Mob Tears Down Baltimore Columbus Statue

A controversial monument in Little Italy has been destroyed.

Rioters have torn down a statue owned by the city of Baltimore and installed in 1984, breaking it into pieces and throwing it into the harbor. City officials seem to be cheering the move.

Baltimore Sun (“Christopher Columbus statue near Little Italy brought down, tossed into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor“):

A crowd of shouting protesters yanked down the Christopher Columbus statue near Little Italy, dragged it to the edge of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and rolled it with a splash into the water as fireworks went off around the city on the night of the Fourth of July.

Dedicated in 1984, the statue is the latest monument in the U.S. to fall this year during the national reckoning over racism and police violence that also has toppled statues of Confederate figures and enslavers around the country.

The debate drew renewed attention to Baltimore’s Christopher Columbus memorials — including one in Herring Run Park believed to be the nation’s oldest. The legacy of the 15th-century Italian explorer, who had long been credited by history textbooks as a hero who discovered America, has come under fire over his violent enslavement of native people.

The statue was erected in 1984, the year I graduated high school. By that time, we had long since reckoned with the genocide against Amerindians and the mixed legacy of Columbus. City leaders nonetheless decided to erect the statue and, while there has been debate about taking it down since, they had not decided to do so.

The torn-down Columbus statue is part of a “re-examination taking place nationally and globally around some of these monuments and statues that may represent different things to different people,” said Lester Davis, a spokesman for Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, on Saturday night.

“We understand the dynamics that are playing out in Baltimore are part of a national narrative,” Davis said. “We understand the frustrations. What the city wants to do is serve as a national model, particularly with how we’ve done with protesting. We’ve seen people who have taken to the streets, we have supported them. We are going to continue to support it. That’s a full stop.”

This is an outrageous statement coming from the mayor’s office. He’s supporting criminal violence from a mob. Full stop.

The Columbus statue was dragged down as people marched across the city Saturday demanding reallocation of funds from the police department to social services, a reassessment of the public education system, reparations for Black people, housing for the homeless, and the removal of all statues “honoring white supremacists, owners of enslaved people, perpetrators of genocide, and colonizers,” according to a flyer.

The way protest is supposed to work is by galvanizing support by calling attention to a cause that was getting too little attention. Not by rioting and mayhem.

Davis said he did not know whether police officers were ordered to allow the statue to be torn down. But he made clear that protecting statues was not a priority of the city police department in the face of homicides and other violent crime.

“Our officers in Baltimore City, who are some of the finest in country, they are principally concerned with the preservation of life,” the mayor’s spokesman said. “That is sacrosanct. Everything else falls secondary to that, including statues.”

That’s just a nonsensical response. With exceedingly rare exception, police don’t prevent homicides, they investigate them. Stopping violence in the streets at events at which they’re present is hardly diverting them from “preservation of life.”

It’s not just the mayor abetting criminality.

City Council President Brandon Scott issued a statement Saturday night saying he suggested former Mayor Catherine Pugh remove the Columbus statue in 2017 when she ordered the removal of several Confederate monuments in the city following a violent conflict in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“I support Baltimore’s Italian-American community and Baltimore’s indigenous community. I cannot, however, support Columbus,” Scott said.

So, a city council leader urged the mayor to remove the statue. It was still standing. Presumably, that meant that, as of yesterday morning, there was not a consensus among the elected representatives of the people of Baltimore for removing the statue.

Instead, it was torn down by a handful of criminals. Who elected them?

Here in Virginia, we’re seeing monuments to Confederate leaders taken down all over the state, at least partly in response to the Black Lives Matter protests. In Richmond, the governor ordered taking down the one statute under state ownership weeks ago and the mayor followed suit this past week, ordering down those under city control. In Alexandria, city officials working with the United Daughters of the Confederacy took down a statue that had sat prominently in a downtown intersection for 131 years.

That’s how a functioning society is supposed to operate.

Post updated with a photo of the statue in question.

FILED UNDER: Society, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Kurtz says:

    This is an outrageous statement coming from the mayor’s office. He’s supporting criminal violence from a mob. Full stop.

    I’m confused, did they attack a person named Columbus, dismember him, and throw him into the Inner Harbor?

    Of course not.

    Equating the destruction of a statue with criminal violence is outrageous. Full stop.

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  2. Cheryl Rofer says:

    I spent some time in Tallinn in the 2000s with a graduate student who was studying how monuments come and go. Touring the city with her was fascinating. There were monuments from Tsarist times and a few, still, from the Soviets. We both cried at a war memorial the Soviets had built over a German WWI cemetery, when we read the name of a nurse who died at the same age my companion was at the time.

    I’ve never been much for monuments. A few move me – Soviet monuments to the seven hero cities of WWII, for example. But statues of historical figures like Columbus are always inaccurate and symbolize a time that has gone.

    Yes, it’s damage to property – a hunk of metal that is now doing more harm than good. No need to demonize the people who are doing it.

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  3. Teve says:

    Columbus is lauded because of some late 19th century and early 20th century Catholics wanting an American hero of their own. Despite the fact that Columbus was a genocidal maniac who raped and tortured so viciously that eventually he was arrested and shipped back to Spain in shackles and convicted of crimes against humanity. I’m not going to detail the things he did, you can look them up for yourselves, but I’d as soon put up a statue to Jeffrey Dahmer.

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  4. James Joyner says:

    @Kurtz:

    Equating the destruction of a statue with criminal violence is outrageous.

    It is a criminal, violent act. It is not peaceful protest.

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Yes, it’s damage to property – a hunk of metal that is now doing more harm than good. No need to demonize the people who are doing it.

    It’s a crime against society. We rightly condemned the Taliban for tearing down Buddist statues and the Islamic State for tearing down statues in Iraq.

    @Teve:

    Columbus was a genocidal maniac who raped and tortured so viciously that eventually he was arrested and shipped back to Spain in shackles and convicted of crimes against humanity.

    I don’t care much one way or the other about honoring Columbus. His role in America’s foundation is crucial but he’s no hero. But, again, we’re a free society with mechanisms to make such choices for the community.

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  5. Cheryl Rofer says:

    @James Joyner: I prefer to spend my energy on the crimes against society being perpetrated by Donald Trump, William Barr, and others. But YMMV

    ETA: The Bamyan statues were works of art and part of a religion. I don’t believe the Baltimore Columbus statue qualifies in either respect.

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  6. James Joyner says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    I prefer to spend my energy on the crimes against society being perpetrated by Donald Trump, William Barr, and others.

    That’s a false choice. I’ve written multiple times more pieces about that than I have the destruction of statues.

    The Bamyan statues were works of art and part of a religion. I don’t believe the Baltimore Columbus statue qualifies in either respect.

    How is the Columbus statue not a work of art? And it’s part of America’s civil religion, which is arguably more important.

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  7. Cheryl Rofer says:

    @James Joyner: Well, not MY civil religion, and not that of the Native Americans whose ancestors he killed and enslaved.

    Most American park statues of people are cheap junk, erected because of a special interest group.

    And yes indeed you have written about the crimes being perpetrated at the top. There is something of a tradeoff, since we all have finite time and energy. So let’s prioritize. And not demonize our fellow citizens.

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  8. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    They were works of art and part of a religion from YOUR perspective. They were offensive from the perspective of the Taliban.

    Which sort of brings this whole rush towards sanitizing history into its proper perspective. The Taliban thought itself justified in making decisions for everybody about what to destroy and what to keep because of its own fervor about something. These mobs destroying statues here and in the US are doing the exact. same. thing.

    They both think themselves the arbiters of acceptable truth based on their self-anointed correctness, and they’re both prepared to impose it on everybody else via whatever means necessary. If you question or oppose them in any way, you become the enemy. Cries of “heretic” and “racist” are interchangeable in that scenario. From my chair, that makes them both groups of terrorists.

    The fact that you agree with them about it? We’ll leave that one hanging in midair …

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  9. Cheryl Rofer says:

    Okay folks, now that I’ve been accused of being a member of the Taliban, I think I’ll go make some blueberry muffins.

    Take a little longer point of view. Don’t get tied up with idolatry of metal images. Enjoy life.

    This is why I seldom comment here.

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  10. Lounsbury says:

    @Kurtz: No, destruction of property is indeed criminal violence. It’s not murder or assault but it is indeed criminal violence. The fact the hard Left is blind to that does not help achieve change.

    Mobs tearing down statues are gifts to Trump and don’t actually help anything.

    @Cheryl Rofer: @Cheryl Rofer:
    Whether there is a “need” or not, mob destruction of property does not play well to a wider electorate, even if they are not entirely sympathetic.

    Leftists fooling themselves otherwise is one reason you lot keep losing in elections. As for the Bamyan, while they were indeed Buddhist works of art, said religion had no real presence in their area for centuries. Works of art of course is something subjective, but of course you reflexively devalue something you’re not politically sympathetic to (and devalue those that do like the Columbus statues, of which Italian American voters). This kind of snobbish blindness helped open a route to Trump. The sneering – and it is sneering, not my civic religion – is rather directly part of the problem you have. “not demonizing” fellow citizens you might well take your own advice and not sneer at and devalue fellow citizens views who happen not to align with Left-cultural-critic preferences.

    (not that I particularly think that Columbus merits any great celebrating or respect, but there are more prudent and intelligent routes to getting rid of such a statue and the crimes of Columbus, half a millennium ago, and largely committed outside of the geographic sphere of the United States against peoples of no direct relationship to the northern sphere (unless one is adopting 19th century racialism – because it happens to be wearing Lefty-Cultural clothes), hardly merit current violent action. It is rather more understandable relative to Confederate statues. )

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  11. grumpy realist says:

    I fall in the “it’s hunks of metal that are getting broken up” category. I’m sure you can find actions under the local criminal code (does Baltimore have such a thing as criminal conversion?) that certain members of the mob can be convicted of (though good luck convicting them), but it’s the value of the statue that would allow this to rise to the level of a felony, not the destruction itself.

    The main reason for complaining about Baltimore’s lack of policing on this matter is because it gives the mob idiots the idea that authority doesn’t exist, so the looters and nihilists are encouraged to continue their actions. Authority is a funny thing–once the impression of it vanishes, it becomes doubly-hard to implement it afterwards. The people now know that The Emperor Has No Clothes.

    The U.S. will be discovering this all over the world when trying to re-implement its “soft power” after Trump leaves, by the way.

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  12. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    That seems to be a tactic of the left – take what was said, twist it into something that wasn’t said at all, and use it to claim victimhood instead of, you know, actually addressing the point.

    Enjoy your muffins 🙂

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  13. drj says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    These mobs destroying statues here and in the US are doing the exact. same. thing.

    Yes. It’s the exact same thing to destroy two 1500-year-old statues of a religious figure and a three-decade-old statue of an explorer whose actions ultimately led to mass genocide.

    To state it is to refute it.

    From my chair, that makes them both groups of terrorists.

    Yes. The Taliban and some protestors in Baltimore are both terrorist groups.

    You’ve clearly lost your sense of perspective.

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  14. Lounsbury says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Which sort of brings this whole rush towards sanitizing history into its proper perspective. The Taliban thought itself justified in making decisions for everybody about what to destroy and what to keep because of its own fervor about something. These mobs destroying statues here and in the US are doing the exact. same. thing.

    Emphasis added. Quite right.

    @Cheryl Rofer: An almost offensive straw man as Harvard Law did not in any way accuse you of being part of the Taleban in any way, he merely pointed out your hypocrisy and double standard. Apparently you don’t like having outright hypocrisy and double standards on your own part pointed out

    @drj:
    Also a straw man

    What Harvard rightly pointed out that making decisions and destroying property based on one’s own passionate politics

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  15. Northerner says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    ETA: The Bamyan statues were works of art and part of a religion. I don’t believe the Baltimore Columbus statue qualifies in either respect.

    Art is in the eye of the beholder, and why should it matter if the statue of what you believe is evil is part of a religion? Evil is evil (and actually tends to be in the eye of the beholder as well).
    Basically its pretty arrogant of us to say we get to decide that its okay to tear down statues we think represent evil in our country but wrong for someone else to tear down statues in their country that they think is evil.

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  16. Teve says:

    They were works of art and part of a religion from YOUR perspective. They were offensive from the perspective of the Taliban.

    Which sort of brings this whole rush towards sanitizing history into its proper perspective. The Taliban thought itself justified in making decisions for everybody about what to destroy and what to keep because of its own fervor about something. These mobs destroying statues here and in the US are doing the exact. same. thing.

    Hitler ate lunch. Mr. Rogers ate lunch. Therefore Hitler and Mr. Rogers behaved exactly the same.

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  17. James Joyner says:

    @drj:

    The Taliban and some protestors in Baltimore are both terrorist groups.

    Indeed, they are. Obviously, the Taliban are orders of magnitude worse in their crimes. But both groups are terrorists, using violence and fear to achieve their political objectives.

    I’ve long taught that the Sons of Liberty were a terrorist group and that we just happen to like the side on which they conducted terrorist acts. We treat “tarring and feathering” as a harmless prank, for example, when it was anything but.

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  18. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @drj:

    So the age of the object is the only arbiter of its value? The Washington Monument as we know it is slightly more than 100 years old. The Jefferson Memorial is less than 80. As long as we’re vilifying slave-owners and others The Woke© find objectionable, Jefferson and Washington were among the largest slave owners of their time. Why aren’t we tearing down those relatively new objects as well? Have they somehow been rehabilitated while others haven’t? It’s difficult to keep up with who we like and dislike of late.

    The kinship is in the tactics and the justification of them, not in what is actually being destroyed. But I suspect that you already knew that …

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  19. Teve says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: i’m with you on bailing for a while, I’ve just seen abject silliness and it’s not 10 am yet. I’m gonna go work on Italian for a bit.

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  20. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Teve:

    The word of the day is evidently facile.

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  21. drj says:

    @James Joyner:

    But both groups are terrorists, using violence and fear to achieve their political objectives.

    One group waged a guerilla war, took over the government, and executed thousands of people; and subsequently returned to the strategy of extralegal attacks and killings.

    The other group tore down a statue and may post mean things on social media.

    One doesn’t have to be a genius to note that comparing these two groups isn’t any way helpful.

    @HarvardLaw92:

    So the age of the object is the only arbiter of its value?

    As I said, “…and a three-decade-old statue of an explorer whose actions ultimately led to mass genocide.”

    I was going to say that reading apparently isn’t your forte, but we all know that you aren’t that dumb. In other words, your obtuseness is deliberate.

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  22. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @drj:

    Then why mention the age of the statue at all, if not to trivialize it as having no historical context? I’m not going to delve into the genocide argument, as I consider it to be flawed, lacking nuance, and more than a tad contorted to fit an emotional position.

    I’m not being obtuse. I’m playing the “let’s be pedantic so we can avoid addressing the actual point” game that seems to be the order of the day.

    In other words, I’m giving your tactics back to you as a way of pointing them out. People don’t like being disagreed with or questioned around here, which I’d argue is why it’s become the self-congratulation society that it has become, and why I enjoy calling it out. If you just wanted to be agreed with, I’m not your guy.

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  23. drj says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Then why mention the age of the statue at all, if not to trivialize it as having no historical context?

    Because losing a three-decade-old statue that is a dime a dozen is not the same as losing something that is wholly irreplaceable.

    JFC

    Again, your obtuseness is deliberate.

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  24. Kurtz says:

    @James Joyner:

    It is a criminal, violent act. It is not peaceful protest.

    Pour one out for the statue, his dismemberment was certainly painful.

    Criminal? Sure. But I didn’t know vandalism was considered a violent crime absent implied threat.

    How is the Columbus statue not a work of art? And it’s part of America’s civil religion, which is arguably more important.

    Were you critical of the destruction of Firdos Square statue? That is a much closer analogue to monuments to Columbus and Confederate generals than the Bamyan statues were.

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  25. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @drj:

    I see. The criteria for destruction is what you subjectively value. Thank you for (finally) admitting that.

    It does rather leave out the folks who might subjectively value the Columbus statue though, no?

    Do their opinions not matter, or – like the Taliban – have The Woke© become the arbiters of what stays and what goes for everybody else by appointing themselves as such through acts of destruction? (which you well knew was the actual point all along …)

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  26. James Joyner says:

    @Kurtz:

    I didn’t know vandalism was considered a violent crime absent implied threat.

    This wasn’t mere “vandalism.” The statue was destroyed and dumped into the harbor. Arguing that it’s not an act of violence is absurd.

    Were you critical of the destruction of Firdos Square statue? That is a much closer analogue to monuments to Columbus and Confederate generals than the Bamyan statues were.

    In the abstract, I would have preferred a legitimate government of Iraq decide the fate of that statue. But a people who had been oppressed for generations by a dictator acted spontaneously in the vacuum of anarchy. By contrast, the protesters in Baltimore live in a democratic society that not only has avenues for enacting policy change but was actively discussing removing the statue. They’re just different circumstances.

    Indeed, one can argue that the Taliban destruction of the Buddist statutes were more proper in that they were the governing authority of Afghanistan.

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  27. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Kurtz:

    That is a much closer analogue to monuments to Columbus and Confederate generals than the Bamyan statues were.

    Really? Based on what, body counts? Hate to be the one to have to point out how many millions upon millions upon millions have been killed over the question of religion … Wouldn’t that make Buddha actually far more evil than any of your examples?

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  28. Jon says:

    It’s fun to focus on the *how* of protests rather than the *why* and to pretend that everything happens in a vacuum, judicable only by its own merits in that exact moment! It makes it ever so much easier to then say “and this is how the Left forced me to vote for Donald Trump.”

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  29. drj says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    I see. The criteria for destruction is what you subjectively value. Thank you for (finally) admitting that.

    Yes, I value the unique and irreplaceable more than the common-as-dirt.

    I admit, you REALLY got me now. Wow, if it wasn’t for your razor-sharp mind I wouldn’t have gotten away with it, too.

    Why, do you think there is no difference between destroying a Columbus statue that dates back to 1984 and one that was erected in the 16th century?

    Seriously, what is your point, apart from playing some tedious bullshit game?

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  30. Hal_10000 says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    I prefer to spend my energy on the crimes against society being perpetrated by Donald Trump, William Barr, and others. But YMMV

    If you want four more years of those clowns, by all means, keep making excuses for those who commit criminal acts and destroy statues.

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  31. JohnMcC says:

    Destruction of the city property is absolutely a crime. But erecting that statue was an exercise in myth-making. As said above — various Catholic populations wanted their own piece of the ‘Story of America’.

    It was absolutely NOT a crime to say NO, we reject the ‘Story of America’ you are telling. We prefer one that calls slavery and genocide by their true names.

    I personally think it is the second thought there that has roused so many of our legalistic friends here.

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  32. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @drj:

    Why, do you think there is no difference between destroying a Columbus statue that dates back to 1984 and one that was erected in the 16th century?

    I think you’ve decided that there is a difference because it suits your rationalization to do so. Destruction is destruction.

    Seriously, what is your point, apart from playing some tedious bullshit game?

    Gleefully pointing out how much of a tedious bullshit game this place has become by holding up a mirror to it and poking its balloon with a pin. Don’t be too perturbed; Dorian didn’t enjoy it either.

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  33. Kathy says:

    I really want to stay out of this, but I do have to mention the value of ancient statuary and artwork is mostly historical in nature.

    One, often we have little more than art and statues from vanished civilization. This is due to either an absence of written records, or an inability to translate such records as survive.

    Two, where written records exist, surviving art can round up the nature of a civilization. What the ancients chose to memorialize, and how, can fill in some gaps and/or illustrate certain events.

    Three, removing monuments is not a new thing. Hatshepsut’s successor, Thutmose III, ordered some of her monuments removed, and her name erased from others. The reasons for this remain a cause of debate to this day.

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  34. James Joyner says:

    @drj:

    Why, do you think there is no difference between destroying a Columbus statue that dates back to 1984 and one that was erected in the 16th century?

    Would you feel differently if the mob had destroyed the Columbus statute in Druid Hill Park, erected in 1792 and believed to be the first of its kind in the United States? If so, is it just the passage of time?

    The 1984 statue wasn’t, as best I can determine, like one of the identical statues of Confederate leaders made out of cast iron that sprung up around the South in the 1960s. It was hand-sculpted out of Italian marble. It doesn’t have the permanance of ancient monuments but it’s not obvious why the passage of time really matters here.

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  35. James Joyner says:

    @JohnMcC:

    It was absolutely NOT a crime to say NO, we reject the ‘Story of America’ you are telling. We prefer one that calls slavery and genocide by their true names.

    So, if a single person determines they don’t like a political message sent by a public monument, they have a right to destroy it? Would it be okay to blow up the Washington Monument? The Jefferson Memorial?

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  36. drj says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    I think you’ve decided that there is a difference because it suits your rationalization to do so. Destruction is destruction.

    Yes, tearing down colonial Williamsburg is exactly the same as tearing down a bunch of post-war high rises on the outskirts of Baltimore. Destruction is destruction, after all.

    How silly of me that I didn’t see this before. Must be all that hedonistic corruption that the woke Left is engaging in.

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  37. drj says:

    @James Joyner:

    Would you feel differently if the mob had destroyed the Columbus statute in Druid Hill Park, erected in 1792 and believed to be the first of its kind in the United States?

    Yes.

    but it’s not obvious why the passage of time really matters here.

    As a general rule, the older, the more unique and more irreplaceable.

    That’s why people are generally more interested in e.g. Roman ruins than in some abandoned industrial district in Detroit.

    This is not hard.

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  38. Matt says:

    @James Joyner: How large does the group of people have to be for you to consider the destruction acceptable?

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  39. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    But a people who had been oppressed for generations by a dictator acted spontaneously in the vacuum of anarchy.

    Not to side track the discussion, but that’s not what happened in Fridos Square. Via Wiki

    In the afternoon of April 9, 2003, a group of Iraqi civilians began to attack the statue. One such futile attempt by sledgehammer-wielding weightlifter Kadhem Sharif particularly caught media attention.[1] Shortly after, an advance unit of the United States Marine Corps arrived at Firdos Square, secured the area and made contact with the foreign journalists who had been quartered in the Palestine Hotel at the square. After a couple of hours, the US Marines toppled the statue with a M88 armored recovery vehicle.[2]

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  40. Kurtz says:

    @Lounsbury:

    No, destruction of property is indeed criminal violence. It’s not murder or assault but it is indeed criminal violence. The fact the hard Left is blind to that does not help achieve change.

    Repeating a ridiculous equivalence doesn’t make it so.

    Arguing that the legal code defines it as such doesn’t make it so morally or logically.

    If valuing human life and equal treatment of those humans over inanimate objects is “hard-left” then it merely reveals how delusional Americans have become about the notion of values in terms of property.

    If you can’t see the irony in rending garments and gnashing teeth over property destruction in a culture that has so much respect for the property rights of others that it took its land from the previous occupants by force and deception, then the problem ain’t the “hard Left.”

    You seem morally appalled by the notion of property destruction. If that’s the case, then I’m ready for your support of a policy to release the claims on land owned by those of European descent for transfer to the descendants of the indigenous peoples who occupied the land prior to the invasion of people subsequent to Columbus’s arrival.

    After all the theft of the land is as morally reprehensible as smallpox blankets and the Trail of Tears, right? The only thing we can rectify at this point is the former. So put your philosophical money where you mouth is and prove your value system is correct:

    Feel free to sign any land you own over to me anytime you like. I mean, your property is the fruit of a poisonous tree, no? I’ll concede my view is wrong the moment the paper is signed.

    Until then, I will cheer the destruction of any monument dedicated to Confederates, Columbus, and any slaveowner including the founding fathers. If that’s support of violence, then I guess I am damned to hell.

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  41. Lounsbury says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    In other words, I’m giving your tactics back to you as a way of pointing them out. People don’t like being disagreed with or questioned around here, which I’d argue is why it’s become the self-congratulation society that it has become, and why I enjoy calling it out. If you just wanted to be agreed with, I’m not your guy.

    Yes

    Of course the Left-Left commentariat that have drifted here have as most ideological partisans of either Left or Right a rather tribal view of right and wrong.

    Right and wrong entirely aside, for politics, to take the Tallyrand attributed quote “This is worse than a crime, it’s a blunder” – the snobbish look-down-the-nose devaluing view of the ‘white-ethnic’ voter attachment to such symbols is scoring an utterly pointless own-goal in favour of Mr Trump. Kitsch, mere metal, whatever. Such things have emotional resonance in a part of the electorate that votes at high-rates and which one need not offend pointlessly over mere hunks metal – they are after all mere hunks of metal and so why elevate them to such importance as to needlessly antagonize and alienate?

    Mob action is unnecessary and does not build the political consensus to remove – in fact likely undermines.

    @Kurtz:

    Repeating a ridiculous equivalence doesn’t make it so.

    Repeating strawmen doesn’t make a strawman more valid. In fact there was no “equivalence” stated (actually the contrary).

    However criminal destruction of property is a criminal act. One that has been punished in Common Law since forever.

    There is nothing particularly “moral” in a mob tearing down and smashing statues.

    Dragging in various crimes committed by parties not Columbus nor the Italian immigrant descendants who decided to make Columbus a hero has no logical nor legal connexion to this, and is mere emotional hand-waiving.

    I can assure you, the Salafist Iconoclasts make rather similar hand waiving assertions.

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  42. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @drj:

    Considering that Colonial Williamsburg is almost entirely a 20th century Disneyfication theme park representation of what the actual might have been like, under your theory it’s no different really. Burn it down …

    You’re still sidestepping the point, I suspect because you don’t want to acknowledge that the only real difference here between these mobs and the ones under the Taliban is one of degree. The righteous will never consider that they might be anything other than righteous.

    Even if they’re just self-righteous…

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  43. MarkedMan says:

    Setting aside the pointless sniping, there is a real discussion worth pursuing: when does mob action result in advancing a cause and when does it weaken it? This is especially important when we consider that mobs tend to become more extreme and violent as time goes on. And mobs don’t reason or decide, they just “do”.

    For me, pulling down the statues of confederate generals seems right. Those statues were placed that to keep the blacks in the South aware of the heel on their neck. And in a number of cases residents of the cities in which they stand have elected officials pledging to take the statues down only to have the all white Republican officials at the state level pass laws preventing them from doing so.

    In this case there are people alive who fought and petitioned and raised money for that statue as a source of Italian pride. Their pride may have been misplaced, but to them it was a potent symbol, a way of saying “you may despise us but remember it was an Italian who was the first European in the Americas.” For a mob to come in and rip it down, smash it and throw it in the harbor is to create resentment and anger for little gain.

    In the first case, there is little lost, as it is unlikely to make allies of people who believe they lose their identity if they can’t have statues of racists in front of predominantly black schools. But a mob destroying that particular Columbus statue will do more harm than good.

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  44. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Lounsbury:

    Indeed. I’ve been discussing the potential for backlash – which at this point is very real – at length on another, more balanced forum. Discussing it here seemed to me to be pointless. The degree to which partisans try to reduce everything to binary “me right, you utterly wrong” is why the far left annoys me about as much as the far right does. They’re two faces of the same Janus.

    I don’t believe it will cost Trump the election, but I DO believe it will have far more of an effect at the state and local level than these Hébertistes want to acknowledge.

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  45. MarkedMan says:

    @HarvardLaw92: What’s the more balanced forum? I’m always interested in different perspectives.

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  46. JohnMcC says:

    @James Joyner: Does anyone else think that is what I said? The destruction of that statue was a crime. I said that. Should someone be charged with the crime there should be legal process and they should face (well, probably not a jury in a property case — amirite?) the appropriate justice.

    If the statue had been tumbled by a drunk driver would anyone here care?

    But if the story of intrepid pioneering (white) men ‘discovering’ the continent is described correctly as a horrid mess of genocide, slavery and intentionally spread epidemics, that calls for condemnation and comparison to the Taliban.

    Hummmmm…..

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  47. James Joyner says:

    @JohnMcC:

    But if the story of intrepid pioneering (white) men ‘discovering’ the continent is described correctly as a horrid mess of genocide, slavery and intentionally spread epidemics, that calls for condemnation and comparison to the Taliban.

    That’s just a non sequitur.

    *I’ve* described our conquest and settlement of the continent in that way. I fully agree with that assessment. Even in my much more conservative days—a quarter century or more ago–I was describing the Sons of Liberty as “terrorists” and noting that it’s rather rich for a country that rose to the status of global superpower by genocide and forcing the remaining aboriginal people onto reservations to be complaining about ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia.

    I’m agnostic about whether that particular statue of Columbus should remain in the public square vice in a museum somewhere. Cancel Columbus Day for all I care. But I’m adamant that the mob should not decide but rather the representatives of the people.

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  48. Lounsbury says:

    @MarkedMan: I believe this is appropriately situated.

    Indeed the sole reason to give a damn about the entire issue – anything that can give traction to Trump’s ‘they want to erase you’ discourse and possibly save him from defeat should be avoided. Criminal destruction of the “mere metal” (which after as mere metal then should hardly deserve radical action) is, to again take the Tallyrand attributed quote: “…worse than a crime, it’s a blunder”

    when does mob action result in advancing a cause and when does it weaken it? This is especially important when we consider that mobs tend to become more extreme and violent as time goes on. And mobs don’t reason or decide, they just “do”.

    Some weeks ago I believe James had a post with respect to the negative impact of property destroying protest (riots, whatehave you) versus disciplined peaceful protest.

    For me, pulling down the statues of confederate generals seems right. Those statues were placed that to keep the blacks in the South aware of the heel on their neck. And in a number of cases residents of the cities in which they stand have elected officials pledging to take the statues down only to have the all white Republican officials at the state level pass laws preventing them from doing so.

    It is also more historically attached to actual living Americans.

    In the end the objections to Columbus, whose crimes are half a millenium old and not really directly tied to the USA as such .

    In this case there are people alive who fought and petitioned and raised money for that statue as a source of Italian pride. Their pride may have been misplaced, but to them it was a potent symbol, a way of saying “you may despise us but remember it was an Italian who was the first European in the Americas.” For a mob to come in and rip it down, smash it and throw it in the harbor is to create resentment and anger for little gain.

    Precisely.

    The mob by acting without broad sanction (outside the Left activists self-righteous echo chambres) merely are pushing the White Ethnic to feel a kind of common cause with the Confederate-Supporting racist supremacist, to feel lumped in with them.

    One can prattle on with cultural critiques of the legitimacy of it, but it will be the expected reaction.

    In the first case, there is little lost, as it is unlikely to make allies of people who believe they lose their identity if they can’t have statues of racists in front of predominantly black schools. But a mob destroying that particular Columbus statue will do more harm than good

    Yes, and the reality is one is connected with immediate crimes (not only those of Reconstruction USA but more immediately to the reaction to Civil Rights) whereas Columbus’ is more a white ethnic immigrant reaction to the Anglo supremacism of the 20th century and really only abstractly related otherwise.

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  49. @drj:

    Because losing a three-decade-old statue that is a dime a dozen is not the same as losing something that is wholly irreplaceable.

    I think this point is worth emphasizing. Tearing down a statue of Columbus regardless of what one thinks of either Columbus or tearing down statutes is rather decidedly not the same thing as destruction of a millenia-old and irreplaceable sculpture.

    This portion of the argument is just silly.

    If you break a wine glass that you bought at Amazon and is readily replaceable (and you have several more in the cupboard) is not the same as breaking that family heirloom that belonged to your great-great-grandmother.

    And, quite clearly, the Taliban were trying to literally erase the past. Tearing down these statues are simply not the same.

    James is right, it is property damage. I don’t think they are terrorists, however. They are not using violence and fear aimed at the broader population (they are not seeking to terrorize). They are, at worst, vandals or perhaps vigilantes, as they are taking the law into their own hands because they do not think authorities will act.

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  50. Michael Reynolds says:

    1) Mobs should not tear down statues.
    2) Governments should not leave it to mobs to tear down statues.
    3) This is not going to sweep the nation, there is no slippery slope.
    4) Intervening forcefully would have made a bad situation much worse.

    If someone raised a statue to Josef Mengele in Tel Aviv and a mob tore it down, who would be to blame? I’d say in order: the asshole who raised it, the government that let it happen, and way, way down at the very bottom, the people who tore it down.

    Columbus is to Amerindians what Mengele would be to Jews. The people who tore it down should be fined up to a dollar each.

    Similarly, for 150 years Confederate statues have been grossly offensive. Did governments know they were grossly offensive? Yes. Did they do anything? Nope. On the contrary they protected grossly offensive statues. So, sorry, who exactly is to blame?

    Conservatives who want to stand astride history yelling stop need to understand that this sometimes means being run over. If they stop standing in the road they won’t get run over. Maybe they could try living up to American ideals of decency all on their own without having to have things pulled down around their ears.

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  51. Gustopher says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    @Kurtz:

    That is a much closer analogue to monuments to Columbus and Confederate generals than the Bamyan statues were.

    Really? Based on what, body counts? Hate to be the one to have to point out how many millions upon millions upon millions have been killed over the question of religion … Wouldn’t that make Buddha actually far more evil than any of your examples?

    How many people did Buddha personally enslave and slaughter?

    Columbus was so brutal that people in his own time jailed him for for his treatment of the natives. He did not innocently set changes in motion that killed countless people, he killed countless people.

    And, as religions go, Buddhism has pretty clean hands. It’s a religion that literally emphasizes sitting on your ass, after all.

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  52. @Michael Reynolds:

    1) Mobs should not tear down statues.
    2) Governments should not leave it to mobs to tear down statues.
    3) This is not going to sweep the nation, there is no slippery slope.
    4) Intervening forcefully would have made a bad situation much worse.

    This tends to reflect my view, especially the transition from #1 to #2.

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  53. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner:

    Even in my much more conservative days—a quarter century or more ago–I was describing the Sons of Liberty as “terrorists” and noting that it’s rather rich for a country that rose to the status of global superpower by genocide and forcing the remaining aboriginal people onto reservations to be complaining about ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia.

    It may be going against the spirit of these comments to question whether you Actually mean Exactly what you wrote rather than condemn you for it, but…

    Do you really mean that the US should turn a blind eye to genocide because we ourselves inherited a nation founded on genocide?

    There were reasons to not get involved in Yugoslavia — reasons I disagree with, by the way — but this is a new one to me. And it’s so bizarre that I assume it must be a half-formed thought that escaped via the keyboard.

    I’m agnostic about whether that particular statue of Columbus should remain in the public square vice in a museum somewhere.

    So, you have no opinions as to whether we should be celebrating a man who committed crimes against humanity?

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  54. wr says:

    HL92 and Lounsbury lecturing the lower classes on decorum. The last time there was so much pomposity on display in a single place it was right before Charlie Chaplin started putting pies in the faces above the stuffed shirts.

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  55. James Joyner says:

    @Gustopher:

    Do you really mean that the US should turn a blind eye to genocide because we ourselves inherited a nation founded on genocide?

    No, not at all. We’re allowed to evolve our values over time. I’m just noting that I’ve long recognized the grievances being expressed by the mob whose actions I’ve condemned.

    So, you have no opinions as to whether we should be celebrating a man who committed crimes against humanity?

    In this particular case, it’s Italian ethnics celebrating the fact that their co-ethnic had a major part in the founding of the country. I think we can condemn, say, Washington and Jefferson’s actions as slave-owners and celebrate their role in the founding of America. Columbus’ role was much more indirect and his crimes were greater, so I’m fine with voting to take down his statute. But neither does the celebration of the rediscovery of the Americas by Europeans, which was necessary to found the nation, disturb me.

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  56. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    If you break a wine glass that you bought at Amazon and is readily replaceable (and you have several more in the cupboard) is not the same as breaking that family heirloom that belonged to your great-great-grandmother.

    I understand, as noted upthread, that argument applied to the various cheap, mass-produced statuary of Confederates that were just metal poured into molds. But this was a one-of-a-kind, hand-carved marble sculpture. It’s not a commodity. It’s in fact irreplaceable.

    I don’t think they are terrorists, however

    The FBI defines domestic terrorism as, “Violent, criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups to further ideological goals stemming from domestic influences, such as those of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.”

    This is obviously far down the scale from, say, Timothy McVeigh. But it’s a violent act to further ideological goals of a political, social, and racial nature.

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  57. wr says:

    @JohnMcC: “But if the story of intrepid pioneering (white) men ‘discovering’ the continent is described correctly as a horrid mess of genocide, slavery and intentionally spread epidemics, that calls for condemnation and comparison to the Taliban.”

    Well, sure. For people like Lounsbury and HL92, that’s exactly the crime — the little people daring to think they are equal to their obvious superiors. Just look at how Lounsbury describes both the vicious vandals who destroy these monuments and the mouth-breathers who might be offended by them. Equally loathesome — one can almost see him pressing that perfumed handkerchief to his delicate nostrils as his carriage bounces over cobblestones.

    In their world, truth is determined by what they say and morality by what laws rich people are able to pay politicians to pass, and if poor people and minorities want to participate, they should come up with the millions of dollars necessary to play. Except, of course, they’re to “lazy and shiftless” to make that kind of scratch, right HL?

    Just look at the pathetic rhetorical gamesmanship they’re amusing themselves with. Yes, HL92 clearly drew a connection between one poster here and the Taliban, but did it in such a way that it was (obviously) implicit rather than explicit. HL claims he’s a lawyer, and assuming he is, he knows how to use words. But as soon as he’s called on it, he’s shocked — shocked!!! — that anyone would accuse him of such. And then Lounsbury tut-tuts over the evil of the Hard Left for accusing this saint of doing anything but speaking the pure truth.

    Because truth and meaning belongs solely to them. They say what’s important, they say what’s not, they get to choose what words mean because they are — or choose to portray themselves of — the upper tier of the upper class. And all you rabble are simply distasteful.

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  58. @James Joyner: FWIW, I tend to find the legal definition to be overly broad from a social science POV, as legal definitions are wont to be. And the word “terrorist” itself is fraught in and of itself.

    Although I do think it would likely be very difficult to bring terrorism charges against these folks as a legal matter.

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  59. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:
    Columbus was a poor choice of ethnic hero for Italian-Americans. There are one or two other notable Italians they might choose instead. DaVinci, Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, Rafael, Dante, Garibaldi, Marconi. . . They do have a wee bit of history to choose from. Hell, they could reach back to Rome. How about Cincinnatus?

    Columbus wasn’t even working for Italy, he was working for Spain. I don’t believe Columbus means anything to Italian-Americans aside from it being a convenient way to denote an Italian-American club. I doubt 5% of Italian-Americans under the age of 60 give a damn.

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  60. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Sure. And I’ve got no dog in that fight. But this was a statue that went up in my near-adult lifetime through the choices of the people of the city of Baltimore, at least as expressed through their representatives. If it’s to come down, it should be the same way.

    And it’s not like this was a group of Piscataway who were just sick and tired of fighting to take it down.

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  61. @James Joyner:

    I understand, as noted upthread, that argument applied to the various cheap, mass-produced statuary of Confederates that were just metal poured into molds. But this was a one-of-a-kind, hand-carved marble sculpture. It’s not a commodity. It’s in fact irreplaceable.

    First, I stand corrected, as I thought the photo at the top of the post was of the statue in question.

    Second, you are correct, the statue that was destroyed is more valuable than I had assumed.

    However, I still say it is not comparable to the items destroyed by the Taliban and ISIS. It just isn’t the same thing, IMO.

    FWIW, I am in a weird place in all of this that I cannot easily define. I don’t condone these actions, but I also find myself unable to be especially upset about them. I think that the conditions for this moment have been created over a very long period of time and that they represent the failure of both government in general and of the broader dominant class specifically.

    If we (as a country) been responsible about what we were valorizing and been proactive about removing CSA memorializing (instead of, in many places, passing laws to protect those memorials) we wouldn’t be in this place right now. (Or, more importantly, if we had taken police violence against black citizens more seriously).

    I am not in favor of property destruction, nor do I support the unbridled mob. But I also can’t help but see some amount of justice in all of this.

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  62. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner:

    How is the Columbus statue not a work of art? And it’s part of America’s civil religion, which is arguably more important.

    We don’t have a civil religion, we have a history.

    At the risk of sounding like Micheal Reynolds going on one of his benders, religion holds up tenets of faith with the commandment that they are not to be questioned*. But the past should be questioned and examined and interpreted not revered.

    The celebration of Columbus is a modern invention that whitewashes his crimes — crimes he was recognized for at the time. It’s no different than the Daughters of the Confederacy glorifying slave holders and traitors.

    Is there a slippery slope that leads to Washington and Jefferson? Damn right there is.

    Thomas Jefferson wrote some of the most inspiring words about freedom, and he raped his slaves. He was both good and bad. He attacked some unjust systems while benefitting from others. As a nation we have difficulty dealing with nuance — particularly on the right as they are all too often defending the narrative from nuance.

    Lincoln was a bigot. He also freed the slaves.

    Roman Polanski created amazing movies when he wasn’t raping a child.

    ——
    *: Buddhism does the exact opposite, and the entire Protestant reformation is about questioning the religion handed down by authorities…

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  63. Kurtz says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Really? Based on what, body counts? Hate to be the one to have to point out how many millions upon millions upon millions have been killed over the question of religion … Wouldn’t that make Buddha actually far more evil than any of your examples?

    Really? Given my position on religion, this argument would be persuasive if it had anything to do with the topic at hand. But you raised the issue, so I’ll answer anyway.

    Hussein moved toward fundamentalism in the late 80s. Prior to that, Ba’athism was a secular political ideology. Both the Syrian and Iraqi strains were more focused on Islam as an achievement reflective of Arab intellectual culture rather than central to Arab identity. Even then, it was fairly authoritarian in character despite its neutrality toward different religions.

    Given your willingness to go the non-sequitur route, it shouldn’t surprise me that you show stunning ignorance of Buddhism in Afghanistan, the explicit non-violent teachings of Buddha, and the lack of Buddhist violence relative to other religions.

    First, Buddhism spread to Afghanistan organically via cultural exchange along the Silk Road. Islam was imposed on Afghanistan via conquest. In fact, the Bamyan statues pre-date Islam’s appearance in the area by a few centuries.

    Second, Buddha’s teachings explicitly condemned violence and advocated for the minimal role of politics in an individual’s life.

    Third, violence by Buddhists is a relatively recent phenomenon. Prior to the last couple centuries, the earliest credible example of violent Buddhists comes from medieval Japan. Before that, there are historical references to Buddhist violence in India, but it is likely to be fabricated.

    Conflating politicized religion with everyday religious practices to paint piety as the source of violence is placing blame where it does not belong. The problem with Evangelicals in America is not their religion–it’s the exploitation of their religious leaders for political and economic gain and the unwillingness of those sitting in the pews to respect the pluralism inherent in the Enlightenment and the explicit codification of that ideal in the 1A.

    Oh, and on the topic of religion, can we agree that Columbus was interested in religious conversion? I’m pretty sure there is a reference to conversion to Christianity in one of his logs.

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  64. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Columbus was a poor choice of ethnic hero for Italian-Americans. There are one or two other notable Italians they might choose instead. DaVinci, Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, Rafael, Dante, Garibaldi, Marconi. . . They do have a wee bit of history to choose from.

    Galileo, the founder of the scientific method and modern, western science as a whole, and who was the key to the world we know now. And name-dropped in Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

    Lots of great options.

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  65. Lounsbury says:

    @wr:

    Well, sure. For people like Lounsbury and HL92, that’s exactly the crime — the little people daring to think they are equal to their obvious superiors.

    Amusing strawman.

    You lot look down your noses at the Trumpy-leaning white ethnics, sneer at them, call them outright stupid, etc. etc.

    When Harvard and I merely note that it is quite unhelpful to do so, and that yes destroying things that say Italian Americans hold dear as part of their identity, ah then of course our criticism of your blind partisan hypocrisy and self-harming own-goal attitudes, well that’s the Elitists.

    Astounding lack of self-awareness.

    (The Noble Buddhist lecture that’s also quite entertaining. Fabricated history… how people adore the noble other narratives and mythologies. Adore it.)

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  66. Jon says:

    It’s a f*cking statue. The fact that people are obsessing over how a *statue* is treated, rather than how actual human beings are treated, is why we can’t have nice things.

    To bastardize Lincoln: “…If I could ensure justice and equality for all without tearing down any statues I would do it, and if I could ensure it by tearing down all the statues I would do it; and if I could ensure it by tearing down some and leaving others alone, I would also do that….”

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  67. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    One person’s band of criminals in another’s “We the People(!!!).” I think you’ve got another (in the spirit of Dr. Dave T) “dog ate my homework” thing here.

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  68. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @wr:

    Aka “I don’t like what you said, but I’m not going to bother actually engaging or rebutting it, so I’ll just attack you personally instead.”

    Tedious, Maximilien. Very tedious …

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  69. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:
    I know. It’s Italy, creators of about a third of western culture. This isn’t Belize we’re talking about. No great effort required to find great Italians.

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  70. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    How is the Columbus statue not a work of art? And it’s part of America’s civil religion, which is arguably more important.

    I’m now completely sold. The dog really did eat his homework.

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  71. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Gustopher:

    Without taking it as a personal slight, consider how monumentally, mind-blowingly condescending it is, and for that matter how illustrative that is of what the Far Left has become, to presume to lecture Italian Americans regarding who they should choose as their ethnic hero while paternalistically scolding them for choosing someone you disapprove of.

    And yet you somehow presume that their reaction to being sneered at will be genuflection and thank yous. You guys are your own worst enemies.

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  72. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @HarvardLaw92: This comment is at the core of what warrants a discussion regarding this type of action. Thank you for putting perspective into it.

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  73. Michael Reynolds says:

    Yes, there is a Lefty elitism, just as there is a Righty elitism. Yes, the Left is imposing its views, and yes that can be obnoxious.

    The thing is, though, that the existence of a Robert E. Lee statue, for example, is the Righty elites imposing their view. They imposed their view for 150+ years, frequently through the use of guns and nooses and corrupted police forces.

    How much outrage was there about that from the Righty elites? None. Perfectly happy to impose their views, and both @HL92 and @Lounsbury, both of whom I respect for their intelligence, spoke not a peep.

    I’ll invoke the starving man analogy. If a starving man steals a loaf of bread he’s not the criminal, the criminals are the people who let him starve. The initial crime is in glorifying mass murderers and traitors. That’s the felony, if you will. Tearing down those monuments to evil is not morally different than Iraqi mobs (with US help) hauling down statues of Saddam, or Russians removing busts of Stalin. Neither act elicited much concern from Americans about the rule of law.

    When the law is corrupt, when the enforcers of the law are themselves criminals, people take law into their own hands. The question is not, ‘Why did they do this?’ The question is, ‘Why did they have to?’

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  74. Michael Reynolds says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    And if German-Americans decide Heinrich Himmler is their ethnic hero?

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  75. Raoul says:

    I was there when Ronald Reagan and Donald Schafer unveiled the statue in 1984 next to Little Italy and I’m sorry to see it go. One thing for sure I rather see mobs turn against inanimate objects than otherwise. Columbus was a product of its time, and no doubt a barbarian in a literal sense. He was taken back to Spain in chains but the charges against him were dismissed and his heirs inherited a substantial bounty of the Americas. The Four Voyages of Columbus is as a depressing reading as anything.

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  76. CSK says:

    @Gustopher:
    Yes, but they were Italians, in Italy. Columbus could be looked on as the first Italian-American. To show you how deep this goes, I had an acquaintance who was a third-generation Italian on both sides. He was a Bostonian by birth and upbringing, which means he should have been a die-hard Red Sox fan, but he purported to be a Yankees fan. He would never say why, and finally a friend of his told me: Because, in the 1950s, the Yankees had a lot of Italian-American players. So if you were Italian, you had to root for the Yankees, “the Italian team.”

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  77. Jon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    When the law is corrupt, when the enforcers of the law are themselves criminals, people take law into their own hands. The question is not, ‘Why did they do this?’ The question is, ‘Why did they have to?’

    Exactly. I’ve posted this quote before and, sadly, I’ll probably have to post it again, but as MLK said: “A riot is the language of the unheard.” Nobody who is protesting is saying to themselves “Sure, the government is listening to and addressing our issues, but in the meantime let’s go tear down some statues while we wait.”

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  78. Michael Reynolds says:

    BTW Columbus never set foot on any part of what would become the United States. He invaded Hispaniola. If Haiti or the Dominican Republic want to raise statues to him, that’s their issue. Columbus has fuck-all to do with the US which, insofar as it was ‘discovered,’ was most likely discovered by the Norse. Or even earlier by the first people to cross the Bering Straits, then a land bridge.

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  79. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The net consequence of all of that is “thou hath yet become that which thou doth despise”.

    If you realistically want these statues gone, and believe you’re right, then put it to a vote. Make an argument. Convince people of its validity. Let the people who actually, you know, live there make the decision about whether they stay or go.

    If you’re right about the community consensus, you’d have nothing to be afraid of. If you’re wrong, as I suspect that you are, well let’s just say that decimating what a large chunk of people regard as their heritage – regardless of how you might view their choosing to do so – while sneeringly lecturing them about how backward and WrongThink they are isn’t accomplishing anything positive. It’s setting the stage for a backlash. The problem with echo chambers is that eventually those in them actually begin to believe that they reflect reality.

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  80. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Perhaps we should consider that when they’ve actually done so, instead of constructing straw men, no?

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  81. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Reynolds: We’ve long understood that Columbus didn’t “discover” America, even if you discount the massive number of Amerindians who were here. But we wouldn’t have the United States absent his voyages. That’s a rather noteworthy thing.

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  82. inhumans99 says:

    I just want to say to all the folks that think that some folks who are fed up with the state of things in the U.S. who are now tearing down some statues that a craftsman could theoretically replace tomorrow is going to get President Trump re-elected…well, shoot your shot bro, and good luck with that.

    I think it shows how desperate the GOP is that they are running with the idea of some statues being torn down being the equivalent of the Taliban destroying art in grave yards and statues and other symbols in places like Afghanistan that were in some cases many thousands(!) of years old and had been declared historic sites.

    Harvard, James…I bear you both no ill will and wish you only good tidings but y’all are being pendantic and anyway, what is the the end game here? Spilling so much ink to say you are right and others are wrong is just a waste of both of your time and leads to a Pyrrhic victory at best.

    It is Sunday, stop defending an inanimate objects and go eat brunch, watch some tv (I would say sports, which I am not into but unfortunately Sunday is no longer sports day for the foreseeable future…Sports could make a comeback if Trump got serious about helping the U.S. recover from the pandemic, just saying…but I digress), play a board game….realize that maybe vilifying the tearing down of this statue (oh….by the way, you are right, it is a criminal act and I would like cooler heads on the left to prevail but we are where we are today) is not a hill worth dying on.

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  83. DrDaveT says:

    The way protest is supposed to work is by […]

    Without taking sides regarding the statue in Baltimore, I must say that I am surprised. After all of the discussion at this site over the past few years, you still seem to think that you (and I) get a vote in how “protest is supposed to work”. How did that happen?

    When you have gone out to protest racial injustice, how have you done it?

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  84. DrDaveT says:

    @Gustopher:

    And, as religions go, Buddhism has pretty clean hands.

    Relatively, yes. Myanmar is working hard to change that, though.

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  85. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: So that makes the US Marines a band of outlaws? Ooops, my mistake, they won a war (…well, sort of anyway) so everything’s peachy.

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  86. @James Joyner:

    But we wouldn’t have the United States absent his voyages.

    I disagree. I think you are here simply furthering the mythology of Columbus we are taught as school children (wherein, among other things, we conflated “discovering America” with somehow discovering the US rather than the Western Hemisphere).

    If Columbus had not made that journey in 1492, some other European would have made the “discovery” and British colonization of North America would have proceeded. There is really zero reason to state that we wouldn’t have the US without Columbus.

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  87. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: Finally, a second thoughtful argument added to the conversation. Thank you.

    “…so I’m fine with voting to take down his statute.” So are the people who object to it coming down. They’ve won several times already.

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  88. dazedandconfused says:

    James,

    My one quibble is with your conclusion that police don’t prevent homicides and the assertion that pursuing killers doesn’t prevent murders. The police prevent a lot of homicides in responding to domestic disputes, to name just one. You won’t find statistics to back that up other than an overwhelming majority opinion of line officers, if anyone asks. Pursuit of killers is obviously a way to prevent homicides somewhere down the road. The hotter the trail the more likely they get caught.

    It takes a hell of a lot of officers to control a mob. Consider the possibility the Baltimore PD wasn’t BSing. They made a decision, probably to use the officers assigned to that mob to prioritize the checking of looting of businesses, can’t do that very well with most of them creating a protective ring about one statue. Tough luck, Chris.

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  89. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “Tedious, Maximilien. Very tedious …”

    Dude, you want to play at trolling — which you admitted yet again today that you are doing — then you get treated like a troll.

    (Oh, sorry, your precise phrase was ” I’m playing the “let’s be pedantic so we can avoid addressing the actual point” game that seems to be the order of the day.”)

    You want to have an actual discussion? Then discuss in good faith. But don’t come here trolling and then play dismayed when people won’t tackle the “substance” of what you’re saying.

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  90. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I’m an Italian-American over the age of 6o and don’t give a damn.

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  91. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Raoul: No. From what I understand, in the literal sense, a barbarian is someone who doesn’t shave his face. You’re thinking of the connotation of what barbarians were in the context of the Fall of Rome.

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  92. Kurtz says:

    @Lounsbury:

    Repeating strawmen doesn’t make a strawman more valid. In fact there was no “equivalence” stated (actually the contrary).

    However criminal destruction of property is a criminal act. One that has been punished in Common Law since forever.

    There is nothing particularly “moral” in a mob tearing down and smashing statues.

    Dragging in various crimes committed by parties not Columbus nor the Italian immigrant descendants who decided to make Columbus a hero has no logical nor legal connexion to this, and is mere emotional hand-waiving.

    I can assure you, the Salafist Iconoclasts make rather similar hand waiving assertions.

    Excuse me, when I decide to be a violent, religious imperialist, then feel free to compare me (an atheist) to a Salafist. I will gladly accept your apology for comparing me to a sect that uses religion as a means to abhorrent political ends.

    Also, the only people behaving purely out of emotion around here are those defending the poor, poor inanimate objects that have been destroyed.

    And no, it isn’t a straw to argue that property destruction isn’t inherently violent, and that making the claim that it is implicitly creates an equivalence. Nor is it emotional.

    Your second argument is rhetorical sleight of hand by focusing on the use of “criminal” when I clearly was arguing about labeling it as violence. The simple fact is that there is nothing violent about destroying a statue absent an implied threat of physical harm to a person or people. To be fair to you, it was in a subsequent post.

    Since you brought common law into it, at the bottom, I have included the classification of violent crime from two federal databases.

    There was nothing inherently “moral” about sit-ins in the past, either. But wow, I can’t believe the US survived the mass violation of trespassing statutes. Ask yourself, if those sit-ins resulted in property damage, would it somehow enhance the morality of the laws being protested or make the protesters themselves immoral?

    You missed the point here, but that’s my fault. I almost deleted it for that reason. Columbus committed multiple acts of violence against the indigenous population. Happy now?

    But keep my other passage in mind if statues of Jackson or Custer or any other historical figures come down. Because the same response will come of it.

    the NCVS and the UCR.

    From the NCVS:

    Violent crime includes murder, rape and sexual assault, robbery, and assault.

    [Definition of robbery via click:]

    Robbery is the completed or attempted theft, directly from a person, of property or cash by force or threat of force, with or without a weapon, and with or without injury.

    From the UCR:

    In the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, violent crime is composed of four offenses: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.

    [Definition of robbery via click:]

    The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program defines robbery as the taking or attempting to take anything of value from the care, custody, or control of a person or persons by force or threat of force or violence and/or by putting the victim in fear.

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  93. Michael Reynolds says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Perhaps we should consider that when they’ve actually done so, instead of constructing straw men, no?

    No. Not if we are discussing the amount of deference that should be shown to an ethnic group’s preferences. Not if we are discussing the morality of tearing a statue down. The analogy is on point.

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  94. Lounsbury says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    How much outrage was there about that from the Righty elites? None. Perfectly happy to impose their views, and both @HL92 and @Lounsbury, both of whom I respect for their intelligence, spoke not a peep.

    What on earth are you on about, is this some bizarre senile moment or one of your more fantastical and unhinged rhetorical flourishes? Not a peep about what pray tell? I shan’t speak for Harvard, but I dare say one has never seen in any comment of mine any approval of the bolshevik right in the USA (or even now one can say the neo-fascist) nor of keeping any say Confederate statute, indeed the contrary.

    Nor even a defence of Columbus I would note.

    Only the observation that the sneering elitism (dressed up in the tatty rags of Lefty-culty preachy Noble ethnic minorities sur-valorisation) and the myopic echo chambre justification of mob destruction of a statute that a certain class of white ethnics, above all of a working class culture, value is at once a property crime as well as a political blunder undermining the rather more profound and useful reform goals.

    I find it quite ironic that in justifying self-harm becuase “defend our Tribe” you lot assert it’s just a statue, just metal (or stone) and yet if it is indeed just that, well, it is just that and need not merit direct mob violence that merely gives your opposition an obvious – and useful if one is not engaged in complete self-deception so dear to political partisans in their blind tribal reaction – tool to use against you.

    Again, to use the ‘Tallyrand’ quote and alter, it is not just a crime, it is worse a political blunder playing into the opposition rhetoric to your loss for no real gain of substance or any real utility at all.

    @wr: It rather says a lot of the quality of this interaction and the rather impoverished views of a certain type of commentariat that disagreement is “trolling.” Deviation from the partisan self-congratulatory circle jerks that would seem to be.

    I personally care about one thing relative to your completely buggered up situation, that you eject the Orange Cretin and preferably send a resounding rejection of Trumpism to possibly break the fever. To that effect all things unnecessary to that or otherwise being pointlessly idiotic and childish acting out – as mob destruction of statues, I would hope you blunderers can avoid.

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  95. charon says:

    @James Joyner:

    The FBI defines domestic terrorism as, “Violent, criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups to further ideological goals stemming from domestic influences, such as those of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.”

    FBI or no, that’s a crappy and misleading definition. Most of the scholarly definitions I have seen require the use of fear as a way to influence the behavior of a target group. That’s why it is called terrorism, I do not see that in that politicized FBI definition.

    If tearing down statues is terrorism, it sure is a pathetic weak tea form of it. I suppose the Marines who tore down the Saddam statue were terrorists, no?

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  96. Grewgills says:

    @wr:
    This.
    HL can provide useful commentary on matters of law, however when the discussion turns to minorities other than his own protesting the the injustices visited upon them by the law he has a massive blind spot. He will ALWAYS side with law and order over justice. He cares far more about law than justice. If law brings justice he’s fine with that, if it brings injustice he might not love it, but the law is the law and that matters more in his eyes than justice ever will.

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  97. Kingdaddy says:

    Wherever these statues exist, local officials should be taking the initiative. Take them down, put them into storage, have a public discussion about what to do about them. At this point, it’s obvious which statues are in the crosshairs. Leaving them for a self-appointed mob to eliminate them is irresponsible.

    I really, really celebrate the removal of the Confederate statues, the Teddy Roosevelt statue in New York, etc. etc. However, it really, really matters how we do this. The Trumpist backlash is only one reason to handle this step better than this.

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  98. Michael Reynolds says:

    Appealing to the sanctity of law would be more convincing if every single person in this thread had not regularly broken the law. Tax evasion, pilfering office supplies, lying on financial disclosure forms, smoking marijuana, snorting cocaine, public drunkenness, speeding. . .

    Law enforcement has always been uneven and applied much more harshly against minorities and the poor. This is why we should not pass discriminatory laws, and why we should not turn a blind eye to corruption, and why we should long since have dealt with the problem of brutal cops.

    But as always conservatives want the law rigorously applied. . . unless it’s a law they want to see broken. Law works when law is just. Unjust laws and brutal enforcement create contempt for law and order. Where’s the greater crime? In disobeying a corrupt system? Or in creating a corrupt system?

    There were laws against aiding runaway slaves. The Nuremberg laws were absolutely laws. Anne Frank and the Dutch who hid her were violating the law. The Maquis was an outlaw group. George Washington was a criminal traitor. It’s not as simple as law is law.

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  99. MarkedMan says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Whoa. I’m not condemning the Marines. But the US Military and the Bush administration created false propaganda over this incident, endlessly repeating the lie that it was the Iraqi citizenry who had pulled the statue down. I feel obligated to correct that false narrative wherever I come across it.

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  100. @Kingdaddy:

    Wherever these statues exist, local officials should be taking the initiative. Take them down, put them into storage, have a public discussion about what to do about them. At this point, it’s obvious which statues are in the crosshairs. Leaving them for a self-appointed mob to eliminate them is irresponsible.

    Agreed.

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  101. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: ” Let the people who actually, you know, live there make the decision about whether they stay or go.”

    Lots of statues of Civil War traitors and slavers across the south. Seems to me that a lot of the people who actually, you know, live there have found this an unmistakeable sign of their own oppression for decades. Somehow the statues didn’t go away until this year. Is that because they didn’t want it enough? Or that the entire political system was set up so that their voices would go unheard?

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  102. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Lounsbury:
    You were very sure the demonstrations would lead to a political backlash. Remember? Instead the American people embraced the demonstrations and Trump’s numbers slid.

    And spare me the condescension. I know a great deal more about the American electorate than you do. After all, it was me, very politely as you will recall, suggesting that in this case you were wrong. As you were. Right? Right.

    ‘You lot’ ignore injustice until someone riots. Then up you pop to bemoan the end of civilization. You’re indifferent until someone shoves an injustice in your self-satisfied face, and then your beef is never with the precipitating injustice, always with the reaction to it.

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  103. Jim Brown 32 says:

    Well thats just it….when enough people to form a “mob” takes action, and actions connected to American values, it is a sign that process doesn’t work. Its is not a signal to double down on “use the process”. If they could have used a process, they would have.

    James’ process arguments reeks of a company that manufactures perfectly good widgets 99.5% of the time– .05% of their widgets however, bursts spontaneously into flames and kills everyone within 20 feet. Instead of focusing on how to reengineering the process to yield non-lethal outcomes in its defective widgets..all the energy goes into defending the current process because of its 99.5% success.

    Riddle me this…why are white conservatives morally outraged about property damage but they never speak with such passion about white collar crime that prey upon these poor communities? The difference in tone and passion is palpable.

    The bottom line is: the train has left the station on alot of issues..some we aren’t even aware of yet. If those actions make white people feel forced to vote for Trump…so be it. This is happening on Trumps watch NOW. You think him being reelected is going to change anyone’s calculus? Go ahead, vote for ‘Law and Order’. The Police have no legal obligation to risk their lives for your property. You think they want any part of an angry mob in a Country armed to the teeth like this one is? They’re going to find themselves in the same position as ‘Ken and Karen’ of St Louis. Alone. Shame that Ken & Karen had to find out their hard earned taxes only bought them the Hood Package of police protection when there was percieved threats to the police. At least they can take solace in knowing that if there is a traffic violator that needs to be demeaned and killed…officer friendly is on the job.

    What white moderates should be voting for, if they were interested in collaborating with citizens of other backgrounds and diffusing the tension is ‘Fairness and Common Ground’.

    Now, I will admit that mobs arc towards extremism over time. The best strategy to address that tendency is to take the fuel away from it before it starts. But that isn’t what happened was it? Nope, we got cries of using the ‘process’. Processes, which BTW yield undemocratic outcomes that almost every one agrees shouldn’t be…but that was the Will of the Process. The Process is like the friggin Force.

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  104. Jim Brown 32 says:

    Im jacked into several different so social networks…including Trumpists (Yes, I believe in keeping your friends close and potential enemies even closer.)
    the game is changed. Marginalized people have moved into F56k Your Feelings mode. White people are getting a taste of their own cavalier attitude towards the sensitivities of other people not like them.

    Shame it had to come to this but it is unavoidable. Underwriting the social contract is boundaries. Ive long carried the mantra ‘If I’m at risk your at risk’. That certainly hasn’t been the mantra of the larger black community…. until recently. We’ll see how all this plays out…hopefully with only statues and property as casualties. I hope people understand that this is the BEST case.

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  105. wr says:

    @inhumans99: “Harvard, James…I bear you both no ill will and wish you only good tidings but y’all are being pendantic and anyway, what is the the end game here?”

    I think there’s suddenly a great fear on the traditional — even the never-Trump right — as the political situation starts to spin out of control. HL, for instance, is a great anti-Trump voice, and I believe he will rejoice when Trump goes down to defeat. But I suspect they all thought that after these years of Trump — and the previous eight years of McConnell — people would change presidents and then things would go on the way they always have. They thought Trump could be dumped and the “sane” Republicans would just naturally take their rightful place on top.

    But things are changing fast now, and it’s possible that the Democrats will win not only the White House, but the Senate, and that the House will move further to the left. And for the first time in decades the power of the plutocrat-worshipping Republicans might finally be extinguished.

    This is why anyone to their left is suddenly a terrorist or a Taliban or a fascist. Because they don’t think it’s fair that just because the Trump presidency exposed their decades-long transfer of the nation’s wealth into their own pockets they should have to suffer, too. That’s… that’s Bolshevism!

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  106. JohnMcC says:

    @James Joyner: And I agreed. And your point of view seems to be that the loss of that particular statue in that particular manner was some sort of atrocity.

    If lightning destroyed Chris’ likeness or a sinkhole swallowed it or there was a prank gone bad, no one here would care. The thing became an issue drawing some 100 comments because the myth of America’s founding is being called a lie. A particularly horrid lie.

    For all sorts of complex reasons the ‘discovery’ of the continent and it’s exploitation coincided with rising nationalism and monarchical rivalries, mercantilism and opportunities for adventurism. No one clapped their hands with joy at the prospect of great cruelty. But it unfolded in such a way that we stand today on a space that once was claimed as being highly virtuous. It wasn’t. That recognition does not imply that anyone can ignore the law. I have noticed how several commenters here reacted to the loss of the statue as if a guillotine was soon to be set up on the National Mall. C’mon!

    Prosecute anyone who can be found. Let the worthiness of the defenestration be debated. But don’t accuse the people who pulled it down as terrorists.

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  107. wr says:

    @Lounsbury: “It rather says a lot of the quality of this interaction and the rather impoverished views of a certain type of commentariat that disagreement is “trolling.””

    HL has been, by his own admittance (including one quoted in the message to which you’re replying) that he is not arguing in good faith but using some cartoon version of whatever he feels the rhetorical devices of his opponents to be. That is trolling, and that you somehow manage to skip right past the moment where he says “Hey, I’m trolling here” says a lot more about you than anything else.

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  108. Scott F. says:

    Thank you for this, Steven L. Taylor. I am of the same mind.

    FWIW, I am in a weird place in all of this that I cannot easily define. I don’t condone these actions, but I also find myself unable to be especially upset about them. I think that the conditions for this moment have been created over a very long period of time and that they represent the failure of both government in general and of the broader dominant class specifically.

    If we (as a country) been responsible about what we were valorizing and been proactive about removing CSA memorializing (instead of, in many places, passing laws to protect those memorials) we wouldn’t be in this place right now. (Or, more importantly, if we had taken police violence against black citizens more seriously).

    I am not in favor of property destruction, nor do I support the unbridled mob. But I also can’t help but see some amount of justice in all of this.

    Sorry to cut & paste so much of your original text, but I feared your cogent and personal take on this event was getting lost in all the sniping.

    A just outcome is what matters here. As is usually the case, the path to justice is complicated and wrought with peril. Fear of a backlash leads to years of inertia. Frustration over years of inertia leads to lashing out leads to backlash that leads to fear in a vicious cycle. There is no magic solution that ends the cycle.

    But, we are in a unique moment in time. We need to keep our focus on the end goal.

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  109. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Michael Reynolds: We can, at a minimum also throw the Olmecs in the “came here before Columbus” category as well. The totems with African features as well as some of the explorers journals which spoke of ‘black-skinned’ natives are pretty strong proof to me.

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  110. wr says:

    @wr: “Admittance.” Jeeze, I’ve read so many of Lounsbury’s messages I’m beginning to pick up his “if it sounds kind of like a word but might be more pompous I’ll use it three times” style.

    The word is “admission.” My apologies to all who were offended!

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  111. Monala says:

    @James Joyner:

    BAGHDAD, Iraq – In a scene of triumph and jubilation televised live throughout the world, Iraqi citizens in the heart of Baghdad — with help from a large U.S. military vehicle — toppled a huge statue of Saddam Hussein Wednesday and began dancing on it when it fell to the ground.

    It was a historic moment: the people of Iraq conveying to the world that they are finally free of the brutal dictator who has maintained a vise grip on them for nearly 30 years.

    Fox News, April 9, 2003

    In 2003, were you calling the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue a violent, criminal act, or were you celebrating it as an act of freedom and jubilation?

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  112. Monala says:

    And here is the International Business Times in 2014 celebrating the toppling of statues of violent leaders all over the world.

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  113. Scott F. says:

    @Lounsbury:

    I personally care about one thing relative to your completely buggered up situation, that you eject the Orange Cretin and preferably send a resounding rejection of Trumpism to possibly break the fever. To that effect all things unnecessary to that or otherwise being pointlessly idiotic and childish acting out – as mob destruction of statues, I would hope you blunderers can avoid.

    I’d just note that the blunder the Lefty-cult made that led to the backlash that elected the Orange Cretin in the first place was we had the temerity to elect a Midwestern Senator of remarkable intelligence and decency, whose signature policy was a partial step toward universal healthcare, but who also happened to be Black.

    There is no safe play that wins the mushy middle in the US. It is pointless to seek one.

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  114. Monala says:

    @James Joyner: can you tell me exactly how we have “long since reckoned with the genocide against Amerindians and the mixed legacy of Columbus”?

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  115. JohnMcC says:

    @James Joyner: The most likely first Europeans of what we’d call the ‘modern’ era (maybe the ‘colonial’ era?) to step onto North America were fishermen who discovered the Grand Banks and needed a spit of land on which to dry their catch. Since they did not have royal authorization and because they were just working stiffs, almost no one knew.

    It’s because of this contact that the Civilizations of the Americas were a shattered remnant when those brave explorers and conquistadores set foot on the beach. Their European diseases had preceded them.

    It’s really kind of hard to imagine that the singular navigational genius of Christopher Columbus was indispensable to the evolution of a future United States. I say that as someone who (sadly) was unable to take my sailboat on a cruise that would have pretty much tracked Columbus’ first voyage but who actually studied his logs among other material. His insight was that the currents that govern the Atlantic move in a circle so that once he made it to ‘India’ he would have a down-wind trip home.

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  116. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner:

    But we wouldn’t have the United States absent his voyages. That’s a rather noteworthy thing.

    Hard to say.

    Absent Columbus, the Portuguese would likely have stumbled upon what is now Brazil in short order. This would have been a by-product of their trading missions which rounded Africa to get to Asia. Sometimes they went far out enough west to catch a glimpse of land. This is one reason the Portuguese conquered Brazil, the other is the treaty of Tordesillas (which itself would have been different had they “discovered” the Americas).

    For almost certain, the continent would have been called something else, as Amerigo Vespucci would not have been as involved with Portuguese efforts.

    Anyway, the lands the British and French went after in the mainland Americas were not those of interest to Spain and Portugal. So maybe those would have been developed in much the same way and you’d have the United States of Novo Mundo or something now.

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  117. Kurtz says:

    @James Joyner:

    @Kurtz:

    This wasn’t mere “vandalism.” The statue was destroyed and dumped into the harbor. Arguing that it’s not an act of violence is absurd.

    Legally, for a crime to be classified as violent, the victim must be a person or persons. You can put vandalism in quotes all you want, it doesn’t change the definition of it.

    Legally and in common usage, vandalism includes defacement and destruction. The only property crime classified as violent is robbery, which requires a bunch of elements a statue cannot meet because it requires a person to be the target.

    You’re playing semantic games on this one, and that’s rare for you. I urge you to think about my point. If I wanted to discuss things with someone unwilling to reconsider, I would post on Reddit and register for Twitter. In the end, we will probably disagree. But if either of our positions regarding an action as violent is absurd, it ain’t mine.

    There is a reason you don’t see me use the term “structural violence” around here. I get the argument, but I don’t find it helpful to use it for the same reason it is probably counter-productive for you to describe the statue’s bath the way you do.

    In the abstract, I would have preferred a legitimate government of Iraq decide the fate of that statue. But a people who had been oppressed for generations by a dictator acted spontaneously in the vacuum of anarchy. By contrast, the protesters in Baltimore live in a democratic society that not only has avenues for enacting policy change but was actively discussing removing the statue. They’re just different circumstances.

    Please cite this “active” discussion. I briefly looked it up, but so far the only evidence I have found of this is the letter from a Councilman to the Mayor three years ago that you cite. I’m willing to take you at your word if you have some personal inside information on it.

    Let’s try this, Dr. Joyner. We both agree that the re/election of Trump is bad, correct? We also agree that part of the reason he was able to be elected were dysfunctions within our electoral system, correct?

    I recognize that you and I have different views about the efficacy of rioting. From what I have looked at, the rigorous studies that have been published on non-violent vs. violent action suffer from methodological holes no matter which position the authors take. I refrain from citing them for that reason.

    But I would find your argument more persuasive if peaceful protests had brought us closer to a legitimately fair, truly participatory political process and economic system. I suspect that you and I both agree that we have not yet reached that point 50+ years after the most recent sustained unrest.

    But do you think that there is never a justification for taking down statues in this manner? How many marches with little progress must happen until other means are considered? I ask these questions, because I am at least willing to participate in a system that I see as hopelessly flawed. I don’t impugn the motives or morals of those who reasonably disagree with me, but some of the posts above are straight up worthy of mockery. To see you make similar exaggerations is frustrating to me I guess.

    Indeed, one can argue that the Taliban destruction of the Buddist statutes were more proper in that they were the governing authority of Afghanistan.

    I find it interesting that your preference in Iraq and Baltimore focused on legitimacy, but this Afghanistan take ignores whether the Taliban are a legitimate authority. I admit that you are unlikely to make the argument yourself, but this seems like a justification for authoritarianism. But maybe I’m reading it wrong.

    If I was too aggressive this morning, I apologize. Though I stand by my claims, I didn’t intend on being insulting to you. Though I can honestly say that one of the responses from another poster is still irritating me a bit.

    Have a nice Sunday.

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  118. Monala says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I know he has an airport named for him, but how about statues of LaGuardia, if you want someone connected to the US?

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  119. Monala says:

    @Michael Reynolds: speaking of LaGuardia, there is a possibly apocryphal story about him making just that point, that the real criminals are those who impoverished people so much that they have to steal lest they starve.

    ETA: Snopes says this story about LaGuardia is “undetermined.”

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  120. James Joyner says:

    @Kurtz: I think we may be having a semantic disagreement rather than one of substance on the initial issue. I used ‘criminal violence’ and you took it as synonymous with ‘violent crime.’ While a reasonable interpretation, I wasn’t implying the latter. Tearing down a statue, smashing it to pieces, and tossing it into the harbor is an act of violence using just about any definition that I can find. It’s a criminal act. But, no, it’s not a violent crime, which are against persons.

    I can think of no circumstance in which I would approve of mob violence of this sort in a representative democracy. And I think justifying it as legitimate plays into the hands of the Trumpists, as it follows that the only way for the majority to preserve its rights is violence against the mob.

    The Taliban was widely recognized as the government of Afghanistan and thus had legal authority. It’s nearly impossible to say whether an oppressive, theocratic state is ‘legitimate,’ although I don’t know how they could be.

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  121. Raoul says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Not to be overtly punctilious but Columbus did land in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Though I forgot what specific Virgin Island it was. He also named both places.

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  122. Raoul says:

    Correction: it does not appear as if Columbus landed in the Virgin Islands.

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  123. Gustopher says:

    @Jim Brown 32: I’ll wait on DNA evidence before I conclude that the Olmecs were of immediate African descent.

    Stylized figures can be seen as another race, and indeed there are some Olmec sculptures that look Chinese. Accounts of “black skin” just means darker.

    The African-Olmec connection is considered fringe science on Wikipedia, by the way, and there aren’t good genetic studies recognizing it.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olmec_alternative_origin_speculations#Genetic_studies

    That said, the Berring Straight Land Bridge theory has taken a few hits recently, as genetic testing and carbon dating isn’t always lining up with it, so there will likely be more research in the coming years. It wouldn’t surprise me too much if we eventually discovered that white Europeans were the last people to discover the Americas.

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  124. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: I know you’re not condemning the Marines. (If anyone was going to, I would be me, btw, but I digress.) I was noting that the statue was not being pulled down because “people had an election.”

    ETA: I’m at a point where I am all out of GAFs about this type of argument and find myself torn in the same way that Dr. Taylor seems to be. I understand, and even empathize some with Dr. Joyner’s point, but I find his argument fatuous.

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  125. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner:

    I think we may be having a semantic disagreement rather than one of substance on the initial issue. I used ‘criminal violence’ and you took it as synonymous with ‘violent crime.’ While a reasonable interpretation, I wasn’t implying the latter.

    You may not have been intentionally implying the latter, but you were definitely implying the latter.

    I can think of no circumstance in which I would approve of mob violence of this sort in a representative democracy. And I think justifying it as legitimate plays into the hands of the Trumpists, as it follows that the only way for the majority to preserve its rights is violence against the mob.

    This brings up a couple of questions:
    – are we truly a representative democracy?
    – does a democracy have an obligation to protect the rights of minorities?
    – if a democracy is failing at that, is it more or less legitimate than mob property damage?

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  126. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK:

    Columbus could be looked on as the first Italian-American.

    See? That’s the part that I don’t get. He didn’t come here to live. He only came to trade expecting that he was going to find the back end of the Silk Road. And when he didn’t find trade, he settled for pillage.

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  127. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Yeah, I know, but Columbus was Italian, and he sailed in the direction of what would eventually become the United States. In grade school you learned that he discovered America, so…he was the first Italian-American. It’s like that guy I knew who rooted for the New York Yankees because they were the Italian team. If you’re eager to find heroes, you can find them almost anywhere.

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  128. An Interested Party says:

    In the abstract, I would have preferred a legitimate government of Iraq decide the fate of that statue. But a people who had been oppressed for generations by a dictator acted spontaneously in the vacuum of anarchy.

    How is that so different from ethnic and other minorities in this country who have been oppressed for generations? Yes, we are nominally a democratic society but democracy seems to be more available to some people than to others…perhaps the circumstances aren’t as different as you think…

    Wherever these statues exist, local officials should be taking the initiative. Take them down, put them into storage, have a public discussion about what to do about them. At this point, it’s obvious which statues are in the crosshairs. Leaving them for a self-appointed mob to eliminate them is irresponsible.

    While I agree with you, we’re talking about a city that has many problems and issues to deal with…I imagine that what to do with statues is probably not at the top of their list of what to worry about…

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  129. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: When I was young, I remember reading an article related to my social studies class in school that opined that had “the Colonists” been able to land on the West Coast of the US instead of NE, it’s probably that they wouldn’t have bothered to travel East in exploration. I don’t remember all of the details as to why, but the idea made a seminal impression of at least one person growing up in the Pacific Northwest.

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  130. @Scott F.: Thanks.

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  131. Cameron Whitright says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    There were laws against aiding runaway slaves. The Nuremberg laws were absolutely laws. Anne Frank and the Dutch who hid her were violating the law. The Maquis was an outlaw group. George Washington was a criminal traitor. It’s not as simple as law is law.

    Ding! Once again, Reynolds may get under my skin sometimes, but he manages to hit the nail on the head often enough that it doesn’t matter to me.

    The two examples here that jump out at me are the first and last ones.

    One of the ironies of the interpretation of the Civil War being about states’ rights rather than slavery was the status of laws enacted in Northern states that forbade state officials from aiding in the return of runaway slaves. This was specifically mentioned by South Carolina as a justification for it’s secession. Of course, SC was the state at the center of the nullification crisis, so their only claims to consistency were inferiority of black people and the security of property rights (particularly people.)

    The George Washington example is eerily similar to two things I almost added in one of my responses to Dr. Joyner. The first was the most obvious thing possible–how to square the origin of the American Experiment as an affront to political authority with a preference for having a legitimate Iraqi government remove the Firdos Square statue rather than the citizens who had been repressed. If the rule of law is paramount, carving out an exception for the American insurrection but calling the tossing of a Columbus statue “violent” strikes me as … fishy.

    I almost asked if The Boston Tea Party was a violent act or an act of civil disobedience that resulted in no harm to anyone’s person.

    Michael, would you be so kind as to recommend one of your books for me to read? I have the impression that your publications are not my usual choice of genre, but I’ve been wanting to read something you have written. I’ll leave the choice up to you.

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  132. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Well, I learned “discovered America” in elementary school. By high school, we had moved on to “discovered some islands in the Caribbean,” but my high school social studies department probably leaned a little farther left than others.

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  133. James Joyner says:

    @An Interested Party: Most modern concepts of ‘democracy’ include protection of certain rights and liberties, not mere elections. We’ve fallen short of that, historically, for many groups. But while there is systemic racism, blacks have voting rights. Baltimore, the city in question, has a black mayor and most of the city council is black. Amerindians are obviously less powerful but they’re not the ones who tore down the statue. Regardless, losing elections and failing to get one’s way through the process doesn’t permit violence.

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  134. Northerner says:

    @Kurtz:

    Legally and in common usage, vandalism includes defacement and destruction. The only property crime classified as violent is robbery, which requires a bunch of elements a statue cannot meet because it requires a person to be the target.

    That’s kind of interesting — any idea why robbery is legally classified as violent? For instance, From what you say if I break into someone’s home and steal their TV that would be classified as a violent crime, but if I break into their home and just destroy their TV it wouldn’t be? I’d have thought that if anything, stealing the TV would be less violent (and less wasteful) than destroying it.

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  135. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Oh, I learned that as well. Most did, I believe. But, as someone else (Teve, I think) pointed out upthread, Catholics needed a hero. I’d refine that further to say that Italian-Americans needed an Italian-American hero. Franco-Americans had Lafayette, and Polish-Americans had Pulaski. Columbus was the closest thing to an Italian American hero.

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  136. James Joyner says:

    @Northerner: Robbery, by definition, is taking something by force. Breaking into a place and stealing when no one is home is burglary.

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  137. CSK says:

    @Northerner:
    If you break into someone’s unoccupied house and steal his tv, that’s burglary. If you break in and steal his tv while the occupant is there, it’s robbery. There’s a threat of violence to the occupant.

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  138. Just nutha ignint says:

    “But while there is systemic racism, some blacks sort of have voting rights in some places.”

    FTFY

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  139. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Easier to go the route my dad did:
    Q: Are you Eyetalian? (It’s almost always Eyetalian because they come from Eyetaly.)
    A: No, I was born here. I’m an American.

    ETA: An Italian-American coworker of mine used to note that Rome had a civilization with elections and running water when the Celts were painting their faces blue and playing bagpipes to “scare away the demons.”

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  140. An Interested Party says:

    Regardless, losing elections and failing to get one’s way through the process doesn’t permit violence.

    As if the violence is the result only of losing elections and failing to get one’s way through the process…

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  141. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    My forbears came from Ireland, Denmark, and Germany (the Anglo-Irish ones seven generations ago, admittedly), but neither of my parents, nor their parents, ever identified as anything but American. No hyphens for them. I think as the descendants of immigrants became better educated and more affluent, they lost their identification with the old country.

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  142. An Interested Party says:

    I think as the descendants of immigrants became better educated and more affluent, they lost their identification with the old country.

    Perhaps many of those who have been mistreated precisely because of their ethnic background are more prone to celebrate their ethnic roots…

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  143. Kurtz says:

    @James Joyner:

    I agree with that assessment of our disagreement on this particular issue.

    I can credibly be accused of pedantry here, but I think it’s in important distinction to make. Others can disagree on its salience with little quarrel from me, because some of my views on political discourse are idiosyncratic (being kind to myself here) and I’m willing to admit it.

    I think my hangup was the coupling of criminal and violent, and my response was not as charitable as it could have been. I should of asked for a little clarification first.

    Stay healthy, my friend.

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  144. CSK says:

    @An Interested Party:
    That’s also quite true.

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  145. Northerner says:

    @James Joyner:
    @CSK:

    That distinction makes sense, thanks. Not being a lawyer, I assumed robbery and burglary were synonyms.

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  146. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Meh… remember that only the Irish ones weren’t *white* to begin with. There’s no particular history of businesses with signs saying “No Danes Need Apply.” Germans had some problems during the wars, but those seem to have been short lived.

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  147. Kathy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Hm. Just setting up a scenario for Europeans to colonize the Americas starting out West, would require a lot of ingenuity, and probably some kind of unnatural barrier in the Atlantic.

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  148. gVOR08 says:

    Jeez. I skip one post because I really don’t care if somebody tore down a statue of Columbus and I come back to find 145 comments arguing about whether I should care. We didn’t used to get 140 plus comments on gun threads.

    I’m not going to read all the comments, so apologies if someone already said how Columbus Day became a national holiday. WIKI tells the story,

    For the 400th anniversary in 1892, following a lynching in New Orleans where a mob had murdered 11 Italian immigrants, President Benjamin Harrison declared Columbus Day as a one-time national celebration. The proclamation was part of a wider effort after the lynching incident to placate Italian Americans and ease diplomatic tensions with Italy.

    We eventually decided Italian-Americans were just Americans. Maybe we can learn to accept African-Americans as just Americans.

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  149. An Interested Party says:

    Maybe we can learn to accept African-Americans as just Americans.

    Sure, as soon as we have a wider effort after the lynching police shootings and other police mistreatment to placate ensure equality and justice for Italian Americans African-Americans…

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  150. DrDaveT says:

    @CSK:

    Yeah, I know, but Columbus was Italian

    Debatable. I’ve seen a pretty convincing argument that he was probably originally Catalan…

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  151. DrDaveT says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    From what I understand, in the literal sense, a barbarian is someone who doesn’t shave his face.

    Nope. Understandable folk etymology, given that barbe is French for beard and all that, but no.

    Barbarians (Greek /barbaroi/) are people who speak gibberish. It literally refers to people who talk nonsense noises like “barbarbar” instead of speaking actual language (i.e. Greek). So, in fact, much more condescending and objectionable than you thought.

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  152. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @DrDaveT: I was going on something I’d read about Ancient Rome but have no way to gauge the accuracy of the assertion.

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  153. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: As I recall, it was a hypothesis based on comparative arable land percentages and the degree to which crossing the Cascades, Sierras, and Rockies would be valued on a speculative basis. The basic thesis seems (IIRC) to have been that there would have been less likelihood that people settling in WC areas would feel a need to expand eastward.

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  154. CSK says:

    @DrDaveT:
    Yes, but Italian-Americans claim Columbus as Italian. To them, he is.

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  155. Kurtz says:

    @gVOR08:

    Yeah, don’t read this one.

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  156. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Cameron Whitright:
    That’s very kind of you, dude. I’m known as co-author of ANIMORPHS but that’s young, and anyway it looks like we might be getting a movie, so catch it streaming some day. The thing I’m best known for is the GONE series. That’s technically YA, but it’s my version of YA, so not much emphasis on ‘young.’ I do have some adult stuff and it’s online at Amazon. AN ARTFUL ASSASSIN IN AMSTERDAM is a caper book (with some autobiographical notes) in which I figure out how to rob the Rijksmuseum.

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  157. Matt says:

    Awesome the mods don’t want to acknowledge that Columbus raped murdered and pillaged his way through the Caribbean without even reaching what would be called mainland USA. Reality too hurtful for your fee fees so you had to delete me pointing out the truth….

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  158. Cameron Whitright says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Thanks. I shall check out the the last one. That actually sounds up my alley. Interestingly, I have a heist script I’ve been working on for a while, so that may help a bit.

    Despite a couple adversarial exchanges in the past, as I’ve said many a time here, you’re always a good read. I’m definitely excited about seeing what you can do in longform.

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  159. Teve says:

    @Matt: You’re probably just in moderation. It’s probably not deliberate.

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  160. EddieInCA says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    FWIW, I am in a weird place in all of this that I cannot easily define. I don’t condone these actions, but I also find myself unable to be especially upset about them. I think that the conditions for this moment have been created over a very long period of time and that they represent the failure of both government in general and of the broader dominant class specifically.

    If we (as a country) been responsible about what we were valorizing and been proactive about removing CSA memorializing (instead of, in many places, passing laws to protect those memorials) we wouldn’t be in this place right now. (Or, more importantly, if we had taken police violence against black citizens more seriously).

    Exactly where I am, as well. This, to me, is justice – long denied.

    Additionally, I never, ever, gave a shit about statues – anywhere. I’ve traveled all through Europe, West and East, and every f*cking city with more than three churches or 10 restaurants has a statue of some asshole from history riding on a horse with a sword in the air. Ljubljana, Zagreb, Trento, Bath, Verona, Linz, Nuremberg, etc. Most people have no idea who/what the statues represent. I’ve always found it stupid, and ridiculous.

    It’s “against the law?” F**k the law if it’s immoral.

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  161. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner:

    Amerindians are obviously less powerful but they’re not the ones who tore down the statue.

    It is baffling that protests about police violence against Blacks would mutate into protests against symbols of white supremacy built to remind blacks of their place and then against even symbols of white supremacy that aren’t there to put Blacks in their place. Totally baffling.

    You’re often a little blind to others’ experiences, and apparently that includes others empathy.

    Let’s play a hypothetical: if people were tearing down statues commemorating Nazis killing Jews, and they came across a statue commemorating Nazis killing Gypsies, would you expect them to ignore it, or tear it down?

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  162. Lounsbury says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    You were very sure the demonstrations would lead to a political backlash. Remember? Instead the American people embraced the demonstrations and Trump’s numbers slid.

    I was very sure riots not demonstrations would lead to political backlash, and based on actual empirical evidence indeed (as one of James own posts called out).

    So, no I wasn’t wrong despite your spin – quite the contrary. Luckily at once Trump misplayed his hand and early incidents of rioting were taken under control by protestors. I for one don’t conflate and confuse peaceful protest with riot – neither to leverage for law and order nor to excuse because “my side” (whatever that is).

    My statements on protesting despite your revisionist spin was that they needed was to be disciplined like the 60s Civil Rights movement in USA, and not like the late 60s-early 70s rioters.

    And in fact after early violence that happened – and Trump being a bungler over- played.

    The problem with you lot is you love to collapse everything down to Black Hat White Hat binaries – like most political partisan radicals, it’s not particularly an affaire of the Left.

    So everything perceived as “Your side” you justify, excuse and hand waive away – White Hats. and the least criticism, well that must be from Bad Guys, black hats.

    Ordinarily I am generally quite happy at the congenital incompetence, the narrow thinking and habit of own-goal scoring in particular on the Left. However this time I am not since Trump must be removed .

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  163. wr says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: “had “the Colonists” been able to land on the West Coast of the US instead of NE, it’s probably that they wouldn’t have bothered to travel East in exploration.”

    Maybe not for exploration, but to find cheaper real estate and less traffic…

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  164. James Joyner says:

    @charon:

    the use of fear as a way to influence the behavior of a target group.

    You don’t see that at work here? A small mob has been allowed to tear down a decades-old, irreplacable piece of art paid for and put up by the community. And the authorities allowed them to get away with it because of fear.

    All across the country people are taking down monuments, not through the democratic process, because of fear of rioting.

    Indeed, @Kingdaddy thinks we should be doing more of this:

    Wherever these statues exist, local officials should be taking the initiative. Take them down, put them into storage, have a public discussion about what to do about them. At this point, it’s obvious which statues are in the crosshairs. Leaving them for a self-appointed mob to eliminate them is irresponsible.

    That’s action out of fear. And, frankly, they’ve been far more successful at using terror to achieve their political aims than the Taliban or al Qaeda.

    If tearing down statues is terrorism, it sure is a pathetic weak tea form of it.

    Sure. An ordinary murderer who kills one person is a piker compared to Jeffrey Dahmer or Charlie Manson. And both pale in comparison to Adolph Hitler and Josef Stalin. So?

    I suppose the Marines who tore down the Saddam statue were terrorists, no?

    They weren’t terrorizing anyone and, by most definitions, state actors aren’t terrorists. They were arguably war criminals, however.

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  165. drj says:

    @James Joyner:

    That’s action out of fear. And, frankly, they’ve been far more successful at using terror to achieve their political aims than the Taliban or al Qaeda.

    Apart from the obvious substantive problems with this assertion, what are you trying to achieve by comparing the Taliban and Al Qaeda with a bunch of protestors who tore down a statue?

    Is it useful to compare the terror of thousands of people being killed with the terror of a riot leading to – at most – a couple of looted stores?

    Is seeking to undo an implicit ideology of white supremacy (that contradicts the current reading of the nation’s foundational documents) comparable with trying to create an absolutist theocratic regime?

    Are two threats the same if one cannot be defeated by a massive military intervention and the other is deemed not a priority by a local police force?

    In short, does your comparison illuminate or obscure our understanding of what is going on?

    I don’t know what you are trying to do, but being analytical certainly ain’t it.

    They weren’t terrorizing anyone

    This one takes the cake, though.

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  166. @Matt:

    Awesome the mods don’t want to acknowledge that Columbus raped murdered and pillaged his way through the Caribbean without even reaching what would be called mainland USA. Reality too hurtful for your fee fees so you had to delete me pointing out the truth….

    ???

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  167. @James Joyner:

    That’s action out of fear.

    It may be an act of prudence. It may be a lot of things, maybe some of it is fear, but I really don’t think classifying it as an act of fear really captures what is going on here. I think you are really stretching the definition.

    And, frankly, they’ve been far more successful at using terror to achieve their political aims than the Taliban or al Qaeda

    I suppose if you narrowly define “political aims” in this very specific case as getting rid of the Columbus statue, then sure. Beyond that, I would suggest you are doubling down unnecessarily with this line of argument.

    I really do think that using “terror” here is problematic. They aren’t blowing up buses to force city governments to take down statues. But even that sentence is problematic to me because the “they” is extremely hard to define. These are spontaneous acts. Can you even apply “terrorism” to spontaneous acts?

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  168. James Joyner says:

    @drj:

    Are two threats the same if one cannot be defeated by a massive military intervention and the other is deemed not a priority by a local police force?

    I never argued they were.

    The Boston Tea Party was an act of terrorism that we tend to revere because we’ve deemed them to have been patriots fighting on the right side. Tearing down statues with violence is a smaller act of terrorism. Neither killed anyone, so they’re on a different scale entirely from the 9/11 attacks or other acts of mass murder.

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  169. charon says:

    @James Joyner:

    The Boston Tea Party was an act of terrorism

    Your definition of terrorism is exceptionally expansive IMO.

    @drj:

    Are two threats the same if one cannot be defeated by a massive military intervention and the other is deemed not a priority by a local police force?

    I would not really think of prudence re potential bad publicity as quite what I would think of as terror.

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  170. drj says:

    @James Joyner:

    I never argued they were.

    I never said you did. But that is rather besides the point, isn’t it?

    My question was whether your comparison was in any way helpful.

    What if I say that both Nazi Germany and the US had/have laws on the books that limit speech? (This is true, btw.)

    How is this helpful in understanding either the realities in Nazi Germany or the intricacies of the current US legal system?

    What’s the point besides yelling “Look how smart I am”?

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  171. James Joyner says:

    @drj:

    What if I say that both Nazi Germany and the US had/have laws on the books that limit speech? (This is true, btw.)

    It can be a useful point or a distractor, depending on how it’s fleshed out.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    [T]he “they” is extremely hard to define. These are spontaneous acts. Can you even apply “terrorism” to spontaneous acts?

    There is a mass movement going on, with a core agenda (that black lives matter generally and that police shouldn’t be killing innocent black people in particular) that we both agree with. We’re further apart on the side issue of statues, with me much more adamant against letting mobs representing a tiny fraction of society make these decisions.

    It’s hard to say what’s part of the “movement” and what’s “spontaneous.” There’s mass action that seems at least somewhat coordinated on the statues. But some instances seem to be acts of pure nihilism. I don’t know into which category this particular example falls. Most of the people I’ve seen in the photos are young white people.

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  172. @James Joyner:

    It’s hard to say what’s part of the “movement” and what’s “spontaneous.” There’s mass action that seems at least somewhat coordinated on the statues. But some instances seem to be acts of pure nihilism. I don’t know into which category this particular example falls. Most of the people I’ve seen in the photos are young white people.

    It is certainly possible that there is a movement on some level of organization to remove statues. However, absent evidence it seems to be more logical that these are spontaneous acts in the same way much of property damage has emerged in the context of the broader mass movement.

    The spontaneity issue strikes me as relevant to the application of “terrorism.” I certainly grant that it doesn’t change the legality of the actions.

    I understand and accept your preference for a clear legal discussion about these statues. In the abstract, I agree with you. Even in the concrete (no pun intended) I am disquieted by mob actions of violence or property destruction.

    However, I just think that we can’t divorce this conversation from the celebration of white supremacy by a lot of these symbols that is helping put fuel on a fire of the broader movement you note. It complicates assessments in my opinion.

    We have largely refused to have frank discussions about the symbols of the Confederacy and now that anger and frustration in boiling over on things like a statue of Columbus.

    I would suggest, however, that taking this down the terrorism route only obscures context and amplifies a law and order argument even beyond one that really is better understood as vandalism, albeit with a political motive.

    Like with the way you look at SCOTUS, I think you are assuming an easier legal pathway to remedy than actually exists. That doesn’t excuse property damage nor lawlessness, but pent-up frustration decades in the making in a system that has inadequate representation does help provide an explanatory context, even it does not ultimately justify the actions in question.

    In other words, I agree that fixing this symbology problem needs to be done via democratic means. The question is: do those means really exist? And, further, what about the barriers created by the fact that the dominance of white politicians and white political power help perpetuate these symbols?

    In Alabama state law prohibits locally elected officials from changing names or removing statues. This is true in several states (NC for example). On the one hand, that is democratic in the sense that state legislatures made the laws, but then denies local democracy.

    I am, I will admit, still thinking all of this through.

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  173. JohnMcC says:

    I s’pose this belongs here: Last night someone tore a statue of Frederick Douglas off it’s base and dragged it over to the bank of the Genesee river up in Rochester.

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  174. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Like with the way you look at SCOTUS, I think you are assuming an easier legal pathway to remedy than actually exists. That doesn’t excuse property damage nor lawlessness, but pent-up frustration decades in the making in a system that has inadequate representation does help provide an explanatory context, even it does not ultimately justify the actions in question.

    We’re in agreement on much of this. It’s just that, at the end of the day, I don’t see how you operate a system outside of the law.

    It’s essentially impossible to change the US Constitution and the current structure is undemocratic, privileging rural/conservative interests over urban/liberal ones. That’s highly problematic and there’s no real remedy. I don’t think judicial fiat is a better alternative, though, as it’s even less representative.

    The monuments to white supremacy are even harder. We’ve come, as a nation, to see the Confederate monuments in that light and very slowly at that. But, in the communities where they reside, they often are not seen that way by the white majority. And, as you note, there are mechanisms that vitiate against local control even in majority-black cities.

    But the decision to take down the Columbus statue was made by a mob of maybe 300 people. How many of them are even from Baltimore? What were the wishes of the people of Baltimore?

    And how many people have to be aggrieved for violence to be an acceptable means of addressing the grievance? 51 percent of the community (however one wants to define it)? 50 percent? 10 percent? One person? 300?

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  175. James Joyner says:

    @JohnMcC:

    Last night someone tore a statue of Frederick Douglas off it’s base and dragged it over to the bank of the Genesee river up in Rochester.

    I’m not sure how that happened without witnesses but the early reporting is that they have no idea who did it or why. There was no graffiti or other messaging and no accompanying protest. Maybe just some idiots.

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  176. wr says:

    @James Joyner: I understand your feelings about the statues. In general I am opposed to destroying artworks, although I’m certainly willing to make an exception for Confederate monuments.

    And I suspect that a lot of people who are arguing with you probably feel pretty much the same way about mobs tearing down Columbus statues.

    What is prolonging this argument, as I see it, is your insistence that this is an act of terrorism, a statement that can only be made if you choose to set aside everything you know on the subject.

    If I kill your dog because his barking annoys me, then I am a dog-killer.

    If I kill your dog because I hope that its death will finally force the city council to pass and enforce strict leash laws, I am a terrorist.

    The goal of a terrorist act is not the act itself, but the political consequences that will follow. The 9/11 hijackers didn’t take down the Twin Towers because they disliked the architecture; they did it to show that the mighty America was actually vulnerable and weak. They could easily have chosen a different target and had the same result.

    The people who tore down the Columbus statue weren’t doing it to make people reassess their opinions of Italian-Americans, say. They were doing it because they found the statue itself offensive.

    And yes, you have every reason to condemn this act in all the ways you laid out above. But calling this an act of terrorism is something I’d expect from a rabble-rousing yahoo at Red State, not the scholar that you are.

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  177. James Joyner says:

    @wr:

    What is prolonging this argument, as I see it, is your insistence that this is an act of terrorism, a statement that can only be made if you choose to set aside everything you know on the subject. […] The goal of a terrorist act is not the act itself, but the political consequences that will follow.

    It’s really a tangential argument introduced into the discussion by @HarvardLaw92. I defend it because I define the concept broadly to include, as does the FBI, any criminal violence with the intent to influence political outcomes. As noted, I consider the Sons of Liberty a terrorist group by that definition.

    That said, I’m intrigued by @Steven L. Taylor‘s argument that these groups aren’t trying to instill fear into public officials to force their hand into taking down the statues peacefully lest they be taken down violently. But it’s sure having that effect. The mob is winning and it makes me despair for the country.

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  178. @James Joyner: It is less that I find any of it acceptable and more that I am finding it difficult to see any of it in stark terms.

    I think, minimally, these kinds of outcomes result from a representative government that does a poor job of representing. I guess in some ways I see it the way that I see the results of weather damage–a result of natural forces, in this case of a social nature (but even that is not an adequate analogy).

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  179. @James Joyner:

    The mob is winning

    In a limited sense (as with this specific statue), yes. In the broader sense? I don’t see this as the case.

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  180. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I think, minimally, these kinds of outcomes result from a representative government that does a poor job of representing. I guess in some ways I see it the way that I see the results of weather damage–a result of natural forces, in this case of a social nature (but even that is not an adequate analogy).

    That is an interesting analogy. And, yes, to some degree people acting violently out of frustration is likely a fact of life rather than something that can be controlled.

    At the same time, I’m not sure representativeness is at issue here. There are marginal cases where the baked-in inequalities of the system keep a significant majority from enacting their political preferences. But most of the instances in question in the broader Black Lives Matter “movement” (in scare quotes for reasons you alluded to earlier) are ones in which majorities of various communities share a different preference.

    While one hopes nearly everyone would prefer cops not kill innocent black people, people broadly support cops. “Defund the police” is not a popular idea. Even Confederate statues are still pretty popular in most of the South.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    In a limited sense (as with this specific statue), yes. In the broader sense? I don’t see [the mob winning] as the case.

    They’re getting swift action from mass violence that they weren’t getting from peaceful demonstration, much less simply voting for officials who shared their policy preferences. To the extent that protests simply called attention to a problem and changed people’s hearts, I’m fine with it. To the extent it’s an attempt to ward off further violence, it’s an encouragement to more of the same.

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  181. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner:

    It’s essentially impossible to change the US Constitution and the current structure is undemocratic, privileging rural/conservative interests over urban/liberal ones. That’s highly problematic and there’s no real remedy.

    If these conditions are true, then either the remedy lies “outside the law” or there is is no remedy at all into perpetuity. Doesn’t that have to be the case? If the current structure is not only undemocratic, but broadly unjust, isn’t it immoral to sustain it into perpetuity?

    @James Joyner:

    While one hopes nearly everyone would prefer cops not kill innocent black people, people broadly support cops.

    I suspect you didn’t intend this to come off as glib as it does, but surely this isn’t an either/or situation. Broadly supporting cops has to include an insistence that every possible reform of policing is pursued until such time as the number of dead Black innocent people due to police action is zero.

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  182. James Joyner says:

    @Scott F.:

    If these conditions are true, then either the remedy lies “outside the law” or there is is no remedy at all into perpetuity. Doesn’t that have to be the case? If the current structure is not only undemocratic, but broadly unjust, isn’t it immoral to sustain it into perpetuity?

    For a handful of issues where we’re deeply divided regionally, the bar is raised. It’s not enough to get a bare majority but a significant one. But, no, I don’t see that justifying mob violence.

    surely this isn’t an either/or situation

    I don’t claim otherwise. Taking my argument out of context—ignoring the very next sentence—doesn’t advance the discussion.

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  183. de stijl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    @James Joyner:

    The mob won for centuries.

    It was white and politially powerful.

    The mob certainly beat back Reconstruction with terrorism.

    James, you equate mob with the relatively powerless. It’s a bad assumption.

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  184. drj says:

    @James Joyner:

    I define the concept broadly to include, as does the FBI, any criminal violence with the intent to influence political outcomes.

    I don’t have the intention to turn this into a “gotcha” moment (although I wouldn’t blame you if you were to think this is my goal), but a couple of years ago you wrote the following about an armed militia taking over the Malheur Wildlife Refuge:

    Nor is it “terrorism” in any meaningful sense. While it technically meets the federal law definition of ”domestic terrorism” in that they’ve take “acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States” that “appear to be intended . . . to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion,” the charge would rightly be laughed out of court absent significantly more violence than has happened to this date.

    Perhaps you have changed your mind in the intervening years (which is totally legitimate), but it seems at least likely that calling the Baltimore protestors terrorists has more to do with your value judgments than a reasonable and consistent interpretation of the term “terrorism.”

    It’s really a tangential argument introduced into the discussion by @HarvardLaw92.

    Who also admitted in so many words that he was trolling to make some sort of point about the intolerant Left.

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  185. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner:

    There was no graffiti or other messaging and no accompanying protest. Maybe just some idiots.

    It’s a little curious that you dismiss the “violence” against the Fredrick Douglas statue out of hand, when it could easily be a bunch of right wing racists said “people are pulling down statues? Let’s go get the one of that ni**er!”

    Having read your writings for years, I don’t think the distinction is that Frederick Douglas was black, but rather that it happened under the cover of darkness — you like order.

    You want to wake up, look out the window, and see order. You want to see the state maintaining order.

    If there’s a statue of Frederick Douglas torn from it’s base and thrown down a gorge, well, that happens, but everything looks orderly right now, and it was probably just a bunch of yahoos who did it anyway. I’m oversimplifying, but you really like order.

    And your reaction to the protests shows that. The protests are not orderly. There is destruction of property. There is people taking things into their own hands to tear down symbols of white supremacy. There are people blocking freeways. There are people trying to disrupt your orderly life where there is a process for getting these things done.

    And, I think most people do prefer order.

    But, take a moment and think about the Blacks who are interacting with racist and violent police (real violence, not property damage) who target them in disproportionate numbers, and who have to live with symbols of white supremacy erected across the nation — have these Blacks been able to enjoy an orderly society? (Hint: the answer is an n-word)

    If they “keep to their place,” they can reduce the risks, but there will always be some racist yahoos. And those racist yahoos are often in positions of power.

    If you have a government that doesn’t have the consent of the governed, then there will be disorder — at least spikes of disorder that the state has to crush.

    The Republican mantra has been to exclude anyone who isn’t Republican from the conversation — this goes back at least to the Hastert Rule, and has come to the forefront under the Trump administration where he doesn’t even pretend to try to be a President for all Americans.

    The Democrats have been lily-livered weaklings, who have basically been telling Blacks to wait their turn since the Clinton presidency. They’ve focused their efforts on universal health care, gay rights, preventing the Republicans from blowing up the economy by defaulting on the debt, and generally trying to avoid making middle America uncomfortable while pursuing “bigger” issues. Yeah, there was a Black president who generally avoided race, and created a huge backlash.

    If your representative democracy doesn’t represent everyone, there will be disorder. The tearing down of statues and the “mob violence” is a direct result of the long lines at polling places in minority neighborhoods.

    I’m with you that I would prefer there not be angry crowds in the streets. Especially now, during a pandemic, in the summer of a presidential election year. But ultimately, this shit bubbled to the surface now, and I guess we’re doing it now. There’s no way to put the toothpaste back in the tube, so we might as well brush our teeth.

    The angry crowds represent a failure of America for its citizens.

    And by America, I mean us. Literally you and me, and people like us. People who are opposed to oppression, but don’t pay it any mind if it happens outside of our field of view. People who are casually against racism, but not really actively anti-racist and sit on the sidelines and say “yes, yes, they have some legitimate grievances there.”

    I mean, most of the blame goes to the actual oppressors, but we are not without blame. So, this is the moment, and it’s going to be messy, and that’s just going to happen, and I hope it’s messy and successful rather than messy and useless.

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  186. EddieInCA says:

    @James Joyner:

    The mob is winning and it makes me despair for the country.

    James. Sometimes the mob MUST win, because it’s right.

    MLK’s march on Selma was a mob action, by your standards. They needed to win.
    The Berlin Wall was brought down by mob action, by your standards. That mob needed to win.
    ACT UP during the 80’s and 90’s was all about mob action, alot of it illegal. But they were morally correct, and it’s how they finally got the Government to take AIDS seriously.

    You have a blind spot here that I don’t get. People are f*cking sick and tired of the whitewashed history. There should be more outrage about how humans are being treated than statues.

    I learned about the Tulsa race riot massacre (Black Wall Street) while visiting Tulsa in 1983. It wasn’t in any history books in High School or College. I learned about Columbus’ crimes from a old Italian in NYC in 1986. None of his atrocities were in any of my history books. Texas, TODAY, has a High school history text book that minimizes slavery.

    https://www.vox.com/identities/2019/8/26/20829771/slavery-textbooks-history

    People are just tired of the BS, and despair all you want, but change is coming.

    Finally.

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  187. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner:
    I don’t believe I took you out of context. Your very next sentence is ‘“Defund the police” is not a popular idea.’ One of the possible reforms that could lead to fewer dead innocent Black people is off the table because it doesn’t poll well?

    Please explain the nuances I’m missing in your position. How is popularity or significant majority approval the most operative when the status quo condition is an appalling number of dead innocent Black people? Is regional preference sufficient to sustain painful, oppressive symbology into perpetuity? If the law itself is unjust, then change the laws, they say. But, as you note, changing the law to the degree required is “essentially impossible.” You’ve left us no alternative but to roll over and accept injustice.

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  188. Cameron Whitright (Kurtz) says:

    @James Joyner:

    A couple questions here.

    What exactly is your despair for the country centered upon?

    Is your worry that if policymakers give in to violence and enact change that it encourages violence in the future?

    What is the alternative action you would approve of if an untenable socioeconomic situation continues despite peaceful protests?

    I ask these questions because the splits around here seems to be based on:

    The presence of Trump and the need to get rid of him;

    And/or

    Concern for respect for law/democratic process.

    Vs.

    Peaceful protests haven’t overcome the inertia of a racist system. Being told to wait is results in continued oppression.

    It seems to me that this is the progression of movements if conditions do not improve:

    Peaceful protest —> more protest with increasing intensity and some violence —> more anarchic protests —> radicalism

    Once protests become widespread enough, it becomes incumbent on policymakers to act if their wish is to avoid violence and more radical ideologies taking root.

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  189. James Joyner says:

    @Gustopher:

    It’s a little curious that you dismiss the “violence” against the Fredrick Douglas statue out of hand

    I don’t dismiss it at all. The preliminary news accounts literally say authorities have no idea who did it or why. If it was a bunch of drunken yahoos having a laugh, it’s a terrible outcome but not an outrageous political act. If it’s Ku Kluxers getting their revenge for Robert E. Lee, it’s criminal violence that I deplore equally to the destruction of the Columbus statue. (I deplore the KKK’s cause more; but the actions would be equivalently outrageous.)

    If your representative democracy doesn’t represent everyone, there will be disorder.

    Even in the most perfect democracy—and ours is far from that—there will be winners and losers. Unless we simply agree to take down all the statues and erect no more, somebody will find some statue somewhere outrageous. I don’t countenance their tearing it down because they were unable to persuade the community of the righteousness of their cause.

    @EddieInCA:

    Sometimes the mob MUST win, because it’s right.

    But that’s just “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” reasoning. The ends justify the means if you like the side’s cause. I disagree.

    At least, not in a democracy.

    The United States was founded in rebellion against an empire. We fought a civil war against Southern states who claimed to have similar cause for secession. We view those differently because of who won and lost and also their causes. (Still, in hindsight, many of the claims in the Declaration are pretty thin. But, again, we won so bygones.)

    @Scott F.:

    How is popularity or significant majority approval the most operative when the status quo condition is an appalling number of dead innocent Black people? Is regional preference sufficient to sustain painful, oppressive symbology into perpetuity? If the law itself is unjust, then change the laws, they say.

    I may not understand the question.

    A group has a grievance—one I believe is legitimate—about policing. They’ve taken to the streets to draw attention to their grievance. Now, they have to persuade legislatures to enact reforms. But the maximalist reforms some in the movement are calling for arent’ going to pass. Then what?

    @Cameron Whitright (Kurtz):

    Once protests become widespread enough, it becomes incumbent on policymakers to act if their wish is to avoid violence and more radical ideologies taking root.

    So, mob rule?

    @de stijl:

    The mob won for centuries.

    It was white and politially powerful.

    The mob certainly beat back Reconstruction with terrorism.

    James, you equate mob with the relatively powerless. It’s a bad assumption.

    The KKK and various lynch mobs were indeed, well, mobs. I deplore them.

    I also deplore Jim Crow laws, but they were mostly enacted by the vote of the white majority (and by suppressing or altogether denying black suffrage). It’s a different topic but, again, I deplore that, too.

    I also tend to deplore tyranny of the majority—and the majority can sometimes effectively be a mob. But I’m not quite sure what it is that you’re arguing against?

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  190. Cameron Whitright says:

    @James Joyner:

    I mean, isn’t reflecting the voice of the majority the point of a democratically based system?

    IIRC, one of the suspicions of the founders was a tyranny of the majority. Meaning they intended for the voice of the people is filtered through elected representatives. The House represented the people, the Senate and President represented the states.

    At the founding, the voters were a couple steps removed from influence on the latter two institutions. In exchange, they get the power of the purse and a more direct voice in the House. Additionally, “the people” consisted of a slice of the citizenry, not the whole.

    But several assumptions were made, no? Good faith elected officials, officials responsive to the voices expressing grievances, Madison highlighted the need for quality education, the hollow hope of an absence of factions…

    Two of the modifications made to the structure since the founding: expansion of suffrage and direct election of Senators were aimed at enhancing the influence of “the mob.” That seems like a laudable goal to me.

    My questions for you after those points is this: do you think enhancing the power of the people was a mistake?

    More germane to this discussion, do you agree with the right of the people to seek redress of their grievances through assembly? It seems to me that’s what a protest is.

    The further question is, in a protest involving n people, what x number of people engaging in destructive behavior turns it from a legal celebration of Festivus to a mob? The lower the value of x, the easier it is for a member of the oppressing class to make the protected gathering look like a mob. It’s not a paranoid fever-dream to think that’s possible–it’s happened.

    It’s difficult to accept your characterization of democracy as mob rule without pointing out that our system initially had checks against that risk, but over time has reacted to the system, as created, nearly exclusively reflecting the will of a privileged minority. My questions are aimed at figuring out where you are on the initial system and the subsequent changes to it.

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  191. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner:
    Let me clarify…

    A group has a grievance about policing – a grievance seems a cold-hearted way to describe a shocking number of innocent Black people ending up dead by police action, but there it is. You agree with their grievance. So far so good. I’d go further to claim that the end of extrajudicial killing is more a moral imperative than a nice thing to have if we could only work it out, but I’m funny that way.

    The aggrieved have taken to the streets to not only bring attention, but to demand action. They intend to persuade legislatures to enact all manner of reforms, but the maximalist reform keeps being put forward as their primary objective, when their objective is no more dead innocent Black people by whatever means possible.

    Then what? Leaders step up and start enacting reforms, measuring the efficacy of the reforms always against the objective which is, again, no more dead innocent Black people. And, if it takes the maximalist reform to meet the objective, then so be it even if the populace needs to be taken there against their preference.

    Of course, the problem we have now is there are enough in the population (including numerous prominent leaders), that don’t share the objective of no more dead innocent Black people. So, even the most modest reforms are fought tooth and nail, because people broadly support the police, and to challenge this broad support is too high a price to bear for a few less dead innocent Black people.

    So, the “mob” comes out. The lawful way was tried and it failed. So, the aggrieved group needs to grow itself by wresting the complacent and complicit out of their comfort with the status quo. The cost is some statues and monuments at this point, but until such time that despair for the country is more widely held, then change won’t come and that is unacceptable.

    You have just rejected the notion that “the ends justify the means if you like the side’s cause.” But, you’re eliding the profoundly simple idea that “the ends” for one side is the cessation of centuries of racial oppression and the end of extrajudicial killing of innocent Blacks, while the other side’s cause is… acceptance of these current conditions into perpetuity.

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  192. James Joyner says:

    @Cameron Whitright:

    My questions for you after those points is this: do you think enhancing the power of the people was a mistake?

    By and large, no. Universal suffrage has its problems—the founders rightly feared the appeal of demagogues and, especially, promising the masses untold goodies paid for by the rich—but they’re better than the alternative. A society that only represents the elite is untenable.

    It’s difficult to accept your characterization of democracy as mob rule

    I have nowhere characterized democracy as mob rule. I’ve characterized acquiesing to violent mobs as mob rule.

    More germane to this discussion, do you agree with the right of the people to seek redress of their grievances through assembly? It seems to me that’s what a protest is.

    Assembly? Sure. Violence? No.

    The further question is, in a protest involving n people, what x number of people engaging in destructive behavior turns it from a legal celebration of Festivus to a mob? The lower the value of x, the easier it is for a member of the oppressing class to make the protected gathering look like a mob. It’s not a paranoid fever-dream to think that’s possible–it’s happened.

    I don’t know that there’s a mathematical answer for solving “x.” But, to the question here, 300 random yahoos gathered at a statue ain’t it.

    our system initially had checks against that risk, but over time has reacted to the system, as created, nearly exclusively reflecting the will of a privileged minority.

    You would need to demonstrate what you mean by that because I’d argue that just the opposite is true. Each step of the way, we’ve increased suffrage.

    It’s true that restrictions enacted in 1974 and subsequent to limit campaign spending have repeatedly been found wanting by the courts—and circumvented in any case by those with money. And I grant that this has distorted the incentive system. But we’ve had countervailing developments, notably the Internet and social media, that have vastly amplified voices that would have no audience otherwise.

    I don’t use “mob rule” as some sort of code word for “undesirable” elements. I literally use it in the context of violent, criminal acts.

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  193. James Joyner says:

    @drj:

    seems at least likely that calling the Baltimore protestors terrorists has more to do with your value judgments than a reasonable and consistent interpretation of the term “terrorism.”

    I missed this earlier.

    I think the Bundys committed criminal acts that were more egregious than those of the protestors because, in using guns, they were implicitly threatening to kill people. I don’t think their actions constituted terrorism, though, because there was ultimately no violent act beyond occupying a piece of ground.

    I don’t think those who destroyed the Columbus statue will or should be criminally charged with terrorism, either. But it was criminal violence and part of a seemingly organized movement across the country to use violence to achieve political goals. It’s really a tangential point introduced into the conversation by someone else and not at all central to my argument.

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  194. Cameron Whitright says:

    @James Joyner:

    Just as I suspected. We have normal disagreements. No biggie.

    I don’t use “mob rule” as some sort of code word for “undesirable” elements. I literally use it in the context of violent, criminal acts.

    If I thought you did this, I doubt I would engage with you in this manner.

    The paragraph that needed clarification is in line with how you responded to it. The system has been modified, because it’s design resulted in policy that reflected the will of a small slice of citizens. I wrote it at lunch and didn’t have time to edit. My apologies.

    Also, you and I disagree about of what constitutes violence that would warrant concern, as well as a couple issues upstream from that. But I am confident that you don’t hold those views for nefarious reasons. You are a good faith actor. If I thought you weren’t, I would say so.

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  195. de stijl says:

    Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

    Black people have to swallow slavery. Highways named after Confederate generals on the way towards downtown were there are statues of Confederate generals. A deliberate thumb in your eye because you don’t count.

    Ignore it. Swallow it.

    White people get uppity about face mask requirement at Target during a pandemic.

    As SLT said, this is a failure of government to address the pleas of the aggreived. Not only should this have been addressed and rectified decades ago, our politicians should be apologizing and rending their garments that such an affront was not removed and denied much, much earlier.

    Confederate statues are a direct affront. A deliberate thumb in the eye.

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  196. Monala says:

    @James Joyner:

    I think the Bundys committed criminal acts that were more egregious than those of the protestors because, in using guns, they were implicitly threatening to kill people. I don’t think their actions constituted terrorism, though, because there was ultimately no violent act beyond occupying a piece of ground.

    I don’t think those who destroyed the Columbus statue will or should be criminally charged with terrorism, either. But it was criminal violence and part of a seemingly organized movement across the country to use violence to achieve political goals.

    My emphasis added.

    re: the Bundy standoff:

    The organizers were seeking an opportunity to advance their view that the federal government is constitutionally required to turn over most of the federal public land they manage to the individual states…

    On January 3, The Oregonian said there were roughly 20 to 25 people present and that the militants had deployed into defensive positions. …

    A fistfight erupted at the refuge on the evening of January 6 when three members of a group calling themselves Veterans on Patrol attempted to enter the headquarters and convince women, children and Ryan Payne to leave. Instead, they were repelled by militants, leaving one member of the Veterans on Patrol with a black eye…

    The militants began to vandalize the property, which local community leaders characterized as an attempt to provoke violent confrontation. A video released by the militants showed them inspecting a locked storage room for archaeological artifacts held in agreement with the Burns Paiute Tribe, an Indian nation in Harney County, leading the tribe to ask the federal authorities to block the passage of occupiers to the site…

    [On January 26] Shawna Cox, a passenger in Finicum’s truck, recorded cell phone video of Finicum shouting to police that he intended to ignore their orders and drive away. Other cell phone video footage shot by Ryan Bundy, another passenger, also showed Finicum taunting officers and daring them to shoot and kill him.

    About seven minutes after stopping his truck, Finicum resumed driving north at high speed… They were subsequently pursued by officers and eventually encountered a roadblock about 1 mile later. An Oregon State Police SWAT member, identified in the trial of FBI agent Astarita as “Officer 1,” fired three shots with an AR-15, into Finicum’s truck as it approached the roadblock. Finicum steered off the pavement to the left shoulder to evade the roadblock, embedding his truck in a roadside snowbank. Two OSP officers and four FBI agents were posted at the roadblock, with one of the FBI agents nearly being run over by Finicum’s truck.

    So you have an armed takeover of federal property, fistfights against people who tried to get the women and children to leave, vandalism and attempts to harm Indian artifacts, and attempts to evade a roadblock and run over FBI agents. I would say that is a lot more violent (especially given everything written earlier in this thread, about how violence in criminal law is by definition against a person, not an object) than anything the folks who are toppling statues are doing. Furthermore, they most definitely were doing so as an organized movement with political ends.

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  197. de stijl says:

    Assume the Bundy thing was Black Panther Party types.

    Imagine the outcome.

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  198. Cameron Whitright says:

    @James Joyner:

    They’re getting swift action from mass violence that they weren’t getting from peaceful demonstration, much less simply voting for officials who shared their policy preferences. To the extent that protests simply called attention to a problem and changed people’s hearts, I’m fine with it. To the extent it’s an attempt to ward off further violence, it’s an encouragement to more of the same.

    I think HarvardLaw made a similar argument above. I typed a particularly assholish response to it so I deleted it. I have digested more of your views than I have of either of those posters, so it’s easier to respond to you without the vitriol.

    I’m going to reference @Monala: here, because these are the two issues that bother me the most about the positions you have taken in this thread. It also relates a little to what I was getting at Sunday about the term “criminal violence.”

    First, it seems extremely difficult to reconcile your acknowledgement of the serious flaws in our political system with your appeal to use that system to enact change.

    This seems to be a consistent blind spot in your position, and HL’s challenge to “put it to a vote” falls in the same category. You answered both his and your argument via acknowledgement of state law prohibiting local redress. It doesn’t matter that not all states have those laws on the books; the salient point is the mere existence of a prohibitive law anywhere illustrates the continuing disenfranchisement of minorities.

    Further, you digging your heels in here shows just how thorny a problem you have created with your stated stances. You are a reasonable, thinking person. Yet, your argument so far is:

    -our system of democratic representation is flawed

    -criminal violence is bad.

    -we live in a democratic system responsive to people.

    They’re getting swift action from mass violence that they weren’t getting from peaceful demonstration, much less simply voting for officials who shared their policy preferences.

    You typed this. You. Typed. This.

    So you admit that our system privileges some voices over others. You also admit that peaceful protests haven’t done a damn thing. And your response to this is an appeal to working within the system?

    I will repeat: you are a reasonable, thinking person. You have not been swayed here. So how am I to approach my neighbor and persuade him?

    Let me tell you about him. He is armed to the teeth with both an AR and an AK as well as other arms. After Hurricane Irma passed through the power was out for a few days. While I was smoking a Camel, I heard him speaking on the phone, “I hope someone comes here to loot so I can shoot him.” He has a Confederate Flag hanging on his lanai. He is a transplant from that lovely Confederate State of… Michigan.

    If you cannot be persuaded by anyone here, with the exception of some twinge of intrigue induced by Dr. Taylor, how the fuck are we supposed to persuade people in a society that has northerners adopting the redneck ethos of The Lost Cause?

    Now to Monala’s point about Bundy. This goes beyond the frustration I felt when reading the phrase “criminal violence” and your invocation of “mob rule.”

    There was actual violence in the Bundy situation. More than that, Bundy is part of the sovereign citizen movement, and thus actively rejects the authority of the USFG. That rejection and his standoff is much closer to terrorism than tossing a statue into the harbor. Do I think he should be labeled a terrorist? No. But the argument for it would survive closer scrutiny than the vandals’ action would.

    Quickly, the handwringing over the specter of Trump by many in this thread is bullshit.

    What’s more likely?

    Trump wins re-election due to a backlash that hasn’t materialized in the polls (his numbers are still sliding) and that he causes permanent damage somewhere during a second term (his political capital will diminish quickly.)

    Or

    An unarmed black or brown or red person who poses no threat to a police officer is killed in custody?

    I think we all know the answer.

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  199. James Joyner says:

    @Cameron Whitright:

    So you admit that our system privileges some voices over others.

    In various ways, sure. What system doesn’t?

    You also admit that peaceful protests haven’t done a damn thing.

    I don’t. Most of the expansion in rights have come from peaceful protest. The peaceful protests of BLM have already started getting results, although obviously deep reform of policing is something that doesn’t happen overnight.

    With respect to the statues, the bottom line is that there wasn’t anything close to majority support until quite recently to take them down. And, yes, there were state-level laws that made it impossible for a local consensus to change things. But, so what? We have an overlapping set of government institutions.

    But, here in Virginia, there was a lot of action before the latest round of protests. Streets were being renamed, statues were being taken down. All from peaceful protesting as well as backlash over white supremacists overplaying their hand at Charlottesville and elsewhere.

    And your response to this is an appeal to working within the system?

    Either we are a society of laws or we aren’t. If this is an insurrection, it needs to put down forcefully. If it’s peaceful protest, we should examine the cause and re-examine our policy. But, guess what? We’re a huge, diverse society. People disagree! There are people who feel strongly about various issues who are outnumbered by those who take the opposite point of views. Frustrated minorities do not get to use violence when they’re outvoted.

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  200. @James Joyner:

    Frustrated minorities do not get to use violence when they’re outvoted.

    Let me make sure I am clear to all that I agree with this. My disagreement with James is based in the question of how, precisely, to react to and categorize issues such as that surrounding the Columbus statue.

    And I also want to make sure that everyone understands that the actions of a mob are not to be construed as democratic action (which I think was conflated above).

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  201. drj says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Frustrated minorities do not get to use violence when they’re outvoted.

    Well, it depends.

    Imagine a democratically elected legislature suddenly deciding that all under-25s must pay double the normal income tax rate. And since this age group comprises a minority of voters, there is no immediately feasible way of overturning this legislative decision through normal means.

    In a case like this, I would totally understand if there would be a riot.

    The point is that it is fairly easy to live with a law you disagree with as long as it is not too blatantly unfair – if it would remain within the boundaries of the social contract, so to speak.

    But at a certain point, more subversive reactions become understandable – even if this point is not the same for everyone. Rather than as either right or wrong, some actions should be judged on a spectrum that takes into account the broader context.

    Concretely, while I generally would disagree with the tearing down of a Columbus statue, I simply can’t get too worked up about this particular case. Considering the current social context, it is an understandable reaction, the statue itself is nothing too special, etc.

    The calculation could change in various degrees and directions, e.g. if the statue is more unique (which would decrease my sympathy) or if the protestors were Native Americans (which would increase my sympathy), etc.

    Sometimes “the law is the law” isn’t the most reasonable sentiment. Dealing in absolutes hardly ever is.

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  202. James Joyner says:

    @drj:

    Imagine a democratically elected legislature suddenly deciding that all under-25s must pay double the normal income tax rate.

    Imagine filing a lawsuit.

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  203. drj says:

    @James Joyner:

    Imagine filing a lawsuit.

    You are pretending that law and justice are the same. They weren’t in the past (*cough* Jim Crow *cough*) and it is naive to assume that they are now. We haven’t exactly reached the “end of history.”

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  204. @drj:

    Imagine a democratically elected legislature suddenly deciding that all under-25s must pay double the normal income tax rate. And since this age group comprises a minority of voters, there is no immediately feasible way of overturning this legislative decision through normal means.

    In a case like this, I would totally understand if there would be a riot.

    That there might be a riot is one thing.

    Calling it a democratic or even justified is another.

    Understand, I am reacting specifically to the idea of whether not getting one’s way justifies mob violence or that it can be seen as legitimate.

    I readily allow that some injustices lead to political violence and sometimes, ex post, we decide that that violence was justified. But that is a far cry from simply stating riots are okay if you don’t like the way a specific vote went.

    Concretely, while I generally would disagree with the tearing down of a Columbus statue, I simply can’t get too worked up about this particular case. Considering the current social context, it is an understandable reaction, the statue itself is nothing too special, etc.

    Indeed-this echoes what I have said repeatedly, including in this thread.

    Sometimes “the law is the law” isn’t the most reasonable sentiment. Dealing in absolutes hardly ever is.

    And I never said anything along those lines.

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  205. I have started a post on this, but don’t have time to finish at the moment.

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  206. Cameron Whitright says:

    @James Joyner:

    Either we are a society of laws or we aren’t.

    Every society has laws. The question is how those laws are applied. Uneven enforcement undermines your claim, particularly as applied to agents of the state. That is the key.

    Thanks for keeping the conversation going. This is one of the reasons I come here.

    Be well.

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  207. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    Either we are a society of laws or we aren’t.

    We aren’t, clearly. We have laws, but they are systematically improperly enforced. Some people are systematically mistreated by the law.

    So, now that we have established that we are clearly NOT a society of laws, what’s your objection again?

    James, according to your principles, how common would legal murder of black men by police need to be, for rioting to be justified? It’s not a rhetorical question. If the answer is that there is no level of state-sanctioned murder that would justify violent uprising, I would understand you better (but respect you less). If there is some other answer, I think we would all be enlightened to hear it.

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  208. @DrDaveT:

    We aren’t, clearly. We have laws, but they are systematically improperly enforced. Some people are systematically mistreated by the law.

    We are clearly a country of flawed lawed and problematic application thereof.

    But there is no need to pretend like we have no laws. That takes us into, dare I saw, straw laws territory.

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  209. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But there is no need to pretend like we have no laws.

    I didn’t. At all. Why would you say that?

    James offered a dichotomy: “A society of laws”, or “Not a society of laws”. Neither of those options can reasonably be characterized as “we have no laws”. From James’s other comments, it is clear that by “a society of laws” he means “a society in which officials turning a blind eye to the breaking of any law is beyond the pale”. Which clearly does not describe America, and never has.

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