Historical Perspective

Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?

–Henry II, 1170

Nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.

–Donald Trump, 2016

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68 Responses to “Historical Perspective”

  1. 1 1 Bennett Haselton
  2. 2 2 Ken B

    Trump’s remark is foolish but this is a hopeless analogy. For one thing he is envisioning “the second amendment folks” ‘s reaction after Hillary appoints the judges. This is more plausible as a reference to a right of revolution than as incitement to murder.

    A better take is here:


  3. 3 3 Robert Ferguson

    You are a smart guy, and I would like to know your assessment of Clinton’s qualifications for the presidency

  4. 4 4 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    No, it is a poor joke, but a good analogy.

    Trump’s argument was that all in his audience must vote for him because otherwise they’ll get Clinton judges and there is absolutely nothing anybody can do about that. Except of course for those “Second Amendment people” who alone can do “something.” Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

    There is absolutely no plausible interpretation of this than that:

    (a) Trump was suggesting that Second Amendment supporters might assassinate President Hillary or judicial candidates

    (b) Trump wasn’t serious for if he was, it would have cut counter to his argument. After all, we need worry much less about Hillary judges if we can count on “Second Amendment people” to kill her or them before they can do any harm.

    (c) Trump was, as is perhaps commonplace in his social milieu, mocking those Second Amendment people as hayseeds. And we all know how murdery *they* get once they are liquored up. In other words, he was insulting a constituency–Second Amendment supporters–he needs.

    A Trifecta of Trumpian Idiocy. Or, as his campaign staff calls it, Monday.

  5. 5 5 Will A

    Trump said at a rally while a protester was being removed:

    “Part of the problem and part of the reason it takes so long is nobody wants to hurt each other anymore.”

    And of course he wasn’t saying that people should hurt each other physically, he was talking about the low American voter turn out. You know, people don’t hurt bad politicians with their vote.

  6. 6 6 Khodge

    Trump was trolling Hillary, the Media, and the Democrat elite. For it to be anything other he would not have posited that Hillary wins.

    Like so much of his campaign, it makes for good theater as they rise to the bait.

  7. 7 7 Ken B

    You say there is only one plausible reading, yet your reading of Trump is by your own account senseless and inconsistent. My reading, and Althouse’s, is simple and consistent. It fits better with the flow of thought, as she adumbrates, and the time sequence of the hypothetical.
    There might be other interpretations; Khodge suggests one. So your claim is just hopeless.

  8. 8 8 iceman

    @3 – His statement is idiotic but sufficiently vague for other plausible interpretations, like people ultimately saying “you wanna take my guns, come and get ‘em then”. Which of course is never going to happen. Regarding your (b), he continues with “but that would be a horrible thing”. Which ironically is left out of most of the quotes going around but is actually the part that undercuts his walk-back that he meant they’re just a strong voting bloc.

    Bottom line I find it hard to believe that anyone familiar with his general lack of seriousness by now honestly believes the worst interpretations here. As with many of his other unscripted moments, his opponents would best let them stand on their own and stick to “presidents simply can’t speak so carelessly” than trying too hard to take them to lengths independent voters might not find reasonable. Just some free advice for the left.

  9. 9 9 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @Ken B: Trump suggests that there is “something” “Second Amendment people” and they only can do to prevent Prez. Hillary from appointing judges, but is too coy to say exactly what that unique capacity.

    The two most plausible explanations are that “Second Amendment” people would assassinate the President or the judge. Perhaps, Prof. Althouse’s suggestion that he really was referring to armed rebellion is also possible. But as Althouse concedes, it matters not which. In any way you slice it, he was calling for political violence.

    @Khodge: “He was just trolling” is getting to be the all purpose excuse for every Trump inanity.

    Trump could give this speech:
    “Good Evening. I call on all patriotic Americans to obtain sniper rifles and put bullets into Hillary Clinton’s head with effect of rendering her clinically dead. I am dead serious. Good Night.”

    At this point, I might conclude that Trump has just called for the assassination of a political rival. But I’m sure Khodge would inform me that I’m such a elitist fool who once again fell for Trump’s brilliant trolling.

  10. 10 10 Floccina

    I agree with Ken B. that it was a reference to armed resistance.

  11. 11 11 thomasblair

    Sub S,

    He could not give such a speech and claim trolling. Do you not see the difference in specificity between his comments and your sample speech? It is the vagueness that allows him to troll.

  12. 12 12 nobody.really

    For what it’s worth, upon hearing Trump’s words, I had the same association as Landsburg.

  13. 13 13 Ken B

    First, you are confabulating an “only”. Do we agree Trump did not say “only”? Do we agree this confabulation reflects on the partiality and care of your reading?
    Second, look at what “second amendment people” talk about. They talk about armed resistance to tyrannical government. A LOT. A whole lot. Are we agreed this is a major theme amongst those who can be reasonably characterized as “second amendment people”? Even to the point of being characteristic or defining?

  14. 14 14 Ken B

    I think Steve Landsburg’s quotation is sloppy, since it seems clear that “nothing” is not the first word of a sentence, as the capitalization implies. It is sloppy in a tendentiousness way too.

  15. 15 15 Ken B

    Frankly this thread rather repels me. For years this blog has upheld standards of fairness and accuracy in dealing with opponents and there claims. The principle of charity and a care in representation were marked. They are not here.

  16. 16 16 thomasblair

    Ken B,

    This is just the most recent version of Bush Derangement Syndrome, except the tribal lines are slightly different this time.

  17. 17 17 Will A

    @ Ken B #15

    Here is another take:

    Basically, Trump is trying to talk to groups he isn’t familiar with and that lack of familiarity means he doesn’t understand their points:

    The pro–gun rights groups who’ve pushed for a broader interpretation of the Second Amendment in recent years have done so by filing lawsuits on behalf of people whose guns were illegal where they lived — not by encouraging those people to try to fire on officers if they confiscated their weapons.

    Many pro-life conservatives see women who seek abortions not as would-be murderers but as victims themselves, or even try to provide support to make it easier for women to keep their pregnancies.

    And pro-business conservatives, whatever policies they’re blocking in the federal government, never say they think people are getting paid too much money. The arguments, rather, are about pushing back against shorter hours or keeping employment up.

    But Trump doesn’t know any of this. He’s new to conservatism, and when he tries to appeal to these voters, it shows.

  18. 18 18 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @Ken B: Trump directed his comments only at “Second Amendment people” and said that they might just be able to do something–while being coy about what that something was–to stop a President Hillary from appointing judges.

    The obvious implication to our gracious host, the wise nobody.really, and your humble self is that he was talking about assassinating either the President or judicial nominees. The interpretation proffered by Prof. Althouse, you, and some others that he was merely suggesting armed rebellion, strikes me as as a less likely. But even if that was the more likely one, Trump was still calling for political violence.

    The factor that Trump subsequently tried to claim that he obviously meant something different entirely from what either you or we consider the clear implication, ought not to advance any of our estimations for his honesty and trustworthiness.

    Mr. Trump and his campaign did not treat his remark as a joke; instead, they insisted he was merely urging gun rights supporters to vote as a bloc against Mrs. Clinton. “The Second Amendment people have tremendous power because they are so united,” he told a CBS affiliate in North Carolina late Tuesday.

    In an interview with Fox News, Mr. Trump grew adamant. “There can be no other interpretation,” he said, adding, “I mean, give me a break.”

    But at his rally earlier in the day, Mr. Trump had actually been discussing what could happen once Mrs. Clinton was president, not before the election.


  19. 19 19 Sub Specie Æternitatis


    Maybe I’m just an old fuddy-duddy who doesn’t understand the rules of trolling or how cool trolls are.

    Maybe implying something outrageous, as long as the implication remains vague enough to just barely remain within the territory of the plausibly deniable, is a perfectly fine way for persons seeking the Presidency to behave.

    Maybe those who respond to the clear implication are clueless fools who fell into the trap of brilliant troll and advance the troll’s cause by exposing themselves as humorless nitwits.

    And maybe Marc Anthony really did come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

  20. 20 20 Zazooba
  21. 21 21 Looks Normal

    We might contrast with other recent candidates. FactCheck.org:

    Q. Did President Obama once say of Republicans: “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.”

    A: Yes. Obama made those remarks at a fundraiser in Philadelphia during the 2008 presidential campaign. He was paraphrasing a quote from the 1987 mob movie “The Untouchables.”

  22. 22 22 Ken B

    So Sub, in your ever shifting tale of Trumpian turpitude you now stipulate what you once denied, that the remarks were about a hypothetical to occur after only Hillary is president? So the turbulent priest bit (as I know the quote) cannot be right then. This is where we came in.

    Your position is frankly a transparent case of confirmation bias run amok. If the hypothetical is about after Clinton is elected it also seems to be after the judges rule. Do you seriously deny that is a sensible, even likely, reading? So then it’s not about preemptively offing judges: it’s about what “second amendment people” rant about endlessly.

    And twice now you have misrepresented what Althouse and I think he said, since he is not in that case *calling for* violence. Saying that might be someone’s only recourse is not the same as advocating it. I tell a friend his only recourse is a costly lawsuit, but I tell him to forget it and eat his loss. Plus as Althouse notes, he’s really just raising a technicality. Does the phrase “I don’t know” suggest anything in that case? To me it suggests uncertainty. Is your experience with the phrase different? (Insert eye roll here)

  23. 23 23 Roger

    @Sub: You say that there is no other interpretation, but you ignore the interpretation that Trump himself has given. Specifically, the 2A ppl will do what they have done in the past to persuade politicians and the public of their position.

  24. 24 24 Zazooba

    @Looks Normal

    In 2006, John Kerry joked about killing George Bush, saying “I could have gone to 1600 Pennsylvania and killed the real bird with one stone.”


    There was such a furious uproar following Kerry’s remarks, especially from the NYT, that the poor guy hasn’t been able to get a job in Washington since then. … Oh wait. That didn’t happen at all.

  25. 25 25 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @Ken B:

    So Sub, in your ever shifting tale of Trumpian turpitude you now stipulate what you once denied, that the remarks were about a hypothetical to occur after only Hillary is president?

    May I refer you to the fourth post, my first, in this thread where I stated that Trump was suggesting that Second Amendment supporters might assassinate President Hillary or judicial candidates. By referring to Hillary as President and judicial candidates, I thought it was pretty unambigous that this discussion was about post-election events.

    In fact, it had never occured to me that there was an alternative theory that Trump was referring to pre-election/election events until I saw the Trump campaign make that implausible claim, as quoted above.

    So would you kindly retract your claim that I now stipulate what [I] once denied.

    Your position is frankly a transparent case of confirmation bias run amok. If the hypothetical is about after Clinton is elected it also seems to be after the judges rule. Do you seriously deny that is a sensible, even likely, reading? So then it’s not about preemptively offing judges: it’s about what “second amendment people” rant about endlessly.

    I think the most plausible reading is that it refers to the assassination of President Hillary or judicial nominees. Perhaps it could also be read as referring to the assassination of confirmed judges or judges after they make ruling disfavored by Second Amendment people. Perhaps it could even refer to armed uprisings against the government as a whole. I’m not going to waste time arguing which one of these is more likely, though I have expressed a preference, because the outcome is the same: a call for political violence by those Second Amendment people using the firearms they so cling to.

    Saying that might be someone’s only recourse is not the same as advocating it. I tell a friend his only recourse is a costly lawsuit, but I tell him to forget it and eat his loss. Plus as Althouse notes, he’s really just raising a technicality. Does the phrase “I don’t know” suggest anything in that case? To me it suggests uncertainty. Is your experience with the phrase different? (Insert eye roll here)

    When a politician warns that his supporters might just engage in violence if he doesn’t get his way, he is threatening violence, no matter how transparently veiled the threat is.

    If you find that hard to understand, imagine yourself the owner and keeper of a small antiques shop when a bunch of unknown men in bad suits barge in and their leader engages you in a conversation along the following lines:

    Nice shop you have here. Veeeeerry nice… You must be making a lot of money with all these … fragile and … flammable items on sale.

    [Associate breaks a vase.]

    No, Guido! Sir, I am so sorry for my clumsy associate. But you have to understand, he is so bored and distraught these days. All he dreams about is being a volunteer fireman for this block, but he cannot afford the uniform. So now all he does is mope around and break things. Accidentally, of course. I so wish he didn’t do that.

    What? No, no, no! I’m not at all suggesting that Guido will keep breaking things until an association of the local merchants contributes funds to his volunteer fire fighting. I don’t know! Nor would I say that without a volunteer firefighter, the risk of this block just burning down one night are very high. I don’t know!

    Now, Ken B will doubtlessly interpret this as a visit by such a nice man, so concerned about the welfare of both the shop keeper and random associates and not threatening at all. I mean he said he didn’t know and denied any threat. Repeatedly! Let’s sign up for the weekly cash contribution to this nice man.

    Others will have a different interpretation.

  26. 26 26 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    One of the classical modes in which democracies fail is initiated by the open or veiled threats of political leaders that their followers will commit political violence—anything from assassinations to street battles to riots—unless they get their way. Such threats can be quite effective at intimidating adversaries, gaining support from the uncommitted who fear violence above all, and discouraging turn-coats in their own ranks.

    But because it is effective, the other side will have to either start making its own threats or find itself at a permanent disadvantage. And once both sides threaten violence, the slippery slope is well greased. One side will lose the elections and then either initiate violence or expose itself as a paper tiger.

    At that point, even if leaders of both sides recognize and sincerely seek to avoid the ultimate outcome, deescalation is almost impossible. Neither side will unilaterally disarm. Neither side will trust the promises of future non-violence by the other, and with some reason as the more radical elements on either side will not honor such promises. There is no exit ramp on the road to civil war.

    It is for this reason that in functioning democracies there is a taboo against responsible political leaders taking even the first step along that road. No suggestion that followers will engage in violence unless the party prevails must ever be spoken or even hinted at. Not even if it is an honest and accurate prediction of the future. Not even if it is accompanied with the most sincere exhortations to followers not to engage in violence. Never, ever.

    Note that this rule of political hygiene applies to threats of violence by political leaders unless they prevail. Even actual, sporadic acts of violence by unhinged supporters—almost inevitable in any large society—or idle, tasteless musing of personal violence by political leaders, such as those cataloged by @Zazooba, don’t pose anywhere near the same risks.

    Probably the most serious, recent, large-scale U.S. violation of this taboo is the “No justice, no peace” slogan chanted by black activists and embraced by some of the more radical Democratic leaders in the cities. But now that the Presidential candidate of a major political party has dipped his toe into these waters, we may be in for a much more rapid deterioration.

  27. 27 27 Zazooba


    Probably the most serious, recent, large-scale U.S. violation of this taboo is the “No justice, no peace” slogan chanted by black activists and embraced by some of the more radical Democratic leaders in the cities.

    Bingo. 100% agree. Hillary has enthusiastically embraced BLM and Michael Brown, so she is well down this road.

    Here’s a simple test. Imagine that Trump supporters had systematically disrupted Hillary rallies and attacked Hillary supporters the way Trump’s rallies and supporters have been disrupted and attacked. How would the media narrative be different? How many of those Trump supporters would be in jail?

    Scott Adams seems to sincerely believe that if he appears to support Trump his life will be in danger. Can you say he is wrong?

  28. 28 28 Harold

    FWIW, here is what I think. SSA clearly goes too far by saying “there is absolutely no plausible interpretation” than the one he gives. It does seem very unlikely that trump was not making a bad joke about violence in the form of rebellion or assassination. As SSA says, it matters not very much which. There are other plausible explanations, including that Trump had no idea what he was saying and just put phrases together in random order. That said, Ken B seems to be going too far in objecting to SSA. SSA may agree to change the phrasing slightly.

    Not sure why Ken B is is concerned about the selective quote. the fuller one is “By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”

    That does not seem to make much difference to me.

  29. 29 29 Sub Specie Æternitatis


    “Black lives matters” is not the same as “No justice, no peace.” On the most simple reading, the former slogan is something which doubtlessly all of us agree; the latter is not.

    Even on a more substantive matter, some of the demands associated with the BLM movement are not unreasonable; police sometimes do—negligently, recklessly, or maliciously—commit abuses, disproportionately (though hardly exclusive) against young black men and are far too rarely held to account. No, not even when the abuses are against middle-class white people.

    [Sprawling, illustrative anecdote which I meant to write about for ages follows. Feel free to skip.]

    I am a mild-mannered, white, middle-aged lawyer. One day I was heading back to LaGuardia from meeting with clients downtown. The cab was on an on-ramp to the highway when the car in front of us just kept missing opportunities to merge into traffic. The cabbie got upset about this and started cursing the driver under his breath and may have made an obscene gesture or maybe not; I was not paying much attention, but he surely did nothing more threatening.

    In response, the car in front of us did not move on or just ignore the cabbie, but rather went into park in the middle of the on-ramp. All four doors on the unmarked vehicle opened simultaneously and out rolled–I had never previously understood that usage–four burly white men. The men took strategic positions in front of each of the cab doors and exposed their side-arms. The leader of the men demanded that the cabbie roll down his window.

    When the cabbie complied, the leader displayed an NYPD badge, announced that he and his colleagues were plain-clothes officers and how dare the cabbie be so disrespectful. This was followed by a long stream of obscene abuse directed at the cabbie who practically kowtowed to the armed man screaming at him and his impassive followers. Having meted out sufficient humiliation, the men withdrew to their car, finally merged onto the highway, and I made it to my flight in time.

    At no point during the encounter, did I think violence more likely than not. However, I am positive that this event was my record p(dying in a hail of gun fire within the next 60 seconds); a record I hope not break.

    Was there any consequence for this clear abuse by the officers? Of course not. I do not live in NYC and do not relish spending time traveling there to testify at hypothetical disciplinary hearings sure to clear the cops. The cabbie surely also knew better to complain. Hence, I expect that this sort of abuse continues unabated on a daily basis.

    So, yes, there are real police abuses and BLM, and everybody else, is right to complain about them.

    That said, the real BLM movement is hardly worthy of support. It categorically refuses to recognize cases in which police abuse was conclusively disproven and continues to venerate vile thugs, like Michael Brown, who brought police shooting on themselves. It extends its agenda from curbing police abuse to the complete smörgåsbord of every vicious, progressive policies, see, e.g., https://policy.m4bl.org/platform/. And its leaders are the same odious irredentists of “No justice, no peace.” (And on the mirror image of whose rhetoric Trump has so long thrived.)

    However, no matter how unappetizing the core of BLM is, the existence of a reasonable fringe is what allows politicians like Hillary Clinton to embrace it, all the while pretending that only this fringe exists. Is that hypocritical? For sure. But it is the possibility of that hypocrisy that permits her to embrace BLM without violating the taboo against threatening violence. She could not do that with “No Justice, No Peace.”

    As for media bias, you are preaching to the choir. There are probably not many in this forum who would disagree with the description of most journalists as Democrats with bylines. I, for one, do not believe that the NYT sends every piece of political coverage over to the DNC for editing and approval before publication. What is remarkable is that the NYT would not read much different if they did.

    So if some of us are not blowing the media bias horn every day any more, it is not because we disagree. In my case, it is because I cannot think of anything new to say on the subject.

  30. 30 30 Sub Specie Æternitatis


    Scott Adams seems to sincerely believe that if he appears to support Trump his life will be in danger. Can you say he is wrong?

    I enjoy Dilbert and consider Adams an interesting guy. But from reading a fair amount of his non-Dilbert writing as well as watching many interviews, I am positive that absolutely nothing he says is intended to be taken at face value. As such, I seriously doubt that the actually fears for his life.

  31. 31 31 Ken B


    So would you kindly retract your claim that I now stipulate what [I] once denied.

    Retracted; it was the logical implications you once denied, not the statement. :)

  32. 32 32 Ken B

    @SSA 30
    A point for your side:

    “A 62 year-old man was beaten bloody with a crowbar last Wednesday. His crime? Wearing a “Trump For President” t-shirt.

    According to Bloomfield Police, Peter Yankowski was walking on West Passaic Ave in the early evening when a stranger in a gray compact car approached him and demanded to know why he was wearing the t-shirt, ”

    Adams is only 59.


  33. 33 33 Roger

    You guys seems to value logic, but it is a severe logical error to say that Trump’s comments imply violence.

    There are sensible and non-violent interpretations to what Trump said.

  34. 34 34 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @Ken B#31:

    I’ll take it. While I would venture that I did not even imply anything incorrect, let’s spare the other commenters’ patience and our keyboard’s wear. ;)

    @Ken B#32:

    Political violence, like that incident you cited, does happen in this country and has happened for a long time. Both sides have bloody shirts to wave and their include those of Matthew Shepherd (according to one likely theory) and Robert Byrd. I do like to think that we have fewer thugs on our side and do less to encourage them.

    It is beyond argument that every violent crime committed by our thugs will receive wall-to-wall national coverage, like the Shepherd and Byrd murders did, and anybody who objects to that will be vilified as the equivalent of the thugs. Meanwhile those by their thugs will at most receive coverage as local news story, unless they can be reframed so that the guilt can be assigned to our side. So when an American communist assassinates JFK, in the narrative it was Right-Wing Dallas, the “City of Hate,” that pulled the trigger. When a Muslim extremists and registered Democrat commits a blood-bath in Orlando, the Gay Pride banner in response will read “Conservative Christian Hate Kills!”

    But I am tired of arguing media bias, when all of us know it exists.

    What is new is that the Presidential nominee of a party I until recently supported begins aping not only the identity-grievances of the identitarian left, but also starts toying with the same type of appeal to violence. The country can and has survived low-level political violence. It may not political violence instigated by the highest levels of major parties. That way lies civil war.

  35. 35 35 Dave

    I don’t know that any one statement, taken by itself, is evidence of a crime. In this one case, Trump seemed to be doing what he always does: Thinking out loud, with almost no filter.

    But let’s say the following day, someone with lots of guns (and little comprehension of nuance) decided that Trump had issued a call to arms. After all, he specifically said that Hillary was going to overturn part of the Constitution, and true patriots are expected to defend the Constitution with their lives.

    Let’s say Gomer gets (and takes) a shot at the Democratic nominee.

    Does it matter if he kills her? Does it matter if he says Trump told him to?

    If Hillary were a civilian, then the only way Trump could be charged is if he specifically intended for Hillary to be hurt. So his claim that violence was not intended is an absolute defense.

    But let’s say that Gomer waits until Hillary is President. When she is not longer a civilian, the statute for inciting violence no longer requires that harm was intended. (It only requires that harm resulted from a “reckless disregard for safety.”)

    For the moment, Trump still has an absolute defense: No one (yet) has been hurt.

    But it is only August. And in the last 24 hours, Trump has continued to use the language of violence and hatred, even going so far as to accuse Barack and Hillary of being the founders of the ISIS movement.

    How long will it take until this boils over into violence? And when it does, how can any reasonable person claim that violence was never the intent?

    If I accuse a neighbor of being a member of ISIS on television, I can be sued for slander. If someone acts on my claim, I could be an accessory to murder.

    Donald Trump understands (to everyone’s peril) these same laws don’t apply to him. And we sit back and laugh, because he has not turned the mob loose on us.

    But who is to say that he will not do so? Are you brave enough to publish an attack against him? As his armies grow, will you be brave enough six months from now?

  36. 36 36 Ken B

    “But it is only August. And in the last 24 hours, Trump has continued to use the language of violence and hatred, even going so far as to accuse Barack and Hillary of being the founders of the ISIS movement.”

    This is really silly. Trump is not asserting Obama has an embossed ISIS membership card with “Member #1″ printed on it. He is making a substantive (and I think wildly incorrect) criticism of American foreign policy under Obama and Hillary. The same kind of criticism I have been hearing from the Left and the Paulines for a long time. And not jsut about ISIS or Iraq or Somalia or … About Cambodia and Laos back in the day too — every ill flows from us, only we have agency. I think it’s hopeless but it’s not ” the language of violence and hatred”. I saw a very funny comedian who blamed the Khmer Rouge on Nixon.

    So to be clear. I am — again it seems necessary — standing up for honest debate and representation here, not for Trump. This issue highlights perfectly why I rejected Trump long ago.

  37. 37 37 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @Ken B:

    So to be clear. I am — again it seems necessary — standing up for honest debate and representation here, not for Trump. This issue highlights perfectly why I rejected Trump long ago.

    Glad to have this confirmed and good on you. It is easy to overlook flaws in arguments the conclusion of which one already shares. Those who point out flawed arguments, even if they agree with the conclusion, do a valuable service in preventing this place from becoming an echo chamber.

  38. 38 38 Zazooba

    Here’s a pair of interesting thought experiments:

    1. If the media/entertainment industry/major donors/etc. were as biased for Trump as they currently are for Hillary, what would the poll numbers be?

    2. Same question, but assume the media etc. are evenly split between Trump and Hillary.

    As a warmup, you might want to think about the screaming tsunami of headlines we would see if the media were in the bag for Trump.

    Sample: “Hillary Rally Attendance Continues to Dwindle as Trump Rallies Continue to Grow. Insiders Desperately Urge Hillary to Shake her Bunker Mentality.”

    Another sample: “Brown University Disciplines Student for Displaying Hillary Poster after Hillary Again Refuses to Face Juanita Broadrick: Anguished Rape Survivor at Brown: “Seeing that hateful poster was like being raped all over again – We need to stand up and say that rape is NOT ok no matter WHAT Hillary may think’”.

  39. 39 39 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @Zazooba: You need not imagine. Just go to drudgereport.com or breitbart.com and transpose their headline to MSNBC or NYT.

  40. 40 40 Khodge

    Sub @9
    I don’t know that it is especially brilliant; it seems to be second nature, a matter of practice and knowing your opponent’s weakness, skills associated with marketing, the one thing I readily acknowledge he’s really good at.

  41. 41 41 iceman

    Since I think we’ve stretched interpretations of people’s public comments beyond the breaking point (and as others have mentioned, well beyond the reach of the principle of objective charity that I have long appreciated about this blog), a different question:

    The broader context here that has “those people’s” emotions running high is that, as I understand it, we really are just one justice away from saying citizens may not be allowed to possess a weapon *in their own home* — forget about concealed carry — in a dangerous neighborhood. Which seems extraordinary to me, I would love it if someone could explain to me why it shouldn’t. [BTW this is why I maintain another plausible interpretation of the comments in question is "you want my guns? Come and get' em!" Which is not fairly characterized as inciting violence or even armed rebellion, just reluctant resistance. Note I've already said the comments were idiotic.]

  42. 42 42 Harold

    SSA: “vile thugs, like Michael Brown, who brought police shooting on themselves.”

    Where is the evidence to support this? I had a similar discussion with Ken B, who failed to provide any evidence.

    I am not stating that there is definitely not any evidence- I have not seen it all. But I presume SSA must have reason for believing brown is a vile thug who brought being shot on himself.

  43. 43 43 Ken B

    Oh horsesh&t Harold. No evidence? We have a gloriously detailed report with lots of forensics. Witnesses, stains, ballistics, and common sense. What you mean is I didn’t give *logical proof* that Michael Brown, fresh from basically mugging an innocent man and robbing a store didn’t actually want to hug the officer inside his police car after stroking the cops pistol first or some equally implausible. People can scroll back if they care and read the debate.

    Let’s apply the exact argument you made in another recent case. Canadian police recently killed Aaron Driver. Google it. He’s dead so we can’t get his side of the story, maybe he was planning a lovely bit of busking instead and just joking around. Maybe he is video was a creative writing project or an inside joke. He’s dead, don’t know his side. Can’t prove otherwise, can’t say he wanted to bomb people. Can’t.

  44. 44 44 Ken B
  45. 45 45 Zazooba

    @Ken B #42.

    Not again.

    You went through this with Harold at length just a few weeks ago. Now he’s back pretending none of that happened. Ignore Harold, he’s a troll. He trolled me twice already. Troll me once, shame on you, troll me twice, shame on me.

    Here are some lyrics to a song Mike Brown was involved in:

    With this Glock in your face
    And you betta not make a sound
    And I only like white men on my money [???]
    Those who are last shall be first,
    Whites on the bottom
    He musta walked up and unloaded because there was no stopping him
    Somebody else layin’ across the street, must be his partner


  46. 46 46 Zazooba

    @SSA #29

    Thanks for the anecdote.

    I have heard a few of these anecdotes related by people I know, which suggests police misbehavior is somewhat common. Steve Sailer has a particularly atrocious example of kid being shot and killed by mistake.

  47. 47 47 Harold

    Zazooba. I have been accused of being a troll, but never here. I suggest you up your game. Accusations of trolling may shut down argument in some places, but hopefully not here. Please point out where you think I trolled you and I will try to explain.

    Ken B. We have masses of evidence and detailed investigations, the results of which we should respect. If the conclusion of these investigations is that Brown was a vile thug, or that Brown instigated an unprovoked attack on an armed policeman with intent to kill or injure, then show me those conclusions and I will respect them.

    In the absence of such conclusions we are talking your story against mine, and you have no more evidence than I do.

    Contrast the driver case. He had exploded one bomb, there was a video of him threatening to explode another. Is there any parallel with Brown? Ken B you seem to be loosing your usually reliable razor sharpness.

    How can I break this down? Driver may have been on a creative acting thing, all his threats may be jokes. Yes, we can come up with other explanations for them. But they do exist. There is actual evidence that driver was planning to kill people. There is NO evidence (that anyone has shown me) that Brown planned to attack or injure anyone. There is evidence he pushed a shop assistant. That is totally different from issuing bomb threat. I am sure you would not think that lethal force was permissible against anyone that had ever pushed anyone -even a violent push. “Yes your honor, I shot him, but we have video evidence that he once pushed a shop assistant rather violently, so there is no need to investigate further. I was obviously justified in taking down this violent, vile thug. The video evidence proves this”

    “We have a gloriously detailed report with lots of forensics. Witnesses, stains, ballistics, and common sense.” And none of this shows that your story is accurate. Unless the investigators back up your claims you are just telling another story. If you can quote me the conclusion of the investigation that Brown attacked Wilson with intent to injure then I will accept that, and wonder why you did not say this before.

    If you have no quote to that effect, then you are just making up a story, just like mine.

  48. 48 48 Ron

    1. We have an actual lawyer’s evaluation of Trump’s statement:

    2. Trump could plausibly be referring to “2nd amendment people”‘s tendency to vote as
    a block where 2nd amendment concerns are at issue. This could involve making sure that
    the senate will never “advise and consent” to add a gun-banning judge, no matter what
    Hillary tries.

  49. 49 49 Sub Specie Æternitatis


    We have an actual lawyer’s evaluation of Trump’s statement. [Links to fine popehat commentary.]


  50. 50 50 Khodge

    Trump is not a lawyer, does not think like a lawyer, and does not have his statements vetted by lawyers. He hires lawyers to do his legal work not his PR or his (publicly admitted) political horse-training.

    That is why rational mathematical and legal types will always be uncomfortable with his bluster.

  51. 51 51 Ken B

    Harold, your position it seems is this. In cases that might embarrass Democrats we may not infer intent from action; in others we may.

  52. 52 52 Ken B

    The site is remarkably slow these days.

  53. 53 53 Richard R

    There is no evidence that he is calling for Hilary Clinton to be assassinated. He says “second amendment people” can do something. Who are “second amendment people” and what do they believe? a) second amendment people believe they are allowed guns to kill people with whom they disagree. b) second amendment people believe that the right to own guns is an important principle of american democracy and may act as a group to protect that right such as voting as a bloc.

  54. 54 54 Sub Specie Æternitatis

    @Richard R:

    second amendment people believe that the right to own guns is an important principle of american democracy and may act as a group to protect that right such as voting as a bloc.

    We are repeating ourselves, but no, that is not a possible interpretation. Trump said:

    “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” Mr. Trump said, as the crowd began to boo. He quickly added: “Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”

    Hillary only gets to pick judges after she is elected. No amount of “block-voting” by “Second Amendment people” will stop that. The only plausible interpretation is that they would engage in political violence, such as assassinating Hillary, the judges, or armed rebellion.

  55. 55 55 Harold

    SSA, It is surely possible that Trump is referring to that IF at the start. If she gets to pick there is nothing you can do, but maybe there is something you can do so she doesn’t get to pick.

    May not be supportable in a legal contract, but in a spoken context where we can expect less precise language, I think it is a plausible interpretation, although I personally don’t think for one second that is what he meant, and it was a joke about assassination in very poor taste.

    Ken B #51. There is always risk in attaching intent from action, particularly when we have limited information. We have only one account of the altercation in the car and we have no evidence at all about the state of mind of Brown. The investigation did not draw any conclusions about that. I simply took the same actions and attached different intent to yours. It seems an entirely reasonable alternative explanation and you have not provided any evidence that it is not. You and others say he was a vicious thug motivated by intent to kill or injure the policeman. I say he was a frightened young man afraid of the policeman, especially after he had already been shot once in the car. I am not implying any wrong action by Wilson. Both may be true to some extent but we do not really know, and it wrong to claim that we do. It has nothing to do with the Democrats or embarrassment to them. It is about slandering an individual that cannot defend himself because he is dead.

  56. 56 56 Ken B

    Harold sees no evidence. From the DOJ report

    Wilson and other witnesses stated that Brown then reached into the SUV through the
    open driver’s window and punched and grabbed Wilson. This is corroborated by bruising on
    Wilson’s jaw and scratches on his neck, the presence of Brown’s DNA on Wilson’s collar, shirt,
    and pants, and Wilson’s DNA on Brown’s palm. While there are other individuals who stated
    that Wilson reached out of the SUV and grabbed Brown by the neck, prosecutors could not credit
    their accounts because they were inconsistent with physical and forensic evidence, as detailed
    throughout this report.

    First bullet

    Wilson fired, striking Brown in the hand. Autopsy results and bullet trajectory,
    skin from Brown’s palm on the outside of the SUV door as well as Brown’s DNA on the inside
    of the driver’s door corroborate Wilson’s account that during the struggle, Brown used his right
    hand to grab and attempt to control Wilson’s gun. According to three autopsies, Brown
    sustained a close range gunshot wound to the fleshy portion of his right hand at the base of his
    right thumb. Soot from the muzzle of the gun found embedded in the tissue of this wound
    coupled with indicia of thermal change from the heat of the muzzle indicate that Brown’s hand
    was within inches of the muzzle of Wilson’s gun when it was fired. The location of the
    recovered bullet in the side panel of the driver’s door, just above Wilson’s lap, also corroborates
    Wilson’s account of the struggle over the gun and when the gun was fired, as do witness
    accounts that Wilson fired at least one shot from inside the SUV.


    As detailed throughout this report, several witnesses stated that Brown appeared to pose a
    physical threat to Wilson as he moved toward Wilson. According to these witnesses, who are
    corroborated by blood evidence in the roadway, as Brown continued to move toward Wilson,
    Wilson fired at Brown in what appeared to be self-defense and stopped firing once Brown fell to
    the ground.

    While credible witnesses gave varying accounts of exactly what Brown was doing with
    his hands as he moved toward Wilson – i.e., balling them, holding them out, or pulling up his
    pants up – and varying accounts of how he was moving – i.e., “charging,” moving in “slow
    motion,” or “running” – they all establish that Brown was moving toward Wilson when Wilson
    shot him. Although some witnesses state that Brown held his hands up at shoulder level with his
    palms facing outward for a brief moment, these same witnesses describe Brown then dropping
    his hands and “charging” at Wilson.

    I have quoted above only the conclusions of the report. That is apparently all Harold considers evidence. I think there is much more. Consider witness 103

    Witness 103 is a 58-year-old black male who gave two statements. First, Witness 103
    was reluctant to meet with SLCPD detectives, FBI agents, and federal prosecutors because he
    has no particular allegiance to law enforcement. Witness 103 is a convicted felon who served
    time in federal prison, and has a son who was shot and injured by law enforcement during the
    commission of a robbery. Witness 103 expressed concerns because there were signs in the
    neighborhood of Canfield Drive stating, “snitches get stitches.” Therefore, he agreed to be
    interviewed only on the condition of confidentiality. Witness 103 later testified before the
    county grand jury.
    According to Witness 103, he was driving his blue pickup truck in the opposite direction
    of Wilson’s SUV, and ended up virtually next to the driver’s side of the SUV when it stopped.
    Relative to Witness 102, Witness 103 had a similar, but much closer view of the driver’s side of
    the SUV. … although he did not see what led
    up to it, he saw Brown punching Wilson at least three times in the facial area, through the open
    driver’s window of the SUV. …[Later] Witness 103
    turned to his right, and saw Brown “moving fast” toward Wilson. Witness 103 then drove away

    That is evidence.

  57. 57 57 Harold

    Ken B. That is evidence, but what is it evidence of? If you read my version all this evidence is consistent with my proposed account. None of it says anything about what Brown was thinking or feeling. I am surprised you cannot see this.

    I do not say Brown did not put his head in the car or that Brown did not hit Wilson or that Brown was not shot in the hand or that Brown did not move towards Wilson. The only difference between your account and mine is what was going on in Browns head and all that evidence you cite tells us nothing about that at all.

  58. 58 58 Ken B

    ” I am surprised you cannot see this.”
    Harold I already addressed this. I have said this is about drawing inferences from behavior. If we cannot infer Brown’s state of mind from his behavior then we cannot infer the state of mind of the guy the Canadian cops killed either. But you say we can!
    I think it’s reasonable to infer from a man repeatedly punching someone in a car he wanted to hurt him. It’s especially reasonable when the guy doing the punching just roughed up a clerk moments before.
    Is this a logical proof like a proof of the Pythagorean theorem? No, and no-one has claimed it is. That’s the standard you seem to demand (but only in cases that redound to the discredit of the Democrats). But no-one could prove logically what was in Brown’s mind even if he were alive since he might lie if you ask him. You cannot avoid considering behavior in deciding intent.

  59. 59 59 Harold

    “I think it’s reasonable to infer from a man repeatedly punching someone in a car he wanted to hurt him.”

    Not necessarily if the one being punched is the one with the gun. The puncher may have just been trying to avoid being shot. Which he failed to do, and was in fact shot.

    Of course yours is one possible inference out of many possible ones. What I find surprising is that you have fixed on that one inference, claim it is fact and reject all the others.

    I cannot prove what was in Browns mind, and neither can you. But you are claiming to know.

    “That’s the standard you seem to demand” Nonsense, I demand no such standard. I demand that you state as fact only those things we know as fact. I do not claim that my version is the right one, only that it is plausible so we cannot conclude that Brown had murderous intent.

    If you want to re-phrase your view as Brown may have intended to injure Wilson then fine, we can stop there. You can say he may, I can say he my not and we can agree that we will almost certainly never know. What I do not agree with is statements such as we know he was a vile thug, an attempted murderer and he intended to attack and injure Wilson.

    What I am surprised about is that you list a heap of evidence that supports my story as much as yours and expect it to be convincing.

  60. 60 60 Ken B

    Score one for Zazooba.

  61. 61 61 Harold

    #60 I assume you refer to Zaooba #46.

  62. 62 62 iceman

    I’ll just pipe this in — Harold you’re often very sharp yourself (e.g. +1 for 55 @SSA), so I have to admit amid all the banter here I’ve lost the context for the stand you’ve taken. To assess the officer’s actions we have to assess Brown’s behavior as best we can…is your objection that for that purpose intent doesn’t matter, e.g. certain actions taken *for whatever reason* justify the use of deadly force, so imputing intent needlessly impugns Brown’s character? I would think trying to discern intent could at least help inform our training for assessing the use of deadly force in real time.

  63. 63 63 Ken B

    @62 iceman
    Harold denies we can impute intent to Brown, he being dead. He maintains we cannot reasonably infer an intent to harm from Brown’s actions. He has no such objections in the Canadian case however.

  64. 64 64 Harold

    Iceman. The context is that one commenter asserted that Brown was attempting to murder Wilson. Another has called him a vile thug. KenB said he would not go quite as far, but Brown was clearly trying to injure Wilson in an unprovoked attack.

    We have an enquiry that supported Wilson’s version of the actual events- the altercation in the car, the fleeing of brown, Brown turning round and Wilson shooting Brown.

    My objection is that we do not know that Brown was instigating an unprovoked attack on Wilson. All we have is Wilson’s testimony that that is what he (Wilson) believed at the time.

    It is consistent with all the evidence that Brown was instead a frightened and foolish young man, afraid of the police, and was only attempting to avoid being shot himself, albeit in a foolish and counter-productive way.* It is also consistent with any number of stories somewhere in-between. It is also consistent that Wilson misinterpreted Brown’s motives and genuinely believed he was being attacked. This could have been a horrible misunderstanding.

    I object to jumping to one conclusion about Brown’s motivation when there are many others that are just as compatible with the facts.

    If we had more evidence – such as a video announcing an intended attack on a policeman, a letter apologising to his parents for for attacking policeman, clear plans on his computer going back some time, a bomb in his possession that he had clearly been making for some time nd previous arrests for conspiracy to attack policemen; then we may reasonably say we have more evidence about his motivations. We have none of those things, but we have all of those things in the Canadian case. It is silly to say that because we think we understand quite a bit about Driver’s motivation we must also be able to know about Brown’s motivation.

    * My story is that brown saw Wilson reverse towards him after Brown had given him lip about being told to get off the road. He feared that Wilson was going to attack him (having seen much coverage about black people being shot by policemen). He tried to stop Wilson leaving the car and leaned in the window. Wilson thought he was being attacked and went to draw his gun. Brown tried to stop him and punched Wilson. Wilson managed to get his gun out and shot Brown in the hand. Brown, now in shock, fled. His fears about being shot by the policeman now confirmed. Wilson chased, shouted. tried to hide behind a vehicle, but that was clearly not going to work, so turned and moved towards Wilson in a desperate attempt to avoid being. Wilson reasonably sees this as an attack and so shoots. Wilson also said Brown reached into his waistband under his shirt- something that Brown appears to have had no reason to do.

  65. 65 65 Ken B

    Harold is rewriting history and a search of my comments on this thread will not produce the word unprovoked.

    Harold, I freely concede the cop might have tried to enforce the law, or spoken to Brown, or worn a uniform. I don’t know which if any of those Brown might have considered a provocation. He might have thought the clerk provoked him by objecting to his theft. None of this matters to the point we discussed. I think in fact by inserting, now for the first time, the idea of provocation you are conceding that we can reasonably infer intent in these cases.

  66. 66 66 Harold

    Come on Ken B. This is not the first time.

    Harold: I think you are claiming that Brown criminally attacked or attempted to attack Wilson…

    Ken B: I think that is the most reasonable reading of the evidence.

    Harold: …without justifiable provocation, on two occasions, with intent to injure

    Ken B: Again, I think that’s likely.

    From “posted without comment.”

    Your story of unprovoked attack with criminal intent by an unarmed man on an armed cop and my story of a scared and impulsive youth reacting badly both seem plausible.

  67. 67 67 Ken B

    I had indeed forgotten that exchange from another thread, so I agree, it’s not the first time you mentioned provocation; my error. I don’t think any of the possible ‘provocations’ I listed come close to justifying an attack though.

  68. 68 68 Harold

    We can infer that was some intent, I just dispute that we know that the intent was the one you state.

    Anyway, I do not think we are going to agree on this one. Hopefully we will have a more productive exchange next time. I don’t think I have anything to add.

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