July 19, 2004

The police blotter watch

Mark Liberman picks up on my posting on hedges in the Palo Alto Daily News police blotter with a celebration of the Arcata Eye blotter, which eschews bare-bones reporting in favor of (wonderfully) rich narrative. I'd just like to make sure that the entertainment value of the Arcata Eye material doesn't overwhelm the point I was making, which was that it makes a big difference what doesn't get said and what does, and in the latter case, how it gets said -- a point that Mark reinforces, with respect to what gets shown, rather than said, in his "Emergency call for the pragmatics police".

For an extended riff on this theme, check out the handout (in a .pdf version) for a paper I gave at the 2002 Stanford Semantics Fest, "What is said and what is unsaid". It's about the Palo Alto Daily News police blotter again, this time focusing on the what the Atherton CA blotter reports about where (alleged) miscreants come from. Atherton is a fabulously high-end rich suburban enclave that sees itself as rural (to the point of welcoming neither sidewalks nor commercial establishments). I interpret the police blotter reports as witnessing to a strong impulse towards privatizing public spaces (at two levels: carving out Atherton as a place where outsiders are not welcome, and according residents unofficial authority over the space around the house they live in) and as both reflecting and reinforcing a sense of threat from the outside world. The presumption seems to be that privilege begets further privilege; meanwhile, privilege begets paranoia.

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Posted by Arnold Zwicky at July 19, 2004 02:52 PM