Thursday, September 29, 2011

Snitch Culture.

"If you see something, say something!" goes the ad campaign, no doubt focus-grouped to a fare-thee-well.

The problem is, what's the definition of "something"?

In Maryland recently, a delivery driver saw something he thought was suspicious in his cargo, and went to the police. What was the suspicious package?

One stop was receiving a delivery of several thousand rounds of ammunition, and the stop wasn't at a gun store or shooting range or police department, but at a private residence. And the guy who signed for it wasn't even a cop!

And we all laugh.

Okay, suppose he'd been receiving a shipment of fertilizer? Would the driver have been right to call the cops then? If so, why? Fertilizer is completely legal.

How 'bout if he was receiving a shipment of fertilizer, and he was kinda swarthy-looking?

Or, how 'bout if he was receiving a shipment of fertilizer, and he was kinda swarthy-looking, and the driver could hear foreign-sounding music coming from the stereo when the guy opened the door?

Where do you draw the line? How far down the slope do you slide before you decide you don't like the view anymore?

EDIT: As could have been predicted, one commenter at Todd's wrote:
the only ones that have to fear “snitches” are criminals.
After all, citizen, if you have nothing to hide, what’s a little bit of probulatin’?

I don’t like the fact that in my lifetime, the symbolic figure of our nation has gone from Uncle Sam to Uncle Badtouch.
Uncle Badtouch Wants You
(To Bend Over)

(Image whipped up nearly instantaneously by the incomparable Robb Allen.)


perlhaqr said...

Seen that one before. in '02, I had a boss whose last name was Hassan. Whitest of white dudes, name is pronounced "Hass'n", not "Hah-sahn", owns a legally papered machine pistol of some sort in .45 ACP and got a visit from the Feds when he ordered 10k rounds of the stuff in one go.

They pretty much turned around and left as soon as they saw his face.

And really, I don't know how I feel about it.

One the one hand, yeah, buying 10k rounds of ammo is a perfectly legal thing to do. On the other hand, it would be really foolish of us to claim that our sport has no military applications. On the gripping hand, people with swarthy skin and furrin' music habits have been trying to kill groups of Americans for a while.

It sets my teeth on edge on an instinctual level to have feds snooping up on private citizens doing legal things, but damn if it doesn't also feel like walking through dark alleys with thick gold chains in crappy parts of town to just ignore things like that, too. It might be legal, but it might also not be a great idea.

In the end, I guess all I can do is shrug and say "I dunno."

Farm.Dad said...

Had the driver reported a swarthy fella the FBI would have detained HIM as an islamaphobe. Unless of course the music was Mariachi, In that case he would have gotten a letter from BATFE to deliver some rifles with the ammo.

Tango Juliet said...

I just email AttackWatch and let them handle it.

It's for our own good.

LC Scotty said...

ataaaaaaaaaack Waaaaaaaaaaaatch!!!!!!

Marja said...

It sort of depends on how far you can trust your cops, and your government, doesn't it? If they generally don't abuse their power it might not be such a bad idea to give them tips when you see something which feels a bit fishy to you, and let them sort out what to do. If, however, there are frequent abuse of that power, a good citizen might be wiser just to keep their mouths shut.

Which, of course, then leaves the problem of deciding when the abuse of power by the authorities is bad enough that you should start considering them an enemy.

Interesting question with no good answers. Both end states may be easy cases to see, but while you are sliding around somewhere between them, not.

Anonymous said...

Who else thinks that innane admonition sounds just like this one: "If you see a gun, don't touch it, run away, and tell an adult"?

In the eyes of gov, every citizen is a first-grader, incapable of critical thought and common sense.

If I'm a fertilizer truck driver delivering tons of the stuff to a suburban location and especially if the recipient fits what *I* consider the "profile"? I'll rat that fucker out so fast it'd make his turban spin. But I don't need (and am patently offended by) some infantile "focus-grouped" blurb.

Like lemmings and cliffs, slippery slopes are treacherous for mindless subjects who depend on the "adults" in gov to think for them and tell them what to do. Profiling however, is the act of a cognitive brain seperating *threat* from *non-threat*...and we all should do a hell of a lot more of it. Give a listen sometime to Israel's security chief to learn how it is properly -and effectively- done.

the pawnbroker said...

um, anon 9;03 is me.

Divemedic said...

Your post brought me to this page,

which I thought you might be interested in. It seems like a historical article on the Stasi would be right up your alley.

Shrimp said...

My brother and I were discussing the whole "see something, say something" thing, and I suggested a coordinated effort to make it completely worthless.

Start reporting everything you see, like the old guy sitting in his old Dodge in front of the Safeway with the motor running. Clearly, he's up to no good. Waiting for his wife to pick up some meds from the pharmacy? A likely story.

How about that young guy running down the street? Out for a jog, and he just happens to be running away from a bank? I don't think so.

That foreign-looking lady parked outside the elementary school, talking on her cell phone. She's been there for almost two hours! She's up to something bad, I tell you. Crossing guard? More like undercover Republican Guard!

How useless would that system be if people went out of their way to report everything?

Bubblehead Les. said...

Has anyone called about in that Suspicious Looking Guy living at 1600 Pennsie Ave in D.C. yet?

Living in Babylon said...

I just want to move from security theatre to security dinner theatre at least.

I mean if I'm getting fucked I at least want dinner first.

karrde said...

'Several thousand rounds' makes me wonder if mail-ordering ten bricks of .22 will get the same result?

Heck, my address has received a box full of lead, a separate box containing cordite-in-a-bottle, and a third box containing primers. Two of those three boxes had to be signed for, and were marked 'hazardous'. What did Mr. UPS think?

I don't know. And I haven't had a chat with the local police.

Odysseus said...

Looking at that image of Uncle Sam I can't help recalling: "Two by two, hands of blue."

Cincinnatus said...

The "snitch" ads attempt, in the usual lame fashion, a culture that stigmatizes reporting actual crime.

Not vaguely suspicious legal behavior.

Tam said...


I could give a piss about those. They don't get to own the word "snitch".

John Stephens said...

If we're going to do this whole Soviet thing, let's do it right:

"From the common slang word stukachestvo, stukach was widely used in the Soviet period to describe "squealing," or informing on people to the government authorities. The word is evidently derived from stuk, Russian for the sound of a hammer blow."

Weer'd Beard said...

I got 1,400 on my doorstep last week, and I don't even have the credentials Todd does. I just like good deals and I like to shoot A LOT!

BTW perlhaqr The dude who wrote "Strip Tease" among many great books that weren't made into Movies is named Carl Hiaasen. Looking at the name and knowing the bizzare translations from Arabic to the Roman Alphabet often looks REALLY silly (see Mr. Man in Libya) I was surprised to see a Cracker looking back at me on the back cover.

staghounds said...

Just to be difficult, what about the first amendment rights of the driver?

There is no "answer". It's all subjective, as your progression makes clear.

Dave H said...

To be equally difficult, First Amendment rights don't include revealing your neighbor's business dealings.

Cincinnatus said...

I understand your point, Tam, but I think that the target audience for the word is important. Despite the fact that the ad is lame.

We have had some notorious murders here of witnesses which got plenty of ethnic comment about how the victim had it commin' as they were "snitches" who had had the audacity to testify about real crime.

The issue of the stupidity of the FBI / Homeland Security crowd wasting time investigating useless "tips" is a problem. And I don't see the solution given that the current trend of the managment of those organizations is to drive down IQ.

Discobobby said...

I don't know if it's deliberate or not, but my address is invariably at the end of the UPS guy's run, so he hits the house when someone is home. The only thing he's ever said is "You get things that shouldn't be left out, or even left with us" with a big grin on his face. I very much appreciate the courtesy, but I suppose UPS knows everything about me anyway. They're the ultimate Big Brother. :)

Tam said...


"Just to be difficult, what about the first amendment rights of the driver?"

I have no intention of promoting a law making it illegal to be a bed-wetting tattletale. ;)

An Ordinary American said...

It comes down to what one perceives as their individual duty.

For instance, forget the terrorist aspect for a moment. Substitute "child molester" for "jihadist."

You have a neighbor that fits the profile of a child molester, he's always walking down the street giving out candy to the little kids, luring them with puppy dogs, etc etc. Some of the kids who've been lured into his house tell you he asked them to take their underwear off while he took pictures.

Etc etc

Is the "business of your neighbor" no longer your responsibility? Or do you have a greater duty and responsibility to the rest of your neighbors and their children to turn this behavior in?

I remember all too well the frustration we had when I was in SC Los Angeles in the late 80's on a federal task for working the Crips and Bloods. The neighbors wouldn't tell us anything. Wouldn't call in a tip, wouldn't do a damn thing.

We were "the white man" and "the po-leece" and therefore, the enemy.

But every damned time there was a drive-by or a killing, those same neighbors would raise holy hell about us not doing our jobs. . .

Quite frankly, I think it's a frickin' shame that the gov't, regardless of which side of the aisle is in power, has to even put out an ad encouraging citizens to do their duty.

Big difference between being a responsible citizen and looking out for your neighborhood and being a snitch.

A snitch is always LOOKING for someone or something to snitch on. A responsible citizen sees something suspicious, processes it in their mind, then makes the decision whether or not to call local authorities over the matter.


Tam said...

Dear Department of Homeland Security,

This "AOA" guy has a lot of guns and he sure does seem angry a lot. Plus, I don't think he likes our president. You should check him out.

Tam said...

PS: He seems a little racist, too. All those teabaggers do.

Anonymous said...

"We have had some notorious murders here of witnesses which got plenty of ethnic comment about how the victim had it commin' as they were "snitches" who had had the audacity to testify about real crime."

Right, because ordering ammunition and murder are essentially the same thing.

"I remember all too well the frustration we had when I was in SC Los Angeles in the late 80's on a federal task for working the Crips and Bloods. The neighbors wouldn't tell us anything. Wouldn't call in a tip, wouldn't do a damn thing."

All these straw men being hacked apart is causing me hay fever.


ToddG said...

AOA, your analogy is extremely poor. You're comparing someone who engages in repeated illegal acts and has victims making outcry.

A better analogy would have begun and ended with, "There's a creepy guy at the end of the block who just had ten cases of lollipops delivered to his house." Do you call the police?

Cincinnatus said...

ToddG, only if he's in Shaggy's Mystery Van.

Brad K. said...

This isn't a whole lot different than laws requiring folks processing photos to report anything obscene or indecent, especially involving kids. Or requiring teachers and anyone employed at a school to report *suspicion* of child abuse.

Some kids actually do wear unsafe, baggy clothes, refuse to tie their shoe laces, and hang out with bullies, and yes, manage to trip and fall on a regular basis. And a generation, now, is fearful of that "cute" baby picture, laying nekkid on the bed or a paren't lap.

And I am so very impressed that the driver was so concerned -- he placed all that ammo in the hands of someone he belied the FBI needed to lock up. Talk about taking personal responsibility.

KR said...

Most of the big post 9-11 success stories where incidents were halted in progress or stopped before they began, all start with citizens paying attention to their surroundings and taking action. Times Square car bomb. Shoe bomber. The gun shop employee in Killeen Texas who reported a questionable customer who it turned out was planning a Hasan style follow up attack on Ft. Hood. Flight 93.

As gun people wanting to be self-sufficient for our own defense, we want to pay attention to what goes on around us. We berate others for being in Condition White - except on days like today, when we go all paranoid Police State bonkers.

There are 3 choices: (1) restrict law enforcement powers but place all responsibility for security on them (the liberal fantasy plan), (2) give law enforcement unlimited police state power, and place all responsibility for security on them (conservative/fascist fantasy) or (3) create a culture where citizens and law enforcement work together as partners within their own community. TLG didn't get a SWAT team raid. It was a business card, a phone call, a knock and talk.

Cops can't be everywhere they need to be to stop crime or terrorism, and we don't want them everywhere nor do we want them snooping in our business without justification. Within those limits the ONLY way we can improve our security from crime or terrorism is with citizen involvement.

I would MUCH rather live in a country where more citizens paid attention and cared about their own safety, with the occasional "no harm no foul false positive" then go back to pre-9/11-nothing-bad-will-ever-happen-here mindset.

What if somebody had made a call about Cho (Virginia Tech) or Loughner (Tucson)? Instead all aware of their problems said it was someone else's job, and you know how things turned out.

All that is required for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing.

NotClauswitz said...

Anyone who tries to draw a simple-minded, "Only Criminals Fear Snitches" distinction has a seriously short and incomplete education component, is terminally lacking in social skills and any sense of Human History, owns a personal venn diagram which would resemble the Obama's signature divide-by-zero equation, and
has never understood of The Administration's Seven Pillars of Wisdom: Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Anger, Greed and Sloth...

Old NFO said...

We are well down that slippery slope and picking up speed... Doesn't bode well for us, and I'm glad I get my ammo delivered to work :-)

Tam said...


"I would MUCH rather live in a country where more citizens paid attention and cared about their own safety, with the occasional "no harm no foul false positive" then[sic] go back to pre-9/11-nothing-bad-will-ever-happen-here mindset."

All I can say is that you and I obviously lived on different planets ten years ago.

Anonymous said...

"Uncle Badtouch" MUST be made available on a T-shirt. Do I make the check out to you or Robb?

Tam said...

I told Robb he needs to make a t-shirt out of it...

ToddG said...

Just to be clear:

I have absolutely no heartburn whatsoever with the county detective I spoke to. He was polite, professional, and went out of his way to let me know from beginning to end that I wasn't in trouble for anything. He got a piece of paper on his desk that instructed him, per his sworn duties, to "check this guy out" so he did.

My criticism lies with the truck driver. And candidly, I think it's sad that folks want to draw comparisons between having some ammo delivered to the front porch with "crazy guy at my school saying he's going to shoot everyone." If Cho et al had legally obtained a few cases of ammo via mail order and someone snitched on them, (1) I doubt they would have been probed any more than I was and thus most likely it would not have impacted their future actions, and (2) it would be no less an invasion of their privacy than this was mine.

Going back and analyzing it with 20/20 hindsight doesn't make it right. Arguments like that belong in the Brady Bunch newsletter.

wv: gauleree, where Iron Age western European art is displayed to the public

Anonymous said...

the only ones that have to fear “snitches” are criminals.
crimainals comming an average of 3 felones a day

alcade said...

"All I can say is that you and I obviously lived on different planets ten years ago."

Which sorts of situations would you, personally, feel are appropriate to report to the authorities?

staghounds said...

I have always been intrigued by the term "snitch".

What exactly is meant?

This driver is someone who (we assume honestly) reported an event he considered suspicious. It turned out not to have been a crime. Snitch.

The people who listened to Kitty Genovese kept their mouths shut. Not snitches.

But if they had called, would we have used that word?

Every day I hear it applied to honest citizen witnesses and crime victims by crooks.

Seems to me that, like "slut" or "resistance fighter", it's one of those terms which is applied to people who do something that we approve or disapprove of not based on the conduct, but on its results and for/against whom it is directed.

Tam said...


"The people who listened to Kitty Genovese kept their mouths shut."

Given the further exposition on the Genovese case, I've ceased using it as a personal benchmark. FWIW...

the pawnbroker said...

From my comment at the top of the thread: " the act of a cognitive brain seperating *threat* from *non-threat*..."

AKA Situational Awareness. It's what we all do every day, sometimes running it as a background program, and sometimes at a heightened level that involves mental scenario planning.

The real issue here is the insulting tone and implication of a gov blurb that attempts to substitute mindless reaction for mindful response. Tam drew the parallel between the doofus delivering ammo, and a truckload of raw bomb material being delivered to an unlikely location and an unusual recipient, but that parallel is valid only for those (like, apparently, ToddG's delivery guy) that allow that subjugation of their own judgement.

If I'm delivering Todd's package (and the shipper foolishly failed to keep the package incognito), I'm thinking "Range buddy!". But if I'm dropping a pallet of raw bomb fixin's in a residential area to a couple of sand chiggers, I've got no problem at all passing that information to those we pay to check into that shit...and if anyone takes offense at that obvious bit of profiling, tough.

There's not a gnat's hair of difference between those two situations, and my keeping a peripheral eye on the guy on a bike lurking around the gas pumps at an all-night c-store looking for easy pickin's, while nearly ignoring the guy at the next pump gassing up his company truck for the next day's work.

The issue here, as it is in the comic tragedy that is Homeland Security, TSA, and most else .gov, is its propensity to be Big Brother to all, reducing the role of free citizens to simpletons incapable of logic, free thought, and personal responsibility.

And to imply that the ammo delivery guy's acquiesence to rote training is somehow analogous to a proper reaction to a real or perceived threat, is to admit that they are right, and we ourselves have no role in identifying, analyzing, and neutralizing threats to ourselves, our country, and our loved ones.

Anonymous said...

"The people who listened to Kitty Genovese kept their mouths shut."

This is giving me a headache. Look, buying a crate of ammo is not the same thing as stabbing and raping someone.

Besides, as a point of fact, Genovese's neighbors did call the police. Most people are more comfortable believing in the apathy of the general public than the incompetence of the police.

You know, before today, I thought Americans were waking up to the danger of the encroaching police state. Guess not. I'm going to re-read some Solzhenitsyn and cry myself to sleep.


Tam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
An Ordinary American said...

Tam, go ahead and send an e-mail to DHS. Every combat veteran in this country is on their list, and virtually every single ex-cop is on their list as well.

You're looking for a Utopian society that has never existed here in the U.S.

You're also only looking at this from a gun-owner's point of view, or from one who sees a black helicopter behind every cloud.

Fact is, the U.S. government and every single LE agency in the land doesn't have anywhere near the manpower to investigate every single "tip off" that is received.

We got "tips" all the time and we ignored probably 95% of them, and for a variety of reasons--namely of which we were too busy to go looking for something that might or might not exist when there were already more than enough known problems and criminals in our jurisdiction that we didn't have the manpower to deal with.

I need to call my investment guy and tell him to start buying heavily in Reynolds tin foil. . .


Kristophr said...


Ten years ago, I didn't have to worry about the UPS driver dropping a dime in me for buying a thousand rounds of .223.

Things have changed a bit.

This isn't just black helicopter paranoia.

Gnarly Sheen said...

The comment in question is from one "Mike B." Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that the same moniker of somewho (used to?) trolls SaysUnc and some other sites?

Nothing more than an observation, but I tend to tune out comments from people that I know/suspect have a history of trolling.

Tam said...

Gnarly Sheen,

Different MikeB.


So, after this entire discussion:
1) You are apparently still completely missing my point.
2) Your argument still boils down to "If you've got nothing to hide, what are you worried about, citizen?"
Am I about right, there?

Cybrludite said...

Like hell honest people don't have anything to fear from snitches. A few years back I got a visit from the ATF & the FBI because the bug-spraying guy noticed my WASR-10 & called in a tip saying I was planning a shooting spree. (Seems he supplemented his paycheck by ratting folks out for reward money) I'm a law abiding citizen, but because of this snitch I opened my door to find a half dozen Federal agents pointing their heaters at me. I know it was the bug guy, because the Feds flat out told me who their CI was once they realized that 1) My AK-lookalike lacked a "Group Therapy" setting, B)I wasn't planning on shooting anyone, and iii) their CI had sent them on another wild goose chase.

Robb Allen said...

Shirts now available!

Oh, and this isn't 'snitching' it's 'self-whoring'. Big difference.

Kristophr said...

Cyberluddite: That is part of the reason I moved to Wyoming.

When some retard tells the police I am dangerous because I possess a firearm, they tell the retard to go move back to California.