Double Standard

Over the past year, there have outbursts of sporadic violence as a result of police actions regarded as excessive by American blacks, many of which have indeed proved to have been excessive. These outbursts have been followed by at least some political efforts to improve police behavior and tactics in a number of locales, but they have also resulted in some locales in higher crime rates because of local police deciding to patrol less aggressively. All of these instances deal with one side of the “justice problem” — the perception, and in many, but not all, cases the fact that the law and law enforcement appear targeted more intently on poor and minorities.

In one basic sense, any form of punishment for criminal behavior will fall more heavily on the poor and disadvantaged. If someone lives from paycheck to paycheck, or doesn’t even make enough money to get from paycheck to paycheck, any fine, any time in jail, even any requirement to take time off from work to deal with charges or citations – any of these are a far harder burden on the poor and minorities than upon middle-class or affluent Americans. Interestingly enough, some Scandinavian countries have recognized this to a degree – and wealthy individuals there can receive mere speeding tickets with five-figure fines, based on the rationale that such high penalties are equivalent in impact to much lower fines for poor or less affluent speeders.

At the same time, over the same period, I’ve watched how “justice” deals with certain white and more affluent Americans, such as Cliven Bundy, the rancher who refused to pay over a million dollars in overdue gazing fees to the government, fees that, to begin with, were a fraction of what private landowners charge for leases. Bundy gathered a militia and forced a stand-off with the BLM, who relented and released the cattle they had been seizing for non-payment… and so far, roughly a year later, from what I can tell, the BLM has done nothing.

Now, Bundy’s son, Ammon Bundy, leads another “militia” group that has seized and occupied a Fish and Wildlife Service building at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Ammon Bundy and this group vow to stay there until the federal government returns federal lands “to the people” and that the government release two ranchers jailed for arson and other offenses on federal lands, despite the fact that the lands have always been federal lands, and before that they belonged to the local Native American tribes. If the government acquired those lands by fraudulent means, which Constitutional scholars agree it did not, then the lands should revert to the local tribes, not to white ranchers and loggers. Yet, so far, the federal government has done nothing to deal with young Bundy and his backwoods white toughs.

After County Commissioner Phil Lyman illegally not only rode an ATV through a federal roadless area, and one of the protected and most sensitive archeological sites in the state of Utah, but also organized and championed that ride, he was fined and sentenced to ten days in jail – and the state legislature commended him and attempted to pass legislation to reimburse him for his legal bills.

The Bundy and Lyman cases are certainly a far cry from the “justice” received by all too many of those far less affluent, and what bothers me is that these are just examples of what happens every day. That’s not to say that I’m unabashedly in favor of anywhere close to all the recommendations made by the more extreme of those in the “black lives matter” movement, but the plain fact is that if a group of black men had behaved the way Phil Lyman or either of the Bundys have, they’d almost certainly been dealt with far more strongly. I can’t imagine an armed black lawbreaker owing the federal government millions of dollars confronting government officials with high powered weapons, being allowed to continue to refuse to pay what he owed, and being allowed to continue his lawbreaking unimpeded.

Some of this “double standard” rests on political beliefs. White environmental activist Tim deChristopher, as I chronicled earlier, submitted a fraudulent bid to lease oil and gas rights on federal lands,in order to keep the lands from being despoiled,and was sentenced and served 21 months in jail, despite the fact that, even before he was sentenced, the U.S. Solicitor General had voided the lease sale as illegal, while the same “justice” system merely sent Phil Lyman to jail for ten days, although Lyman destroyed archaeological artifacts and flouted federal law, while deChristopher’s acts cost the public and the public welfare very little.

All this tends to suggest strongly suggest that affluent and well-connected white conservatives definitely are treated ultra-leniently, unless of course they fraudulently take money, or threaten to do so, from ultra-wealthy white conservatives… and then, of course, all bets are off.

13 thoughts on “Double Standard”

  1. Joe says:

    So you are stating that the punishment is greater for thought crime than for actual crime?

    Bundy and Phil Lyman agree with the premise of the system: the land is there to be exploited by strong white men with guns.

    DeChristopher didn’t agree with the premise: he believed the land should not be exploited.

    Black people don’t agree with the premise: they’re not strong white men.

    1. Thought crime? Crime is breaking the law. All of the “white men,” even deChristopher, broke laws. In criminal terms, what is the difference between a white man’s stealing over a million dollars from taxpayers by refusing to pay and resisting federal officials and threatening them with weapons as opposed to a black man’s illegally selling cigarettes and resisting arrest? Why do police think it’s acceptable to shoot black men who don’t surrender weapons or who resist arrest, and to let affluent white men who don’t surrender them to go free?

      1. Joe says:

        Sure there has to be a crime for there to even be a court case.

        The question is whether the sentence is different because it could subvert the status quo. If so, that is what Orwell called Thought Crime in 1984. And this seems to be what you are saying:

        The people who are punished lightly aren’t subversive to the system as a whole. They don’t question its basic assumptions. Those who are punished harshly, do.

        Mathematically then, there is a punishment for the criminal act, and a punishment for subversion, and these punishments are added when the sentence is handed down.

        Perhaps I misunderstand your point.

        1. By your definition and by Orwell’s, not only the Bundys and Lyman, but many of the black activists have committed both thought crimes and criminal acts, yet the white and more affluent types get off with lighter sentences, or even no punishment, even when the costs to society are higher than the costs created by the blacks.

          1. Joe says:

            Not quite.

            Since DeChristopher is white, the additional punishment can’t just be for having the wrong skin color. Nor can it be for being poor since he raised the money required to pay for the mining rights for which he bid. The Federal Government would have received the rent they wanted either way.

            Therefore being poor or black seems to be an insufficient criterium to account for the examples you mention.

            The Orwellian hypothesis, as you call it, would be that the additional punishment is for not acting according to the status quo.

            You seem to posit that the Bundys, Lyman, the white collar criminals, etc, do not act according to the status quo becaue they impose costs on society.

            Perhaps the status quo is not about imposing costs on society. Violence against black people also imposes costs on society, reducing their opportunity to contribute to the society’s well being.

            Perhaps the status quo is simply that it is good for the strong to extract profit.

            In that light, DeChristopher’s punishment was for going up against this status quo: he wished to prevent the destruction of the lands he loved which would be required for profitable mineral extraction.

            The Bundys, Lyman and the financial crowd all follow the strong should profit motto.

            Further evidence might be historical: the USA (unlike Canada) was declared Terra Nulla (empty land), and was colonized by ignoring the land rights of those already there. Slavery not only harmed slaves, but also the poor whites who had to compete with them (i.e. most of society), in order to benefit a small minority. The Civil War may have legally upgraded black people from 3/5 of humans to full humans, but they never received the 40 acres and a donkey that Lincoln promised them. They ended up working for the same people who had owned them previously, maintaining the invariant: the strong must profit.

            It seems to be a hypothesis that could be tested with statistics. I do not know whether it is correct or not, as I not seen enough evidence to decide. But there does seem to be an argument that it could be correct. It would be sad, if it were proven true.

          2. DeChristopher did NOT have the money. He fraudulently certified that he did, which was one of the counts against him.

          3. Joe says:

            Re: DeChristopher did not have the money.

            Wikipedia states: The court also barred evidence that DeChristopher had raised sufficient funds for an initial payment to the BLM (which the BLM refused to accept)


            My recollection is that he crowd-funded the required funds.

          4. My recollection is that deChristopher crowd-sourced the funds after he made the bid. He did not have the funds himself, which means he wasn’t one of the strong or affluent. In any case, you seem to have supported your thesis that justice largely serves the strong, which in the U.S. is a group composed largely of affluent white males, as well as supported mine, at least to some degree, in that the result is a very different justice system for the affluent whites compared to poor blacks and other minorities.

          5. Joe says:

            I’m curious. Do you consider the Bundys rich?

            Perhaps they are but my understanding was that many US ranchers are low paid employees of the corporation that owns their land (since the Grapes of Wrath days)

          6. Anyone who’s running a herd that’s worth hundreds of thousands up to a million dollars like Cliven is can’t be considered poor. He owns the herd, not some corporation, and he claims his family has been running cows on that spread for more than a century. Ammon doesn’t appear to be that well off and has had more than a few legal squabbles in Utah. Here in Utah, and Bundy lives not all that far away — about forty miles from St. George — most of the spreads are family-owned and operated. Now, many of the families are indeed land-poor, but they’re also not paupers or as low-paid as old style tenant farmers, at least from what I’ve observed and heard.

  2. Ward says:

    From an outside view the problem seems to be the result of location and technology. Blacks often live in industrial areas in the US and these areas are subjected to what I would call ‘controlled corruption delegation’ policies of the state. To elaborate, police personnel are screened intentionally for both slightly lower average IQ and the high probability that job security threats coupled with arrest quotas will result in corruption. Corruption that has to be then ‘covered up’ by a chain of command, keeping these officers loyal and useful in policing outside of stated practices.
    In non industrial, mainly ‘white’ areas, the environment itself is a type of control on the population, so you don’t get the same type of delegation policies.

    Technology forces the state to have a less educated more corrupt bureaucracy as it cannot deal with a technologically able civil government.

  3. Wine Guy says:

    @joe… please do not cite wikipedia as a credible source. It is not.

    1. Joe says:

      The facts stand.

      The auction itself was later overturned and declared illegal, a fact that Tim’s defense attorneys were prevented from telling the jury. They were also barred from informing jurors that Tim had raised the money for the initial payment to the Bureau of Land Management, a payment the BLM refused to accept.

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