After Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and Dallas, Rightbloggers Go Briefly Sane
This was a bad, bad week of black guys killed by cops and cops killed by a black guy, and I would really love to be able to tell you good people that the shock of all that violence sobered up the discourse among our friends the rightbloggers.
Some of the brethren did appear, at least, to try a different approach than usual. Alas, this was an aberration, not a trend — sort of like those "libertarian moments" in which they occasionally indulge. For the most part, they’ve already devolved back into the old Ooga Booga, exploiting events to rouse their white base with visions of racial apocalypse.
On Tuesday, Alton Sterling was selling CDs in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. When, being found uncooperative by police, Sterling was tackled and — when it was announced that he was in possession of (but not wielding) a firearm — killed by officers.
The next day, in a suburb of Minneapolis, a policeman stopped lunchroom supervisor Philando Castile in his car — something police had done to him a peculiar number of times in the past. Castile, too, was (legally) packing. Castile's girlfriend claims that he informed the officer of this before he was shot, the chilling aftermath of which she recorded.
For many of us, this excited the old, familiar outrage over cop-on-black slayings that, had they not been recorded, would certainly have receded into he-had-it-coming oblivion. These were followed by customary attempts by the usual shitheels to slur the victims. But some rightbloggers tried to do better.
At the Federalist, for example, Rachel Lu expressed what looked like real concern and not just the usual pro forma tsk-tsk before the black-on-black crime lecture. She suggested that she and her fellow conservatives should try to "halt the evident deterioration of relations between citizens and the police in many of America’s higher-crime neighborhoods" by going after the "low-hanging fruit" of police reform — for example, by "curbing the power of police unions," which for conservatives is indeed very low-hanging, "improved awareness of mental illness," etc.
But what about the role of race in these shootings? Funny you should ask; Lu didn’t see one. In fact, her essay was called "You Don’t Have To Be Black Lives Matter To Support Police Accountability," and she faulted liberals who "would much rather blame the 'racist' police than acknowledge the bitter fruits of the sexual revolution and the welfare state." So that’s how things got so bad — not because of endemic racism, but because of the New Deal and Hugh Hefner.
Rightbloggers of the libertarian persuasion saw the victims as neither black nor white, but gunmetal gray. At libertarian flagship Reason, Robby Soave called Castile "in some sense a Second Amendment martyr: He was killed by a police officer because he was exercising his rights." Soave also castigated the NRA for their suspicious slowness to defend a brother gun-packer in this instance.
(The NRA has since said "reports from Minnesota" are "troubling," and declined to comment further "while the investigation is ongoing." Meanwhile, other gun-friendly rightbloggers at Twitchy and Bearing Arms split hairs over whether Castile and Sterling technically had a right to carry at all. Maybe the next dead, armed black guy will be the one they can all rally around.)
Instapundit Glenn Harlan Reynolds went in a more expected direction, cautioning against the notion that the shootings had anything to do with race: "For example, the officer who shot Castile was apparently ‘Chinese,’ which suggests that efforts to shoehorn this into a Bull Connor–style white-racism narrative may be off base, not that that’s stopped anyone," he said.
And that became the depressingly expected consensus: Whatever you thought about these shootings, it was far worse to say that race had anything to do with it.
But when the bullets went the other way, race suddenly became very important.
On Friday, a Black Lives Matter protest accompanied by local police was in progress on the streets of Dallas when someone started shooting. It quickly became clear that the shooter, who knew his work, was aiming at the cops. He hit 12 of them in all, killing five. The shooter turned out to be a black Afghanistan War vet named Micah Johnson; he revealed, before the DPD blew him up with a robot bomb, that he was angry about police shootings and committed to killing white cops in particular.
At first the responses of a couple of rightbloggers were actually not totally insane.
For example, David French — yes, that David French, the awful National Review writer who sort of ran for President for a few minutes — cautioned his readers against extrapolating responsibility for the murders to their political opponents. "Remember always that the primary blame for any criminal or wrongful act lies with the perpetrator and his or her confederates," he said. He even criticized the Drudge Report for its inflammatory BLACK LIVES KILL headline, winning the admiration of at least one reasonable media outlet. Come, let us reason together!
Hell, even Newt Gingrich said a "normal white American" couldn’t understand being black in this country. Was this a scared-straight moment? An attempt to confuse the opposition with an unexpected reaction, like Gingrich’s buddy Trump? A genuine attempt to dial down the discourse for the good of the nation?
Whatever it was, it didn’t catch on.
C.S. Muncy for the Village Voice
Former congressman and Fox News commentator Joe Walsh threatened both protestors and President Obama with death. (“Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you.”) St. Louis PD spokesman Jeff Roorda tweeted "THE BLOOD IS ON YOUR HANDS, MR. PRESIDENT."
A number of white conservatives noted that the five Dallas deaths meant 2016 cop killings had risen from 21 to 26. The 2015 total was 18, which meant a "44 percent" year-on-year increase, which conservatives made a fuss over — which is rather like saying if you eat a second bowl of Grape-Nuts in the morning, you’ve doubled your food intake.
Heather Mac Donald, longtime advocate of locking up as many black people as possible, claimed at the New York Post that "the conceit that American policing is lethally racist…appears to be what fueled the slaying of five officers in Dallas…"
Blaming Obama was a popular alternative strategy ("Obama blamed for fanning anti-police hate, new surge in gun sales expected" — Washington Examiner). Under the headline "Blame Black Lives Matter Movement for Dallas Carnage" at American Thinker, Daniel John Sobieski claimed the "demonization of police officers by the racial grievance industry" began "almost as soon as President Obama took office" in 2009, when Obama said the cops had "acted stupidly" in arresting Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates for (you may remember) no good reason at all. Believe it or not, Sobieski wasn’t the only one who thought that, or at least pretended to.
A hot garbage dispenser called 100 Percent Fed Up screamed, "SHOCKING VIDEO CONNECTS BEYONCÉ And OBAMA TO DALLAS COP KILLER." They were referring to Beyoncé’s Black Panther costume at the last Super Bowl halftime, and some stray delusions of their own. This trash flambé rose through the slightly less-disreputable rightblogger ranks via Gateway Pundit, Breitbart.com, et alia.
At Fox News, Fox Blonde Who Isn’t Suing Roger Ailes Megyn Kelly and International Symbol of LAPD Racism Mark Fuhrman agreed black people didn’t know what they were talking about. They "try to push a narrative that all cops are bad, and all cops are out to kill innocent young black men," said Kelly. "You can always find something that doesn't look like justice was served one way or another," shrugged the guy famous for blowing the O.J. case.
They didn’t intimidate Black Lives Matter, who protested the deaths of Castile and Sterling in great numbers and multiple locations, practicing good civil-disobedience hygiene all the while. Maybe many white citizens are starting to realize that they have a point. Rightbloggers, perhaps sensing this, got snarlier and more extravagant with their predictions of doom. ("The Attacks in Dallas Won’t Be the Last," intoned Jack Dunphy at National Review.)
And some of the ones who seemed momentarily sane began to revert.
David French, for example, returned, mere hours after his lauded anti-Drudge story — remember, when he cautioned against tarring the many with the actions of a few? This time, he took a different tack: "A person can believe that the responsibility for criminal acts rests with the criminal and his co-conspirators," he said, "while also believing that constant demonization of police can encourage those criminals to commit their wrongful acts." And what did he mean by "constant demonization"? "When protesters chant for cops to die, no one should be shocked when someone decides to answer their call."
I’m sure French knows that homicidal cheers are not standard BLM procedure, and that racist killers hardly need chants to motivate them anyway. But it doesn’t matter what he knows — only what he’s willing to pretend to believe. Whether French’s feint at reasonableness was tactical or just a rare lapse in craziness, it’s over now, and we’re back where we started — and maybe a little further back than that.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.