Violence Overshadowing Protests
The mayhem surrounding the demonstrations is drawing attention away from the grievance behind them.
Marshall McLuhan told us that “the medium is the message.” That the means chosen to convey an idea was as important as the idea itself. A clever presentation can elevate a banal idea into prominence and a poor medium can obscure the idea.
The most powerful symbols of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s were studies in contrast. Little black kids dressed in their Sunday best being escorted to schools by federalized National Guard soldiers while angry white citizens screamed at them. George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door declaring “Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!” Black Americans dressed in their Sunday best being beaten and having dogs sicced on them by racist police and government officials. Martin Luther King Jr. standing at the Lincoln Memorial sharing his dream. King lying in a pool of his own blood.
We have seen so many videos of black men being killed or beaten by police officers to count. They are powerful in a way that an eyewitness account or a print story about these killings would not be.
Yet, as shocking as those images were, the means of protesting have backfired.
Colin Kaepernick and scores of other athletes refusing to stand for the National Anthem was the epitome of peaceful protest. But it landed poorly. Partly because it attempted to politicize events that are escapist in nature and a brief refuge from the cares of the world. Mostly, though, because, no matter how many times the message was explained, the medium screamed “I hate America.” (Yes, opponents deliberately mischaracterized it as an insult to our troops overseas. But it was a predictable outcome given the medium.)
The same thing seems to be happening with ongoing protests sparked by the latest round of police-related* killings. Americans are demonstrating in large numbers all around the country to express their demand for change. And yet the violence and mayhem perpetrated by a tiny percentage of the overall group is overwhelming the message.
Indeed, the YahooNews headline to the AP story states that directly: “Unrest overshadows peaceful US protests for another night.”
- NYT: “Fiery Clashes Between Police and Protesters Spread Through U.S.“
- WaPo: “Mass protests and mayhem continue into a sixth night; thousands nationwide are arrested during weekend“
- USA Today: “Protests over George Floyd escalate near White House, around DC as Trump warns against ‘mob violence’“
- NBC: “In Minneapolis and across America, another night of anger.”
- Yahoo News‘ own report: “Protesters tear through D.C. after National Guard troops and Secret Service keep them from the White House“
Indeed, the coverage of the violence is doing something nearly impossible otherwise: overshadowing the outrageous response to all of this by the President of the United States.
More importantly, the perfectly predictable overly-aggressive response by so many police departments across the country—which would have highlighted the central concern of the protests even better than they did in Dr. King’s day—is relegated to a side story.
*I include the Ahmaud Arbery killing here. Not only was one of the perpetrators a retired police officer but the initial response by police and prosecutors fit into the larger pattern fueling the anger.
You are assuming an impossibility.
An effective, non-confrontational, passive protest that changes everything, so let’s hug.
Your ideal solution cannot happen.
Today, non-violent protesters get beat down, gassed, and shot by cops.
I deliberately stayed away from the news this weekend and especially online social media. Why? Because I couldn’t handle all the dishonest, self-serving actors (our politicians, pundits, etc.) and their dishonest and self serving takes on events.
I did read the local newspaper (yes, I still have it delivered). I find newspapers are a cooler medium and can have a more aesthetic distance between the subject and the reader.
Anyway, we had protests here in San Antonio. Began Saturday at 5pm. About 5000 people. Ended around 7pm. However, later that night (10pm), the violence started. Some smashing etc. One arrested, no one hurt.
However, here is the hope. In the morning, even before storeowners showed up, there were large groups of volunteer people downtown cleaning, sweeping, and picking up. There were men, women, and children, families, young and old. All trying to do the right thing. Yes, hope.
The passive voice here is telling. This isn’t a natural phenomenon. This is a choice by both editors and consumers of news.
That “perfectly predictable” is also telling. It sounds like “That’s just the way things are. Nothing can be done.”
I don’t know about you, but I would qualify, for instance, the fact that the police is targeting journalists as “deeply disturbing,” rather that “perfectly predictable.”
If this is, indeed, “perfectly predictable” then, to put it mildly, America isn’t the country it pretends to be.
Last but not least, you are giving the impression that you are holding the protestors to a higher standard than the police. I don’t think that’s how it should be.
The story here is police violence – both prior to and during the protests. The rest is a side issue at best. Whether one goes along with the distraction is a choice.
To repeat myself:
NYT, Charles M. Blow:
The whole is well worth reading.
Seen on the interwebs:
If we remove the “bad apples” from the protester ranks, would the protest be acceptable?
@OzarkHillbilly: 70 miles from my front door is Rosewood Florida, where white people destroyed a town of black people.
@de stijl: white people will always find a way to diminish it.
Wasn’t trying to be confrontational to you. Sorry if that came across as such.
To original author, yes, a bit, respectfully so.
To put it in even simpler terms: if a Target being looted overshadows the fact that police and National Guard can roll down a residential street and casually start shooting paint canisters at people sitting on their own porches, then the problem is you.
Things will get easier.
Things will get brighter.
Someday, yeah, walk in the rays of the beautiful sun.
Our neighbors labored under this burden for centuries and produced the most beautiful and hopeful music routinely.
It is so humbling.
That’s one way to frame it. An equally valid one is
Can a protest initiated by police violence get silenced by even more police violence?
Call in the national guard. That always works.
My most basic takeaway on this post from James: He is *exactly* the person that would have hated MLK in ’68 and bemoaned how counter-productive his disruptive methods were.
He is choosing to focus on a peripheral optics issue, not the underlying outrage that is causing the violence.
The medium and the message? I could talk about this all day. I wrote a long post, then rewrote, then trashed it — I don’t think anyone else is interested.
I’ll limit myself to saying that most of the ways we get our information from modern media privilege the new and immediate over more sober analysis of long-term issues. Trump, of course, is the master of this. Whenever a news cycle is starting to look bad, he creates another story, and we all follow. The medium is a firehose newsfeed and the message is: look at me now! Even if there were no riots, the message would have been lost very quickly. Same with mass shootings. Same with everything. What were we preoccupied with here at OTB last month? What will it be next month?
For many folks “law and order” is the first response.
He was taught to do so.
It is not a terminal issue. It can be rectified
James has proved himself to be open.
@de stijl: I don’t disagree. If I did, I wouldn’t sponsor this site or post here (albeit less frequently than I used to).
Keith Knight found an old quote from Donald Rumsfeld in a different situation:
Agreed – James is military-affiliated and faith in the righteousness of the system is kind of a prerequisite for the military to function. After all, how can you demand constant compliance from subordinates without having rigorously trained them that while you can question personally, you just do it anyways because that’s what law and order is?
James’ default gets ragged on a lot here but it is a common, understandable one. The system is fundamentally correct or else they wouldn’t be serving it. It has to be as they’ve dedicated their lives to it and they’re not bad people, so of course their choice must be, at heart, *good*. There’s bad actors, problems that manifest and persistent rot but that’s just how a living system is. Nothing is perfect and this is the best we can do. Protests against that system, especially violent ones, thus get labelled rebellion because it’s an attack on an institution and not pent-up pressure release because nothing is working. The system has mechanisms to do that – why aren’t you using them instead of destroying things (even though nothing seems to happen when you do follow procedure)?
Individuals like James will always be company men for lack of a better term. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, folks – we do need people who have faith in the system to counter-balance cynicism and world-weariness. As long as they’re willing to listen and help us change things when there’s a problem, there’s nothing wrong with internalizing the party line that law and order is for everyone’s benefit. That’s how it *should* be and what we are all working towards in the end.
They tell you that there is nothing to see here, and to move on. And if you are too slow, then they bash in your fucking head.
Except for the fact that “law and order” has never been to everyone’s benefit, it has always been to the benefit of the status quo.
There any many, many worse takes.
I have a theory that, if white, the further you grew up from downtown, the more susceptible you were to pernicious law and order rhetoric in aggregate.
The further out the less likely to have observed conditions on the ground and empathisize.
I am not saying a suburban, exurban or rural background makes you unempathetic, but you will have had less experience.
This does not apply well in some areas of the rural South East. But other cultural factors apply there that are less prevalent elsewhere.
Sadly, it is all too American.
Donald Trump has just Tweeted:
“Sleepy Joe Biden’s people are so Radical Left that they are working to get the Anarchists out of jail, and probably more. Joe doesn’t know anything about it, he is clueless, but they will be the real power, not Joe. They will be calling the shots! Big tax increases for all, Plus!”
I want justice in society.
I like laws. I prefer order over chaos.
But “law and order” got codified as adjacent to a George Wallace understanding of enforcement cribbed by Nixon.
Justice is paramount. Anything less mocks the ideal.
As I said before, my immediate worry is how these protests will drive up COVID-19 cases.
My next worry is how they’ll affect the elections.
And then I worry what more may come of them. Right now the focus is on police repression of African American citizens, but that is far from their only grievance. Of the others, many have to do with racism, but some have to do with the rampant economic inequality which affects people of other ethnicities as well, and also with the lopsided electoral system that favors a minority party.
I make no predictions. But this time may be the beginning of widespread protests leading up to a revolution.
Not a prediction, but for the sake of peace, El PITO had better lose in November.
Much like the saying “In America, anyone can be President” there’s a huge unstated corollary you know and accept without having it spelled out. The second part of that sentence is “Almost everyone won’t and almost everyone shouldn’t” because being POTUS is theoretically a merit-based position and naturally a huge segment of the population wouldn’t qualify or even be up for consideration. That’s a major reason Trump rankles Never-Trumpers’ BTW – they believe there’s a natural social sorting mechanism / hierarchy and he’s ruining everything by rising up the ranks in a way his sheer idiocy shouldn’t allow. He’s an affront to the status quo, albeit a temporarily useful one.
We’re indoctrinated from birth in several American myths. One of them is we’re the Land of the Free and we stay that way by following the Constitution. Law and order as fed to children is the mechanism by which we as Free People stay Free, along with the military and police. We don’t question why we should automatically respect the solider or police officer when it’s their job to do these things and often their choice to engage in a potentially dangerous job. They “protect” freedom and they “protect” you. It isn’t until real life intervenes that you get the second part of the sentence, as it were. They “protect” freedom…. by protecting the system since the system *is* freedom. You reap some benefit as you are a part of the system but they’re not there for *you*. They stop violence because violence is deemed bad and illegal, not because it’s a danger to you.
It’s an enormous shock to some many to be told the people do not have the duty to assist and can legally leave you in harm’s way. Police don’t have to save you and sometimes make things worse. The status quo wins but that doesn’t mean you do. That’s not what they’ve been told their entire lives – that’s not what they understand the police’s purpose is. Protesters are fighting against a deep social indoctrination that the vast majority of the population has been fed from birth. “Law and Order” is as American as the flag, with just as much baggage.
American as apple pie. Undeniably so.
Yes, people are dying from police brutality, but let’s not forget the real tragedy here: making Dr. Joyner aware of it during his fantasy time. /sarc
Per OECD averages we’re very low on social mobility. Like second to last.
But everyone has internalized The American Dream (which is more likely to happen in Portugal.)
Hey, no biggie, James. Those vandals are just bad apples. You know, like police departments have bad apples. Nothing to get hung about.
And from the clips I’m seeing the cops are creating a lot of the violence on the streets. And what’s all this about going after journalists? And how about those cops in Alabama (!!!) who got their asses canned because they took a group photo while they displayed the white power sign.
You seem to have devoted three threads since yesterday to this violent protester thing. We get it but what we’re getting may not be the message you think you’re sending.
I was at a protest yesterday evening at the Barclays. It was peaceful, but the mood was ugly in a festive way. There was no attempt to be positive or make this an educating moment. Nobody marching from white liberals to kids all in black thought there was a chance at making the system work.
The police were just stacked around the station off Flatbush. They looked terrified–they were gripping their batons and trying to be as menacing as possible. Kids were calling them racist fucking pigs. Nobody was saying be quiet. The super bougie brownstone and townhouse owners were cheering on their stoops. White reactionaries live on the myth of white flight because of black violence. Those people are not going anywhere. Their equity is their home, and in the white flight scenario, nobody is there to buy it.
For a moment a few days ago I was a dumbass and thought that maybe actual military people would be better. Watching these freaks fire off rounds at the most tame liberals out there (aka, people like me) was instructive in how far the total imbecility has gone into white conservatives. Nixon had some sort of Order to offer. Trump, the cops, and law and order types having nothing at all to bring to the table.
I believe in the right to protest, but clearly there are people who hide under that umbrella and commit serious property crimes. I don’t like that. However, while watching videos from the protests I saw multiple crimes against people committed by cops. I dislike crime and find violence under color of law especially heinous. Vandalism and looting are costly, but out of control police undermines the basis of society.
We are seeing a large reservoir of anger in our society. Joe Biden should start wearing a MACA hat-Make America Calm Again.
As readers of the comment section know, I’m 100% behind calling out the cops and the Republicans and, yes, anyone else contributing to this mess. But James is absolutely right when he says that if the looting and rioting continue the mood will turn away from supporting the cause and turn towards anyone who can get control. It doesn’t matter if that is right or just, it’s the reality.
James, you keep on coming back to (paraphrasing), “Although I certainly recognize Kaepernick’s right to protest, it was never going to achieve it’s goals because of the very specific venue he chose.” FWIW, I think you are misreading the situation. He was condemned because he was visible. For Republicans, the only acceptable method of protest for a black man is a method they don’t have to see or deal with.
I suspect you disagree but if so I throw out my challenge again: Name one protest by people of color that got even a significant minority of Republicans saying, “Hey, they’ve got a point there”.
People who find themselves voting for a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women because some kids looted a Coach store have never supported anything but white supremacy.
Causing a few reality checks. There is an amusing juxtaposition of tweets by Chris Martin Palmer that show the change in attitude when it is his neighborhood. Burning an affordable housing project calls for celebration, but when they show up at his neighborhood entrance, GTFO.
Violence does that when it comes near.
James, have you watched Trevor Noah’s on this? The full take is 18 minutes long but I think it addresses this issue really well in terms that maybe will resonate with you.
What part of violence is *always* near for too many Americans are you not getting?
It’s also worth pointing out that the official postmortem on all of the 60s riots was that they were driven by police brutality and inequality. The 60s did not have smartphones, though, so the main images were of random chaos rather than the National Guard shooting African-Americans in the back. Right now, the old-school racist images of chaos are being contrasted with the police driving their SUVs into innocent protestors. It’s a huge, huge difference.
Yesterday, I was shocked watching the looting in Southern California. The looters were not a small number of miscreants. There were hundreds in both Santa Monica and Long Beach. For a while, we watched one mens clothing store gutted, with dozens of people carrying out armloads of clothes. The police showed up, and the looters scattered. Some broke through the boarded up windows to escape. No arrests, no beatings. As soon as the police left, the looters returned. Helicopter footage showed similar theft around those two communities. Having grown up in Southern California, in San Diego and Orange counties, I’m very familiar with the area.
I was struck by how pointless the looting seemed. I was texting a friend who still lives in Southern California who said that it’s weird to watch people looting a Starbucks. “Are you going to steal an armload of k cups?” A lot of the looting seemed like stealing for stealing’s sake. And again, these were not a small number of proverbial bad apples.
I feel a great deal of despair, after watching the looting on that scale. We should have been laser focused on police brutality. Now, because of some number of selfish individuals, people who found the issue to painful, complicated, intractable, or unimportant are going to have reasons not to grapple with it. Bad cops will point to widespread criminal behavior and say, “See?” People who lost their businesses and jobs because of the looting and vandalism will have a different target for their rage, and they’ll be busy recovering.
Do you really think that JKB has the guts to address the issue of police violence? Or anything of substance?
He knows he is unable to justify what’s going on, but he is too cowardly, too much a bootlicker to draw inferences from what that means. So we get an inane variation of the tired cliche “But Al Gore has a big house.”
“Libs owned, Trump’s ass kissed, mission accompished.”
As I pointed out before, a brave man he is not.
The President is hiding under his bed, sucking his thumb, and occasionally poking his head out to blame…against all evidence…a group that barely even exists.
Who thought hiring a two-bit game show host to run this country was a good idea?
Is that why your god is hiding under his bed?
@Modulo Myself: I agree the Trumpers are beyond redemption. If you are a Trumper after all this then, at best, you are OK with racist leaders and racist policies. But what about everyone else? I live in downtown Baltimore. If a mob comes down the street throwing bricks through windows and setting houses on fire, I’m going to be looking for someone, anyone, to stop them before they reach my house. And I will be right to do so.
I’ve said it over and over – in any sizable group there are about 10-15% people who are malignant, 70-80% who kind of go along with their team, and 10-15% who are decent and trying to bring change for the better. The difference between a rabid mob (or an entire Trump state) and a group risking themselves to make things better happens in the ratio between the bottom and top.
Or, put more simply, if being abused made people less likely to abuse others, the human condition would be nothing but peace, love and harmony by now.
Of things we need to address today, Joyner is is the mid 300 millions. Lay off.
Why are there thumper cops and why don’t they ever get fired?
The cop shop 10 blocks from where I grew up got burned down.
Why do people I grew up with distrust cops? Even the grandma’s and the uncle’s who knew not to even jaywalk and to always say Sir or Ma’am?
Why do black and brown kids have to get “The Talk” at age 10 or 11?
Why do 3rd precinct cops routinely whale on folks just because they can?
You ask “why are there thumper cops and why don’t they ever get fired?”
They get hired for several reasons:
1. The departments that hire them aren’t fussy, or may be desperate for recruits.
2. The departments that hire them prize brutality.
3. It’s work that still, unfortunately, attracts some not-swell people.
Why don’t thumpers get fired?
1. The police unions are very, very powerful. You have no idea. Mostly it’s easier to reassign a thumper to where he (or she) can do the least damage. Desk duty. Clerical. Secretarial.
Basically, everyone is shit out of luck. What are you going to do to protect yourself from this mob? You’re going to rely on the state. And yet the state is fucked up that only tangentially is out going to protect you. And that’s how it has always been. The last major wave of riots plus civil rights and equality produced white flight. Short-term that worked great for whites. Long-term it was a terrible choice, because it was about fleeing and the illusion that the system worked. And now that the cities have been gentrified and built up again–guess what? You’re not fleeing. There’s nowhere to flee. This country is too leveraged and pathetic to build anything–even shitty suburbs–again. So what are you going to do? Have the police go after this mob? What will that do except make things worse?
Roughly 70% of Red State America, if I understand the statistics correctly.
@Daryl and his brother Darryl:
Cult45 has noticed their hero is in hiding, with The American Thinker in the person of one Monica Showalter plaintively asking why, after his “stellar” performance on Covid-19 (no, she’s not being sarcastic) he’s not stepping up to the plate on this.
I’m still waiting for you to explain your lies the other day.
You said an FBI agent had been gunned down. In fact, no, it was an FPS officer.
When I called you on it, you lied a second time by blaming the MSM.
You have no business here if you’re only going to spread lies.
The part where black folks in a city are Americans, obviously. Whether it’s because they’re Democrats or because he’s a racist, I do not know.
So now there are protests against police brutality in the US taking place in other countries.
I swear for a moment I thought it was odd to have such protests in Europe, because these tend to be directed at authoritarian regimes that routinely violate human rights.
But just for a moment.
Today…. as if this is different from any point in history in which such tactics have been used?
No, not different (except the degree to which one can have many sources documenting). In fact it is without doubt that peaceful protest and deliberate non-violence in the fact of violent police action faced rather nastier conditions with less ability to consistently document (and thus turn the narrative).
The tactics of violent protests are own-goals for the ostensible goals of the protests.
They are losing actions and excusing them simply highlights why the Left so often fails.
In any case the moment arson and “Antifa” anarchist violence began the movement lost, simple as that.
In general the body of the comment thread demonstrates Lefty echo chamber rhetoric that are losers for the geeneral, and why I am pricing in Trump winning now.
@CSK: The police need to do adequate background checks on all applicants, including tattoos and social media, known contacts, etc. A 3% tattoo would be disqualifying. It might not get all of them but it would get some of them and it would send a message that white supremacists are not welcome as members of police forces.
Of course Trump is flailing, he’s a weak man and a coward. I’ve been consistent for four years that Trump would not change because he can’t. It’s not in him. He’s a pathetic, needy man, a stupid psychopath literally incapable of empathy, literally incapable of courage.
He was elected and still supported by people who’d long ago have fired him if he was their employee. But that’s how cults of personality work, once you’ve surrendered to your cult leader you’re no longer capable of judgment. Isn’t that right, @JKB? His supporters wouldn’t trust him to watch their children, have lunch with their wife, pull a shift at their job, but they think this omni-incompetent clown should run the country.
Are you honestly saying that if a mob walks down your street breaking into homes and setting fires you would say, “Oh but I understand they have a right to be angry” and open your door to them? C’mon.
Bullshit. MLK was very orderly and deliberately non-threatening. James likes that.
And he believes in equal rights.
Even if we are talking about a Hypothetical James who was raised under Jim Crow and never much thought about the conditions of black people, he would be one of the very reachable white folks. Hypothetical James might end up advocating that Separate But Equal be made a bit more Equal rather than a bit less Separate or something, but once someone manages to get him to pay attention to others, he doesn’t dismiss the problems.
I normally share your cynical assessments, but I’m not feeling it this time. Had Trump been able to do anything – anything at all – you might be right. But look at him. He’s toilet tweeting and having no impact aside from fanning the flames. MAGAts thought they were getting Mussolini and instead they got Mussolini’s Chihuahua, yapping and snarling impotently. He isn’t restoring order, and that’s what a ‘strong man’ is supposed to do. He’s limp. He tried to roar and all he managed was a yap yap yap.
I agree. One of my earliest interactions with James Joyner was on the subject of abortion, not the easiest topic. He listened, he argued back reasonably, he came away having made some concessions. I have never found him to be unreasonable. Maybe wrong, but not unreasonable or closed-minded.
He would be much more dangerous if he were capable of courage.
He really does have an army of jackbooted thugs in every major city, as an occupying force, ready to take matters into their own hands. And he really wants to have that power (I take him at his word on Twitter, even the sarcasm), but he’s afraid to take control and just complains instead.
Sucks for him but this was his moment. This is what Cult45 has been secretly waiting for. His whole “I’m an Alpha counterpuncher lib-owning badass” false persona he peddles to the MAGAts *REQUIRED* him to well, own the libs late night. To fight back and force dem upitty protesters to back off and be their Big Daddy Don…… and he didn’t.
He hid – they might have forgiven him from being taken to a safe location due to the protesters outside the WH but he was MIA. No speech, no visuals or no official message – he only shitposted late at night. He didn’t send out the stormtroopers to crush the Rebellion or release the hounds despite yammering about it. His tough guy act was too little, too late. Cult45 *WANTED* him to give them what they’ve been promised for decades now and he choked as far as they’re concerned. They’re gonna notice when their Greatest Champion is being a chickenshit.
Nonsense. And I’ll put my money where my mouth is. I’ll bet you $100 that Biden wins.
In 1965, ~76% of Americans supported the Civil Rights Act.
In 1966, ~67% were negative about MLK.
Math says that almost half of Americans espoused a belief in equality but opposed MLK.
What makes you think that James would not be in that group?
He strikes me as a “go slow”, “don’t rock the boat”, “yes, but…” guy. He struggles to empathize on gender and racial issues.
That doesn’t make him a bad person but it means that he would almost certainly have been in that “silent majority” who believed theoretically in equality under the law but would have, in practice, opposed disruptions to norms to get there.
So far, Cult45 at Lucianne.com is defending Trump 18-1. Only one person is begging him to crawl out of the bunker and do something. The rest are praising his sagacity to the skies.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, will discourage a hardcore cultist.
@CSK, while your points are true, they’re also irreverent. There are numerous cities that have tried to institute police reform and have hired police administration that were/are committed to reform, yet they fail. Why? There is little, vocal support for reform among the rank and file officers and the local police unions actively subvert the reform efforts and seek to protect the bad cops. Often the union leadership are among the bad cops.
via the Wall Street Journal
The Mpls union chief Lt. Bob Kroll reportedly has 29 citizen brutality complaints against him and has been quoted as saying that the cities mayor, Jacob Frey, shouldn’t be overseeing the police department. (sorry I don’t have the link.)
via NY Mag
Which brings up Obama’s efforts at police reform, that have subsequently dumped by Tiny. These were effective because they circumvented the power of local actors to block reform and eliminate bad cops.
If we want to reform policing in America, then Obama type reforms must be instituted legislatively rather than through administrative procedure. Short of that, state legislatures need to remove police unions from the disciplinary process, if not ban them outright. If we don’t due that nothing will change and in 10 years we’ll be at this same place again.
Some departments do perform rigorous checks, including psychological evaluations, and some don’t. It depends, as always, on how badly people want to work for a particular organization. A police department with an educated force that’s paid well is going to demand and attract better candidates–and can hire them. A crappy department with nothing to offer except the occasional chance to bully someone is going to end up with very, very sub-optimal recruits.
I doubt that based on what I write here and who I am now, you’d be able to retrospectively guess that I voted for Nixon in 1972. I don’t think we can retcon that way with any accuracy.
I’m not saying that. I’m saying that stopping a mob angry about police brutality with the police is going to have massive blowback. Same goes with the delusional idea that you can isolate honest protest from violence and pretend that once order has been maintained by force then it’s time to talk about police brutality. The world doesn’t work that way.
Hi. I believe I did make the point that the greatest obstacle to getting a bad officer fired is the police union. It is extremely powerful. It’s practically impossible to get rid of a bad cop–unless you can put him in prison.
And of course the union stands in the way of a lot of reforms.
Half a lifetime ago, that’s certainly where I was: callow, privileged, inexperienced, and full of the BS I had been taught. And that was certainly far later than 1966. Looks like I might be one of the few that had some growing up to do.
Except that isn’t what I’m doing. I’m not saying that Michael as he exists today voted in the past for Nixon. You are right to the extent that you are indicating that people can and do change.
I’m saying that James, as he exists today, would have opposed MLK at the time.
Everyone like to think they, had they lived in Germany in the 1930s, would have actively opposed the Nazis. But we know that most Germans didn’t.
Everyone likes to think that they would have supported MLK but we know that most white Americans didn’t in 1966. And when we look at the characteristics of those who did support him, we see some consistent characteristics and/or backgrounds. James doesn’t have those.
I had to go in to the office today for the first of a two-part sendoff to the graduating students (normally, it’s 90 minutes packed into an auditorium but, obviously, not this year) so am just getting to the thread.
And that would be excellent for highlighting the message about police brutality the protests are designed to convey. But it’s being mostly drowned out by images of rioting, looting, and the like.
First, that’s not the passive voice. Second, that’s true insofar as it goes. But it’s the choice of the editors across all of the elite media here and around the world for a reason: people burning buildings and looting stores is news. As is police killing black men, which also makes the news. There’s plenty of coverage of both. But it’s just a natural fact that mayhem is going to lead the news, even when the subject of the protests makes paragraph two of the story.
I’m with you. And have been writing about bad policing for the entire history of the site, going back seventeen-plus years. The argument here is about protests designed to change the system. They’re not going to be helpful if violence takes away the focus from the underlying grievance.
This isn’t an argument about how James Joyner is perceiving the news. It’s an argument about how the news is covered and the impact that has on the issue.
I’m presenting the headlines of the coverage from the elite media: NPR, the NYT, WaPo, NBC News, CBS News, etc. Literally all of them are leading with the violence.
I wasn’t offended by the Kaepernick protests; I merely thought they were naturally going to inspire backlash.
Look at what brought large numbers of black people into contact with police, look at what caused the militarization of police, look at what de-prioritized basic law enforcement, look at what moved cops off the beat and into cars and you come back to two facts: armed citizens and the drug war.
Unlike police anywhere else in the developed world, American cops are uniquely afraid of being shot. This creates paranoia. Any domestic call can easily become a shoot-out in the United States and really only in the United States. We militarized cops because we militarized the people.
The drug war was the mechanism police used – and continue to use – to dehumanize minorities and to justify outrageous police behavior. Murder is not endemic, you can’t use it to justify kicking in doors. Same with robbery, burglary, etc… These are rare crimes and the enforcement of laws against murder etc… are welcomed by every community of any color. Drug laws targeted widespread practices which meant many more potential targets of police action.
Guns and Drugs. We made the wrong decisions on both. Get guns out of the hands of the populace, and end the drug war. You’d cut paranoia and greatly reduce the interactions of cops and minorities.
Nixon voters were voting in a time when college kids got draft deferments and working class kids didn’t. The absolute unfairness of the draft and who had to go to Vietnam and who didn’t (and then got to smoke weed, have sex, and protest) is not like Trump voters being disrespected by the 1619 Project calling them racist. The racist white guy who loved his son who died in Hue would be happy to see Colin Kaepernick kneel in exchange for not having his kid dead.
That white Trump still believes that they’re the same the silent majority is appalling.
Serious civil rights laws got passed in 1968 despite the fact that there was also serious rioting happening all over the country. So the latter doesn’t prohibit the former.
Any protest that’s visible is going to inspire a backlash.
And I’d also note that despite your daily hand-wringing about whether the protestors are going to inspire a backlash, you don’t seem to have a similar concern about whether the police are inspiring a backlash by repeatedly attacking non-violent protesters and journalists on camera.
Fair enough, I misread you. Apologies.
Without wishing to point fingers, I find find certain commentators hatefully condescending towards James. He’s always upfront about both his views and how they have evolved. He must find it galling to be spoken of as some sort of blinkered reactionary who has only recently come to see the light, even if he still has some ways to travel. I for one don’t feel that his moral compass needs any calibration. By nature, he is cooly analytical while we tend to fume with moral indignation (which he also recognizes). And he also tends to start from an acknowledgement of human nature and political realities, and then speculate from there. We often start from a solution and only then wonder if it could ever be implemented. I guess that’s the conservative mind at work. I only wish there were more people like him.
But they are also covering and headlining the violence coming from the police. Something you chose not to focus on.
NYT: Facing Protests Over Use of Force, Police Respond With More Force
MBC News’s Exclusive: Aggressive policing tactics called into question as national protests flare
Even CNN’s more neutral Police and protesters unite to grieve George Floyd’s death while violent instigators spark new clashes includes the following graf:
Dallas Morning News: ‘We’re not playing tonight,’ authorities say as they begin to enforce 7 p.m. curfew in Dallas which makes clear that the police were the aggressors:
James, you chose what to focus on and what not to. You chose your framing. Own it.
You are on-line enough to have seen the myriad videos of police-initiated violence. Do you need us to start posting links to them into these threads?
@Michael Reynolds: No problem. I was glad to clarify. 🙂
@Kit: Given you don’t want to “name names” it is difficult to know what exactly you think is “hatefully condescending.”
I’ve been an oft-critic of James but I have not called him and do not think of him as a “blinkered reactionary”. As I noted up thread, I think he is a good person who has some blind spots and areas where I disagree. He, like all of us, are products of our society and culture. I would like to see more imagination and empathy from him and more awareness of *how* he phrases things and *what* he chooses to cover are choices he makes.
And the land surrounding it (the complete continent) is where white people destroyed whole indigenous nations (resulting in almost wiping out their populations). But they probably didn’t smash windows or burn police cars, so it was okay.
As noted in a recent post, the riots of 1968 arguably helped elect Nixon and slow the tide of progress. The two seminal pieces of legislation of the era were the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The opposite, in fact. I’ve been arguing for years—and over the weekend pointed to scholarly evidence from one who studies the issue—that violence from authority figures against peaceful protesters is a tool used by the nonviolence movement to “shock the conscience” of the public. My lament here is that the press is virtually ignoring these incidents because the larger-scale rioting is taking over the headlines.
I link to one of those stories in the conclusion of the piece. My point is that they’re below-the-fold or inside-the-paper stories. The rioting and looting are the headlines. I was literally just pointing to the headlines that came up as I was scrolling down YahooNews. (I tend to alternate between them and GoogleNews.)
I then went to the homepages of NYT and WaPo to make sure they were covering it the same way. They were. Yes, it’s all being covered. But the overall framing is the mass violence, not the police thuggishness.
There is a very human tendency to be for principles but then be frustrated or repulsed by the messiness and disruption of reality. I remember watching 1950’s era interviews with people who said they were all for civil rights, but darn it those young colored kids going into Woolworth’s and demanding to be served were breaking the law, or going too fast, or were outside agitators, or were being coached by lawyers. It’s all too easy to find a reason why this particular thing isn’t really representative of the higher principle.
I’m in this category myself. I’m pretty strongly in favor of free speech, but at least part of me would be happy if someone came up with an excuse to keep the Westborough Baptist Church away from funerals. Free speech, sure, but not if there is unpleasantness involved.
The glee with which one of my (white, male) acquaintances has asked me about the “war zone of Chicago” has made me realise a lot of people are looking FORWARD to an excuse to take out their shot-guns and go pop-pop-pop.
There’s also a great difference between a) the protestors and b) the looters. Unfortunately, because many of the police are responding as if the two populations were the same, we have over-the-top-reaction.
Also, the newspapers are loving to mix up the whole mess. As long as they can have pictures of burning cars and looted areas it sells issues. So add that with pictures of protestors screaming at the police and barricades even though the two populations are different and the actions have occurred at different times. It’s disaster porn.
I’d argue a little differently, albeit it more cynically: The only real option open to Trump is federalizing the NG and ordering them to go full commando mode. Controls the violence, but suddenly the conversation isn’t about “those people” and how violent they are. It’s about how violent the response was. It’s a lose/lose proposition for them.
From the perspective of the White House, (again, cynical ^10), it’s better to let the violence continue to explode, because the areas where it’s largely been the worst / is still ongoing are Democrat led. Trump gets to sit back, point at their failure to the pretty large mass of white people who just want it to end and aren’t particularly choosy about how at this point, and say “we’d have helped if they’d asked, but they refused to ask and our hands were tied”. Aside from actually having the benefit of being a true statement, in one fell swoop, they’re absolved of blame and they get to paint Democrats as weak on crime.
Minnesota has an open Senate seat in this election, with no true incumbent (Smith pretty narrowly won a special election for the seat and now she’s being attacked for admitting she suffers from depression). Want to place even bets that race just got a little bit narrower?
The Republicans have coddled the gun nuts for far too long. And the cops are absolutely in on it. In Omaha a white gun nut screaming racist language shot and killed a 22 year old protesting all the senseless shootings, and the cops spirited him away and refuse to release his name. In NYC the Mayor’s daughter was out peacefully protesting and the police union published her home address. As they say, you should believe people when they tell you who they are.
@MarkedMan: I want to be clear here: I have no problem with Kap. But he played into a long standing fantasy that is programmed into the mass consciousness that now is a boat anchor around actually progress. When he became the movement, it was pretty much guaranteed to go nowhere as it was clear he had no desire to use his influence to pressurize city governments, police unions, etc to achieve any concessions on police rules of engagement.
The difference in then vs now is: KING DID NOT MOVE IN PUBLIC. He was in the public eye…but only his inner circle knew their actual plans. He did not telegraph anything until the last possible moment until it was impossible to mass enough resources to counter him. The protests were a wavy hand diversions to occupy head busters… while he set up voting registration events, get out to vote events, union registrations, targeted boycotts, lawsuits, fundraising… I can go on and on.
Fast forward til today and everyone wants to be seen….but very few want to WORK.
Gil Scott-Heron prophetically said the Revolution will not be televised–and it won’t be. The work is not sensational or entertaining…but it is necessary. Soldiers often fight the last war in the current war. There was a time when Athlete protests, white shock, guilt, and shame were valuable for momentum and public pressure. In the era of the internet no one is sheltered enough to be shocked by anything. Republicans damn sure aren’t going to be guilted or shamed into shit—and let’s not forget that Minneapolis is a pretty liberal city.
A single issue movement is the most efficienct movement possible. For God’s sake we can get recreational marijuana on state ballots but not anything about police authority. This is the crux of the problem: THE POLICE HAVE TOO MUCH AUTHORITY WITH LIMITED ACCOUNTABILITY.
Is it just me? Shit I’m not a lawyer but we get referendums on everything under the sun, lawyers sue for anything under the sun, interest groups engineer all sorts of court challenges to get SCOTUS weigh in. Why is there NEVER anything like those in the works to attack this problem?
Late breaking news on the post above. That white racist who killed the 22 year old black man? The police have accepted his version of events and not the dozens of witnesses and so have decided not to charge him.
Oh, and just to add a piece of data to the “outside agitators” question: It was a white guy who made the mistake of smashing basketball player J.R. Smith’s windshield when Smith was nearby. Smith chased him down and gave him a beating.
Unfortunately, in the eyes of mainstream America, after this PR disaster there is no difference between them. They either failed to speak or their push-back failed to gain traction, but as far as I can tell the legitimate protest side of this situation failed to effectively denounce (and more importantly, separate itself from) the violence and try to help prevent it. In more than one case, I’ve seen statements from folks on that side of the equation justifying it, which in the court of public opinion is pretty much the same as participating in it.
They had a golden opportunity here IMO. Pretty much the entire country was united in outrage against the despicable murder of Mr. Floyd. Hell, we even had pretty widespread, outspoken condemnation of it from cops. In one night of looting and burning buildings, we went right back to where we were before, at a minimum. From my chair I’d argue that we’ve actually moved backward and erased progress. The contingent of “I support you, but I want order too” folks is, I’d wager, a whole lot larger than many here want to believe that it is. The message that they got from Minneapolis, unfair as it may be, is that a Democratic mayor and a Democratic governor, with the National Guard behind them, not only couldn’t control a riot, they actually pulled back and allowed it to continue / escalate. The news, even here, has been rife with innocent victims like one elderly handicapped African-American lady, artfully presented in tears, who lives in Minneapolis and now not only has nowhere to shop (stores all got looted) but also no way to get anywhere (buses are not running). She’s essentially trapped in her home, terrified. I’m sure you can see the obvious political problems there.
Trucker barrels into crowd of protesters in MN. Miraculously, when you see the speed he was traveling, no one was killed. The police spirit him off, tear gas the protestors, and keep his name secret.
Did you happen to catch the one where some white kids, complete with Antifa fashion statements, were driving around in a late model Benz handing out bricks to African-American kids on the street, and an AA lady who was there tossed the brick back into their car and read them the riot act over it?
if a picture is worth a thousands words, in the court of public opinion, that one was an extended novel. This could not have been more of a PR disaster for the BLM movement if they’d set out to destroy it themselves.
Actually, his name is Bogdan Vechirko, and he was booked into Hennepin County Jail on Sunday.
I prefer to think of myself as lovingly condescending towards James. 🙂
@HarvardLaw92: Interesting. Since he was booked in jail on Sunday I would assume his name is in the public record? But the local TV station I pulled that from still was not identifying him an hour ago. Or maybe it was an old story? Hmm. No. There was an update but it was just shortly before I came upon it. The NY Post actually had it hours earlier than the local station. From Insider:
I got it from KSTP, in Minneapolis. None of that, while salacious and suggestive (which is what the Post does, after all …) is relevant to the criminality of his actions. It looks like they have decided that his actions were not intentional, so that’s pretty much the ballgame with respect to any serious consequences. I have my doubts that it will go anywhere criminally.
@SKI: 75% of americans had a negative opinion on MLK when he was murdered. Reading contemporary accounts you can see people in the mainstream calling him a violent radical communist American hater and more. It’s only decades after his death that people finally started to warm up to him…
I’ll disagree in the sense that the movement never had a chance to win. Not enough people in this country care about police kneeling on the neck of a suspect as long as their own neck in not the one being knelt on. What you’re looking at is the Kabuki theater aspects of the issue. Whatever movement outrage there was became a dead letter before the details were even fully out.
ETA: But yeah, the violence makes this a net win for
Trumpthe GOP–who I’m not yet convinced will lose anyway.
@Jim Brown 32: you are making great points about this.
I recall learning at some point about civil rights training schools all over the south, dating back to the 1930s, that many movement activists participated in, including Rosa Parks. So her refusal to give up her seat wasn’t a spur of the moment, “I can’t take it anymore” action, but a calculated decision she had trained for. And MLK wasn’t involved from the jump, but local leaders asked him to lead the bus boycott because he was young, charismatic, and new to Montgomery (so no family ties or history there that might have complicated his ability to take a stand).
Anyway, just musing that maybe folks today need some new types of training.
@CSK:..Cult45 has noticed their hero is in hiding, with The American Thinker in the person of one Monica Showalter plaintively asking why, after his “stellar” performance on Covid-19 (no, she’s not being sarcastic) he’s not stepping up to the plate on this.
Monica Showalter, whoever she is, is dumb enough to think President Pud’s Covid-19 response is “stellar”. It is no wonder that she is perplexed about the lack of leadership during the current chaos.
If she had half a brain she would have learned long ago that Trump is just a lying gasbag.
Of course Showalter may get her wish after all as the Pussy Grabber in Chief has just stated:
“If the city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residence, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them,”
George Will just ripped into Trump and the entire Republican Party, calling them Vichy collaborators and calling for Trump’s removal.
George Will is now using the kind of rhetoric I’ve been using for three years. He just blamed Trump for Minneapolis.
He’ll go back to hiding. And Cult45 will ignore his cowardice.
Well, Trump managed to get the focus off looting for a moment, by tear gassing peaceful protesters for a photo op at a church which didn’t invite him, had no idea he was coming and didn’t want a political event there.
@HarvardLaw92: “if a picture is worth a thousands words, in the court of public opinion, that one was an extended novel. This could not have been more of a PR disaster for the BLM movement if they’d set out to destroy it themselves.”
And perhaps… that’s exactly what these rich white kids were trying to do.
Saw an interesting bit of footage on the news last night — in the middle of a Manhattan protest, one “protester” was trying to chisel the sidewalk to dig up chunks of concrete, presumably to throw at cops. Half a dozen actual protesters grabbed this guy and hauled him across the street to hand him over to the cops.
I doubt they’re thinking about it that deeply. They feel personally safe, so for them its just a chance to get their kicks wrecking things. Their lives will continue as normal the next morning. You can find interviews with some of them on YouTube, for most it seems to be like a video game.
In a lot of ways that’s worse than if it was intentional.