That has to be one of the World’s most Ironic Quotes Ever.
It came from Rodney King, who was in the middle of two of the most notorious violent episodes in the 90’s. First, his own videotaped beating at the hands of some of LAPD’s finest. Second, the riots caused when those same cops were acquitted of that beating and South Central Los Angeles erupted in violence.
But who better to ask the question? Why CAN’T we all just get along?
I ask that question in the context of blogging and online comments. I guess I am officially a blogger in some people’s minds at this point. Who knew? But here I am, writing and drawing fire from strangers and indirectly contributing to the negativity online just by blogging. So I guess for me to ask why people can’t just get along is a bit ironic too.
When I first got into this whole blogging thing I made some rules for myself. I hated the way most lawyers were using blogging to simply advertise their services, mindlessly repeating key words to improve the chances that potential clients would find them on line by making themselves look good to the Google algorithms. I vowed instead to try to write about issues I actually cared about, where I might be able to shed some light based on my experiences as a criminal lawyer.
So I did.
But a funny thing happened while trying to share my views and provide some insight for people who did not know first hand, as I do, what it is like to work in the criminal justice system every day. I got slammed. Slammed by angry people who apparently found it cathartic to express their own views in hostile rude ways. I am told they are called trolls. Some of the most vehement negativity came when I tried to say that lawyers are not all bad. Again, ironic.
So, I made another vow to myself, which I would like to share here: I vowed to take the high road. My hope was that by refusing to play along, I might show people that there was another approach that could work better and foster open communication. I vowed to avoid reacting with anger and venom to input with which I disagreed.
When people commented in what might be considered negative or even nasty ways, I refused to follow their lead. Instead I went to great lengths to understand their points of view and respond respectfully.
And guess what happened? It was like magic. People who began with snarky vitriol morphed into polite intelligent reasonable debaters. They disagreed, but invariably they began calling me “Sir” or telling me that they really did not hate all lawyers, despite what they had said earlier. And guess what happened then? We had a meaningful discussion about the actual issues, not about whether my mother had a questionable occupation.
It works. Try it. Old lawyers like me like to demonstrate this principal to younger attorneys. We ask them to hold up one hand, palm facing out. Then we push our own hand against theirs. Every time they automatically push back. “See?” we say. “When you push the other side pushes back If you shook that hand instead, what would happen?”
Don’t get me wrong; I can be the most annoying push-back kind of guy imaginable, especially in court when I feel that my client is getting a raw deal. And no doubt on this blog I am going to be snarky and sarcastic and borderline rude at times. I mean, I am what I am.
That said, my goal is to do my best to keep it civilized. A little sarcasm does not have to come in the form of a nasty rude personal attack. There are ways to disagree without crossing that line.
We see bad examples everywhere. Even Justices on the Supreme Court; just look at Scalia and his personal attacks on his fellow Justices, saying that he would rather hide his head in a bag before writing an opinion like one with which he disagreed. Really? From a sitting U.S. Supreme Court Justice? That just doesn’t sound very “high road” to me. Well, “high” maybe… (See? You can be a bit snarky to make a point, without going too overboard. There’s a balance. Plus, I am sure Scalia will never read this, so it is hardly personal.)
Scalia’s behavior may be why the trolls feel free to go so crazy, especially when they are working in relative anonymity. I mean, Scalia was writing that in an official published Supreme Court opinion. No wonder some nameless person sitting in their recliner at home feels free to spew.
So we have to lead by example, which is what I am going to try my best to do. My goal is to encourage meaningful discussions about our justice system from different viewpoints. From this point forward, I promise to do my best not to sink as low as Scalia – another very ironic statement. He is supposed to be at the top, not the bottom of the barrel. But until we show that reasonable debate is the best way to actually open a meaningful dialogue about important issues, we will all need to think about hiding our heads in bags.
At least Scalia has that much right.
If you would like Craig Platt’s help with a legal issue, you can find his contact information here or fill out a confidential, easy form about your case.