How many words have been written in a short amount of time about the Henry Louis Gates Jr. arrest? News stories, op ed pieces, internet comments: A staggering volume of words. That's because the story is a Rorschach meme. Consider all the ingredients here. A conflict with only the word of the two parties to tell us what happened. A perfect storm of social tensions: cop vs citizen in a post 9/11 police state context, elite university employee vs "townie," black vs white, a racist DC press still absorbing the fact of a non-white US president (and both commenting on the incident). Everyone, but everyone has an opinion on this one. Which of the above factors was the most important? What must have actually happened? Type away. Your issue is in there somewhere.
My only comment (made on twitter) concerned the Huffington Post's publishing of Gates' mug shot after the charges were dropped. Classy move, Arianna. The "blogger" press can be as bad as the National Enquirer: worse because people think it's not fiction.
Update: Since the above was written this story has turned into "cable catnip." A crazy local story to distract us from the health care we aren't getting, etc. Hats off to the US media, which now includes syndicated bloggers. You've done it again.
Update 2: Reason's headline "Put the race talk aside: the issue here is abuse of police power, and misplaced deference to authority" typifies the pedantic rhetoric surrounding this incident. Almost everyone who writes on this topic offers the definitive word on what it "means." "A phantom Negro" says: "So before we heed the call of racism, let’s be mindful of the tower from which that call came. This has something to do with race. But it has a lot more to do with messing with Skip Gates." David Brooks says: "Maybe this 'situation' had something to do with Harvard University and social class... But even if class mattered, it did so mostly because of how, in this situation, it was bound up with race." Ishmael Reed ventures: "If Gates ceases his role as just another tough lover and an 'intellectual entrepreneur,' and takes a role in ending racial traffic and retail profiling, and police home invasions...we can say, "Welcome home, Skip; welcome home.'" Everybody has their take. No one was there.