very young, that my house was under 24-hour police protection. When I was a little older, family friends used to take me to a state-police shooting range for target practice. No one is more pro-police than I am. And I can assure you that thinking Walter Scott was murdered no more makes a man anti-cop than thinking Volkswagen cheated on emissions tests makes him anti-car, or than opposing illegal entry into the country makes him anti-immigrant. Which is why crank Republican congressman Ted Poe of Texas was so far out of line when he took to the floor of the House to say Tarantino “referred to peace officers as murderers. His hateful rhetoric called for violence against law enforcement, saying ‘I have to call a murderer a murderer, and I have to call a murder a murder’.”  That’s the sort of nonsense, misquotation, and slander you expect from Harry Reid.

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In a way, the attacks on Tarantino are an aberration. Maybe it’s cultural bias, but it seems to me that being carelessly (or maliciously) misquoted and misunderstood is a fact of life for right-wingers, not left-wingers. To take an example from this week: The leftist magazine Slate is furious with New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy. Murphy is a good and much beloved player; he is, by most accounts, a mensch. But in Slate’s mind, he is beyond redemption, having said about gay ex–Major Leaguer Billy Bean: “I disagree with his lifestyle.” Murphy added that he worries, “as a Christian, that we haven’t been articulate enough in describing what our actual stance is on homosexuality. We love the people. We disagree with the lifestyle. That’s the way I would describe it for me. It’s the same way that there are aspects of my life that I’m trying to surrender to Christ in my own life. There’s a great deal of many things, like my pride.”

Neither conservatives nor Mets fans can reasonably object to liberals’ being willfully obtuse if we’re guilty of the same thing.

Murphy, though he got a little tongue-tied, seems to be saying that he is no more anti-gay than he is anti-Murphy. As a Jew who chooses not to accept Christ, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Murphy “disagrees” with my lifestyle too. God knows that wouldn’t qualify him as an anti-Semite, just as I don’t think Murph’s saying, “We love the people. We disagree with the lifestyle” qualifies him as a “fomenter of homophobia” with “noxious personal prejudice.” (Two actual, direct quotes from the Slate article, which is titled “The Mets’ Anti-Gay Daniel Murphy Lost His Team the World Series. Good.”)

But neither conservatives nor Mets fans can reasonably object to liberals’ being willfully obtuse if we’re guilty of the same thing. You can’t be mad at Tarantino for something he didn’t say.

Josh GelernterJosh Gelernter is a former columnist for NRO, and a frequent contributor to The Weekly Standard.


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