Over at Buzzfeed, Evan McMorris-Santoro published a truly naive story titled "Ferguson Is the Beginning of the End for Conservatives' 'War on Crime.'" I was going to write about it, but Roy Edroso said everything I wanted to say, and more:
... I fear the moment is passing. As I said yesterday, take a look at National Review to see which way the stagnant wind blows. Charles C.W. Cooke, who has been among NR's stronger civil-libertarian voices on this subject, has retreated to his comfort zone -- i.e., nuh-uh-you-stupid-liberals, America still rules -- as his colleagues go full lawn-order all around him.Edroso goes on to quote a Victor Davis Hanson column that lingers on the fact that Malik Shabazz, a member of the New Black Panther Party, has traveled to Ferguson and claims to have been part of a group responsible for calming the streets on Thursday night. Hanson, linking to an earlier National Review post, declares that we're in a moment of lawless post-modernism because Captain Ron Johnson of the Highway Patrol did not immediately clap Shabazz in irons when they appeared together at a community gathering. To Hanson's horror, Johnson said that he was grateful to whoever helped keep the streets calm. Anarchy!
But this is why McMorris-Santoro is being extraordinarily naive: It doesn't matter now what Rand Paul or Grover Norquist may have said about incarceration rates, because we're entering a dangerous moment -- the first moment in a generation in which, at times, the world actually looks like right-wing nightmares of domestic unrest. Think about it: Over the past twenty years or so, Fox News, the Drudge Report, talk radio, and other right-wing media outlets have peddled booga-booga fantasies of urban lawlessness and black rage while crime nationwide has actually plummeted (and stayed low). Now they've got something real, if isolated, to grab onto -- rioting and looting in a majority-black town! A New Black Panther actually doing something newsworthy! The return of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to relevance!
And this coincides with an uptick in shootings in New York City under a hated liberal mayor who's denounced stop-and-frisk -- never mind the fact that homicides are still down here. The schedenfreude on this subject was evident when National Review (yes, again) told us yesterday that fourteen people had been wounded and two killed in shootings in "De Blasio's NYC" over the weekend. The shooting number is high, but as for the fatalaties, hmmm, let's see: two murdered over the weekend in De Blasio's urban hellhole amounts to one a day; by contrast, under the benevolent reign of Mike Bloomberg, New York had a strikingly low 333 homicides last year, which comes out to about ... um, one a day. Barbarians: not exactly at the gate.
But the right can't resist invoking any evidence of the return in real life of anything matching its most fevered fantasies of the breakdown of civilization. Even the rhetoric has a nostalgic tone. In recent days we've had Fox's Todd Starnes referring to Al Sharpton as a "race hustler" -- a much-beloved Giuliani-era slur. And what drug did Fox's Jim Pinkerton suggest might have been in Michael Brown's system when he was shot? PCP -- y'know, just like in the 1980s.
Right-wingers have been warning one another about the swarthy hordes for years; now they think their nightmares are real again. Nothing Rand Paul and Grover Norquist have to say can compete with any of this.