Washington Post columnist: Liberals need to let this whole Ferguson thing go
Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen wrote on Tuesday that liberals are making themselves look bad by supporting the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the protests against racist police in Ferguson, Missouri.
In his latest column, Cohen draws parallels between the inability of Republicans to find concrete evidence of any Obama administration wrongdoing in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the Justice Department’s findings that unarmed teenager Michael Brown did not have his hands in the air when he was shot to death by police officer Darren Wilson last summer.
“Ferguson has become the liberal Benghazi,” Cohen opined. “It is more of a cause than a place, more of an ideological statement than an incident. Ferguson was not the racist murder it was thought to be, and Benghazi was not an incident in which the Obama administration’s incompetence or timidity allowed four Americans to die. The facts argue otherwise.”
Cohen chose to minimize the Justice Department’s extensive report on the predatory nature of the Ferguson Police Department and its systematic treatment of black citizens as targets for excessive policing and as a source of civic revenue.
Rather than seeing the killing of Michael Brown — and the decision by Ferguson police to leave his body lying in the street for hours — as the spark that touched off a powder keg loaded with decades of pent-up frustration and injustice, Cohen airily dismissed the reports’ findings.
“Did [Brown] deserve to die?” Cohen asked. “No. But did Darren Wilson shoot him for no reason? Again, no. Did the Justice Department later find that Ferguson’s police force was a cesspool of racism, incompetence and corruption? Yes. But did any of that mean that Wilson killed Brown in cold blood or that Brown was shot because he was black? No and no.”
Ferguson, argued Cohen, is a little town where a bad thing happened, but the left is ill-served, he argued, by holding it up as an example of how ingrained racism and overzealous policing have made some sections of the U.S. into de facto police states.
“Still, Ferguson became a cause — and has remained one,” he lamented. “It is a town of only about 21,000 — a bad day at Yankee Stadium — and yet it has repeatedly been the lead story for many news organizations. It was made to represent institutional racism across the nation, but it is, really, a tiny nondescript place where a supposedly racist and unjustifiable killing by the police did not occur. It does, though, conform to the very keen feelings of people who see white racism everywhere.”
In this conceit, Cohen sounds like “Capitalist Pig” Hedge Fund head and Ayn Rand acolyte John Hoenig, who said on Fox News last Saturday that only racists believe there needs to be a dialogue on race in this country. The current system is just fine, Hoenig argued, and if blacks find themselves falling behind, they should stop thinking of themselves as black.
“Stop identifying by your race,” Hoenig said to people of color. “You’re not responsible for things that came before you, and you’re not entitled to things that came before you.”
For his part, Cohen bemoaned the abandonment of factual evidence by both Benghazi-obsessed conservatives and liberals “who see white racism everywhere.”
“We live in a time where facts that do not fit an ideology or grievance are merely disregarded — or alternative ones concocted,” he wrote, before decrying recent furors over campus sexual assault and the disproportionate number of black men who are killed by police.
At the end of his piece, Cohen tut-tutted liberals and conservatives alike, saying they don’t do themselves any favors when they rely on emotional arguments.
“Please note that I do not think racism is no longer a problem or that campus rape has not been an unaddressed horror,” he wrote. “I know better. But I also believe that distorting the facts can impede progress. The dead of anywhere — Ferguson or Benghazi — do matter. And so does the truth.”
Cohen — who is ostensibly the Post’s “liberal” political columnist — has come under fire before, both for his reported sexual harassment of a young female staffer at the Post to his pronouncement that he finds the sight of interracial couples distasteful, and on to his sudden epiphany after seeing the film 12 Years a Slave that maybe human slavery in the antebellum South was a really, really unpleasant experience for the slaves.