'No Justice No Peace': Riots to Follow
"No Justice, No Peace" is one of a family of phrases that are the favored tools of the rabble rouser. Here's a look at how it works:
The slogan "No Justice No Peace" has a rich history of use by demonstrators of many stripes, both in England by the "chanting classes" and in the U.S. It never seems to signal any good news; as Thomas Sowell notes, "The slogan 'No Justice, no peace' has been used to justify settling legal issues on the streets, instead of in courts of law." I disagree -- I don't think anyone is trying to settle anything; they are trying to keep a bad thing alive.
We hear it again in Ferguson, Missouri and it might be a good idea to analyze what "No Justice, No Peace" means in this case, as it does so often lately.
The idea of "justice" involves the concepts of fairness and retribution. Fairness is largely in the eye of the beholder. Angry shouters of this phrase have a good idea of what unfairness has befallen them. Fairness involves both a perpetrator and a victim and is one of the muddiest concepts in any language. The phrase is unsuited to clarity, but is well suited to gathering in aggrieved parties, each with their own interpretation of the offense involved.
Justice also carries a heavy inference of retribution. Even though the original intent may be a reasonable request for retribution on a holistic scale, it quickly morphs into a manic drive for revenge on a very personal level. Again we see a mushy concept that serves as a dragnet for the disgruntled of every degree. Demonstrators purport to say "we want retribution for so and so...", but what they really mean is "I want revenge that satisfies me." Young men in Ferguson, running from a beauty supply store with arms full of expensive hair extensions, are not worried about Michael Brown; an eruption of righteous-sounding activity has given them the green light to steal from their neighbors.
Now let's look at the "peace" part. In this context, peace is not the presence of something, it is the absence of strife. So chanters are saying "No Peace" as in the absence of what? It must be something that is under the control of the speaker to implement. Something they can credibly threaten. Does it mean lawsuits? More demonstrations? No. It means looting businesses of products thieves want anyway. Ferguson rioters are not looting bookstores, they are looting high-end sneaker stores and liquor stores. The first to experience the "No Peace" part are the law abiding citizens and shop owners of the town.
As we have seen time and time again, muddy but lofty sounding words like "Justice" and "Peace" are quickly and easily hijacked. Neither of these two elements is ever produced from the actions of a mob. A mob veers off in its own direction. Some communities are steaming cauldrons of generalized anger; this anger doesn't have a specific target, but is very real. After any suspect event, first we get the lofty slogans, then looting and vandalism are sure to follow, often by opportunistic outsiders. These looters are not the only opportunists, however.
When almost anything happens that can be considered unfair and even remotely connected to race, latent anger causes emotions to erupt and ugliness begins to seep out of the shadows, racial opportunists and emotional ambulance chasers begin to ply their seedy trade. Al Sharpton said on Sunday--"...If these people want to run for president, they have to come here first to talk to us about policing". What? A young man got shot, the facts are not out, but Reverend Al is ready to jump on this boy's bones to position himself for influence in the upcoming election. In an irony of ironies, Al Sharpton said the following in response to the convenience store video showing that Michael Brown was, at least on that day, a big bully and a thief: "Have we lost our decency when we don't even let people mourn their loved ones without you trying to smear them with things that have nothing to do with the situation at hand?" I'd stay off the subject of lost decency if I were Al. Maybe there's hope -- Jesse Jackson got booed for trying to collect money in Ferguson.
National news outlets are no better than the racial extortionists, showing the police officer's home on air, irresponsibly making the location clear. Reporters love this stuff -- the drama, the fires, the hysterical participants, the smoke bombs -- it's so much more exciting than peaceful people with signs. These news people are the ones behind the "gentle giant" phrase describing Michael Brown. If not for that convenience store video, we would be seeing the equivalent of the Trayvon Martin high school football pictures, instead of Martin's Facebook page where he looked like Evander Holyfield brandishing a gun and stolen merchandise. Media has no problem creating events to sustain an agenda.
So when I hear marchers chanting lofty and fuzzy phrases like "No Justice, No Peace", "We want equality and we want it now" or "Freedom Now", I know that an ugly stream of events will soon follow, as the message, whatever it originally was, will be twisted to suit the purposes of opportunists. The original cause will be left in the dust along with law-abiding and directly affected protesters honestly trying to be heard. Sorry, folks -- media exposure is just too valuable to be squandered on you.
If something is to be done about the latent anger in Ferguson and like communities, it has to be done prior to incidents like this shooting. The most positive thing I have seen relating to this whole sad situation was a young man from the town saying, and I paraphrase, "If you don't like the way things are, do something, run for office or join the police force." He gets it, and he is the hope for the Fergusons of this country.