People are up in arms about a lot of things these days. There’s a pesky election that’s set to happen this year, and it’s brought out the worst in Americans. Or, maybe American politics has always been this bad, we’d just have to actually be a part of it in order to see the ugly underbelly. Thanks to social media, we get to say whatever we want about anybody and, a lot of the time, we can do it anonymously. Not having to face consequences seems like a huge factor in promoting bad behavior. I used to think this wasn’t true, that most people were actually good and that we didn’t need so many rules and restrictions on our behavior. I mean, I don’t follow any particular person or group’s dogma and I don’t kill people or randomly attack people either physically or verbally. That’s how people function, right?
Could it be true that the only reason we haven’t devolved into massive mayhem and chaos is because of all the laws? There are rules and punishments against certain behaviors that society doesn’t like, and usually for good reason. There are, of course, the big ones – don’t kill or steal. Maybe most folks wouldn’t do that even if there were no certain and swift punishment for it. Then there are smaller ones – don’t yell ‘FIRE’ in a crowded movie theater, don’t tell someone they are stupid and ugly if you’ve never even spoken to them before.
The first one people don’t do because it is actually against the law. The second one you wouldn’t do to a person if you knew they could best you in a physical confrontation. But, luckily for all the little folks out there, now you can say it without any fear of consequences. There is no law against it. There is no one to stop you. The internet is currently run by the law of the jungle (and I say currently because I think if it keeps going the way it is, the internet will be as regulated as the public airwaves.) Anything goes. There are no rules, no morality, no right or wrong. Do you think something? Say it. Is it horrible, mean, nasty? Will it hurt someone’s feelings? Who cares, they are just words on a screen. And no one can do anything about it.
An interesting thing to say ‘just words on a screen’ and yet, the same folks who say that are so vociferous in their defense of their alleged right to type the useless words on the screen. They will defend it to their dying breath, they say. But why defend it if it matters naught? Why the extreme concern with being able to say things that ultimately don’t have any impact on anyone at all?
You say the words in order to hurt people and you want to be able to hurt people without consequences. Own it. Own that in order to function civilly in society you need the government, or your mom, to tell you how to behave and to exact punishment if you don’t fall into line. Otherwise you will be left to hurl insults at folks you’ve never met before or have never even interacted with on any level.
Look, I dislike the extreme government interference with everything I do. I can’t keep my kids out of school for more than 9 days a year lest the truancy police come after me. My boys aren’t supposed to play in the backyard before the age of 7 (!) without adult supervision. I need my wipers on if it rains, even in a sun shower. I can’t have a radar detector. I mean, it goes on and on and on. But I also don’t run around shitting on people just because I can. Maybe we can have two sets of rules, not based on color or religion or ethnicity, but based on how you behave online. Are you a dick? You go into a regulated internet system where you chat with others who can’t behave and have civil dialogue (even if you disagree.) If you can manage to engage, debate and not call people names, you can come with the rest of us.
I wrote another post recently on anonymity online and honestly, intended today to write about Hillary Clinton’s interview where she laughs about her defense of an accused rapist. But the way my brain works I ended up here. Not that the topic of Clinton won’t be written about here, it will, but I started thinking about who has the right to say what and when. We are all judged by our words these days, as much as by our actions. Let’s not diminish or dismiss the value of any of it.
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There are many folks who publish books that really shouldn’t. Our next guest, David Lat, is not one of them.
David and Mirriam talk about what makes gossip interesting, law clerking, Chris Christie (you’ll be surprised), and David’s coming of age as a human and a lawyer. Being the journalist that he is, heÂ tried do some interviewing of me! Nice try.
David got his early blogging experience dishing about the gossip and inside scoop of the courthouse. He is now the respected founder and managing editor of www.abovethelaw.com. In addition to being a founder of something, he is also the author of “Supreme Ambitions.” If you have even 1% legal nerd in you, this is a must read. You can purchase it here. You can read the NYT review of the book here.
He is available on Twitter @davidlat
If you like the show, please rate us on iTunes. The more ratings we get, the easier it is for people to find us.
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As most of you know, I started a podcast a few months ago. I’ve always liked talking to interesting people, and it seemed like generally a fun thing to do and a way to get to talk to even more interesting people. So, initially I reached out to folks in my ‘inner circle’ and practiced on them. I met with Mike Cernovich, Dan Hull, a client of mine named Jane Nkemateh, an old friend Cris Livechhi, and then Mark Bennett. I then branched out to folks I didn’t really know, but thought would make good guests – Maggie McNeill, Walter Olson, David Lat and Ed Latimore. In between all of those I had Marc Randazza on a bunch of times and put together a two part episode with Ken Womble and Justin Eielse about how creepy Jesus Camp really is. I also got to spend some quality time with my old law partner, Ivan Bates and hear things I’d never known before.
I think the podcast has been a modest success, at least by my own standards. And, when I started to get a little more comfortable I reached out to DeRay Mckesson. For those of you who don’t know him, well, you must not really be on twitter and you must not know anything about Ferguson. Mr. Mckesson was THE face of Ferguson and the burgeoning Black Lives Matter campaign. He has hundreds of thousands of followers on twitter (including Beyonce) and was a in the national spotlight during the protests around the country.
Come to find out, Mckesson is from Baltimore. I found that out when he decided to run for mayor of that fair city. So, I was eager to talk to him about how he could transition from being the face of black protest to the Mayor of a city that is as unique in its struggles as Baltimore. I sent him a message on twitter and he said to email him. So I did. And I waited. No response for several weeks. I sent him another message. Again, no response.
Now, for those of you familiar with this blog, you know that when I left upstate New York I moved to Baltimore. I didn’t ever love the city, and the city never loved me. That’s ok, these things happen. But I realized very quickly that it had a set of problems that I’d not encountered in my travels anywhere else. It is a majority black city that is majorly segregated. It has a tremendous crime problem with ridiculous murder rates (there is a section in the City Paper called Murder, Ink. and it keeps track of each murder. And it isn’t called Bodymore, Murderland for nothing.) I once saw them fish a foot with a boot still attached to it out of the inner harbor on my walk home from work. My car was broken into regularly. And I would confuse the episodes of the Wire with my real live cases. You should also know that I worked in Baltimore during the tail end of his zero tolerance policy. It was something else.
Last year, my law firm went to Baltimore during the very beginning of the Freddie Gray protests. We helped the public defender’s office in their bail hearings. That office (the PD) worked their asses off for folks and got excellent results. We were there for over a week, outside the jail to meet people, at the bail hearings. And we ended up representing a few people pro-bono after they were released from jail. I thought that all of this would be relevant to my conversation with Mckesson. Mostly, though, I wanted to know how he was going to change his image in the white community from that of a race baiter (I’d heard this from several people) to one of inclusion. He would have to if he wanted to bring jobs to Baltimore, and if he wanted to include real community policing. I mean, white people live in Baltimore too.
I saw his message starting to change. He was going to be the Education mayor. But then I found out that Baltimore had given up its authority over its schools so that wasn’t really going to amount to much. What about jobs? How come no one knew he was from Baltimore? What had he been doing?
Eventually, one of his people contacted me. I told her what the show was about and what I was about. I don’t think she passed it on to McKesson. Or, if he did, he didn’t care. We made arrangements for me to meet him on a Friday before one of his town hall meetings. I drove on a Friday afternoon through beltway traffic. It took 2 hours to go 40 miles, which is typical. But I didn’t care. I was excited to meet him. I mean, he’s an internet celebrity. He’d been tweeting from the white house, taking pictures with people who interviewed him. He seemed so – nice. So real.
We got to the venue at 6 and the doors were locked. A wonderful woman came and opened it and we were in a big empty room. Justin, my law partner started helping put chairs in rows for the town hall. Just minutes later, DeRay showed up in his signature blue vest. We shook hands and sat down. He was clearly rushed and didn’t understand why they would arrange a meeting this way when he only had minutes to spare (my interview was at 6, his town hall was at 6:45.) As I set up my computer and mic, I tried to make small talk with McKesson. It was a no go. He was preoccupied on his phone and didn’t speak to me at all.
Now I will tell you how the sausage is made: Before I interview people, I like to talk to them beforehand. I want to know what kind of vibe we have with each other, what’s the best way to approach the person. If they are more clinical, I need to know that. If they are funny and irreverent, I want to be able to play off of that. I have gotten better at this over time and I think that it’s an important part of having a good interview. I didn’t get a chance to do this but I understood, he’s a busy guy. But I figured well, we’ll chat for five minutes or so before we roll tape. Nope.
I’ve held off on writing this for a number of reasons. First, I think Mckesson is a decent guy. I think he’s got good intentions but the fame has gone to his head. I think he truly believes he would be a good mayor and I can’t figure out why he thinks that. While he may have some workable ideas, I don’t for the life of me see him as someone who can execute them. Since the interview, I’ve been watching him on twitter. He doesn’t take well to criticism and will shut down when it happens. I’ve seen him take things that are not and should not be racially charged and turn them into racial issues (race baiting? ) I think he likes the attention. I think he is an empty vest.
Mckesson repeated the talking points on his website to me.* It was clear he was in a hurry, and that wasn’t his fault. But, this wasn’t an interview. This was – I don’t even know what. There was no big smile from him, no selfie, no tweet about it after. It was clear that McKesson had no idea who I was and why I was even there. I don’t know that it matters to him. He’s the center of attention and he clearly didn’t even do a cursory google search to find out about me or what my firm had done.
He also assumed since he had driven to Ferguson he invented it. When I discussed with him the early days of the protest, when they were trying to get lawyers down there, I told him no one knew where to go or who to speak to. He kept insisting that there was infrastructure there by the time I got interested in Ferguson. And no matter how many times I said it (and I didn’t say it too much because it was clear he wasn’t interested in a real conversation) he kept insisting he was there first. So, fine. Yes. You were there first.
Mckesson now has distanced himself from Black Lives Matter and points to the positions he held before that to give himself credibility. It’s useless. The folks in Baltimore who have been there don’t buy it. During the town hall, activists in Baltimore questioned his loyalty to the city, questioned his loyalty to the black movement. This was unexpected as well. I figured the activists in Baltimore would be all over him because of his outspoken nature, his emoji fists “I love my blackness, and yours.” But they were skeptical. One asked how they could trust someone who worked for white organizations like Teach for America – wasn’t he just a pawn? Mckesson’s answer was very long and contained lots of buzzwords. But it wasn’t convincing. Another asked how they could trust him since he got so much money from outside sources. He managed to name drop a bunch of people (Netflix CEO, the Bernie people run his fundraising site) but again, a lot of words with no substance. When asked how they could be sure he would bring the grassroots activists to the table when making important decisions for the residents of Baltimore, he pointed out that he went to the White House and barely tweeted about it. And when a young white man who lives in the County said “Do you watch The Wire” he said no but he’s friends with David Simon. (To be fair, he said many of his friends lived the life you see on the Wire so he didn’t like that it glamorized or trivialized it, but I mean, it doesn’t keep him from mentioning his friendship with the creator. I also doubt he had many friends who lived that life. But, I have no idea.)
Mckesson has been upset at articles that are negative about him. I get it, it sucks when people turn a magnifying glass on you and you have to account for yourself. Most of us don’t want that level of scrutiny. But when you become a public figure that’s what happens. And that is what should happen. McKesson has been tweeting the link to his Linkedin profile to show you exactly what he’s done, so I give it to you here now too.
I left meeting early, there was no reason to stay. A lot of what he’d said to me was on his website and repeated at the town hall, which, ironically was called Beyond the Talking Points. I’ve tried to find video of it but I couldn’t. Turns out that Periscope deletes after a few days. I left feeling deflated, disappointed. I continued to watch him on twitter, watch him take pictures with important people, watch him ignore legitimate questions and critics. I watched him and worried for the people of Baltimore.
I’m not worried anymore. Mckesson isn’t even a blip on the radar. He is polling at under 1%. The people of Baltimore have not been moved by his current incarnation. There have been articles written that claim Mckesson has a bright future as a politician. And that might be true, he certainly talks like one.
The honest truth is I didn’t want to write this article. My show isn’t a gotcha show, it isn’t designed to make people look bad. In fact, it’s the opposite. It gives people who are labeled x a chance to show they are all kinds of things in addition to x. It showed that Ed Latimore is a pro boxer who has cats; that Mike Cernovich is an internet troll and loving husband. That is the point. I wanted to show the folks who told me that DeRay Mckesson was nothing but a shill, that he was more than that, he wasn’t just using race as a means of getting his face on TV and his name and the paper. That’s what I wanted. But it’s not what I got.
*I am going to put the interview up soon. I warn you, though, it is incredibly tedious to listen to.Share on Facebook
Today Mirriam sits down with Ed Latimore. Ed is a professional heavyweight boxer(undefeated 11-0) signed to Roc Nation, a prolific Blogger, a Physicist and Electrical Engineer and a very engaging personality. The conversation covers everything from Ed’s decision to become a boxer, male-female relationships, personal motivation and also how to find your own drive and focus in life.
Find Ed Latimore at edlatimore.com and on Twitter @edlatimore
If you like the show, please rate us on iTunes. The more ratings we get, the easier it is for people to find us.
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