The power (and challenges) of viral internet

So sometimes us bloggers post something that really should resonate with the general public, and it just sits there. Certainly, this site and Radley’s and others have posted plenty of Drug War Victim stories. Some got some traction, others didn’t. Long term, they do very well (my Drug War Victims page is a heavy hitter, as is Radley’s Cato Raidmap page).

Then again, sometimes something hits just right viscerally, and it spreads like wildfire. Such was the case with the video of the drug raid in Missouri that I posted a couple of days ago. Radley had already posted it, Scott Morgan added his two cents, then it got picked up at FireDogLake, Boing-Boing, Opposing Views, Huffington, HorsesAss, Transform, NORML, etc. and went nuts on messageboards.

It built up so strong so fast, that the Mayor and Police Chief had to hold a press conference yesterday afternoon to address the issues.

In response to widespread “misinformation” developing on message boards and blogs, as well as a death threat toward Columbia police officers, Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid and Burton held a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Bloggers and others from around the world have bombarded the Columbia Police Department this week with phone calls, e-mails, and even a threatening fax concerning the search warrant. McDavid said it is important that the city’s police department continue to have the confidence of residents. An internal review is scheduled for completion in two weeks.

A couple of points…

  1. Regardless of what one may feel about the officers involved in this case or any other, if someone issue death threats againg them, then that person is no friend of drug policy reform or justice.
  2. They didn’t get misinformation from this site.

Anytime something goes viral, it happens so fast that some of the participants in the spread don’t take the time to sort through the details properly. (Remember the telephone game?) So yes, I saw comments that there were kids (plural), that there was a girl (it was a boy), that the dog was shot while in a cage, that the Corgi was killed, that both dogs were killed, etc. So I appreciate that the Mayor and Chief came forward to clarify some of those misconceptions that existed.

The real story isn’t any better.

The chief, who is personally conducting the internal investigation, walked reporters through his understanding of the incident. Three officers shot at the pit bull, and the first missed completely, which is when the corgi is believed to have been shot in the paw, he said. The pit bull acted aggressively toward a SWAT member again as they pushed into the home, which resulted in the animal being shot, he said. After being shot, it moved to attack a SWAT member, which is when the dog was killed.

One of the results of the viral video showing is that the Police Chief is now publicly saying that the warrant should not have been executed. That’s pretty huge.

The reason is a little bizarre.

Burton said the state of Missouri allows police 10 days to execute a signed warrant and that he thinks Columbia officers should have done so immediately in this case.

Investigators believed Whitworth was in possession of a large amount of marijuana and was considered a distributor. The raid ended with a misdemeanor amount of marijuana discovered and two of Whitworth’s dogs shot.

“It’s my opinion that it needs to be served as soon as possible,” Burton said of the warrant. “The contraband can be disposed of. If they are going to do that, there is not much point in serving the warrant.”

Burton said as of Feb. 12, the day after the SWAT team’s entry at Whitworth’s home, warrants have been ordered to be executed immediately.

They waited 8 days to serve the warrant.

Interestingly, an earlier report said:

Because the SWAT team acts on the most updated information available, the team wanted to enter the house before marijuana believed to be at the location could be distributed, she said.

“If you let too much time go by, then the drugs are not there,” she said.

Drug distributors traditionally have a history with firearms, which is why the SWAT team is used when executing such warrants, [police spokeswoman Officer Jessie] Haden said. If the SWAT team believed they could have executed the warrant successfully during the daytime when the wife and child were not present, they would have, she said.

So they waited 8 days, but couldn’t wait a few more hours until the wife and child weren’t present.

Something stinks. But that’s always true when you use SWAT to go after a plant.

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42 Responses to The power (and challenges) of viral internet

  1. claygooding says:

    Although it is not an action I would take,too threaten someone over the internet,phone or fax,it has evoked a response and fired a warning shot across their bow that people are not just going to lay down and allow police to continue their march towards a police state. Something had to get enough people motivated for America to hear it.
    And it just happened to be the shooting of a dog,for a misdemeanor amount of marijuana with no distribution materials for people too snap that the cops have turned the drug war into a real war against their own citizens.
    I hope that it does not stop or get waxed over by mainstream media.
    It is too bad that Pete can’t send his war victims page too Judge Napolitino(sp) on his freedom watch show,with this story and the war victims page,he could have a field day with those.

  2. Craig says:

    Pete, I’m always impressed with your analysis and presentation. Thanks for what you do.

  3. Brent says:

    Pete, thanks for the post. I’d like to point out one issue with regard to the “death threat” assertion. First, I wholeheartedly agree one should not issue a death threat. My objection is that I’m uncertain there was a death threat. In your quote from the story, the first paragraph insists it was a death threat, but the language from the police was that “even a threatening fax concerning the search warrant”. A threatening fax concerning a search warrant does not equate to a death threat. A threatening fax could easily threaten a lawsuit rather than physical harm. I’d like to see the actual fax before accepting the assertion that this was a death threat.

  4. paul says:

    Well it certainly seems they got an earful, and of all the messages I have read, non of them were positive. Calling the video “misinformation” is funny, since it was THEIR video that was distributed on the net. Personally I found their video quite informative, and I’m not at all confused as to what happened.

    Here’s a good line:

    “If the SWAT team believed they could have executed the warrant successfully during the daytime when the wife and child were not present, they would have, she said.”

    Really? Do they honestly believe this family was a bunch of terrorists or something? What’s so hard about knocking on the door at 6:00 in the evening with your search warrant? How many people seriously open fire on the cops in real life in situations like that?

    Can anyone watching that video say with pride, “Yep! This here is my America! It’s what we are all about!”

    Hell, no. That’s why they’re taking the heat. Thank God for the internet!

  5. Revolution Starter says:

    Great post and great response! The Internet is and will be our most valuable tool in fighting against prohibition it will allow the millions of faceless masses to join together in a peaceful and intelligent way that has never been possible until this point in history.

    As angry as that video made me we all need to remember that violence is not the answer, our opponents provide enough examples of just how sick and useless the use of violence against our fellow man is. We need to be stronger.

    That said, i don’t believe a word they say. How hard is it to send a fax? Even a cop could get that done. Especially to save a little face and make the other side look bad.

  6. Dante says:

    Something stinks, all right.

    The police chief said the corgi was shot by mistake. That is a lie. The corgi was targeted deliberately.

    The police chief mentions something about community support. I wonder how many people support this bozo after seeing this video.

    American Law Enforcement personnel have become domestic terrorists, exactly like the guy who tried to bomb Times Square.

    Now, what will happen to the TS bomber? Jail, financial ruin, public scorn, alienation from society. That is exactly what should happen to these idiot cops.

    Protect & Serve (Themselves!)

  7. Duncan says:

    I’d like to see the substance of the ‘death threat’. I can easily envision someone stating ‘I hope your people end up like the dogs’ being postured as such, when it’s more accurately a prayer for karmic retribution.

    Franky, it would warm my heart to see some karmic retribution against some of these people.

  8. BluOx says:

    Perhaps the mayor fails to recognize that a large segment of his city regards the ‘drug task force’ as a death threat.

  9. SeanJohn says:

    HA! This sounds like Bush43- “Those WMDs gotta be out there somwhere!” Are these fuckwads DARING TO SAY THIS? You have got to be kidding me!!!!!! They are sayaing that he already dealt the drugs!!! WITH NO PROOF! In fact, some of the neighbors wrote on message boards that they had NEVER seen traffic coming or going from the home, nor had they EVER suspected or seen any strange behavior- no parties, no noise, no nothing! Just a quiet family trying to live in PEACE! This man worked TWO JOBS! When/how did he become the “fastest dealer in the West?”

    “If you let too much time go by, then the drugs are not there,” she said. –

    yeah, that’s it, kill the dogs immediately, rather than give the family 8 more days to live in peace with their dog.

    Those fuckers have made it WORSE with this ridiculous drivel, and the legions of good people out there will not stand for it!


  10. Pingback: Scenes from the drug wars « Later On

  11. jason says:

    Any way you look at it, the video speaks for itself. I heard that the husband/boyfriend had popped off to the cops before and that this was really an act of revenge. Who knows, we can’t verify it, and it’s beside the point. Just watch the video. I don’t care if the husband/boyfriend was the biggest jerk in the world. The facts are that a bunch of police thugs murdered a dog and traumatized a child, all over a stupid little plant that makes people want to eat cookie dough. Oh, and that this sort of thing is common in American, Land of the Free and Home of the Brave (*cough, cough*).

  12. truthtechnician says:

    What is truly sad is all this uproar and media focus is WASTED. Instead of turning this against our legislatures, all the focus is on the police department, when it isn’t their fault for executing the wishes of the voters.

  13. truthtechnician says:

    I’m amazed that everybody blames law enforcement for this. Sorry, but I don’t feel that they acted outside of the confines of the law. The law is the problem, not the police. They didn’t wake up and become “domestic terrorists” as another commentator claims. They enforce laws which we voted for, enacted, and continue to support through elected officials.

  14. denmark says:

    Legislatures aren’t listening. I’ve written countless emails and letters to them and in turn get a form email or letter. I’ve written countless emails and letters proving their emails and letters and are wrong, (politely with facts), and then they do not answer any more.
    I’ve even written to Obama, via postal mail, and boldly said, “if you want to be re-elected you should end Prohibition”.

    Sadly nothing will come of this and we’ll read about more dogs being killed.

  15. jason says:

    Yes, we can blame legislators for this, but the police DO have a major role in this as well. They determine the specific tactics to use, the time of day to make the arrest, whether to actually issue the warrant and follow up on it, etc. In my county, weed is everywhere and the police pretty much look the other way (because, in fact, half of them are users too). Police simply cannot keep up with all the petty crime out there, so they have to decide what to enforce and what not to. In this video, the police acted as thugs. Yes, maybe they were technically following the law as they interpreted it (there is, by necessity, a LOT of legal interpretation on the part of the police), but they didn’t have to go to such extreme measures. They didn’t have to bother this family at all. That “blame the politicians, not the police” excuse ain’t gonna fly. The cops in this video are nothing but a bunch of brute cowards.

  16. truthtechnician says:

    @denmark: Unfortunately you’re in the minority. The majority of voters elect officials who support the drug war.

    What makes them brute cowards? That they executed a LEGAL warrant? That police arm themselves?

    What exactly are the police at fault for here? Enforcing the law? Executing a warrant? It is not clear in the video whether the dogs presented a threat. Having a family does not and should not give you immunity from search warrants or raids.

    Again, the problem is the law. Again, the outrage is wasted here because people just get emotional towards the police department and now all the letters, phone calls, and faxes go there instead of to affecting change at the polling booth.

    My best friend got 17 years for possession, and I’m not blaming the police for busting into his house with guns drawn. No, he’s sitting in jail because the public voted for him to be put there.

  17. Maria says:

    I was one of the posters that erroneously stated it was a little girl. While a small error that has nothing if anything to do with what happened my mistake has reminded me that even the slightest fact that’s wrongly presented on our end can be used against us and shown as proof that we disseminate “misinformation”.

    Also, the above poster, truthtechnician, has a point. These men are low level foot soldiers allowed to run wild by their handlers. They are told to act, and they act. Obviously they have trouble reacting to a changed situation but that’s a different issue.

    We can rail against these foot soldiers and engage in their war as much as we want but it will only be shown as proof that crime is rampant, that cannabis is evil and society is falling apart because of the “bad people”. The handlers will rejoice.

    So while truthtechnician has a point, he’s missing the bigger picture, what to do that we aren’t already doing?

    Many activists are already aware that it’s the politicians and laws we need to change and are working hard to change them. But how long does this go on before the trust in the police is completely gone? What then?

  18. Maria says:

    “all the letters, phone calls, and faxes go there instead of to affecting change at the polling booth.”

    Good point. A lot of emotional energy was put into the world by the viral propagation of this video. I hope some of it is captured, channeled and thrown at bigger targets.

  19. Ming says:

    Anyone who defends the behavior of the police is saying: “Who do you believe, me or your lying eyes?” I’m a member on an online grief group for people who have lost beloved pets. The poor doggie was trying to defend his beloved family. I’ve never had any trouble with the police, and I generally feel reassured when I see them around, but I’ll never forget the beginning of the video, when police massed outside an ordinary American home, to go to war against an American family. All because too many people can’t admit that Prohibition doesn’t work.

  20. truthtechnician says:

    So while truthtechnician has a point, he’s missing the bigger picture, what to do that we aren’t already doing?

    We need to come out about using drugs. This is something that hasn’t happened. This is something that is required for minorities to be taken seriously. I think the bloggers should have directed their readers to write their legislatures / representatives in their posts about this. I think all the major drug-reform bloggers shouldn’t have promoted Democrats as drug reformers in the last election.

    I wasn’t trying to say the incident in this video wasn’t horrific. It was.

  21. Monica says:

    Did it not occur to the police to knock on the door with a search warrant, then search the house? They seriously found it necessary to burst into a family’s house, immediately firing their guns, over a pot dealer? Then maybe the dog wouldn’t have shown any aggression because he wouldn’t have thought people were trying to hurt his owner! Absolutely ridiculous.

  22. Patrio Missive says:

    We are training these swat teams in Iraq, right now, and they will be used at home when they return. When they act at this level of force against a family,pets, and morality, all over a plant, what else will they do and even bother to lie about doing?! These ex-military people need to be in mental hospitals not used in the drug war.

  23. jason says:

    Bull. Here’s what the cops could’ve (should’ve) done instead, which would still be enforcing some B.S. law that they didn’t really have to enforce:

    *Knock, knock* “Sir, we have reasonable cause to suspect that you are in the possession of illegal narcotics. We have a warrant to search these premises. Please secure your dogs while we conduct our search.”

    Or something to that effect. Unfortunately, you could say that these cops went way beyond the call of duty.

  24. Pingback: Confusing details emerge about Missouri SWAT team warrant - Allison Kilkenny - Unreported - True/Slant

  25. Maria says:

    I will say this, I love what this video has done, it has open the eyes for many people. And many people have to confront the fact that these paramilitary SWAT raids are not engaged in by the gentleman police officers of the good old days. Those good men and women might exist but judging from the SWAT operations out there, justified or not, they are not on the SWAT teams.

    Many people have to realize that this is SOP. Barring the timing of execution, this was a by the book operation. And that’s the fucked up thing in all of this.

    The thing with SOP. Standard operating procedure usually does not get created by the grunts. It gets created and drafted and refined by management under the direction and approval of upper management based on the desire for specific results from the bosses and stakeholders.

    No one responsible and lucid can rationally defend the actions of the officers who participate in genuinely irrational raids. But what is needed is to look beyond the single actions of these particular cops and to focus energy and anger not just on these officers, however deserving they may be but on higher ups.

    See the craftiness that is going on at higher levels and to use that anger and disgust and throw it at those higher levels so that, maybe just maybe, the fear of being associated, and tainted, with such abuses will change some political tunes.

  26. Cliff says:

    There is also such a thing as “officer discretion” and allocations of police time and manpower which are being mismanaged for the sake of a small time cannabis bust. How many actual drug crimes were witnessed by law enforcement before this assault was carried out?

  27. Observer says:

    SOP apparently means armored men shoot everything in sight with four legs. Because they must wear Donald Rumsfeld armor, too delicate to foist off a hysterical animal shrinking into a corner with its tail between its legs.

    Gimme a break. These “men” dressed for the occasion and killed what they could. They filmed it themselves as an official record then whined when others saw their manhood in action.

    Finally they threatened the family with loss of custody of the child, because a daddy with red eyes is more traumatic then a SWAT team of armored men killing everything in sight with four legs.


    Stop it already.

  28. Maria says:

    *sigh* I wonder what’s the point sometimes. I forget that wasted energy is wasted energy. But I’ll try one last time.

    Please read what is being said. No one is defending these cops no one is defending their procedures. Not here at least, not on this blog. But the issue is bigger then this video. Bigger than these cops.

    This type of raid happens a lot. This type of raid happens too often to be anything but SOP across the board and across the nation. That is what is so fucked up. I’ve seen it put on another board that this “preemptive warfare against a populace and what they might do.” I feel that’s true.

    Use your anger not arguing at cross purposes against ghosts whom you think are defending what these cops did but channel it at all parties involved. It is very easy to blame the guard at the camp gate, he is the most visible and yes, he is responsible for being there, but someone else put him there. And that someone else must also be held accountable.

    Our narrow focus and spike of anger at the cops in each SWAT raid video and story that surfaces can not be the only reaction we have. That is what many want out of this or this is all pointless.

  29. Pingback: Scenes From The Drug War, Ctd – The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan « Firesaw

  30. Brucem says:

    First rule of deflecting criticism and adopting the role of greater victim: claim to have received a death threat. Don’t claim to have received hundreds of death threats as people will want to verify the quantity. Just stick with one death threat. One implies it’s unverifiable while a hundred implies some form of accounting and thus the ability to corroborate.

    Unless it’s your job (I.e. The secret service vis a vis the president) the public needs to ignore authority figures who claim to have gotten death threats. Especially when they’re clearly using it to gain sympathy and victim status when in fact they are the ones who violated someone else. Don’t let them get away with invoking the made-up death threat.

  31. SVP says:

    “The real story isn’t any better”

    I’m sorry but an aggressive pit bull moving on an officer being killed (while still sad as I am fond of Pit Bulls) is much, much, much, MUCH more understandable to me than a caged animal and a corgi being targeted and shot.

  32. Windy says:

    First, everyone who’s commented on this video has apparently overlooked the almost complete lack of any emotion showing by any of those cops, they go about the killing as if they were cleaning out a sink after washing dishes. That is specifically a sign of a sociopath.

    So why are our police departments, all over the country manned by sociopaths? Shouldn’t that be a trait that precludes someone from that kind of job, rather than an attribute that is apparently deliberately selected for in hiring? And how do we change that?

    Second, my email to that police department might have been misperceived as a death threat, since I invited each and every one who contributed to or participated in that raid to “take a flying leap off the high board into an empty pool”.

    Third, I did send the link to this video to each of my so-called “representatives” in government at all three levels (local, state and federal) along with my demand that this unconstitutional war on people who choose differently be immediately ended; and laying the blame for the atrocities shown in that video (which occurs between 100-150 times each and every day in this country) directly at their own doors. They are accessories before the fact to the crimes of human and animal abuse and vandalism. I told them their constituents will hold them responsible and that I seriously questioned if they’d be re-elected when their current term is up. I hope I put the fear of the people’s righteous anger into them, but they are so damn arrogant I doubt they even gave my email more than a passing glance before tossing it in the round file.

  33. Daniel Cardenas says:

    I’m not sure if this had been said already, but I find it incredibly encouraging that the video surfaced in the first place. This seems to have been an official police recording of an incident that is incredibly embarrassing to the department – one would think this video would have been destroyed rather than making it to YouTube. Whoever shined the light of sanity on this incident, I applaud you. I would like to assume you are a sworn officer – and if so, you are something like a beacon of hope in my eyes. The rightful place of Law Enforcement in our society is one of respect and honor, and anyone who has the courage to bring an injustice like this to light – especially when one knowingly faces the potential for personal consequence – that is a person we are all fortunate to have wearing a shield. I am grateful to your service and I thank you sincerely.

  34. Daniel Cardenas says:

    @Patrio Missive – Fuck you.

  35. ezrydn says:


    Your last statement in this “debate” just lost it for you.

    I worked for the San Diego PD when Stamper was my Asst Chief. I was a civilian A/V Specialist. And, yes, I ran video for the department, even in the field. This was back in the mid-80s. So, the person who released the video could, COULD have been a civilian, not a sworn officer. I’ve got a video here of Chief Kollender urinating on a tree in Balboa Park in early afternoon. And, no, I won’t post it.

    I’ve also got a video where we had DEA make meth so we could tape the procedure, step by step. They dropped the production and I kept the raw tapes. They’re on DVD now.

    Whether sworn or civilian, whoever released the tape is to be applauded, no doubt about that. This was a person with perspective and community concern. We need more like them for they are the vanguard of policing the police.

  36. Cannabis says:

    What many people seem to forget is that SWAT officers are not merely foot soldiers who are just following orders. Members of these teams are not randomly selected, but are usually volunteers or members of the force who are being rewarded by their superiors. Many of the tactics used by these teams are not written down in their policy and procedure manuals, like the killing of dogs and willful destruction of property, but have come to be officially condoned. These tactics are used to exact a punishment far in excess of what a person will receive in the courts. Marc Emery is correct in calling this a pogrom. What is missing in all of this is meaningful civilian oversight of the police, creation of their policies and procedures, and accountability to those who pay them – us.

  37. kaptinemo says:

    I second Maria’s sentiments. You won’t get anywhere berating the foot soldiers. (And frankly, do you honestly expect someone who volunteered to do such things to their fellow human beings suddenly develop the awareness that what they’ve been doing, i.e. this video, is wrong? So long as they are immersed in the “Them vs. Us” mindset, that will not happen. Don’t bother.)

    Don’t waste your anger. Direct it at the legislators who create laws that lead to monstrosities like this. Enough people doing that, and, like the mule hit between the eyes by the 2×4, you’ll have their fullest attention. Because it’s always been a valid maxim in this society that “When the People lead, the leaders follow.”

    They’ll want to keep their cushy jobs, and know if they don’t bend to the ‘will of the people’, they’ll break in the next election. It’s already happening in California and in other States; the vox populi is being heard, and the pols are changing their tune accordingly. The ‘Populi need to do more ‘vox’ing at their legislators while this remains fresh in the minds of all who’ve encountered it. And this kind of thing needs to be sent to the Kucinich Committee as evidence of the horrific failure of the DrugWar to accomplish anything other than to domestically terrorize American citizens.

  38. Daniel Cardenas says:

    It needed to be said. I’ve lost too many friends to let sleights like that go.

  39. Revolution Starter says:

    It would be great if we could start a collection of recordings like this, not only of police action in the US but also other violent government actions to citizens of other countries in the name of the drug war.

    This war effects most people on this planet, and the US government is responsible for most of it, weather it is there direct actions or through coercion and force to other governments.

    Like everyone is saying to attack the foot soldiers will only instigate violence, they are brainwashed and uneducated. We need to go after the people at the top, the strength in our collective voices is all that is needed to bring fear to our elected officials and begin to instigate change.

    There is a simple way to do this, and it is coming…
    We are not thousands, or millions of people, our numbers are in the HUNDREDS of MILLIONS to BILLIONS!

    One way or another we will be heard.

  40. denmark says:

    Was looking for an explanation to “injurious intent” and came across “Aggravation”, in law, is “any circumstance attending the commission of a crime or tort which increases its guilt or enormity or adds to its injurious consequences, but which is above and beyond the essential constituents of the crime or tort itself.”

    Interesting ezrydn as Norm Stamper is one of the people responsible for busting me way back. Don’t worry, I hold no grudge.

  41. Pingback: Who is responsible for the dead dog in Missouri? - Drug WarRant

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