Why do they keep doing it? Decade after decade, generation after generation, progressives keep making the same, elemental mistake: They downplay, excuse, and in extreme cases even encourage urban rioters.
We’ve been down this road before, and it’s a straight stretch of highway with no twists whatsoever. It would take a moral moron to get lost on it, and yet somehow progressives keep managing to do so. This isn’t hard. The people of Minneapolis are right to be angry about the savage death of George Floyd, but rioting will not bring him back or honor his memory, and the riots will make everything even worse. The Democrats and the media should be shouting as loudly as they can: Stop what you’re doing, you’re hurting your cause.
The person closest to Floyd — the deceased man’s girlfriend, Courteney Ross — made exactly this point: “Waking up this morning to see Minneapolis on fire would be something that would devastate” Floyd, Ross told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “He loved the city. He came here [from Houston] and stayed here for the people and the opportunities.” She added that people should “know that I understand their frustration” but “I want people to protest in a peaceful way.”
Yet all over the media, progressives are in effect rubbishing these wishes. They support the riots, starting by downplaying the nightmare in Minneapolis as a series of mere “protests” (no, those are what Martin Luther King Jr. engineered — and they worked). Once you’ve reconceived destruction as mere expression, you’ve mentally prepared yourself to take the side of the destroyers.
The move to euphemize the riots is right out there in the open:
This will guide our reporting in MN. “While the situation on the ground in Minneapolis is fluid, and there has been violence, it is most accurate at this time to describe what is happening there as "protests"–not riots.”
— Craig Melvin (@craigmelvin) May 28, 2020
The apotheosis of this absurd tactic was, perhaps, when the MSNBC reporter Ali Velshi tried to balance today’s two principal media objectives (sensationalization and putting a left-wing spin on everything) and wound up saying this: “I want to be clear on how I characterize this. This is mostly a protest. It is not, generally speaking, unruly, but fires have been started and this crowd is relishing that.” A burning building was visible in the shot behind him. Mr. Velshi should note that Minneapolis cops are not, generally speaking, unruly to the point of kneeling on the necks of suspects for no apparent reason until they are dead, but that isn’t really the point, is it? Even if only one cop does that, it’s still enraging. And “fires have been started” has to be a Hall of Fame usage of the passive voice to downplay arson attacks.
Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah-Jones of the New York Times tweeted a sort of weary support for the riots:
Minnesota attorney general Keith Ellison euphemized the riots even below the level of “protests” when he called them “distracting conduct” and, instead of calling for law enforcement to restore order, suggested that police shouldn’t do too much to stop the mobs:
When George Floyd was tragically killed, National conversation focused on justice for him, systematic change. Focus must return to where it belongs; distracting conduct must cease; Police must restrain their response. Protesters need to center #JusticeForFloyd
— Keith Ellison (@keithellison) May 28, 2020
Even those attempting to sound calm wound up defending the riots. Princeton professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor wrote this in the New York Times: “If you cannot attain justice by engaging the system, then you must seek other means of changing it. That’s not a wish; it’s a premonition.” So rioters are correct to riot.
From his large, comfy armchair, the Boomer filmmaker Michael Moore pretended to command the armies of the angry: “We must rise up. We revolt,” he tweeted, as though watching riots on the news was the equivalent of being a revolutionary and as though anyone born in the last 30 years has the slightest idea who he is. He urged the rioters to keep up the good work: “Riots? THIS IS A REBELLION.” He also said the local county attorney should be arrested, applauded the destruction of the Third Precinct police building, and retweeted a remark from Colin Kaepernick: “When civility leads to death, revolting is the only logical reaction.”
Al Sharpton, calling for calm in a less than ringing way, undercut himself by saying damage done specifically to black-owned stores was “so reckless,” which was correct, but implied that attacks on all other stores were more understandable. Does Mr. Sharpton expect rioters to pause in the midst of an ecstasy of vandalism to look up property records? (“Hey, everybody, stop! Before we do anything we have to break into the Hennepin County deeds office and do some research first!”)
Let’s extend the logic of “Don’t hurt black stores.” If you happen to be a black person who owns an untouched store next to a burned-out store, won’t the riots do massive damage to the value of your property, the cost of your insurance going forward, and the general viability of your business? What about all the black people who lost their jobs when a Target and an AutoZone and other businesses were destroyed? What about the black customers who relied on that Target? Against all these obvious harms, and many more, is there any conceivable upside to destroying these businesses? Even if you managed to walk away from a looted store with an armload of goods or a few bucks from the till, is it really worth the ancillary damage to the neighborhood, the city, race relations?
Those who look at the Minneapolis riots from the perspective of black Americans simply aren’t grasping the information, more than 50 years after the black-separatist movement got started, that black America and white America are not opponents and are tied together in all sorts of ways. Ransacking Minneapolis does not advance black America’s cause.
There’s something gruesome about faraway commentators who will never have to deal with the consequences of what the rioters have done languidly calling for more of the same because, I suppose, it’s entertaining to them, or because they fancy themselves urban guerrillas as they tap away on Twitter.
We’ve reached the point where liberals are putting the word civil in scare quotes. I picture the peaceful leaders of the “civil”-rights movement shaking their heads in disbelief.