The Corner


Heads or Tails, You’re a Racist: The Political Convenience of the Flag Debate

In response to Cross About The Cross

Rich, in your post on non-sequiturs, you write: “After every mass shooting, there has to be some ready politically convenient reason for the shooting or some ready politically convenient solution or both.” The emphasis, of course, is on “politically convenient.” The obsession over “civility” following the Giffords shooting — when there was no evidence that the intensity of political discourse played any role at all in the shooting — is one of the most infamous recent examples. While some people genuinely anguished over civility, others saw the moment as an opportunity to climb to unassailable moral high ground and either discredit political opponents or shame them into silence. The civility brigades were notably less vocal when a man tried to massacre employees of the Family Research Council after reading the Southern Poverty Law Center’s political discourse labeling the FRC as a “hate group.” 

In this case, it appears that the racist terrorist in Charleston says he was radicalized by the Trayvon Martin case. But no rational person would blame that case — or the way it was handled in court or in the court of public opinion — for his evil acts. Nor does any rational person think that he would have spared the church if the Confederate battle flag wasn’t flying at a Confederate memorial in a different city. Yes, there are genuine and sincere people who truly want to spare people the pain of seeing a flag they abhor, but there are also quite a few people who are only too happy to grill Republican presidential candidates about this issue from now until the 2016 election (unless a better non-sequitur emerges in the interim). It’s a cultural and political marker. Candidates are either “for the flag” — and either racist or uncaring — or they’re bowing to the unrelenting, morally superior voice of the media. Heads, you’re a racist. Tails, you’re a racist, but at least you can be shamed.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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