The Romulan Republic wrote: ↑
loomer wrote: ↑
The Romulan Republic wrote: ↑
Can we not acknowledge both: that some of the violence is a result of legitimate grievances (whether or not it is the most effective tactic is a separate debate), and that some of it is being done by outside agitators to discredit or hijack the protests?
So long as we do so in a way that recognizes the legitimate grievances and doesn't paint a dichotomy between 'real (read: non-violent) protestors' and 'outside agitators', yes. There's absolutely no problem recognizing that there's various shitheels who want to stir shit up. Somehow this point has been lost even though I've acknowledged it in every post on the subject.
This is another key point. Where the claim is coming from members of the community, it's one thing (and that's where you'll get accurate reporting of when various boogaloo fuckwits, white 'anarchists' (read: shitheads who think anarchism = anarchy), and plain ol' shit stirrers are causing trouble) but the claims I've been responding to are ones authored primarily by the establishment that has a vested interest in quieting the revolt - by mayors, police chiefs, governors, and the AG. One even went so far as to insinuate that some of it is down to cartels and 'foreign influence', for which there is approximately zero evidence.
While I won't assume that a claim is false because it comes from, say, an elected official or law enforcement, I would agree that such claims generally need to be examined carefully, and corroborated by other sources.
I wouldn't personally be surprised by the presence of foreign influence, since I recall, for example, stuff like Russia setting up rival protests on both sides after the 2016 election. I do not, however, imagine that outside interference is the primary force driving these protests and riots. This is a familiar tactic in other countries (it is standard practice for non-western authoritarian regimes to blame any protests or uprisings on Western/American operatives), and I wouldn't be surprised to see it employed in reverse here (especially given how much the American Right now draws from Putin's playbook).
So, this is another one of those spots where we need to be clear what we're saying. Are various people who run botnets taking advantage? Absolutely
- but as you say, it's not the real driving force. And that's the distinction between delegitimizing the protest versus acknowledging the fact that there are other groups trying to use it to stir shit, whether we allow it to overtake the actual causes in the popular conception and thereby justify repression or just keep a watch on it to check it where possible. The claims that foreign influence and cartels are involved are intended to do the former, not the latter, because they're paired with a 'law and order' mentality and attempts to establish a schism between 'good protestors' and 'bad outside agitators'.
Also, just in case people have somehow missed it where I've said it elsewhere, this is not to say there aren't undercovers deliberately stirring shit up. The reason not to credit the party line of 'outside agitators' because of their presence is that the undercovers are inserted to give weight to the claim of 'outside agitators' and thereby delegitimize the movement. Accepting the party line of 'by golly these people are only violent because of outside agitators' when they put agitators in plays into their hands, and it is this duplicity that must be resisted because it will be used to justify increased force and things like, say, the President declaring all anti-fascists to be terrorists. It redirects the focus away from legitimate rage rooted in the community and steals agency and the implicit threat of further rebellion that the revolts rely on for impact.
This is the point I've made repeatedly and which seems to have been neatly swept under a rug: Unless and until there is compelling evidence that none of this rage is rooted in the community, any claim from those in authority that creates a 'good protestor, bad radical' divide should be viewed with the deepest skepticism if not outright rejected. This point does not entail ignoring the presence of undercovers and fascists - it just means not allowing them, as a tiny part of the overall uprising, to define it and delegitimize the rage while legitimizing violent crackdowns on the protest as a whole.
That makes a lot of sense. I admit that I have some difficulty following the argument that by blaming the violence on outsider agitators, one is justify attempts to paint all of the demonstrators as terrorists or engage in violent crackdowns upon them. To me that seems somewhat counter-intuitive. I suppose painting those demonstrators who engage in violence as outsiders would make it easier to justify violent crackdowns against them, specifically.
So, the very basic logic is this. You have a revolt going on, but a lot of people across the nation are undecided on how to feel about it. It's upsetting, but the cause is really upsetting too. So they might be down to go and march, but probably not to engage in revolutionary action. While they're out there marching with revolutionaries, they wind up talking to them, seeing what they're saying, and being informed of what's going on. They might not join them, but popular support for them increases.
From the perspective of the establishment, this is a very bad situation to have - so you need to discredit the revolutionaries, and neuter the protests. The easiest way to do that is to spin up a false divide between 'our community' of 'peaceful protestors' and 'violent outsiders' who are 'taking advantage'. Suddenly, those people who were unsettled but somewhat sympathetic are uneasy about the prospect of scary outsiders and dangerous anarchists and my god, even antifa! Maybe they march, but they don't buddy up with the revolutionaries. They become less inclined to listen to stories of police abuse from the front lines of the protest. You've successfully distanced the majority from the minority who form the hard core of the protests - the activists, the organizers, the people who've just had enough and can't take it anymore, the anarchists and socialists and communists who came out in solidarity with them.
Now you can act against the hardcore minority by ramping up the rhetoric and pressure. You keep hammering the button that they're outsiders
, that our community doesn't riot
, so that if it doesn't peter out you can deploy the jackboots in full force. The people who might have cared are now hardened against this, because these are, afterall, dangerous outsiders
who can't be trusted, so while violence is of course regrettable, well, sometimes it's necessary to protect the community
. Meanwhile, all the other protestors who've refused to distance themselves from their cousins and friends are caught up in the same net. But because you've engineered a perception that the violence is because of outsiders, when they complain, the fencesitter shrugs - 'well, you shouldn't have been rioting', 'why did you listen to those communists', 'you're just an anarchist, you got what was coming to you', 'if only you'd just stayed peaceful'.
The trick is to shift and expand the rhetoric. First, the trouble is just a small fraction of outside agitators. Then, as the fencesitter contingent becomes less sympathetic, the trouble expands to be outside agitators and their stooges. Then comes the delegitimization of the entire uprising, using very simple logic that the people have had yelled at them throughout the duration and in its immediate aftermath (and which we still see in the lionization of early 60s MLK versus post-67 MLK): 'Peaceful protests, not riots, are legitimate. Riots are bad, and people who riot are bad. This was a riot, therefore, the people involved were bad and it was illegitimate.'
I don't doubt that much of the violence is due to legitimate anger against police violence from the black community. I don't know that I'll ever be comfortable with condoning violence against bystanders, or against those who are not bearing arms or engaged in violence themselves, though I take your point below that there has been fairly little violence thus far from protesters except against police. But neither do I feel comfortable judging the feelings or actions of those who are revolting against centuries of systemic abuse. To echo the line from Hugo you quoted below, the system bears ultimate responsibility, not the rioters.
The vast majority of what violence there has been has directed at property, to boot. When you dig into it, there's a pattern to what's been targeted - banks, large chains, and so on. Property damage (which I'm happy to call violence even though other leftists often refuse to) as political protest is a large part of what's going on when you look past the looters (who are themselves sometimes engaged in a warped discourse, to borrow from MLK.) When you follow up the stories about specifically black-owned and POC-owned small businesses that have been destroyed, they're usually collateral damage and not active targets, and very often they had even anarchist protestors trying to keep the opportunistic looters away from them. Naturally, this dimension is missing from most coverage.
A good chunk of it is probably exactly that, and when you start asking around Black twitter, there's a whole damn lot of people who'll agree with the proposition, and then a few people with theories on looting as social protest. One of those theories has a very nice pedigree, as it goes:
Urban riots are a special form of violence. They are not insurrections. The rioters are not seeking to seize territory or to attain control of institutions. They are mainly intended to shock the white community. They are a distorted form of social protest. The looting which is their principal feature serves many functions. It enables the most enraged and deprived Negro to take hold of consumer goods with the ease the white man does by using his purse. Often the Negro does not even want what he takes; he wants the experience of taking. But most of all, alienated from society and knowing that this society cherishes property above people, he is shocking it by abusing property rights. There are thus elements of emotional catharsis in the violent act...
It is also noteworthy that the amount of physical harm done to white people other than police is infinitesimal and in Detroit whites and Negroes looted in unity.
A profound judgment of today's riots was expressed by Victor Hugo a century ago. He said, 'If a soul is left in the darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.'
I'm sure we all know who said that, right?
Les Miserables? Been a while, but I think I recognize the line.
And yeah, that all makes sense.
Not just Les Mis. That's MLK in '67 in the rest of the quote. It's one of those speeches that people don't quote so often, because MLK had to be sanitized to help re-establish the drumbeat of 'good people do not riot. peaceful protest is the only way forward. do not kill your masters.'
"Doctors keep their scalpels and other instruments handy, for emergencies. Keep your philosophy ready too—ready to understand heaven and earth. In everything you do, even the smallest thing, remember the chain that links them. Nothing earthly succeeds by ignoring heaven, nothing heavenly by ignoring the earth." M.A.A.A