Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The Arrogant Journalist

Why is it that journalists feel able to comment on the most fleeting evidence in issues of which they have absolutely no idea, but with absolute certainty, no apparent doubt that they know better?

This disgraceful blog article is one of many pieces about the same incident, although the most damning I have read. The others hedge a little, but all are suggesting simply by running the story that the police involved were guilty of using "disproportionate force". Yes that phrase beloved of clueless Chairborne Forces everywhere, cosseted at home, in front of a computer with leisure to second guess the actions of people in strained circumstances.

There is nothing in the video that proves unnecessary force was used, let alone a level of force that the officers cannot justify. The post contains what appears to be a straight lie*, and certainly goes beyond the conclusions that can be drawn from the video. It contains firm assertions of conclusions that could only legally be decided by a fair tribunal, in which the officer can answer his charges. It contains clear libel. It contains an arrogant assumption that the writer knows better than the police how to arrest someone.

Of course the writer does not. It seems obvious to me that if a suspect resists arrest then overwhelming force is often safer both for the police and the suspect. However I would not assume that was the case if trained police chose a different way. The writer presumes to decide when overwhelming force is required.

OK, so it is only a blog post. However it is written by a professional journalist, writing for a major current-affairs magazine.

This infuriated me at first, and I was disgusted at Alex Massie (partly because I know that every day people unfairly claim police brutality, and mass use of cameras and sensationalist media encourage this), although now I am more sanguine. I did hope for the policeman libelled in that piece to sue, as some incentive to encourage higher journalistic standards. Now I would like to see an apology and rewriting of the article in less hysterical terms.

* Just to explain, I don't believe the officer punched the suspect in the head. I can see no reason that officers trained to restrain a suspect would punch him in the head. That wouldn't hurt anyone but the officer. Since the suspect was resisting arrest and refusing to bring his arm around to his back then punching on the shoulder or upper back, where the blows appear to be aimed, does make sense.

Update: Having had a brief email exchange with Mr Massie, I am back to hoping he is sued.

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