Regular readers of this blog may recall that I am a fan of The Wire. It is an HBO series based around politics and the drug wars in Baltimore. One of the repeated themes is the extent to which life in the central city is lived under the thumb of the street crews who are in "the game" of selling drugs. Even those who try to leave the life eventually become its victims. "Snitchers" wind up dead.
So I was intrigued by an article in last month's Atlantic, illustrating the impact of the "stop snitchin'" movement (sentiment may be more accurate) in Baltimore. This particular bit of fiction is based in reality.
My first impulse, of course, is to think of Milwaukee alderman Michael McGee, Jr. who has been the sentinel of submission to street crime here. But that strikes me as too easy. I take a back seat to no one in my disapproval of McGee. Whether or not his constituents like him, he is, objectively, part of the problem, rather than the solution.
But isn't the real question why McGee's reverse Theodore Bilbo routine works? Isn't the broader question why people do stop snitching? Conservatives are amazed that, while Milwaukee's central city is plagued by an intolerable level of violence on a daily basis, the issues that have generated the most energy within that community over the past year have been the Jude beating (understandable), the proposal to use flexicuffs in MPS and the temerity of "outsiders" to become involved in the McGee recall.
It won't do for us on the right to denounce this as PC or irrational. It is both but it is also impervious to our disdain. Maybe the answer is that we have no business giving a damn. Patrick McIhleran, in a column yesterday, suggested that proponents of the city's "cause" who want suburban money need to listen to suburban viewpoints. One could say the same with respect to conservatives.
But there is a body of opinion that explicitly rejects Patrick's argument. It was in fact the prevailing view in the 60s and early 70s - and still is within certain academic circles. Conservatives, suburbanites and, for that matter, whites should shut up, listen to the oppressed and do what they are told.
Should conservatives care about the problems of the inner city? And, as I contend, they must, don't we have an obligation to understand why what seems obvious to us often has so little traction? Isn't that the beginning of persuasion?
More to come.