Politics & Policy

Michael Brown Protesters Have Shut Down More Traffic Than Chris Christie

Where are the tearful kids and dying seniors caused by all these traffic jams?

While New Jersey governor Chris Christie has been apparently cleared by a Democratic investigation of the September 2013 closing of lanes on the George Washington Bridge, America’s white-line nightmare continues.

But, miraculously, the illegal closing of major highways and bridges by protesters from Southern California to New York City has so far failed to generate a rash of news stories about stalled ambulances, stranded seniors, and schoolchildren whose dreams of betterment were dashed by delayed school buses. If it weren’t for Tyree Landrum, the heroic San Diego County commuter widely described as “angry driver” in media reports after he objected to protesters who closed The 5 last week, you’d think the protests over the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner are inconveniencing nobody.

In fact, Ferguson protesters continue to disrupt the free flow of private traffic. As of this writing, an airport terminal in Minneapolis is reportedly shut down by social-justice advocates, and the Twin Cities saw I-35 shut down yesterday.

In Denver, a driver Wednesday reportedly ran over four bicycle cops escorting a protest down a busy street, critically injuring one of the officers. By Sunday protests will have reached even Pittsfield, Mass., and organizations like Ferguson National Response Network are working to continue the wave.

Shutting down traffic from Washington state to Washington, D.C., falls within the tradition of civil disobedience — stuff for which you can get arrested but to which liberal societies usually allow wide latitude. And the specific form of street closures is evocative of the circumstances of Michael Brown’s death: He was killed by a police officer during a stop related to his walking down the middle of a street in Ferguson, Mo. But the Ferguson protests are undoubtedly disruptive of traffic — far more so than the Bridgegate non-scandal that convulsed much of the media in late 2013.

In fact, while Christie’s ostensible reason for closing lanes on the GWB — for tests of traffic flow under various circumstances — is less than compelling, those closures seem to be on much more solid legal ground than the Ferguson stops, which are overtly extralegal. So where are the mountains of casualties, the outrages to the nation, the offenses against civil order, that must logically be resulting from the Ferguson protests? If closing a couple lanes off a bridge shocks the conscience, why doesn’t shutting down all northbound traffic on the West Coast’s main interstate?

Though MSNBC devoted scores of hours of coverage to Bridgegate when it appeared Christie might have had prior knowledge of the lane closings — including a storied January evening when the Lean Forward network devoted more than five hours of its prime-time broadcast to the scandal — the channel’s coverage has been minimal since a state legislative committee headed by Democrats found no evidence that the potential 2016 presidential hopeful knew about the closings, nor that he masterminded the lethal traffic jam in an act of vengeance against the mayor of Fort Lee.

On Friday’s Andrea Mitchell Reports, guest host Luke Russert wheeled in fellow MSNBC host Steve Kornacki for one minute and 58 seconds of coverage, during which Kornacki called the committee findings “frankly not a great surprise” and suggested Christie could still be guilty of “willful ignorance,” adding that there were “some indications” an investigation by a U.S. Attorney might find that “he could have figured this thing out sooner.” Russert and Kornacki also exchanged knowing laughs about the possibility that Christie might end benefiting by seeming to “take on the liberal media that was out to get him,” a stance they said might please Christie’s “conservative fans.”

“This all just came out,” a courteous MSNBC spokeswoman tells National Review Online when asked about the disparity in coverage. But in fact, Christie’s apparent non-involvement in the scandal has been known since September, when U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman announced that he had “uncovered no evidence indicating that [Christie] either knew in advance or directed the closure of traffic lanes on the span” — an announcement MSNBC’s website reported with the headline “Investigations around Christie administration continue.” MSNBC’s spokeswoman says the network will be giving substantial coverage to the end of Bridgegate in Friday’s prime-time broadcast. “This news cycle you’re talking about is from today,” she says. “We plan on covering it.”

Meanwhile the nightmare on our highways goes on, and Christie is still notably casual about the rights and property of New Jerseyans. It’s the kind of stuff that might be considered an outrage, if property, private commerce, or the right to move about a free nation unobstructed were what media phonies were actually concerned about.

— Tim Cavanaugh is news editor of National Review Online. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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