Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Revolutionary Justice

by Victor Davis Hanson // NRO-The Corner

Photo via Huffington Post

Photo via Huffington Post

Certainly any time in America that an unarmed suspect is fatally shot by a policeman of the opposite race, there is a need for concern and a quick and full inquiry of the circumstances leading to such a deadly use of force. That said, there is something disturbing about the demagogic efforts to rush to judgment in Ferguson, Mo. While it is understandable to deplore the militarization of the police that might accentuate rising tensions on the street, and to note that a mostly white police force might be less sensitive to a majority African-American populace, there is as yet not much evidence that the antithesis — a more relaxed approach to crowd control under the direction of a sensitive African-American law-enforcement official — has so far resulted in an end of the street violence or of the looting of stores. Too little police deterrence can be just as dangerous as too much.

It is also an American tradition that those under suspicion are considered innocent until the evidence is gathered, sifted, and adjudicated. Instead, the officer in question has more or less been tried and found guilty by those on the street (some of whom are calling for his death) and the media who reports on them. The governor has been particularly demagogic in blasting as character disparagement the logical release of a video showing the deceased minutes before the shooting robbing a store and brutally intimidating a clerk half his size — a fact naturally of some relevance in the ensuing disputed events.

If in fact the video has been doctored in the prior fashion of NBC’s selective editing of the Zimmerman tape or CNN’s distortion of the Zimmerman vocabulary, or ABC’s massaging of the video of Zimmerman’s wounds, then certainly disparagement is the correct noun; if not, the governor should be ashamed of himself. As of now, we have no accurate idea of whether the officer in question had reasonable cause initially to stop and interrogate the deceased, was first hurt in an altercation over his gun with a robbery suspect, or was charged and put in mortal danger by the deceased — or simply panicked, overreacted, and shot an unarmed man. What little evidence that has so far emerged from eyewitnesses, a video, and the police report remains ambiguous.

No matter. The gratuitous looting and street violence, the almost instantaneous rush to blast the police by soon to be presidential candidate Rand Paul; the arrival of the usual demagogues — Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson (“state execution”), and the New Black Panther Party — the reluctance to suspend judgment until we learn the circumstances of the fatal encounter and hear from the policeman involved, the unnecessary TV filming of the home of the officer in question, the politically motivated distortions of the media, the now customary editorializing in tense racial matters by President Obama before the facts are established — so reminiscent of the Trayvon Martin case — are all a sort of revolutionary street justice, but do not reflect the rule of constitutional law and do not calm racial tensions.

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

14 Thoughts on “Revolutionary Justice

  1. I have come to the conclusion that the American Republic is no more a single nation than was Yugoslavia or Austria-Hungary. Even smart observers like Dr H continue to think of things like Ferguson –and it is just the latest in a very long series– as soluble problems “within” a single entity. I judge the race division insoluble and permanent and I further judge this division to be the outlines of at least two separate and future nations. From its inception, the “United States” was an attempt to hold together polities that had strong centrifugal energies. 1861 proved that. But since the post-War prioritization of (Black) minority racial politics as THE principium stantis vel cadentis of the Republic, the powers of dissolution will continue to erode the rapidly failing experiment of making such wholly incompatible and hostile peoples into an “American” nation. Our hyphenation by race is the future of this continent.

  2. We do things better in Norway where police officers do not carry guns, compared to Sweden where they do, and accordingly, in proportion to the population, twice as many police officers are killed and twice as many others. Besides, to become a a student, a person has to have a record without as much as a misdemeanour, and the two years of theory and one year of practice at the Police University College (which has a lot more applicants than can be accepted, even with these conditions). Look at the following: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnkbdUJzJAk.

    • Proudly Unaffiliated on August 18, 2014 at 3:00 pm said:

      Kind of interesting but Norway and Sweden could not be more different than America. Frankly, if we disarmed the police, I doubt we could get anyone to sign up for the job. Please understand that the police have guns here in order to defend themselves. If they are used for any other reason, it is extremely rare.

    • Jeff Solberg on August 19, 2014 at 7:17 am said:

      The situation in Ferguson is dealing with deep racial issues along with economic disparities. Neither of which apply to Norway and its largely homogeneous population of 5+ million and control over large oil and gas deposits to fund all sorts of pie in the sky socialist programs. In short, Norway’s solutions to its “problems” simply would not work in Ferguson, MO.

    • John Stephens on August 19, 2014 at 8:24 am said:

      In those parts of the US settled by Swedes and Norwegians, and where their descendants remain in the majority, crime rates are low enough that the police could be disarmed without risk to themselves. I will say no more, as it it well known what can’t be said in public and of whom it can’t be said.

      Background checks on students would encounter the same problem, and therefore the same silence.

  3. David Seward on August 18, 2014 at 2:36 pm said:

    The President’s continued comments on these incidents that used to be reserved for the local news have done more to incite more ire and bad feelings
    beyond the usual bias of the suck-up media. Presidents need to stay out of these matters and leave them for the states to handle. But with a professed “activist” AG, Obama has laid out his agenda from the beginning. I fear for our Republic.

  4. Proudly Unaffiliated on August 18, 2014 at 3:06 pm said:

    The more I look at this Ferguson debacle, the more I see it, roughly, as a repeat of the Duke Lacrosse rape hoax. We are certainly seeing the same elements of a rush to judgement by people who should know better and the willingness of so many “leaders” to whip up the mob into a frenzy. Both appear to fit a certain narrative and thus permit many to see what they want to see, much like a Rorschach test.

  5. Erasmus Longfellow on August 18, 2014 at 6:01 pm said:

    “…any time in America that an unarmed suspect is fatally shot by a policeman of the opposite race, there is a need for concern and a quick and full inquiry..”

    That unnecessarily racial statement notwithstanding, an excellent piece.
    Racial factors should be irrelevant when an unarmed person is shot by the police, and investigation should be automatic.

  6. I don’t know. I have never disagreed with VDH, but I’m sick and tired of reading about white police officers killing suspects with a gun or a chokehold. And I’m a white, conservative Marine and federal prosecutor. I’m starting to change my position.

    • Dave Kellems on August 20, 2014 at 11:07 am said:

      I strongly suspect one of the first commercial uses for Google glass will be for police officers. Honestly, who would want to do the job if this cop gets convicted based on flimsy evidence just to satisfy the lynch mob. A device such as that being mandatory gear for police could be a life saver whenever severe action is warranted, and it would make an angry cop think twice before acting foolishly.

    • Brutha V on August 20, 2014 at 12:51 pm said:

      Glen: With all due respect, Officer Wilson suffered multiple facial fractures as a result of Mike Brown’s attack. When Officer Wilson instructed Brown to stop, the 6’4″ 300 lb Brown rushed toward Wilson. Officer Wilson had every reason to believe that Mr. Brown would cause him even greater serious bodily injury, or death. Deadly force was clearly justified in this case.

      I firmly believe that if suspects would not fight with police officers/resist arrest then there would be fewer incidents of deadly force.

  7. Dave Kellems on August 20, 2014 at 10:54 am said:

    White America is simply dumbfounded by the insouciance exhibited by blacks in regards to the sheer number of abortions and black on black homicides that fail to galvanize the black community. Only the exceedingly rare occasions where a black person is killed by a white individual ever seem to rouse them from their collective slumber. How can it be that black life is as cheap as loose change in a car ashtray when taken by other blacks, while simultaneously being as precious as all the gold in Fort Knox when it happens to be taken by a white, regardless of circumstances? The white community sees this as cognitive dissonance on a colossal scale, not unlike the black hypocrisy in regards to the use of the “N” word being ubiquitous and casual among blacks while off limits completely to other groups no matter what the context. All the while the media jumps in on cue to perform their shout fire in a crowded theater role and now a white police officer is about to either be made a human sacrifice, or the match that ignites a needless race war ginned up by a manipulative media and an unabashedly corrupt Democratic party.

  8. Alan David on September 14, 2014 at 4:29 pm said:

    Greetings Mr. Hanson,
    I read your article for WND The Real reason the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor,
    and I found no mention of the fact the Roosevelt ordered a Naval Blockade of the whole Island
    to force them to take action, or they would fail economically & starve;
    this was calculated to compel them to attack the US as a matter of Honor & Survival;
    Roosevelt wanted Japan to attack the US so he would have an excuse to get the US into WWII;
    Churchill had written a letter Roosevelt saying that if you bring the US into the War, you & I shall Rule the World; according to archival researchers who found the letter in Roosevelt’s Library Museum back in the early 2000’s; I have information from the son of the man who intercepted the Japanese communications
    stating they were going to attack Pearl Harbor, three days before it took place; Pearl Harbor was planned by Franklin Roosevelt & his friends, 9 months prior to its taking place, this is stated by witnesses who were
    there; If you want more information regarding these concealed historical revelations email me at alan@nahls.net

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