Last week, I criticized the conservative movement for its reaction to the DOJ report on Ferguson, Missouri, arguing that for various ideological and political reasons, its organs were failing to recognize civil-rights violations in urgent need of a remedy.
Where was the outrage?
Since then, there's been a small but notable improvement. In National Review, the coverage of which I singled out for criticism, Jason Lee Steorts, the managing editor, published an exceptional Friday blog post arguing that while many on the right dismiss the Ferguson report as spurious, "anyone who cares about protecting citizens from abusive and arbitrary officialdom" should be grateful that it exists, "whatever else he may think of Eric Holder’s tenure as attorney general."
Steorts lays out the DOJ's findings in detail and concludes by calling on conservatives to rethink how they react to credible reports of law enforcement abuses:
Conservatives fancy themselves zealous protectors of constitutional rights. They are suspicious of government power. They are hostile to bureaucratic corruption, however petty. And they oppose the confiscation of wealth without compelling reasons. The Ferguson report gives them much to object to in every one of these categories. It is remarkable that many on the right have instead dismissed the report without even reading it—as if psychologizing Eric Holder or cross-referencing generic arguments about disparate impact and crime rates obviated the need to reckon with the Justice Department’s specific findings. It seems to me that a kind of team-sport mentality has prevailed. Conservatives do not like sweeping denunciations of the entire criminal-justice system as racist, and they especially do not like violent protests, looting, and attacks on policemen—all very rightly.But from there, too many conservatives have come to see any criticism of police conduct, or any allegation of racism, as if it were a play by the opposing team. They duly boo. Instead, they should reflect that all that is correct in their defense of the police is compromised by the extension of that defense to anything unworthy of it.
A couple days later, Leon H. Wolf published a blog post at Red State titled, "Many Conservatives Are Blowing It on the Ferguson DOJ Report." As he sees it, interpreting the news out of Ferguson has become "a part of ideological tribalism," where conservatives "stand for the Ferguson PD" and "if you are a liberal you stand against them." Liberals have thus resisted the information that Michael Brown never put his hands above his head and said, "Don't shoot," while conservatives have resisted information suggesting that "the Ferguson PD —as with many other municipal police departments in the country—truly is out of control, in that it recklessly violates the constitutional rights of the citizens of Ferguson and does so in a manner that has a clearly disproportionate impact on minorities."