Incitement to a Shooting

A suspect has been arrested for the shootings of two police officers during a protest last week in Ferguson, Missouri, and he does not appear to be a white supremacist. There was never any reason to believe that a white supremacist would go to a protest against against a police force accused of unjustifiably shooting an unarmed black teenager in order  to shoot two white officers, but a Democratic Missouri state Senator raised that unlikely possibility rather than admit that the shooting more likely had something to do with the anti-police fervor that he and others have whipped up since a white police officer shot an unarmed teenager in Ferguson last summer.
According to press reports, the suspect has confessed to the shootings but insists he was aiming at some rival criminal rather than police. The suspect’s lengthy records of run-ins with the law suggests he just might be stupid enough to attempt a murder of a rival criminal in the middle of a protest rally and wind up striking two of the many law enforcement officers present instead, but the county attorney says that “We’re not sure we buy that part of it,” and it also strikes us as unlikely. Far more likely is the obvious conclusion that the shooter was motivated by an animus toward the police, and that he took the protesters’ chants for the murder of police to heart. Similar chants during the protests in New York City that followed another black man’s death at the hands of police there were answered with the murders of two officers, and those who have been encouraging the protests are understandably concerned that an outbreak of shootings against law enforcements will not win public support, which explains why some of the agitators are reaching for such far-fetched explanations as white supremacists trying to start a race war.
The protests against the police have already taken a public relations hit from the inconvenient facts of the case that started it all. A grand jury and the rest of the American public learned of physical evidence and eyewitness testimony that clearly proved the shooting of the black teenager in Ferguson was in self-defense, to the point that even Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department was forced to concede it could not bring federal charges the officer and had to settle for making a federal case out of the town’s traffic enforcement policies, and the broader claim of an ongoing war by the nation’s police against young black men has proved equally unfounded. Lacking any logic or facts, or even any sympathetic victims whose bloody shirts can be waved, the protesters have resorted to the sort of demonization that can only embolden people who already harbor a murderous rage against the police.
Which is not to allege any blame against the vast majority or the protesters, or anyone who has peaceably argued that reforms are needed to improve the policing of minority neighborhoods in America. Those responsible protesters have hurt their cause by linking it to what turned out to be a justifiable shooting of a rather unsavory young bully who was attempting to kill a policeman, and by their stubborn refusal to acknowledge the high levels of minority criminality that must be addressed by any solution, but they don’t bear any responsibility for the shootings of the police officers. Every protest movement is entitled to even strident free speech, and all attract a few crazies, and it is not conducive to free speech to blame the protest for the acts of an individual.
The anti-police protests, though, have too frequently indulged in rhetoric that seems calculated to provoke the movement’s most violent elements. Not just the recent chants about dead cops and the rap music that has been calling for the murder of police officers for years, but in its embrace of lies about a particular cop in Ferguson gunning down a “gentle giant” who was kneeling with his hands up. This lie was advanced at the highest levels of the federal government, with the White House sending emissaries to the funeral and the Justice Department helping to organize the protesters even as it launched an investigation in the Ferguson police department, as well as prominent print and electronic news organizations. It was a lie calculated to inflame the passions of neighborhoods already rife with violence and criminality, and those who told it share in the responsibility for two more brave police officers being shot.

— Bud Norman

Thug Life

The eyewitness testimony and physical evidence presented to a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, indicate that 18-year-old Michael Brown led a thug’s life and died a thug’s death. This unhappy conclusion hasn’t prevened numerous other thugs from rioting and looting and burning buildings and firing random gunshots in the aftermath of the grand jury’s decision not to indict the police officer who fired the fatal shots when Brown attacked him and struggled for his gun, nor did it prevent some presumably less thuggish pundits and politicians from attempting to justify the mayhem, but it is worth noting nonetheless.
Such sad facts of the matter, alas, are easily lost in the inevitable racial acrimony. Initial reports about last summer’s shooting accurately stated that a white police officer had fatally shot an unarmed black teenager, and in the absence of any other relevant information much of the media went with the story that in front of numerous witnesses the cop had for no plausible reason other than racial animus gunned down a soon-to-be college student who was kneeling in the street with his hands up. Despite its apparent implausibility the story was believed widely enough to fuel several days of rioting and looting and burning of buildings and firing of gunshots, and for the President of the United States to send an emissary to Brown’s funeral, and for much of the press to stick to its story.
By this point the story of the blameless black victim of white America’s murderous racism is simply too tempting not to run with. As far back as the ’80s Tom Wolfe’s “Bonfire of the Vanities” was satirizing the modern racial controversy rituals with the sharp-eyed detail of a cynical reporter characterizing the victim as an “honor” because one of his teacher’s had said that anyone at his high school who didn’t stab a teacher deserved the designation, and the same technique has since become a staple of modern journalism. The previous celebrity victim of America’s lethal racism was a black Florida teenager named Trayvon Martin, portrayed by much of the media as Skittles-loving, tea-drinking and baby-faced 12-year-old even as a jury heard evidence that the hulking and haggard 17-year-old had phoned a friend about the “creepy ass cracker” who was watching him and was pounding the aforementioned creepy ass cracker’s head against the pavement when the fatal shots were fired. The even more formidable Brown was often described as a “gentle giant,” even after the release of a surveillance camera’s videotape of him and a colleague strong-arm robbing a convenience shortly before his fatal encounter with the police officer, and the image persists even after the release of the convincing eyewitness testimony and physical evidence that Brown had struggled for the officer’s gun and was lunging at him “like a football player” as the fatal shots were fired.
Even in the face of such unsettling facts the broader story about America’s irredeemable racism has irresistible appeal to some people. For the thugs it provides a convenient rationale for rioting and looting and burning buildings and firing random gunshots and other enjoyable activities. For politicians who rely on the racial grievances of impoverished ethnic minorities to bolster their coalitions with super-rich white folks it’s an obvious argument. For the professional race hustlers it’s all in a day’s work. Harder to explain are the comfortably cocooned apologists for rioting and looting and arson and gunfire who proudly consider themselves “progressive.”
Over at the once-venerable Time Magazine they’re running a piece “In Defense of Rioting,” which will probably prove unpersuasive to the mostly-minority businessmen who’ve recently seen their hard work burned to the ground on behalf of a thug who tried to kill a cop. They also have a story on the humber of police who have lately committed “justifiable homicide,” with the term framed with sarcastic quote marks as if it had recently been invented by some cabal of racists who are somehow still in charge of the language, and strain hard to make it seem significant. The story goes so far as to note that “black teenagers were 21 more times likely to be shot dead by an officer than white teenagers,” which only suggests that it is extraordinarily unusual for a white teenager to fatally shoot a black teenager, and leaves the more skeptical reader to wonder if a black teenager might be more likely yet to shot to death by another black teenager. The political class is obliged to at least express disapproval of rioting, but it will speak of “justifiable anger.”
Such willful blindness to the racial realities that most Americans understand all too well is largely a result of nostalgia. Once upon a time in America there were ample blameless black victims of white America’s murderous racism, with such exceptional men as Medgar Evers and James Chaney and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. among the martyrs, and those who championed their cause of civil rights did so with an exhilarating sense of righteousness. Their efforts succeeded in making segregation illegal and changing public attitudes about race and establishing vast government programs of more questionable value, and although matters of race have since become less black-and-white in any sense of the term there’s still a longing for that exhilarating sense of righteousness that shouts of racism once provided.
All those years of America’s tragic racial history might explain why Michael Brown led a thug’s life and died a thug’s death, but that made no difference to the police officer who had a hulking young man going for his gun and taunting that he was too cowardly to protect himself. Nor does it make any difference to the mostly minority businessmen whose hard work has been burned to the ground by other thugs, or to that majority black men and women who are trying to make their way in the broader society and hoping that its racial attitudes won’t revert to its old suspicions, or to any of the people of all races in all parts of this country who are routinely menaced by thugs emboldened by the rationalizations offered by people who pride themselves on being “progressive.”

— Bud Norman

Sympathy and Riots

Six years into the promised post-racial era of American history, we spent much of Monday anxiously awaiting the official start of the latest race riot. An announcement of a grand jury decision in Missouri that was widely expected to unleash mayhem on the tiny St. Louis suburb of Ferguson was scheduled in the late afternoon, then postponed until the early evening, but didn’t arrive until 8:15 or so here on the prairie. In the meantime there was news that the Secretary of Defense had resigned after an unusually short tenure and under suspicious circumstances, that the deadline for a grand bargain with the mad mullahs of Iran had passed with their nuclear weapons program still progressing, and that a couple of the stock markets had reached record levels, but it was all filler until the long awaited and utterly unsurprising news that no charges would be brought by the grand jury against a white police officer who had fatally shot an unarmed black teenager.
That thumbnail description of a white police officer fatally shooting an unarmed black teenager sounds pretty darned damning and is accurate in a certain strict sense, at least enough to fuel a media frenzy as well as a more visceral frenzy on the streets of Ferguson for several weeks following the incident, but a more complicated and mitigating version of the story that had gradually seeped into the news made Monday’s announcement expected. Leaks from the grand jury indicated that eyewitnesses and physical evidence corroborated the tale told by the officer’s friends that the unarmed black teenager had attacked him and was struggling for the officer’s gun during the fatal encounter, and the counter-narrative that the cop had gun downed a kneeling teenager in front of multiple eyewitnesses for no reason other than the normal racial animus of America’s law enforcement always seemed less likely to pass the more dispassionate sort of scrutiny that would presumably be brought to bear during a legal proceeding. Dispassionate scrutiny of such facts is not a virtue of lynch mobs, however, so it was also widely expected that those who favored the gunned-down-on-the-street version of events would respond with what the more polite media call “unrest.”
As we write this the Drudge Report is already linking to stories of rioting and looting and arson and gunshots being fired. The story about the white officer gunning down the innocent black teenager on the streets for racist kicks is apparently still widely believed in many neighborhoods of Ferguson, much of the media have done little to dissuade them them of this assumption, numerous groups hoping to channel the local resentments in service of their various left-wing causes have been organizing in the city, and the Justice Department has launched an investigation of the Ferguson police and the White House has sent emissaries to the funeral of a man who might have attempted to kill one of its officers, so it was inevitable that at least a few troublemakers would seize the opportunity for the expression of long accumulated racial resentments and the acquisition of some free stuff. What the rioters and looters and arsonists and gun shooters hope to accomplish is unclear, as their victims are businesses and individuals that have nothing whatsoever to do with the shooting in question, and their crimes are unlikely to refute whatever racist attitudes might have been involved, but from what we saw on the cable news coverage that was playing at a local watering hole during a break in our writing they seemed to be having a grand old time.
The President of the United States went on television to urge peace and calm, an obligatory pre-riot oration that stretches back at least to the days of Lyndon Johnson, but even The First Black President had no more success in the effort than any of his predecessors. This time around the speech told the rioters that their anger was “an understandable reaction” given that they claim to believe “the law is being applied in a discriminatory fashion,” and the president explained to all those weren’t rioting that “We need to understand them,” and such sympathetic rhetoric followed the sending of those emissaries to the funeral of man who had tried to kill a cop and his Attorney General’s admonition to the surviving officers not to react too harshly to any rioting and looting and arson and gunfire that might follow a grand jury decision that was not to the mob’s liking, but it seems not to have soothed any of the savage breasts in Ferguson.
Perhaps a more forceful address emphasizing the eyewitness testimony and physical evidence that corroborated the officer’s account and the always far-fetched nature of that story about a cop gunning down an innocent teenager in the street would have been more effective, especially coming from The First Black President who had promised a gullible electorate that he had overcome his racial animosities and would teach the rest of the country to do the same, but by now no one expected that. The president’s party tried to use the Ferguson tragedy to energize black voters in southern states where the Senate and House races were thought to be close, warning black voters that a Republican victory would mean more innocent black teenagers being gunned down for no reason other than racial animus by white cops, and it continues to see political opportunity in the racial anger that is so starkly on display in Ferguson. The left also has an emotional investment in that story about white cops gunning down black teenagers, too, and eyewitness testimony and physical evidence cannot shake not its faith in its moral superiors over such brutes.
One can only hope that Ferguson recovers from its riots more successfully than did Newark or Camden, New Jersey, or Detroit or the Watts area of Los Angeles or any of the other localities that were afflicted by the similar unrest back when Johnson was delivering the presidential scoldings, but we are not optimistic. Even then the broader society tried to be understanding, with the Kerner Commission providing the official rationalizations for rioting and looting and arson and gunfire, but the areas burned to the ground by the very irrational hatreds of the mobs have still not regained the vibrancy and livability they once offered in supposedly less enlightened times, and even the generations of the Democratic governance that has been brought to bear on Ferguson doesn’t seem to offer much help. Perhaps a sterner response wouldn’t do any better, but sympathy for the rioters and looters and arsonists and gun shooters clearly does little to help their innocent victims.

— Bud Norman

Enlightened Hatreds

There was yet another apparent case of a deranged individual attempting mass murder on Wednesday, but this time there will be none of the usual attempts to link the violence to the “tea party” or some other conservative cause.

This time the target was the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the Family Research Council, a conservative organization that advocates traditional views on same-sex marriage, abortion, and other political and cultural issues, while the suspect’s only known affiliation is with the DC Center for the LGBT Community, which advocates a more fashionable view of homosexuality. With no plausible way to blame the incident on conservatism, the nation will likely be spared the now ritual sermons about incendiary language, polarizing political rhetoric, and climates of hate.

Perhaps there should be, though. No one was killed in the incident because of the heroic efforts by a security guard, who disarmed and subdued the gunman despite being shot in the arm, but that does not make the perpetrator’s political hatred any less worrisome.

The DC Center for the LGBT Community and 25 other similar groups joined to unequivocally condemn the shooting, and there is no reason to doubt their sincerity, but many advocates for homosexual rights have become increasingly vitriolic in their verbal attacks on opponents. The once-respected Southern Poverty Law Center designated the Family Research Council a “hate group” because it espouses an opinion that was virtually unquestioned in every society until recent years, and is still held by something close to a majority of Americans, including President Obama until recently. The mayors of four major American cities said that they would not allow the Chick-fil-A fast food chain to do business in their towns because the ownership has publicly stated its opposition to same-sex marriage. Numerous other public figures, from beauty pageant contestants to discount store owners, have been similarly disparaged for taking stands against gay marriage.

The same hateful language is routinely employed on behalf of a wide range of liberal causes, and the left’s preferred presidential candidate routinely accuses his opposition of everything from causing cancer to plotting the restoration of chattel slavery.

This is not to say that the principled proponents of same-sex marriage are in any way culpable for the actions of the deranged individual who attacked the Family Research Council, only that those who peddle hatred for the opposition should stop to consider the possibility they might have unwittingly encouraged the hatred of a very sick man. At the very least, they should restrain from trying to blame their enemies the next time something like this happens.

— Bud Norman