Is violence necessary for racial equality?

October 1, 2020 • 10:15 am

Reader Enrico called my attention to the New York Times article below, in which editorial-board member Farah Stockman reports that a lot of violence connected with social-justice demonstrations was done neither by black protestors nor by right-wing white supremacists trying to gin up incidents that would turn people towards Trump and away from the Left.  No, it was managed and carried out largely by a group of largely white “insurrectionary anarchists” operating in Portland, Seattle and Washington, D.C., who had somewhat unclear aims. The goal was to change society to eliminate its hierarchical nature, but beyond that the “utopia” wasn’t specified.

As Stockman notes:

That’s the thing about “insurrectionary anarchists.” They make fickle allies. If they help you get into power, they will try to oust you the following day, since power is what they are against. Many of them don’t even vote. They are experts at unraveling an old order but considerably less skilled at building a new one. That’s why, even after more than 100 days of protest in Portland, activists do not agree on a set of common policy goals.

Even some anarchists admit as much.

“We are not sure if the socialist, communist, democratic or even anarchist utopia is possible,” a voice on “The Ex-Worker” podcast intones. “Rather, some insurrectionary anarchists believe that the meaning of being an anarchist lies in the struggle itself and what that struggle reveals.”

In other words, it’s not really about George Floyd or Black lives, but insurrection for insurrection’s sake.

Well, read the article by clicking on the screenshot:


The motivations, actions, and philosophy of the anarchists were uncovered by photographer Jeremy Lee Quinn, who, while on furlough, discovered that a lot of the violence was being stage-managed by a group of white black-clad people wearing similar masks. He then masqueraded as one of them for four months, and discovered that their goals and methods, revealed on the fascinating website Crimethinc, involved inducing violence (rioting, looting, arson, etc.) that itself would provoke counterviolence by police. The counterviolence, in turn, would gin up sympathy to the goals of the peaceful protestors.  The anarchists thought that their actions advanced the cause of “racial justice,” and were successful in causing violence and getting away with it by hiding amidst the “peaceful, legitimate” protestors.

Quinn documents his association with the “black bloc” on his website Public Report.

What intrigued me about this article was Stockman’s suggestion that the violence actually helped achieve the aims of the peaceful protestors, and did so by frightening citizens into aiding and donating to organizations that used peaceful techniques (my emphases):

There’s an even thornier truth that few people seem to want to talk about: Anarchy got results.

Don’t get me wrong. My heart broke for the people in Minneapolis who lost buildings to arson and looting. Migizi, a Native American nonprofit in Minneapolis, raised more than $1 million to buy and renovate a place where Native American teenagers could learn about their culture — only to watch it go up in flames, alongside dozens of others, including a police station. It can take years to build a building — and only one night to burn it down.

And yet, I had to admit that the scale of destruction caught the media’s attention in a way that peaceful protests hadn’t. How many articles would I have written about a peaceful march? How many months would Mr. Quinn have spent investigating suburban moms kneeling? That’s on us.

While I feared that the looting and arson would derail the urgent demands for racial justice and bring condemnation, I was wrong, at least in the short term. Support for Black Lives Matter soared. Corporations opened their wallets. It was as if the nation rallied behind peaceful Black organizers after it saw the alternative, like whites who flocked to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after they got a glimpse of Malcolm X.

But as the protests continue, support has flagged. The percentage of people who say they support the Black Lives Matter movement has dropped from 67 percent in June to 55 percent, according to a recent Pew poll.

Well, I’d take issue with the claim that Martin Luther King’s cause was advanced significantly by people fearing the implicit violence of Black Muslims. What got King’s cause advanced was not only the force of his words, but his reliance on peaceful protest, gleaned from Gandhi, which met with police violence—clubbing, water hoses, and attack dogs. It was the sight of people in a just cause being brutalized by racists that finally got the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. There is nothing more moving than people being brutalized while advocating a clearly just cause, and doing it peacefully.

Still, violence was an important part of the mix, and King’s associates not only expected it but wanted it.  They knew the effect that Alabama cops and their nightsticks would have on the public when those clubs descended on the heads of people practicing both legal protest and peaceful civil disobedience—people simply asking for their rights.

One could thus assert that some kind of violence was a sine qua non for racial justice in the Sixties. We don’t know for sure, as this is not a controlled experiment, but it is plausible. It’s a bit less plausible, at least to me, that the riots, looting, and arson that accompanied the current demonstrations helped the causes espoused by Black Lives Matter (there are several parts of its platform).

The question, then, is whether violence is a key ingredient in advancing racial justice in America—whether the violence be by police or running-dog anarchists. And we don’t know the answer, though I suppose anecdotes can be advanced on either side. (Lynchings, for example, which horrified anti-racists, are also violence, while King’s March on Washington and “I have a dream” speech were neither civil disobedience or violence.)

One can look to other places, though this doesn’t answer the question about America. One might, for example, argue that violence wasn’t necessary to get India out from under the colonialist heel of Britain, even though some violence before the forties did advance the cause of Indian indepencence. (I refer to the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre of 1919, which involved British soldiers massacring unarmed and peaceful Indians.) But by the forties, no violence was really necessary for the Brits to quit India, for that egress was in the cards anyway. And the impetus, of course, was the nonviolence of Gandhi and his followers.

But India isn’t America, and perhaps the powers that be in the U.S. require a demonstration of brutality to gain people their rights. I don’t really think that’s the case, for, despite the Stonewall riots, I’m convinced that gay rights were inevitable, even without violence. And women gained their rights without much violence from the authorities, and with no violence from women.  As a pacifist, I reject violence by people as a valid means to moral progress except in drastic situations like wartime (World War II might be an example). But whether violence by authorities is required, well, that’s a different kettle of fish.

Weigh in below.


114 thoughts on “Is violence necessary for racial equality?

  1. Causing violence is rarely justified in advancing any cause. To protest peacefully knowing you will be subjected to violence is to make a sacrifice for a just cause. When you see mobs of people inducing violent encounters with law enforcement for the sole purpose of inflating the perception of police brutality, then I can only think this is extremely wrong headed despite the results.

    The fact of the matter is that racial justice has advanced significantly since the civil rights movement. Black men (and women) are still killed by police in numbers that are far too large. Police kill too many people. That’s a problem. Whites and other races are also routinely beaten and killed by police, but because black men are 7 times more likely than white men to have an encounter with police, the numbers seems skewed. That’s a different problem, and also one that needs to be solved.

    So basically, no. These people stirring up violence in the name of social justice are wrong. Put it in the context of micro-aggressions and that BS about the university professor that you posted yesterday and you can easily see that for some people no amount of easing the oppressive conditions will ever be enough. There is always a scab to pick and a hair to split. It follows the principle of prevalence induced concept change. It also at some point runs up against the principle of diminishing marginal returns.

  2. “but beyond that the “utopia” wasn’t specified.”

    It never is, since specifying something, creating something, building something up rather than tearing it down, would require them to grow up.

  3. I don’t think it is possible to make a general rule regarding whether violence can promote moral progress. For example, it took horrific violence to end slavery in the United States. Without the war, slavery would almost certainly lasted for decades longer and if eventually ended would probably have enshrined apartheid into national law. As another example, did the American Revolution justify violence? In my view each incident or situation needs to be examined on its own to determine if violence was justified. It is likely that no consensus would be reached.

    1. Yes, I think you are right. Also, there is a difference between the trheat of violence and real violence. I think it sometimes happens that people in power can sometimes be moved to change out of fear, whereas they would not change if they felt safe with the status quo.

    2. Yes, and I’m not so sure how often an analogy works between anti-colonialism and the advancement of individual rights on behalf of a nation’s own citizens. Gandhi’s methods worked in 1940s India and transferred well to the civil rights movement MLK led in the mid-20th century US south.

      But would Gandhian non-violent tactics have gotten the French out of Indochina or Algeria — or, as you allude, the British out of its North American colonies over a century and a half earlier?

  4. Quite a few of the major news networks keep insisting the the riots, or ‘protests’, are largely due to ‘far right racists’.

    Anybody with eyes and a brain can see that is false. It is predominantly far left agitators, anarchists, and anti-capitalist types.

    This doesn’t mean that far right goons have crawled out the woodwork from time to time, to engage in violence – they have.

    However, a good clue to who is indulging in violence, smashing up property, and intimidating people…is to see who the left are defending. They are constantly defending looters, violent ‘protests’, and mobs. They would **not** be defending this if it was actually far right thugs.

    We here a lot about gaslighting. Well, the analysis of them from the likes of CNN is a great example of gaslighting.

    1. I think you are the one pushing a false narrative. I have not at all heard major news networks claim that the violence is due to far right racists. They, like the public, wonder who exactly is doing the violence.

      If I had to guess it is a mixed bag. There are people who loot because they like breaking stuff and/or they want a new TV. There are some on the left that want to do violence to “the system”, their presumed oppressors. There are confrontation between right and left that escalate into violence. If someone is keeping score accurately, I would like to know their results but I’m not going to hold my breath for that.

      1. “I have not at all heard major news networks claim that the violence is due to far right racists.”

        Erm, I have. Nice attempt to gaslight me, though.

        And even in the “debate” the other night, Chris Wallace mentioned “white supremacy” in relation to riots and violence far more than any other group.

        “If someone is keeping score accurately, I would like to know their results but I’m not going to hold my breath for that.”

        Yes, I’d love to see that as well. But at the moment, judging from the mugshots from Portland, Seattle and other major cities, they don’t look like far right white supremacists…unless they’re all “undercover” and pretending to want to “smash capitalism” and they set fire to people’s properties, which was one theory I heard from a crank.

        1. “And even in the “debate” the other night, Chris Wallace mentioned “white supremacy” in relation to riots and violence far more than any other group.”

          I’m sure you would have been happier if Wallace had brought out the mostly non-existent Antifa, that organization which mostly exists in the minds of Trumpers and the housewives they try to scare.

          1. I have lived in the Portland metro area for 10 years, 6 of them in Portland proper. Antifa, anarchists, socialists, and communists all have had a proud, outspoken presence in the city. They don’t “barely exist” – they are prevalent. They have themed pubs, hold meetings in rental spaces, staple blood thirsty poetry to electrical poles in trendy neighborhoods, and graffiti any unprotected surface with their groups’ preferred symbols and slogans. They organize unabashedly on Twitter. I have been to protests where they show up. I have been stuck with watching their kids while their parents attend meetings in an adjacent venue (I was a volunteer at a toy library, and the DSA took advantage of my unpaid “women’s work”). Anyone who has spent longer than a weekend in Portland or Seattle can see this for themselves. Your comment is like telling someone who lives in the Middle East that camels are imaginary.

          2. Antifa have existed for a very long time and enacted an awful lot of violence. The claim that they are “just an idea” is awfully dis-ingenuous. They are just an idea in the same way that Al-Quaeda is. Actually, they are a more concrete formation than Al-Quaeda. The media’s capacity to deny the blatantly obvious, squirm around the issue and call black white is very dispiriting. The violence is obviously a product of deluded wannabe Guevarras and Antifa ,otherwise the media wouldn’t have put so much effort into pretending it wasn’t happening for so long before they tried blaming the police. The left wing media bubble is so impenetrable that Biden can still claim without pushback that Trump refused to condemn white supremacists after Charlottesville and called them good people despite the fact that he explicitly condemned them and limited his “good people on both sides” claim to the more moderate demonstrators. Biden may think he scored with his talking point, but Joe citizen is watching the radical left burn everything down and threaten lives while he hedges on the issue and tries to mitigate with Proud Boys talk while almost nobody is actually worried about the Proud Boys turning up at their doorstep or trashing their business. Proud Boys have a non-white leader by the way. Some white supremacists. Guess he’s a “porch monkey”, as the inclusive and tolerant are wont to say.

            1. You cast doubt on everything else you claim here by claiming that Trump has successfully explained his Charlottesville response. Everyone with a brain knows that Trump’s apologies and explanations are just him reading his advisers’ prepared statement and winking at his supporters the whole time. We all know where his heart lies. The Proud Boys tweeting their glee shows that their interpretation of Trump’s words differs greatly from yours.

              1. He doesn’t need to explain his response. HE WAS EXPLICIT in the very press conference that the media tried to spin to smear him as racist. He stated unequivocally at the time that he condemned white supremacy and that he excluded them from his “good people” comment. The media only show parts of his response that they can twist to their narrative. You are so deluded and caught up in your narrative and your confirmation bias it’s painful, not to mention incredibly frustrating. Mcenany was just asked again to “clarify” Trump’s opinion on white supremacy, and she replied with a whole list of quotes of Trump explicitly condemning racism and white supremacists, calling the KKK a domestic terrorist group. Went in one ear and out the other. “But can you clarify once and ….”. WTF have the Proud Boys got to do with white supremacy or racism? You discern imaginary dogwhistles from Trump on a hair trigger while certain other people have been inflaming violence with paranoia about black people being unsafe on the streets and their media friends are lying though their teeth about victims of the mob defending themselves. Every time Biden and co. parrot the knee-jerk response to a police shooting without waiting for the facts, which the media often fail to report if they don’t like them, they exacerbate the violence and get people killed. But let’s rather talk about those white supremacists who rarely ever appear.

              2. Your opinion is out of whack with most people including Republicans. The whole world, even the Russians, think Trump lost that debate and can’t find the character to condemn white supremacists.

                As far as the Proud Boys are concerned, if they aren’t white supremacists, what are they? Young overachievers? During the debate, Biden evidently thought they were white supremacists and Trump went along with it. The Proud Boys happy tweet following Trump’s shout out didn’t add, “Oh, by the way, we’re not white supremacists.” I guess they were ok with that label too.

                The derangement sits with you.

    2. Quite a few of the major news networks keep insisting the the riots, or ‘protests’, are largely due to ‘far right racists’.

      This characterization is very inaccurate.

  5. Violence is pretty deeply embedded in humanity as far back as we can find evidence for such things. I doubt the question of whether it is necessary or not is even answerable.

    1. I agree. And the embedding goes far deeper than in our human part, which is why it’s ineradicable IMO.

      1. . . . and no doubt rape is pretty deeply embedded in humanity as far back as we can find evidence for such things. But that doesn’t mean rape is desirable, or that society can’t take measures to significantly reduce the incidence of rape as well as bringing offenders to justice.

          1. The title of the post is “Is violence necessary for racial equality”?

            The empirical answer seems to be that violent protests by racial minorities or on behalf of racial minorities actually empower a right wing backlash.

            In other words, the question is answerable, and the apparent answer is that nonviolence is necessary if you want to persuade voters to support your cause. [Those in the wise understand that nonviolent protest is intended to provoke violence on the protesters, and thus true nonviolent protest, in contrast to LARPing, involves the redistribution of violence.]

            1. If the right had any brains (and they don’t), instead of sending these armed guys in camo, they would send in a bunch of nerds in glasses with American flags in to get chewed up by the thugs in black. In that case, the media could only suppress coverage, and it would leak anyway. A good nonviolent protest looks like a bully smashing the nerd’s head in for his lunch money. Even if they try to label the nerd as some scary white supremacist, its bad optics.

            2. Americans overwhelmingly support BLM according to polls.

              You seem to simultaneously think the BLM movement is full of violence and thuggery (“thugs” is one of today’s more popular racist terms of art) AND that non-violence is the best way to advance a cause. Pick a side.

              I didn’t argue that violence was preferable. That, however, doesn’t mean that “necessity” is an answerable question. As a determinist I’m not sure it is a meaningful question. How could we answer it? We know only history. Sometimes things have improved following violence and sometimes they haven’t. We don’t have the laboratory conditions to make the call.

  6. In a democratic society violence is never a valid means of promoting change or dialogue. If a group thinks that is the only way they can get their message across, then they are ignoring the fact that their message is being rejected by their fellow citizens. Too take BLM as an example, they claim that the “system” is oppressive, but their demands never have to do with political rights like freedom to speak or assemble. They want to tear it all down, which is what violence is good for, and which would have the effect of destroying everyone else’s freedom.

    1. Excellent post. Unless the system not really a functioning democracy….yes I agree with your analysis. Use the system and vote in the people that best represent your interests in you want to change things.

  7. Violence is an attention getter but does it accomplish a result that is even close to what is hoped for? Mostly it does not. Violence against protesters during the civil right period in America was more likely to cause change than if the violence had be the other direction. The violence against peaceful demonstration attracted the most attention.

    Today it is reform and retraining of the police that is needed so violent demonstration is not the way to reform. The light of day and video of police action is what gets attention.

    1. Now, if the question is, does intimidation get the job done, that seems to have far more success. The woke uses intimidation to get their way and silence the critics. No violence required. The Trump cult practices the same and intimidation keeps the clan in order and keeps the guy in power.

  8. The investigation posted by KD is of interest, and comports with my own memory of the 1960s. However, careful analysis of
    effects on voting behavior and public opinion misses an important element in the motivation behind the “black bloc” charades. One of the little magazines of this tendency a few years ago, of which I made a copy, was entitled “Black Clad Messenger”. So, quite openly revealed, we have the appeal of so-called “insurrectionary anarchism”: a fashion statement, like its counterpart among the offense hunters of the academic Left.

  9. As MLK pointed out, it is an end to POVERTY that is required for racial equality. As for whether or not violence (rioting) is necessary for an end to poverty? That’s up to those in charge.

    What we know from history and from human nature is that the masses will only allow economic inequality to go so far before they revolt in the streets. We are clearly getting close to that point now. If the capitalists don’t want a socialist or communist revolution they need to fix capitalism pronto. But there is no sign of that in sight which is why we are seeing violence in the streets. Violence is not necessary. The capitalists can smarten up. It’s up to them. Telling dirt poor people that “looting is wrong” won’t help. Only ending extreme economic inequality will help. Save the lip service unless it is aimed at ending extreme economic inequality.

      1. And they will stop when enough of us condemn violence in print?

        I think Lenin was also well fed. There is nothing anyone can say to stop revolutionary violence when economic inequity gets as ridiculous as it is currently is and when it is heading in the direction it is currently heading.

        Why do people against violent revolutions never notice that the only way to avoid them is to end human suffering due to extreme economic inequality.

        Is the argument that there is nothing wrong with the level of inequality that we have now? It’s not getting better. It’s going in the wrong direction. To turn a blind eye to this, and to instead condemn the violence in print as though that is some kind of solution seems not only futile but blind to reality.

        1. What do you mean when you say “We are clearly getting close to that point now”? Do you mean that violence we’re witnessing now (and talking about now) is to do with the oppressed rising up and taking control? Because that’s not with this is. This is privileged urban guerillas attaching themselves to a cause that nobody asked them to. Yeah, Lenin was well fed. Stalin too. Proles in the major grain producing regions of the Soviet Union in 1932-33, not so much.

        2. In fact yeah, you did say precisely that: “But there is no sign of that in sight which is why we are seeing violence in the streets.” And that’s why I wrote what I wrote.

          1. I’m not sure how you could miss that BLM and ANTIFA and the movements we are seeing are a continuation of Occupy Wall St. BLM has marxist affiliations and demands. This is not just a bunch of spoiled wokesters acting out. These are the early warning signs. Ignore them or dismiss them at your peril.

            You haven’t addressed the recent massive growth in extreme inequality. You are ignoring that part of the argument like it’s not even there. Do you not think it’s a problem? Completely unrelated?

            Do you really think condemning this violence in print will end this violence? If not what else? Pepper spray? Trumps thugs? What’s your answer besides uttering the signal virtuing platitude that “violence is wrong.”

            1. I don’t disagree that poverty is a problem. I don’t disagree that the widening gulf between the richest and the poorest is the problem. Let me explain, a bit more clearly perhaps, where I disagree.

              These protests, while they may be an extension of occupy Wall Street, are not addressing the same ills. Occupy was aimed at vulture capitalists who were deliberately betting against the economy so they could make a fortune while ordinary people suffered. The result of deregulation. Capitalism has problem, that’s why it needs regulation. Everyone has a stake in this, not just racial minorities.

              These anarchists do not have a vision for the future except for a nebulous idea of equality for all, which they admit is probably not achievable. It’s very typical of the Marxist notion of continuous revolution.

              Marxism doesn’t work. Every time it’s been tried it has been a catastrophe. It always centralizes power instead of distributing it. Do I have to give examples? Are there any examples where it has improved people’s lives? No. China? They probably think their lives are better. They’ve been taught not to have uncomfortable thoughts.

              Marxism ultimately fails because it expects people to behave with something other than self interest. Capitalism works to some extent because it recognizes that self interest is what drives human beings. Its ills are tempered by regulation.

              None of that has anything to do with black people being killed by police, except that black people on the whole are poorer and forced to live in areas where there is high crime. That’s a problem that needs to be solved, but the root problem with police killing black people is police having too many deadly encounters full stop. The police act like military, and often are issued military equipment.

              If blacks were rising up and through violence taking control from their white oppressors, that would be one thing. It is another when rich tofu eating white kids get involved because they feel that change isn’t happening quickly enough to assuage their sense of guilt and beyond-argument conception of what an ideal world looks like (on which they don’t even agree). When black community leaders wish these thugs would go home, I think we ought to pay attention to that. They get to play warrior for a while and then go back to a comfortable life. The risks they are taking are not tremendous. The damage they are inflicting is.

              1. “Capitalism has problem, that’s why it needs regulation.”

                It’s about time you and others realized that the regulation you call for has been blocked time and time again by capitalists. Capitalism doesn’t work because it is in the best interest of capitalists to see to it that the regulation you think will fix it never happens.

                “Marxism doesn’t work.”

                Correct, but violence and Marxism is what you are going to get if you continue to think capitalism IS working and you continue to pretend that Marxism is the only alternative.

                “Capitalism works to some extent”

                Wrong. Hidden in your “to some extent” is the fact that the fixes you think will fix capitalism are all blocked by capitalism. We live on the brink of nuclear armageddon and climate disaster that could cost billions of lives if not the extinction of the human race. And you call this “working to some extent.”


              2. The fixes that would fix capitalism are not blocked by capitalism. They are blocked by politics and cronyism. Capitalism can work well when markets are truly efficient. Regulation is actually designed to ensure that. Anti-trust, laws against insider trading, etc. The vultures are just finding ways to game the system. It’s still better than Marxism, which frankly is always shit. A better way than Marxism to address inequality is through charity work.

                “…violence and Marxism is what you are going to get if you continue to think capitalism IS working and you continue to pretend that Marxism is the only alternative.”

                Okay, so what is another alternative to capitalism that is not Marxism and its variants? I didn’t read you suggesting another alternative. Feudalism? A return to an agrarian lifestyle? Charity, as I’ve suggested? Okay. I wish we’d let the thing tank back in 2008 instead of throwing public money at misbehaving (m|b)illionaires. I’m sure the human race could have found a way to come through that and learn a few lessons.

                But right now I guess we have to settle for violence and Marxism. Hostage to the whims of idealistic students who have never wanted for a thing and are more than happy to co-opt a race relations crisis to further their mindless agenda on which there is no actual consensus.

              3. “The fixes that would fix capitalism are not blocked by capitalism. They are blocked by politics and cronyism.”

                Lol. Can you give an example of capitalism that hasn’t gone crony? Cronyism is a manifestly unavoidable side effect of capitalism. You won’t find one without the other. This is why your idea that capitalism would work just fine if we just get rid of cronyism is a joke. Cronyism is a feature, not a bug, of capitalism. We know this because there is no such thing as capitalism sans cronyism.

                An alternative that is not Marxism?

                SOCIAL DEMOCRACY!

                Socialism doesn’t lead to communist/Marxist revolutions. The opposite is true. A LACK OF socialism has and will lead to Marxist/communist revolutions.

                If you don’t like violence in the streets, end poverty and extreme inequality. The claim that capitalism is capable of this is belied by the fact that inequality is currently headed in the wrong direction despite millions of people like you claiming that we “need to fix it.”

              4. Well why didn’t you say so? Social democracy does not do away with capitalism. In fact a criticism of social democracy by socialists is that it strengthens capitalism instead of embracing socialism. And yet you talk as though you would rip out capitalism completely. Maybe I don’t understand social democracy the way that you mean it.

                Yes, inequality is moving in the wrong direction. Tax and spend would help with that. More than that though we need to stop exploiting cheap foreign labor that encapsulates serious exploitation, even going so far as slavery in some places. I think globalization is the true evil. I would do away with free trade. We need to manufacture more, even though goods would cost more. Goods would be looked after better and not thrown out after a couple years because it’s cheaper to buy something new than to repair what you have. America is a nation of consumers with few producers. Even college graduates have a hard time finding work except in the service industries. Bringing back manufacturing would rebalance that.

                And I realize that this is simply never going to happen.

              5. Please provide examples of social democracies that aren’t simultaneously operating under capitalism.

            2. I see two avenues for this to end. My preference would be for the justice system to handle it. Police arrest those committing violence, and the courts follow through with appropriate prosecution, with normal protections for the rights of the accused, but also normal penalties. If you burn down someone’s store in a riot, you get the same punishment you would get for doing it at any other time.

              The less attractive option would be for normal citizens to just have zero tolerance for political violence. Sort of like aircraft hijacking. It used to be a way to make political demands, and passengers on a hijacked flight would generally submit to the demands of the hijackers.
              These days, if you try to hijack a plane, you are going to get immediately and violently attacked by the other passengers.
              If people responded to Antifa-style insurrection the way they currently respond to hijackers, the casual participants would just vanish. Probably the more hard core aspirational Marxist revolutionaries would find the beatings they receive to be somewhat less romantic than the experience they had expected.

              But the downsides to the second option are why we have a justice system to begin with.

      2. It’s also the case that burning down stores and destroying infrastructure/property doesn’t end poverty, it creates more of it.

        1. So did the communist revolution. No one said their actions are rational. Just inevitable when inequality gets too extreme.

          Neither telling them that it is wrong nor telling them that it won’t cure poverty will stop them. Only ending the extreme inequality will stop them.

          1. Only ending the extreme inequality will stop them.

            I don’t necessarily oppose that, but destruction (particularly of middle class assets) doesn’t do that. It does practically the opposite. It’s like a kid with a needle, running around popping party balloons while shouting “everyone deserves a balloon!”

            1. And so long as you continue to make statements like these instead of criticizing capitalism you are also that kid with the needle popping balloons.

    1. That is very good. Just telling poor people that looting won’t help and it’s wrong does not go far. It fixes nothing.

  10. If it bleeds, it leads. Unfortunately, a cause doesn’t get attention from a few people gathering peacefully outside a courthouse.

    You can’t get clicks or ratings for talking about the 90+% who are peaceful (or reasonable, or brilliant). Outrage sells.

    Misleading vividness is one of the classic fallacies because it’s so effective.

  11. “Anarchy got results”

    So did slavery.

    So did tyranny.

    The question is whether using otherwise immoral means to speed a process serves the wider ends of the society we want to create.

    I’m certainly not convinced encouraging violence to make a point serves that bigger picture.

    1. Yes, but you know this is mostly Trump’s doing, right? He’s the one that keeps hinting at how he’s going to have to call on right-wing militias to police poll places, just to name one example. If Democrats are talking about violence, it’s in fear of Trump-enraged hordes defending his “stolen” re-election.

            1. That’s crazy talk. You’re conflating demonstrations (massive ones) with rioting. These are very different things.

              1. And you think those events accurately represent the countless millions Paul was referring to?

  12. Anarchy got results.

    I’ll argue it didn’t – at least not positive ones. Here’s why. Had it “worked,” then all these open wallets giving to the cause would’ve led to Migizi’s $1 million investment being replaced, all the stores that were looted getting reimbursed by the liberal funders, all the damage fixed, and there being a bunch of money left over for additional civil rights spending. But that’s not what happened (or ever happens). Instead, the large-scale effect was that these innocents got stolen from, and in parallel some people gave money to a different good cause. That’s at best redistribution, not growth, when what we should be doing is trying to grow people’s prosperity.

    I’m completely in agreement with the folks who would tell the anarchists to go away, they’re not helping. You want to talk about shifting tax codes and corporate rights to give the local populace a greater share of the profits earned by local businesses that use local resources, that’s great. I’m all for it. But breaking everything just sets society back. It sets the poor back as well as the rich. You’re angry Alice uses her power to get all the money when Bob and Charlene deserve some of it; I get that. The solution is not to burn all Alice’s money though. That helps nobody. It’s to find a way to ensure Bob and Charlene get a more fair share of it.

  13. I think there is a false correlation between violence of anarchists and increased sympathy and support for BLM.
    Those who felt more sympathy for BLM were doing so despite the proximity to violence, not because of it. I at least see it that way, and am assuming that is the general experience of others.

    1. 97% of protests this year were peaceful. The focus on violence kind of proves the point that “if it bleeds, it leads.” Those 97% don’t get discussed by the outrage machine.

    2. The presence of Antifa has made it a lot easier to deflect from all the black violence during this summer’s riots.

      Some imaginative politicians and journalists have also claimed that foreign agents, i.e. the Russians, instigated the not-so-peaceful aspects.

  14. “While I feared that the looting and arson would derail the urgent demands for racial justice and bring condemnation, I was wrong, at least in the short term. Support for Black Lives Matter soared.”

    Stockman’s suggestion that the increase in support of BLM was BECAUSE of the violence is a mere assertion that is completely unsubstantiated. Perhaps massive peaceful demonstrations would have increased support even more.

    1. 97% of the protests were entirely peaceful, and even the outbreaks of violence only occurred after peaceful protest had broken up for the day.

        1. I think what you’ve seen is just wrong. Here in MIlwaukee there have been demonstrations every day since George Floyd was murdered. You probably have not heard about any of this except maybe the first two days when there was some looting.

          1. Really? You think a study that “analyzed more than 7,750 Black Lives Matter demonstrations in all 50 states and Washington D.C.” is wrong because of what you’ve seen in Milwaukee? I do note that the study looked at demonstrations through August 26th, so that to the extent the demonstrations have likely become more peaceful over time, I don’t disagree that the percentage that are violent is probably declining.

            1. The ACLED study is explicit:

              “The vast majority of demonstration events associated with the BLM movement are non-violent (see map below). In more than 93% of all demonstrations connected to the movement, demonstrators have not engaged in violence or destructive activity. Peaceful protests are reported in over 2,400 distinct locations around the country. Violent demonstrations,4 meanwhile, have been limited to fewer than 220 locations — under 10% of the areas that experienced peaceful protests. In many urban areas like Portland, Oregon, for example, which has seen sustained unrest since Floyd’s killing, violent demonstrations are largely confined to specific blocks, rather than dispersed throughout the city (CNN, 1 September 2020).”

              You choose to read this as a story of rampant violence.

              You also choose to ignore the report’s description of out-scale militarized response by police to BLM demonstrators relative to other demonstrations. IOW, you simply ignore that much of the violence that has happened has been provoked by police action.

  15. ‘insurrection for insurrection’s sake. Reminds me of a line from ‘Anarchy in the UK’ (Sex Pistols ):- ‘Don’t know what I want but I know how to get it’.

  16. My take? This is a bunch of entitled brats, who think they ought to be in charge or in a privileged position of moral authority, wrecking the future of many minority communities so that they can cosplay “Street Soldier!” during this particular phase in their lives. They will move on to whatever the next equivalent of yuppie life is. The minority neighborhoods suffering damage, businesses who won’t set up shop there, and public opinion backlash that will lead to whatever the next version of ‘The War On Drugs’ is, will not.

    To be fair, many people are mindless entitled brats between the ages of, say, 15-22. One’s sense of risk and the consequences of one’s actions is just wired very very differently at that age. So I don’t blame them entirely. There were many factors that converged to remove what should have been the sober adults in the room who generally curb that type of behavior until people outgrow it. Now, instead of being curbed, it’s being wildly encouraged.

  17. Violence can bring attention to a cause, but continual violence will result in that cause losing popular support and being seen as a threat.

    Peter Turchin suggests that a major cause of instability and revolutions is “elite overproduction.” There is competition among the elite for a limited (and shrinking) amount of positions in the upper branches of society. Not attaining those positions results in violent resentment.

    Many of these violent anarchists are people from well-off or middle class families; they might have advanced degrees but feel they don’t have the elite position in society they supposedly deserve.

    The only real solution to this problem is one that benefits all classes: reduce inequality in America and return to a society where wealth was more equally distributed, as it was the 1950s and 60s.

    1. By “return” I mean returning to many of the economic policies of the 50s and 60s (such as the welfare state and high tax rates for the ultra-rich), but not to the social policies that held back and discriminated against women and minorities.

      1. Except that you can’t go back. You have international capital flows, international banking institutions, its not like the old days when you couldn’t even have an interstate bank branch, where most lending was local, etc.

        Industrial capital has in large part fled to lower-wage countries, and the basic know-how has been lost in many industries. You couldn’t just start a competitive widget factory in many industries even if you wanted to.

        I don’t think there is anyway back from some form of globalization, the issue is trying to insure that the benefits of globalization (at least in the developed world) are shared more equally. This could be done by socialization of fixed costs of labor (such as housing, transportation, health care, and education) and supplemented by infrastructure spending, lowering the cost of doing business in America (e.g. labor costs and infrastructure costs per unit) while insuring workers had a decent life with the basics covered.

        1. Yes, we can’t go back. My pet peeve is the doubt about the value of globalization shared by both parties in the US right now. The tendency is to think only about jobs that move from the US to other countries. It’s the easiest to measure and probably has the most impact on those whose jobs were lost. It’s the easiest story to tell. Stories that get less attention include (a) lower prices for many goods, (b) poverty reduction in other countries, (c) the prevention of wars because fighting is bad for business, (d) the cultural exchange that it enables, (c) the new jobs created by global business, and probably much more.

          If one has lost their job, none of the other things matter much. However, the world has never stayed the same for long and is changing faster and faster. Basing a country’s economy on the world not changing is stupid. Better to acknowledge that the world is changing and take advantage of it. We need a safety net for people who lose their jobs due to changes in the economy and not one solely based on handouts. Make retraining and education an integral part of the economy.

        2. You also can’t go back because of robotics. The vast majority of production line type jobs are going to go the way buggy whip producers. And IMO this is true of all the third world countries with low wages too, they’re just 50-100 years behind the 1st world countries in replacing their humans with cheaper machines.

          This is an issue we’re obviously still grappling with, socially. But technology changes what humans do. Permanently. Inexorably. There’s no way around it. The humanist approach to the problem should be to ensure people have the educational and economic flexibility to adjust to changing job demands. Or we can go the conservative route, and decide to treat citizens like cogs and when we our machine doesn’t need that cog any more, oh well too bad for them, not my problem. Clearly they erred when they decided to be born a cog.

    2. There isn’t continual violence — only continual attention paid to whatever violence happens.

      Let’s see Fox Noise (or this site) cover every one of the peaceful protests occurring every day.

      If you think there is “continual violence,” you have fallen prey to the fallacy of excessive vividness, or perhaps the fallacy of thinking that the Outrage Machine is an accurate purveyor of news.

    3. I for one don’t think that these Antifa types should be part of any elite.

      My suggestion would be to defund grievance studies and encourage people to learn trades instead of getting into unjustifiable amounts of debt to attend universities.

  18. Equality itself is not a realistic goal. Not between races,sexes, or even between any two individuals.
    We can probably come close to achieving equality of opportunity. Even that is sort of aspirational.
    I am confident, however, that none of the violence we are experiencing is really about achieving equality. Any talk of that sort is likely meant to justify the violence and oppression that they want to inflict on others.

  19. The violence seems to provide an added level of both importance and urgency via media attention, which then gets pinned to the anti racism cause – then corporations open their wallets. The tactic seems to have worked well (at least in the short-medium term), whether it was planned or not. The report implies strongly that it is a planned tactic. If true, it’s an important story that has not received much coverage to date.

  20. I think that violence is an efficient approach to get what one wants. Yet while it can be justified in rare cases, it tears down the fabric of civilization. Therefore I am interested in prevention and mitigation of violence, and in non-violent conflict resolution. Unfortunately, Western society is heading in the opposite direction. It tries to achieve peace the easiest way, by appeasing the violent people. And as always, rewarding a behavior produces more of it.

    Personally, I refuse to reward violent people by being interested in their cause. I don’t ask why they burn and loot, and if I ask, it is only to put their cause in the category of suspicious, no matter how well it looks on the surface. I don’t care what injustice has motivated looters or how poor they are, I am for punishing them.

    1. What’s an example of where violent demonstrators have gotten their way? My impression is that violence turns people off. Only recently have people suggested that the media attention that violence gets actually helps the instigators’ cause. AFAIK, it has yet to be shown to actually deliver a victory.

      1. I don’t think it matters what ordinary people think, even in a democracy. BLM is not succeeding because of violence, but because of the popularity of wokeism among high-status individuals.

        1. Is BLM really succeeding? They’ve gotten attention, both good and bad, but AFAIK nothing has really happened. People are outraged by the police but there’s nothing really new there. If there is actual police reform, I suspect it won’t have much to do with BLM or Wokeness, though both may declare victory.

          1. The discussion of exactly what BLM is succeeding at is bound to be an interesting discussion.
            I cannot see how it has measurably improved the lives of Black people in general.
            Some individuals seem to have made financial or political gains via BLM, but that is a very different thing than making the average Black citizen safer or more financially secure.
            I suspect that people who live in neighborhoods where many of the essential businesses have been burned out are not finding that their standard of living has improved.

          2. HI Paul,

            I know big corporations are all over BLM. I think it’s gotten close to $2 Billion in cotributions???

            I work for one of those mega corporations. And doesn’t it look good to say, “BLM” while you are doing stuff like money laundering, paying about as much in taxes as the donald, etc. etc.

            Big corporations are also all over inclusion and diversity training. Moi, the cynic, says it’s also because it’s a good way of getting PR>

            1. I don’t think corporations are the tax cheats that you claim. They do take advantage of all the loopholes but so do individuals. I think our tax code is ridiculous in having so many loopholes but that’s not corporations’ fault.

              Tax cheating is something else entirely. It is likely that Trump cheated. If a an individual or a corporation cheats, they deserve to be punished. That’s exactly how it should work.

  21. Regarding the women’s movement and violence, look at the suffrage movement, especially in England. English suffragists were bombing mail boxes. And both here and in England, women went on hunger strikes and were force fed.

  22. Question for all: So are these the people called Antifa? (I have not had a chance to read article, and the thread is getting late….)

  23. You might think that looting, arson, and vandalism would make the social value of
    having police pretty obvious. However, these amusements have seemingly not diminished the repute of the asinine campaign to abolish the police. On the contrary, councils in several cities have taken up the half-asinine policy of half abolishing the police—on the one hand by restricting police activity, and on the other hand by cutting police funding.
    The least one can say is that violence and very obvious crime have not damaged the
    police abolition campaign much in the short run. The long run may be different, as will
    be seen before long.

    1. Read Norm Stamper and Our enemies in blue The debate over defunding police is legit I support removing AR15 rifles from Palatine Il squad cars we have had exactly 0 incidents that require this rifles presence What about the office of Ombudsman to lower the incidence of trivial arrests What the experience of people like Frank Serpico?

      1. Also read Rolling Stone article on AR15 The world needs less weaponry in general The philosophy of Anarchy is long and deep Read Mutual Aid a factor in evolution by Peter Kropotnik The bolsheviks couldnt touch him because he was loved by the Russian people he never threw a brick in his life

        1. Long ago, Rick, I did a series of radio programs on the history of Anarchism, with
          considerable attention to Mutual Aid and other writing by Kropotkin, not to mention Proudhon, Murray Bookchin, syndicalism in Spain, and so forth. But this has as much to do with our current “black bloc” play-actors as, say, Abraham Lincoln has with the present Republican Party.

  24. As an ideological Anarchist myself, I can tell you that these posers are nothing of the sort. At best, they’re Useful Idiots, claiming to believe in a philosophy they obviously haven’t even studied. Tearing down social structures without building up working alternatives in advance is the action of the Nihilist; historically, Anarchists have worked hard at “creat(ing) a new society within the shell of the old”, often getting so involved therein that they never do get around to making the revolution. Check out the writings (and life) of Murray Bookchin, most recent of the great Anarchist theorists. No, no matter what they call themselves or how much Marx and Mao they quote, their actions reveal the AntifaBLM thugs to be Fascists, pure and simple. They should be treated accordingly, if only because of their insult to an old and honorable philosophy.

    1. Its clear we need to set up a system of professional licensing for anarchists, and unlicensed anarchist should be prosecuted and severely punished for giving licensed anarchists such a bad name.

  25. Look, BLM is great if you want Trump to win this year, but their popularity has cratered:

    Why did that happen?

    As far as calling bratty white trust fund kids burning businesses “thugs” being racist or not, I could care less.

    Violent protests are good for conservative law and order candidates, and if you want to elect law and order conservatives, violent protests are a useful and perhaps necessary tactic. So it comes down to your goals.

    It strikes me that a lot of the “protests” and “riots” that we see are more people acting out their own psychodrama or psychopathology than political behavior directed toward achieving a political end.

  26. To me violence will always lead to more violence and at best will only lead to minor temporary change. As a bible reader, I believe love and peace will get you farther than hate and violence. I don’t believe all of mankind’s problems will be solved by protests and elections. Racial inequality is the underlying backbone of this country. Only Jehovah God can fix this mess.

    1. “violence will always lead to more violence”

      If this is true then peace can never follow war. Conflict of any sort could never happen.

    2. “Only Jehovah God can fix this mess.”

      He’s done a piss poor job of fixing things so far. True incompetence.

      1. When has this world as a whole experienced lasting peace? In America, violence has never achieved the ultimate intended result. Wars have been won but true peace and equality has never been achieved. People are still fighting for it.

        Are you saying I’m incompetent because I believe in God?

              1. Thankfully there’s still hope for you as well.
                “Jehovah is not slow concerning his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire anyone to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9

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