By now you’ve heard what’s been going on in Ferguson, Missouri: How an unarmed black man — the latest in a long series, historically speaking — was gunned down by a cop; how suspicion of a cop cover-up was followed by protests and rioting; and how people are appalled by the weird storm-trooper approach of the Ferguson PD.
Rightbloggers heard about it, and many took their traditional approach to such situations — i.e. the old ooga booga attack on black people. Others, perhaps influenced by that “libertarian moment” thing all the kids are talking about, attempted to adopt a more civil-libertarian position — but clumsily, like dogs trying to boil water, and with equally painful results.
After Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson on August 9 and word started to get around that the killing might not have been as kosher as the cops said it was, many of the brethren went about dealing with this dead unarmed black guy the way they deal with all dead unarmed black guys: slurring the deceased, and portraying the negative reaction of his friends, family, and community as proof that black people are thugs, the real racists, etc.
“BREAKING: Ferguson Police Chief Releases New Info That Turns Michael Brown Shooting Case On Its Head,” announced B. Christopher Agee at Western Journalism. He meant the claim by Ferguson PD Chief Tom Jackson that the cop who shot Brown “was serious injured by the teen” — which was already being contradicted by witnesses. But Agee had more: “reports indicate the New Black Panthers traveled to Ferguson to pass out a list of ‘demands,'” he said.
Also, “As Fox News contributor Todd Starnes noted, Barack Obama spoke out on behalf of Brown and his family,” said Agee, “but ‘did not release a statement offering sympathy to the police officer who was allegedly attacked’ or ‘to the business owners whose stores were burned and looted.'” (Obama’s statement was actually extremely conciliatory toward all parties; maybe Starnes only saw the Fox super-cut.)
“In my opinion there is no amount of information that could be released today that is going to satisfy the mob,” said Scared Monkeys. “When they say they want justice, that means a scalp and they will not be happy until it happens.”
“Somebody has to say it,” declared Ross Kaminsky at The American Spectator: “These rampaging thugs and criminals are neither white nor Asian nor Eskimo nor American Indian. They are, as far as one can discern from news footage, roughly 100 percent black.” (He was talking about the looters, not the cops.)
“I’m getting reports that some protesters, including leaders are anarcho-communists bussed in from Chicago to incite more violence,” reported Dana Loesch’s husband Chris from Twitter. (That reminds us: has anyone checked with James O’Keefe?)
When a couple of reporters were arrested for disobeying the cops and then had the bad taste to report on it, Ace of Spades rushed to the cops’ defense. “From the cops’ point of view, they are presented with a choice of Two Evils,” sententiated Spades — “Intimidating citizens with a show of force and a show of barking, yelling physically-coercive authority, or resorting to some sort of physical restraint or weapon to secure compliance. They say, and I’m not sure they’re wrong, that as bad and awful as the first choice it, it is preferable to the second choice.” In case that wasn’t convincing anyone, Spades added in italics and boldface, “I, like our semi-retired President, have not been following this story at all… I don’t know about the specific facts at all.” How about that stupid Obama, huh?
At National Review, Michelle Malkin reminded readers that “A Cop Is Killed Every 58 Hours ,” despite what one might hear from “The Cirque du Cop-Bashing, with Al Sharpton as ringmaster,” who were “working overtime to exploit the deadly incident in Ferguson, Mo.” Malkin also opposed “narcissistic liberal journalists and college kids” who allegedly “are all posting ‘hands up’ selfies in hipster solidarity…”
The editors of National Review bitched that “Al Sharpton, an old hand at inciting riots, is on the scene” and that “the federal government already has poked its snout into the matter, with the Justice Department exploring a possible civil-rights case.” As if the feds had any business exploring a possible racist conspiracy of local police! (When Attorney General Eric Holder ordered an autopsy for Mike Brown, Sissy Willis hollered “L’ÉTAT C’EST MOI!”)
“We’re told that the military style of the cops is ‘provoking’ the protesters,” sneered National Review‘s Rich Lowry. “But these sorts of flare-ups over controversial shootings by police have been a part of American life for a very long time.”
When Ferguson had a second wave of riots, Lowry said, “We’ve been told for days now that that the reason there was rioting in Ferguson is because protesters were ‘provoked’ by militarized police,” and while Lowry admitted it was “deeply unsettling to see police atop armored vehicles,” blah blah blah, still, “we’ve had a real world test of the ‘provocation’ thesis” because the new cops were more low-key, and people still rioted.
And guess whose fault that is? “This is what happens when you let your policing be dictated by MSNBC,” sighed Lowry. “…First, [the police] gave in to the mob on the Internet and cable TV, and last night they gave in to the mob on the streets.” So much for your Robocop theories, liberal wimps — what these animals need is a touch of the old Nixon and he doesn’t mean Jay!
When it was revealed that Brown might have stolen some cigars before the shooting, rightbloggers adopted the “see, he was a thug after all” approach they took during the Trayvon Martin controversy.
“Angelic Michael Brown Not So Angelic After All,” snarled The Jawa Report, and offered a unique theory: “This new development might also explain why rioters focused their rage on the QuikTrip convenience store,” they said. “Although the store isn’t where the robbery took place, it was mentioned by the robbery victim as a possible destination of the two criminals. The angry mobs must have heard about the robbery some time before it was made public, yet they still pursued the ‘cop executed innocent boy’ narrative as an excuse to riot.” We wonder why rioters would even need this “excuse” — in case they run for office later, maybe?
“You can’t blame this on the police being too aggressive during ‘peaceful’ protests,” said William Teach at Right Wing News. “But, I guess the media (it’s an AP article) can excuse looting and lawlessness on Something Else… at least in this case, police being too aggressive with their military style toys as being the cause of previous nights of rage might be a load of mule fritters.”
Teach also had the best ex-post-facto one-liner on the rioting we’re likely to see: “It doesn’t provide justification for the shooting,” he said, “but it does provide context.”
When a couple of people got punched during the Ferguson unrest, The Daily Caller called it a “‘Knockout Game’ Attack” — one of their go-to ooga-booga-isms. Inevitably, Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit announced, “BREAKING: Ferguson’s Michael Brown PICTURED Flashing GANG SIGNS… One hand gesture means ‘What’s up blood?'”
And of course some old honky declared “the black family — the absence of fathers — is the problem” in the Wall Street Journal.
Some of the brethren, however, went another way, giving more grief to the local cops, and the tyrannical federal government that had financed their ordnance, than to the dead black guy.
One of the USPs of libertarianism is opposition to over-aggressive, militarized policing, and last week their major figures, including the editors of libertarian flagship Reason, TV presenter John Stossel, and Sen. Rand Paul decried the “militarized” police, and even expressed skepticism of the idea that if the Ferguson cops killed a black guy they must have had a good reason. (Paul went so far as to admit that race “skew[s] the application of criminal justice in this country.” He’s come a long way since 2010 when he was knocking the Civil Rights Act.)
Reason‘s Thaddeus Russell spoke of a “Rise of the ‘Unholy Alliance’ of Libertarians and Leftists” on such matters, which, given the usual safety-net-shredding temper of libertarian discourse, would be remarkable. But it was rightbloggers who were more likely to emulate the libertarian POV on Ferguson, resulting in some weird rhetorical hybrids.
At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson started out well, complaining of “ridiculously militarized suburban police dressed up like characters from Starship Troopers …arresting people for making videos of them at work in public places,” and that “we know the names of the nine people charged with felonies in the Ferguson looting, but not the name of the police officer [who shot Brown] at the center of the case.”
Later, alas, Williamson suggested a moral to the story: black people’s problems were caused by Democrats. In cities with lots of black people, he noticed, Democrats were elected (often with the overwhelming support of black people — how ironic!). Williamson let readers know that “progressives spent a generation imposing taxes” on these municipalities, leading to “white flight,” leading to bad times for the remaining black people who could not thrive without them, relieved only by the tenures of such Republican heroes as Rudolph Giuliani — though for some strange reason, or series of reasons, Giuliani Time never received the affection of the African-American community. (Williamson, who recently compared a young black resident of East St. Louis to a primate, failed to note that the actual Mayor of actual Ferguson, James Knowles, is a Republican.)
Believe it or not, Williamson’s was one of the smoother rightblogger approximations of a civil-libertarian approach last week.
Erick Erickson, kingpin of RedState, leader of an effort to purge moderates from the Republican Party and implacable foe of gay marriage (or as he likes to call it, “‘gay marriage‘”), tried to dip a toe in civil-libertarian waters for the occasion. He commended Brown, whom he said had “defied the odds of many young black men” by getting accepted to college, and said “witnesses disagree” on the justice of his shooting. He even complained about the deaths of some black men in custody, surely a first for him.
But “it is a painful discussion to have in the United States,” added Erickson, because “too many people profit from racial tension.” He was of course talking about “the media,” who “profit by fanning flames and selling papers — often making themselves the story.” Also profiting from fanning flames in Erickson’s estimation: “Activists in the black community,” and in “liberal circles.” (Erickson did mention conservative activists, but said they “fan the flames” in that they “push back” on the blacks and the liberals, so it’s not really their fault.)
“While conservatives tend to be law and order supporters,” said Erickson, “there is growing concern about the militarization of local police.” For example: “Conservatives have long lamented the buildup of armaments and stockpiling of bullets by the Department of Homeland Security.” Wait — was he really talking about the Alex Jones conspiracy theory about DHS preparing for civil war that even Breitbart.com has renounced? Yes, he was. Well, like Chris Cooper trying to kiss Kevin Spacey in American Beauty, the guy’s having a hard time adjusting to new realities.
“The media has mostly treated these conservative concerns with derision,” added Erickson. (QED!) Anyway,”we should not need to have a young white man shot and killed for the rest of the nation to pay attention to the issue.” Boy, that’d be the limit, wouldn’t it?
Some rightbloggers tried to tie the Ferguson events to a libertarian cause they’re more used to supporting — expanded gun rights. Yes, you and we and folks like Adam Serwer know that if the black citizens of Ferguson came into the streets with loaded guns, as had supporters of Cliven Bundy at that April standoff, they’d have been killed expeditiously, and conservatives would be begging for those Homeland Security bullets to protect them from any survivors. But The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway pretended not to understand this.
“Is [Serwer] saying that gun rights are a bad thing because they give police officers more reasons to kill us?” she puzzled. “…we have the right to revolt against despotic governments with a long train of abuses. The right to revolution assumes a means of revolution.”
Hemingway’s Federalist colleague David Harsanyi agreed: While admitting that “yes, if all protestors had loaded firearms in their hands, the situation would almost certainly have degenerated into a more violent mess,” he chose to look at the glass half-full: “a more appropriate observation might be: Isn’t it amazing that in a country with over 250 million guns in circulation, violent political protests are almost nonexistent?”
Harsanyi then did some oh-yeah-what-if-it-was-the-First-Amendment-you-liberals-love-so-much Riddler routines, and ended with a logical pushmi-pullyu: “As tragic as events of Ferguson have been, the situation certainly doesn’t call for any armed rebellion. And yet. When the police block Main Street with tanks and aim their high-powered rifles at unarmed protestors, I don’t think to myself: ‘Hey, thank goodness those citizens have no way to defend themselves.’ Apparently some people do.”
What does that even mean? To us, it means that if black citizens decide to make revolution in America, we’ll immediately turn to The Federalist and see if they’ve declared solidarity and run a HELTER SKELTER banner.
Excited by such offerings, Hot Air’s Noah Rothman complained that many conservatives were libertarian on this subject, but weren’t getting credit for it from liberals. “There is a robust debate on the right over this issue,” said Rothman, and the great thing about that is “conservatives and libertarians do not share a single monolithic opinion,” which, in addition to being robust, means you can’t pin them down on this issue — they can be pro-cop one day, anti-cop the next, depending on the political need.
“On the left, however,” said Rothman as the clouds darkened, “there is no debate. The police in Ferguson are presumed both guilty and racist, and the only deliberation is over whether the officers accused of using undue force should have their names disclosed so as to satisfy the mob.” Thus, it would seem, conservatives deserved credit for admitting the possibility that the black people deserved better, while liberals with their “Borg-like conformity” actually insisted they did. You see why Rothman was pissed.
(The best version of this was probably that of Ace of Spades who, fresh from defending the cops, scoffed that “Dumb Lefties Who Don’t Read” and “Leftists Who Live in a Bubble” didn’t know about all the libertarian push-back — while adding, way far down, that “to clarify, I’m actually skeptical of the Libertarian take on this issue, at least in its Strong Form. In a Weak Form, I buy it. Strong Form, no. So I don’t want to suggest that I am one of the Libertarians who’s been pounding this issue. I haven’t.” It’s the thought that counts!)
The straight-up racist and authoritarian rightblogger ravings were expected, but why did some of them speak against racism (white racism, we mean — they talk about black racism all the time) and the militarization of the police?
Simple: votes. Some of the brighter bulbs among them realize that fear and hatred of non-Caucasians, fruitful as it was in the Willie Horton days and for many years before and since, may in the post-Obama age be a liability for their party. So some conservatives even pre-Ferguson had started to experiment with a guardedly anti-cop attitude, claiming the fuzz’s equipment and power (and especially their unions) are not, as they used to believe, their only bulwark against the Armies of Ooga Booga, but part of the fascist liberal oppression under which America currently labors.
At Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds said with becoming frankness: “A friend writes on Facebook: ‘This presents such a great opportunity for libertarians to flip a significant fraction of blacks from big government to limited government. If Rand Paul wants to do outreach to the black community, get there now. Preferably with some other libertarians. Talk about drug war, killing men for cigarette taxes, drones…'”
They’d have to downplay the let-moochers-starve part of their “limited government” pitch, of course; also, getting black Americans to trust Republicans after decades of noxious racial politics may require some actual legislation on the matter — and so far it’s actually a Democrat who’s advancing such legislation, and members of the Democratic Obama Administration who are encouraging it.
Who knows, maybe a few black people — or some white people who don’t hate black people — will go for it. Or maybe when push comes to shove, everyone will scramble back to their usual positions. There’s a new Robert W. Patterson article at Breitbart.com called “LAW AND ORDER: THREE WORDS THAT CAN HELP REPUBLICANS WIN IN NOVEMBER-AND 2016,” describing how “that no-nonsense message catapulted Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, and dozens of other Republicans into high public office,” and how it could do so again unless Republicans are bamboozled by people like Rand Paul who “have adopted the liberal voice of Democrats and their allies in the media who deliver aid and comfort to lawbreakers.”
With a hot mess in Ferguson, some of the brethren may enjoy playing lipstick libertarian for a few days, but when it’s time to electioneer, how many will be able to risk betting on what’s traditionally been a sure thing?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 17, 2014