The last thing the Obama Justice Department wanted was to see Mayor James Knowles re-elected.
In August 2014, billions of people suddenly came to know the name of this suburban town of 21,000 souls near the St. Louis international airport. The dominant media influenced much of the world to accept a description of Ferguson not as it really is, but instead as an ideological “narrative.”
Ferguson became a synonym for alleged social evils in retrograde regions of an America that the ideologues believe cannot and should not be made great again. For a community of its size and condition, Ferguson surely is the world’s best known but least understood.
After the shooting death here of a young black man in a struggle with a police officer, George Soros, the billionaire left-wing currency speculator, poured millions of dollars into invading Flyover Country with hundreds of hired agitators from Berkeley to Brooklyn. They fomented weeks of unrest. Violent protests resulted in torched businesses, looted stores, and lost jobs. The harm fell heaviest on African-American citizens of Ferguson, who make up more than two-thirds of the town’s population.
Soros also financed massive propaganda campaigns in both mainstream and social media. According to the Washington Times, a clergyman involved in one of the Soros-backed leftist organizations, the Gamaliel Foundation, said an essential mission was to mobilize “protectors of the narrative” of Ferguson as symbol of American “institutionalized” racism.
Reports and commentaries from the New York Times, the Guardian, Le Monde, Al Jazeera, BBC, CNN, PBS, and the rest of the global mainstream media reliably followed the Soros line. The Russian Foreign Ministry said Ferguson represented “serious violations of human rights and barbaric practices.” Iran’s PressTV said Ferguson emblemized the “long history of police brutality against African-Americans.” China’s totalitarian state-run Xinhua news service deplored the situation in this little community as symptomatic of the “deeply-rooted chronic disease that keeps tearing U.S. society apart.”
As a global disinformation campaign, the Soros Narrative was breathtakingly effective.
In Saudi Arabia, the daily English-language broadsheet Arab News published an opinion piece by a Turkish Islamist with the pen name Harun Yahya. Ferguson, he wrote, “is known as the poorest part of the St. Louis area…. Commercial growth in recent years has only increased the inequality of income in favor of the white population; the black population has grown even poorer in the last 15 years. Investments and companies largely belong to whites, and the people employed by those companies again largely consist of whites. The increasingly impoverished black people have therefore also become unemployed.”
Not that it ever will be explained to his readers in the faraway desert, but each one of Harun Yahya’s assertions was utterly false.
Back in the Swamp along the Potomac, Barack Obama, Eric Holder, and Loretta Lynch wove the Soros Narrative into political sermons and Justice Department ukases. Browbeating by the Soros propaganda machine and the Obama administration caused appointed officials in Ferguson to resign.
On matters in which Ferguson voters had a direct say, The Narrative did not have as much influence. In April 2015, Ferguson elected its first black female city council member, Ella Jones, with the support of incumbent Mayor James Knowles. A leftist campaign commenced to force a recall election to remove Knowles — “the face of Whiteness” — from office. Ferguson voters were unmoved. They did not provide the required number of petition signatures to trigger a recall.
Under threat of a costly lawsuit alleging civil rights violations, Knowles skillfully led the city’s negotiations in early 2016 with the Obama Justice Department. He mobilized a unanimous city council vote to reject an Obama ultimatum Knowles maintained was too onerous for the city. After negotiating some changes, he achieved another unanimous city council vote to accept a consent decree with the Justice Department.
With that crucial decision completed, Mayor Knowles announced he would seek a third three-year term in the April 2017 municipal election. Ella Jones declared her candidacy to unseat him.
For the most part, her campaign appealed to identity politics. She asked Ferguson voters to “make history” by electing the town’s first black mayor.
Jones offered some constructive ideas about local issues during the campaign, but to a great extent she relied on a version of the Soros Narrative, denouncing the incumbent as a symbol of institutionalized racism. While she is gracious and likable in small settings, in her public face-offs with Knowles, she was strident. The mayor kept his cool. She campaigned with Al Sharpton; this did not make the impression for which she had hoped. Since she had followed Knowles’ lead on the two key council decisions on the Justice Department deal, Jones was unable to express substantive policy differences with the mayor.
Ferguson municipal elections are formally nonpartisan, but voters usually know candidates’ party affiliations, if any. Blue-collar, largely African-American Ferguson is probably 80 percent Democrat. Knowles previously had won municipal elections despite being well known as a Republican; he once had been Missouri State Chairman of the Young Republicans. In the election campaign this month, Knowles per his custom avoided mentioning his party affiliation, but Jones energetically campaigned as a Democrat.
The editorial board of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, dependably left-wing on national issues, to the dismay of the Soros network endorsed Knowles. The editorial remarked, “in a joint interview with Knowles, Jones struggled to answer basic governance questions and seemed ill-prepared to take on the formidable challenges of the office.”
There may be a lesson for the Trump political movement in officially nonpartisan elections, as Trump’s improbable rise required defeating first the Republican establishment and then the Democratic machine. Nonpartisan systems allow fluidity, with the formation and breakup of coalitions from one election cycle to the next. The party machines generally stay out of nonpartisan races. Nonpartisan systems also could work against the tendency of party primaries to produce general election candidates from the ideological extremes of right or left.
In the Ferguson city council election in 2015, Ella Jones had as her campaign treasurer the longtime Democratic county committeeman and head of the organized labor political operation for heavily unionized north St. Louis County. Two years later, the same man, recently resigned from his Democratic party and labor organization leadership posts, was campaign treasurer for Mayor Knowles.
Knowles, like most people in Ferguson, has blue collar roots. All the same, he is a political intellectual, a policy wonk, and a professional in public administration. In the latter category he has a master’s degree. Ferguson has a city manager system, so Knowles by law is limited to being a part-time mayor with an annual salary of — this is not a typographical error — $4,200. Luckily for Ferguson, Knowles adds a great deal of value for the money.
University trained and tested in fearsome political battles in the glare of hostile national and global media coverage, as a leader Knowles stands head and shoulders above the uninspiring St. Louis County Executive, whose jurisdiction has a million citizens. Knowles is only 37 years old and already has been mayor of his hometown for six years. He very well may be a future Missouri governor.
I volunteered for Knowles’ campaign and rang hundreds of Ferguson doorbells the past several weekends. About three quarters of the prospective voters I met were black. A majority told me they supported Knowles. They spoke in a manner that tended to assure me they were not simply telling me what I wanted to hear.
Election results confirmed this observation. When the ballots were counted, Knowles won with 57 percent.
At the Knowles election watch party at the Ferguson Lions Club, the national and international media that used to be so obsessed with Ferguson were nowhere to be seen.
In 2014, Big Media made Ferguson into what Daniel Boorstin called a pseudo-event. Today, the same propaganda apparatus treats it as a non-event. Democracy is in action here, but the Soros Dot-Orgs have moved on.
Ferguson was terribly maligned and misrepresented by cynical, power-hungry leftists, but it will recover. It never was a slum or a ghetto. All its neighborhoods are racially integrated.
In the heart of historic downtown Ferguson are numerous well-kept Victorian and Edwardian houses near the old train station; the town began as a St. Louis railroad suburb before the automobile. Handsome 1920s-era houses abound in other Ferguson neighborhoods, while most housing dates to the Baby Boom 1950s, the period of the town’s fastest expansion.
The town has few chain restaurants and many locally owned eateries, including an excellent microbrewery, a wine bar, and an espresso shop. At the western edge of Ferguson, within the city limits, is the oldest continually operated organic farm west of the Mississippi. Formerly the Mueller family farm, it’s now both a working farm and a teaching institution. Among others, some of St. Louis’s best chefs take Earthdance Farm’s summer curriculum in organic farming. The Saturday Ferguson Farmers Market is one of the top-rated in the state.
Within Ferguson’s city limits is the world headquarters campus of the Fortune 500’s Emerson Electric. Just outside the limits is the headquarters of Express Scripts, another Fortune 500 firm. Two miles west of Ferguson are the vast Boeing Defense and Space complex and the St. Louis international airport. One mile south of Ferguson is the campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Ferguson is the residence of many professionals and professors working at each of these institutions.
This Friday night, in the center of Ferguson, Zion Lutheran Church and Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Church will return to the rhythm of competing for Fish Fry customers. At the southern edge of town, Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church will do its usual bustling business in its Mexican Fish Fry, offering, in addition to fried cod and catfish, guacamole, chiles rellenos and ceviche tostadas. Po’ Boys and soul food are on the menu at Cathy’s Kitchen and ribs at the Ferguson barbecue joints.
Ferguson never was anything like the hellish, hate-filled place the Soros Narrative said it was. It is the first and only instance of an entire city struck by identity theft.
Now the people of Ferguson can reclaim their identity. Now is their chance to go on composing their own story.
(Mr. Duggan, a former State Department and White House official under Presidents Reagan and Bush, lives in St. Louis and invests in rehabbing houses in Ferguson.)
Mayor Knowles with Alveda King