Here’s my second round of generally unasked questions about the Parkland shooting:
What legitimate purpose was served by branding Deputy Sheriff Scot Peterson a coward, thereby inducing his resignation and tarnishing his career, before the investigation into his performance had been completed (in fact, it had barely gotten underway), and (obviously) before all of the relevant facts were in?
I can think of a couple of patently illegitimate purposes:
- The demonization of Peterson facilitated some awe-inspiringly gratuitous virtue-signaling, the ne plus ultra of which was Donald Trump’s mind-blowingly idiotic claim (even for him) that he, Trump, would have gone in to confront the shooter with or without a weapon in hand. Unclear what this “act” of bravado would have accomplished, except to have put a bullet in Trump’s brainless head–not a bad outcome, I suppose, but not precisely the intended one. But let’s not stop with Trump: lesser versions of Trump’s grandstanding–or waking dreamwork–have now become ubiquitous. Apparently, we live in a country of bravehearts and tactical experts who know a coward-under-fire when they see one on video, or rather, read about the video on Facebook.
- The attacks on Peterson also reinforced the essentially Trumpian ethos of making personnel decisions a matter of mobocratic approbation or disapprobation, a la “The Apprentice.” Professionals are now being fired across the country and across professions (or else being induced to resign their positions), not for demonstrable violations of professionally-relevant standards, but for reasons of PR and image control: what looks bad is bad has become the axiom. The people acting on that axiom are now commonly hailed as “courageous” for firing helpless subordinates without a feasible means of challenging their higher-ups; its victims have become the scapegoats that everybody loves to hate. The inversion of virtue to vice, and subordination of reality to appearance, has become complete.
I’m curious to know whether anyone can adduce good reasons for Peterson’s being treated the way he was. Naturally, the video that depicts Peterson’s supposed delinquency is not being released, because it’s part of an “ongoing” investigation (which didn’t stop the authorities from releasing confidential material on Cruz’s state of mental health). In other words, the video that is generating so much outrage is mostly invisible to the people undergoing the outrage, because the agency in custody of it is engaged in an “investigation” with an outcome they’ve already announced. It all gives new meaning to the old cliche, “Nothing to see here.”
This article in The New York Times casts doubt on the supposedly airtight case against Peterson. The case he makes is simple, and if true, conclusively exonerating:
- Peterson thought that the gunfire was taking place outside.
- Agency protocols assert that if gunfire is taking place outside, you remain outside to confront it.
- There was good reason to think that the gunfire was taking place outside.
- There was, in any case, a great deal of uncertainty in real time as to what was happening on the ground.
- Accusations of “cowardice” ought never to be made in haste, or from non-alethic motivations, especially when the target’s behavior can as easily be explained by non-culpable error as by vice.
Not having seen the video of Peterson’s “failure” to enter the building–“failure” being the tendentious and question-begging term widely used to describe the fact that he didn’t enter it–I can’t say conclusively that it shows or doesn’t show professional delinquency on his part. And not being a cop, it’s not obvious to me that watching the video would be conclusive anyway. What I don’t quite understand is how so many people in my shoes are so confident that Scot Peterson is a disgusting coward who ought to take the fall for the Parkland killings. It isn’t obvious. It’s probably false. But I’m willing to be enlightened on the subject–by someone who knows what they’re talking about. I merely note that such people appear to be in short supply.