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Drawing the Wrong Lessons from the British Riots — Again

Liberal pundits hold rioters harmless by falsely applying the "racism" argument to excuse their behavior.

by
Abraham H. Miller

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August 29, 2011 - 12:00 am
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The fires of anarchy burning brightly against Britain’s urban, night sky brought forth the liberal pundits who, without hesitancy, cast Britain’s rioters as victims of social policy. For these pundits, the responsibility falls on Britain’s economic austerity, which has trashed the expectations of people to a lifestyle their country can no longer afford.

The people whose stores and businesses are looted and burned and whose property and lives are taken are seldom seen as the victims of riots. Rather, we are told, it is the people who burn, loot, and kill that mandate our compassion. Indeed, when it is time for the government to respond financially to riots, it is generally social programs that get funded. Destroyed businesses and those who were dependent on them for their livelihood are beyond the pale of concern.

For the mainstream media, riots are a framing for the ideology of those who edit the news. On the recent 20th anniversary of New York’s Crown Heights riot, Ari Goldman wrote in the New York Jewish Week about the riot he covered and the riot that wasn’t. What Goldman and others saw was an American pogrom with blacks attacking Hasidic Jews. What his politically correct editors at the New York Times published was the story of a racial conflict between blacks and religious Jews. Yet no one reported seeing Hasidic Jews attack blacks.

The Times congratulated Mayor Dinkins and the New York Police Department on their handling of the riot. Yet the police stood by doing nothing, and a subsequent formal investigation found that Dinkins did little to stop the riot. His police chief, Lee Brown, issued orders to the police to let violent black youths run amuck in the streets and vent their rage.  For three days, the Jews of Crown Heights were chased and beaten by black mobs calling out, “Kill the Jews” and “Hitler didn’t finish the job.”

AM Rosenthal of the Times would later write an editorial apologizing for his paper’s oversensitivity that resulted in the mischaracterization of the riots.

All explanations of riots in the West find their origins in the template of the Kerner Commission report. And like mainstream media editors, the Kerner Commission’s researchers had an agenda.

“Kerner” was doomed to bias from its inception. Tom Wicker of the New York Times called the commissioners part of the nation’s moderate and responsible establishment. But the commissioners did not do the work. Social science staffers, who reflected the leftist orthodoxy of the time, did the actual work.

Social psychologist Robert Shellow, the primary researcher, quickly replaced establishment moderation with his own far left agenda. Shellow produced an inflammatory report titled “The Harvest of American Racism,” in which the rioters were exonerated for their behavior.  The rioters, who ran through the streets burning and looting their way to fun and profit, were merely responding to social conditions.

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