Cause and Effect

Posted: Dec 23, 2014 8:41 AM
Cause and Effect

"It’s quite apparent, quite obvious that the targeting of these two police officers was a direct spinoff of this issue of these demonstrations.”

No pundit made this charge, no talking head on radio or television. It didn't come from the head of the police union in New York.

That's NYPD Commission Bill Bratton, talking on Monday's Today show. Bratton was hand-picked by Mayor Bill de Blasio a mayor who finds himself assailed from all sides for allowing a fever of anti-police hatred to catch and spread, one which reached a horrible conclusion over the weekend with the assassinations of Officers Ramos and Liu.

Many are angry not just with Bill DiBlasio but also with veteran race agitator Al Sharpton and his MSNBC enablers, with Attorney General Eric Holder and even with President Obama. Defenders of police, and of civil society generally, are wondering who is responsible for this spiral back to the old days of a racially-divided country, one in which conflict and even combat between white and black was common?

At the same time, conservatives especially are very slow to argue causation of killing and violence beyond those directly responsible for the murders. They remember all too well the attempt by the left to spin the shootings in Tucson that wounded then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), killed United States Court District Judge John Roll and five others and wounded another 11 into an attack on "Tea Party extremists." That was an appalling effort to make a madman into a political actor, and there wasn't a shred of evidence that killer was other than psychotic.

On Friday, in a very important column, Charles Krauthammer wrote about the psychotic who are sufficiently "organized" in their thoughts to identify targets and funnel their illness into rage against categories people like unnamed police officers or on behalf of vague causes like the Islamic State. "Crazy" lone wolves are very hard to predict but perhaps all too easy to "suggest" targets to. "Evil" lone wolves like Major Nidal Hassan, develop their own plans and carry them out.

"The real terrorists are rational," Krauthammer wrote.

"Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, had been functioning as an Army doctor for years," the psychiatrist turned columnist continued. "Psychotics cannot carry that off. Hasan even had a business card listing his occupation as SoA (Soldier of Allah). He then went out and, shouting “Allahu Akbar,” shot dead 13 people, 12 of them fellow soldiers. To this day, Hasan speaks coherently and proudly of the massacre. That’s terrorism."

The debate raging this week about de Blasio and Sharpton concerns their complicity not with the latter category of evil people bent on their own twisted ideology-fueled carnage, but the psychotics capable of hearing enough voices to be nudged in one direction or another.

President Bill Clinton once famously tried to argue that Rush Limbaugh and talk radio had nudged Timothy McVeigh in the direction of the catastrophe of the Oklahoma City bombing. This was a disgusting, calculated political strategy, and it worked, though it remains so shameful that Clinton denies it. There was no tie between the killers of 1995 and any talk show host.

But the NYPD Commission sees a direct causal link to the weekend killings from the weeks of protests and demonstrations, some field by extreme anti-police rhetoric and rage. The killer's own scribblings and rage filled postings buttress Bratton's theory.

I spoke at length with both Krauthammer and the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol about this "causation" issue on Monday's radio show. The audio and transcript of my conversation with Krauthammer is here. The audio and transcript of my interview of Kristol is here. I hope you can listen to or read both of them.

Every episode of violence deserves a close examination of the factors "causing" the killer to act. Most of the mass shootings of our era in our country are psychotics blazing away. A few are lone wolf terrorists working out their fanaticism and their warped plans. Abroad --in the attack on the Pakistani military school and the cold-blooded murder of children by single shots to the head-- we see the work of true horrors: the very sane fanatic, committed and absolute in his loyalty to his cause, however misconceived, however objectively evil. Such people have gained control of nation-states in the past. Their names are Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. ISIS is the latest to seek to combine nation-state status with ideological fury even as the Taliban did prior to 9/11, even as they would like to do again.

Responding to every act of violence with appropriate anger and punishment --legal, political, or social-- depends on delineating carefully which motives are moving the killers, and a careful, precise examination of who --if anyone-- is to blame for the actions of the killers beyond themselves. This process is underway now with a focus on New York City, just as it followed in the wake of the horror of Sandy Hook, Aurora, Tucson, Fort Hood and of course 9/11 and Columbine, just as it unfolded in Ferguson after the death of Michael Brown and in Staten Island after the death of Eric Garner. It is always a necessary process, but one that has to admit of distinctions and which has to proceed with care --not the strong points of modern MSM. The inquiry can itself feed a destructive narrative, thus the need for care and responsibility in judging, but judging must be done.

The next few days will mark either a significant cooling in the anti-police rhetoric and protests, or an acceleration of the confrontations. For the first time in years I will be broadcasting live on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day because of these events, asking the question whether the last six weeks have been a spasm that has passed or a convulsion that is growing in its intensity. A Christmas prayer for the former would be a very good idea as a return to the old days --enabled by social media-- would make the Occupy Movement seem almost childlike.