Widgets blog » Bob Dylan and Professor Gates: one more time

You are in the archive.
For new content from the same writer, visit The Cinch Review

Another side of Bob and more!

All the tired horses in the sun
How'm I supposed to get any ridin' done?


« « A Rush judgment | Win “Bob Dylan: Both Ends of the Rainbow” DVD!! » »

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bob Dylan and Professor Gates: one more time ...10:15 am


What with going off on a sentimental tangent about Mr. Limbaugh in that last post, I forgot to make one more point that I had intended to make about Bob Dylan’s encounter with the police and that of Professor Gates. I did already touch on it in previous posts but just wanted to emphasize it one last time before dropping the subject.

It is regarding the time-line of the events. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. had his encounter on July 16th, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Bob Dylan was picked up on July 23rd in Long Branch, New Jersey. That is, exactly one week after Gates’ blow-out and arrest. It should be recalled that Gates’ arrest was not huge national news overnight. It took a few days to build. But one week later, on that Thursday, July 23rd, when Dylan was walking in the rain and admiring the architecture in Long Branch, the Gates story was certainly big news, and all over the media. In fact, the press conference in which President Obama famously declared that the Cambridge police had “acted stupidly” ( something from which he later back-pedaled) was held the day before, on July 22nd.

So, as I said in an earlier post, the Gates story was peaking in the news just as the incident with Dylan was taking place. Dylan, as we know from interviews, pays pretty good attention to the news, even if he casts a jaundiced eye on a lot of it. But there is no way that Dylan wasn’t aware of this story.

So, this is simply something to add to the mix when thinking about Dylan’s mindset that day, and how he chose to deal with his own situation. Like Gates, Dylan had done nothing wrong, and yet was being questioned and asked to verify his identity by police, who had arrived on the scene in response to another citizen’s concerned telephone call. Knowing what had gone down with Professor Gates, and the furor still going on over it, Dylan might have used it as an outrage-multiplier. It’s easy enough to see how someone would do that — and no doubt some people across the country did do it around that time. He could have said, “What the hell is this? What do I have to prove? What are you gonna do — arrest me for nothing, like you did that professor?” A lot of people would’ve said that, and much worse.

As we know, Dylan took a different approach, one based on empathy for the cop’s situation. As a result, we didn’t even hear about the incident till Friday, August 14th — three weeks later. (I don’t know what in particular made it public at that time — of-course the police records are public information — but I suspect it may have come from Long Branch business administrator Howard Woolley, who was heavily quoted in the first story from the Associated Press.)

For the sake of it, and before leaving the topic behind, let’s throw into the mix Christopher Hitchens’ recent column inspired by the Gates’ affair, and his own story of taking a nighttime walk in a California suburb this summer:

Suddenly, a police cruiser was growling quietly next to me and shining a light. “What are you doing?” I don’t know quite what it was—I’d been bored and delayed that week at airport security—but I abruptly decided that I was in no mood, so I responded, “Who wants to know?” and continued walking. “Where do you live?” said the voice. “None of your business,” said I. “What’s under your jacket?” “What’s your probable cause for asking?” I was now almost intoxicated by my mere possession of constitutional rights. There was a pause, and then the cop asked almost pleadingly how he was to know if I was an intruder or burglar, or not. “You can’t know that,” I said. “It’s for me to know and for you to find out. I hope you can come up with probable cause.” The car gurgled alongside me for a bit and then pulled away. No doubt the driver then ran some sort of check, but he didn’t come back.

This is almost identical to Bob’s situation — even in the respect of Hitchens being an old white guy too — except that in this case we don’t know that any call had been made to the police. We can probably assume that there wasn’t — that the mere fact of someone moving about with their legs in some California suburbs is sufficient to arouse suspicion in a passing police officer. Hitchens chose to stubbornly (but apparently not obscenely) assert his rights. The police officer let it go on meeting that resistance, probably satisfied at that point anyway that this guy made an unlikely robber or burglar. Hitchens goes on to doubt that he could have gotten away with this, or that he would have tried it, had he been a black man.

On the other hand, if Hitchens had reacted by saying, “Don’t you know who I am?!” (and his mug is a little better known, from TV, than that of Professor Gates) and loudly accusing the cop of violating his rights, then things also might have ended rather more unpleasantly.

And if he had claimed to be Paul McCartney, out on tour, perhaps the police officer would have wanted to give him a ride back to his hotel…

Also see Ron Radosh’s blog on the subject of Dylan’s encounter with the police, in which he picks up on some of what’s been said hereabouts.

More from this site:

  • Bob Dylan picked up by cops in New Jersey! DYLAN TO POLICE: "I'M JUST WALKING AROUND LOOKING AT HOUSES" Cops say: HE HAD NO I.D.! Asked to accompany law enforcement officers back to his hotel to confirm identity. "He […]
  • More on Bob Dylan and his hot New Jersey night Well, one post isn't going to be sufficient on this story of Bob Dylan's encounter with the Long Branch police department on July 23rd, 2009. If you think that it caused controversy when […]
  • McCotter on Obama, Crowley and Gates A press release from Rep. Thaddeus G. McCotter (R-MI) on a House Resolution calling for a Presidential apology to Cambridge Police Sergeant Jim Crowley, which will -- if necessary -- be […]


Original text copyright © 2004 - 2011 by
Quotes from the works of others are linked to their source or are as otherwise attributed, and are used in accordance with Fair Use guidelines. Contact: rightwingbob(at)

Back To Main

NOTE: This website (which was launched in 2004) has NO AFFILIATION WHATSOEVER with an ebook from 2009 by an author named Weberman who used the title "RightWing Bob."

Right Wing Bob On:

Who Am I And What Is This Site About?

Q & A Series

Who's That Girl From The Red River Shore?

Prophets, Octaves and Blood

Tears of Rage: The Great Bob Dylan Audio Scandal (from The Cinch Review)

Follow the light: The heart in Bob Dylan's Christmas (from The Cinch Review)

What Bob Dylan Said On Election Night In Minnesota

Preserved in Desire

Mister Pitiful

Theme Time Radio Hour(s) with your host Bob Dylan (Dylan's show on XM Satellite Radio)

Argument With A Leftist

God On Our Side

A Christmas Carol

Chronicling Chronicles

Look My Way An' Pump Me a Few (Marcus, Ricks and Wilentz at Columbia University)

John Brown

The Whole Wide World Is Watching

Coming From The Heart

Also see: From the Weekly Standard, What Dylan Is Not

From First Things, The Pope and the Pop Star
-- Let There Be Music
-- Johnny Cash: One More Time

From The New Ledger, Bob Dylan: Keeping It Together

Follow me on Twitter


Also check out these posts at The Cinch Review:

Bob Dylan Interviews:

1985 20/20 TV Interview

Transcriptions of various Bob Dylan TV interviews

Remnants Of The Recent Past:

  • March 2011
  • February 2011
  • January 2011
  • December 2010
  • November 2010
  • October 2010
  • September 2010
  • August 2010
  • July 2010
  • June 2010
  • May 2010
  • April 2010
  • March 2010
  • February 2010
  • January 2010
  • December 2009
  • November 2009
  • October 2009
  • September 2009
  • August 2009
  • July 2009
  • June 2009
  • May 2009
  • April 2009
  • March 2009
  • February 2009
  • January 2009
  • December 2008
  • November 2008
  • October 2008
  • September 2008
  • August 2008
  • July 2008
  • June 2008
  • May 2008
  • April 2008
  • March 2008
  • February 2008
  • January 2008
  • December 2007
  • November 2007
  • October 2007
  • September 2007
  • August 2007
  • July 2007
  • June 2007
  • May 2007
  • April 2007
  • March 2007
  • February 2007
  • January 2007
  • December 2006
  • November 2006
  • October 2006
  • September 2006
  • August 2006
  • July 2006
  • June 2006
  • May 2006
  • April 2006
  • March 2006
  • February 2006
  • January 2006
  • December 2005
  • November 2005
  • October 2005
  • September 2005
  • August 2005
  • July 2005
  • June 2005
  • May 2005
  • April 2005
  • March 2005
  • November 2004
  • September 2004
  • · August 2004 thru July 2005