The carnage in America over the past few days has been described as “civil rights marches and protests” which we “should support” because “it’s the only thing [black people] can do”… “they have all had enough”.
You really do have to wonder about the moral compass of individuals who frame such events in this way. To say this is a gross misreading of the situation is the mother of all understatements.
The incident that started all this nine days ago was appalling: a police officer, Derek Chauvin, had pinned to the ground a black suspect, George Floyd, upon whose neck Chauvin pressed his knee down for more than eight minutes with Floyd repeatedly saying he couldn’t breathe and at the end of which time Floyd was dead.
But what happened over the ensuing days cannot reasonably be described as a protest, let alone a civil rights march. Any truly peaceful protests after Floyd’s death (and there were some) have been swamped by a national orgy of thuggery, violence and savage nihilism, causing more deaths and a national trail of wanton destruction. And the fact that officer Chauvin has been charged with third degree murder and second degree manslaughter did nothing to stop its escalation.
Shops have been smashed and looted, police officers shot and beaten up, buildings and cars set on fire, innocent bystanders assaulted. In Santa Monica, a man was attacked after reportedly coming to the aid of a woman who was shoved off her bicycle. In Rochester, New York rioters attacked an elderly white woman and her husband who were trying to protect their business. In Richmond Virginia, they set fire to a multi-family residence that was occupied by a child. As fire crews were arriving, said police chief Will Smith as he choked back the tears, rioters blocked the engine from reaching the fire.
Synagogues and Jewish shops have had their windows smashed and been sprayed with antisemitic graffiti. The victims of all this mayhem, however, are both black and white-skinned and people from all ethnicities. The majority of victims are the poor.
How can any of this remotely be called a “protest”? How can anyone with any claim to moral decency justify, excuse or sympathise with it?
Some police have used excessive violence against the rioters. Reprehensible indeed; although the Wall Street Journal pointed out that in most cities the police have shown “notable discipline”. But what can one say about the moral compass of those who fixate upon the erosion of police discipline under an unprecedented and uncontrollable onslaught but have no words to condemn the onslaught itself?
Some leftists have tried to pretend that the carnage has been caused by the “far right”. Of course: the left will never, ever admit that their own side has spawned murderous, racist thugs — and that these are vastly greater in numbers and political power than the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who are also out there fomenting violence and anarchy.
And of course, Trump-haters are trying to blame the President for the riots. They blame him for not taking action to stop the riots and for taking action to stop the riots. Some of his tweets on this crisis have been ill-judged, to put it mildly; but surely opprobrium should be overwhelmingly directed at those causing the carnage? Yet some people have ignored them and fixated instead upon Trump as the principal villain in this drama. One email bulletin was catchlined “Trump’s American carnage”. According to the Washington Post, it’s not the rioters but the president who “favours brute strength”. Thus with one bound those trashing and burning America, beating up the innocent and shooting police officers are all absolved of their crimes. Trump is apparently responsible for it all. What madness is this?
The question is, however, why America has succumbed to such nihilism. The City Journal researcher Heather Macdonald has depicted the riots as “black rage” which she ascribed to “academically inspired racial victimology”.
“From Ta-Nehisi Coates to the New York Times’s 1619 project, the constant narrative about America’s endemic white supremacy and its deliberate destruction of the ‘black body’ has been thoroughly injected into the political bloodstream”, she wrote.
That’s true enough; but it’s surely only part of the story. There’s a lot of evidence that much of this mayhem has been organised. Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said on Monday that some who had terrorised the city overnight had come prepared with tools and supplies and set fires to draw police away from where they were planning to riot, loot and cause destruction.
There’s also evidence that much of this has been organised by Antifa insurrectionists, some of whom have been filmed giving instructions to rioters and even paying people to take part. And many of these Antifa activists have been white.
Much will undoubtedly be written about the dangerously polarised nature of American society, not just black versus white but the whole gamut of identity politics and the multitudinous resentments of victim culture. And there will be many truths in all that.
But for me, these developments shockingly illuminate above all something I’ve been noticing about America for many years and have repeatedly wondered at the relative absence of comment about it. And that’s the terrifying breakdown of the rule of law.
For although this nationwide rioting and anarchy are unprecedented in scale and scope, the disintegration of order hasn’t come out of the blue. Antifa may be its extreme physical manifestation, but it is the product rather than the cause. For the breakdown of the rule of law has been escalating for a long time – and it has been ignored, winked at or justified by Democratic Party politicians and supporters.
For example, under the Obama administration immigration law was broken with impunity – and with the highest possible imprimatur by President Obama repeatedly granting effective amnesties to illegal immigrants. This caused the House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte to declare:
“President Obama has once again abused his authority and unilaterally refused to enforce our current immigration laws by directing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to stop removing broad categories of unlawful immigrants”.
Not only was there no effective attempt to control illegal immigration, but “sanctuary cities” were established to offer nothing less than sanctuary from immigration law.
This was simply astounding. And yet anyone who objected was vilified as a knuckle-dragging troglodyte. After I visited the US in 2017, I wrote:
“Trump voters are generally derided as rednecks and racist bigots. Yet what is enraging them is simply the widespread institutionalisation of illegality and violence. These are decent people trying instead to promote adherence to the constitution, the rule of law and democracy itself.
“Sanctuary cities, for example, attack the very basis of citizenship. As a condition of belonging to a nation, an individual undertakes certain duties, such as obeying the rule of law or paying taxes, in return for benefits such as being protected by the police or armed forces. Tolerating illegal immigration makes a mockery of this civic bargain and thus undermines the very basis of the nation”.
Over and over again, conservatively minded blue-collar Americans told me they no longer had any faith in the institutions of law and order where these were controlled by Democrats or wannabe-liberal RINOs (Republicans-In-Name-Only). They no longer had any faith in the police, district attorneys or governors in states run by such people; and beyond the formal structures of law and justice, no faith in university administrators who were refusing to hold the line against the increasing thuggery and intimidation on campus.
Various people told me at that time that they no longer felt safe attending a Republican rally because the inevitable attacks on participants by Antifa or other such thugs would be ignored by the police. On such occasions, I was told, the police received instructions from their Democratic superiors in the state’s political and justice establishment to look the other way if Republicans were being attacked and only to take action to defend liberals (attacks on whom were relatively rare).
Democrats and their ideological allies actually endorsed Antifa and turned a blind eye to their anti-white, anti-Jew, anti-west agenda. In 2017, no less than the liberal journalist Peter Beinart wrote in the Atlantic magazine that Antifa’s manipulative and thuggish tactics were endorsed by prominent leftist commentators. Beinart observed:
“Such tactics have elicited substantial support from the mainstream left. When the masked Antifa activist was filmed assaulting [white supremacist Richard Spencer] on Inauguration Day, another piece in The Nation described his punch as an act of ‘kinetic beauty.’ Slate ran an approving article about a humorous piano ballad that glorified the assault. Twitter was inundated with viral versions of the video set to different songs, prompting the former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau to tweet, ‘I don’t care how many different songs you set Richard Spencer being punched to, I’ll laugh at every one.’
“The violence is not directed only at avowed racists like Spencer: In June of last year, demonstrators – at least some of whom were associated with Antifa – punched and threw eggs at people exiting a Trump rally in San Jose, California. An article in It’s Going Down celebrated the ‘righteous beatings.’”
The onslaught on the rule of law didn’t stop there. Under the Obama administration, the Internal Revenue Service singled out conservative groups for discriminatory and punitive treatment. As I wrote here in 2017: “the reason so many people voted for Trump is what one of the IRS victims tearfully told the Congressional committee: that she feared her country was becoming unrecognisable as a nation of laws.”
And of course, let’s not forget the still unfolding scandal in which elements in America’s major law enforcement agencies and administrative class either engaged in a criminal abuse of process to prove their genuine but unfounded belief that President Trump had colluded with the Russians; or else had engaged in a criminal abuse of process to exonerate the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate of any crimes while simultaneously trying to frame her opponent and then conspiring with the Democratic party to remove the duly elected president from office through an administrative coup. Not to mention the subsidiary persecution of Lt.Gen. Michael Flynn.
Under the mayoralty of Rudy Giuliani, New York’s police department famously cleaned up the city’s appalling crime rate through applying the theory of “broken windows”. This embodied the insight that small-scale incivilities or disorder, such as littering public places or allowing the homeless to beg on the streets, led to serious crime because they sent out a message that if no-one in authority cared enough about their neighbourhood to stop antisocial behaviour, criminals could get away with anything.
The current mayhem surely follows the same principle. Those trashing America over the past few days have undoubtedly been emboldened by the multitudinous signals over the past few years from those in authority that the rule of law is there to be broken by certain people with the power to do so – because they don’t care enough about it to uphold it when it gets in the way of their ideas.
Somebody once observed to me that America was a revolutionary society; in other words, its civil structures merely provide a paper-thin covering for its incorrigibly hyper-individualistic, lawless and insurrectionist culture. These last few days it has been physically burning; but it has been torching the rule of law for years.