Everything Wrong with Police Has Been on Display in Ferguson
After Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9, the cops’ reaction provided a neat snapshot of just about every dangerous aspect of policing in modern America.
For starters, there’s the reliable archetype of the racist cop. Brown, though he allegedly stole cigarellos from a convenience store not long before he died, was not stopped over a theft report. The weak jaywalking excuse for a police stop adds a flavor of profiling which angers people further, and makes the racial element of the shooting more pronounced. In Ferguson, the numbers suggest that black individuals are targeted for police stops more than whites. A few of their cops also once beat a 52-year-old man, then charged him for damaging their uniforms with his blood. Brown himself may have been a dumbass teenager who committed a petty crime, but now he can never grow up to be better than that.
The police showed up like an army, thereby antagonizing the mostly peaceful crowds, both before and after looting began on August 10. This reaction, where store owners often got screwed by the mob but the peaceful, pissed off folks got their First Amendment rights violated, underlined another major problem with the police: Aren’t they violating Posse Comitatus by now? Men in SWAT gear that resembles paramilitary garb may bust down the doors of various suspected drug criminals at night, but that mostly goes without video evidence (when there are exceptions to that,people tend to be shocked, even when it’s a normal drug raid). Seeing a roadblock that belonged in the Middle East during a weekday afternoon in Missouri was jarring to people just starting to grasp its new normalcy.
Yet another strike against the Ferguson Police was their incredible opacity after one of their own killed. They initiated a curfew, and then took six days to release the name of Wilson. They did everything they could to block media attention. On Sunday night, a SWAT officer screamed “Turn off that light! Get down!” and then “Get the fuck out of here!” at a student who was broadcasting live radio. The officer, allegedly pointing a gun, also yelled what sounds like: “Get that light out of here, or you’re getting shot with this.” Some outlets—including Mediaite—thought the cop yelled “or you’re getting shot in the face.” Others say the cop might have been yelling “getting shelled with this” instead of “shot.” Regardless, it was bad.
The worlds of academia and incarceration are closer than you may think.
This Week in Teens: Michael Brown Is Dead and Now We Know Who Killed Him
Have you read Nietzsche? Teens love the guy. I’m not super well versed in the German philosopher’s books, but I have read a few graphic tees with his picture on them, and from what I’ve picked up, the gist is that everything is inherently meaningless. So it goes with This Week in Teens, in which our only respite from the constant suffering around us is the comforting knowledge that life doesn’t have a purpose.
–America invented teenagers and apparently reserves the right to kill them, too. The biggest news this week—teen or otherwise—has been the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri. Police were quick to defend the act, while witnesses say that Brown didn’t do anything to provoke police, and was shot multiple times “until he just dropped down to the ground and his face just smacks the concrete.” Protests over the killing were countered by a militarized police force, complete with SWAT gear and armored vehicles. The incident has been covered from every angle: how Ferguson is America’s latest racial hotspot; how this represents a sort of Chekhov’s (military-grade machine) gun and the inevitable conclusion of post-9/11 defense spending; how eight unarmed teens are still at large; and how white people in suburban St. Louis don’t give a shit.
It took a bunch of protests for Ferguson police to name Darren Wilson as the officer who killed Michael Brown, which they finally did Friday morning. Police also released a report saying that Brown was a suspect in a “strong-arm robbery” of a box of Swisher Sweets cigars, and that Wilson was responding to the crime when Brown was killed. Whether Brown actually shoplifted is unknown at this point, not that it would in any way justify his death. All that’s clear is that we’re in a pretty terrible place right now, and there is no obvious path for things to get much better.
I Went Undercover in America’s Toughest Prison
Everyone knows the US imprisons more people than any other country in the world. What they might not know is that, as an American citizen, you’re more likely to be jailed than if you were Chinese, Russian or North Korean; that, with 2.3 million inmates, there are currently the same amount of people imprisoned in the States as the combined populations of Estonia and Cyprus; and that once Americans are sent to jail, they tend to keep going back.
According to a recent study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics—a US Department of Justice agency—within six months of release 28 percent of inmates get rearrested for a new crime. After three years, the figure rises to 68 percent. By the end of five years, it’s an alarming 77 percent. But terrible recidivism rates have been a constant in the Land of the Free. The Pew Research Center issued its own report on the problem in 2011; the conclusion was bleak. Too many criminal offenders emerge from prison ready to offend again, and more than four out of 10 adult offenders in America return to prison within three years of their release. For too many Americans, the prison door keeps revolving.
How do we try to change whatever it was that brought someone into trouble with the law? And if that proves impossible, what is the best way that society can protect itself? I wanted to find out. I also wanted to see how much of what I knew—or thought I knew—about jail turned out to be true. So I wrote to corrections departments worldwide asking for access.
We spent three weeks embedded with the Islamic State, gaining access to the group in Iraq and Syria.
Dumping a Bucket of Ice on Your Head Does Not Make You a Philanthropist
Unless you lack access to the internet, you’ve certainly seen the viral onslaught of Ice Bucket Challenge videos in the past few weeks. The idea is to dump a bucket of ice water over your head and “nominate” others to do the same, as a way of promoting awareness about ALS (a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease). If you don’t accept the challenge, you have to donate $100 to an ALS association of your choice. It’s like a game of Would-You-Rather involving the entire internet where, appallingly, most Americans would rather dump ice water on their head than donate to charity.
There are a lot of things wrong with the Ice Bucket Challenge, but most the annoying is that it’s basically narcissism masked as altruism. By the time the summer heat cools off and ice water no longer feels refreshing, people will have completely forgotten about ALS. It’s trendy to pretend that we care, but eventually, those trends fade away.
This is the crux of millennial “hashtag activism,” where instead of actually doing something, you can just pretend like you’re doing something by posting things all over your Facebook. Like the Ice Bucket Challenge, good causes end up being a collective of social media naval gazing. We reflected on our favorite social-movements-gone-viral and found out what happened to them after the fell off our Twitter feeds. Because, yes, social problems continue even after you stop hashtagging them.
Before hashtags even existed, there were still ways to obnoxiously flaunt a social cause that you had no real connection to. Remember Livestrong bracelets? Those rubbery yellow bracelets were the brainchild of Lance Armstrong, who sold them through the Livestrong Foundation to raise money and spread awareness about cancer. Everyone from Lindsay Lohan to Johny Kerry sported one on their wrist; wearing them signified that you were both sensitive and stylish.
At least the dollar you spent on the stupid-but-trendy bracelet went toward funding cancer research via the Livestrong Foundation. Or at least, so you thought. In actuality, the Livestrong Foundation started phasing out its cancer research in 2005, and stopped accepting research proposals altogether just a few years later. Over 80 million of the bracelets have been sold. Where the hell did all of that money go?
The world was more than a little shook-up when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked Haiti, burying at least 200,000 people and destroying much of the country’s infrastructure. #Haiti became thesecond-largest trending topic on Twitter that week, and was the subject of at least 15 percent of tweeted links in the week afterward. Remarkably, many of those links directed people to donation sites. Even the Red Cross mobilized on Twitter, encouraging people to send donations and spread the word about #HaitiRelief.
Social media may have actually done Haiti a solid, helping to raise $8 million in relief funds. But, like all things on the internet, they lose their luster and their urgency, and we forget about them. It’s been four years since the Haiti earthquake and although those initial donations made a huge impact in rebuilding the rumble of Port-au-Prince, there are still at least 150,000 Haitians living in the plywood shelters in relief camps. Earlier this year, NPR reported that many of these people are living without water, electricity, or light. Why isn’t anyone tweeting about that? Because #Haiti is so four years ago.
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Is Already Terrifying
The Iraq War sank Hillary Clinton when she ran for president in 2008. The former first lady and then-US Senator’s refusal to call her vote authorizing the invasion a mistake made her seem just enough like a George W. Bush clone to alienate liberal Democrats and hand some guy named Barack Obama their party’s nomination. But she doesn’t seem to have taken the rejection to heart, and may have actually become even more prone to saber-rattling since.
In a recent interview with the The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, the former Secretary of State talked Syria, Israel, Iraq, and the Obama Doctrine—if that’s really what we’re calling it now. In addition to all but admitting she is ready to run for the most powerful office on planet Earth two years from now, Clinton sounded a nostalgic tone for the bellicose American rhetoric of the Cold War, defended Israel’s latest brutal assault on Gaza, and knocked Obama for not meddling in foreign conflicts more often.
“Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” Clinton said, offering her most aggressive criticism yet of Obama’s famously (some would say toxically) “pragmatic” approach to the world. “You know, we did a good job in containing the Soviet Union, but we made a lot of mistakes, we supported really nasty guys, we did some things that we are not particularly proud of, from Latin America to Southeast Asia, but we did have a kind of overarching framework about what we were trying to do that did lead to the defeat of the Soviet Union and the collapse of Communism. That was our objective. We achieved it.”
Convert, pay a tax or face death.