Riots work. The Baltimore riots achieved a number of goals for the political left, which is why the left defended the riots as a quasi-legitimate outgrowth of fully justified anti-police, anti-white feeling – in a majority black city with a majority black police force and a majority black city council, in a country with a black president and a black attorney general.
This is nothing new: Back in the 1960s, as Fred Siegel of the Manhattan Institute writes in his terrific book, The Future Once Happened Here, “riot ideology” took hold. “Riot ideology,” wrote Siegel, sprang from the belief that in the wake of race riots, “more money for the cities was essential — if not to halt riots, then to contain the still rising racial anger, which expressed itself in rising rates of often violent crime.” Poverty, the logic goes, leads to rioting; rioting leads to fear; fear leads to siphoning cash to solve poverty.
President Lyndon Johnson utilized riot ideology to great effect; his attorney general, Nicholas Katzenbach, said that there would be riots in “thirty or forty” cities if the Model Cities legislation giving cash to cities didn’t pass. Marion Barry, the now-sainted-former-felon mayor of Washington D.C., felt the same way: “I know for a fact that white people get scared of the [Black] Panthers, and they might give money to somebody a little more moderate.” In New York City, Mayor John Lindsay tried to enroll people in welfare, hoping that it would prevent them from rioting; his aide explained, “our experience is that some good can come of confrontation politics.”
Modern riot ideology follows the same pattern: after riots, politicians immediately emerge to suggest that solving riots requires delegating them more power, more money, and more discretion. On Sunday, former Maryland governor and prospective 2016 presidential candidate Martin O’Malley said just that: “$130 million… is a spit in the bucket compared to what we need to do as a nation to rebuild our country. American cities are the heart of our country and we need an agenda for American cities. We need to stop ignoring especially people of color and acting like they are disposable citizens.”
NBC’s Tom Brokaw explained that America required a “Marshall plan” for inner cities.
PBS host Tavis Smiley said, “My sense is that this is going to become the new normal. These kinds of uprisings and riots will happen a lot more if we can’t get serious about jobs, jobs, jobs with a living wage for all fellow citizens.”
Riot ideology has now extended well beyond simple government growth, however. There are more players who rake in the cash from rioting, more people who get what they want after a few local shops are transformed into flamed-out husks.
Ratings Rise. The media love riots. Love them. That’s particularly true for CNN, which sees a massive ratings boost each time Americans take to the streets to attack police and loot businesses. Last November, CNN capitalized heavily from the riots in Ferguson, beating Fox News in both the 25-54 demographic and overall. Anderson Cooper won over 6 million viewers; during the primetime hours, CNN drew 2.3 million viewers in the demo over Fox News’ 1.4 million. During the Baltimore riots last week, CNN drew the viewers in massive numbers: the network actually saw a 574 percent improvement over the previous week’s demo. Whipping up riots for ratings: it’s the CNN way, and it’s a hell of a lot easier than making a Malaysian airliner disappear.
Lynch Mobs Win. The rioters got their way in Baltimore: they saw six officers indicted to the tune of dozens of charges, including second-degree murder and manslaughter, on evidence that could best be described as marginal. Protesters and rioters held a victory rally based on State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s press conference, despite Mosby’s massive conflict of interest and politically-motivated rabblerousing. These protesters were not interested in truth; after all, Ferguson rioters rioted despite the fact that Officer Darren Wilson justifiably shot Michael Brown. They were interested in the scalps of police officers. And they will get them. As Alan Dershowitz says, the process in Baltimore amounts to a “show trial.”
Criminals Win. MSNBC headlined a recent report on Baltimore, “Scenes from occupied Baltimore.” David Simon, creator of The Wire, called Baltimore police officers “an army of occupation.” MSNBC’s Joy Ann Reid likened Baltimore to the Gaza Strip (or at least what the Gaza Strip represents in her insipid mind, given that Israel pulled out of Gaza a decade ago). But the case for a lessened police presence does serve the interests of some in the Baltimore community: criminals. When the Mayor of Baltimore, Samantha Rawlings-Blake, said that she had created space for rioters to destroy, she wasn’t kidding: rioters prompt politicians to handcuff the police. The law-abiding pay the price for such cowardice.
More Payoffs. As always, riots bring forth the specter of Al Sharpton, who sat across from Rawlings-Blake for a press conference as the riots unfolded. Sharpton then called for a federalized police force: “We need the Justice Department to step in and take over policing in this country…We’re going to have to fight states’ rights in terms of closing down police cases. Police must be held accountable.” Anytime there’s a riot, Sharpton makes headlines; that gives him added credibility to go after law-abiding businesses, whom he can then shake down for donations to his National Action Network. Life sure is sweet when you’re a tax cheat on the right political side.
Democrats Reinforce The Narrative. Democrats revel in riots. Riots allow them to proclaim that America suffers from broad racial ills, that structural inequity is somehow responsible for economic inequality – even in cities they’ve run for decades, like Baltimore or Detroit or Chicago or Los Angeles or Washington D.C. President Obama used the riots as an opportunity to talk up his radical agenda at a speech at Lehman College in New York City yesterday: “America’s future depends on us caring about about this. If we don’t, then we will just keep going through the same cycles.” By caring, of course, President Obama means giving him more power and cash to spend. And last week, Obama blamed Republicans for not giving him that power: “I’m under no illusion that under this Congress we’re going to get massive investments in urban communities.” Never let a good riot go to waste.
Conservatives Silence Themselves. Meanwhile, conservatives are deathly afraid to speak about the real cause of riots and inner city decay: lack of values, forwarded by government programs designed to reward such lack of values. Instead, we get Speaker of the House John Boehner talking about a national policing crisis: “I think that if you look at what’s happened over the course of the last year, you just got to scratch your head.” Most Republicans have avoided comment altogether, which is a great pity, given that policing crime used to be a top priority for Republicans rather than caving to benevolent media coverage of such crime.
A new poll shows that 96 percent of Americans believe more race riots are on their way. They’re right, so long as media and political actors benefit from such riots. Meanwhile, the law-abiding citizens who have to live in rioting communities suffer the fallout.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the new book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.