The Washington Post has never paid much attention to nearby Baltimore. Which is no great shock, of course: Downtown Baltimore is 40 miles from the Post newsroom, which tends to ignore the immediate Virginia and Maryland suburbs of Washington as well. The Scrapbook has always found this regrettable, and a little puzzling, too, since we would guess that the vast majority of Post subscribers live in those same Virginia and Maryland suburbs. But the Post’s business is the business of the Post, not The Scrapbook—and as long they spell the name of The Weekly Standard correctly, we’ll leave it at that.
However, even the Post couldn’t shield its eyes from the recent riots in Baltimore, which were prompted by the death of a young man in police custody and, as riots invariably do, devastated the lives and property of people least capable of recovering from disorder and violence. But that is not quite the way the Post approached the story. In its news and editorial pages alike, its primary interest has been to lay the blame for Baltimore’s various problems squarely at the foot of Baltimore’s police department, which has found itself besieged by press and public and, in those neighborhoods most affected by violence and vandalism, surrounded (along with the fire department) by hostile crowds and assorted armed insurrectionists.
Indeed, on the morning after Baltimore’s chief prosecutor brought murder and manslaughter charges against six officers—“I heard your calls for ‘no justice, no peace’ ”—the Post weighed in with a front-page account that seemed to share the joy of the moment in Baltimore’s burned-out quarter: “Protesters who had grown hoarse calling for police to be held accountable,” the story explained, “seemed almost disoriented by getting their wish. Some toggled between euphoria and skepticism. Others tried to keep the pressure on, saying only that a conviction would equal justice.” The only damper on the “festive vibe” celebrated by the Post reporters was the city’s insistence on maintaining its 10 p.m. curfew for an additional day.
Of course, the upshot of all this is that the Baltimore police have retreated from confronting Baltimore’s rioters,and responded to calls (widely echoed in the pages of the Post) to reduce their presence in high-crime neighborhoods. With predictable results: Over the Memorial Day weekend, for example, there were 32 shootings in the city of Baltimore and 9 homicides. Violent crime, especially murder, seems to be breaking all records since recordkeeping began.
Now comes the Washington Post with an angry rebuke—to the police: In an editorial entitled “Bloody Baltimore,” the Post thundered that “soon after the rioting . . . ended in late April, the world’s media turned their gaze elsewhere. Then, as a petulant police force retreated to its station houses, the real carnage began.” Petulant police force? It sounds to The Scrapbook as if the cops of Baltimore are being prudent, not petulant, and behaving exactly as the Post and its friends in the street would prescribe.
Which is the great paradox of this story. No doubt, the Baltimore Police Department is far from perfect, and there may well be much room for reform of its practices. But the manifold problems of poverty, crime, and economic blight are not the fault of the cops; and the fact is that, in Baltimore as in other cities across America, including the Post’s own Washington, D.C., the police are essential in preserving not just civil order but in protecting the lives and property of those citizens most vulnerable to the “festive vibe” of mayhem and violence.
Forget that, and you get Memorial Day weekend in “bloody Baltimore.”