They are drawn like moths to a flame. In this case, an inferno. Press, pundits, politicians, and provocateurs rub their hands together with glee when there is a racial incident like the one in Ferguson, especially when the actors in this oft-repeated drama are cast in the proper roles. If the victim is black and the shooter white, analysts and agitators saddle up and ride to the scene, verbal guns blazing.
Americans should be concerned when an unarmed citizen is shot by a police officer. That applies to any citizen, whatever his race or age or size or state of mind. Because the shooter, in this case Officer Darren Wilson, is an agent of the government, a full investigation is required.
But some of the protesters don't give a fig about the late Michael Brown or the investigation. Many are thugs and anarchists, America-haters who come from distant places hoping to inflict damage on the country they loathe. The trouble-makers and the mayhem they create are always irresistible to reporters, whose bright lights attract even more bad guys. It is the most vicious of vicious cycles.
Not surprisingly, the circus-like atmosphere in Ferguson has inspired some absolutely asinine analysis. Even CNN's Jake Tapper, normally a fair and sound reporter, seemed convinced that he is a better police tactician than the police tacticians. Surveying the police presence in Ferguson, Sgt. Tapper concluded, "This doesn't make any sense."
But when it comes to stone-cold stupidity, the bronze medal goes to Michelle Bernard, a former legal analyst at - where else? - MSNBC. During a guest appearance on her struggling former network, Bernard declared, "There is a war on black boys in this country." A war on black boys? Only if she is referring to the war being waged by other young black men in so many of our cities.
We'll award the silver medal for foolishness to the media outlets that gave out Officer Wilson's home address. CNN aired a report showing the home and house number, while the Washington Post published the name of the street. It brings to mind Spike Lee, who tweeted out what he thought was George Zimmerman's address. It turned out that the home belonged to an elderly Florida couple, who won a handsome settlement from the genius auteur.
But the dumbest, most inflammatory outburst came from Missouri State Senator Jamilah Nasheed. "If you should decide not to indict this police officer," she ominously warned, "the rioting we witnessed this past week will seem like a picnic compared to the havoc that will likely occur." So there you have it - an elected official threatening violence if the grand jury does not see things precisely her way. "Irresponsible" doesn't even begin to cover it.
But amid all the terrible behavior and incendiary comments, there have actually been a few uplifting moments in Ferguson. Ministers and bishops, black and white, have done their best to calm the situation. Call them the anti-Sharptons of the world, people for whom "reverend" is a fitting adjective. And many citizens, genuinely heartbroken by Michael Brown's death, have expressed their grief with tears and words, not Molotov cocktails.
Then there is Mumtaz Lalani, an immigrant from India who opened the Dellwood Market 20 years ago. He was at home monitoring store surveillance cameras when he saw thugs shoot their way into his market and clean it out. "They broke in and looted everything," he calmly told an interviewer. "But a lot of community members, a lot of church members, even one mother came in to help."
Lalani worried that the looting will tarnish the memory of Michael Brown. So will many other things that have been taking place in Ferguson, which is now Ground Zero is America's explosive racial situation. The looting will eventually stop, Sharpton will move on to the next stage, and the out-of-town anarchists will head back from whence they came.
But what about Ferguson itself and the good people who live there, which is to say the vast majority? They will have fewer places to shop, their homes will be worth less, their town's name will live on in some measure of infamy. The tragic death of a teenager may well lead to the figurative death of the town he called home.