Tuesday, September 03, 2002


[It's a damned hard call, but I believe this article on the 1992 L. A. riots is possibly the best thing Sam Francis has written to date. - HAC]


by Samuel Francis

With the Los Angeles skyline in flames from the torches of arsonists and looters, with dozens dead and hundreds injured by killer vandals, with the nation's second-largest city under a curfew and planes diverted from its airport because of the billowing smoke from the fires down below, President Bush huddled with his chief law enforcement official, Attorney General William Barr.

Would the President send in the Marines to quell the riots that erupted after the Rodney King verdict? Would he enforce order in America the same way he leapt at the throats of Manuel Noriega and Saddam Hussein? In a word: No. The purpose of the conclave of courtiers was to ponder how to punish the men who had enforced L.A. law and who had just been acquitted in accordance with it.

All morning long the day after a jury returned a verdict of not guilty in the case of the four police officers accused of assaulting the drunken criminal Rodney King, the sounds that bleated from the official leadership in Los Angeles and Washington were the whimpers and simpers of the insipid weakness that chronically infects our governing elite. Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley at once denounced the verdict and the jury that delivered it, and eventually, from the wonderland of Washington itself, hobbled the languid response of the nation's "leaders."

Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights John Dunne, who has spent the last four years prosecuting the Virginia Military Institute for not admitting women who don't want to go there and designing weird voting districts to ensure that our managed democracy elects the right races, spluttered that the Justice Department "will now undertake a review of this incident to determine what, if any, action may be taken under Federal civil rights laws" against the four acquitted cops. Mr. Barr promised that, "It's important for people to understand that the verdicts yesterday are not the end of the process." And from the White House, Mr. Bush, pronouncing his own "anguish" about the verdict, affirmed that his administration would indeed keep bird-dogging the four innocent men.

Throughout the weekend, it occurred to almost no one that the whole purpose of jury trials is to consider the totality of evidence not available on 80-second news bites or that just maybe the jurors had heard something that logically led them to their verdict.

Yet aside from the facts of the case, the flabby fastidiousness of our leaders at every level about the rights of Rodney King illustrates exactly why the jurors were correct in acquitting the four horsemen of the local police force. In a country where no one in government cares about their basic duty of enforcing civil order, where the leaders' only concern is massaging the resentments of minorities, in a country where 7-year-old boys rape 6-year-old girls, where mayors videotaped using illegal drugs are welcomed back from prison by cheering crowds, where cities year after year compete for the title of "Murder Capital USA", somebody somewhere has to enforce order. If government can't enforce civil order, somebody has to take nightstick in hand.

There's no reason the events in Los Angeles should have surprised anyone. For days beforehand, the police and citizens had prepared for the worst. The police stored up a million dollars overtime pay for the unfortunate cops who would have to try to control the violence. Black storekeepers put up signs in their windows assuring rioters that their businesses were black-owned, in the vain and desperate delusion that this would spare their life's work from destruction.

Everyone knows that such precautions are necessary because an entire segment of the population is unable to abide by the rules and decisions of law and is eager to visit the most savage vengeance on anyone and anything that thwarts its bestial impulses and passions. Yet our leaders want to pretend that it's the four cops who have committed a crime and refuse to recognize or take action against the real criminals who turn the country's cities into concrete chaos.

Statesman and political thinker Edmund Burke understood it. "Society cannot exist," he wrote, "unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more of it there must be without." In America today, with every blood-soaked hour, there is less and less power within, and sooner or later there will evolve a power without that can and will do what is necessary.

This is not a development to advocate. It happens whether you want it or not. It happens naturally, and the power may take the ugly shapes of lynch mobs or vigilantes or a gang of cops beating a prisoner senseless. Nor is it something to celebrate. America was not made for the iron boot and the policeman's stick.

But neither was it made for the kind of anarchy into which Los Angeles was delivered last week and with which on a lesser scale it and other cities now habitually live---nor for the carefully scripted cant with which our leaders evade the catastrophes they encourage.

If the governing elite lacks the will to do its duty, at least twelve anonymous men and women good and true still have it, and what they willed in Los Angeles last week was to do the right thing.

(Reprinted as a public service from the Washington Times, May 5th, 1992)

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