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‘No One Saw a Thing’: When a Midwest Town Banded Together to Kill the Town Bully (thedailybeast.com)
207 points by BobbyVsTheDevil 72 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 251 comments

> frontier justice came for McElroy courtesy of the residents of Skidmore (population 440 at the time of the crime). Shaken by the man’s ability to evade jail even after being convicted of a near-fatal attack on a grocery store owner... Belkin also details Skidmore’s plague of subsequent violence ... the series persuasively contends that these crimes indicate that the McElroy episode taught younger Skidmore generations that doing as they savagely pleased was OK—and that they could get away with it, because their friends and neighbors wouldn’t speak out against them.

I'm not persuaded, at least by this text. Another possible interpretation is that the legal system around Skidmore was completely unable to convict a repeat violent offender (McElroy), leading to a widespread (correct) belief that the legal system would not also provide any kind of useful restraint to future offenders. Indeed, that interpretation seems more likely to me.

That doesn't make the actions acceptable, of course. But it does put a spotlight on the importance of having a working legal system that provides some reasonable level of protection to the larger community.

I'm with the mob on this one. As another comment put it, he was tried by a jury of his peers... if the justice system cannot help you then you have to take things into your own hands.

Might be hard for all us city slickers on HN to fathom, particularly when these sorts of country towns are frequently mocked or derided by people like us.

> if the justice system cannot help you then you have to take things into your own hands.

If you apply this rule strictly, then the mobs could first hit the police. In many countries, police officers are violent and have a de facto impunity when they break the law.

In the US, the police kills more than 1000 citizens each year, especially black men and teenagers. They very rarely face jail, not even loosing their job.

In my country, France, over the past year several dozens of citizens have lost an eye because of police shooting, a few have lost a hand because of grenades. The justice system protects the policemen, even when the videos are explicit. And when a juge tries to do his work, he can't. A grandma was killed while closing her window because she received a grenade in her head. The commanding officer refused to let the juge expertise the grenade launchers of his squad. He was promoted soon after.

Most people that prone self-defense and rant about some bad guys' impunity do no wish to see this fact: most policemen can break the law and not face the consequences. They're the only category of citizens that are above the law.

> If you apply this rule strictly, then the mobs could first hit the police. In many countries, police officers are violent and have a de facto impunity when they break the law.

Advocates of our Second Amendment - the right to keep and bear arms - understand this. This idea was the primary reason for the Second Amendment's inclusion in the Bill of Rights.

In the words of Tench Coxe:

> Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American… The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.

In my opinion, minorities in particular have reason to arm themselves and to be prepared to defend themselves if necessary. Armed protest against civil government by blacks and others has a long history in the United States: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/black-panthers-california-196...

If you're interested in this sort of history, I'll recommend a couple of books: "Negroes with Guns", by Robert F. Williams; and "This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed", by Charles Cobb, Jr.

Robert F. Williams is a very interesting personality in and of himself. Among other things, he founded the Black Armed Guard - an NRA-sponsored rifle club dedicated to the defense the black community from racial violence. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_F._Williams#Black_Armed...

> This idea was the primary reason for the Second Amendment's inclusion in the Bill of Rights.

Thank you eit bringing this up. While recent events with shootings are unfortunate, what's more unfortunate is the media taking advantage of these events to push an agenda by claiming the 2nd amendment is only for hunting and they only interview people that dat the same, then go down the road of saying these guns aren't needed for hunting and should be made illegal.

Call me crazy, but I'd wager this is all done out of initiative and agenda and not out of ignorance. Reasons being to disarm the population of any meaningful ways to defend against government suppression.

For those thinking that our own army would never attack their own people, a good amount of our military is now contractors from other countries that are paid mercenaries.

> In my opinion, minorities in particular have reason to arm themselves and to be prepared to defend themselves if necessary.

That's an interesting take, since minorities commit - by very, very far - the greatest amount of violent crimes per capita in the USA.


Yes, and if anything that supports my position. Minorities are statistically more likely to be both perpetrators and victims of violent crime. Members of those communities therefore are more likely than non-members to have a legitimate need to defend themselves.

But, gun ownership clearly correlates with gun related violence (i.e. violent crime). Less guns, less violent crime.

I'm not sure that's true. Less gun related violent crime, certainly. But that can lead to higher rates of other kinds of violence, as those who are good with knives or their fists are now the top of the food chain. It is not clear that the total amount of violence would go down significantly. (The total number of deaths might, though.)

For example, there is very little gun violence in the UK. But the amount of knife and fist violence might surprise you.

A number of stories on the front page of the BBC (UK) in the last week have been about the issues of the rise Knife violence. The band guns, and now there is an increase of murders via a knife. Bad people do not follow the law.

You do realize that personal gun ownership was always banned in the UK, like, since ever, right? That "statistic" you just tried to pass about how knife attacks increased when the UK banned guns, was completely made up.

"...but handguns were effectively banned after the Dunblane school massacre in 1996 with the exception of Northern Ireland."


They have not always had the outright ban they have now.

Knife Crime:


With the number of fatal stabbings in England and Wales in 2017-18 the highest since records began - the BBC has tracked the first 100 killings in 2019 - revealing the people behind the headlines. - Mar 8, 2019

"there were 285 knife murders in England and Wales in 2017/18 — the highest number since the Second World War — and 34 in Scotland"

Not everything is black and white.

How much is the increase? If it’s not close to the increase guns would see, then it’s not that big of a deal. Guns would still be far worse. And I’m assuming that’s the case.

Correlation, not causation. Less violent environment leads people to wonder why they need guns, and so they give them up. Seems equally plausible as the contrary to me.

> In the US, the police kills more than 1000 citizens each year

In case anyone is curious to see a source, the Washington Post attempts to collect data regarding police shootings: https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/four-years-in-...

To put this in context, roughly 70 police were killed last year, and police made over ten million arrests. Your chance of being killed is roughly once in 10,000 arrests.

I wonder what the number are like if the data is filtered to person of colour only.

Some states, like Texas, still have the "needed killin'" defense: if a person accused of murder can prove to the jury that the victim needed killin', the jury will not convict (or will convict on a lesser charge). You have to pass a high bar to need killin': generally the defense only works if the accused can show that while not in immediate danger of life and limb, they felt sufficiently credibly threatened by the victim to believe they were at continual risk of injury or death if they didn't strike first.

In most other states, homicide is only justifiable under the higher threshold of being in immediate danger.

It's not clear if you are referring to jury nullification here (which is not particular to Texas), to the reduction of murder to voluntary manslaughter by heat of passion (which is not particular to Texas), or to some actual special aspect of Texas law (perhaps some part of the operation of the imperfect self-defense rule under Texas law). Could you provide more detail?

This made me curious too, so I went looking. Texas self defense law seem thoroughly standard for a southern/rural state. It has 'stand your ground' rules and a low charge rate for claims of self-defense, but neither is unusual.

There are only two exotic elements I can find. First, Texas permits the use of deadly force to stop some non-violent criminals (e.g. burglars, robbers) from escaping with property. Second, it allows deadly force over theft and criminal mischief only at night.

That last clause is pretty bizarre, but none of it adds up to anything like "needed killin". Deadly force to recover property is somewhat unusual, but that wouldn't apply to the case in the article either.

>That last clause is pretty bizarre

It makes more sense if you consider it the other way around. Theft and criminal mischief are considered violent crimes for the purposes of self defense if they happen at night.

The line between theft and burglary is blurry and subjective when you're talking about situations where someone is stealing something from someone's property at night and said theft causes them to be woken up and respond. The law is basically saying that for the purposes of self defense theft can be considered burglary by default in those cases.

This is not a facet of Texas law, or reflective of law in any other state. Sometimes jurors choose not to penalize or convict a person for homicide in extenuating circumstances. This is more about the nature of trial by jury in America, than the specific legal code of Texas.

See the recent case of the man who was convicted after punching a white supremacist in the face.. and charged with a $1 fine.

See it where? This anecdote sounds more like a jury or a judge making an exception in an extenuating circumstance, than the exercise of an existing law, or precedent.

How was this an exception? The attacker was charged, they chose to give a (very) lenient punishment with the circumstances considered.


It is an exception because it is not representative of most assault charges in the US. Getting charged for assault, and then a pat on the wrist, for punching a Nazi is by definition an exceptional event. Rolling Stone, a cultural icon, does not gamble advertiser money on boring, unexceptional events.

I thought that (beyond the death penalty) the jury does not get to determine sentencing, just guilt.

So killin' wasn't involved?

Your going to need to show some proof that exists. Sure, there is the stand your ground type of rules, but that a self-defense situation. "Needed killin" sounds like some people outside of Texas believe Texas hyperbole.

Sounds like Texas got it right. Normally the law expects you to go to the police if the threat isn't imminent--but that assumes the police can do something about it. Generally they can't.

No. This idea of "innocent because X needs killing" is a bad idea. Everyone's idea of "needs killing" is different. Imagine how this hypothetical law would work out for minorities. It would not go well.

[citation needed]

While this case looks to be justice, I have the fortune of experiencing real-life extreme bullying, stalking and ill will for no other reason than profit incentive and having been abused in the first place. Sometimes this sounds crazy to people and it would to me, but I think everyone sees this in school growing up, and history is all about it if you stop and think about it. I've seen examples of it, too, all the time in my life. I'd be weary of promoting justice being taken "into their own hands." But these problems are indeed very challenging, especially in a world where merit and virtue are not necessary, and even are deleterious, to your group's survival.

Something's wrong here, though. Why was this fellow allowed to carry on as he did into his mid-40s? Even if you are built like a bear you can't take on a whole village. Some group must have backed him up until he became intolerable even for them. Was it his clan, or the perhaps the lawmen? The article is silent, unfortunately.

> if the justice system cannot help you then you have to take things into your own hands

Fortunately not many people seem to feel this way, maybe because revenge doesn't work as a criminal defense.

People who have been wronged are usually highly emotional and it's hard for them to put themselves outside of their circumstances and view the incident objectively.

Justice is supposed to be blind for good reason. If we all carried out our own version of justice, I'm sure you'd eventually run into someone who thought being too loud at night should be punishable by death.

There are many instances where victims of bullying feel they have no recourse other than revenge. I don't know the answer for how to make that situation better, but I know it's not murder.

This article describes a situation where a bad person did bad things, and was eventually stopped.

You are saying: "That was not the solution. But I don't know what the right solution is".

How can you possibly know that there is an alternative without knowing what it is?

I think what you are really saying is: "I have an ideological opposition to violence-as-a-tool which I cannot rationally explain". Or, "the consequences of violence-as-a-tool are so unthinkable that I choose to stop thinking."

Your line of thinking is responsible for the fact that this guy wasn't dealt with sooner. Maybe you should visit some of the victims of his behaviour before dismissing the seemingly-helpful vigilante justice in this situation.

The black-and-white line you're drawing between "blind justice" and "angry, vengeful townspeople" is not so clear in reality. Do we have AI algorithms for implementing first-principles justice? Are you so sure that first-principles justice doesn't include strategies which look like retaliation and revenge?

The line of thinking could be different from

> "the consequences of violence-as-a-tool are so unthinkable that I choose to stop thinking."

And instead be something along the lines of.

Admitting exceptions where we allow violence-as-a-tool is more harmful than the harm prevented by violence here. Simply because the consequences of an exception set a precedent that lasts for a long time.

This does involve condemning people to their fate. Alternatively, you can take the position that sometimes people really should take an action they should simultaneously be condemned for.

It stems from a fundamental faith that there is a good solution. Therefore, any non-good action is due to a failure to look hard enough for the good solution.

Which is a totally reasonable position to take except it overlooks the reality of time being a finite thing.

To classify this guy as a bully does no justice, he had shot numerous people and nearly beat a man to death.

Then the justice system needs to resource itself appropriately. A town menace should not be allowed to continue harassing folks because the police can't be half-assed to take care of him.

If your actions are causing others to suffer, and you're willingly doing nothing to prevent that, and you have expended the patience of those around you, then you get what's coming. Maybe he shouldn't have been such a shithead.

I didn’t interpret the people’s action so much as revenge as a way to protect themselves. And in this instance maybe it was the most rational thing to do when the justice system failed to protect them.

> particularly when these sorts of country towns are frequently mocked or derided by people like us

You bring up a good point, because that's another thing these country towns are known for—having a lot of respect for big cities and the people that live in them.

The feelings of contempt are mutual, which is fucking stupid.

They are mutual, and it is stupid, but one of them is the subject of a thousand think pieces, and the other is, what, just treated like a fact of life? Have you ever read anything saying "hey country folk, maybe you shouldn't hate the people in the cities so much"?

This is my prevailing theory as to why minority enclaves in metropolitan areas tend to have higher violent crime. It's not socioeconomic as much as it is folks being forced to mete out justice on their own.

Are you sure this isn't just a bias of yours? Urban areas in the United States have a lower rate of fatal injuries due to violence than do rural areas. Perhaps this is not what you meant by "violent crime"?

I know the output of these reports is difficult to interpret but see [1]. The top decile of per-capita violent deaths are rural counties, not urban ones.

1: https://wisqars.cdc.gov:8443/cdcMapFramework/output/m5886273...

It could be a bias of mine, but if averaged out over an entire county I don't think these are mutually exclusive. I'm talking about the 'rough parts of town' that are typically dominated by a minority population.

Try this:

Go find a crime map site, pick a big city and show homicides over the last year.

Then go to the racial dot map and see how it compares to the census of that locale.


Are you sure socioeconomic status is not a better fit and that race is not just a proxy for it?

I’m not saying it’s specific races or some sneaky proxy for them, but the fact that there are different races at all likly plays some role. For example, I firmly believe if we had opposites millenia with regard to race these same patterns would emerge.

Now I have lost track of the exact scope of ‘socioeconomic status’, but i don’t think that being poor/uneducated/financially insecure explains it all either. West Virginia is the epitome of low socioeconomic status, but violent crime is relatively low.

My basic thinking is that these communities do not have a healthy, trusting relationship with law enforcement. The cause for that is complex of course, but the net effect ties back to the OP. If law enforcement isn’t a reliable or trusted resource, a community will fall back to vigilante/mob justice. Without the resources of a court and prison system to remove people from a community, that justice is going to come in the form of violence. This of course creates a negative feedback loop with law enforcement, exacerbating the problem.

On the upside, this problem might actually be easier to solve.

Idk, I’m kind of with you on this. I grew up in an area that was racially diverse and also shared a distrust of the police and legal system. Minorities in the United States are being shot and killed by police at an alarming rate. I’m not convinced that every urban community holistically decides they must take justice into their own hands, but I, anecdotally, grew up in a place where people do take matters into their own hands. Again, I’m not saying you’re onto something here, but I do know many people who would rather fight in the streets over fight in a court room.

I’m not very bright socially so it’s entirely likely I’m wrong.

With that, you don’t need to centrally ‘decide’ anything. I think folks would generally observe patterns and come to similar conclusions. Honestly it’s probably the same way the ‘blue code’ develops...theres no meeting, just patterns. It’s not an absolute model, police do get called (and fired) all the time despite this.

Doesn’t really matter what i think at the end of the day and im grossly oversimplifying most of it, but it is a handy framework that explains a lot for me.

I very much think socioeconomic status is more likely a better fit.

I have a feeling if you did the same test but instead of “crime” you did “wealth percentile” you’d probably end up with the same results in the United States though unfortunately.

Not a lot of well off minority neighborhoods throughout the country and the wealth disparity even with all the poor white people is very real.

> I very much think socioeconomic status is more likely a better fit.

Believe it or not, this exact question has been studied pretty intensively for decades.

The predictive value of race is much higher than the predictive value of socioeconomic status.

Ah, then you should be able to provide some sources.

I think this is an excellent analysis with sources: https://randomcriticalanalysis.com/2015/11/16/racial-differe...

His conclusion is that on a county-by-county level in the US, race is the strongest predictor of homicide rates, with rates of single-motherhood being next strongest. Poverty is a reasonable predictor, but weaker than these and several others.

I read this closely a couple years ago, but only skimmed it now to remind myself of the conclusions. I'd be interested to hear peoples' thoughts on whether his statistical techniques are appropriately applied. I recall it was was convincing to me at the time.

What is the definition of "violence" for that chart? Specifically, does it include self-inflicted violence (suicide) and vehicular homicide (drunk driving)? If so, it is much less surprising.

From CDC: a violent death is defined as a death resulting from the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or a group or community

Against oneself, so it includes suicide.

I believe it does, yes. "All Causes". The problem with excluding it is there's not enough underlying data to get WISQARS to cough up a county-level breakdown. Explore it yourself by starting at https://wisqars.cdc.gov:8443/cdcMapFramework/

Great, now run the numbers on per capita per square mile and get back to us.

What on earth does "per capita square mile" mean?

Comparing urban and rural and using per-capita numbers is a fallacious argument. You must control for land area. For example a square mile that is labeled “urban” vs square mile labeled “rural” the numbers per-capita tilt homicides way in favor of urban areas... and its not even close.


I fail to see how "per capita per square mile" is a useful measure.

_Anything_ measured in that way would show densely populated area vastly outnumbering rural areas, perhaps with the exclusion of things that essentially don't exist in cites, such as "number of farms per capita per square mile".

The measure appears to be concocted specifically for Lying With Statistics™.

Should proximity to potential assailants not be taken into account?

The "murders per capita per square mile" metric really gets to the heart of the question on every American's mind: what percentage of face-to-face interactions are murders?

If you wanted to track that you'd need to do the opposite of what GP is suggesting.

That is, a dense urban area would have more face-to-face interactions than a sparse rural one. Given two areas with equal levels of per-capita violence, it would then follow that the more sparsely populated one would have more violence per face-to-face interaction, not less.

Right, I guess you'd actually want a measurement like "murders per population density" or "murders per (person per square mile)". Or, as it's more commonly known, murder-hectares per capita.

Murder-hectares per square capita? Murder-capitas per hectare? I'm not actually sure how the dimensional analysis works out.

This is absolutely absurd. We're talking about the US here, so it would be murder-acres, and that just sounds like a country club you really shouldn't join.

Wouldn't that assume that murderers do some kind of random walk, and randomly kill some person they happen to get close by?

I'm sure there are those, too, but IIRC in most violent crime the attacker and the victim know each other. Do people have substantially bigger social circles in cities?

I think I'm hung up on the same thing, chief.

Why per capita per square mile instead of per capita? Why do the miles enter into it? Because of more interactions? I'd like to see just the numbers per capita. I suspect they're fairly close.

Because violent felonies such as homicide proximity is the requisite factor in victimhood. ie The victim must be located near the killer.

Given 1 homicide in 100k for 100sq miles called "rural" vs 1 homicide in 100k for 5 sq miles called "urban", your odds of being in proximity of a homicide are much higher in the urban area. 20 times more likely.

I live in lower Manhattan, and there have been many shootings within a mile of me in the past year, even a few within two blocks of me, but because the per-capita numbers are so low, I'm pretty unconcerned about being shot, and so it doesn't really bother that I'm near the shootings. I don't really see how standardizing by (people * area) does you any good in capturing public safety, or even perceived public safety

Being further away from killers that I'm equally likely to be victims of isn't any more comforting.

> Because violent felonies such as homicide proximity is the requisite factor in victimhood

This doesn't stand up. Crime statistics are measured after the crimes happen; whatever effect might be due to proximity has already taken place.

Consider: in your example you say two places have equal per-capita homicide rates but one is 20x denser. It follows that the denser area will have 20x more people "in proximity" to any given homicide, and therefore that P(victim|proximity) must be 20x lower compared to the rural place.

The way you've done the math only makes sense if everyone "in proximity" of a homicide was equally likely to be a victim, but given equal per-capita rates that can't be the case.

Although I don't know, I do know that distance or location matters a lot. Statistically, one can avoid murder easily just by location. Sometimes not even very far away from hotspots.


Per capita per square mile.


because your narrative is false when accounting for land area/population density.

Considering he referred to minority concentrations in urban cities compared to the rest of the city, I believe the bias would be on your part since he didn't bring up rural areas at all.

Americans have a real problem with proportions.

If you put a million people in a city and 100 of them die of a flu, everyone screams epidemic. You spread those same people out over all the small towns in a state, and 200 of them die, it's just fine.

Because, I suspect, we often associate statistics with a location rather than a cross section of society. We think "someone in my town was murdered", not "the murder rate is 1/250,000".

I think this is a problem of humanity, not a problem of Americans.

Alternatively, crimes are more common in metropolitan areas due to increased contact.

Crimes are also more likely to be reported in poor metropolitan areas. Poor minorities are more like to stay in metropolitan areas. Resulting in a rather insidious bias that's hard to adjust for.


PS: It is also easier to hide a body in the country, so missing persons can hide many murders.

> crimes are more common in metropolitan areas due to increased contact

Is there evidence for this contact theory? It doesn’t match my understanding of crime patterns. For example there are many very dense cities around the world without much crime, and some sparsely populated rural areas with lots of crime.

A Google search turns up




There are many more variables to correct for than just population density but this study does a pretty good job covering that and then some. In short, yes cities have significantly more crime (both violent and property) than rural areas.


There are huge numbers of trends in the crime data depending on you want to look at it, so I'm always open to changing my mind on topics like this, if there is good data to support it.

> The average number of residents age 14 - 17 for urban counties was 10,879.74 (SD = 25,923.60), far larger than the mean of 987.32 (SD = 760.86) for rural counties. Likewise, the average number of residents age 18 - 24 for urban counties (18,752.97, SD = 41,994.59) was much greater than rural counties (M = 1,625.68, SD = 1,417.78).

If there are literally 10 times fewer young people, it’s not too surprising that the rural counties had fewer crimes per capita. With that big a disparity it’s kind of shocking that the urban crime rate is only 50% higher.

I hadn’t realized that US rural counties have so few young people. It sounds like the population of those places is on the verge of collapse.

If the median age in rural counties is ~40, there are few small children, but only 2.5% of the people are 14–24, it sounds like there must be a pretty large number of 25–40 year olds though. Has there just been a sharp demographic break within the last generation with all of the young people suddenly moving away, or are large numbers of 30-somethings moving from the city to rural towns?

> the population of those places is on the verge of collapse.

That collapse has been underway for a couple of generations now.

>Has there just been a sharp demographic break within the last generation with all of the young people suddenly moving away, or are large numbers of 30-somethings moving from the city to rural towns?

Depending on how you count, young people have been leaving farms for 4 or 5 generations now. Part of this is down to the increased efficiency of agriculture, which means fewer people are needed to produce food, which means fewer agricultural jobs. Most job creation happens in cities now, so young people who are not inheriting a family business tend to move toward cities. Richard Florida and others have written extensively about this demographic shift.

In addition to hiding evidence, the likelihood of a witness in a low population area is lower. The internal narrative that you might get away with your crime (whether that is true or not) could be pretty compelling.

The book Ghettoside by Jill Leovy goes into that in quite a bit of detail. Her conclusion - yes, very much, with a strong overlap between community and extended family. An excellent book.

It was already said that violent crime rates are actually higher in rural areas than urban ones, but it should also be mentioned that areas with high minority populations, especially black communities, are more heavily policed.

In addition, studies like this one (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1745-9125.1...) have found that the relationship between crime rates and undocumented immigrants actually decreases

As someone who came to America undocumented at the age of 5, my personal intuition is that undocumented people tend to be more fearful of authority and therefore more likely to avoid getting in trouble

It's probably also the thug culture. Going to a black school for years, I got to watch the transformation happen for many of them. Young people usually like imitating rebels and cool people. For whites, it was rockstars that had money, drugs, sex, and ran from the law. The rap stars those black students idolized were the same with two differences:

1. They encouraged or at least bragged on beating folks down or killing them for respect and money. They emphasized the need for this. They did it to people in their own neighborhoods rather than other areas and groups like whites preferred.

2. Many of the gangs recruiting with such ideology had a rule where you couldn't leave. If oppression or lack of resources started it, the person who had a come up with still expected to commit the crimes backing up their group. We've seen this plenty with celebs in hip hop with Tupac gunned down over a rivalry.

3. Many of these areas discourage reading/literacy since it's a "white thing" vs oral traditions of black culture. The local gangs might even beat up kids for carrying books. In those areas, this further contributes to poor test scores and other things that hold people back.

The more apologetic sources don't bring this stuff up with three getting virtually no reporting. They want to shift all the blame toward white folks instead of assigning it appropriately. I keep bringing it up. It keeps coming back to me, too, with each hiring wave at my company with young blacks having one or more people that believe the same bullshit. Fortunately, they're far from a majority. Most aren't anything like them. They tell them they're idiots. Might drive them away more, though.

Of course, don't take my word for it. In Memphis, TN, they'll tell you if you ask:



Although they mention cops as usual, they also emphasize how fun and profitable the drugs and violence are. Most of them get a kick out of it. It's power that's easy to have. Just have greater numbers than and some weapons for a target. Bam! Bang! Quick high they don't get solving bigger problems.

Also, the mindset works against most solutions people describe here which assume they even want a regular job. The locals tell me they're independent businessmen ("my own boss")who go for high gains despite the high risks, "just like stocks" one said. Some of the small-time dealers make $50,000 a year without a degree. They said they were on-call and on-guard at all times, though. Gotta work to make that money. Just not legal work cuz then they making nothing while other people make big money off their backs. Doesn't sound too far from the logic of founders set to be billionaires while their workers make average or less wages.

It also seems that this is a little bit different from usual "lynch mobs" or vigilante justice because it was an act of self-defense. This man was going around shooting people and was actively making threats (though not at the exact moment he was shot).

This makes it a little more morally justified than shooting someone who committed some real or perceived wrong, but isn't a current threat to others.

They stopped him because he was dangerous.

I think I’ve heard stories of eg battered wives killing their husbands and then claiming self-defense because they reasonably feared for their lives (and perhaps their children’s lives) in the long run.

The fact that the Sheriff was involved in the conspiracy is fishy.

Or completely expected, if the broader narrative of a legal system that has ceded to lawlessness is true. Law enforcement is on the literal front-lines in dealing with violent repeat offenders as described here.

this is promoting a logical fallacy in the belief that there exist a perfect system. this is the same argument that many who are trying to deregulate the government have with the ultimate intention of privatizing everything.

> That doesn't make the actions acceptable, of course. But it does put a spotlight on the importance of having a working legal system that provides some reasonable level of protection to the larger community.

This man was tried and convicted by a jury of his peers, it was just in a different courtroom.

That's the kind of logic used to justify lynchings. We have a legal system that enforces a certain burden of proof, that takes place in a courtroom where strict procedure is enforced by an ostensibly impartial judge, and evidence is weighed by an impartial jury. The system is carefully set up to balance the rights of the accused against the interests of the community. It may not work all the time, but it exists for a very good reason, and mob justice is no substitute.

I know on paper that is how it's supposed to happen but if we are honest it doesn't always happen that way.

When the legal system is perverted by local corruption and nepotism, allowing bad actors to run roughshod over their victims, are they supposed to just lie down and take it out of dedication to an abstract principle which has been wholly betrayed in practice?

I mean, they should not just lie down, but I think the more lawful and orderly approach would be to appeal to a higher tier of authority that's supposed to be available within the legal system. Of course, easier said than done, but still I think that's what the "right thing" would have been.

The Constitution provides for an impartial jury, along with other important factors. A lynch mob is no such thing.

How many of the mob were directly impacted by the bully?

I could imagine having witnessed the bully be a bully, not being a victim, and still deciding the bully needs to die. The decision can be made not based on the desire to defend yourself, and instead based on the desire to defend others / the desire to prevent unjust behavior.

This was a mob execution.

A jury that is inconsistent and hard to rouse. The subsequent crimes show the criminals their understanding of the broken justice system

So my family actually knew the sheriff from the next county over. He picked up McElroy a couple times for various things. (I think being drunk etc.). Now when this was explained, this was 26-27 years ago, so my memory is a little fuzzy, but he explained that the man was a monster of an individual. (like huge.) The guy could pick up a hog from the other side of the fence and just walk off with it. Dead lifting a few hundred pounds, that's hard, and really scary to think someone can do that who doesn't like you. You don't cross an individual like that lightly.

You have to remember this was 35+ years ago when this all happened. Things aren't what they used to be now. People didn't make long distance calls back then, because it was too expensive. You lived out it in the middle of nowhere especially back then, you're on your own. No one is coming to help you if you're in serious trouble. My parents had this joke. They said the fire department had a perfect record around where we were. They hadn't saved a house yet. Don't get me wrong, they really respected the firemen. The point was that when you live 20+ miles away from the fire station, there is no possible way they are going to save the house in time. There was no GPS, and 911 had only been invented a little over a decade before. A lot of people didn't even own phones.

It's easy to talk about the rule of law, and how they should let the justice system work it out, but it's a different kind of law in those parts. In a town that size, everyone knows everyone, and you're always talking to someone's brother, cousin, sister, etc. Oh you filed a report against someone?...yeah word gets around. The kind you don't want. Evidence gets "lost", etc. A lot of times it was (and still is in certain places) easier to just keep your mouth shut and move on. I'm not saying I agree with what they did, and I wasn't in their position, so I don't know what I'd do. I can sure see why they thought that was the only recourse they had though.

My grandmother in-law relayed a similar story growing up on a farm in Kansas. When she was a little girl there was a gypsy camp up the river. The gypsies would occasionally steal chickens. Her father eventually put a stop to it when they brazenly tried to use a car (I don’t know where they got it) to steal several chickens. Her father got his hands on one of the women and beat her senseless and one of the men engaged him and he pounded the man till he went limp. They were carted off by the other gypsies. Possibly dead.

I asked “Wasn’t there a sheriff? Didn’t he get in trouble?” She said “no, there was no law”. I said “you mean like no law enforcement?” She said “no, there was no LAW”. Implying it was completely lawless way out there on the farm.

Crazy to think about. This was in the 1930’s.

This might be strange to HN readers, but in large parts of the world, going to the police for protection or justice isn't the default. The police is often corrupt and complicit with the perpetrators, especially if they happen to be from a privileged class or social strata.

I used to live in a third world country and there was an American there who was always getting into scrapes. He would insist on involving the police, who would ask to see his ID. He would proffer his wallet and the police would relieve him of his cash and send him on his way. Despite this happening repeatedly he never lost his middle class belief that the police were basically the good guys!

It probably just means the gypsies didn't want to go to the police over an assault when they were committing a robbery.

It probably means that the gypsies knew that they wouldn't get a fair shake regardless of facts, to be honest.

There were no police to go to. Did you even read my comment?

Maybe a little bit similar is the case of Paddy Moriarty missing from a small (10 ppl) Australian town.


Reminds me a bit of the series Gunsmoke, which I recently watched for the first time online. Surprisingly good. Time frame is earlier but the feeling of "frontier justice" resonates.

This is also the overall story arc of my favorite show ever, HBO's Deadwood: a bunch of people, who were all attracted for various reasons to a place specifically because it had no law (the town of Deadwood stood on land that had been ceded by treaty to the Sioux, and was therefore outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law), slowly discover over three seasons all the reasons they actually need law after all.

It's fun to watch a bunch of shady guys realize they have to work together against even shadier guys and form a sort of city council out of a survival instinct.

The lack of an ending to that show was very frustrating.

There is a movie out to wrap up the story. I haven't seen it yet, but I have high hopes.

Agreed. And I haven’t watched the movie yet either; I’m too afraid it won’t be good enough to live up to the wait...

I've seen it. Lower your expectations.

I had to watch that show with subtitles when I started out. And I’m an American. Great show though, along with The Wire.

So much great writing in those old western TV shows. Check out Bonanza and Gunslinger if you have the chance.

Which episode? There are 635 of them...

I watched the first six episodes on cbs streaming before the trial ended.

That many people feel what the townspeople did here was wrong is fascinating to me. It seems many people believe in certain ideals, as dogma, to the extent that they expect other people to suffer or even die upholding those ideals. The rule of law is important, yes. But why does anyone expect a town to let themselves be maimed and murdered to maintain the rule of law? This is an insane expectation. The people defended themselves. Nobody can criticize them for that. Yes of course it would better if law enforcement was fixed, but people often have no ability to fix that in any reasonable time frame. Meanwhile people are getting murdered.

Perhaps sometimes, people need to do things that, whilst we would do the same in their position, we still want to condemn as wrong. Not because we disagree with their action, but because we need to signal to the outside world that actions like it are wrong. The circumstances that made such an action acceptable to our minds privately are too nuanced, too easy to stretch to publicly say they made it okay.

As a consolation, in these kinds of cases, taking action and dealing with condemnation is still better than not taking action. Of course, it is not right that people have to choose between two wrongs (living with the situation, or taking action and being condemned for it).

But life isn't fair. That isn't a statement of 'pushing the world into a fair state is infeasible to the point of imposiblity'. Instead, it is a statement that 'there is no state of the world that could be described as fair.

Moreover, the effect of such 'unfair condemnation' is tempered by people like you. I suppose that an actual working society needs both voices. Certainly, the signaling effect does not require that the condemnation be universal, just that it is substantial.

Totally agree with this sentiment. Especially in situations of deadly but hardly justified self defense.

Sure, if you feel threaten you should use your gun. But you're feeling being would have a significant cost for society and you should have to bear your part of it.

We? Do you have a mouse in your pocket? Are you the queen?

We - members of society.

The sentence started with perhaps. Hence, this was a supposition about how society should be.

to the extent that they expect other people to suffer or even die upholding those ideals

The key word here being other people. This is why I don't support 'nonviolent' politics; it basically encourages people to be punching bags in hopes of activating the conscience of people higher up the social scale...which is a lot better for the latter group than for the 'nonviolent demonstrators' getting brutalized. Turns out that people's consciences are pretty darn calloused these days, so if you're depending on on other people's empathy to solve your problems you're going to be waiting a long time.

You can only act reasonable so long as your enemy is willing to extend the same courtesy. When someone is this far gone, there's nothing you can really do other than violence, if the legal system has failed you. It sounds like they tried all reasonable options and were left with just one.

> The people defended themselves. Nobody can criticize them for that.

Humans normally have a strong aversion to murdering one another. Lots of soldiers in WWII simply would NOT fire their gun under any circumstances.

The fact that the situation got to the point where an entire town decided to murder a man speaks to a series of epic failures on a lot of fronts.

It insane and the rule-of-law take is a new one to a very old story. The story surfaces every few years and until this posting the consensus was he got what he deserved. The law fails people on a daily basis.

> It seems many people believe in certain ideals, as dogma, to the extent that they expect other people to suffer or even die upholding those ideals

Good ideals are worth suffering and risk of death. I'm honestly surprised you think otherwise. Not saying this is one of those cases necessarily, just responding to the general idea that principles should never be dogmatic.

TFA doesn't explore at all how McElroy managed to "evade jail" after so many crimes. But it seems that basically there were enough people who would provide false alibis.[0] Maybe because he had threatened them.

0) http://mentalfloss.com/article/574749/ken-mcelroy-murder-ski...

That's a much better article

A similar episode was the basis for the historical novel "Killing Mister Watson" by Peter Mattheissen, which is one of my favorite books.

A ruthless man named Edgar Watson, who had purportedly killed several people in Oklahoma and Florida, settled in the coastal Everglades of Florida (Chokoloksee area) around the turn of the last century and started a sugar cane plantation. He was known for the 'Watson payday' where, at the end of the harvest season, he would gather all of the drifters and ne'er-do-wells he had hired as fieldhands and gun them down. Additional bad behavior toward his neighbors lead to all of the town's men standing in line and gunning him down as he landed his boat on Chokoloskee Island one day.

Thanks, was going to write that this article was rather disappointing. It is more concerned with metadata about the miniseries and economic consequences rather than the story at the center.

There was a case not too long ago in India where a serial rapist kept evading conviction, so the women in the town gathered together, stabbed him to death, and then all confessed to the crime together. None of them ended up being convicted.

This is a review of the documentary covering a 'Town Bully' who had evaded authorities and continued to harm people repeatedly. In order to protect the community, a group of vigilantes murdered them, and the community refused to issue any statements to authorities regarding anyone's involvement.

I think broadly, I wonder what the place of vigilanteism like this should serve. The sentiments to protect the community against a man who isn't being recieved adequate justice- this in my opinion seems to echo the justification of other movements I'm aware of. There's often community discouse online on what to do with known bad actors when moderatorship isn't adequate for example.

it seems like a more extreme version of jury nullification. if it became widespread, it would essentially be the end of rule-of-law. but in isolated and rare situations, perhaps it's a beneficial escape valve? easy to suggest from my comfy office in a quiet suburb of course.

I think this is different. Jury nullification is about a lawbreaker not being punished. Vigilantiism is about an innocent person (innocent until proven guilty through judicial process) being punished. If we as a society have committed to the idea that option a is better than option b, then they seem more like opposites.

I meant more from the refusing to witness side. people deciding as a community not to witness a killing seems like a similar kind of thing to a group of jurors (drawn from the community) deciding to acquit someone they believe is guilty.

in both cases, it's an opportunity for the community to make a decision that falls somewhat outside the letter of the law. jury nullification has been used for both noble and quite ugly ends in the US.

Jury nullification can also be used to rescue innocent people railroaded by self-serving or corrupt prosecution that can manipulate jurors into believing their side of the story.

It's not a 'beneficial escape valve' when the community decides to, say, kill the n_______ who had the audacity to sleep with a white woman.

Which is a far more common application of lynching. We should not be glorifying this.

Regardless of whether or not vigilantism is ever justified, I don't think that killing someone that has made a credible threat which law enforcement has shown they are unable to protect you against is equivalent to killing motivated by racism.

Lynching has always been driven by people reacting to what they believe was a credible threat, that law enforcement has failed to protect them from.

In the historic case, that 'credible threat' was 'race mixing', uppity ______s, jews that were too well off for their own good, etc.

When you let the most violent members of a small town community unilaterally decide what is, and what is not a credible threat, that is exactly what you will get.

Are you comparing a townspeople who faced daily threats of actual violence from a pedophile bully, and who watched him routinely evade justice in the courts, to lynch mobs who executed random people of a certain skin color for looking at someone's daughter the wrong way?

"Credible threat" has an actual meaning beyond just "whatever people think a 'credible threat' is".

It was credible enough to them that they would kill another human being over it.

The whole point of a lynch mob is that you get to throw out any objective standard of credible threat, and replace it with a subjective, heat-of-the-moment one, proposed by the thugs leading it, who know they will face no accountability for their actions.

That's what happens when you normalize lynching. Shitty people will happily use it as a weapon for injustice.

"credible enough to them" is a meaningless phrase which elides the crucial distinction at hand. The people of Skidmore were objectively justified in feeling physically threatened by McElroy. Lynch mobs were not.

If you want to argue a slippery slope exists (and I think that may indeed be the case), blurring these very different motives together does not bolster your case. I mean, the town of Skidmore didn't go on to exact this kind of vigilante justice on anyone else, did it?

Exactly. Hindsight is 20-20 and with hindsight we pretty much agree this guy got what he had coming to him (even if the proper legal procedures weren't followed) whereas the people who got lynched for racial reasons didn't.

I'm not following this logic.

You're claiming that the only reason anyone would kill is if they feel a credible threat to their own life, but this simply isn't true. People kill for all sorts of other reasons. Lynch mobs were primarily driven by these other reasons, not primarily by reasons that boil down to self-defense.

It was credible enough to them that they would kill another human being over it.

Perhaps, but the question was directed to you, not to them.

So in this case would you say that it was not a viable threat but was instead equivalent to being threatened by race mixing?

To be clear: I am not saying that their actions were right, just that its not fair to compare them to something like racially motivated lynching.

The issue here is that morality is subjective. In the end, it is a group of people that decide what is acceptable. Tensions arise when different groups of people come to different conclusion. This occurs when those groups are separated by time, distance, or some form of self identification.

To compound this issue, there does seem to be some parts of morality that are near universal, and can thus almost be established as objective. However, deciding that something is objectively morally right / wrong is generally overturned later on. Certainly, there are many examples of objective moral judgements that have turned out not to be universal.

In conclusion, we should not strive towards a set of rules for deciding whether something is moral. Instead, we should try to get closer to consensus on what is moral without expecting to ever even get close.

The world is not black and white. Sometimes something that's awful and terrible in one context is a necessary evil in another.

I think that "physically terrifying (as in, can dead lift a couple hundred pounds like it's nothing) guy who has been convicted of multiple crimes but the police are too afraid/incompetent/paid-off to actually keep him in jail" easily crosses the bar of "I'm not going to feel bad if vigilante justice takes its course".

No one's denying that terrible things have happened in the name of vigilante justice. But this is not the same thing. Justice spoke, but enforcement refused to do its job.

Glorifying this in general is definitely bad for exactly the reason you said, but I think glorifying this case specifically is fine. This is a specific case in which legal process broke down, not a case in which there weren't laws that covered or should have covered the behavior of the victim. Law gets its privilege from the consent of the governed given based on its integrity, consistency, and gradual convergence to reflect the specifics of that consensus, not by basis of being designated "law."

If the law isn't working, it will be abandoned.

Laws on race were imposed from a larger consensus on race (federally.) There's no such consensus on defending bullies who are terrorizing their neighbors. Specifics matter.

I dunno why you're being down voted but this is true. America is a lot more racist than the Bay.

Are you implying that SF is a lot less racist than America is on average, or that there are places in America that are a lot more racist than SF?

"Beneficial" is probably too gentle a word. Vigilante justice is always bad. In this specific case, it was arguably less bad than the alternative, but that doesn't mean it's a good principle in general.

Rule of law is essentially about process for resolving disputes. In this case, it doesn't seem to be any dispute - it seems that the community had came to a consensus (almost unanimous if we discount McElroy himself and his wife Trena) about what how they wanted things to be.

Rule of law is not only about the practice of resolving disputes, though that's important, it's also about the belief that the process is what is used to handle criminals like McElroy. If that belief is shaken, it's much more damaging than if the system itself is a bit inefficient or corrupt but people still believe in it.

There are two perspectives here. The outer perspective is 'should we condemn the actions taken here as outsiders'.

The other, inner perspective is 'would you have participated in the killing, or at least be okay with refusing to testify against the killer?'

I think it might be okay for the judgement of the situation from the different perspectives to be inconsistent.

I feel that this reverses cause and consequence - in this scenario it's not that this lynching would damage the belief in the legal process, but rather than the lynching happened because of (justified) disbelief in the legal process.

It sounds like the justice system was either non-functional or corrupt. He committed plenty of crimes that should have put him away for a long time yet didn't. If government isn't serving the people appropriately then it gets replaced. Hard to say if it was really justified here. Maybe a call to the FBI would have been more productive.

There was a federal investigation, but without witnesses stalled.

I think it's just a symptom what happens when the rule of law fails

Criminal, the podcast, did an episode about the killing of Ken McElroy. [0]

An episode that stuck in my head.


> Britt Small, in fact, says that the only mistake made during the entire ordeal was not killing Trena too

Wait, what did Trena do to also be a potential target here? Just guilt by association? Or was she actually actively participating in the criminal acts (and not being coerced to do so, as I imagine one might be before/while/after marrying a violent criminal at age 12)?

The article couldn't, you know, delve into this a bit more?

I remember watching some news program about the event (maybe the 60 minutes piece mentioned in the article). I believe they interviewed Trena and she expressed anger that her husband was murdered and nobody would testify or try to bring the murderer(s) to justice.

My guess is that Small doesn't like that she caused waves after the murder. As opposed to just going along with it.

Someone posted the wikipedia article. Apparently she tried to get one of the shooters prosecuted, started a lawsuit, and was ultimately able to wrangle a settlement.

To add to the other responses: according to http://mentalfloss.com/article/574749/ken-mcelroy-murder-ski...

> She became his accomplice, accompanying McElroy on several of his nocturnal visits to people he had targeted for harassment. As McElroy ranted, she would stand nearby, a firearm in her hands.

I'm guessing she wanted to name names.

This article is a very brief commentary on the documentary. Presumably the show would explain that point of view and dig deeper into the whole matter.

Would have liked to have heard more detail about why the local justice system was unable or unwilling to restrain McElroy.

The whole situation raises some interesting parallels to wealthy & powerful malefactors routinely skating past legal consequences in our federal courts system.

I highly recommend the book In Broad Daylight, which the TV movie was based on. Surprised they didn't mention this in the article.

It's there:

> ...an incident that became so notorious they even made a TV movie about it (1991’s In Broad Daylight, starring Brian Dennehy, Cloris Leachman, Marcia Gay Harden and Chris Cooper)

This is still going on in Alaska, many remote areas have some bullies getting away due to no police. I'm sure some end up missing too, but there is a big lack of funding for state marshals to deal with the problems.

I am not saying you are wrong, however this comment would be a lot more useful/interesting if you mentioned some sources.

Not parent, but this well-researched and gripping anecdote [1] may offer a helpful picture of American places where the law is not so dependable.

[1] https://magazine.atavist.com/outlaw-country-klamath-county-o...

It's worse than that in some spots. In some areas, the bullies are the police.


> In Stebbins alone, all seven of the police officers working as of July 1 have pleaded guilty to domestic violence charges within the past decade. Only one has received formal law enforcement training of any kind.

One could see this as a man being tried by a jury of his peers.

OBVIOUSLY this vigilante justice was not planned over the entire time span of McElroy's rein of terror, or it would have happened long before. So there is no intrinsic aspect of flash-mob vigilantism we should be concerned about.

OBVIOUSLY no one here is in a position to exonerate any of the specific crimes McElroy committed.

Sounds like a nice place to live, but if you were to be drawn there because of this they probably wouldn't want you living there. That is the attitude of people who feel resentful that 'doing what needs to be done' has drawn more national attention than the collected crimes of McElroy ever did.

This kind of thing has been happening since humans roamed the plains of Africa. A smallish group of humans can only take so much anti-social behaviour before a permanent solution is required. Now, with larger groupings of towns and cities, society can afford to be somewhat more merciful.

Peter Matthiessen's book "Killing Mr. Watson" centers on a similar story in south Florida.

Midwesterner here: Skidmore, MO, is not in The Midwest. It is on The Prairie. Which is the easternmost part of The West.

The Midwest starts west of the the line between Fort Duquesne in Pittsburgh to the southwest corner of New York. It is north of the Ohio River, and east of the Mississippi River. St. Paul is Midwest. Minneapolis is Prairie.

St. Louis is "the Gateway to the West", not "the Gateway to More of the Midwest".

Midwesterner here: grew up in or near Kirksville, MO, about 165 miles east of Skidmore. I hereby swear or affirm that Skidmore is in the Midwest, geographically and culturally, although northern Missouri/southern Iowa have their own version of "midwest". That part of the world is definitely not plains geographically or biologically: it's oak/hickory forest growing on dissected glacial till. You don't get to "plains" geographically until you're well into Kansas at that latitude, and even then, Kansas and Nebraska are culturally midwestern, despite their pretensions to cowboy.

You might say "pop" instead of "soda", but you will never escape your Louisiana history. No true Midwesterner grows their corn and soybeans anywhere west of the river.

It's not our fault that true Midwestern culture is so rich and interesting that the folk of the Great Plains were compelled to emulate it. But to be fair, you are the second-best completely-distinct-and-separate cultural region in the US, so don't feel too bad about it.



"The Midwest" is poorly-defined. Most polls conclude that Midwesterners believe that the Midwest is at least their state and neighboring states, and non-Midwesterners have basically no idea where it starts or ends.

The census region more or less covers the Northwest Territories plus that part of the Louisiana Purchase that became Missouri Territory. Largely settled by Germans and Scandinavians, and mostly free states (except Missouri itself).

I refer to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midwestern_United_States#Cultu... for further info on how the definition of "Midwest" differs depending on what part of the Midwest you're from.

The term is famously ill-defined. FWIW, the US Census bureau includes the entire state of Missouri. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midwestern_United_States#Defin...

Counterpoint: I grew up 90 miles south from there. I graduated from college in the same county as Skidmore, MO (Nodaway County, NWMSU). I never heard a real person refer to any of those regions as "The Prairie". It's the midwest to the people who live there.

> It is north of the Ohio River, and east of the Mississippi River. St. Paul is Midwest. Minneapolis is Prairie.

Then what's this "Upper Midwest" place I keep hearing about?[0] It definitely extends the Midwest past the Mississippi.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upper_Midwest

To be clear, community murders like this happened all the time in US history. The thing that makes this special is that the man killed was white and actually guilty of crimes.

> The thing that makes this special is that the man killed was white

From https://www.naacp.org/history-of-lynchings/

> Out of the 4,743 people lynched only 1,297 white people were lynched.

Would not appear that being white and lynched are not necessarily unique, though perhaps for the time period.

the rest of my sentence was important too, I don't really appreciate you cutting it off to pretend I said something I didn't.

Surely you don't really believe that of the 1,297 white people lynched, all were innocent. His point remains then, there is no shortage of guilty white men getting lynched in American history. Lots of white murderers and rapists got lynched, sometimes after they were convicted in court, by mobs who were impatient or particularly enraged.

Special doesn't mean unique. This is the second time you've engaged in bad faith with what I've said.

So what is special to mean here? Uncommon as to be noteworthy? Based on what data?

It is also worth pointing out you assume the man is guilty and deserving of death, but this is arbitrary lynching. Even our most heinous deserve their day in court. Innocent until proven guilty is more than a multiple choice test answer.

I'm pretty sure that's the first time I responded to you, but whatever... If you concede that it's not unique, what makes you think it's special? I don't feel as though you are making a good faith effort to express your ideas clearly, and are instead choosing to nitpick the precision with which people paraphrase your argument.

Many of those whites were probably black-sympathizers who would have been called n*-lovers or "black on the inside."

Also 'coalburners' for the women who married/slept with black men

> Many of those whites were probably black-sympathizers

I'm sure some were. Would be great if we had more information.

100% true. This is the history of lynching in America. Community murders where nobody saw a thing, and the justification was always that the murdered person was a degenerate who would not receive what the town thinks would be adequate punishment under the law.

Yep. Although you don't have to go back too far for the latest lynching and subsequent revisionism.


Great reading on the culture that gave rise to lynching:


Grotesque but the fact is that these public square hangings were done since medieval times and probably earlier. From the Salem witch trials to the San Francisco vigilantes, it happened in many town squares, and it was believed to be justified: https://www.legendsofamerica.com/ah-lynching/2/

These weren't all that long ago. Someone claimed that there are people walking around today that went to one of these events. I couldn't corroborate that claim but we're talking less than a hundred years ago. While the Middle ages were some 5-900 years ago.

Also what makes these public killings so notable is the fact that it was a deliberate effort of an entire society to instill fear into a minority. That you don't see very often. There wasn't even an attempt at justice, they didn't even try to make it seem like these people weren't being killed just because of the color of their skin.

> Also what makes these public killings so notable is the fact that it was a deliberate effort of an entire society to instill fear into a minority. That you don't see very often.

I prefer the version of history suggested by the last sentence, but unfortunately cannot accept it was accurate.

Looking around the world, I see it frequently and with broad geographic distribution. (Though it's not the whole society, just the dominant group, both in the immediate example and the general case across time and space.)

No, they were always accused of rape, murder or something substantial. Read the article I posted above. I suspect that in some cases, they were correct in their accusations. That being said, I don't believe in the death penalty for a lot of reasons, not least of which is this tendency of humans to seek "justice" with often little evidence at all.

That was a brutal read.

Lynchings frequently happened because white people wanted to steal land from black or native people.

You were half right until you dug into the helplessly racist narrative. The wild west had many incidences of such events and the victims were often white. One need only look at the story of Billy the Kid and the regulators or Wyatt Earp's arc for evidence. The only thing that makes this unusual is it was in 1981.

EDIT: person I'm responding to makes the case that this case is SPECIAL in U.S. history and draws a direct line to racially motivated lynchings even though there's plenty of evidence that white-on-white lynchings occurred. I am not saying racially motivated lynchings didn't occur. I'm saying that history is not black and white.

>The wild west had many incidences of such events and the victims were often white

Yes it did. But there were many incidences of such events AFTER the wild west era, and the victims were mostly black...

helplessly racist? Thousands of lynchings occurred like this across the country for a hundred years - you can bet they weren't lynching whites more often.

According to the NAACP

A) many states had more white people lynched than blacks

B) The concentration of the south eastern states did make black people the victims more often both statistically and numerically, by a large margin but

C) White people being killed was not a statistical outlier. So there is no novelty.

D) “White” didn't include Italians, known Jewish people, any many others at the time. Not until the late 20th century, and pretty much still only so largely inclusive within North America.

E) Extrajudicial killing is a deep seated part of American history


So the conclusion is that neither of you are wrong but both are unproductive unsubstantial comments.

Not everyone’s family history is about a secret killing of a black person. Many’s only experience is mob justice against someone who was white.

Its not rare enough for race to be the focus of everyone’s bewilderment here.

This is a story about the Midwest and west where the targets were often not black. So turning it into a cohesion region with the entire north american continent is counterproductive when regions just have different history.

The link you posted said that a lot more black people were lynched than white people and also that many of the white people lynched were lynched for just helping black people. It really makes it sound like it was primarily racially motivated

> It really makes it sound like it was primarily racially motivated

Were most lynchings? The numbers and history sure make it sound that way.

'rolltiide also has a point, that to take things as one giant pile of numbers masks regional variations. That and I don't know why people need to shoe-horn race relations into every article they can. It's not as if lynching is a long untold story, though maybe I'm slanted having spent time in the south where it is a well known facet of history.

I didn't refute that from my summary, I pointed out additional aspects that are also in the article

Is it inaccurate for me to point out that the same study says some states had mostly white lynchings [that therefore may have had nothing to do with helping black people]

Is it inaccurate for me to say that it wasn't rare enough to consider it a novelty?

“Neither of you were wrong”

So you also think the original comment was “helplessly racist” lol?

Well, the original comment seems to imply that the only reason people care about TFA is because the man was white and allegedly did something which is, at best, needlessly provocative, some might say race-baiting.

One could have trivially found another way to bring up the history of lynching as relates to this instance of mob "justice."

This accurately describes what I observed

This is more in line with currently existing high crime areas where nobody talks to the police as part of the culture. The demographics of this reality have no commonality with lynching statistics.

Its more closely related to anti snitching culture than us debating novelty of white people being lynched.

It is a total red herring to what this story even brings to the table.

The thing that makes this different is that the US government has kept better track of its citizens since about 1955. Despite our fear of the Mark of The Beast, we track (effectively) everybody via Social Security Number. I don't think this was true until on into the 1970s.

I'm sure that this kind of thing went on all the time in the US, in smaller towns and rural areas. People disappeared all the time. Probably most of them moved to the big city or California, but a bunch probably ended up in unmarked graves. A friend of mine had a grandmother who lived in Milwaukee. She was Jewish. She fell in love with the Polish butcher. They disappeared from Milwaukee. A couple of months later, they were in Denver, married, and she was now Catholic. The special thing about my friend's grandmother, is that he knows the story. The bitter thing about that story is that it can't happen today, because we all are tracked. There are good reasons, but that doesn't mean that giving up segmentation of risks is all that great.

Clearly the “and” was not strong enough, based on the negative comments.

“is that the man was both guilty and white” might have done the trick.

The parent poster is referring to race-motivated lynchings, of which there have been thousands over the decades.[1]

[1] https://www.naacp.org/history-of-lynchings/


Presumably you think you have the guts, so I wonder, who would you murder first?

Over the long timespans of human evolution I’m willing to bet that this is a significant selective pressure.. bullies probably just disappeared or were kicked out of the community to fend for themselves

He had 14 children, though - that doesn't seem like a failure to pass along his genes.

Well, its probably easy to have kids with a large number of women if you actively include 'poor choices' relative to your social standing. Seemingly most people want to move up or at least stay equal in social ladders when it comes to the choice of a mate.

Human beings are weird in that "failure to integrate into society" and "failure to pass on your genes" don't necessarily overlap.

In fact, failure to integrate into a social order often increases your chances of passing on your genes.

It's more likely that most antisocial people just failed to thrive rather than being actively murdered.

This kind of guy has no no problem passing genes on. There are many more single mothers than single fathers for this reason.

Barring rape it makes one wonder wtf is up with mate choice

It is managed by the reptilian brain, not the neocortex. Unfortunately is the neocortex that pays bills :D

The exceptions to this are strippers and prostitutes.

Guys you seem to have some issues with women, but rather than chastise you for it, I’m gonna give you the 3 steps towards getting a date. Ready for this?

1). Get good at talking to people, getting to know them. Making jokes and small talk. This requires practice but you can practice on anyone, talking to men and women is kind of the same skill.

2). Expand your social network. Join a book club. A lot of times the people you go on dates with will be friends of friends. This takes time and effort.

3). Take care of yourself. Get some exercise and take care of your skin. Get a flattering haircut.

All of these things are doable by anyone, especially if you’re young, they just take some time and effort, and a lot of time we nerdy men are too busy with projects and work to do them, that’s why we end up lonely. Not because women are all irrational or something. That’s just an excuse.

I am married and have a kid, both irrational decisions. The rational part was getting a vasectomy right after kid #1. Every irresponsible men I know have 3, 4 kids around, and are proud of it.

Happily married, thanks for the condescension though.

If anything my statement about prostitution was that women were profiting off of men's lizard brains.

Show this thread to your wife then and see what she thinks.

My wife would be utterly unsurprised I made the joke in the middle of a distasteful discussion - I was just commenting on what was paying the bills - I wasn't condoning or discussing the rest of the thread.

If the man were innocent and the town’s people ganged up on him, Salem style, would the evidence look different?

> For more than two decades, McElroy was suspected of being involved in theft of grain, gasoline, alcohol, antiques, and livestock, but he avoided conviction when charges were brought against him 21 times—often after witnesses refused to testify because he allegedly intimidated them, frequently by following his targets or parking outside their homes and watching them.

> McElroy began stalking the Bowenkamp family, and eventually threatened Bo Bowenkamp in the back of his store with a shotgun in hand. In the ensuing confrontation, McElroy shot Bowenkamp in the neck; Bowenkamp survived, and McElroy was arrested and charged with attempted murder. McElroy was convicted at trial of assault, but freed on bail pending his appeal. Immediately after being released at a post-trial hearing, McElroy went to the D&G Tavern, a local bar, with an M1 Garand rifle with a bayonet attached, and made graphic threats about what he would do to Mr. Bowenkamp.


Does an innocent person look like this? You tell me.

Oh, I don’t think he’s innocent, but all information about this is post facto. All those sources exist after he was killed.

I’m less conspiracy theory about this, and more just remarking (pointlessly, I suppose) how information deteriorates over time. Some may even be true, but used as a tool to build the rest around.

He was convicted of attempted murder while he was very well alive. He was also charged for many other crimes for two decades, the charges just never stuck because he intimidated the witnesses. Plenty of information about his deeds was recorded prior to his killing.

Whoops, I goofed. This stuff is pretty well documented actually. I look like a conspiracy theorist now.

His criminal record should clear up doubt.

But the town police colluded with the vigilantes!

How can it be certain that the record isn't a post hoc fabrication. Or if not entirely, then at least embellished.

Looking the other way is quite different than planting evidence.

Nor feasible in this case. Even a town sheriff wouldn't be able to modify offline (1981) databases of multiple jurisdictions. Or have the endurance to manufacture plausible entries and histories for dozens and dozens of cases over decades.

A few hours research could likely pierce any misinformation.

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