The Corner

Law & the Courts

Kooks Love Emotive Political Movements

Micah Xavier Johnson seems to have been a kook. This is not a great surprise.

Johnson, according to the Daily Beast, attempted to join a black-power group after his discharge from the military. Ken Moore, of an organization called the Collective Black People’s Movement (which looks pretty dodgy to me; its main purpose seems to be to raise funds for itself) says that Johnson was judged too unstable to join his group, and Malik Shabazz of the New Black Panther party says that Johnson was “blacklisted” (as Moore put it) by allied organizations.

Certain economic theories, scientific ideas, political movements, and religious enterprises have something in common: They attract crazy people. But the thing to keep in mind about crazy people who latch on to cold fusion, “infinite currency,”  Opus Dei, Vatican conspiracy theories, etc., is that they are, first and foremost, crazy. Economic, political, and scientific ideas, however bastardized, hold out the hope of explaining an inexplicable world, of bringing order to chaos. If you have spent very much time around people with disordered minds, you may have noticed that some of them expend a great deal of energy trying to make sense of a confusing, terrifying reality, unable to identify the actual source of their distress. It is horrible to see.

Some of my correspondents get annoyed with me when I insist that we — the Right — should be better than the Left, less hysterical and more intellectually honest, as though insisting on honesty were somehow taking Queensbury rules into a prison riot. Of course, we can say with certainty that if, say, an anti-abortion activist had just gunned down five police officers, we’d be hearing about the inherent violence and extremism of the pro-life movement. Likewise if it had been a Second Amendment activist or an anti-government type from Idaho. After Orlando, the New York Times made a serious attempt to finger conservative Christian Republicans for the crimes of an ISIS groupie who was a fanatical Muslim and a registered Democrat. Anything’s possible. Personally, if I thought that I had to be dishonest to advance my beliefs, I’d look for new beliefs. 

Black Lives Matter protesters say a lot of dumb and hateful and dishonest things, and some of them have explicitly called for violence against police. Some people in the pro-life movement use intemperate rhetoric, too, and no doubt that attracted such a kook as John Salvi, but he was a kook looking for kookery opportunities, not a level-headed guy transformed into a lunatic by anti-abortion extremists. Micah Xavier Johnson seems to have been judged too crazy for the New Black Panther party, which is like being too nutty for Planters. Very likely he was more like John Salvi or John Hinkley Jr., a lunatic in search of a banner, than a clear-eyed, true-believing terrorist like Bill Ayers or Representative Peter King’s friends in Ireland.

Inevitably,  he found some encouragement in the hysteria of Black Lives Matter; he might very well have found it elsewhere: Freemasonry or anti-Freemasonry, Catholicism or anti-Catholicism, Austrian economics. 

As a libertarian, I’m naturally pretty wary about the strategy of attempting to discredit ideas and movements because they draw out the occasional kook. If you happen to be at one of the major-party convention’s coming up, you’ll encounter plenty of kookery if you will but look. There’s a lot of room to criticize Black Lives Matter and what it stands for, but treating the horrifying murders in Dallas as though they were dispositive is a mistake for those who don’t know better and dishonest for those who do.  

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