Calming The Crowd

In Ferguson, police are trying to control a situation. On twitter, you can see footage that is simply chilling (here, for instance, pay attention to the trivial detail of where the gun is pointed). More here.

On TV, Robin Williams has died.

In Ferguson, according to twitter, cops are telling people to go home. “We live here!” is the response. “This is our home!”

CNN and Fox are both looking at Robin Williams’s film career.

In Ferguson, according to twitter, police are firing rubber bullets to calm the crowd. To calm the crowd. Gee, and here I thought I’d never have another opportunity to post this lullaby… from a couple of years ago in Oakland

Hushabye, hushabye, rest your sweet head
The tear gas is fired, the rioters fled,
The bullets are rubber; we’re saving the lead
Hushabye, hushabye, darling…

Hushabye, hushabye, close your sweet eyes
The tear gas would give them a sorry surprise
So looking about you is rather unwise
Hushabye, hushabye, darling…

Hushabye, hushabye, draw down the shades
The darkness approaches, the day softly fades
There’s no need to witness the flash-bang grenades
Hushabye, hushabye, darling…

Hushabye, hushabye, darling, now rest
Sleep like an angel; sleep heaven-blessed
Sleep while your momma is under arrest
Hushabye, hushabye, darling…

Hushabye, hushabye, time now to snooze
Nothing to see here, we’ve turned off the news
So no one can see when policemen abuse
Hushabye, hushabye, darling…

Hushabye, hushabye, here in the dark
No need to worry about folks in the park
It isn’t a fire; it’s only a spark
Hushabye, hushabye, darling…


  1. Joan says
    I live in Brentwood, a suburb of St. Louis. The above link explains better than I ever could, the strange and strained race relations in our area. The situation is heartbreaking. The people demonstrating in Ferguson just want to see some sort of justice and the police are not only not arresting the officer, but keeping his name secret in order to ensure his safety. The riots, well, they take on a momentum all their own. To the question of ‘why here?’, I guess I have to say, ‘ why not sooner?’.

  2. Pabs says

    My heart goes out to those suffering the current horror that is Ferguson. It is almost unbelievable that such an obnoxious and obvious miscarriage of our law enforcement and legal ideals could happen. Needless to say, nothing about the situation is fair, from the events themselves to the relatively low-key coverage by major news networks.
    It also strikes me as unfair to package Robin Williams’ suicide with the Ferguson story as an object lesson. Someone ignorant of any present media would grasp the implication, upon reading this post, that tv stations (Fox and CNN in particular), were not covering the outrages in Ferguson and instead covering a celebrity death. Not only is Michael Brown’s story represented on actual television news programs, but the websites for Fox and CNN feature the Ferguson story in their top news arrangements at time of writing. (Fox seems to have only one hard-to-notice article bullet pointed among a large list of them, which neither of us may find surprising, but Ferguson is the first and most visible thing on the CNN website. MSNBC does better, with its top three huge stories all being about Ferguson. The latter two sites, at least, have their Ferguson stories presented much more visibly than their Williams stories.)
    Furthermore, all three organizations also have stories currently running that actually are fluff pieces or political distractions: Fox has half a dozen things about Obama and minorities, CNN has Justin Bieber as one of its headlines, and MSNBC has a featured piece about Democrats’ reactions to impeachment. I don’t understand the use of Williams’ suicide as the lesson in terrible prioritizing skills when there are much more profound options available, especially considering the great number of mourners and depression-sufferers who are hurt by the (unintentional, I know) trivializing of his death.
    I loved and emulated Robin Williams since early childhood; I also happen to have depression and have confronted suicide before. I identify strongly with Williams’ virtues and his struggles. Clinical depression does not easily get ‘cured,’ only treated, and it terrifies me that even after a (hopefully) long and successful life, I might still find myself brought down by the demons of my disease, as Robin so sadly was. I am also terrified by the thought that what is happening in Ferguson might, by inaction on the part of our society, eventually happen in my own town. But I am grieving over both tragedies, and would prefer to be able to deal with them and speak about them as the separate tragedies that they are rather than have either made into the antagonist of the other. It also could be said that the bereaved do not need to be made to feel guilt on top of their grief.
    News of Williams’ suicide has not diminished the news about police brutality and racism in Ferguson, and we should not tangentially diminish the suicide of such a kind and beloved public figure to make a point about our often embarrassing media culture. You have cast the suicide of Williams in the role of “this thing is less important than that thing” to make your larger point, and despite my agreement with that point, I think there were and are many opportunities to make the same critical point just as effectively without the collateral damage of trivializing depression, suicide, and – for those of us who thereby identify emotionally with Williams – the victims of those disorders.
    I have only been a follower of your blog for a few months shy of a year now, so I apologize that my first contact is one of reproach. I guess this one time you seemed less thoughtful to me than you usually do, Digital Cuttlefish (your thoughtfulness is a reason I began following you). But I am sincerely grateful for your delightful verses and for your coverage of issues that are important to me.

  3. Ichthyic says

    for those that don’t remember, or are too young….

    nothing has changed. the police reaction to peaceful demonstrators now, is the same as it was in Berkeley in the 60s, driven by the EXACT same attitudes, the exact same infrastructure mistakes in building a police force that is adversarial to a community instead of a part of it.

    watch and learn….

  4. Cuttlefish says


    I am so glad you commented, especially because you commented in reproach! I will disagree, a bit, but not with your broader point. Instead, I’ll point to the timestamp on your comment–my post is dated the evening of the 11th, and your comment the early hours of the 14th (or, depending on your location, the late hours of the 13th). When I wrote, there was no suicide narrative; there were only the canned eulogies from the pre-written obituaries the various media outlets produce. There was no time for a thoughtful contemplation of Williams’s death, but only a listing of his movies and shows, and an interview with whichever celebrity who had acted with him could be found.

    A couple of days later, yes, there were meaningful and thoughtful discourses on suicide, depression, and celebrity. Not when I wrote this post, though.

    When I wrote the post, I was looking for news about Ferguson because I knew it should be there. Black Twitter raised the flag; Anderson Cooper’s ads promised coverage of Ferguson; that’s what I was tuning in for–instead, it was Robin Williams. Your comment–on the 14th–reflected the coverage that was there in part *because* of the rioting. We cannot, sadly, know what difference there would have been if people would have paid attention to Ferguson’s desires from the get-go.

    And yes, of course, Robin Williams’s death was important. But if, again and again, a black man’s death is ignored because some other national event is more important, then even Robin Williams’s death can be seen as just another example of a trend. And seriously, don’t doubt for a moment that he would have noticed it, and made mention of it in a far far more effective manner than I have here.

    But again, Pabs, thank you for the comment, and never ever hesitate to call me out. It has happened more than a couple of times, and I have always learned from the experience.


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