Ta Nehesi-Coates has a terrific headline - "Blue Lives Matter" but he strikes a false note here in discussing the politics of police refomr in the aftermath of the execution of two NYPD officers:
It was only a matter of time before some criminal shot a police officer in New York. If that's all it takes to turn Americans away from police reform, the efforts were likely doomed from the start.
"Only a matter of time"? Per the NY Times, the last officer killed in the line of duty was three years ago. The last officers assassinated for political reason were back in the early 70's when the Black Liberation Army gunned down two officers in 1971 and another two in 1972.
The idea that what happened this weekend in NY was in some sense "a matter of time" is certainly accurate in a mathematical sense; probability theory tells us that with enough opportunities the improbable becomes inevitable, but this quickly. Or if the argument is that Garner/Brown demonstrations in New York were clearly going to lead to this sort of violence in the near future (And it's hard to believe Mr. Nehesi-Coates meant that), then the failure of our notional leaders to dial back their rhetoric is even more stark.
But speaking of rhetoric, Conor Friedersdorf explains that it has all ben responsibe anyway, and that criticism of deBlasio, Holder and Obama is just meant to "squelch legitimate political debate by irrationally associating it with the deeds of a suicidal murderer."
And Howard Safir, a former NYPD commissioner, wrote this in Time: "When Ismaaiyl Abdulah Brinsley brutally executed Officers Ramos and Liu he did so in an atmosphere of permissiveness and anti-police rhetoric unlike any that I have seen in 45 years in law enforcement. The rhetoric this time is not from the usual suspects, but from the Mayor of New York City, the Attorney General of the United States, and even the President. It emboldens criminals and sends a message that every encounter a black person has with a police officer is one to be feared."
Notably, none of these intellectually dishonest statements quote or link to any actual rhetoric spoken by Mayor de Blasio, Eric Holder, or President Obama. That is because none of them has uttered so much as a single word that even hints that violently attacking a police officer, let alone murdering one, would be justified. Suggesting that their words are responsible for this murder is discrediting. Even the weaker claim that their words "embolden criminals" is absurd, both as a matter of logic and as a statement made amid historically low crime rates.
With regard to the particular crime of killing police officers, "the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty—that is, killed with felonious intent by a suspected criminal—plummeted to 27 in 2013, its lowest level in decades." That is the Obama/Holder record on this issue. We needn't speculate about whether their rhetoric has proved dangerous for police. We know that it has not.
So assaults on officers were low in 2013 and that proves that the post-Ferguson rhetoric of 2014 has not incited violence against the police? Let me write that down.
As to the notion that no professional politician has specifically called on his followers to gun down police officers, no kidding. But do our leaders have any impact at all on creating an atmosphere of distrust for the police? Here, for example, is Obama speaking to Black Entertainment Television, as summarized at the White House website:
While reiterating that the vast majority of America's law enforcement officers are doing their jobs well, the President also noted that some officers have received poor training, are in departments that tolerate sloppy police work, and have a subconscious fear of people that look different. All of this, he said, contributes to "a national problem that's going to require a national solution."
Now isn't the time for rhetoric, he said, but rather to figure out what works as far as police training, equipment, accountability measures, review systems, and prosecution practices. He also underlined the importance of changing people's hearts and minds, but noted that hearts and minds will catch up with the laws:
"Dr. King once said, when he was asked about anti-lynching legislation -- somebody said, "Well, you know, you can't change what's in the hearts and minds of the white folks in the South. You can't legislate what's in their hearts." He says, "Well, you can't legislate what's in their hearts, but I tell you what: If you can just stop them from lynching me, that's progress. That's a pretty good thing." And over time, hearts and minds catch up with laws. That's been the history of progress in this country."
Hmm. Normally quoting Dr. King is a safe play, but what is Obama saying here - that the police are the KKK and want to lynch black men? Or that even though some police will go on hating blacks, maybe we can prevent them from shooting blacks? Is that really helpful?
And if the police are the KKK, or hate blacks and want to kill them, is it really unreasonable for a black thug to engage in a bit of pre-emptive self-defense?
Conor Friedersdorf is a reasonable guy and would not hear Obama's words that way. But there is a known violent fringe on the radical left, so we ask - how do they hear these words?
Mr. Friedersdorf acknowldeges the existence of that fringe but may underestimate the reach of their message:
While the taboo against violent attacks on police officers is shared by literally every pundit I've come across, literally every elected official who has spoken on this subject, and the overwhelming majority of people who've taken to the streets to protest the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, there are, in fact, documented examples of a tiny minority rejecting that norm, including the folks who took up the chant, "What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want it? Now!"
There's almost no chance that the chants in this unrepresentative protest motivated a killer from a different city to kill cops in New York.
Uh huh. And what is the betting line on whether the "Hands Up" rap video by Uncle Murda, which called for the execution of cops and surely reached Philadelphia, also made it by way of the internet all the way to Baltimore? Or from a different angle, just why did the shooter seem to think people might care or approve his plan to kill some cops in revenge for Garner and Brown? Was that really just the pure, independent creation of a sick mind?
And what inspired this guy?
Federal prosecutors have charged a Kirkland man with making interstate threats against the life of former Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson and his family.
Jaleel Tariq Abdul-Jabbaar, 46, is identified as a convicted felon with drug and firearms-related convictions who is accused to trying to purchase a firearm over Facebook, telling the seller that he was “going to Ferguson. Can you just sit back and do nothing. White motha (expletive) killing us like our lives ain’t (expletive).”
He was arrested Tuesday morning at his home, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle.
All too often when our friends on the left stage a protest it turns violent. At which point, we hear explanations about how it was hijacked by a radical fringe and we are all supposed to be surprised.
Maybe one day these leaders on the left will achieve a better understanding of their base.
MORE: Collective guilt - in MediaWorld it's only for conservatives! Meanwhile, the left is all about group identity and group politics until there is blame to be assigned.