A brief and unnecessary defense of Radley Balko

I want to be Radley Balko when I grow up, so it pains me when I check out how he’s doing at his new job with the Huffington Post and see partisan lunacy like this:

Huffington Post needs to spend some time checking out who writes for them and what their motivation­s are. Balko used to write for Reason magazine, published by The Reason Foundation­, which is a front for Koch brother propaganda­. Corporate shills have no place in our media and neither do Cato trained libertaria­n activists. You can do better HuffPo.

First of all, do you seriously think that the millionaire industrialist Koch brothers are carrying out a Lex-Luthor-style plan to take over state crime labs by infiltrating a libertarian investigative reporter into the Huffington Post? Are you really that nuts?

Second, Cory Maye is a black man who was sentenced to death for shooting and killing a white police officer who had broken into Maye’s home while serving a search warrant for a drug operation that Maye’s neighbors were involved in, despite Maye’s credible claim that he didn’t know the intruder was a cop.

Radley Balko began drawing attention to the case in 2005, and within a year, Cory Maye was off death row, and a new trial is scheduled for later this year. Of course, it was Maye’s volunteer lawyers who did the heavy lifting, but everybody involved credits Radley for drawing attention to Maye’s plight. I sincerely doubt the commenter I quoted above has done anything nearly as cool for the powerless as Radley did for Cory Maye.

Third, Radley has helped expose the terrible practices of the Mississippi medical examiner (and the prosecutors who used these practices to get convictions), and he wrote the book on the problem of increasing police militarization.

Fourth, let me just point out that it’s not the corporate fatcats who suffer from abusive search warrants, police militarization, biased lab work, and all the other questionable behavior Radley has brought to our attention. It’s blacks and Hispanics. It’s poor people in general. It’s anybody who lacks political power. There was a time when liberals and progressives believed in fighting the establishment and helping the powerless, rather than protecting the jobs of the government hacks who were screwing them over.

Fifth, I’m 99% sure that Radley has never met either of the Koch brothers. Heck, until partisan lefties began bashing the Koch brothers – partially in response, no doubt, to the right-wing partisan idiots who were trying to paint progressives as tools of George Soros — most of us libertarians had never even heard of the Koch brothers.

Sixth, in his heart, Radley Balko is practically a liberal himself. He finds himself in agreement with the ACLU far more often than with Ayn Rand. Week after week, he blogs about all the issues of social justice that have concerned American liberals for decades: Free speech, police brutality, institutional racism, and the moral scolds who try to tell us all what to do. What makes Radley a libertarian is that he’s willing to consider market solutions to some of these problems.

Get a grip, HuffPo readers. You have nothing to fear from Radley Balko.

About Mark:
Mark is a computer programmer, website builder, photographer, and sometimes journalist in Chicago, where he also writes the long-running Windypundit blog.
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3 Comments

  1. Posted June 17, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Mark, I’m probably not the one to throw the first stone on this point — but I think you’ve elevated an obscure and possibly trollish commenter from deserved obscurity.

    That said, I agree with all of your points.

    But I think the chance of Radley writing at the HuffPo without a constant barrage of inane comments is zero. But he’s no dummy — I’m sure he knew it going it. I’m guessing he thinks it is worth it to give his ideas — which are important — more visibility.

  2. Posted June 17, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Ken, I’ve been thinking of writing about the HuffPo reaction to Radley for a while now. Even before his first article went up, there were rumblings of “Reason magazine? Free markets? Uh-oh.” I wanted to pick one of the more annoying comments to use as a concrete example, and Radley tweeted about that one himself (because of the Koch angle).

    Besides, I’m reading Brian Doherty’s Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement , and if the folks at HuffPo are upset by Radley, I wonder what they’d make of some of the historic libertarian hard core. Guys like Rothbard and Mises would probably think Radley was a Marxist.

    I’m sure Radley can handle himself, although from his occasional comments at the Agitator over the years, I think he’s genuinely surprised by how thoroughly people can misunderstand his writing. I suspect that the fringes of the huge crowd at HuffPo will succeed in surprising him again.

    I find it both amusing and sad that modern liberals/progressives and libertarians can have so many specific issues in common, yet be unable to get along. The HuffPo reaction to Radley is a miniature version of the failure of liberaltarianism.

  3. Posted June 18, 2011 at 1:43 am | Permalink

    I think you have a fundamental misunderstanding ion their motivation. The problem isn’t that they think Radley is swayed by some sort of rich guy payoff. Their problem is that he isn’t paid off by the right rich guy. Koch money bad, Soros money good.

    I didn’t really make too much of the Soros money until the left had such a shit fit over the kochs. To much of it has to be projection.