Finding Meaning in the Meaningless

Democratic nominee for New York City Mayor de Blasio delivers remarks while making an appearance at the CityLab luncheon in New York

In the wake of the terrible assassination-style shooting of two NYPD officers over the weekend, a lot of commentators who have been opposed to the anti-police protests sought immediately to pin the blame for the deaths of the two officers on the protesters and on anti-cop sentiment that has been stirred up of late by the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases. On the one hand, I am fine with hoisting liberals on their own petard, as Erick did here over the weekend. On the other hand, some conservatives who ought well to know better appear to be seriously making the case that is virtually identical to the preposterous case made by liberals almost every time a mentally ill person shoots someone – that those who make the public pronouncements that somehow caught the mentally ill person’s attention are responsible for the mentally ill person’s actions. We have fought against this patent nonsense for years, and while I appreciate seeing Bill de Blasio and some of the worst liberals in the country eating an uncomfortable helping of their own medicine, I hope we understand that this specific claim is not in fact true or helpful.

As Jonathan Tobin noted in Commentary:

Conservatives know very well that attempts to politicize violence on the part of the mentally ill is deeply unfair. They know that liberal claims that either the Tea Party or conservatives such as Sarah Palin were somehow responsible for the 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was sheer slander. If some angry supporters of the police now try to say Obama, Holder, or de Blasio approved or countenanced the actions of Ismaaiyl Brinsley, they are just as wrong. Obama, Holder, and de Blasio have all rightly condemned the murder of the two officers.

However, Tobin’s subsequent point is equally wrong, because he seems to argue that the shooting of these two officers somehow shows that the larger complaint about police brutality has no merit, even though they are rather obviously unconnected events:

But once we acknowledge that, we cannot ignore the fact that the discussion about race and the police in this country has gotten out of control in recent months and that these same political leaders who should have been seeking to restrain the public from drawing extreme and general conclusions about two very extraordinary cases instead kept the pot boiling for political advantage.

The problem with this assertion is that …read more    

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