Thursday, September 13, 2018

Factional Discretion in the Context of Narrative Concentration

Sports is one arena where the insistence on some objective fact (the ball was in or out? was it a catch?) has devolved into a set of rules so convoluted as to be indecipherable. We don't trust the discretion and judgement of the human official (in or out, ball or strike, safe or out), and demand something objective like "Hawkeye" to "get the call right" and "make the game fair."

Our enforcement of the law would be quite different if there wasn't the discretion of the arresting officer, the discretion of a prosecutor, and the discretion of a judge involved. We know as fact that more young black men are prosecuted for drug offenses than young white men, even though young white men and young black men use and sell drugs at roughly equal rates.

The bottom line is that we all rejoice when that person gets what he or she deserves, but none of us wants what we really deserve.

ghionjournal |  Aaron Maté is a Beast!
This statement was admiringly blurted out by political vlogger Jamarl Thomas on his program The Progressive Soapbox last week. What he was talking about was a recent interview that Aaron Maté, producer, journalist and on-air talent at Paul Jay’s Real News Network, did with veteran journalist James Risen, currently of The Intercept. What did they discuss? The jailing of Reality Winner—Risen’s source for a leaked NSA document about potential Russian digital interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential primary.

It stands to reason that Thomas calls him Aaron “Buzzsaw” Maté. Even during his youthful Democracy Now days, Maté showed a genuine talent for interviewing people with a dogged focus on facts and an absolute inability to let his interviewees get away with bullshit, regardless of their perceived status.

As I listened to this interview with Risen, I started having flashbacks to all the Columbo reruns I watched as a kid. If you’ve ever seen the old detective show with the inimitable Peter Falk, there was a formula: the disheveled working class Columbo would ask an endless stream of seemingly basic questions of his suspects, who were usually impatient and annoyed wealthy white people who thought he was far beneath them in the pecking order. Eventually, they would crack under the pressure of his incessant queries, realizing too late that he’d been amassing reams of factual evidence against them while they’d been too busy feeling superior to notice.