Open Letter to Ari Armstrong: I am not a Monster
Since Ari Armstrong has unfriended me and not allowed me to respond to the allegations that I am an uncaring monster, I have no choice but to make my response clear here. Ari's post had to do with police reform and police violence.
Ari was a friend of mine when I went to college in Denver, Colorado. He wasn't a student, but a professional writer, as he is today. He was part of the sizable objectivist/libertarian community in Denver, and we saw each other at events quite regularly. He gave me tips and pointers on becoming a writer. When he worked for The Objective Standard, he even gave me some (quite brutal but honest!) editorial comments of my submissions. I was very grateful.
Normally, I don't respond like this to "facebook quarrels" but this one is special for four reasons. One, I had respect for Ari Armstrong. Two, I still have quite a few friends in the Denver area. Three, Denver is a top three location for me to move to next. Four, he edited his facebook post thread in such a way as to make his word final, and then deleted my response. Thus making his attack on my character the final word. (I will provide pictures below).
There is so much I want to say about this issue today. But I will simply quote Sam Harris when he said in a recent podcast, "Conversation is the only tool we have for making progress, I firmly believe that. But many of the things we most need to talk about, seem impossible to talk about." I am an advocate of law and order. I have stated numerous times (including in the comments to Ari) that I am pro-police reform. But my question has to do with an important concept: context.
As a writer, Ari knows this more than most, the context of his audience is important. He has an obligation to take that into consideration when selecting stories to share and write about.
Let's get into the post now. And I will do my best to be objective, while counting on you the reader to help point out any of my own flaws in logic.
Here is Ari's original post:
Many people responded with comments, but I did not read those comments. I posted the following:
(one correction I have to make is my mistaken quote from Sam Harris. Harris asked his audience to guess how many people total are killed by cops. Here is the full quote with the correct numbers of police killings: "One thousand people are killed by cops in America each year. There are about 50 to 60 million encounters between civilians and cops each year, and about 10 million arrests. That’s down from a high of over 14 million arrests annually throughout the 1990’s. So, of the 10 million occasions where a person attracts the attention of the police, and the police decide to make an arrest, about 1000 of those people die as a result. (I’m sure a few people get killed even when no arrest was attempted, but that has to be a truly tiny number.) So, without knowing anything else about the situation, if the cops decide to arrest you, it would be reasonable to think that your chance of dying is around 1/10,000. Of course, in the United States, it’s higher than it is in other countries. So I’m not saying that this number is acceptable. But it is what it is for a reason, as we’re about to see." Again go here to listen to the full episode.)
As you can see, I had in fact not finished reading the article on Elijah. My question had to do with the narrative of police brutality that this article engendered, and it did so without context.
I have since read the article, and I would amend one thing to my post above. The police were completely justified in stopping Elijah for questioning, and he refused to stop based on their commands. After that, we don't know exactly what happened (at least not from this article). I'll say, that if a man is running around my neighborhood, in the heat of summer, at 10:30pm, wearing a full ski mask and a jacket, yes, I want my police officers to stop and question that man. And if he doesn't stop, they have no choice but to bring him to the ground by force.