Dorner sympathy goes mainstream: “Like watching ‘Django Unchained.’ It’s kind of exciting!”

posted at 9:36 pm on February 13, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham

A liberal critic of my comments on “The O’Reilly Factor” this week tweeted his displeasure with my assertion that factions of the “Left” and “some liberals” sympathized with Chris Dorner and even made him into a folk hero. He asked for examples. Here’s one:

It’s hard to imagine how Marc Lamont Hill could have put this more appallingly. One member of the panel starts by rather sensibly bemoaning the waste of life, manpower, and ink in this chase. Hill responds:

“There’s no waste here, though. I mean, this has been an important public conversation that we’ve had about police brutality, about police corruption, about state violence. I mean, there were even talks about making him the first domestic drone target. I mean, this is serious business here. I don’t think it’s been a waste of time at all.

And, as far as Dorner himself goes, he’s been like a real-life superhero to many people. Now, don’t get me wrong, what he did was awful, killing innocent people is bad. But when you read his manifesto, you read the message that he left, he wasn’t entirely crazy. He had a plan and a mission, here. And, many people aren’t rooting for him to kill innocent people; they’re rooting for someone who was wronged to get a kind of revenge against the system. It’s almost like watching ‘Django Unchained’ in real life. It’s kind of exciting.”

Hill and I have been on many of the same TV shows. We have been paired as sparring partners. We have been in TV doing commentary for approximately the same amount of time. Please imagine a scenario in which there is a fugitive who killed four people, two of them police officers, wounded four others, taunted the families of his innocent victims, held a couple hostage for days, and led one of the largest manhunts in recent history because he felt the government was too overbearing a force, spending too much money, and taking too much freedom from its citizens. Imagine his manifesto referenced issues about which I care deeply, such as the need for entitlement reforms and the need for charter schools and school choice, and name-checked Bill O’Reilly and Tucker Carlson as admired figures. And, I went on TV and said this:

“There’s no waste here, though. I mean, this has been an important public conversation that we’ve had about entitlement reform, about some of endangered liberties, and about school choice. I mean, this is serious business here. I don’t think it’s been a waste of time at all.

And, as far as [Quadruple Murderer] himself goes, he’s been like a real-life superhero to many people. Now, don’t get me wrong, what he did was awful, killing innocent people is bad. But when you read his manifesto, you read the message that he left, he wasn’t entirely crazy. He had a plan and a mission, here. And, many people aren’t rooting for him to kill innocent people; they’re rooting for someone who was wronged to get a kind of revenge against the system. It’s almost like watching ‘Red Dawn’ in real life. It’s kind of exciting.”

First of all, we’d never be having this conversation on TV, because it’s a warped and deeply insensitive conversation to have. Quite the opposite: as a conservative, I would have been forced to carefully distance and denounce for a week straight (and, by the way, would be required to do this even if there were no evidence the murderer shared my belief system, as in the case of Jared Loughner). Never would there be a discussion of whether we should consider whether the murderer had a legitimate grievance, nor should there be. You have lost the privilege of a “national conversation” about your grievances once you have killed four fellow citizens. If anything, I would curse the perpetrator not just for his murders but for making it nearly impossible for me to speak publicly about the concerns he, regrettably, shared with me.

Second, I would never, ever, ever say this because it is morally deranged. I believe many of the country’s problems are immediate, moral concerns. I believe there are government policies that are actively hurting people at this very moment, and I’d like to have a spotlight on them. I even believe that far too often, police investigations are faulty and police tactics can hurt innocent people, as they did in this manhunt. (Update: Come to think of it, I actually did on “O’Reilly” this week exactly what Hill failed to do—made clear that Dorner deserves no sympathy while also holding LAPD accountable for injuries to civilians.) Standing in the spotlight afforded you by the murderer of four fellow citizens, however, while broadly smiling and comparing it to watching a really sweet revenge fantasy flick is not the way to solve these issues. If I tried to pull this crap on Marc on TV, I daresay he’d find it disgusting.

Hill’s not the only one, either. As Buzzfeed notes, Dorner support is going mainstream.

Alternet, the leftist online magazine, ran a story by Chauncey DeVega arguing that Dorner could “be transformed through popular culture and storytelling into a figure talked about for decades and centuries to come, with multiple versions of his tales and exploits, shaped by the griots and bards for their respective audiences.”

“Christopher Dorner dared to tell his version of the truth regarding the LAPD’s history of corruption and racism,” DeVega writes. “They do not like tattle tales and ‘snitches.’ Dorner was a particularly noxious threat to the status quo both because of his violent actions, as well as the symbolic power of his words and deeds.”

Salon’s Natasha Lennard has written a couple of stories sympathetic to Dorner (“Ex-cops sympathize with Dorner’s anger,” “Were Dorner’s complaints legitimate?”). Vice, in a story about whether or not Anonymous will retaliate after Dorner’s death, implicitly compared Dorner to anti-establishment heroes like Bradley Manning and Aaron Swartz, while acknowledging that “a murderous ex-cop is a lot harder to defend than these nonviolent liberators of information.”

Hill has been defending his comment on his Twitter feed, saying he was merely speaking for “many people” who feel that way about Dorner and his rampage. If that’s the case, then he’s also obligated to make clear that he thinks this inclination is disgusting and, ahem, %^&*# crazy. Sadly, the truth is, “many people” don’t think that inclination is disgusting and ^&T*# crazy, and he is one of them.

Bonus viewing: Katie Pavlich going after Hill:

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