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The Madness of Crowds

Charlotte, a queen who witnessed the decline of her husband into insanity, now watches the city bearing her name descend into madness.

A policeman shooting a local citizen sparked the turmoil. We watch the repackaged rerun even though it played past limited engagements in Dallas, Ferguson, Baltimore, and points beyond to negative reviews.

The Queen City protesters pummeling people and property lack truth in advertising. Touting themselves as “peaceful protesters” desirous of “social justice,” the mob put a man on life support, stripped a pale face of his pants and beat him in a parking garage, and viciously kicked an aged, homeless white man to the ground. In the latter two cases, the rioters laughed riotously at the barbaric behavior. This, too, inevitably spins into the “hate that hate produced” or some other claptrap to avoid flipping the script. But the audience plainly sees the made-for-TV victims as the real-life villains.

Just as the thugs who play activists on cable news expect viewers to accept fictions as a fact, they embraced, as mobs often do, scuttlebutt as the sincere scoop.

Marchers held signs informing cops, “It was a book.” But a gun is a book as a banana is a basketball. The cops report finding no book at the scene of Keith Scott’s shooting. Photographers did capture a black, metallic object with a protruding snout sitting on the ground near the decedent. Eyewitnesses note that Scott held this gun when the cops gunned him down.

Scott’s mother describes him as a “mama’s boy” and a neighbor calls him a “quiet man” who “didn’t bother nobody.” He also boasted a lengthy, violent criminal record with numerous charges and several convictions involving weapons offenses. These include an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon conviction in Texas that resulted in a prison sentence meted out in 2005 and completed in 2011. The latter reality does not necessarily refute the former characterizations. Plenty of good people make bad choices and exhibit dark sides. But the exclusion of repeated weapons charges from the official storyline when the incident generating controversy involves a firearm seems a cardinal sin of omission.

“Just know that all white people are f—ing devils,” the decedent’s brother told reporters. “Air that s–t. All white cops are f—ing devils — and white people.”

Leaving aside the Luciferian nature of Caucasians, a black policeman working under a black police chief in a majority-minority city shot Keith Scott. Why blame whitey? Why not blame Zoroastrians or Aborigines or Legionnaires? This Rorschach test of a statement, seeing whites as the culprits in an event primarily involving two African Americans, surely says less about those spoken of than it does the speaker.

Charles MacKay addressed the hysteria in Charlotte 175 years ago in Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. “We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, [until] their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first,” the Scotsman wrote. While MacKay described manias for tulips and alchemy and haunted houses, we now see unhealthy obsessions with skin color. Moderns mock their fixation on witches; futures will mock our obsession with whites — so profound that they receive blame when a black cop shoots a black ex-con.

The lunacy in the streets seems more understandable than the delusions produced by pack journalism. Thugs targeting people based on race forfeit their right to lecture the rest of America on racism — except on cable news. The vague phrase “social justice” takes on an unsavory, specific meaning when shouted by people breaking windows and looting the Charlotte Hornets team store. But it gives people using the airy phrase as a mantra a whiff of moral superiority on cable news. The slogan Black Lives Matter similarly evokes vile connotations when the targets of the mob marching under its banner generally share light complexions. But on cable news they speak the racist slogan as though “We shall overcome,” “I have a dream,” “the content of our character.”

Cable networks show us scenes of young African-American males committing brutalities. They tell us, even after the mob knocked down a CNN correspondent on live TV and attempted to throw an unconscious WCNC photographer into a fire, that the troubles of these young African-American males stem from external forces (read: white people).

The press, like the people, shows its worst self when it runs in packs.

Daniel J. Flynn
Daniel J. Flynn
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Daniel J. Flynn, a senior editor of The American Spectator, is the author of Cult City: Harvey Milk, Jim Jones, and 10 Days That Shook San Francisco (ISI Books, 2018), The War on Football (Regnery, 2013), Blue Collar Intellectuals (ISI Books, 2011), A Conservative History of the American Left (Crown Forum, 2008), Intellectual Morons (Crown Forum, 2004), and Why the Left Hates America (Prima Forum, 2002). His articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, New York Post, City Journal, National Review, and his own website, www.flynnfiles.com.   
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