Understanding Ferguson: Fort Apache, Missouri

4) The whole system is out of order. No, Al Pacino never quite said that, but it has gone done in popular imagination as the summation of the prevailing attitude of the 1970s. Grievances like the shooting of Michael Brown are used not to reform the system but to delegitimize the system.

That’s the key to whole Ferguson fiasco, and it’s the biggest parallel to the 1960s and 70s. Police abuses, or alleged police abuses, are presented by the political left as an indictment of America as institutionally racist and hopelessly immoral. So what’s the point of waiting for a case to be heard in court, demanding reform of the local police, or waiting for the next municipal election to vote more responsive candidates into office? The whole system is out of order and needs to be torn down.

That’s what explains the riots in Ferguson. You don’t keep rioting because you want justice, certainly not when you’ve already brought the case to everyone’s attention and gained the nation’s sympathy. No, you riot because you feel that all authority has been knocked down, that the whole system is rotten and that there is nothing to stop you from smashing everything and taking whatever you want. Notice the way in which the rioters have threatened reporters, who are, after all, attempting to document them in the process of committing serious crimes. Only a kind of comprehensive delegitimizing of the system can produce this result.

That’s also why we’re getting a whiff of justice by revolutionary tribunal, in which the guilt of the officer who shot Michael Brown has already been determined.