What I Think Maryland Thinks

The Baltimore Sun has a feature in which it conducts an online poll What Maryland Thinks. I have been trying to predict the answers to the poll and slipping in a bit of commentary. Yesterday’s What Maryland Thinks question was:

Are you more or less likely to visit and support Baltimore entertainment venues because of the recent unrest?

The answers I predicted were:

More 17%
Less 77%
Not Sure 6%

with 211 votes cast.

The actual poll results were:

More 17%
Less 79%
Not Sure 4%

(135 votes cast)

I think we can all agree that I pretty much hit the nail on the head with this one — the guess at vote count was the worst showing and I suppose I overestimated how much interest people would have in this particular question.

Today’s question:

Was it appropriate for federal authorities to run sophisticated surveillance flights over Baltimore in the wake of last week’s riots?

Not Sure

I count myself among those people for whom the growing ubiquity of surveillance is disturbing. Consequently, I am inclined to dismay when I hear of yet another incidence of surveillance. On the other hand, since there was a major disturbance in the city following Freddie Gray’s funeral, I can understand the value of noting crowd movements/activities from the air. Of course, this assumes that the goal of said surveillance was to protect property and attempt to quell violence. Sadly, I’m not as inclined to believe that law enforcement motives are virtuous as I once was.

One nuance that bothers me is that the overflights were kept secret. Considering that the riot comprised mostly kids wielding trash cans, traffic cones and rocks, there wasn’t the remotest possibility of those flights being interfered with in any way, much less shot down. Nor was there any chance that knowledge of the surveillance aircraft would affect the behavior of the rioters (except in a positive way by making them worry about being photographed and decide to go home).

I often wonder about people who vote in this poll who choose “Not Sure”. After all, it takes a little effort to go to the polling page and vote. Why vote if you haven’t a strong feeling one way or the other. Nonetheless, I will vote “Not Sure” on this one because 1) I don’t trust the motives of law enforcement and 2) I really distrust motives when there is an attempt to keep the activity secret.

As for my prediction for today — my sense of the Marylanders who participate in the What Maryland Thinks poll is that a number of them fall into the “I’ve got nothing to hide” camp with respect to surveillance. This belief is short sighted and naive in lots of ways but I do suspect that there is a largish component of these sorts voting in the poll. As I’ve mentioned before, there are a lot of people who look at the demographic of the rioters as requiring special means if they are to be controlled. Herewith, my prediction:

Was it appropriate for federal authorities to run sophisticated surveillance flights over Baltimore in the wake of last week’s riots?

Yes 83%
No 13%
Not Sure 4%

with 208 votes cast.

If you want to participate, you can vote in the poll here.

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