Fanning the Flames

While the final embers of the fires that engulfed Ferguson, Missouri Monday night have gone dark, the inferno that has enveloped that small town, and the nation as a whole, rages on.

In the aftermath of St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch’s announcement that a grand jury had declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, Ferguson was thrown into anarchy, as rioters, looters and arsonists overturned cars, devastated local businesses and burned at least a dozen buildings to the ground. 61 people were arrested, and another 14 injured, during a chaotic night in which police wearing riot gear were overwhelmed, and firefighters were prevented from responding to blazes out of fear for their lives. Despite a lengthy press conference in which McCulloch took pains to delineate the often contradictory, and in some instances, blatantly false, testimony of many of the shooting’s supposed witnesses, the reaction on the ground, and in the mainstream media, was overwhelmingly negative.

Many have argued that McCulloch gamed the grand jury process to obtain his desired result: a return of “no true bill” against a member of law enforcement. Citing a history of alleged favoritism towards cops, inaugurated when McCulloch’s own father was killed in the line of duty by a black man, opponents contend that the Prosecuting Attorney revealed far more evidence than was necessary during grand jury proceedings and soft-pedaled the case by not forcefully pressing for specific charges. Some analysts have even claimed that, rather than allowing the twelve individuals deliberating for months to examine the case in detail, McCulloch should have pursued a prosecution no matter what, simply to give Ferguson, and the rest of the country, the cathartic release of a jury trial.

As Andrew McCarthy points out in National Review, the notion that the Prosecuting Attorney in any case is required to pursue charges, simply because it is what the public at large desires, is preposterous:

At the indictment stage, the standard is mere “probable cause”; at trial, the standard is much tougher for the state – “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” …

There are many cases in which it is possible to establish probable cause but where it would be highly unlikely to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. In normal cases, prosecutors do not waste their time indicting cases that technically satisfy the probable-cause standard if they know the chance of conviction at trial is slim to none [my emphasis].

The case in Ferguson is not normal. Because of the highly charged atmosphere — irresponsibly stoked by the Obama administration (especially its Justice Department) and other racialists and rabble-rousers — the prosecutors are not taking it upon themselves to make the decision that the case does not merit being indicted. They are thus presenting a case to the grand jury that ordinarily would not be presented — in essence, dropping it in the lap of the grand jury, the community’s representatives, rather than being on the hook themselves for the decision. Presumably, prosecutors have also resigned themselves to taking the case to trial if the grand jury decides to file charges . . . even if prosecutors believe the case is a loser at trial.

McCarthy’s point is that, rather than rigging the system in favor of Wilson, McCulloch pushed the case against the white officer much further than he would have brought similar cases so lacking in evidence. Why? Because the Left – from the Obama Justice Department, to Al Sharpton, to the talking heads throughout the media – had championed the cause of the Ferguson protestors, and had declared that indicting Darren Wilson was the “fair” thing to do.

There’s a reason why liberals do not bring focus to black-on-black crime or black-on-white crime: in contrast to the case of a white cop shooting a black man, such incidents of violence do not serve their interests. They do not advance the overarching narrative that aims to present the Left as the defender of the downtrodden, the hero of the minority. Rather than assessing right or wrong on the basis of an impartial moral code, liberals make such determinations relative, largely influenced by how their ideology stands to gain from a chosen position. This bias takes many forms, but displays a consistent pattern: the villain of the story, almost universally, is assumed to be the party in the majority. The minority, meanwhile, is either nobly heroic, or, in instances where his actions appear to go beyond the pale, highly nuanced. This becomes the starting point for nearly every discussion involving issues of race, gender, religion or sexuality. It’s why a heartthrob cover photo adorns a Rolling Stone piece seeking to rationalize the actions of the Boston Marathon bomber, while every member of the Tea Party is slandered in the same publication as a vitriolic racist. It’s why each attempt by Israel to defend itself is condemned as a “disproportionate response” or even “genocidal,” while Hamas’ decision to lob rockets at Jewish civilians, and its propensity to hide its armaments inside Palestinian schools, are presented as the legitimate responses of an occupied people. When a member of a majority group does receive the benefit of the doubt, it is usually because they openly espouse liberal ideology. Thus, as vocal defenders of such doctrinaire causes as abortion rights and climate change, Joe Biden can proclaim that “you cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent,” Harry Reid can gaze in awe at a “light-skinned” black president “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,” and Bill Clinton can have his way with the female populations of Arkansas and Washington D.C., largely without consequence.

The leftist mindset has taken up residence in the town of Ferguson, where the murderous intent of the white police officer was simply assumed before the facts were even brought to light. In that small corner of Missouri, and throughout minority communities across America, liberalism’s twisted sense of “fairness,” a capricious compass dependent on relativistic feeling rather than objective fact, has spread like a cancer. It has metastasized through deception, presented as a check against the double standards supposedly imposed by the majority, while surreptitiously instilling a permanent hatred of the “other” and his incessantly malevolent ways. Advertising itself as a corrective force against the injustices of the past, liberalism has instead sought not to level the playing field by seeking true equality, but to upend it; its goal is not to lift up the nation’s minority groups, but to vilify and tear down its inherently evil majority.

The enactment of this propaganda begins with the politicians (mostly Democrats, though they are often aided and abetted by Republicans), who curry favor with minority groups by issuing boundless promises of increased largesse. Campaigns become an excuse to further demonize the majority groups, particularly the wealthy, as a vast cabal committed to the further oppression of the nation’s minorities. They are supported in academia and in the public sphere by the professors, celebrities and pseudo-journalists who perpetuate these insidious ideas amongst the masses. Many who fall into this second category are the product of the radical cultural shift that shook the country in the 1960s, and are motivated by a warped sense of the country’s history and its present role in the world. They are granted admission to the minds of America’s youth, often barred to all but the most talented politicians, and use this access to skillfully conduct the indoctrination necessary to perpetuate the liberal agenda. Exploiting the righteousness and compassion coursing through the veins of the young adult, they preach a dogma that glorifies feeling over fact, moral relativism over moral objectivity.

Though their motivations may differ, these factions have responded to the very real needs of, and problems afflicting, the nation’s minority groups with cures that exacerbate the ills they claim to remedy. By treating minorities as perpetual victims, they have offered accommodations rather than solutions. This is especially true vis-à-vis liberalism’s interaction with the black community, where structural issues such as the disintegration of the family unit and failing schools have simply been papered over with increased government spending. The current situation in Ferguson has highlighted the negative impact that this unwillingness to address foundational problems has had on crime. The embrace of liberalism by the majority of the nation’s black population has meant that the central crisis of the inner city, the high rate of intraracial murder, has been minimized, while the spotlight has been aimed at the sensationalized white on black crimes that capture the country’s attention and advance the leftist agenda. Situations that do not fit neatly into the preordained narrative are twisted and reshaped through the use of moral relativism. Instances of wrongdoing involving a minority are excused and rationalized by liberalism’s representatives, always presented in a context that justifies those actions, while that same consideration is withheld from the forces that are purportedly acting as oppressors. Without the benefit of moral objectivity, exceptions to established norms are granted frequently, and a new double standard is created, one which seeks to punish those in the majority, regardless of their intent.

The three cadres of liberalism – the career-minded politicians falling over themselves to offer additional government assistance, the radical intellectuals and mass media agents spewing invective, and the younger generations whose desire to right the wrongs of the past has been co-opted –  have combined to gradually smother the black community since the 1960s. Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation notes that, since President Lyndon Johnson’s commencement of the “War on Poverty” 50 years ago, U.S. taxpayers have spent $22 trillion dollars on the initiative, while the rate of poor in the nation has remained relatively the same. While increased federal spending has prevented destitution and homelessness, Rector points out that,

Johnson’s aim was not to prop up living standards by making more and more people dependent on an ever larger welfare state. Instead, Johnson sought to increase self-sufficiency, the ability of a family to support itself out of poverty without dependence on welfare aid. Johnson asserted that the War on Poverty would actually shrink the welfare rolls and transform the poor from “taxeaters” into “taxpayers.”

Judged by that standard, the War on Poverty has been a colossal flop. The welfare state has undermined self-sufficiency by discouraging work and penalizing marriage. When the War on Poverty began seven percent of children were born outside marriage. Today, 42 percent of children are. By eroding marriage, the welfare state has made many Americans less capable of self-support than they were when the War on Poverty began.

Rather than helping, this government spending has ravaged the black community that was intended as one of its primary beneficiaries. The ideology shared by Johnson, Ted Kennedy, Al Sharpton and Barack Obama has created entire generations of people whose lives are dependent on, or at the whim of, outside forces. At liberalism’s urging, personal responsibility has been abdicated in favor of reliance on public assistance. Personally accountability has been dismissed as blame has been assigned elsewhere: to the wealthy, to Republicans, to privileged whites or oppressive law enforcement. While claiming the utmost moral high ground, the left has undone the rivets of civil society, replacing it with a “Great Society” of fatherless homes, broken schools and a complete distrust of the traditional institutions that bind the nation together. To a frustrated populace whose problems require difficult solutions, liberalism has offered easy answers: handouts over hard work, exceptions rather than exceptionalism. A life of limitless potential has been trumped by one where every limit is a potential grievance.

Coddled by the corrupting influence of moral relativism, and encouraged to assign blame for its failures elsewhere, certain segments of the black community have embraced the notion that society is eternally rigged against them. Attitudes and actions that would meet unequivocal condemnation when viewed objectively are excused and rationalized in the face of a supposedly pervasive and evil white power structure. The liberal echo chamber magnifies and distorts the truth until even criminal activity is rationalized or diminished. It’s how an act of self-defense is contorted into a national crisis in Ferguson. It’s how mistakes or justifiable responses by police officers are transformed into an epidemic of white cops killing black youths: the context is removed, automatically assigning all blame to the representative of the majority, no matter the circumstances.

Reacting to Monday’s grand jury announcement, Shaun King of the Daily Kos writes,

I’m deeply and profoundly disappointed and honestly lack the words to explain my emotions right now. It’s a frustration in which a man doesn’t feel much like writing. It’s an exhaustion in which one has hoped just one too many times for justice, only for it to escape in the fleeting fashion that is sadly familiar in cases of young black men killed by police officers all over this country.

I had hoped officers would be found guilty when they were found beating Rodney King senseless. It was on video. We all saw it. They were acquitted.

I had hoped officers would be found guilty when they fired 41 shots at an unarmed Amadou Diallo standing in his doorstep. They were acquitted.

I had hoped the officers who fired 50 shots into Sean Bell’s car as he left his bachelor party would be found guilty. They were acquitted.

I had hoped the officers who shot and killed football star Kendrec McDade—after they lied about him shooting at them first—would at least go to court, but the grand jury said they were justified.

I had hoped the officers who chased Ramarley Graham into his home and killed him would at least be tried, but they weren’t

I had hoped the officers who shot and killed John Crawford in Wal-Mart would be cited somehow, but the grand jury found they were justified.

Now, here we are, with a young man who ran over half a football field away, after a confrontation with Officer Darren Wilson, only to be shot over and over again.

Each of these events is tragic, but not in the simplistic way that Mr. King presents them. He is attempting to evoke sympathy, and advance a narrative, by leaving out the circumstances surrounding these interactions and the role that the victims played in causing the resultant violence. Rodney King was beaten by police, but he initiated the confrontation by driving drunk down a highway and violently lunging at the officers during their initial attempt to arrest him. Amadou Diallo was mistakenly killed by 41 shots, but he also ran when questioned by police (who approached him because he matched the description of an armed rape suspect) and reached into his pocket when they cornered him and ordered him to put his hands up. Sean Bell was killed by police as he left his bachelor party, but his car also rammed the vehicle of cops who were responding to reports of a shooting about to take place. Kendrec McCade was killed by officers, but he had also just taken part in a robbery and ran when initially confronted by police, who had been told he was armed. Ramarley Graham was killed in his home, but had also fled the scene of a drug deal witnessed by the cops, who believed he was carrying a gun. John Crawford was shot and killed in a Walmart, but only after frightening customers (one of whom called 911) by waving a realistic-looking air rifle while walking the aisles, and refusing to comply with orders by police to drop the weapon. And then, of course, there’s Michael Brown, the unarmed 18-year-old killed by Officer Darren Wilson. Far from the “gentle giant” originally presented, Brown robbed a convenience store, physically assaulted Wilson, tried to grab the policeman’s gun, then charged at the cop when ordered to stop resisting, as corroborated by the physical evidence and multiple eyewitnesses. All of these incidents share common themes: police responding to illegal activity, or reports of illegal activity, followed by resistance on the part of the suspect. This is not to suggest that cops did not use excessive force in any of these instances, or that they did not make mistakes; simply that the narrative of white police indiscriminately killing young men for being black, supposedly supported by this litany, is patently false. Only by purposely overlooking the nuances that surrounded these incidents, and completely ignoring or excusing the role of the black men in question in escalating these situations, can that conclusion be reached.

And yet it has been reached by a great many people since Michael Brown was shot on August 9th, and it has resulted in violence, destruction and increased racial animosity in this country. These are the wages of a liberal ideology that refuses to acknowledge objective morality and instead promotes a partiality directed by feelings: the law itself becomes corrupt. Facts are discounted, and the leftists’ favored groups are exempted from responsibility. In such a world, looters are told their actions are merely the expected response of individuals confronted by cops in riot gear. In such a distorted reality, black teens are told that they need not respect police, for the police are endemically racist and inherently unjust. Poisoned by such attitudes, it should be no surprise that Rodney King eventually begets Michael Brown.

It is the liberal mindset that leads to repeated violence, by eroding the bedrocks that have sustained Western Civilization itself and replacing them with the unsure footing of accommodation and “social justice.” Liberals have had a stranglehold on the black community since the 1960s, always ensuring that their philosophy remains dominant by wielding the cudgel of racism against those who step out of line. Far from improving the plight of African-Americans, they have made the situation immeasurably worse, inflicting harms that threaten to consign generations to poverty, despair and feelings of powerlessness. The dirty secret of liberalism, and its decades-long exploitation the black community, is that those who have promised to help the most have wrought far more destruction than the white conservatives they villainize. While the latter promotes an objective morality that upholds law and order, the former has bequeathed to large portions of the black populace a constantly shifting, often contradictory, relativistic mush masquerading as organizing principles. It is only by stopping the spread of this poison that blacks will ever overcome the cycles of poverty and violence that plague their communities. It is only by rejecting the false promises of liberalism that they will prevent the next Ferguson.