What Normalizing Authoritarianism Does For You


You’ve probably already heard about this: United Airlines oversold a seat and threw a passenger off the flight – literally, with security guards dragging him kicking and screaming off the plane as other passengers, horrified, recorded it with their phone cameras.

Authoritarianism and authoritarian behavior limits your options, because the basic model of authoritarian behavior is to “obey orders” – that results in “blindly obey orders.” In fact, the whole idea of authoritarianism is to encourage blind obedience; presumably questioning orders is too inefficient, or might lead to someone realizing the orders are stupid.

That’s a bunch of uniformed goons dragging a doctor off an airplane, in order to free up a seat on an overbooked flight.

Stanley Milgram famously performed a pointless and stupid experiment[wikipedia] in which he determined that – well – actually, he didn’t determine anything – but maybe we could conclude that “just following orders” is a problem, based on Milgram’s experiment. Milgram’s experiment involved subjects who believed they were being ordered to shock another subject, and the subjects obeyed authority and turned out to be willing to deliver heavy pseudo-shocks to a human. There are so many things about Milgram’s experiment that are sketchy, but the rather obvious one is that, you know, World War II had ended 20 years before. So you had a massive experiment on authoritarianism carried on by the Germans, and, wow, shocking, Milgram learned that the problem wasn’t with the Germans it was with humans. More precisely, Milgram may have learned something about how people behave when they are being paid to do something and their boss is standing right there. But he probably didn’t even learn that much.

milgram experiment rig

milgram experiment rig

Milgram actually wanted to run his experiment on Germans initially, until he discovered that it’d be too expensive; at the time Milgram was setting up the experiment, Adolph Eichmann’s highly publicized trial was taking place in Jerusalem, and apparently Milgram had some half-assed idea of trying to see if authoritarianism was an actual German thing. That’s a level of scientific thinking that’s about as sophisticated as a typical eugenicist, as far as I’m concerned. We can’t conclude anything from Milgram’s study (except for some things about Milgram and the psychology department at Stanford University) but there is an underlying point, which is that it’s pretty easy to get people to do some pretty messed-up stuff if you tell them right.

These are cognitive biases – how brains work – in which a brain is told a ‘solution’ to a problem, and accepts it as a plan and begins executing on that plan, without re-assessing periodically whether it still seems to be a good idea. If you take my approach to authoritarianism, that it’s a cognitive bias, you don’t learn anything useful about “authoritarianism” at all; humans just don’t think very well. In some contexts, they stop thinking entirely.

Back when I was in the army, I spent a lot of time studying military history and modern battlefield doctrine. Ironically, one of the things that the US military used to think was that they’d clobber the Soviets because US command structures were more mentally flexible. The Red Army was hidebound and did things in a certain way, and wouldn’t be able to innovate. In other words, anti-authoritarianism was touted as a tactical advantage by the US military – which is one of the most hidebound and authoritarian branches of an otherwise fairly hidebound and authoritarian government. After all, the military isn’t standing up as a body and yelling, “Counter-insurgency? Are you kidding?! We need a strategy, first!” No, they’re just following orders. Hannah Arendt’s reporting on Eichmann in Jerusalem forced us to ask, not “why are people willing to do evil things?” We had to ask “why don’t some people even question what they are doing?

Watching the security people dragging that fellow off the plane, in spite of the yelling from other passengers, you can see they’re in the authoritarian zone: heads down, shoulders up, they grab the guy and do their thing. Why didn’t the other passengers intervene, though? What are those people thinking, now, once they have time to realize that they sat there and watched another person get brutalized by an airline’s security goons? Why weren’t people blocking the aisle and calling the police? Those airline security goons are not officers of the law, they do not have arrest authority: what was happening was felony assault.

Right now, the US is doing an experiment on what happens when respect for authority is turned up, in the absence of a strategy. Everyone – DHS, Customs, cops, the military, CIA, NSA, FBI – feels like they are being given more leeway to tell people to just do what they are told. Someone told those goons to “go on the plane and remove the passenger from 13D” and the goons didn’t think – they did what they were told. And, because they had been told a certain thing, they circumscribed their tactical options; all they could think to do was use force. Part of the danger of authority is when leaders also fall into that pattern of circumscribing their options; they stop thinking and tell the goons “go on the plane and remove the passenger from 13D.”

There are two responses that authoritarians really don’t like:

“Why?”

“No.”

… because they usually don’t have an answer. Ways to break that cycle are to challenge authoritarians to think laterally or rethink. Simply asking “Why?” forces them to confront their own failure of a strategy. “Can we work together to figure out a way through this?” might work better.

------divider------

I learned something from Milgram’s experiment: don’t let psychologists experiment on humans.

The psychology department at Stanford also brought Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment, another masterpiece of pseudoscience. [wikipedia]

Apparently, United is giving everyone who was on that flight a free ticket. If I were the guy who was grabbed and dragged off the plane, I’d be saying “Why?! They don’t deserve anything!! They stayed in their seats and watched me get brutalized! They’re sure as hell not my friends.”  Perhaps the airline is rewarding them for being good authoritarian followers and not interfering. Meanwhile, the guy who was dragged off has lawyered up: I hope his lawyers and the jury teach United a lesson.

Comments

  1. says

    That was brought up on the earliest tweet streams by a few people, why didn’t people do anything? The responses and justifications came in fast and furious. “What could they do?” “Then they’d be arrested.” And so on, I’m sure I don’t have to detail, they are the same excuses as always.

    My first thought was “I’d stand up in the aisle.” It’s not hard to block a plane aisle, 2 or 3 people is all it takes. Then again, I don’t often take any time to think when in such a situation, I go straight into action mode.

  2. says

    Given how many people whipped out their phones and started recording, I’m wondering if that’s become the main response: document, don’t interfere, document, then publish. There’s a lot of fear in people now, a direct response to the brutal crackdown of authority.

  3. says

    The power of social media means that you do more good overall just recording and spreading your video as far as you can. I’d hate to think what would happen if you tried to stand up to one of these armed automatons.

  4. says

    Lofty:

    I’d hate to think what would happen if you tried to stand up to one of these armed automatons.

    But there’s *power* in standing up! It’s what we did in the ’60s and ’70s, it’s what a lot of people are doing now. The more you refuse to stand, the more you concede you are absolutely powerless, which is what has happened here, and we’re being run over by brutal authoritarians. Social fucking media did not stop that man from being dragged down that damn aisle. People could have stopped that by doing no more than getting up off their asses.

  5. says

    I haven’t actually been able to sort out (because I haven’t looked much) whether this is United’s fault at all. Overbooking is a thing, all full flights are overbooked, and that is probably the root problem. Granted that, though, there are procedures and it looks like a) the procedures are not absurd (offer a fair pile of money, and then start exercising rights under the contract that passengers have agreed to, albeit without reading it) and b) they were properly followed.

    The security guys have been described as “airport security” which doesn’t sound like United to me.

    Anyways. Some guy got beat up, that sucks.

    The situation is analogous to being hassled by the cops. Your individual short term optimization is to comply, to be calm and pleasant. One person RESISTING doesn’t actually accomplish anything except getting that one person beaten up. Add to that the fact that these people are humans as well, they happen to be acting as agents of the state, or the corporate entity, but they’re just doing their jobs which actually are literally what they are doing. So by RESISTING you are accomplishing nothing whatever vis-a-vis the actual problem (the state, the corporation), you are getting beaten up, and you are creating a miserable day for some other person who is basically a lot like you. The people who advocate for giving cops a bunch of lip are idiots on several levels.

    My take on it is that you’re either at war with the state or you’re not. If you are, then the appropriate response to being hassled by an authoritarian goon is to *shoot* *the* *goon*, setting aside the fact that he is a person and treating him purely as an agent of the state with which you are at war. Sorry, pal, fortunes of war. If you are not at war, then comply, and don’t be an asshole about it, there’s no percentage in being an asshole about it.

    That said, filming these things is actually the most effective thing you can do that doesn’t involve shooting goons. Getting all thuggy with the security guys just causes more security to arrive, and eventually cops, and pretty quickly the situation gets chaotic enough where it’s no longer clear who the bad guys are (or, at the very least, the bad guys can spin it that way).

    “Guy gets beaten up by thugs on a plane while appalled passengers look on” is a very clear story.
    “Riot on a plane, multiple hospitalizations, security guard choked to death” is murky as hell.

  6. says

    Actually, allow to to amend that last headline:

    “Riot on plane. Security guard, father of three, choked to death”

    is what it would actually look like.

  7. Siobhan says

    @Andrew Molitor

    (offer a fair pile of money, and then start exercising rights under the contract that passengers have agreed to, albeit without reading it)

    If your argument is, “it’s in a contract so it’s okay,” you’re probably not looking too closely at this whole authoritarian thing.

  8. says

    Andrew Molitor, perhaps you should start checking your habit of mouthing off when you don’t have the slightest idea of what you’re fucking mouthing off about. Try informing that ignorant brain of yours first.

  9. drascus says

    My understanding is that the people doing the actual throwing of the doctor were real police. Specifically they were the police assigned to the airport.

    So calling the police would have been moot, the police were already there and were the problem.

    Blocking the aisle could have worked, though with the way police are nowadays choosing to block the aisle would introduce a non-zero chance of being shot.

    I think in terms of the ramping up of authoritarian attitudes in the US, the police portion has been won among affluent people, and especially white affluent people. People with a lot to lose simply do not challenge the police. When it happens, it gets big media attention because it is so rare. i.e. well to do white people getting pepper-sprayed in Occupy protests.

  10. keithb says

    I think we need to clear some things up which *add* to the authoritarian angle.
    The flight was not overbooked. United wanted the seats for some deadhead crew to get to another flight.
    So, United was kicking people off for *United’s* convenience, not other passengers waiting in the terminal. I think that would add to United’s attitude since generally it is no skin off there nose which of a group of overbooked passengers get on the plane, but when you are inconveniencing United, you are just getting in the way of what the Corporation has decided it wants to do.

    Also, I suspect the passenger had a bit of a privilege thing going, too. He thought that the “I am a doctor! I need to see patients!” would be conjuring words that usually get him what he wants. It didn’t work against United. (It might have for a standard overbooking situation.)

  11. Saad says

    drascus, #12

    My understanding is that the people doing the actual throwing of the doctor were real police. Specifically they were the police assigned to the airport.

    Yup, they were police (unless airport security is allowed to go around with “POLICE” on the back of their jackets).

    I still don’t understand why they didn’t move on to the next passenger.

  12. komarov says

    Re: Saad (#14):

    I still don’t understand why they didn’t move on to the next passenger.

    When the carrier first asked noone wanted to leave voluntarily. So giving up on one stubborn passenger might have suggested to the rest that resistance is not futile after all. The other passengers who had already been made volunteered to leave might even have changed their minds, too. They probably didn’t want to risk that.
    An authoritarian doesn’t really have the option to give in occasionally, it would undermine that same authority. They have to be right about everything, their will must be done. No exceptions.

    Meanwhile, what I don’t understand is why a major airline felt unable to afford tickets (or maybe calling in some favours) from another carrier with an airplane heading in the same direction. Fine, it’s convenient to use your own aircraft to move personnel around. But if the alternative is to pay off customers with up to 1000$+, still upsetting them in the process, surely you’ll almost certainly save money (and face) by asking your crew to make their own arrangements and mail the receipts to the office. I’d just give the crew the 1000$+ each and let them keep the change to make up for the trouble they had with my logistics problem.
    And if I was really desparate, I’d up the money for the passengers, and maybe throw in a free ticket of higher class plus a decent airport hotel room.* As a passenger what would tick me off most beside being late would be the fact that my careful travel arrangements have just been shot to pieces with no backup plan to take their place. No wonder noone wanted to take the airline’s offer.

    *I’m a major airline. I can afford to operate hundreds of fragile metal tubes going all over the globe. I pay billions in upkeep, but make trillions by charging passengers extra for everything large enough to accomodate a price-tag. I can probably afford trivial stuff like this.

  13. cvoinescu says

    I just want to point out they did not offer money. They offered vouchers, which are not even close to real money. They can be used only on United, they have an expiration date, and, as far as I know, they only apply to “full fare” prices — so $800 in vouchers does not buy you nearly as many flights as $800 in cash. You can’t apply them to an existing reservation to get your cash back, either, so if you’ve been proactive and sorted out your travel well in advance, you’re out of luck. In some cases, vouchers have additional restrictions, such as no stopovers, and you can buy only one return flight with a voucher — if it costs less than $800 (in their bullshit “full fare” that almost nobody actually pays), the balance is lost.

    In other words, United were much, much less generous than $800 makes it sound — not quite as bad as $800 in Monopoly money, but pretty close. A quick search shows that redemption rates for airline vouchers are between 5% and 8%, so that generous “$800” is actually worth between $50 and $64 to United.

  14. says

    It appears that the uniformed thugs who hauled the guy off the plane were not real cops – they are “Chicago Aviation Police”
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-united-chicago-aviation-police-met-20170413-story.html
    They only have limited authority and do not have arrest authority, and do not carry weapons. In Chicago only CPD have the authority to detain people. However the aviation police are often also CPD or other security (I interpret that as “other rental cops”)

    There is a very good chance they dramatically overstepped their authority. The police union is not sticking up for them, which is a bad sign for them.

  15. komarov says

    cvoinescu, thanks for that. I naively thought in terms of actual dollars. “We understand you hate our store. Have some store credit to make up for our many and obvious failings. See you soon!!!” Few things inspire anger quite so effectively as when marketing and sales get together to conspire against the customer.

    Marcus, that would at least explain why one of the security folks involed was placed on leave so quickly. Usually in cases like this it seems to take ages for the powers that be to think things over and then maybe, after some hand-wringing and soul-searching, place the copper in question on paid leave until they’ve been absolved of their sins.

  16. says

    This entire episode provides not one, but two case studies that are moderately interesting. There’s any number of ways to slice this but one way you can break down Manipulating People 101 is: HIt ’em in the head, Hit ’em in the heart, and make it easy.

    Authoritarians are as a general rule not monsters, Authoritarian regimes are made up of more or less normal people, like say you, or me. What you, when you are an authoritarian regime in need of goons, to make a goon, is this:

    Hit ’em in the head: it’s your job, your paycheck.
    Hit ’em in the heart: those other people are the enemy.
    Make it easy: here’s this book of procedures, just follow them and you’ll be fine.

    This describes the United/CAP clusterfuck pretty accurately.

    The second case study is even more interesting, and people who enjoy protesting would be wise to take note. This episode will, completely by accident, effect change. United’s policies will be adjusted, because the people in a position to adjust them have received the same 1-2-3 punch. To wit:

    Hit ’em in the head: out bottom line might be hurt!
    Hit ’em in the heart: holy shit, the poor dude, this is awful. we’re a huge corporation but jesus christ we’re not like that.
    Make it easy: just order a someone to adjust a couple documents, run it by legal, and slide it into the training pipeline.

    This is, essentially, Ghandi’s playbook, one of the great innovations of the 20th century. Make it expensive for the authoritarians to retain control (head), goad them in to appalling action that they cannot or will not stomach (heart), and ease the path to change.

    See also the civil rights movement.

    The hard part for the modern leftist is the middle one, since it involves getting shot and beaten up, AND the authoritarians are on to the tactic, and are far less willing to oblige than they have been in the past. The modern leftist generally attacks, at most, the head, and that poorly. The attack on the heart is abandoned completely, and the path to change is typically fortified with razor wire and gun emplacements rather than eased.

    This is why Occupy went nowhere at all. They didn’t even have clear goals, and as I recall spent most of their energy arguing over what the goals ought to be.

    Modern protesters also conflate “protest” tactics as outlined above, with “revolution” which is where you get some guns and start shooting people. Mixing and matching the two is a bit iffy at best, and doing them simultaneously on the same street is just idiocy carried out by people with rich fantasy lives. This is, essentially, where the urge to Rise Up And Do Something impulse (which, for the record, I *understand* perfectly well, and empathize with) comes from. But, ultimately, you’re either trying to manipulate the existing authorities into changing, or you’re trying to replace them with new ones.

    Spending a lot of effort trying to make the oligarchs feel bad before you burst in with the guillotine is, at best, wasted effort.

  17. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Caine
    You say that you would block the isle. Does this position change if they are uniformed police officers performing the arrest? Given your background, I have to assume “yes”.


    To Andrew Molitor

    The situation is analogous to being hassled by the cops. Your individual short term optimization is to comply, to be calm and pleasant. One person RESISTING doesn’t actually accomplish anything except getting that one person beaten up.

    Yes. I might argue that the actual fundamental problem is the law on the books that makes it always a criminal offense to resist arrest by a cop, regardless of whether the arrest is lawful. However, I strongly suspect that it’s going to be hard to get people to sign on to this position, especially when they understand what will logically follow, i.e. the Bad Elk SCOTUS case of 1900, where someone was being wrongfully arrested by a cop, and he shot the cop, and SCOTUS ordered a retrial with jury instructions that said something like “it is permissible to use force in self defense to resist a wrongful arrest by a cop: decide if the shooting was a legitimate case of self defense”.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bad_Elk_v._United_States
    I think too many people don’t like that conclusion, and so they’ll argue that resisting arrest by cop should always be a criminal offense.

    I wonder if Caine is actually on my side. Then again, even I’m not sure where I stand. I think I lean towards:
    * Legally permit resisting of wrongful arrest by cop, limited to normal self defense rules. In other words, a wrongful arrest is an unlawful act and people are privileged to use force in defense of themselves and others to defend against that unlawful act.
    * Strictly limit the reasons that legally permit resisting arrest when the arrester has an actual paper warrant for arrest.
    * Limit resisting arrest to some degree when the arrester is claiming to arrest for a felony offense.

    I could go into more detail, but I don’t think anyone here cares enough.

  18. EigenSprocketUK says

    The story went viral partly because it was clear and uncontested what led to the confrontation. By buying off the other passengers with a free ticket voucher, UA now seeks to muddy the waters. Some passengers will henceforth be more inclined to listen to the UA side of the story, and rationalise that the doctor was a bit of an ass, and heed stories of his less-than-perfect past.
    UA thinks it’s being clever about damage limitation.
    But UA is just being obvious about manipulating the fare-paying passengers it despises.

  19. Saad says

    Marcus, #17

    It appears that the uniformed thugs who hauled the guy off the plane were not real cops – they are “Chicago Aviation Police”

    Ah, so somewhere between security and police.

    It seems their jackets just say “POLICE” which seems like a terrible idea what with all the confusion and incidents it could lead to.

  20. polishsalami says

    Marcus Ranum is being harsh on the other passengers.

    If I were on a plane in the US, if I saw men with “POLICE” printed on their jacket I’d assume that they were armed; I’d also assume that they would use those arms at the slightest provocation. Not many people want to be martyred over someone else’s ticketing dispute.

  21. EigenSprocketUK says

    True, polishsalami, it’s a sign of how fucked-up the USA now is that we all assume that airport mall-cops are heavily armed and poorly trained and trigger-happy. Though calling this display of authoritarian thuggery a “ticketing dispute” is just normalising this sort of US-airport insanity.

  22. says

    EL @ 20:

    You say that you would block the isle. Does this position change if they are uniformed police officers performing the arrest? Given your background, I have to assume “yes”.

    I’m not large enough to block an isle, but I would try to block a plane aisle. No, my position would not change if they were uniformed officers. It wasn’t an arrest, but even if it had been, it was clearly unlawful. It wouldn’t be the first time in my life I stood up to cops (and was consequently arrested for it.)

    My background? What, exactly, does that mean?

  23. polishsalami says

    EigenSprocketUK:

    There are better descriptors than “ticketing dispute” for this thing, I just couldn’t think of one as I was typing that comment.

    Caine: I think by “background” EL meant “history of protesting”, but that’s just how I read it.

  24. says

    Saad@#23:
    It seems their jackets just say “POLICE” which seems like a terrible idea what with all the confusion and incidents it could lead to.

    One could probably argue that, since they are not CPD and are not carrying badges and do not have arrest authority, they are impersonating officers. I’m going to (loosely) track the inevitable lawsuit coming from this incident – I’d be very surprised if the plaintiff’s attorney doesn’t point out that “no arrest authority means you don’t just grab people and start … arresting them.”

    Usually when you’re dealing with people who wear big jackets that say POLICE, they are mall ninjas and renta cops. They don’t have the authority to detain people – their crowd-control ability is limited to asking you to stay put until real cops arrive.

    There are some pretty good data here: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-united-chicago-aviation-police-met-20170413-story.html

    Q: Are aviation police part of the Chicago Police Department?

    A: No. They’re with the Chicago Department of Aviation.

    Mall ninjas.

    Q: Do they have the same training and powers as CPD officers?

    A: Aviation police must meet the same minimum standards as other local cops, according to a city website. That includes passing fitness testing and psychological examinations. Aviation officers can “temporarily detain and take people into custody until Chicago police arrives,” said city spokeswoman Jennifer Martinez. But only Chicago police can file an arrest report, she said.

    Yup. They are mall ninjas.

    Q: Were the officers in this case authorized to remove the passenger from the plane in the way they did?

    A: Investigations are ongoing. Aviation Department spokeswoman Karen Pride said in the statement: “While they do have limited authority to make an arrest, Sunday’s incident was not within standard operating procedures nor will we tolerate that kind of action.”

    So, you have a bunch of ‘roid-raging mall ninjas acting way outside their authority. The attorney for the plaintiff is going to get a whole lot of $$$$$ from the idiots at the airport who came up with the idea of hiring a bunch of mall ninjas and letting them think they are cops.

    Q: Are aviation officers armed?

    A: They cannot carry weapons but must be state-certified police officers. Airport police have sought for years to be allowed to carry firearms, but the city has opposed that. Aviation Committee Chairman Ald. Michael Zalewski, 23rd, said the latest incident weakens the push by aviation police to carry guns.

    Gee, ya think?

  25. says

    polishsalami@#23:
    Marcus Ranum is being harsh on the other passengers.

    Yeah, I’m bad like that. And I bet that if you were being dragged around by a bunch of mall ninjas, and yelled for help, you’d rather not have your fellow passengers obediently sit in their chairs like sheep and watch it happen. The other passengers did not have to respond with force. They could have told the mall ninja fake cops “Sop it. Demonstrate that you have arrest authority, or take your hands off that man – you are committing felony assault on a plane full of people recording this incident on camera. Now, back off, cool down, and wait for someone intelligent to arrive to deal with the situation.” The fellow passengers should also have been challenging the flight crew for their decision, recording their responses, and telling them clearly and concisely, “this is not appropriate, you do not have the authority to do this.”

    The thing about authority is (per Robert Paul Wolff) you have to demonstrate that you have it, or you don’t have it. There are different ways of doing that which are not violent. One of the easiest ways is (per our earlier discussion on soverignty) to summon an army ready to do your bidding. That’s how kings do it. Those mall ninjas only option was to: call real cops.

    If I were on a plane in the US, if I saw men with “POLICE” printed on their jacket I’d assume that they were armed; I’d also assume that they would use those arms at the slightest provocation. Not many people want to be martyred over someone else’s ticketing dispute.

    I’m pretty good at telling who’s armed and who isn’t.

    The flight crew made a horrible mistake (and should not be let off the hook for it) by calling in mall ninjas to get someone off the plane. What did they expect to happen? Did they understand who has authority to lay hands on a passenger? The other passengers could have/should have also been challenging the flight crew: “What are you doing? Is this appropriate?” The airline is going to have serious problems because they basically admitted to calling in people who were not authorized to do violence, to do violence.

  26. says

    polishsalami @ 26:

    Caine: I think by “background” EL meant “history of protesting”,

    That doesn’t work, does it? If I have a history of protesting, why in the hell would I change my mind over blocking the aisle in the presence of uniforms?

  27. says

    EnlightenmentLiberal:
    Yes. I might argue that the actual fundamental problem is the law on the books that makes it always a criminal offense to resist arrest by a cop, regardless of whether the arrest is lawful.

    I agree. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to do a “citizen’s arrest” on an armed cop, if the cop is breaking the law and is a menace to society. Of course, that’s a severe problem, because armed cops are pretty dangerous. The obvious answer is that cops shouldn’t be armed. (shrug) I expect that there would be complaints about that.

    Where does a cop’s authority come from? The gun, or that the represent society? In the latter case, everyone should understand that getting physical with a cop is going to bring the entire civilization down on them. In the former, eh, take their gun away.

    I don’t think cops are special. Actually, I think they are less than special. Authoritarians have done a good job of training Americans to venerate the thugs that are put over them.

    I wonder if Caine is actually on my side. Then again, even I’m not sure where I stand.

    I don’t think this is a matter of “sides” – it’s a complicated problem. And, as you say, we need to sort out how we, individually, feel about it. Then, collectively, we need to make some decisions.

    * Legally permit resisting of wrongful arrest by cop, limited to normal self defense rules. In other words, a wrongful arrest is an unlawful act and people are privileged to use force in defense of themselves and others to defend against that unlawful act.
    * Strictly limit the reasons that legally permit resisting arrest when the arrester has an actual paper warrant for arrest.
    * Limit resisting arrest to some degree when the arrester is claiming to arrest for a felony offense.

    I think the warrant is the crucial issue. Frankly, I think cops should be required to get an arrest warrant before they can take someone into custody. This whole nonsense of grabbing people and throwing them in a van, that’s bullshit: you need to know who goes in the van and why, before you put them in the van. There should be very very few exceptional cases for when people are posing a clear threat to society at large (not to cops in particular) — cops absolutely cannot defend their actions based on “I was scared” because being scary is not a crime.

  28. Dunc says

    To quote Jello Biafra from way back in the friggin 90s*:

    But if someone came for you one night
    And dragged you away
    Do you really think your neighbours would even care?

    And things have only gotten worse since then.

    (* “Full Metal Jackoff”, from the brilliant Biafra / DOA album “Last Scream of the Missing Neighbours”.)

  29. says

    Dunc@#33:
    I’ll see your Jello Biafra and raise: ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiQoq-wqZxg ) The Clash

    When they kick at your front door
    How you gonna come?
    With your hands on your head
    Or on the trigger of your gun

    When the law break in
    How you gonna go?
    Shot down on the pavement
    Or waiting on death row

    You can crush us
    You can bruise us
    But you’ll have to answer to
    Oh, the guns of Brixton

  30. says

    Standing around doing nothing while a passenger is dragged off the plane is standard herd behavior. This is one of many basic behavioral mechanics that authoritarian regimes use, and it falls under the aegis of what _Switch_ calls “shaping the path” and which I termed “make it easy” above.

    “Everyone else is (is not) doing it” is possibly the single most powerful motivator for humans. Until someone on the plane stands up and does something, nobody else is. Some of you reading these words are pretty sure that someone would have been you, and since I don’t know you, I am not going to contest that.

    Still, most of us imagine that we’re immune to the siren song of the herd, and would do the right thing (whatever that is), Most of us are pretty sure advertising doesn’t work on us either. Me? I am the only man in America who identifies as a bad driver, and by god if you say “Bee Em Dubbleyew” I think “ultimate driving machine.”

    I would unquestionably have kept my seat. I am aware that flight attendants, who are in fact actually safety professionals whose actual job is to get your dumb asses off the plane in one piece when shit goes pear shaped, have very broad authority.

    https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/49/46503
    https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/49/46504

    But see also:

    https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/49/46501

    (now I know quite a bit more about how broad the authority is. the key takeaway might be “when the door closes, that plump amiable flight attendant is god, and you better fucking do what she tells you” — but keep in mind that there may be other bits and pieces of relavent law shoved in practically anywhere. Pay special attention to text that’s near any some sort verbiage that creates a new kind of Trust.)

  31. says

    Andrew Molitor@#35:
    I don’t think the law of the sea applies to airlines. But if it did, the flight attendant would have more authority than the mall ninja, and standing up to the attendant would be piracy. Arrrrrrrr!!!

  32. says

    It’s hanging people is hard. You have to secure the other end of the rope to a hard point in the rear galley, and then dive (*).

    This is so inconvenient that they’ve settled for 20 hard in the federal pen!

    (*) Shhh, I know the physics doesn’t work.

  33. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    My background? What, exactly, does that mean?

    polishsalami got it right:

    Caine: I think by “background” EL meant “history of protesting”, but that’s just how I read it.

    And specifically IIRC I remember your involvement in the oil pipeline fiasco regarding native American lands. I don’t agree with a lot of the environmental movement, but I’m not going to begrudge this particular protest, and I will even support it, and I applaud people who partake in “proper” civil disobedience such as IIRC you have done. Thank you.

  34. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I think the warrant is the crucial issue. Frankly, I think cops should be required to get an arrest warrant before they can take someone into custody. This whole nonsense of grabbing people and throwing them in a van, that’s bullshit: you need to know who goes in the van and why, before you put them in the van. There should be very very few exceptional cases for when people are posing a clear threat to society at large (not to cops in particular) — cops absolutely cannot defend their actions based on “I was scared” because being scary is not a crime

    I largely agree. If you’ll permit my indulgence:

    In my spare time, I keep a public google doc of all of my proposed US federal constitutional amendments.
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1EJRrzrZAuWv2tU4wz6GZLATBphmx72D__kV-5rdS2Ro/edit#heading=h.ta7gws4kc0yn

    One of them covers arrest and detention power. It’s a written form of the standards for arrest and detention back in 1800 America, as best as I can determine, with some minor modifications. The full version is in “Overturn SCOTUS Atwater v. City Of Lago Vista (2001)” in the link above.

    The short version is:
    General rules, possibly with some exceptions:
    – Allow warrantless arrest for felony offenses, limited to probable cause.
    – Allow warrantless arrests for non-felony offenses, but the arrester must be a personal witness, and the arrest may only occur during the commission of the offense, and arrest for non-felony offenses is only permitted for violent offenses (“breaches of the peace”), ongoing refusal to obey an order to cease an offense, and failure to appear pursuant to a lawfully issued and served summons order.
    – Allow the issuing of warrants for arrest for felony offenses.
    – Allow the issuing of warrants for arrest for non-felony offenses, but only for offenses that would permit a warrantless arrest (minus the requirement that the arrest must occur during commission of the offense).

Leave a Reply