There is overwhelming evidence of widespread civil-rights violations and unlawful brutality. Yet the movement’s reflex is still to ignore or deny the problem.
Nearly a quarter century ago, the libertarian magazine Reason published an essay on civil unrest suffused with an insight that movement conservatism still hasn’t grasped. Then-editor Virginia Postrel was writing in the wake of the Los Angeles riots of 1992. “What caused the riots?” she asked. “How do we prevent them from recurring?” She agreed with law-and-order voices of that era that a dearth of conscience and empathy were factors. “Only people without empathy could drag people out of their cars and beat them within an inch of their lives,” she wrote. “Only people without empathy could burn and loot the lives and dreams of their neighbors.” But she went on to observe that a small criminal element preys on South Los Angeles every day whereas riots occur once in a generation. Rottenness may have been necessary to explain the beating of Reginald Denny or the terror inflicted on small business owners, but it wasn’t sufficient to explain such mayhem.