Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post looks at Ferguson and sees a failure of leadership in the weeks since Michael Brown was shot:
... Ever since that fateful Saturday afternoon, there have been protests about the way Brown was treated and the way African Americans in general have been treated in the St. Louis suburb. The most dramatic and revealing were those that erupted the evening of Aug. 13.... in the chaotic nighttime scene three people were missing: Gov. Jay Nixon (D), Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III and Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson.

As their city and state and their police forces ran roughshod over the First Amendment rights of demonstrators with the entire world watching, those three public officials were nowhere to be seen. Their inexcusable absence that night, the lack of leadership it exposed and the subsequent bumbling efforts to show control might explain why there was so much hysteria leading up to tonight’s announcement that Wilson will not be charged in Brown's death.

My view of their actions is certainly colored by my 16 years in New York City. Whenever anything big happened or was about to happen in the Big Apple or the Empire State (from snow storm to terrorist attack), you were guaranteed to see the mayor, the governor, the police commissioner and every relevant city and state commissioner squeezed behind a podium to give anxious New Yorkers an update. Both in word and presence, those public officials at least gave the impression that someone was in charge. Someone was accountable. Someone was speaking for them. Nixon, Knowles and Jackson (especially Jackson) have consistently failed that basic test of leadership....
Did they really fail a test of leadership? Or are they just running government the way Heartland America wants it to be run?

Capehart is right that we New Yorkers expect our elected officials to be responsive in situations like this. We may disagree, sometimes strongly, on what those responses should be, but up here we generally believe in the existence of government. We expect government officials to do what they can to make a troubling situation better.

Maybe that's not what elected officials in Missouri think -- Democratic or Republican -- because they're in a heartland state and they're being responsive to the majority population, which doesn't believe in government. Maybe the Gospel of Reagan holds sway -- government never makes anything better, though if there are undesirables to be violently confronted, then government absolutely has a role in that. But government as a real, proactive force for good? That's crazy talk.

Maybe this is just the government Missouri deserves. Maybe this is precisely the amount of government Missouri, or at least its majority population, thinks it wants.


Never Ben Better said...

So now we're learning that the grand jury made its decision by midday; yet the verdict wasn't announced till well after dark, after hours of breathless media yammering about "How bad will the riots be?" and ratcheting emotions on both sides, building and building the tension till something HAD to snap.

We're teased with the news that there'll be a press conference about the verdict at 7:00 ET. Then it's not the verdict; it's the governor coming out to blather on about how tense the whole situation is and everybody better be peaceful or else we'll roll on you will all this firepower we've got waiting.

More time passes; more frustrated anticipation (though we all knew in our hearts what it was going to be, didn't we?) ramps up and up.

Then, finally, the prosecutor comes out with his coldly dismissive speech, beginning with an attack on the media before launching into his defense of letting Wilson walk. Out on the streets, the vast militarized brigades of law enforcement roll into position, tear gas and armored vehicles and such straining at the leash. And predictably, Ferguson blows sky-high.

Wow! Tear gas clouds and running menacing figures and burning buildings and cars! Breathless media reports from the front lines! It's true! They ARE all thugs! Just look at Those People running wild! Animals! That kid got just what he deserved!

Does anyone else wonder just why the announcement was handled so badly? Just whose interests are served by the propaganda value of the images out of Ferguson last night?

Or am I just being paranoid? I report; you decide.

Victor said...

And of course, after months of telling the local black population not to protest at night, that they reported the results in the evening – like NBB said, that wasn’t done by accident.

And here’s another reason his press conference was held at 8pm local time – AKA: Prime Time – it would be covered all over the state and country when people are watching TV.

This of course, will set-up that useless DA for a run for Congressman, Governor, or Senator.