As usual, Andrew McCarthy provides an erudite and level-headed response to the current goings-on in Ferguson, MO. One of the more dispiriting indications of just how far the Progressivist rot has gone is the eagerness of so many to throw aside basic civic traditions and Constitutional strictures in the name of "just doing something." Just doing something supersedes such trifling concerns as law, custom, tradition, and the basic integrity of our republican form of government. (The many unprincipled defenses of the President's recent usurpation of Congressional law-making authority are another recent case in point.) Much the same sentiments were advanced during the trial of George Zimmerman, with the ever-loathsome Michael Savage, no friend of the anti-Zimmerman lynch mob, seriously demanding on air that the mob be given "something" for their trouble, perhaps a mere manslaughter conviction.
As will no doubt be repeated with weary necessity over the next few days, the civic tradition we have inherited does not permit the criminal justice system to throw bones to a lynch mob. McCarthy ably dispenses with the pernicious argument that the Fifth Amendment should be ignored in such cases as these because it would somehow be cathartic for black looters and rioters, and more healthy for race relations in general, for Officer Darren Wilson to endure a public trial. Of course, such a trial would be a gross perversion of the courts' basic purpose and would enjoy all the seriousness and legitimacy of Frank Costanza's airing of grievances. What perturbs me most, though, is that this argument's whole premise runs contrary to reason and experience.
Simply put, the crowds of rioters and their race-baiting instigators, who would be the intended audience of such a show trial, are not in the first place moved by any serious concern for the truth. Listen to any of the "Justice for Michael" agitators, whether on television, radio, or in the street, and you will discover a remarkable paucity of attention to the evidence. It is not in the nature of a mob to be concerned with a dispassionate consideration of the facts. Expressions of outrage, while sometimes valuable in themselves, are not arguments, and what is most notable about the rabble-rousing side of such controversies is their determination to frame events in heavily abstracted terms. If the actual guilt or innocence of Officer Wilson--or for that matter, the guilt or innocence of the strong-arm robber, Michael Brown--are of no account to such people, then what point is there, exactly, in pursuing an "open," "public" proceeding whose purpose is nothing but the dispassionate presentation of the evidence?
The person who argues for a trial even in the absence of sufficient evidence that any such trial is warranted will not later be satisfied by any trial which does not result in a conviction. I am given to understand that the grand jury materials will be made public in the absence of any prosecution, which seems to me to be a very good thing. Those who are interested in the factual details of the case will be free to avail themselves of them and to reach their own conclusions, just as they would have been free to follow the daily testimony and court documents resulting from an actual trial. It is a foolish thing indeed, though, to presume that people who have no interest (or even competence) to judge such materials on their merits would be edified by the plodding machinery of a criminal trial lasting months or years.
Again, the protestors and agitators who are demanding a trial for Officer Wilson are concerned mainly with generalities (when they are not concerned mainly with the rush and ecstasy of mob rage). As has been observed numerous times, among the opinion-making elites whose business it is to manipulate words, cases such as these are merely a cipher for larger ideological preoccupations. That is why George Zimmerman was just white enough to serve as a stand-in for an actual white person, and it is why the flimsiness of the evidence against Wilson is of no real account to those who supposedly would be appeased by an adversarial proceeding like a criminal trial. When the essential priorities are myth-making and the "greater symbolic meaning of it all," the particular details of the case recede into irrelevance.
At bottom, we are dealing here with a straightforward instance of something primitive and familiar, that is, scapegoating. The Anglo custom of law was specially developed to check that primitive impulse. It is not only wrong, but actually quite pointless, to attempt to slake the unreasoning bloodlust of the mob using the vehicle of the courts.