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Radley Balko: Anatomy of a “Stand Your Ground” Shill

Mark Ames and Yasha Levine just published in NSFWCORP a companion essay to go along with Radley Balko's SHAME profile. It puts Balko's recent defense of George Zimmerman and Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law into context, and explains why Balko frequently confounds his progressive supporters with pro-corporate, reactionary positions on everything from boosting for privatization and guns to attacking teachers’ unions...

Update (10/8/2013):  AlterNet reprinted SHAME's Radley Balko article in full. "Meet Former GOP Public Relations Flak Radley Balko, Now a Libertarian Crusader Against Police Militarization"

Read it:

Just after George Zimmerman was found “not guilty,” Huffington Post reporter and Cato Institute Media Fellow Radley Balko tweeted out a false claim in defense of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law:

"Media people: Stand Your Ground was not a factor in the Zimmerman verdict. Stop perpetuating this myth."

A lot of Balko’s followers, particularly progressives and journalists, were baffled: Why would one of the foremost muckrakers on criminal justice abuse write something so obviously wrong and misleading? As Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote:

"There has been a lot of complaint that "stand your ground" has nothing to do with this case. That contention is contravened by the fact that it is cited in the instructions to the jury."

Coates quoted directly from the judge’s instructions read to the jury:

"[Zimmerman] had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force..."

Balko was finally forced to retract after getting called out by ProPublica’s Justin Elliot and NSFWCORP cartoonist Matt Bors. But it left many of his progressive-minded followers baffled, and it was hardly the first time Balko had been called out for taking reactionary stances on the Trayvon Martin murder case. After going noticeably silent for almost a month after Trayvon’s murder, Balko twisted the framing around, tweeting out in March 2012:

"Sad to see a case of racism and police corruption/ineptitude/indifference being shoehorned to fit anti-self-defense, anti-gun politics"

Many of Balko’s progressive followers, unaware of his long career inside the GOP think-tank network, have mistaken Balko’s criticisms of police abuse and the War On Drugs with a larger progressive politics; they’ve assumed he shares many of the same progressive assumptions they do. So every time Balko comes out with a pro-corporate, reactionary position — boosting for privatization and guns, defending Stand Your Ground, savaging Naomi Klein and teachers’ unions, or taking misleading and reactionary positions on the Trayvon Martin murder case — his progressive readers are left confused, but without a broader understanding of where Balko comes from.

In fact, Radley Balko’s current incarnation as a crusading journalist focused on criminal justice abuse is but a recent twist in Balko’s career as a GOP public relations flak.

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