The shootout between members of rival outlaw motorcycle gangs in Waco has brought out a great deal of stupidity on the left — too much stupidity to catalogue, in fact. But let us look at a few lowlights.
Making the comparison with Baltimore, many on the left — Salon’s Jenny Kutner, to take an example — demanded to know why the media did not describe the events in Waco as a “riot.” The answer, obviously enough, is that the event in Waco was not a riot — it did not represent a general state of civil disorder, there were no mobs targeting property for destruction, etc. What happened in Waco was accurately described — in the New York Times, the Waco Tribune, USA Today, and many other outlets — as a gunfight. Also chaos, biker gang shooting, the work of very dangerous, hostile criminal biker gangs, and, in case that is not strong enough for your taste, something akin to a war zone. What happened in Baltimore was not a gunfight. (It might have been a gunfight if it had been attempted in or around Waco.) Which is not to say that bikers are never involved in riots: The modern outlaw biker mythology is very much rooted in a riot in Hollister, Calif., known in the history books as — can you guess? — the “Hollister riot,” during which such forerunners of the modern motorcycle gang as the Pissed Off Bastards of Bloomington and the Market Street Commandos treated Hollister as though it were Baltimore. There is a great deal of mythology surrounding motorcycle gangs, but the (almost certainly apocryphal) story is that after the Hollister riot, a spokesman for American Motorcycle Association insisted that 99 percent of all motorcycle enthusiasts were decent, law-abiding people — hence the adopting of the “1%” iconography by the outlaws.
Others demanded to know why the hoodlums in Waco were not referred to as “thugs” — people on the left were very upset that President Obama, in a rare moment of clarity, described the Baltimore thugs as “thugs.” Hunter S. Thompson repeatedly describes the Hells Angels as “thugs” — “stinking, hairy thugs,” “drunken motorcycle thugs,” etc. — in his famous book on the gang, but that was a long time ago. Does the word “thug” have particular racial connotations in 2015? Maybe — somebody ask Tupac’s tattoo artist.
Sally Kohn, exhibiting the fine discernment for which she is justly famous, demanded to know why a gang of bikers was referred to as a . . . biker gang.
Nobody in Waco gave any press conferences about the need to understand the legitimate rage of the poor white peckerwood dumbass class.
“Oh, look,” came the predictably snarky chorus, “white-on-white crime!” Some of the outlaw motorcycle gangs are all-white (de facto or de jure) but the Bandidos, one of the main gangs involved in the Waco gunfight, is not one of them, unless we insist on the “white Hispanic” terminology invented for George Zimmerman. Mark Thompson, during a particularly dopey episode of his Make It Plain program on Sirius XM, demanded: “You ever heard of a black motorcycle gang?” Well, yes: One of the first outlaw gangs was the East Bay Dragons, who were tight with the Black Panthers back in the 1960s. (See Soul on Bikes for an exhaustive account of the black gangs roughly contemporary with the Hells Angels et al.) Thompson was on both sides of the issue, wondering why the law-enforcement response in Waco wasn’t stronger than it was — why no National Guard? — and then answered his own question with a conspiracy theory: White gangs (or white Hispanic gangs) serve no nefarious purpose, while black gangs are tolerated because they serve the “same purpose as the police: killing innocent black people.” That is, the fellow with a national broadcast on Sirius XM insists, part of the “genocide program” directed at black Americans. That is what passes for analysis on the left. (Full disclosure and all: I’ve served as a guest host on another Sirius XM station in the past.)
Of course there is a good reason that the National Guard wasn’t called out in Waco: It wasn’t needed. The Waco police did not follow the lead of the Baltimore police; the mayor of Waco did not follow the lead of the mayor of Baltimore and declare an outlaw-biker free-fire zone. Instead, the police swooped in, arrested the better part of 200 people, started booking them, and peace was restored.
And nobody in Waco gave any press conferences about the need to understand the legitimate rage of the poor white peckerwood dumbass class.
Being a motorcycle enthusiast myself, I’ve come across a few of these guys over the years. Just as living the low life in eastern Kentucky is a great deal less glamorous than on Justified, actual outlaw bikers are a less charismatic lot than on Sons of Anarchy. (It’s almost as though television fiction were intended to entertain rather than to inform!) And they show up in the strangest places: During my newspaper days in Philadelphia, a local 1%er potentate living in a multimillion-dollar Main Line home kept us very much entertained with a plot (thankfully unsuccessful) to murder his wife with a harpoon gun, because don’t we all have harpoon guns lying around?
Our friends on the left insist that law enforcement treats white people with kid gloves — if only there were some obvious counterexample from the Waco area.
But the progressives are right, to some extent, that people romanticize motorcycle gangs, and that this is unhealthy. America’s most stridently progressive mayor, Bill de Blasio, ought to do something about that: The Hells Angels, the epitome of the 1% motorcycle gang, operates openly in New York City — their establishment is located at 77 East Third Street, and there’s a sign on the door, lest their presence be overlooked. (Weird thing: If you go to Google’s street view, there’s a gap in the blue line showing you where to drop your homunculus right in front of the Hells Angels’ clubhouse. Coincidence?) The people at Twin Peaks corporate are mortified that one of their franchises became a biker hangout — how much more mortified should the good people of the Lower East Side be?
— Kevin D. Williamson is roving correspondent at National Review.