Finding Meaning in Ferguson

Heather Mac Donald, National Review, December 1, 2014

The New York Times has now pronounced on the “meaning of the Ferguson riots.” A more perfect example of what the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan called “defining deviancy down” would be hard to find. The Times’ editorial encapsulates the elite narrative around the fatal police shooting of unarmed Michael Brown last August, and the mayhem that twice followed that shooting. Unfortunately, the editorial is also a harbinger of the poisonous anti-police ideology that will drive law-enforcement policy under the remainder of the Obama administration.

The Times cannot bring itself to say one word of condemnation against the savages who self-indulgently destroyed the livelihoods of struggling Ferguson, Mo., entrepreneurs and their employees last week. The real culprit behind the riots, in the Times’ view, is not the actual arsonists and looters but county prosecutor Robert McCulloch. McCulloch presented the shooting of 18-year-old Brown by Officer Darren Wilson to a St. Louis county grand jury; after hearing three months of testimony, the grand jury decided last Monday not to bring criminal charges against Wilson. The Times trots out the by now de rigueur and entirely ad hoc list of McCulloch’s alleged improprieties, turning the virtues of this grand jury–such as its thoroughness–into flaws. If the jurors had indicted Wilson, none of the riot apologists would have complained about the length of the process or the range of evidence presented.

To be sure, most grand-jury proceedings are pro forma and brief, because the evidence of the defendant’s guilt is so overwhelming, as Andrew McCarthy has explained. Here, however, McCulloch faced a dilemma. His own review of the case would have shown the unlikelihood of a conviction. Physical evidence discredited the initial inflammatory claims about Wilson attacking Brown and shooting him in the back, and Missouri law accords wide deference to police officers who use deadly force against a dangerous suspect. Not initiating any formal criminal inquiry against Wilson was politically impossible, however, especially since the eyewitness accounts that corroborated Wilson’s version of events would have remained unknown. (Not surprisingly, the six black witnesses who supported Wilson’s story did not go to the press or social media, unlike the witnesses who spread the early lies about Wilson’s behavior.) So McCulloch used the grand-jury proceeding as a way to get the entire dossier about the case into the public domain by bringing a broad range of evidence before the grand jury and then releasing it to the public after the proceeding ended–a legal arrangement.

The Times is silent about that evidence, of course. Blood and DNA traces demonstrated that Brown had initiated the altercation by attacking Wilson while Wilson was inside his car. Brown then tried to grab Wilson’s gun, presumably to shoot him. {snip}

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The Times then goes into blazing hyperbole about the reign of terror inflicted “daily” on blacks by the police in Ferguson and nationally. {snip}

Even more fantastically, the Times claims that “the killing of young black men by police is a common feature of African-American life and a source of dread for black parents from coast to coast.” A “common feature”? This is pure hysteria, likely penned by Times columnist Charles Blow. {snip} According to published reports, the police kill roughly 200 blacks a year–most of them attacking the officer. In 2013, there were 6,261 black homicide victims in the U.S. The police could eliminate all fatal shootings without having any significant impact on the black homicide death rate. The killers of those black homicide victims are overwhelmingly other blacks, responsible for a death risk ten times that of whites in urban areas. In 2013, 5,375 blacks were arrested for homicide, which is greater than the number of whites and Hispanics combined (4,396), even though blacks are only 13 percent of the national population.

The Times trots out the misleading statistic published by ProPublica last month that young black males are 21 times more likely to be shot dead by police than young white males–a calculation that overlooks that young black men commit homicide at nearly ten times the rate of young white and Hispanic males combined. That astronomically higher homicide-commission rate means that police officers are going to be disproportionately in black neighborhoods to fight crime, where they will more likely encounter armed shooting suspects. If the black crime rate were the same as the white crime rate, the victims of police shootings would most certainly also be equal among the races. Asians are minorities, which, according to the Times’ ideology, should make them the target of police brutality. But they barely show up in police-shooting data because their crime rates are so low.

For the years 2005–2009, a significant portion of victims in the ProPublica study–62 percent–were resisting arrest or assaulting an officer as Michael Brown did. The cop hatred that activists and press organs like the Times do their best to foment significantly increases the chances of such aggressive and dangerous behavior.

The Times serves up a good example of anti-cop propaganda when it confidently states that “many police officers see black men as expendable figures on the urban landscape, not quite human beings.” That will be news to the thousands of police officers who are the only people willing to put their lives on the line to protect innocent blacks from predation. Until the Times’ editors and reporters start patrolling dark stairwells in housing projects and running toward gang gunfire, their superior concern for black men will lack credibility.

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