26 October 2015
Patrick Lynch, Propaganda Minister of the Police State
Patrick Lynch is the president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association of New York City. He was re-elected earlier this year after gaining national attention for blaming the assassination of two cops last December on the Mayor Bill DeBlasio's stand against police brutality. He's back in the news today for giving Quentin Tarantino some free publicity for his new movie. Looking to build up more street cred, the director of The Hateful Eight participated in an anti-brutality march last weekend and gave a speech in which he declared himself on the side of "the murdered," i.e. the victims of excessive police force. For this, Lynch has denounced Tarantino as a "purveyor of degeneracy," though to be fair, he may have formed an opinion of the man's movies before last weekend. Going further, Lynch has called for a boycott of The Hateful Eight -- a western about a bounty hunter and his female prisoner surrounded by suspicious characters -- to show disapproval of the filmmaker's "Cop Fiction" about excessive force. In America the boycott is the weapon of the weak, and I suppose Lynch has just as much right to boycott something because he doesn't like what it stands for as anybody else. But I can't help feeling that it's just a little different when you call for someone to be punished, economically or otherwise, for criticizing the police, even if you sincerely believe the person is misrepresenting you or, worse, lying. It's also just a bit hypocritical to demand that Tarantino be held to account for his words when you, speaking for police, refuse to be held accountable to public opinion for anything. Earlier this year, when cops were criticized for roughing up a black man, who proved to be a former tennis star, in a case of mistaken identity, Lynch -- and what a name that is for a cop! -- sneered at "arm-chair judges," telling them (and us), "If you have never struggled with someone who is resisting arrest or who pulled a gun or knife on you when you approached them for breaking a law, then you are not qualified to judge the actions of police officers putting themselves in harm's way for the public good." By this standard, civilian lawyers and judges were unfit to try the Nazis at Nuremberg if they'd never fired a shot in wartime. But lest someone think I've broken a rule of internet discourse, let's make this as simple as possible. Policemen are public servants. American policemen are public servants in a democratic republic. That means everyone is qualified to judge them. It is our prerogative to say how they should react when guns or knives or toys or wallets are pulled on them, or when young black men, or just plain black men, or young men, or poor men, appear on scary streets. Criticizing the police is one case when liberal society is right to insist that people be able to speak without fear of any form of reprisal. If we accept Lynch's logic and his premise that only cops are fit to judge their own actions and the circumstances in which they occur, then we concede that the police don't just enforce the law but make it. The police are supposed to enforce the will of the people as enacted in law, but too often it looks as if they prefer to enforce their will on the people, those who dare to criticize as well as those who fail to comply. Lynch's is the logic of a police state in which exclusive expertise puts police beyond public scrutiny. That such a person is the chosen representative of New York City police is telling if not damning -- but then again, maybe he's so good at collective bargaining that the rank and file will forgive his asshollering. That doesn't mean we should.