White liberals never look more foolish than when they pander to angry black radicals. But it’s taken the one-two punch of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book Between the World and Me and the hit NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton to lift the white Left into heights of ecstasy not seen since they sipped cocktails with the Black Panthers in Tom Wolfe’s immortal essay, “Radical Chic.”
Doubt the ecstasy? Then behold tweets such as this one, from the New York Times’s A. O. Scott, speaking of Coates:
— a. o. scott (@aoscott) July 5, 2015
Doubt the foolishness? Then read this from Slate deputy editor John Swansburg’s review of Straight Outta Compton:
The hard truths of NWA’s reportage (“police think they have the authority / to kill a minority,” Ice Cube rapped on “F**k tha Police”) and the unbridled anger that fueled the group’s work sadly feel no less pertinent in the era of Michael Brown as in that of Rodney King.
NWA mixed a brew of hedonism, nihilism, and misogyny (“life ain’t nothing but bitches and money,” in the group’s pithy summation) that could have been toxic, but it worked, in part, due to the charisma of the rappers, who breathed an infectious, anarchic spirit into the music.
Yes, he actually used the word “reportage” to describe a song that says, among other things:
Ice Cube will swarm / on ANY motherf**ker in a blue uniform / Just cause I’m from the CPT / Punk police are afraid of me! / HUH, a young nigga on the warpath / And when I’m finished, it’s gonna be a bloodbath / of cops, dyin in L.A. / Yo Dre, I got somethin to say.
As for “pithy,” how about some of the rest of “Gangsta, Gangsta,” the song Swansburg believes is so infectiously anarchic:
Ren said, “Let’s start some sh**!” / I got a shotgun, and here’s the plot / Takin niggaz out with a flurry of buckshots / Boom boom boom, yeah I was gunnin / And then you look, all you see is niggaz runnin / and fallin and yellin and pushin and screamin / and cussin, I stepped back, and I kept bustin /And then I realized it’s time for me to go.
Truly, it’s hard to imagine how these gentlemen had an adverse relationship with law enforcement. As for Coates, his “essential” writings include sentiments like these, about the police and firefighters who sacrificed their lives trying to save New Yorkers of all races on 9/11:
I could see no difference between the officer who killed [my friend] and the police who died, or the firefighters who died. They were not human to me. Black, white, or whatever, they were the menaces of nature; they were the fire, the comet, the storm, which could — with no justification — shatter my body.
Or this, written in response to Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore — words that mock calls for nonviolence as a “con” or a “ruse,” excusing riots as a matter of necessary disrespect:
When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is “correct” or “wise,” any more than a forest fire can be “correct” or “wise.” Wisdom isn’t the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the community.
But this is the era of #BlackLivesMatter and the “Rebirth of Black Rage.” Woe to the white liberal (I’m talking to you, Bernie Sanders) who doesn’t pay homage. Never mind that the actual numbers show that — when one controls for violent crime rates — encounters with the police may be more dangerous for whites than blacks. One still can’t say “all lives matter,” or he’ll be read out of the progressive movement as a (to quote white liberal Lena Dunham) “meatball” and a “dingus.”
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) August 10, 2015
Yet back when the Left was really the Left, they weren’t content with fawning over writers such as Coates or watching the gangsta action on the silver screen, they brought the real gangstas straight to the party. Tom Wolfe knew all about it:
That huge Panther there, the one Felicia is smiling her tango smile at, is Robert Bay, who just 41 hours ago was arrested in an altercation with the police, supposedly over a .38-caliber revolver that someone had, in a parked car in Queens at Northern Boulevard and 104th Street or some such unbelievable place, and taken to jail on a most unusual charge called “criminal facilitation.” And now he is out on bail and walking into Leonard and Felicia Bernstein’s 13-room penthouse duplex on Park Avenue.
In March, The Federalist’s Hans Fiene coined the term “Selma envy” to describe the self-righteous zeal of modern progressives. They are desperate to be a part of a great crusade, to “sink their teeth” into righteousness. Selma envy is over. It’s Panther envy now, but it’s a strange time for Panther envy. Jim Crow has been dead for generations, and now the nation is the kind of racist hellhole that elects a black president, invites an angry Ta-Nehisi Coates to the Aspen Institute, and makes Dr. Dre a billionaire.
It’s all so ridiculous that one is tempted to point and laugh. But the real-world consequences are too dire. Selma envy ruins careers and shames dissenters. Panther envy burns cities. Is Coates’s widely applauded and highly profitable rage more “authentic” than Ben Carson’s quiet peacemaking? By privileging one voice over the other, the Left is staking its claim in violence and division. They are sowing the wind. When will the whirlwind come?
— David French is an attorney and a staff writer at National Review.