Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Anonymous monsters 

Last (Tuesday) night, there was a hearing about racial profiling in St. Cloud. I have listened to the testimony of some of the people who believe they have been victimized by it. In the case of the story told in the paper, I'm perplexed by why this man was stopped, but one incident does not contain enough evidence to support a claim of systemic racial profiling by an entire city police squad. I remind my out-of-town readers that St. Cloud isn't that big a place; most of us know the players involved in both the police and the potential victim communities. I say in all confidence that I have no confidence that I know enough.

That does not prevent me from knowing enough from the comments to that story (over 700 as I type this) to think we have a (hopefully) small number (but maybe not?) of people who use a chat board to either to feel free to be insensitive, boorish, and make racially insensitive remarks or to in fact be racists. To my in-town readers: This is the kind of writing that has most of the SCSU campus convinced that coercive state action is needed to stop that behavior. It is an abomination for us to sit by and let these casi belli for affirmative action go unremarked. Either you must condemn that behavior, or you allow evil to spread. You might try to stand in the middle, but to quote my favorite Friedman story, "there's no midpoint between right and wrong."

Much of the furor centers on anonymity, as if signing your name to that dark thought would be enough to put it out of your mind forever. It doesn't, it just makes it subterranean. I'm amazed how many of my conservative friends (many of whom I spoke with today) think anonymity is the problem. It is, if you think the problem is just people speaking or writing like that. Evil thoughts left unspoken are just as evil. There are cases where anonymity is useful -- I think Michael's blog is testament to that -- but it also can lead to Stillwater Infidels. (There's a story about this school levy blogger coming out shortly, which was weird because I just saw a sign opposing the Sauk Rapids-Rice levy as I drove down Highway 10 this AM, just before speaking to a reporter about that blog. More on this when the story posts.)

I do not have an answer to the problem of how to deal with the people behind those comments. I can only write here that it's wrong to watch and do nothing.