The Ferguson shooting: blame the assassin, not politicians

Charles Cooke urges us not to blame the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri on anyone other than the assassin himself:

[The two police officers] were not shot by Barack Obama. They were not shot by Eric Holder. And they were not shot by “the media” or by the Democratic party. The shooter wasn’t forced to pull the trigger by “the protests,” and nor was his crime commissioned by our latent “political culture.” Al Sharpton was nowhere to be seen. Rather, a man who was in possession of his own agency made a terrible, disastrous decision. Observers who have today attempted to indict the entire post-Ferguson activist movement for his crime should know better than to imply otherwise.

Cooke is right. It’s quite possible that some members of the post-Ferguson activist movement made statements that could constitute incitement, but the movement as a whole is not to blame. Nor, by any stretch, is the Obama administration.

I was highly critical of the Justice Department’s report accusing the Ferguson police department of racism. In my view, the evidence cited didn’t support the allegation (on the other hand, the DOJ report on the shooting of Michael Brown was an exemplary document).

But Eric Holder thought otherwise. And having concluded that racism is a major problem in the Ferguson police department, he had the right to say so and to be angry about it.

Moreover, Holder didn’t just level an accusation. The DOJ report presents lots of evidence in support of this claim. Most of the evidence is statistical, and I believe the statistics cited fail to prove what DOJ infers from them. But poor statistical analysis doesn’t make the government morally guilty of inciting anti-police violence.

There’s a legitimate debate going on about whether racism is significantly affecting police interaction with African-Americans. Both sides are entitled to state their views without being accused of condoning racism (in the case of those who aren’t persuaded it’s a serious problem in policing) or inciting anti-police violence (in the case of those who say there is a serious problem).

Holder did go too far, in my opinion, when he said that the violent and lawless response of Ferguson residents to the justified shooting of Michael Brown was an understandable reaction to the “highly toxic environment” created by the Ferguson police over the years. This statement was irresponsible.
But it was not an invitation or incitement to shoot Ferguson police officers.

Let’s keep the blame for the Ferguson shooting on the perpetrator. Let’s not use the tragedy to disparage our political adversaries.