I'm going to skirt the edges of the Prime Directive today. Maybe. I'm not sure.
And that's the point.
So let's start with my analysis of the situation, from a vantage point 1159 miles from Ferguson, Missouri and 59 miles from Keene, NH.
Second important factor in the discussion: I like and frequently feature here the work of both cartoonists.
And much of my annoyance and discomfort over the comparisons between Ferguson and Keene are not about their cartoons on the topic but on the memes that have emerged on social media claiming parallels between the two events.
Granted, I'm an old guy of 64, but Jones and Knight are each 48, so, from the point of view of the millennialists, that's a wash.
Knight references the 1977 Clash song "White Riot," which is a call to arms for young white people to take up the social-anarchy torch long carried by black people in protest of their repression.
I assume he is mocking the rioters as pointless, shallow wannabes, with the police officer at the end wishing there were some substantial reason to have to be involved in the whole mess.
But, if you click on the link I provided, you'll see that the comments suggest a certain lack of connection beyond "Ooh, I love the Clash!"
The problem not being the message but whether it got through at all.
I'm also confused by Jones' cartoon, but, in this case, I don't think it's a case of a message being open to misinterpretation so much as a lack of clarity from the get-go.
I agree with him that the fact that the crowd in Ferguson was overwhelmingly black fueled a refusal to consider the politics of their protest, or the economic and educational mix of the protesters.
But, for the rest, you need a Chicago '68 level event with which to compare it.
For instance, Fox was not kind to the Climate Marchers, joining in with other conservative commentators to accuse them of hypocrisy and littering, nor have they been polite and understanding about the Occupy movement.
Had either of those gatherings turned violent, I promise you'd have your parallel, but I really don't think it would show the white kids being let off the hook.
Meanwhile, the lack of clarity here is that, while in his comments, Jones discusses how the media has covered it, in his cartoon, he shows two guys in a bar, which is a substantial disconnect.
And if anything, conservative commentators are ignoring Keene. This commentary by Fox Radio host John Gibson is mostly about the alleged justification for Brown's shooting but he does compare the two events. His conclusion:
I say both the example of black rioting in Ferguson and the white rioting in Keene should be thoroughly humiliating for both groups. The white people for throwing themselves into destruction for literally no reason at all. The black people rioting over the death of a young black man who more and more looks guilty of causing his own death.
So the hostility to black demonstrators is certainly a fact, but Gibson dismisses Keene as a "demonstration of mob white dumb ass," which kinda sounds more or less like the point Knight was attempting to make about them.
There was this, but it's from Town Hall, which is such a repository of festering, lunatic delusion that it mostly explains why people get fooled by "The Onion":
I blame Obama, who also doesn’t seem to understand what the constitution is about.
I mean this is Obama’s America, right? This is a place where people are unashamed of their infamy, as long as the Justice Department won’t take action. Which of course they won’t, and we should all be glad of it.
Because again: This is Obama’s America.
So his hostility is aimed at Obama, not the rioters. Not a great parallel.
On the other hand
There is a better way to make a more valid, more coherent point than by comparing Keene and Ferguson:
Here's a news report from Virginia Beach, 2013, when black college students rioted on Spring Break.
They might as well have called it “brawling on the boardwalk,” because over a span of just 12 hours from Saturday night into Sunday morning, Virginia Beach police responded to 325 calls for service. Police made 148 arrests.
“This is one week that will kill the whole summer,” said one business owner.
“It was a nightmare, I’m surprised no one got killed down here,” said George Smith, another business owner. He said college-age kids were out of control and now fears profits may plummet.
“It’s a black-eye for Virginia Beach,” said Smith.
“There was some sort of perceived entitlement attitude,” said Richmonder Amy Jones, who was among the masses over the weekend. “There was just a definite disregard for the law,” she said.
Hordes of college-aged people overwhelmed the area, traveling en masse from street to street, and testing the manpower of police from across the area, who dressed in riot gear. Police worked to prevent the crowds from pushing into the Pumpkin Festival footprint. ...
“It’s (expletive) wicked,” said Steven French, an 18-year-old who was said he was visiting from Haverhill, Mass.
“It’s just like a rush. You’re revolting from the cops,” he said, sometime after 9 p.m. “It’s a blast to do things that you’re not supposed to do.” ...
Keene State freshman Cecelee Young had a different reaction to Saturday’s scene.
“I feel really disrespected, to be honest,” she said, explaining how she was particularly upset that participants included Keene State students and their guests. “It’s not their home. ... It’s just really rude.”
Numerous injuries were reported throughout the day, including lacerations from people who were hit by flying beer bottles.
The key is to find an equivalent to this 2013 commentary:
The Pilot Online, WAVY, local government and those reporting on the chaos refuse to point to the obvious critical fact that minorities were indeed responsible for the violent riots and shootings over the weekend. I don’t bring this up to suggest anything other than the fact that we need to get over a fear of reporting such information when it involves minorities. Most media outlets, ours included, take no issue when reporting on crime involving “Caucasians.” In fact, many media outlets will go out of their way to report on such profiles. Political correctness has no place when it comes to crowd powered violent riots, shootings and robberies such as this.
And the problem then is that, given how the mainstream media didn't vary in how it described black and white students, that racist, paranoid diatribe is, at heart, an uninformed, insupportable claim of media bias.
Careful you don't discover a parallel you didn't want to find.
Meanwhile, there truly is danger all around and whatever commentary emerges requires clarity.