John Oliver on Ferguson and police militarization - must-watch video


Who ever said it was?

I think much of the division in this thread seems to be stemming from misunderstandings or mischaracterizations of what others have said. Imagine a spectator at Birmingham remarking “my God, they’re using fire hoses against peaceful protesters now! How horrific!” and being attacked for implying that fire hoses are worse than racism.


Totally. Agree.

I think of these crimes (and others) in terms of motivation, means, and opportunity.

Entrenched racism is the motivation,
militarization relates to the means,
and the fact that many racially-motivated crimes are invisible to, or dismissed by, most Americans creates opportunity.


Wrong. Go watch his actual show. Nothing could be further from the truth.


I’m beating a dead horse, but I disagree.

In my opinion, a very few people are pointing out that it’s a problem when the main (white) response, the main source of (white) consternation, and the main topic of media editorials is militarization, and not the underlying racism. When people are more concerned with fire hoses than Jim Crow laws, suggesting there is a misplaced focus is not inappropriate and is a valid source of frustration. As people have said in this thread, it’s easier for non-oppressed people to feel uncomfortable looking at images of militarization, and identify with this as a issue, than it is for them to care that an unarmed black teenager from a deeply criminalized environment was killed by police.


Thanks for telling me what is making me uncomfortable. I’m glad you’re able to telepathically know my true feelings. I’ve finally learned my lesson about not telling other people what the real problem is.


I haven’t said what you, or any specific person, feels—and in the portion you “quote” me as saying I’m repeating what others in this very thread have said. Maybe take this up with them? On the other hand, you have told us in other threads what Brown was possible/likely/probably feeling, so good point.


You are specifically telling us that focusing on one thing is mistaken, as if everyone you have responded to has only commented on the militarisation aspect of the matter and don’t recognise that racism is the main problem and biggest issue. It’s the definition of a straw man argument. Basically every issue you have raised has been addressed by someone now; akimio gave you the stats you’ve been asking for. Those weren’t enough. Funruly gave you a pile of examples that disprove your argument that no African Americans are concerned by, or interested in the militarisation aspect. Then you turn around and make your argument that people here (or somewhere that is not here, yet you are arguing with us?) are supposedly claiming that the militarisation aspect is a greater problem than racism.

Just such irrelevant commentary which is why I originally said, and still insist that you are wasting our time by arguing against a position that none of us are taking.


Out of interest @GideonTJones: are you at the protests in Ferguson?


So long as we’re measuring bona fides, perhaps everyone can say whether they’re at the protests (I’m not, and I’m not even in Missouri, but—unlike some people here—I am actually in the USA).

Also, for those that are arguing that militarization really is a serious problem for minority communities in ways that traditional policing is not, let us know whether you spend a lot of time in minority communities in the USA.


OK. Here are some stats. In 1960, black men were incarcerated at 5.01 times the rate of (non-Hispanic) whites, according to Pew. By 2010 that gap widened to 6.4 times (incarceration rates have also risen in general). Put differently, the rate of white incarceration increased by 259% since 1960, while the rate of black incarceration had risen by 331%.

In terms of total number of incarcerated persons, blacks and Hispanics made up 58% of all prisoners in 2008, according to the NAACP. Lets compare this to SWAT executions of search warrants: according to the ACLU study cited by @aikimo as evidence for his claim, 54% of SWAT searches were performed on minorities. So SWAT deployments are actually slightly less discriminatory than the overall criminal justice system. This would seem to track with what I’ve been saying: that militarization is simply another tool in the arsenal of discrimination, that it doesn’t seem to target minorities in a disproportionate way compared to other police techniques, and that it simply reflects the greater culture of discrimination. Maybe this is why the ACLU study itself says that the discriminatory impact of SWAT deployments is “no different” than the discriminatory impact of non-militarized policing.

Finally, SWAT teams and militarization cannot explain the rise in relative incarceration rates since 1960. The most generous estimates of SWAT deployments are about 80,000 per year. Let’s assume the worse case scenario: that all of them are for traditionally non-militarized law-enforcement purposes (as opposed to true special-needs purposes like hostage situations, etc.). And let’s also assume that every single on of these law-enforcement SWAT deployments (presumably to execute a search warrant) results in one additional incarceration that would not occur if the warrant/law-enforcement purpose had been achieved through a non-militarized mechanism. (These are really generous assumptions, and if you disagree with them let me know why.) In short, let’s generously assume that these 80,000 SWAT deployments lead to 80,000 incarcerations that would not otherwise happen. 54% of these would be minorities, as noted above, and 42% would be black. So that would give us 33,600 black incarcerations per year due to SWAT teams. Remove these SWAT-attributable incarcerations from the numbers and we have a drop in black inmates from about 900,000 to 865,000. which is about a 4% drop. In terms of incarceration rates, a 4% drop would translate to a drop from 4,347/100,000 people to 4,173/100,000. This is still 6.15 times greater than the 2010 white incarceration rate of 678, and still much larger than then the 1960 incarceration disparity of 5.01 times.

Clearly, the increase in militarized police tactics is not responsible for the increase in black incarceration rates, as the racial disparity in black-black incarceration rates continues to grow in the absence of militarized tactics, and SWAT deployments are no more racially disproportionate than the overall justice system.


That’s not what I said he said. I have caught wind of Gideon using some of the tools of those he dislikes, is all. And he hasn’t responded to me one. single. time. That’s some real good faith, eventually i just got direct. And I believe that’s what -you- are responding to.

as with one or two other commenters lately, I just sort of put GTJ on my do-not-bother list. I think it’s trolling. I find the rhetoric mendacious, the tone pedantic, and the points redundant and self-aggrandizing, and with no --solutions-- offered or discussed, just conversation policing. meh.


Mod note: Stay on topic


Nee lazy sundas for yee, bonny lad.


I don’t think @GideonTJones trolling, I think he’s been straight up about what his problem is. I understand his frustration, because stuff like this feels like it’s derailing the heart and soul of the topic, which is racism, especially against young black men. Look at this story that @crenquis posted recently. While I agree that the militarization of the police matters, the fact is that we, as a society are notoriously bad at addressing the concerns of African Americans in terms of brutality, and writing it off as a marginal issue. This has been the case for pretty much all of American history. Yes, police militarization is a problem, but that’s not the core issue involved in what’s happening in Ferguson, or what happened to Trayvon Martin, or what happened to John Crawford, or what has happened to any number of young black men whose names we don’t know because their stories aren’t on the news and no one is paying attention because white America just doesn’t care, overall.

Now, we have a luck dragon chasing us down the street, so I’m going to jump into this pile of boxes and trash now…


We, as individuals, are also notoriously bad at recognizing the choir, when we get our preach on.

Yes, valid problem you presented there. Police militarization, aside from being the title of the post and the topic of the video, happens to be just as useful at putting down greens and latinos, as well as other threats to the homefront.

If my ideological impurity and incorrect language can be seen past, maybe we can level the playing field together. This does not mean we use their tools. Their tools lead to their ends.

Their ends include oppression. Oppression is the problem, not which somewhat arbitrary group suffers it most at any given time, or what sematic games we can play.



I’m sorry, but I guess I just don’t see how you’re being oppressed because @GideonTJones pointed out that this misses the point of the problem in Ferguson…


In accordance to the wishes of the luckdragon, lets go back to the topic: The bit on John Oliver’s show. I ended up watching the whole show over the weekend and was struck by how this thread had been ridiculously redirected. The first half of his bit was about the racist aspect of Ferguson, the second half about police militarisation. I don’t think talking about multiple problems means that we’re “writing [one] off as a marginal issue”. I also don’t think that most of the readership here are the right targets for the charge that we’re ignoring the racist origins of issue.


Fair enough, but even there, I see that by having the two topics on the same show, they are conflating the issue in general. I think if the whole show had been about the militarization of the police, I’d be less inclined to see it as derailing, but just the fact that both are in the same show seems to me to be missing the main issue of Ferguson. Again, I think I’d have less of an issue if the whole show had been about either racism or militarization.

But militarization is an important issue…

holy crap, I have about a minute to post… I’m watching the countdown right NOW!!!

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