The riots redux

Yesterday’s post, “When both sides are wrong: George Floyd’s death and the violent responses,” seems to have inspired a lot of discussion, which is good, though I disagree with a fair few of the comments. I’ll reiterate my main points:

1.) The death of George Floyd was, according to the tapes that show it, absolutely unconscionable.  I felt the first time that I watched the video that the cop should be charged with murder, and the other cops, who did nothing to stop the strangulation posture, should be charged with whatever crimes are relevant.

2.) In light of Floyd’s death, and that of the shooting of other unarmed African-Americans, as well as apparent differential treatment of blacks and whites by police in many areas, protest is not only laudatory, but necessary.

3.) Those protests should be peaceful ones, lacking violence, looting, arson, or physical assault (the latter goes for cops, too, who in many cases have appeared to show unrestrained aggression).

4.) Civil disobedience is okay as well, as with the Chicago protestors who blocked Lake Shore Drive last evening. But the disobedience must be “civil”, involving peaceful breaking of the law, and the protestors must be prepared to take the consequences (arrest). Protests should obey curfews, which the Chicago protests did not.

5.) Insofar as the demonstrations involved violence, that was unconscionable. There is no excuse for arson, looting, vandalism, or torching of cars. Those who do that and those who instigate it should be punished.

6.) Violence in these protests plays into the hands of right-wingers and authoritarians like Trump, who could use it to tar the peaceful protestors and weaken the moral suasion of a mass, peaceful movement. See Isaac Chotiner’s interview of Omar Wasow (link below) to see evidence that violence on the part of protestors can push moderates into a law-and-order right wing stance.

7.) The mainstream and Leftist media, while covering the demonstrations, have been loath to condemn the violence associated with them. Indeed, some people have tried to justify the violence, saying that violence is the only recourse when oppression is sufficiently strong and persistent. I disagreed, saying that violence calls the wrong kind of attention to a cause, empowering those opposed to that cause, and that, at any rate, the problems faced by African-Americans in the South in the Sixties were far stronger and more oppressive than they face now. After all, it was a time when blacks were murdered with impunity, with the perpetrators not even being tried, or being let off easily when they were, and, especially, when segregation was structural—embodied in the law. Yet Dr. King stepped forward with a message, taken from Gandhi, that was powerful yet peaceful. We don’t have a Dr. King now, and are the poorer for it, but protestors should heed his message, which still resonates.

To me this seemed a reasonable take, but there was considerable opposition to it, which I want to discuss briefly.

First, to those who said that I didn’t emphasize Floyd’s death enough, and therefore my coverage was unbalanced. My response: Floyd’s death was widely covered in the media and condemned by everyone. I condemn it strongly—so strongly that I was one of the first calling for murder indictments. But, as always, my penchant is for saying what has been said less often: calling out the excesses of the Left.

To those who said that the media did amply highlight the demonstrations, I say that yes, I agree, and never said otherwise. Rather, I emphasized the lack of condemnation of the violence, not the lack of coverage. Why has Dr. King’s message suddenly been swept under the rug? Is it really justifiable to loot, burn, and attack others now when it wasn’t before?

To those who said that the violence is justifiable, I say that it is understandable in light of the tensions building in African-American communities, which are like a watch spring wound too tightly, ready to uncoil in an instant. And the pandemic has penned up, frustrated, and angered many.  But, as far as I can see, none of this justifies violence. Some say that violence is better than nonviolence because it draws attention to the problem of racism more strongly. I respond that it draws the wrong kind of attention to the cause: more opposition than sympathy. Omar Wasow gives evidence for that below. But I cannot see how looting, for instance, which I saw on both local and national news last night, can help a cause.

Finally, to those who claim that marchers protesting the death of George Floyd were all peaceful people, and that the violence was instigated by “outsiders” like people from out of state or Antifa—people who want anarchy or a race war—I say, “I don’t agree.” Yes, there were right-wingers trying to incite or even kill protestors (one guy was shooting arrows at them!), but the videos I saw did not appear to show that all or even most of those who did the looting and vandalism were Antifa-ites or “outside agents”. Arrest records from Minneapolis, ground zero for the protests, show that most of those arrested for lawbreaking during demonstrations were from Minnesota, not out of state.  I suspect this will be true for other places as well, except, perhaps, Washington, D.C., easily accessible from at least two states. Certainly some came to the demonstration simply to cause trouble, but I suspect others with righteous intentions got caught up in an atmosphere of violence.

People have pointed out to me that some of the violence was committed by white people, not African-Americans. My response: I don’t care what color they were. After all, whites like me can sympathize with the cause, decry Floyd’s death, and demonstrate. I am decrying violence in general here, not violence committed by African-Americans. The tapes I’ve seen certainly show that people of both races were involved in both the demonstrations and the attendant violence and vandalism.

The assertion then becomes “the demonstrators were not involved, but just people who wanted to steal things and just let go with pent-up anger.” My response is, let those who adhere to the cause of opposing police racism help curb those who are violent, and certainly themselves refrain from participating in the violence.” There’s no doubt that in some cases, though, those who came to demonstrate then participated in looting or vandalism. In response, people argued “they were instigated by outsiders to commit violence.” My response is to say, “Well, we shall see, but even those instigated to commit violence, looting, or vandalism were breaking the law and should be arrested. It does not mitigate your own robbery of, say, shoes and jewelry when you see others doing so.”

To those who say that “the police acted brutally”, my response is, “Yes, they did in quite a few cases. I’ve seen the videos.” The police need to behave in a restrained manner and not beat the hell out of people, tase then, knock them over for no reason, or use dangerous holds on them. The police are in a double bind in this one, as their charge is to stop the violence and robbery, but do so in a restrained manner. That’s not so easy, but I have seen videos of the cops going way overboard, pushing people to the ground who were simply in the way.

This is all by way of clarification, and I’m pretty much done. I still believe that violence cannot be justified in this situation, that it is counterproductive, and will ultimately redound to discrediting the cause. And I call for others to condemn violence to people and destruction of others’ property. That, of course, also goes for police officers who behave like they are thugs or even murderers.

I finish with a comment from reader Historian that appeared below my earlier post. I sometimes disagree with him/her on issues, but Historian is always thoughtful, and here’s a comment with which I agree.

Of course, protests against the murder of George Floyd were well warranted. Yet, within a short time these protests morphed into much more that, almost bordering on a nationwide insurrection. The murder illustrates that a single event can be a spark that sets off a conflagration. This situation reminds me of how the murder of Archduke Ferdinand in 1914 set off World War I. The protestors worked themselves into a frenzy over something more than police racism. It was over racism in general, overt and systemic, that has been a major characteristic of America since 1619, which to me, gives credence to the major arguments of the 1619 project (yes, I know, many disagree with me). I was heartened that the protestors were of many races, particularly the many young, white people in the crowd. It is premature to make any grand pronouncements, but perhaps we are seeing the centuries long overdue change in racial attitudes.

Still, we must consider the violence that accompanied the protests in many cities. Some of the violence was undoubtedly inspired by the frustration created by the incident, a pandemic, and economic collapse. The violence should not have been unexpected. It provided a golden opportunity for people with ideological agendas to create chaos as well as those who saw how easy it was to loot. There are rumors that the chaos was instigated by extreme right groups. It will be some time before we will know the role of outside agitators. The violence was sometimes anarchistic. I saw a news clip of a white guy, acting alone in Chicago, breaking the glass of a bus stop with his skateboard. What could possibly be the motive of doing that? Trump blames Antifa for the violence, so we can be almost certain that it was not involved.

Clearly, the violence must be suppressed. The police are in an untenable position. If they use force and protestors are killed, an even greater conflagration will be set off. Moreover, the violence is counterproductive. At the New Yorker site, Isaac Chotiner has interviewed a political scientist, who has studied the riots of 1968 – the year Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were killed and where the Democratic Convention was held in Chicago. His conclusion is that the violence then hurt the Democratic chances. The situation may be the same now. I fear many voters on the fence may swing to Trump because of the violence. All in all, the country is in its most perilous moment since at least World War II.

And here’s a quote from the interviewed person, Omar Wasow, a professor of politics at Princeton (I recommend reading Chotiner’s interview):

The interesting thing to me that came out of this research was that civil-rights leaders were picking Birmingham and Selma specifically because they had police chiefs with hair-trigger tendencies toward violence. So there was this strategic use of violence by the civil-rights movement, but it was to be the object of violence, not the instigators of violence. At the same time, what was very hard about, with that strategy, is that you had images of people observing their kinfolk being brutalized on television, and that helped fire up a more militant wing of the civil-rights movement, which endorsed violence in self-defense and was much less committed to tactics of nonviolence. When we observed a wave of violent protests in the mid- to late sixties, those white moderates who supported the Democratic Party after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 defected to the Republican Party in 1968. So, when the state was employing violence and protesters were the targets of that violence, the strategy worked well, and when protesters engaged in violence—whether or not the state was—those voters moved to the law-and-order coalition.

That, too, is my fear. We cannot afford to have another four years of Trump.


84 thoughts on “The riots redux

  1. I live in Santa Monica only a few blocks from the pier and we had a rough night last night. But I am of the mind that this is not 1968 and though we are in real peril from the forces you and Historian are wary of, I think it is also dangerous to draw conclusions from history about contemporary issues. For example, in 1968 it was the Democrats who were in power.

    I don’t dismiss your and Historians concerns. In fact I think we are in very real danger. But I also think that it isn’t inevitable. In fact, I have hope that this will instead of bolstering Trumps chances, it will finally sink them.

    1. Yes, I too don’t see many parallels between ’68 and today. (To be fair, I was born in ’69, so don’t have much cred.) But in reality, how many people are “on the fence” right now as to who they will vote for? The majority of Americans either strongly disagree or outright hate Trump; riots in the street aren’t going to change that attitude imo. Especially with the way Trump is (not) handling it.
      Either way, I can’t argue with any of Jerry’s points, I agree with him, and empathize with his fear that this has a possibility to hurt Dems in November.

      1. Wouldn’t worry about age cred, Mark. I mean, some of us see parallels to the late 1850s, and — pace some people’s belief — none of us here is THAT old. 🙂

    2. I agree, this isn’t 1968. As to the violence in Chicago during the Democratic Convention, you didn’t have a video of a black man being murdered by the police. Of course, the violence must stop soon, or it could take votes away from Democrats. But, Trump’s ineptitude in handling this, along with his inability or unwillingness to deal properly with the pandemic, along with his confusing the stock market with the economy, I hope will turn enough voters around.

  2. Completely agree with 6). The prospect of a tRump reelection is becoming more probable. Judging by the level of morality and desperation shown by some Republicans, I would not be too surprised is they indirectly hire provocateurs to incite violence. This all becoming a tRump reelection promotion.

  3. One might say to those justifying the riots, “Let me guess. The riots have not hit your neighborhood yet. When they do, you will vote law-and-order.” That’s how this helps Trump.

    1. I can guarantee you that you are wrong here. There is no way that Milwaukee, for example, will vote for “law and order”, aka tRump. It could, however, motivate the fearful suburbanites to do so.

      1. Actually, G.B., I am thinking MAINLY of liberal white suburbanites, whose voice right now seems most vocal in support of the riots. When the businesses they commute to and their favorite little restaurants burn down, they may change their tune. If riots persist, even the thought of such might turn them into, as you say, fearful suburbanites. The bad news is that helps Trump, or at least erodes support for “appeasement” Dems. But at least your opinion and mine may dovetail at that point 😊

        1. Well, their favorite restaurants are already closed. And few of them are in those parts of the city that are experiencing riots. (Speaking of Milwaukee as specific example because I live here.)

          I don’t think liberal suburbanites will think as you suggest. But I do think more conservative but still a bit middle-of-the-road ones might. And, more likely, it could be a motivator for otherwise-maybe-won’t-bother-to-vote Republican types.

          1. I’m not sure suburbanites tend to be all that liberal. It’s just that, in the more affluent suburbs at least, they tend to be college-educated, which puts them outside Trump’s prime demographic.

            1. The point, at least my point, is not that suburbanites are generally liberal. It is that those who have riots in their communities don’t suddenly start voting for “law and order” candidates. (For purposes here, “liberal” and “law and order” map to Dem vs. Rep voters.

              1. One interesting thread was the twitter feed of Chris Palmer, of the NBA and ESPN.
                When the buildings were burning in Minneapolis, his comment was “Burn that shit down. Burn it all down”.
                When the riot came close to his Beverly Hills neighborhood, he had changed to “Get these animals TF out of my neighborhood”.

        2. Even in the case of liberal white suburbanites that are motivated by riots to vote for law & order, who do they perceive that to be? I don’t think “Trump” will be such peoples’ obvious choice.

          Also I gotta say, any liberal white suburbanites that are out of touch enough, delusional enough, scared enough, or whatever enough to conclude that Trump is a better choice than Biden (or whoever), well WTF? I’ve got serious doubts about their liberal cred.

          1. Headline on CNN website this am “White House Leadership Goes Dark”. THAT is the message that is getting out there. It’s true that people tend to look to law and order types in these situations but Trump is not that guy.

            I think there are very few people “on the fence” about Trump but those who are are just as likely to see him as the incompetent, impotent, force of malevolence that he is. I don’t think people will forget that in November.

            1. Hiding in a bunker I heard. See’s a fire, pours some fuel on it and then hides. It’s amazing to me that Trumpers can continue to respect this guy.

    2. I agree. I have some extremely Leftist friends in Minneapolis/St. Paul and I actually think this event broke their mind. The war zone they live in now, with destroyed buildings all around them, has made even them question their beliefs. Imagine people who are on the fence. And as an ex-Minnesotan you don’t need to hire provocateurs. There’s plenty of white middle class kids already there to ransack in the name of justice.

    3. I hope you are right, Edward, Darelle, and GB. But I fear Prof. Wasow (the interviewee) and Deborah (here) may have a point — protests that turn violent/riotous, in the aggregate, favor the law-and-order party in the next election (even if people don’t like Trump per se).

  4. Jerry, I agree 100% with all your points but there is still another issue hanging over all this, which is the other recent discussion that “they couldn’t do otherwise” because there is no free will. There is a tightrope along which we need to negotiate.

  5. I agree with most of your approach, but I am very reluctant to trust arrest stats as a metric of who is committing violent acts. That seems like a blatant source of error in your considerations. The police are arresting journalists, after all. They are pepper spraying people gratuitously when they stand with their hands in the air, or lie in submission face down on the ground. They are blatantly provoking people.

    If you remove all the arrests that result from indiscriminate or provoked arrests, the figures would be quite different.

    You have also not visibly taken into account that it matters how violence and looting STARTS. If someone punches me in the face, and I then crush his knee caps: I will be arrested for violence, but the instigator is what matters in this equation.

    We have seen time and time again, groups of organised people show up and methodically break windows, graffiti and set fires, sometimes with protesters begging them to stop.

    This is not to say that there are zero protesters who also indulged in chaotic and criminal behaviour. It is to say that once a chaotic stage is set, often by outside forces, chaotic actions increase from all sides. A failure to emphasise the prime importance of the instigating actions, is a serious failure.

    But bottom line, the violence has to stop or we will slide into the hands of fascists. I would be in favour of putting protests on hold with an ultimatum that all officers who engaged in excessive force during the past week be fired and short listed for indictment by a new, specialised judicial body once it is set up. If this does not happen within 10 days, the protests start again.

    This stops the violence, and puts the ball firmly in the camp of the authorities, with all future problems imputable to them if they fail.

    1. I am not certain I understand your point about provoked or indiscriminate arrests skewing data regarding who is being arrested. Assuming provoked arrests is prevalent, then it does not follow that only locals would be targeted. How would police know who was local and should be targeted for provocation? And how was this conspiracy conveyed to officers, while avoiding those who would object?
      At best you should get a random sample of protestors (assuming the demographics of instate and out of state protestors are similar). Which ultimately supports arrest data.

      1. You’ve updated your post somewhat, but I’ll try to remember what I was responding to. My point was that you seemed to be deriving a direct correlation between arrest stats and the amount of criminal activity.

        Since then, some more light has been shed on the arrests: last time I checked (around June 5th), only about one in ten was for actual criminal behaviour (roughly 1000). That’s not a lot, if you think about it. On average it, would point to 20 arrests per state. For protests that ran for many days and nights, with a cumulative mass of millions of people-days, that’s pretty limited and the media have put it in this proper context.

        I do insist that the instigation is a primary factor. With those per state on average, judging from the videos we’ve been seeing, I’d be confident suggesting 5 of them were due to police provocations.
        The images of burning businesses and buildings had the biggest impact: who set those fires should be considered responsible for the greater damage to public perception. At least one arson was set by a white woman: she’s on video setting it. Considering the videos of other white, non-protesters methodically smashing windows, we have to consider it likely that other fires were set by such people as well.

        I would expect the instigation of looting to have a higher proportion of out-of-towners compared to the peaceful protests, simply because we know there are more white nationalists and boogaloo members nationwide than there are in Minneapolis, and those that travelled would not be coming to join the peaceful protests, but predominantly to make trouble.

        As for the looting after instigation, I would expect an even distribution on par with the protests.

        You are 100% right, some of the violence is understandable, but not justifiable. I am particularly understanding of the violence that occurred after police carried out gratuitous and deliberate acts of potentially lethal violence on peaceful protesters.

        Thankfully, despite the complexity of the situation, and the tendency for law and order messaging to attract mainstream voters to Republicans in times of unrest, the polling data shows strong majorities of Americans in support of Black Lives Matter – a Pew poll of nearly 10,000 American adults found 31% of white people in STRONG support of BLM, and 30% somewhat supportive, for a total of 61% showing support. Among black people, naturally the percentage was much higher (87% I think I recall).

        Thanks for the exchange.

  6. As a friend of mine put it: you don’t get to decide how black people should respond. I think Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s op-ed in the LA Times speaks quite well to the pent up frustration and rage and is worth a read (“You’re not wrong — but you’re not right, either”). And remember, MLK did not exist in a vacuum–there was Malcom X and the Black Panthers too.

    1. I don’t get to be the decider, but I am allowed to offer an opinion, so what is your point? Or are you saying I should stifle myself. I won’t.

      And my criticism of violence as a tactic of protest applies to all people of all races and sexes.

      1. With you 100% Jerry. Black people may have the most at stake here, but they are not the only stakeholders. Every owner of every destroyed mom and pop shop is a stakeholder, every person of every color who wants to live in a more racially equitable and harmonious community is a stakeholder.

  7. I’m writing from the UK and so won’t put forward any observations based on UK issues.

    I would say that one issue that concerns me, both in the USA and here in the UK, is the polarisation of debate/protest. The more polarised the viewpoints the less likely there is to be an acceptable resolution.

    I’ve no idea what the proportion is but the well ordered and peaceful protest of a million people is probably no longer enough to undo the negative impact of a thousand people running amok. Or even a hundred people, recently.

  8. Dr. Coyne, thank you for pointing Dr. Wasow out.

    I clicked in a Washington Post article from 2015 (from his website) in which he is quoted:

    “I find that in the 1968 presidential election exposure to violent protests caused a decline in Democratic vote-share. Examining counterfactual scenarios in the 1968 election, I estimate that fewer violent protests are associated with a substantially increased likelihood that the Democratic presidential nominee, Hubert Humphrey, would have beaten the Republican nominee, Richard Nixon.”

    It’s a longer quotation, so readers may be interested in the Post article…However, the demographics today are very different than the 1960s, so I wonder how much of those observations could be transposed to our time.

    1. “I find that in the 1968 presidential election exposure to violent protests caused a decline in Democratic vote-share.”

      Yeah, well, mebbe so. But it didn’t help either that the Democrats’ leading candidate was felled by an assassin’s bullet at the Ambassador Hotel, or that their eventual nominee had his balls held hostage in LBJ’s back pocket, or that Mayor Daley’s police went on a rampage outside their convention, or that Dick Nixon traitorously subverted the negotiations in Paris to keep peace from breaking out ahead of the election.

  9. I’m not expressing an opinion on this one way or the other with this little fact, but I find it ironic in several ways that Thomas Jefferson may well have approved of violent rebelliousness. As he wrote concerning Shays’ Rebellion: ‘I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical… It is a medecine [sic] necessary for the sound health of government.’

    The irony, of course, is that many protestors are black and all protesting racism! Jefferson’s fear of black retribution for slavery would certainly have been peaked…

    Another irony is that many folks who oppose the protests are on the right, not caring that one of their most cherished Founders was sometimes a little too fond of revolutionary violence. On the French Revolution, after the executions increased, Jefferson wrote: ‘My own affections have been deeply wounded by some of the martyrs to this cause, but rather than it should have failed, I would have seen half the earth desolated. Were there but an Adam and an Eve left in every country, and left free, it would be better than as it now is.’

    As I said, I’m not saying Jefferson was right or wrong or that the protestors are right or wrong or that the violence is right or wrong with this- just an interesting piece of related history! (I’m pretty much in agreement with the post, as it happens, though my emotional, youthful, romantic side can’t help but be a little excited by insurrectionary actions…)

    1. You may be saying this in your second paragraph, but to be clear: Jefferson’s approval of rebelliousness did not extend to slave revolts.

  10. When discussing acts of violence perpetuated by protestors at demonstrations or on the day of the demonstration (but not actually as part of the demonstration), it may be useful to differentiate between the types of violence. I have identified five.

    1. Violence against law enforcement officers who initiated violence against the protestors.
    2. Attacks on symbols of oppression, such as police stations.
    3. Attacks on law enforcement officers initiated by the protestors.
    4. Violence against property through means such as vandalism and arson just because the property is nearby.
    5. The looting of stores with no apparent motive other than to steal merchandise.

    The first two actions have a modicum of justification in that they can be interpreted as political actions or self-defense. The last three, particularly items four and five, get the most media attention. These are what get people, who were initially sympathetic to the goal of the protest, to quickly forget this as anger boils up within them because the acts are totally senseless (at least as they perceive them). The refusal of so many leaders to condemn these acts outright also works to reduce sympathy for the cause. The current crop of leaders seem to have forgotten what Martin Luther King understood perfectly: violence doesn’t work. The violence will help Trump; the degree to which may be hard to determine. In politics, as in many areas of life, perception is more important than reality.

    1. Maybe add a sixth one; violence against people, perpetrated by both authorities and civilians? There are some horrific videos our there. Very dangerous times.

    2. Yes, “leaders [need] to condemn these acts outright.” But we should remember also that this is pretty much all that the leaders of protests can do. They can beseech their followers to use nonviolent methods, but they cannot control others on the scene.

  11. I completely agree with all of your major points Jerry and I’m not sure anyone could reasonably disagree with them.

    Echoing malkazoid up above, one detail I disagree with you on is that I don’t think that police or arrest reports out of MN (or any where at this stage) are reliable sources of information for attempting to identify what groups may be instigating the violence or for characterizing the degree of involvement of various groups.

  12. … can push moderates into a law-and-order right wing stance.

    Rightwingers’ love of law and order is nothing if not selective. It doesn’t extend to doffing masks, getting haircuts and manicures, or working their delts and pecs at the local gym in violation of social-distancing restrictions. It doesn’t extend to foregoing openly carrying semiautomatic rifles in state capitol buildings. It didn’t extend to the prohibition on grazing private herds on public lands or on occupying an Oregon wildlife refuge. It didn’t extend to the sale of illegal sawed-off shotguns or the refusal to respond to court summonses by Randy Weaver on Ruby Ridge. And it didn’t extend to David Koresh’s maintaining a massive weapons cache or boning underage girls in Waco.

    1. It’s sort of the flip side of right wingers’ disdain for government: they want a government “small enough to drown in a bathtub,” but they want it to have plenty of power to enforce those laws the right wingers deem important, such as stopping women from having abortions.

      Cherry-picking all around.

  13. Provocateurs don’t necessarily have to be from out-of-state.

    In fact, it’s better if they are local; they are harder to define as such that way.


  14. People have a right to peacefully demonstrate. When individuals escalate to rioting, regardless of the motives, it robs peaceful protestors of their right to demonstrate.

  15. I agree with pretty much all of your main points here. George Floyd’s killing was completely unconscionable. I’m glad that the cop who was the main perpetrator is in custody and charged, but I totally agree that the 3 other policemen, who were clearly aiding and abetting the crime, should also be arrested and charged. The demonstrations are completely supportable, they are the American way. The violence and looting aren’t supportable at all, and will be counter-productive, in giving arguments to white nationalists and the like. There have also been people injured and killed during some of these events–not helpful at all when the underlying issue is about a wrongful death (and I do agree and realize that this is about a lot more than George Floyd).There’s also a big worry about the large crowds in many cities leading, inevitably, to a big spike in COVID-19 cases in the near future.
    The biggest worry is about what gets the country out of our terrible situation. I’m definitely no authority on any of this, but we obviously need credible leadership, something Donald Trump is unable and unqualified to give. We need somebody, or a group of people, who all sides will listen to and trust. Maybe a commission, something like the Warren Commission (but this would be “during the fact, rather than “after the fact”), possibly including our ex-Presidents, but not he current one, and African-American representatives (as someone who’s white, I can’t say who). I really don’t know the answers, but hope some good ones will come fast.

  16. Thankfully I’ve been out of the loop since Floyd’s death. I can’t see how anyone could disagree with the points made here.

    That being said, all of this is reminiscent of being told my whole life that I will never know what it’s like to be a minority or female for that matter. If privileged progressive white males are told they cannot understand or help then that seems to be a broken starting point.

  17. The latest urban riots reflect, at least in part, a general malaise attributable to the pandemic and the resulting economic contraction. Other elements of malaise preceded this pandemic, including the rather weird cult around Donald Trump: evangelical Christians who espouse classic rural values worshiping a libertine, infantile wheeler-dealer from the Big Apple. [Incidentally, the just concluded festival of arson and looting in memory of George Floyd may assure a second presidential term for this charlatan.]

    However, the signs of malaise are world-wide. We see it in the revival of authoritarian nationalisms in unlikely places (e.g., Make Hungary Great Again); in the vast movement of emigrants trying to escape Africa, the MidEast, and Central Asia to get to Europe; in the convulsions of the Islamic word, with its endless, vicious civil wars; and in the growth of Islamist fanaticism, inflicting religious murders from the American continent to Manchester to the Philipines.

    In some cases, the psychological symptoms clearly relate to social and physical troubles: economic crises, drought and desertification, resource depletion, repeated pandemics spread by globalization, and so on.

    In his books “The Long Emergency” (2005) and “Too Much Magic” (2012), James Howard Kunstler argues that we have already reached the end of the 250-year-long industrial fiesta based on burning fossil fuels, and are at the beginning of the “Long Emergency”, in which matters will get much worse. If this view is correct—and these books are very persuasive, especially in the almost exact forecast of the 2008 economic down-turn made three years beforehand—then we must look forward to sporadic crises, more economic contraction, and much, much more malaise.

    As Mr. Kunstler put it in the first-named book above: “The Long Emergency is going to be a tremendous trauma for the human race. It is likely to entail political turbulence every bit as extreme as the economic conditions that prompt it. …The prospect will be so grim that some individuals and perhaps even groups (as in nations) may develop all the symptoms of suicidal depression.”

    1. Jesus. What a depressing, defeatist world view. But “malaise” is the right word.

      I think I need more duckling reports or I may have to start drinking.

        1. I recently picked up a bottle of Redemption wheated bourbon. Bought it solely on the advertised 94 rating by Wine Enthusiast. I’d never seen a bourbon (or anything) rated that highly. And it only cost about $42.00 (on sale).

          No doubt about it after a few drinks, it is quite good.

      1. Kunstler’s outlook is tough, but it is not defeatist. Read the books, including his novels (like “World Made by Hand”).

        They foresees a different world on the other side of the “Long Emergency”. It is not one in which video magic saves the day for a continuation of the happy motoring suburbia with food shipped to the shopping mall from China. It is instead a return to
        a decentralized, localized social economy, heavily agricultural, dependent on home-made mechanical and craft work, and on water-power and water transport. In short, it is rather like a return to life in the Hudson Valley in the early 19th century.

        1. Maybe I will (I’ve got quite a pile already though). I will say that I think one could fill a substantial library with books from over the decades (centuries even) that made bold, tough, persuasive predictions about the fate of humanity and society. Almost all of them turned out to be flat wrong, but you’d have one hell of a library.

    2. Many so-called experts in various fields have made predictions that have turned out to be embarrassingly wrong. We’ll see how Mr. Kunstler’s work out. But, the meme that the world has never been better will not be heard in the foreseeable future. People tend to view trends as destiny as I’ve heard George Will say. In other words, the situations for individuals and societies can change in a flash. The collapse of great empires surprise the casual observers. Only a relative few were able to see what was going on under the surface. Thus, the monarchies of Louis XIV and Nicholas II came crashing down in a period of a few short years. We may be witnessing a similar phenomenon on a worldwide scale. But, then again, maybe not. As I’ve said, predicting is a tough business

  18. I am unsure how the police can stop looting and riots without using force. And there is no pretty way to use force if the perpetrator resists. And any mistake by the police (they are human beings and therefore fallible) will be inevitably photographed and the cop fired or worse. The end result, I think, will be de-policing where race sensitivity is high.

    1. There’s another possible end result. Just maybe, in jurisdictions where police have a history of abuse of power, governments will act to re-organize the police with the goal of emphasizing service instead of warfare. Police unions need to be defanged in cities like Minneapolis. Police culture needs to eliminate the blue wall of silence that protects offending officers. Only then can public confidence increase to where citizens feel protected instead of threatened when they see a blinking light in their rear view mirror.

      I’d like to think this will happen but I don’t have much confidence that it will.

        1. Even if he were right, the “Rodney King maxim” I adopted as a teenager applies: you don’t keep hitting on a guy that is already down. (Or equivalent.)

  19. My prediction, for what it’s worth – I don’t think the riots will help or hurt Trump, specifically, but I do think they will help the Republican party in general. I think Trump is in a related but different orbit than the rest of the Republican party and his base seems to remain almost totally consistent over time. I doubt the riots (or seemingly anything) will change that much one way or the other. I think this will benefit people like Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan if he ever reemerges, however – more soft spoken types who appeal more to moderates. I think if there’s a shift, it will be to the center-Right. If people want security, it’s not going to be on offer from the Left, so while I don’t see moderates swinging far Right, I can see a shift to the center.

    1. That is my thinking too. The riots could ensure a Republican Congress. I wish the media could do a better job of separating the unacceptable riots from the legitimate rights of peaceful protestors. I have heard too much conflation. Here in Seattle I’ve seen some protestors excusing the actions of the criminals while not participating themselves. That is not helpful. Fortunately, there are some protest leaders who have spoken strongly against the looting and riots.

    2. Paul Ryan’s reemerging from his undisclosed location is something for which one doesn’t encounter much enthusiasm.

      Wherever he’s gone to hang his head in shame, he should stay.

  20. If I can risk an observation… It sems that many people who missed-out on higher education, or lacked informative parents, come to believe that the police are The Law, and can put you in jail for years. Whatever the reason for George Floyd’s arrest, if he had known that any passing lawyer could have got him released quite quickly, he would not have struggled. To tesist arrest is a criminal offence. People need to be educated to understand that the police can only take you before a judge, and there you have a very good chance of being set free.

    1. Yes, but today if you’re black, irrespective of what you have or haven’t done, the trick is staying alive long enough to see the judge. That’s why the country is aflame.

    2. Given the evidence so far, numerous videos of the incident, I don’t think it is reasonable to assume that that if Floyd had not resisted things would have gone differently. In fact going by all evidence so far the claim that he resisted seems to be anywhere from largely bullshit to 100% bullshit.

      Regardless of the degree to which Floyd may have resisted arrest at some earlier point how much of a challenge could he have been for 3 trained officers who had him on the ground, immobile, with his hands cuffed behind his back? For approximately 9 or ten minutes? More than 2 of which he was non-responsive?

      Furthermore, the justice system in many places in the US doesn’t work for people like Floyd and anyone like him would be an idiot to assume it would in any particular encounter. And it is highly unlikely he could have retained a lawyer, though the state would at some point appoint a public defender, for whatever that might be worth. I really do not intend to be disrespectful at all but I don’t know any other way to say it. Your last sentence is remarkably naive and condescending as hell.

    3. True or not, it was reported that George Floyd had been in prison in Texas, I believe it was. Can’t remember the offense. But I’m fairly certain that he encountered the ways of the law up front and personal.

      On another note, of the black men I have known, or known of, virtually all have had their potential danger at the hands of the police iterated and reiterated to them. I’m fairly sure it’s deeply imbedded in their subconciences. Males with whatever shade of brown skin, whether they be Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Islanders, etc. also are targeted. I personally know of many situations in which Hispanic men have been harassed, arrested and treated differently than their white counterparts would have been. And, I was just told today that a Marshallese young man was killed by a police officer in Texas during the recent protesting, destroying/looting. I have no idea yet what they thought he did. Even males who are partly black face the same dangers and must learn to be ever so much more careful than their white counterparts.

      Change is long overdue, but I absolutely hate the destruction and looting which detracts from the the primary goal of bringing about equality and justice for all.

  21. “People have pointed out to me that some of the violence was committed by white people, not African-Americans. My response: I don’t care what color they were. After all, whites like me can sympathize with the cause, decry Floyd’s death, and demonstrate. I am decrying violence in general here, not violence committed by African-Americans. The tapes I’ve seen certainly show that people of both races were involved in both the demonstrations and the attendant violence and vandalism.”

    There are a number of points you made that I might comment on, which doesn’t mean that I necessarily disagree with your remarks, but I do disagree with your remarks above because I find them confusing. When you say ‘some of the violence was committed by white people,” I think you must be referring to those sympathizing with the protestors, not the white supremacists and antifa who inserted themselves into the demonstration precisely to foment violence. That’s, shall I say, a horse of a different color. As for sympathetic whites involved in violence and vandalism, I think it does make a big difference because blacks will be blamed for the injuries and damage. Don’t black people have enough problems and don’t need overzealous white “allies” co-opting demonstrations because they want to “help.” Help fuck things up is what happens; and blacks get blamed.

    An emblematic instance of this was recently caught on video and I hope it goes viral. A black woman observed two white girls defacing a building by spray painting “Black Lives Matter” on a wall. She confronted them and these little, woke whippersnappers had the audacity to argue with her then strut off and blame their vandalism on black people by telling the black woman that a black person told them to do it.” Like they’re just dippy dupes. I doubt that they were antifa, but rather “allies,” but that’s no excuse.

    Who needs “allies” like these? Those two are the flip side of the Central Park Karens and the Barbecue Beckys. Who the F* to they think they are? There is a significant problem these days with some (too many) white women weaponizing the fact that they are white women in order to police black people or ventriloquize them. I guess they’re just trying to catch up to their male counterparts.

    The black woman reamed them good and her point was not just: do not do that but when you do, blacks are blamed. She was passionate, not vicious. She said that the demonstration was supposed to be peaceful, and they were ruining it.

    Yes, it does matter who’s instigating and perpetrating the wrongdoing, that goes for any situation like this though in the larger abstract sense, you are correct.

    1. I don’t quite understand what you’re getting at. Are you saying that white people should not demonstrate at all because if there is violence that will all be blamed on blacks?
      It’s clear that both blacks and whites engaged in the vandalism and looting as far as I can see from the videos. Is it MORE WRONG for white people to do that?

      It would be helpful if you say what, exactly, you want white people to do in this case.

    2. Sounds like the two white girls were perfect allies, a PoC told them to do something and they did it immediately and without question, which in the language of the Woke is what an ally is.

      And in any case, it’s only looting if a White Person(tm) does it, if a PoC does it, it’s ‘collecting reparations’.

        1. No, but I’ve encountered people who have held the kinds of views I mentioned. My own, America needs to fix it’s police system, but also needs to do something about the ‘Social Justice Movement’, there can be no lasting peace without compromise.

          ‘No Compromise, No Surrender’ is a great slogan, but a terrible policy.

          1. “‘No Compromise, No Surrender’ is a great slogan, but a terrible policy.”

            That depends entirely on what the question is.

            “Sure, Mr. Dahmer, you want to cut me up for dinner and put my head in the freezer. Let’s compromise. Just cut off my arms and legs.”

            Why should any citizen compromise his/her equal rights as a citizen? Would you?

            1. My son and I have been discussing the behaviors of some of our citizenry in re their “”rights” and “freedoms”. For example,
              the right not to wear a mask to prevent one potentially infecting a fellow human being if the non-mask wearer coughs, sneezes or talks too loudly when out in public in a grocery store or wherever. What more concerns me is the “right” of religious people to congregate in large groups in church, then go back out into the public. If one or more of them had Covid-19 (as has happened in some churches) they may infect people who are not members of their congregation. Their so-called rights should not infringe on my right to life or any other person’s.

  22. Trump’s poll numbers are currently 10 points below Biden’s. A silver lining?

    I have no idea what will happen if these riots continue for weeks on end, but at the moment they’re not doing Trump any favors.

    And unlike 1968, where the unrest happened during a Democratic administration, the American carnage of 2020 occurred on Trump’s watch, and he has yet again demonstrated his failure of leadership to the entire country. His handling of Covid-19 was already disgraceful; now he has disgraced himself yet again.

    To many voters, Biden has gained appeal by looking like a calm, elder statesman and a veteran of the Obama administration. Voters prefer stability, and Biden looks far more stable and reassuring than a loose-cannon, inflammatory figure like Trump. And because Biden is already known as a moderate, Trump cannot paint him as any sort of radical.

    So there is some hope yet. But who know what the next few days will bring? Only a madman can predict the future of 2020.

  23. In 2018, Washington State passed initiative-940 to regulate deadly force used by the police and to be able to hold them accountable. This went to a vote of the citizens and passed. There was some language in the initial document that was thought to need change and a subsequent amendment was passed in 2019 unanimously by the Washington legislature and signed into law by Governor Inslee.

    Purportedly, this is the only state with a law of this kind. I haven’t read the law so don’t know if it would be a good model for other states, but it might be worth consideration.

  24. I hope you’ll forgive me for adding another item or two.

    Although there were awful events captured and excessively focussed on by the media, there were some good moments too that they captured and showed. So many people of great diversity kneeling together in front of the capitol in Minneapolis. A police officer wearing a shirt identifying him as police but, not wearing all his gear, walking and talking with protesters. A police officer who caused another police officer to get up off a person he had on the ground. There’s more that I can’t think of right now and, no doubt, much more I missed. I would so much like to focus on the more positive behaviors of people in situations that make many do terrible things.

    I live in Oregon. Yesterday I was driving back roads (for the beautiful scenery) from south of Salem to Vancouver in Washington, just across the river from Portland, Oregon. I drove through a number of small towns and in one of them, I saw one lone white male, wearing a mask, and holding a cardboard sign that said “I can’t breathe”. A person who cared enough to protest alone.

    Lastly, I think that the agenda described by Andrew Cuomo as items we should be striving to make our politicians give us is spot on and a good place to start pushing for action.

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