Glenn Loury: A Quillette piece and a Quillette podcast

Yesterday I featured a provocative blogginheads.tv discussion with Glenn Loury and John McWhorter, both of whom issued some opinions that would be condemned as racist if coming from white people.

But one opinion, which is not that controversial but does have its critics, is that the violence and looting accompanying the George Floyd protests should be loudly and unequivocally condemned. Some like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar don’t approve of the violence, but find it “understandable” in a way that comes close to excusing it. Others—some on this website—have said that the violent incidents are few and overplayed in a way that overshadows the peaceful protests. We should, they imply, simply ignore the violence. Others argue that all the looting and physical assaults were not committed by “real” protestors, but by white supremacists, Antifa-ites, or simply greedy people.  I don’t accept that claim.

Now I’m not sure how many incidents of violence or looting or arson really took place, but minimizing them as infrequent (which they may well be) misses an important point: even if they are few, they will be seized on by the Right and even by the Middle as a way to condemn the Black Lives Matter movement. Even worse, they could, as Glenn Loury says in the Quillette article below and the podcast below that (click on screenshots to hear both), move people into the “Vote for Trump” column.  Perhaps you’ll say that that should not be the way it is, but it happens to be the way it is, and sociological research supports that.

During the peaceful marches from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 or the lunchcounter sit-ins—forms of peaceful civil disobedience (that’s a redundancy) that had an enormous salutary effect on securing civil rights—I can’t remember a single incident of violence by those following Dr. King’s program. True, there was violence by other wings of the civil-rights movement, but it was the purely peaceful nature of the publicized protests, and the violent police response to them, that gave America a shove in the right direction. Even one or two instances of publicized protestor violence could have set that movement back a lot.

Perhaps you’ll say that the media simply shouldn’t be broadcasting the violent events. But they are, after all, news, and we know the media’s mantra of “If it bleeds, it leads.” In view of that, it seems to me, as it seems to Loury, that we need to condemn the violence at the same time we promote the cause of anti-racism and equality. You can do both, you know.  And you don’t have to go along with the “defund the police” movement, either—not until it becomes clear exactly what is meant by “defund.” So yes, I stand with the peaceful protestors of racism that are marching in America. But I condemn the violence, and I want to see what the protestors intend to do about radically changing the police.  I’ll give a few quotes from Loury below the screenshot:

(From Quillette): A worker cleans up the front of a damaged bank in the aftermath of rioting near the White House in Washington, D.C. on June 1st, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images.)

 

Loury, and I agree with this completely:

We have been here too many times before in recent years, and many of us have had quite enough. Crowds of angry Americans from every racial group and all walks of life have spilled into the streets, vociferously protesting this instance of racial injustice and police brutality. The protests are not merely the legitimate exercise of constitutional rights to assemble and to petition our government—they are essential for sustaining the moral health of our democracy. Protestors—the vast majority of whom have gathered peacefully to make their voices heard—render a vital public service with their insistent demands for change. Their anger is fully justified. Their impatience is entirely understandable. They must not be ignored.

But not all protests have been peaceful and not every protestor has behaved righteously. In cities across our country we have witnessed, often in real time, violent attacks on the police, looting of commercial outlets, and torching of the property of innocent bystanders. That is, some of the protests have descended into riots. This rioting is also contemptible, and it, too, demands our unreserved condemnation.

. . . To condemn the rioting—which I believe to be a moral and political imperative—is not at all the same thing as opposing the protests. Many observers have been reluctant to do the former because they wish to avoid the latter. I maintain that this is a grave mistake. On the contrary, sympathy for the protesters’ reform agenda would seem to require condemning the nefarious deeds of looters and arsonists. For the rioting plays right into the hands of those political forces that are least sympathetic to the interests of poor communities of color. Mark my words: The violence from these protests will, if it persists, provoke a vicious backlash. It will discourage people from viewing the plight of the minority poor with compassion and understanding.

. . . Americans are in a very dangerous situation now. We stand on the brink of a widespread epidemic of civil unrest whose ultimate consequences are difficult to reckon. All it may take is just one political assassination; one mistaken shot fired by a nervous, frightened young National Guardsman confronting a raucous mob; one enraged immigrant shopkeeper who guns down a black youngster trying to loot his store; for all hell to break loose. The dry tinder lies at hand, needing only a spark to start a conflagration. There are opportunists in our midst who would hope this might be so. Which is why I insist that progressive intellectuals who make excuses for street violence, even in the face of the awful killing of George Floyd, are making a monumental moral and political error.

 

***************

Below is a sixteen-minute Quillette podcast in which Loury is interviewed by Quillette editor Jonathan Kay (there’s an ad for Magic Spoon cereal in the middle). The topics are wide ranging, and overlap considerably with those on yesterday’s podcast. They include the “birding while black” incident in Central Park, and Loury (and McWhorter’s) conception of antiracism as a “religion”.

Loury once again strongly opposes big changes in police departments that would reduce their ability to fight crime, saying that that is imposing a system on people that “denudes them of protection from the police.” He said that the defunding doesn’t solve the problem of maintaining order, for the wealthy will simply hire their own police-equivalents, and others will take matters into their own hands—vigilante justice. As Loury says, “It’s madness.”

Loury discusses how antifa’s interests are orthogonal to those of black protestors, and that, as he argues above, looting and rioting “solve Trump’s reelection problem for him.” He’s not sure if the violence will be enough to push Trump to victory, but thinks, as do I, that it gives it a strong shove. In fact, despite Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic, his “strong man” stand on protestors seems to be a pivotal factor affecting his support.

As Loury notes, he held his nose and watched Tucker Carlson on FOX news, saying that Carlson showed an hourlong montage of black kids looting during the protests and mobs beating store owners with two by fours.  Without agreeing with this characterization, Loury says many Americans will be thinking, when they see these videos, that “this is barbarism”.  He says that many Americans simply don’t understand that “this is a conservative country.”

Finally, the discussion finishes off with Tom Cotton’s New York Times editorial calling for bringing the military into U.S. cities to monitor the protests and control any rioting. Loury mocks the NYT staff for opposing the editorial’s publication, claiming that they felt “personally unsafe” by its publication. Loury avers that the staffers were acting as if this were 1933 or 1938. And he mocks the 1619 project in passing.

Click to listen:

48 Comments

  1. Roo
    Posted June 10, 2020 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    It occurs to me that what we are seeing now – in terms of condoning violence, ‘cancellation witch-hunts’, extreme positions on almost every political topic, etc. – are probably the result of the fact that we have not had a moderate, publicly represented Right-center for awhile now. On television, in urban areas, in corporate culture, etc., I think liberals have almost been a victim of their own success. In comedy, in movies, on social media, in pop culture in general, there is just very little representation of moderate conservative points of view because for awhile now the country has been divided into “The far Right and everyone else”, especially in pop culture (you may have people who hold moderate conservative positions in private but they’re not really represented in pop culture). There has been a void in terms of a meaningful counterbalance.

    The analogy that continually comes to mind is that after the 70s we had the 80s – yuppies, “the only sin was not to win”, the war on crime, and so on. I cannot help but think we are headed back to that mindset within a decade. And I sincerely hope that people will learn from history so that we don’t set ourselves up to swing back and forth between extremes. I really think condoning violence, a big focus on minimizing policing, and excesses on the Left in terms of rhetoric only set the stage for a bigger backlash in the long run.

    That said, I suppose it’s also true that every generation has to learn certain lessons for themselves. It is possible that the young and idealistic simply will not be convinced that an anarchist utopia is not possible until they witness it firsthand (the same is often true of war – each new generation tends to eventually approach it with a naive and romantic attitude.) We learn the same hard lessons over and over again. As Andrew Sullivan often says “And the beat goes on.”

    • max blancke
      Posted June 10, 2020 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      Moderate right and centrist people are certainly out there, and in large numbers. But most of them are conflict-averse.

      Heck, I have always considered myself slightly left of center, but even I am very cautious about showing my political views in public.

      I have a red T-shirt that I bought years ago in the USSR. It has an Aeroflot logo, and a giant yellow hammer and sickle. I have never felt uncomfortable wearing it anywhere, except in the presence of my father-in-law (two years in a Chinese reeducation camp).
      I also have a bunch of shirts from my time in the military, many of which feature the US flag prominently. I would be very cautious about wearing one of those into town, unless I was armed. I don’t want to do that, so I find that it is just easier to avoid the wearing those off the property.

      This situation bothers me on a deep fundamental level, but I have a family and commitments. I also share my neighbor’s aversion to conflict.

      • GBJames
        Posted June 10, 2020 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

        I don’t wear “statement” apparel. Or I didn’t until ten+ years ago when I began wearing shirts/caps/pins with the atheist “A”. And I’ve had a Darwin fish on my car since 1985 or so. Rarely does anyone notice although I’ve gotten a half dozen “thumbs up” acknowledgments over the years. One Darwin fish was ripped off the car and once a very pissed off lady with Jesus on her car gave me the finger as she left a parking lot. 😉

        • max blancke
          Posted June 10, 2020 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

          I have always had a thing for souvenir t-shirts. I don’t wear them to make a particular statement, or at least not a political one. I don’t do bumper stickers, either. It is not really important to me that strangers know my affiliations.
          But I also have never considered that any message inferred from my T-shirts could get me attacked.

          Actually, there is one big exception. Right before I went to the USSR for student exchange, I had crewed a ship in NY for Opsail 86. My crew shirt had a big statue of Liberty on it, and I wore it a bunch in the USSR. But I never received or expected a negative comment.

          I think the big shift here is that although most of us hold political opinions, we at least know that those are opinions, based on our lifestyle, interests, and experiences. These days, there are a bunch of people, mostly on the left, who don’t recognize that they hold opinions. They believe fervently that they are the bearer of holy truths, and that anyone who disagrees with them is an evil blasphemer and heretic who must be destroyed.
          Or perhaps such views are also held on a large scale on the right as well, beyond the religious folks, but they have maybe had enough civics education to know that tolerance is essential to maintaining civilization.

          • Mark R.
            Posted June 10, 2020 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

            I once had a Taiwanese friend who gave me a souvenir Chinese military cap with a red star. I was naive, and didn’t really know its significance; I just thought it looked cool. Well, I was wearing it at work once (a Crown Books in San Jose, CA) and an elderly Chinese man began berating me. “Take that off” “We don’t wear those” and then a string of angry Chinese. I told him sorry, removed the cap and never wore it again. I told my friend about it, and he said, yeah, you probably shouldn’t wear that. Sheesh…thanks buddy! At least I learned a valuable lesson.

            • max blancke
              Posted June 10, 2020 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

              I have one of those as well. The whole outfit, actually.
              When I go to such places, I just can’t help myself. I also have several CCP porcelain pieces, including one of a cute child in a PLA uniform with a type 53 rifle.
              I have occasionally worn the clothing as pajamas, and one of my kids wore the whole ensemble one Halloween, accessorized with my “little red book”. He was very cute, going on about revolutionary struggle and the purging of counterrevolutionaries. It was an ironic performance, as my kids are fully immunized against Marxism in any form.

              But it is really sad that it is coming to this.

        • Mark R.
          Posted June 10, 2020 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

          In High School, I had a friend who would rip Jesus-fish off cars whenever he saw one. I think it was just to get a rise from his peers. I do have to say when I first saw him do it, I laughed hysterically. Teens!

          And if you’ll indulge another anecdote. One of my brother’s ex-girlfriends used to drive a car with a Jesus-fish. She was a secular Jew and I asked her “what’s with the ichthus?” She said she bought the car with it and didn’t remove it because she thought it would make others regard her as a “good” stand-up citizen (or something like that). I just shrugged…I still find it strange and disingenuous.

      • Roo
        Posted June 10, 2020 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

        I think you are likely right, although I do think that even moderately conservative views no longer have a public forum. (You would probably not, for example, feel self conscious wearing a public symbol associated with liberals.) It seems to me that this is a fairly recent shift, within the past two decades maybe. It used to be that the Left and Right balanced each other out. Now it seems as if the Right exists in its own orbit and the Left is therefore counterbalanced by Left centrists, which has led to an extremely fast movement on the Overton Window.

        I actually felt fairly similarly about the Right not that long ago, and assumed there would be a Leftward shift at some point. I think what took me by surprise was how fast it happened, however. It seems to me that the “Ever Rightward” shift was something of a post-911 phenomenon and picked up steam over a couple of decades. Of course things were trending Left in some places, such as the Occupy movement – but the swing leftward in terms of public forums and opinion was so abrupt it definitely surprised me. Perhaps that’s representative of how conservatives (who are, by definition, usually change averse,) move vs. liberals (slowly vs. quickly), or perhaps new phenomenon like social media and Covid played a big role.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted June 10, 2020 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

        I have some t-shirts with flags on them, too(though not of military origin).

        I’m to the left of you, Max, and I don’t necessarily wear them as an overt statement. But I wear them without hesitation; I’ll be damned if I’ll let the Far Right claim Old Glory — or the mantle of “patriot” — as some private talisman of their own.

        • GBJames
          Posted June 10, 2020 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

          I’ve been flying an American flag on my house for decades for this exact reason. I refuse to allow the right wing types own this symbol. (Just to confuse them, I pair the flag with other flags from around the world. Cheap thrills, I know.)

        • max blancke
          Posted June 10, 2020 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

          I wholeheartedly agree that the US flag should not be appropriated by any particular group, except for Americans, as a symbol of unity.

          I don’t think it really is being appropriated, so much as an enemy is being manufactured. There are not nearly enough actual far right lunatics to meet current demands, so regular people are being lumped in with them.
          In the little town we go to for gas and groceries (about 60 miles away), a deranged leftist shot a guy in the head because there had been rumors that someone with a similar vehicle had been aggressing protesters. But it was just a guy traveling through town on the way to somewhere else, who stopped to get something to eat.
          If there are alt-right people around here, I have never seen them.

          • GBJames
            Posted June 11, 2020 at 7:40 am | Permalink

            Your story about the “deranged leftist” brings these invasions of Antifa busses to mind.

            • Max Blancke
              Posted June 11, 2020 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

              I don’t know what else to call him. He is certainly a leftist, and was participating in the current protest.
              I say “deranged” because he shot a complete stranger who was literally passing by. He is (or was) a lawyer.

              Derangement, as I understand it, is a condition in which somebody is unable to behave and think normally, especially because of mental illness.

  2. GBJames
    Posted June 10, 2020 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Sub

  3. Historian
    Posted June 10, 2020 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    In the political sphere, everyone is now playing pundit – speculating on what effects the violence will have on the coming election. Has Trump been handed a gift by the looting that took place during the demonstrations? Will fence-sitting voters associate the looters with the overwhelming number of non-violent protestors and perhaps ending up voting for Trump? The answer is that we don’t know and may takes months, perhaps never, to get the answer. But, certainly, the potential exists for Trump to be helped. Longtime Democratic strategist Ruy Teixeira is worried about a white backlash and urges Democratic politicians to forthrightly condemn it. Yet, the backlash has yet to show up in the polls. Indeed, Trump is in his worst position in a long time, perhaps in his entire presidency. The latest FiveThirtyEight aggregation of polls show that Trump is a negative 13.8% in his approval rate while most of the time it was only at 10%.

    What is being overlooked in this discussion is that there has been a big shift away from Trump among seniors. Teixeira notes: “As has been widely noted, Biden has greatly benefited from the movement of seniors, around 24 percent of 2016 voters, away from Trump and into the Democratic camp. Based on States of Change and Nationscape data, this movement has been a massive shift from 2016 of 21 margin points. The great majority of this group is white, comprising 20 percent of all voters, and they have had a similarly sized shift toward the Democrats since 2016.” So, will these old white folks return to Trump because of the violence? Again, that is unknown.

    Of course, the violence of the looters must be condemned for both moral and political reasons as noted in the post. We know that Trump will use the violence to portray himself as the law and order candidate. What is unknown is whether the tactic will work.

    https://fivethirtyeight.com/

    https://thedemocraticstrategist.org/2020/06/teixeira-should-or-should-we-not-be-worried-about-backlash/

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted June 10, 2020 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      Trump is in his worst position in a long time, perhaps in his entire presidency.

      That’s what a triple crisis will do. Some of us here had been warning that, as bad as Trump has been during his first three years in office, he hadn’t actually been tested by a legit national crisis yet, the way nearly every president to serve a full four-year term almost invariably will be. Little did we know that in his (let us hope) final year, he’d hit the crises trifecta — one health, one economic, and one of widespread civil unrest, and manage to botch ’em all simultaneously.

      • Posted June 10, 2020 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

        Not only did he botch the trifecta, arguments can be made that he helped create all of them. Obviously, he didn’t create COVID-19 but a lot of the negatives of the pandemic would have been much reduced by a stronger response from the feds and real leadership. The response at the local and state level has been pretty weak as well and a lot of that is Trump’s doing, or lack of doing. Trump can’t fairly claim that he’s responsible for the economy but not for the pandemic. It’s traditional to blame the incumbent for whatever happens on his/her watch. He will try, of course.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted June 10, 2020 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

          What I’ve found amusing is watching Trump and his enablers ache with longing throughout the chaos of these protests – they SO want to be able to say ‘this is what you’ll get under the Democrats’, they SO want to be in opposition, so they can slam whoever’s responsible for the current tumult in America…it’s very funny.
          It’s what happens when you put people who’ve only ever complained and criticised in positions of ostensible responsibility. Trump’s camp just wants to revert to the outsiderism of 2016, that’s all they know and you can hear it in everything they say. But they can’t.
          It’s like watching a school bully in detention stare longingly at the hem of a nerd’s underpants.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted June 10, 2020 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

            It’s risible the way congressional Republicans, every time Trump does or says and tweets something really stupid, all of a sudden have blinders on and claim to know nothing of it.

            If Barack Obama had done any one of a dozen things Trump does every day, these same congressional Republicans would be screaming for his impeachment. Imagine if Obama had claimed that his powers under Article 2 were absolute, or had thumbed his nose at congressional subpoenas, or had solicited campaign assistance from a foreign power, or had had peaceful right-wing protesters run out of Lafayette Park with teargas and flash-band grenades so he could have a photo-op brandishing a bible.

            Forget about impeachment; credible death threats would have come pouring in.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted June 10, 2020 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

              Here’re some examples of the typical congressional Republican dodge:

              • GBJames
                Posted June 10, 2020 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

                The Lincoln Project is doing some amazing ads!

        • darrelle
          Posted June 10, 2020 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

          The damages Trump and his administration have been continuously inflicting from day 1 have become more visible to the general public under the stress of this trifecta of crises.

          So many people have argued that Trump isn’t really causing that much damage. What they typically mean is that he hasn’t gotten us involved in any wars or “foreign adventures” like most other presidents. While that type of damage is certainly bad, decimating, demolishing and suborning our government institutions is also damaging.

          The more stress is applied the more apparent the damages become. Biden, or whoever, has their work cut out for them merely to reconstitute the basic structure of the federal government.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 10, 2020 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    I can’t remember a single incident of violence by those following Dr. King’s program.

    On March 28, 1968, Dr. King held a march in support of the Memphis sanitation workers strikes (a strike called after two sanitation workers were crushed to death in a trash compactor.) That march had to be foreshortened when violence broke out (sparked in part by a Black Power group known as “The Invaders” having joined in). One person was killed, 50 injured, and over a hundred arrested.

    This is what caused Martin to rescheduled the march in support of the Memphis sanitation workers strike for early April 1968. He returned to Memphis on April 3rd and gave his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” Speech. Checked into Room 306 of the Lorainne Motel on April 4th. Stepped out on the balcony for some fresh air, and … aw, fuggit, I can’t bring myself to recount those details again.

  5. JohnE
    Posted June 10, 2020 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately, we’re seeing the same sort of tribalism that prevents solutions to so many problems. I’m speaking of the idea that you can’t be a “true” progressive or conservative if you’re willing to concede that your side has any fault or blame in any matter. This mentality blocks people from finding common ground. The killing of George Floyd was unequivocally wrong and should rightly be condemned. The looting and burning of a Target store was equally wrong and should rightly be condemned (saying the looters had good reasons to be angry about police brutality in no conceivable way excuses it). Yes, one can certainly say that murder is far worse than property damage; but saying that the one crime is worse than the other in this instance is not an argument that justifies the other.

    As a lawyer, I have learned that in order to reach a reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement in any case, you need to understand and admit the weaknesses in your own case — including whatever degree of fault your own client might have. Doing that conveys a sense that you have a grasp on reality, and that you want to work honestly and sincerely toward a solution. I wish more people understood this.

    • Posted June 10, 2020 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      I wish more people HAD a clear grasp on reality and WANTED to work honestly and sincerely toward solutions. Or that those who meet those criteria would be loud enough to down out the idiots.

  6. EdwardM
    Posted June 10, 2020 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    One could make the argument that a big reason why we’ve made so little progress in police reform even though these incidents and protests keep happening – decades now- is because the violence they provoke prevents progress. People are complaining that nothing has worked – I would say it has worked. Every time. It’s time to try something different. It’s been done before. It works.

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 10, 2020 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    In person, on his podcasts (especially those for his bloggingheads show), Glenn Loury can be cranky and contrarian. (Don’t get me wrong; I get a kick outta watching him, but I think the description is accurate.)

    On the page, however, especially in this instance, he is clear and forceful and damn-near impossible to disagree with.

  8. Curtis
    Posted June 10, 2020 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    In my opinion Floyd and similar deaths occur because of two causes:
    1) The police are too likely use excessive force against any person regardless of their race.
    2) Some police are racist and their violence is more frequently directed at minorities.

    We need to acknowledge and tackle both problems.

    • EdwardM
      Posted June 10, 2020 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      We can start by holding them accountable.

    • Posted June 10, 2020 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      Agree.

    • Mark R.
      Posted June 10, 2020 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      I also wonder how many police officers who use excessive force are ex-military. Most police departments have a high percentage of ex-military in their ranks. I’m not disparaging veterans, but it’s a fact that their original training is not to “serve and protect”. Once that training is instilled, I would think it hard to deprogram. I also would add that the ever increasing militarization of the police doesn’t help in mitigating military style training. I guess it’s a question to ask the google, but I also know that data on police violence and the officers who commit said violence are scarce at best and unreliable at worst.

      • GBJames
        Posted June 10, 2020 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

        I saw statistics recently (not sure how to re-find them now, sadly) that about 20% of police are ex-military who have served in Middle East conflicts and that their rate of abuse complaints is roughly twice the non-vets.

        • Mark R.
          Posted June 10, 2020 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

          Interesting and not surprising. And I doubt that the police departments test for PTSD.

          • Posted June 13, 2020 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

            You’d think that would be part of the routine. But then we already know that mental health matters are not handled well by police in many places …

      • Curtis
        Posted June 10, 2020 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

        I have actually heard the opposite. Soldiers are better trained and taught to deescalate (and risk their lives) in in urban situations. This is complicated by the fact that some vets have psychological issues from their time in action.

        This article seems indicate the data is inconclusive of whether they are more or less likely to use force.

        https://www.themarshallproject.org/2017/03/30/when-warriors-put-on-the-badge

  9. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 10, 2020 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Magic Spoon cereal, really? I haven’t witnessed anything that embarrassing since I went to see the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium in the early Seventies and watched some of the finest musicians in the nation having to hawk white bread during their breaks.

    I wasn’t a huge country fan, especially back in those days, but the musicianship on display there impressed the hell outta me — the equal, I remember thinking, of jazz greats like Miles and Dizzy and Coltrane. Like to see someone try to get those cats to move merchandise during their breaks, I thought.

    I was struck by a similar feeling hearing this fella Jonathan Kay pushing crappy frosted flakes in the middle of a podcast with Glenn Loury.

  10. Posted June 10, 2020 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    An issue Jerry raises goes to the heart of much of the debate surrounding recent events, including the NTY op-ed controversy. Jerry writes: “Others—some on this website—have said that the violent incidents are few and overplayed in a way that overshadows the peaceful protests. We should, they imply, simply ignore the violence.” On this issue, Jerry essentially throws up his hands: “Now I’m not sure how many incidents of violence or looting or arson really took place…” Of course, the extent and intensity of the violence, looting, arson is a question that should be readily answered by…journalists. Journalists on the ground should be chronicling the violence in a thorough and objective way (as they did in the 1992 LA riots, for example). Let others debate whether that violence is “justified” or not, but journalists should be able to roughly document, say, the number of businesses looted and the extent of the looting; the number of buildings burned; how much infrastructure has been destroyed; the number of people beaten by mobs and by police, the extent of their injuries, etc, etc. On these questions, local TV news has done a far better job than the national outlets–largely because, I think, local news is more interested in sensational film than in armchair analysis and advocacy (“if it bleeds, it leads” may be a better guide to good journalism than the chin-stoking of The Grey Lady or the bloviating of Sean Hannity). For what it’s worth, from what I’ve seen from live streaming last week by the local LA stations, the looting, violence, and destruction has been on a very large scale (every morning the news helicopters surveyed the blocks damaged the previous night, for instance–viewers could see the extent of destruction and draw their own conclusions). To video from local news stations can be added data about insurance investigations and claims, police reports, and emergency room visits; 9-1-1 calls; EMT calls, etc. etc. to give a fairly clear if still incomplete picture. From that picture, a fair-minded person could conclude that the violence was minimal or that it was on a scale that (for instance) Tom Cotton averred. Of course, even once that question is answered, reasonable people can differ about how to analyze events and what policies should be pursued.

  11. Filippo
    Posted June 10, 2020 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    sub

  12. Posted June 10, 2020 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps if they added Gandhi and Biko to Netflix and other movie channels, people would get a better understanding of peaceful protests.

  13. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted June 10, 2020 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    The problem here is we are right slap bang in the middle of the cultural moment and it’s messy.

    Looking back in time you can impose an order on events that just wasn’t there. You can look back at the civil rights era and it seems qualitatively different from today’s protests. But to do so you have to erase the black panthers and other militant groups, Malcolm X, etc, far-left white militants. They existed just as much as the violent elements in today’s protests.

    I’m sceptical of the idea that past protests can be differentiated so markedly from today’s protests. In fifty years’ time who knows how the narrative around these protests will have been cleaned up by the cultural gestalt? Nothing is ever quite that tidy.

    I agree, of course, that the violence is bad, full stop. Nothing much else to say about that.

    Also, it must be pretty shitty to be one of the decent police officers today. I was listening to Rick Wilson’s podcast and they were describing how hard some of the police at the protests have tried to make it clear that they’re not the bad guys; dancing, and joking and trying to ingratiate themselves with protesters in a faintly desperate way. Sometimes it works, sometimes it’s met with stony silence and flinty looks. It’s melancholy.

    • GBJames
      Posted June 10, 2020 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      I think you’re right, Saul. In any case, what’s going on now seems different than past similar movements. It seems way more successful, for one thing.

      If I published a newspaper and had to choose between these two editorial headlines, I know which one would be more informative:

      A) “Hundreds of thousands around the world protest police brutality for weeks. No end in sight. Public opinion shifting.”

      B) “Rioting and Looting breaks out at some protests. This is wrong.”

      • Posted June 10, 2020 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

        I think you’d be hard pressed to show that the peaceful protests of the Sixties, which led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and other laws that dismantled legal segregation, is “way LESS successful” than the Black Lives Matter movement, whose tangible consequences won’t be known for a while.

        If you want to make that case, I’ll be glad to hear it.

        • GBJames
          Posted June 10, 2020 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

          First, inserting the “way” into the conversation implies something I didn’t say.

          How do you measure success?

          One way is the size of the demonstrations. These dwarf those of the 60’s. (I was there, too!) Another is the duration of of nation-wide demonstrations. These have been going on for weeks without letup. Another way is the support for the demonstrations from the majority white population. These have been dominated by white people in community after community, in both small towns and in cities.

          You seem eager to write this all off as a bunch of woke yo-yo types throwing temper tantrums. And, as Saul pointed out, the 60’s were not a time of peaceful demonstrations and flowers. There were countless violent demonstrations, far worse than anything we’ve seen here.

          Finally, as the article I linked points out, “George Floyd protests have made police reform the consensus position”. That strikes me as progress.

          • tomh
            Posted June 10, 2020 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

            “Another way is the support for the demonstrations from the majority white population.”

            Along those lines, a Washington Post article today, Big majorities support protests over Floyd killing and say police need to change, highlights the Washington Post-Schar School poll that shows that more than 2 in 3 Americans (69 percent) say the killing of Floyd represents a broader problem within law enforcement. Overall, 74 percent of Americans say they support the protests, including 53 percent of Republicans.

            As far as the violence goes, when people were asked whom they blame the most when violence has occurred, 10 percent say protesters, 14 percent say police, and 66 percent blame “other people acting irresponsibly.”

            All in all, a big change from reactions six years ago when BLM was formed, after the Trayvon Martin killing.

  14. Posted June 10, 2020 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    In several recent WEIT web posts re protests over the murder of George Floyd, I have mentioned Washington Initiative 940 as a state action against police killings that provides for the option of holding police legally accountable.

    Last night, I read the following article that gives some background on how this came about:

    “https://www.newyorker.com/news/dispatch/a-seattle-activists-fight-to-keep-the-focus-on-police-abuse”

    I found this very interesting. Perhaps you will also.

    I apologize to all of you for not having more fully researched WA Initiative 940 before sharing it with you. There are a number of Wikipedia references, if you are interested and, which belatedly I will now read.

  15. Posted June 10, 2020 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    I’ve had a bunch of nebulous thoughts about
    more recent origins of our current racial problems that don’t go back to the 1600s. It seems to me that post WWII efforts by Republicans to cut social network spending, to control education, science, federal and state funding distribution, expression of studies, thoughts and statements may have (probably has) precipitated and morphed into the morass we currently find ourselves in.

    An example: When Ronald Reagan was governor of California, he shut down a lot of the services for mentally ill people which, I think, led to some of them living on the streets. Over time, more and more people with mental illness and/or addiction problems (not to mention the homeless and unemployed) were/are unable to find the help they need in CA. As the Ronald Reagan mentality (Republican) flourished in other states, they also suffer from increased levels of homelessness by the sick, the drug users, the unemployed.

    With reduction of funding for needed social programs, those functions got dumped on police forces which hadn’t the money or training to effectively deal with such issues. We’ve seen the result.

    Two other thoughts re education:

    1. The largest percentage of budgets for K thru 12 schools comes from local taxes in states. Students who live in areas with lower priced housing and lower wage earnings, receive less money for schools than students from the wealthier areas. There needs to be a way of equalizing funding and quality of schools for all.

    2. More and more of our educational and scientific endeavors post K – 12 are carried out with funding from the private sector and less from governmental sources. A great deal of money from corporations and the wealthy come with strings attached; areas that can’t be studied, things that can’t be said, things that must be said, products that are withheld, products that are made preferential.

    In addition: The Supreme Court decided that corporations are legally determined to be individuals for political purposes. More of their money can sway voting and elections in a way individual human beings cannot. The corporations and the wealthy have always had more clout (sometimes the only clout) in the U.S., but that seems to have become the norm. We have decisions affecting all members of our society decided by the wealthy few, the 1%, with the benefit derived by those few.

    As job options have gone overseas with the corporations, the job opportunities in the U.S. have significantly decreased and the pressure has been on for many years to keep wage scales low. Current generations have fewer jobs with benefits and can’t accumulate enough money to live through disasters or save for retirement.

    This doesn’t yet address lobbyists’ effects on decisions by Congress, pork barrel funding for special interests in states, funding based on corporation interests in a given state, and the impact on federal budgeting for the country as a whole, gerrymandering and other means of restricting voting rights (witness the snafu yesterday in Georgia: unconscionable.)

    Until Andrew Cuomo stated it recently a number of times in his Covid-19 addresses, I was unaware of how much money went into the federal pot from the wealthier states (NY, CA, etc.) relative to the “poorer” states (KY, FL, etc.) Many of these poorer states have chosen not to have social programs funded (at all, in some cases) at a level that will take care of the state populace.
    Look at the states that chose not to support so-called Obamacare by not having a state component. And, then they blame it on “blue” vs. “red” states.

    We all know that post-Civil War, the race issue was not resolved but that other techniques were used such as sharecropping, imprisonment providing slave labor, and restricting the rights of blacks to provide cheap or no-cost labor. We all know about the atrocities against blacks all over the country. The black exodus to the north made northern racism more noticeable, or expanded it. We all know about the silences maintained by most whites (until recently), but with racist thoughts and beliefs held silently or expressed only among one’s own family or group.

    Please forgive me for trying to express my muddled thoughts. I think my brain is ready to explode. And, my drug of choice, the chocolate I’m eating to ease the depression and anger, is no longer working.

  16. Tim Harris
    Posted June 11, 2020 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    I am very glad to see Rowena Kitchen’s thoughts. It does not seem to me to be stretching things to talk about violence not only when it takes an obvious form which concerned and well-meaning citizens can feel justified in getting exercised about, and about which people like Tucker Carlson can go on about mobs who are coming to get you, and Tom Cotton, when he is not writing supposedly respectable opinion-pieces for The New York Times about which we may have a quiet debate, can write such tweets as “Anarchy, rioting and looting needs to end tonight. If local law enforcement is overwhelmed and needs backup, let’s see how tough these Antifa terrorists are when they’re facing off with the 101st Airborne Division. We need to have zero tolerance for this destruction. And, if necessary, the 10th Mountain, 82nd Airborne, 1st Cav, 3rd Infantry—whatever it takes to restore order. No quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters.” I like the Oxford comma in the last sentence – a well-educated man, it seems.

    But then one thinks about the Flint water business, in which the poorest citizens were targeted, and in which those responsible got off scot-free. About zero-hours contracts, and those who are forced to work in meat-packing plants, or in Amazon warehouses, or in chicken-processing plants, where workers are made to wear diapers since they are not allowed to go to the lavatory. About the fact that no banker was stuck in gaol as a result of the last Wall Street crash, despite the fact that many of them were guilty of criminal activity which caused the immiseration of a great many others (but not for them). About the destruction of labour unions, and the destruction of social programmes. About Elon Musk re-opening his factory before the appointed time so that more COVID has been spread about, and getting away with it, it seems. There is an omni-present violence that, because it does not take so tangible a form as a riot, is largely ignored. About the extraordinary rate of incarceration in the USA, as well as in the UK – there’s a very Anglo-Saxon punitive tradition; Priti Patel wants to bring back the death penalty in Britain because of what she supposes is its deterrent effect, even if a few innocent people get topped, what does it matter, so long as it deters? It is not the police alone who need to be reformed,and I wonder about the concentration on this issue alone.


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