bookmark_borderThe real double standard between Capitol and BLM protests

One of the most disturbing and infuriating things I’ve ever witnessed is the media’s and society’s promulgation of the myth that the pro-Trump protesters at the U.S. Capitol were somehow treated more leniently than Black Lives Matter protesters have been. This is one of the most blatantly false ideas I have ever heard, and it has been expressed over and over again, ad nauseam, by people across all forms of media and social media.

Coverage of the recent happenings at the Capitol is so offensive to me that I haven’t been able to read and analyze a huge amount of articles on this topic. But this article by USA Today provides an overview of the BLM/Capitol protest comparisons made by various public figures. I am going to attempt to explain why these comments and statements are wrong and unjust.

The article itself describes how during the BLM protests last spring and summer, “law enforcement often clashed with demonstrators, deploying tear gas and rubber bullets, bruising faces and bodies, and, in one incident that went viral, pushing an elderly man to the ground.” Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, gave a similar characterization of events: “When Black folks are protesting and progressives are protesting peacefully they were tear-gassed, they were arrested, they were shot with rubber bullets. They were shot with real bullets. We should not be witnessing what we are witnessing today in this nation. It’s a global embarrassment. None of this took place.”

This, to use a very technical philosophy term, is complete and utter baloney. First of all, no Black Lives Matter protesters have been shot by police. Johnson’s reference to being “shot with real bullets” seems to refer to the actions of Kyle Rittenhouse, a counter-protestor who killed two BLM protesters in defense of himself and local business owners whose property the protesters were destroying. Because Rittenhouse was a private citizen and not a police officer, this shooting has no relevance to the topic of the respective police responses to the BLM and Capitol protests. Additionally, how can Johnson claim with a straight face, with regard to tear gas and arrests, that “none of this took place”? Over 100 of the pro-Trump protesters were, indeed, arrested and charged with crimes, and over 200 are being investigated by the FBI for federal felonies such as sedition and conspiracy. Suspects have been hunted down all over the country, and law enforcement is widely publicizing surveillance footage in an attempt to identify even more suspects. Not to mention the fact that one of the protesters, Ashli Babbitt, was killed by a police officer, and two more protesters lost their lives due to mysterious causes during the conflict with police. And all of this despite the fact that the actions of the BLM protesters – destroying countless innocent people’s businesses and countless beautiful, irreplaceable historical statues – were vastly more deserving of punishment than the actions of the pro-Trump protesters at the Capitol. Johnson is (kind of) right about one thing: how leniently BLM protesters have been treated compared to pro-Trump protesters is indeed a global embarrassment.

On a similar note, Bernice King, the daughter of MLK, tweeted: “If this were Black Lives Matter storming the Capitol, tanks would have been in the city by now. The response tells the story of our nation’s racist history and present.” There is absolutely no evidence that tanks would have responded to a hypothetical protest in which BLM protesters entered the Capitol, and the leniency with which such protesters have been treated as they smashed, decapitated, and burned priceless works of art all across the country for months is strong evidence against King’s claim.

Adding to the ridiculousness, CNN commentator Van Jones tweeted: “Imagine if #BlackLivesMatter were the ones who were storming the Capitol building. Thousands of black people laying siege to the seat of government – in the middle of a joint session of Congress? Just imagine the reaction.” I can indeed imagine the reaction. It would not have involved a protester being shot to death by police. It would not have involved hundreds of protesters (or any protesters, for that matter) being hunted down, arrested, and charged with federal crimes. Instead, it would have involved those protesters being unanimously praised as brave, selfless, and heroic by the media, politicians, and society.

Joe Biden voiced similar sentiments, saying, “No one can tell me that if that had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol.” And Rep. Marcia Fudge claimed, “There is a double standard.” These statements are indeed true, but in the opposite way from what the speakers intended. As a side note, there is also a double standard in terms of how presidents are treated by the media and by society. Why is it that Biden has received zero criticism for referring to protesters who disagree with him as a “mob of thugs,” while Trump was ruthlessly attacked as unprofessional and un-presidential for far less insulting rhetoric?

“We have witnessed two systems of justice: one that let extremists storm the U.S. Capitol yesterday, and another that released tear gas on peaceful protestors last summer,” tweeted Kamala Harris. “It’s simply unacceptable.” Actually, the two systems of justice that we have witnessed are one that let people smash beautiful statues to pieces and another that hunted down and arrested hundreds of people, and killed one person, for entering the Capitol building. These disparate systems of justice are indeed unacceptable, but in the opposite way from what Harris meant.

“It’s not any shock that we see this huge contradiction that we can storm a capitol, break into elected officials’ offices, the chamber, and create other chaos trying to perform a fascist coup, and we see little to no consequences,” said activist Kofi Ademola. “But Black protesters here in D.C. and Chicago, we’re heavily policed, brutalized, for literally saying, ‘Don’t kill us.’ There was no planned insurrections. We were literally just advocating for our lives. It speaks volumes about the values of this country. It doesn’t care about our lives.”

This statement is preposterous. As I have already explained, one protestor who entered the Capitol was shot to death and hundreds were hunted down, arrested, and charged with federal crimes. Even the thousands of pro-Trump protesters who made no attempt to enter the Capitol have been shunned as pariahs, fired from their jobs, and received death threats. How can Ademola claim that this constitutes “little to no consequences”? Nothing could be further from the truth. His claim that the pro-Trump protesters were “trying to perform a fascist coup” is equally ridiculous. Countless photos and videos show the protesters carrying Gadsden flags and Confederate flags, emblems of rebellion, liberty, and resistance to authority. This alone is sufficient to prove that the protesters were attempting the exact opposite of a fascist coup. The protesters at the Capitol are the true anti-fascists, ironically a distinction that the left-wing group Antifa claims to hold. Also ridiculous is Ademola’s claim that BLM protesters were “literally just advocating for our lives.” BLM protesters have destroyed countless businesses, buildings, and statues. In what universe is advocating for the destruction of other people’s property and precious works of art considered the same thing as advocating for one’s life? This country certainly seems to care about the lives of these protesters, given the fact that it allows them to brutalize works of art all across the country without making any attempt to stop them or punish them in any way.

And the Black Lives Matter Global Network said in a statement: “When Black people protest for our lives, we are all too often met by National Guard troops or police equipped with assault rifles, shields, tear gas and battle helmets. When white people attempt a coup, they are met by an underwhelming number of law enforcement personnel who act powerless to intervene, going so far as to pose for selfies with terrorists, and prevent an escalation of anarchy and violence like we witnessed today. Make no mistake, if the protesters were Black, we would have been tear-gassed, battered, and perhaps shot.”

The last statement is false for reasons that I have explained above and also completely ignores that fact that one of the pro-Trump protesters, Ashli Babbitt, actually was shot. The characterization of BLM protesters as protesting “for our lives” is inaccurate for reasons that I have also explained above. Additionally, the reference to “white people attempt[ing] a coup” is not only false but also racist. The pro-Trump protest comprised people of all races. (For example, a picture in this gallery from the aftermath of the protest shows a baseball cap that reads “Black Voices for Trump.”)

So in conclusion, there is indeed an inconsistency between the reactions of law enforcement, as well as the media, tech companies, and society in general, to the BLM protests versus the pro-Trump protest in Washington, D.C. The double standard is precisely the opposite of what most people think it is. Seeing mobs brutally destroy beautiful works of art representing historical heroes with almost complete impunity, and then seeing pro-liberty protesters being hunted down, arrested, personally insulted, ostracized, fired, and slandered as fascists and terrorists for standing up to government overreach, is so unjust that it makes my soul cry out in agony.

bookmark_borderA riot is the language of the unheard

“A riot is the language of the unheard.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Watching and reading news coverage and social media posts about the pro-Trump protests at the Capitol has been enormously stressful, infuriating, heartbreaking, upsetting, and exhausting. It is not the actions of the protesters that make me feel these emotions; it is the attitudes and opinions expressed by journalists, commentators, authors, politicians, and society as a whole. The protesters did nothing wrong, and their actions are understandable and justified. Their treatment by the media and society is utterly appalling in its harshness, cruelty, hypocrisy, and inconsistency. 

People who believe in freedom, liberty, and individual rights are angry. And we have a right to be angry. We have been trampled on for a long time. Our income has been stolen by excessive and unjust taxation, our right to make our own medical decisions is under constant assault, privacy rights are essentially non-existent, we are not allowed to board an airplane without passing through a full-body scanner, and even our freedom to leave our houses and move about in the world has been taken away with the advent of a novel virus. And then the Black Lives Matter movement decided to start burning down our businesses, banning our flags, destroying irreplaceable, beautiful statues of the historical figures we love, and, adding insult to injury, claiming that they truly are the ones being trampled on and that we are the oppressors.

When someone is trampled on, he or she becomes angry, and justifiably so. We have protested peacefully again and again. We have explained our views civilly. But no one listened. Our concerns were dismissed as the whining of entitled, privileged crybabies, and the fact that we had the audacity to complain at all was used as evidence that we were selfish jerks. We have been called white supremacists, misogynists, xenophobes, and “deplorables” and been accused of “bitterly clinging” to the things that we value. When we have objected to these characterizations, our objections have been taken as evidence of our “white fragility,” and when we point out that this is racist, this is taken as further evidence of how fragile we are. When one is ridiculed, mocked, and dismissed again and again, one becomes increasingly angry, frustrated, and exhausted. The more angry and exhausted one becomes, the less able one becomes to express one’s views in a measured and articulate manner. And as we become less and less articulate in expressing our views, society takes our lack of articulateness as further evidence that we are are boorish, irrational jerks and ridicules and mocks us even more harshly. The cycle continues, with supporters of individual liberty becoming more and more angry and the rest of society insulting us with increasing nastiness and brutality. The injustice of this situation is overwhelming. It becomes nearly impossible to express oneself eloquently or constructively. When people are treated this way, what happened at the Capitol is the logical result. 

And now, the actions of the Trump supporters at the Capitol have been swiftly, completely, universally, and brutally condemned, used as yet further evidence to impugn the character of all conservatives and libertarians. Anchors and reporters on national news networks call us disgraceful, deplorable, disgusting, sickening, buffoons, idiots, thugs, traitors, domestic terrorists. The terms “riot,” “Trump mob,” “insurrection,” and “coup attempt” are used as if they are non-controversial, neutral descriptors. All over social media, people complain about the devastation, sadness, and even nausea and tears that they experienced while watching the protest. The condemnation infiltrates even areas of life that should have nothing to do with politics: commentators during basketball and football games have called the protesters “terrorists” and decried the “violent riot;” teams have put forth statements alleging that the protesters were treated too leniently by law enforcement; articles on psychology websites speculate about what type of mental disorder could explain the protesters’ behavior; and a speaker during a history lecture that I attended pontificated about how everyone is “saddened and shaken” by the “assault on our democracy.” No attempt whatsoever is made to understand where the protesters are coming from, why they felt so angry and unheard, or why they decided that such drastic action was their best option. 

Making this societal reaction even more inappropriate is the complete lack of proportionality when compared with society’s reaction to the Black Lives Matter protests. The widespread looting, destruction, arson, vandalism, and violence committed by members of the BLM movement had almost no impact on society’s perception of the movement as a whole. The media described those protests not only as mostly peaceful, but also as brave, noble, heroic, and necessary. Countless brands, celebrities, athletes, and all four major sports leagues issued statements in support of the movement. The cruel and barbaric destruction of historical statues and the damage done to business owners were dismissed as unimportant. Almost no one was punished for these despicable acts, and in many cases local governments actually rewarded the perpetrators by removing the victimized statues. Essentially, the way that it seems to work is that when someone on our side does something illegal or violent, everyone on our side is punished. And when someone on the other side does something illegal or violent, everyone on our side is punished. Those who support individual liberty are characterized by the insulting (and sexist and racist) stereotype of the entitled, irrationally aggrieved white male, while the grievances of members of the BLM movement are portrayed as justified and understandable. Never were any leaders of the BLM movement asked to disavow the violent or destructive actions committed by members of their movement, but that is exactly what was immediately demanded of Republican political leaders and conservative organizations with regards to the Capitol protest. Also in the wake of the protest, social media companies, online stores, and other websites banned large swaths of conservative users, and when these users moved to a conservative-leaning alternative, that app was banned from the major operating systems’ app stores. Nothing even remotely similar to this occurred in response to any BLM protest, no matter how violent or destructive. 

And then, taking things to a new level of preposterousness, society and the media complain that the protesters at the Capitol were treated unfairly leniently compared to BLM protesters, when the exact opposite is the case. Imagine what would happen if black people or Muslims stormed the capital, the media asks, implying that it’s obvious they would be treated more harshly. I’ll tell you what would happen: none of them would be arrested, and they would be lauded as heroes by the media instead of being universally ridiculed and condemned. 

So-called journalists and the general public alike have gone on and on about their horror at the attack on their beloved Capitol, which in their eyes symbolizes the democratic process. But neither the Capitol building nor democracy is a defining feature of America. The defining feature of America, the principle upon which it was founded, is individual liberty. And when our political leaders, institutions, and society as a whole trample on individual liberty, then our political leaders, institutions, and society as a whole have forfeited any right to be obeyed and respected. Those who protested at the Capitol were brave freedom fighters who risked their personal safety to stand up for their beliefs. Their actions were justified, and they deserve none of the arrests, charges, or criticism that have been leveled against them. 

In summary, we have been bullied and beaten down, and it is the bullies who are complaining that they are shaken, nauseous, and in tears because some of us actually had the audacity to stand up for ourselves. This reaction is as ridiculous as if a hockey team defeated its rival 8 to 1 and its fans were nauseous and in tears after the game because they were so upset that the other team scored one goal. It also demonstrates a complete lack of empathy; how do they think we have felt all these years as we have been relentlessly insulted and our rights violated? The bullies who have been oppressing and trampling on us receive no scrutiny whatsoever and are portrayed by the media as innocent victims while we, the true victims, are vilified, mocked, and condemned. As a result of this pervasive unjust treatment, we are angry, we are frustrated, we are overwhelmed, and we are exhausted. We are tired of being trampled on, tired of our rights being violated, tired of being insulted and ridiculed, tired of our complaints and grievances being dismissed, tired of being told that we are privileged and that we are the problem. When a society treats people this way, it has no right to criticize them for fighting back.

“When tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty.” – Thomas Jefferson

bookmark_borderThis is what privilege looks like

Boston Globe columnist Jenee Osterheldt demonstrates a complete lack of empathy towards those with different beliefs in her latest column. In it, she describes the joy that she felt during a protest this summer:

What I remember most about the Say Her Name March & Rally: I was happy.

The summer sun seemed to kiss our foreheads with love that Fourth of July. It should have been sweltering, the streets flooded with over a thousand people, masked and marching in the name of Black womxn. Maybe it was. But all I remember is the solidarity.

For almost three miles, I danced in the streets from Nubian Square to Boston Common, celebrating our lives, loving our lives, delighting in the richness of our Black beauty. I wore Breonna Taylor’s face on my face, a mask donned with daisies made by Boston writer and artist, Arielle Gray. I danced for Breonna.

The march stopped at Harriet Tubman House where Black Lives Matter Boston and other organizers honored fellow activist Monica Cannon-Grant. They called for us, Black women specifically, to shake something and let joy move us. The speakers boomed with Beyoncé’s “Brown Skin Girl.”

We formed a circle as women with ebony skin filled the center, hips swaying, arms in the air, smiles wide and filled with magic. As a light-skinned Black woman, I stood on the outside, cheering them on, my fist in the air, holding sacred space for my beautiful sisters who are hurt the most.

Then their hands, rolling like waves, a current of energy pulling me in, called to me to join them — an intimacy as strong as any hug between sisters. We are Black girls and we dance together.

Overjoyed is a state I’ve only been immersed in once in 2020. It was in that moment. And that moment, to me, is my most powerful act of protest.

My first thought upon reading this was: “Well, aren’t you lucky?” I can honestly say that overjoyed is not a state that I have been immersed in at any point in 2020. Nor, really, is any form of happiness. And that is, in large part, because of the supporters of the very movement that Osterheldt so glowingly describes.

First, governments all over the world decided to take away everyone’s fundamental rights because of a novel virus. Then, because a policeman killed a man who happened to be black, people decided to erupt into a brutal, intolerant mob determined to smash to pieces everything in the world that has anything to do with Christopher Columbus, the Confederate States of America, or anything or anyone deemed to fall short of said mob’s arbitrary, racist standards of political correctness. As a person who values fundamental rights and also loves Christopher Columbus, the Confederate States of America, and history in general, the year 2020 has been nothing short of devastating.

How dare Osterheldt gloat about her joy and happiness when the movement that she supports has denied these very things to people like me? It is bad enough that the BLM movement has essentially destroyed everything that I love in the world, but now they are adding insult to injury by waxing poetically about how happy it makes them to do so. The protest Osterheldt writes so effusively about took place less than a month after Boston’s statue of Christopher Columbus was decapitated as part of a different protest by the same movement. Did Osterheldt stop to think for one moment about the hurt that this act of bigotry caused the Italian-American community? Did she stop to think of the pain inflicted on me, a person who is on the autism spectrum, who loves statues and history, and who used to walk by and admire this statue nearly every day? Or, for that matter, did she stop to think of people who cherish their Confederate heritage, and the anguish that they must be feeling as the BLM movement tears down, one by one, the statues and monuments that they hold dear?

Osterheldt argues that the narrative surrounding the BLM protests should not be “looters and shooters” but instead “a love language spoken in the tongue of liberation.” But the reality is that looting, violence, destruction of innocent people’s property, and worst of all, destruction of beautiful statues, have been major parts of BLM protests. No, not every single protestor engaged in these destructive acts, and perhaps a majority did not. But these acts need to be fully acknowledged and unequivocally condemned. To characterize the BLM movement as filled with joy, love, singing, dancing, smiles, and solidarity is an inaccurate and incomplete portrayal. It is an insult to the innocent people who have been harmed by this movement, such as myself, small business owners, the Italian-American community, and the Confederate community. It denies the physical, financial, and emotional devastation that this movement has inflicted.

Again and again, Osterheldt and the people she interviews in her column mention “liberation” and “freedom.” It’s interesting that people seemingly so passionate about liberation would have nothing negative to say about Second Amendment violations, governments’ authoritarian measures to combat the coronavirus, the Durham-Humphrey Amendment, the Affordable Care Act and its individual mandate, or any other things that actually take people’s liberty away. To the BLM movement, “resistance” seemingly constitutes stomping on the underdog, and “liberty” seemingly means the ability to destroy and trample on any culture that is different from your own.

“No matter where one lives, running while Black isn’t easy,” Osterheldt writes, without providing any evidence or logical reasoning for why this would be true. You know what isn’t easy? Not being able to visit the North End anymore because it is too traumatizing to see the empty pedestal where Christopher Columbus used to be. You know what else isn’t easy? Not being able to visit Boston at all without being overwhelmed with sadness at the fact that the city is just not the same now that the statue of my hero is gone.

Believe it or not, it is not only black women who have richness and beauty. All races and genders do. For example, lately I have been reading more about the life of Christopher Columbus, someone who I have always admired as a proud Italian-American but didn’t know a ton about. Learning more about his personality, his successes and failures, and the obstacles he overcame, makes he admire him even more. I’ve also read about a wide variety of Confederate generals, learning about their quirks, their skills, their temperaments, and their philosophies. There is richness and beauty in the lives of all of these brave leaders from history.

But the BLM movement doesn’t care about any of that; in fact, they seem determined to stomp out the memory of these historical heroes. All that they care about is people who look and think like them. Osterheldt does not care one iota about the Italian-American community, about those who value their Confederate heritage, or about people on the autism spectrum like me. We are the people who are truly “hurt the most” (to use Osterheldt’s words), and she is kicking us while we’re down. It is easy to be happy when the things that you love, the things that you value, and the things that make your life worth living are not brutally, mercilessly, and inexorably being destroyed. Osterheldt’s joy during the Breonna Taylor protest is what privilege truly looks like. Instead feeling empathy for those less fortunate than her, she is rubbing salt in our wounds.

bookmark_borderPortland’s intolerant “Day of Rage”

On Sunday, the day before Columbus Day, about 300 evil excuses for human beings held what they described as a “Day of Rage” in Portland, Oregon to protest against the Italian explorer. Disgustingly, they tore down statues of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, fired bullets through the window of a restaurant, and smashed the windows of numerous buildings, including restaurants, a jewelry store, a bank, and a coffee shop. They also attempted to burn down the Oregon Historical Society, breaking windows and throwing flares inside, and stole and damaged a historic quilt made by 15 African-American women to celebrate America’s bicentennial. 

According to CNN, flyers for the Day of Rage warned that photography and videography would not be allowed. Apparently whoever organized this event is unaware that in America, there is this thing called the First Amendment. In addition to providing evidence that the protesters intended to commit criminal actions, it is obnoxious that someone would believe they have the right to tell other people that they are not allowed to take photos or videos in public places.

At least two people have been arrested to far, according to local news station KGW. Brandon Bartells, 38, of Pasco, Washington was charged with first-degree criminal mischief and riot for tearing down the Roosevelt statue. He allegedly chained his van to the statue and used the vehicle to pull it down. Malik Fard Muhamad, 23, of Indiana was charged with first-degree criminal mischief, riot, and unlawful possession of a firearm. He allegedly smashed the windows of the Historical Society and other buildings with a metal baton.

According to journalist Andy Ngo, one of the rioters, Amanda Siebe, is running for Congress. “It was so f***ing wet tonight,” she tweeted. “But still, we brought down 2 statues. It was an amazing thing to see those statues fall!” The prospect that someone who thinks like this and writes publicly in such an unprofessional manner might hold public office is disturbing. 

Ngo also reported that the restaurant that was shot at, Heroes American Cafe, was targeted because it was decorated with photos of first responders.

The City of Portland said that the damage to the statues will cost $30,000 to repair. This is after rioters already destroyed statues of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and an elk in the same city.

District Attorney Mike Schmidt called this weekend’s vandalism “sickening,” “inexcusable,” and “without purpose and justification.”

I could not agree more. I condemn these destructive actions in the strongest of terms. Contrary to the sentiments expressed by congressional candidate Amanda Siebe, the destruction of statues is the exact opposite of “amazing.” It is repugnant and despicable. The fact that someone would deliberately pull down a beautiful, magnificent piece of art, and then be happy about this accomplishment, is completely incomprehensible. Every time a monument is torn down, my soul feels like it has been stabbed. Every loss of a statue makes the world a worse place. How could someone do such a thing or express joy about it?

It is also completely illogical that supporters of Antifa and Black Lives Matter would have such a thing as a “Day of Rage.” Those who support these movements have absolutely nothing to be angry about. They have gotten their way on everything. All four major sports leagues and countless celebrities vigorously support their movement. Any person or institution that dares to express dissenting views is immediately condemned, boycotted, and/or fired. Members of these movements have already destroyed hundreds upon hundreds of businesses, buildings, and priceless statues, as well as assaulting and killing innocent people. They have succeeded in causing the Confederate States of America and its iconography to be almost completely obliterated from our society, Christopher Columbus to be slandered as a mass murderer and his holiday replaced with Indigenous Peoples Day in many states, and even founding fathers such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to become controversial.

It is those on the opposite side – those who admire the Confederacy and/or Columbus and/or the founding fathers – who have the right to be enraged. Our statues have been brutally destroyed and our culture and history mercilessly attacked. And now, bizarrely, those who have been trampling on our rights have the audacity to claim to be “enraged” by us, the people on whom they have been trampling. The “Day of Rage” participants and all those who share their beliefs are bullies with no tolerance for any cultures, opinions, or values other than their own. Christopher Columbus is a hero and a cultural symbol to many Italian-Americans, including myself. To hold an event whose sole purpose is to demonstrate rage towards a holiday that celebrates Italian heritage is an act of bigotry. Everyone who participated in this event deserves to be charged with a hate crime. 

bookmark_borderThe linguistics of protests, riots, and BLM

As someone who is fascinated by words and ideas, I have long been pondering what is the best name for the protests that have been happening since the death of George Floyd and the ideology that motivates them. Participants in and supporters of the protests, of course, use terms such as Black Lives Matter (BLM for short), anti-racism, and racial justice to describe their movement. Detractors of the protesters sometimes call them the “woke mob” or use the term “cancel culture” because of the movement’s propensity to demand the cancellation or firing of any individuals, movies, shows, or books that do no conform to their ideology. Commentator Robby Soave coined the term “1793 Project” to describe the mentality, because that was the year the Committee of Public Safety took over the French Revolution and began inflicting terror on anyone who did not conform to their ideology. Some people characterize the ideology of the protests as left-wing, radical, Marxist, or even anarchist, and some go so far as to call the protesters domestic terrorists.

This topic has been on my mind as of late because the Associated Press recently tweeted about the appropriateness of various words for acts of protest and resistance. The AP’s twitter thread reads as follows:

“A riot is a wild or violent disturbance of the peace involving a group of people. The term riot suggests uncontrolled chaos and pandemonium. Focusing on rioting and property destruction rather than underlying grievance has been used in the past to stigmatize broad swaths of people protesting against lynching, police brutality or for racial justice, going back to the urban uprisings of the 1960s. Unrest is a vaguer, milder and less emotional term for a condition of angry discontent and protest verging on revolt. Protest and demonstration refer to specific actions such as marches, sit-ins, rallies or other actions meant to register dissent. They can be legal or illegal, organized or spontaneous, peaceful or violent, and involve any number of people. Revolt and uprising both suggest a broader political dimension or civil upheavals, a sustained period of protests or unrest against powerful groups or governing systems.”

The AP seems to be suggesting that the recent actions and events should generally be referred to as unrest or protests as opposed to riots. It is difficult to write about these events in a neutral way because in addition to the arguments both for and against the actions themselves, there is an almost equally heated debate about what the actions should be called. Proponents prefer the words “protest” and “protesters” because these words focus on the cause that the participants are advancing, while opponents prefer the words “riot” and “rioters” because these words focus on the destructive actions. The AP has declared itself firmly in the “protest” camp.

I also found it interesting that the AP mentioned the possibility of characterizing the recent events as a revolt or uprising. Some participants in the events have, on a similar note, characterized themselves as participants in a “revolution” or “resistance.” I disagree strongly with the use of such terms to characterize this movement. This is because, as the AP notes, revolts, uprisings, revolutions, and resistance are all directed against powerful groups or governing systems. In other words, they are actions taken by “underdogs” against the establishment or, to use a term popular among hippies in the 1960s, “the man.” The Black Lives Matter movement, in my opinion, is the opposite of this. Contrary to what is portrayed by members of this movement, I feel that the BLM movement is less about diversity and tolerance and more about enforcing conformity. It is less about standing up for the underdog and more about trampling on and bullying unpopular minorities. It is less about comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable and more about comforting the already comfortable and further afflicting the afflicted.

As proof of this, one need look no further than the BLM movement’s attitude towards the Confederate States of America. The members of the Confederacy were rebels in the truest sense of the word. They carried out a revolution against a powerful federal government. Outnumbered and with fewer supplies and a less modern economy, they lost. The South was physically devastated, its economy destroyed, its leaders charged with treason, and its people forced to remain part of the Union, at first under military occupation before they were eventually allowed to enjoy the full rights of citizenship again. It is impossible to think of a better example of an underdog than the Confederacy. Yet in the year 2020, members of the BLM movement insult and denounce the Confederacy and every person associated with it, tear down, vandalize, beat, smash, burn, lynch, and urinate on its statues, demand that its flag be banned, and advocate that it be “erased” and every reminder of it obliterated from the earth. This is the very essence of “punching down” as opposed to “punching up.” The Confederate generals and soldiers who are the objects of the BLM movement’s hatred were revolutionaries; therefore the BLM movement cannot accurately be described as a revolution or uprising.

For similar reasons, I’m not in favor of characterizing this movement as “radical.” I also don’t particularly favor characterizing it as left-wing, Marxist, or anarchist. These are all distinct ideologies with philosophical principles that define them. Much of today’s activism does not seem to be motivated by any ideology, per se, but by more of an anti-ideology. Instead of focusing on specific philosophical principles, the recent actions too often focus on destruction for the sake of destruction. Nor do I think domestic terrorism is the right term, because as destructive and violent as terrorism is, it is motivated by principled devotion to an ideology. Additionally, any terms involving the word “mob” call to mind the mafia, and I don’t think it’s fair to the mafia to compare them to this movement.

What is the best term to describe this movement, then? I sometimes use the phrases “black supremacism” or “reverse racism” because of participants’ tendency to demonstrate negative attitudes towards white people merely by virtue of being white. But I’m not sure these are the best terms. Black supremacism seems a little harsh, and the idea of reverse racism is problematic because it presumes that racism against black people is the “default” type of racism. I often call participants in this movement bullies, but this word can apply to any mean, intolerant, or pushy person and is not specific enough to be a good name for a particular movement or ideology. An idea that I strongly associate with this movement is political correctness. Political correctness in itself is not a horrible thing; if someone wants to use politically correct language and ideas in their own speech and actions, they have the right to do that. What is striking about the recent activism is its desire to obliterate everything in the world that does not conform to the requirements of political correctness, in other words its complete intolerance and disregard for dissenting views. Political correctness reigns supreme and is prioritized above logic, philosophy, diversity, or kindness. Some terms that I feel come close to capturing this phenomenon are “aggressive political correctness,” “political correctness run amok,” or perhaps, “cult of political correctness.”

Regardless of what words are used, I will continue writing about the BLM movement, political correctness, and the associated protests and riots, most likely using a variety of different terms until I settle on a word or words that I like best.

bookmark_border“No justice, no Derby”

The Black Lives Matter movement yesterday chose the Kentucky Derby as its latest occasion for protests. Activists gathered in a park near Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, and marched towards the racetrack chanting “No justice, no Derby!” The fact that the race was even run was described as insensitive, callous, and tone-deaf.

These criticisms are, in my opinion, ridiculous. There are legitimate concerns about police brutality, and people are understandably demanding justice in the police-involved shooting of Breonna Taylor, who lived in Louisville. But why is any of this a reason to cancel the Kentucky Derby? Police officers who abuse their authority deserve to be punished, as do all those who perpetrate racism in our society. But to cancel the Derby would not accomplish this. It would punish the hardworking trainers, jockeys, grooms, and owners who have dedicated their lives to caring for horses, as well as the racing fans, and most importantly, the horses themselves who have been training for this moment all year long.

There are all sorts of injustices and wrongs in our society. Racism against black people exists in some places, and racism against white people exists as well. Anti-Semitism exists, as does prejudice against gay, transgender, and asexual people. Income inequality, social pressure, animal cruelty, and climate change are all serious issues. As a person on the autism spectrum, I face discrimination and other challenges on a daily basis. But no one who is affected by any of these other issues has demanded that major sporting events be canceled. Yes, racism and police brutality deserve to be condemned and protested against. But so do all forms of injustice. All of the injustices that I listed are equally widespread and equally problematic as what the Black Lives Matter movement is protesting against, if not more so. So why do Black Lives Matter protesters believe that their issue should be treated preferentially to all others? To demand that the Kentucky Derby be canceled as a response to the injustices that the BLM movement cares about is unfair to everyone affected by other injustices, as well as to everyone who loves horse racing.

The fact that something unjust happened does not mean that events that have absolutely nothing to do with the injustice should be canceled or that people who have nothing to do with the injustice should be punished. The Kentucky Derby is not a frivolous social occasion. It is more than an excuse to wear fancy hats and drink mint juleps. It is a prestigious sporting event for equine athletes, which horsemen and horsewomen build their entire year around. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the race was rescheduled from the first Saturday in May to the first Saturday in September, and was held without fans. These measures are more than sufficient; there is no reason to demand that the race be canceled entirely. Supporters of BLM should focus their criticism and protests upon people who are racist and police who commit acts of brutality; not innocent horses and the people who work with them. To demand that the world of horse racing stop in its tracks for the BLM movement, after already being disrupted around the country by the pandemic, is truly tone-deaf.

P.S. Although I was rooting for Tiz the Law, congratulations to Authentic and all of his humans!

bookmark_borderRand Paul and the ignorant mob

In yet another example of the intolerance of the Black Lives Matter movement, Senator Rand Paul was attacked by an angry mob of over 100 people while leaving the White House after the Republican National Convention. As he and his wife were trying to make their way back to their hotel, the mob swarmed around them, screamed insults, profanities, and death threats, and physically prevented them from moving.

The Daily Caller tweeted a video of the incident.

Senator Paul also described his ordeal on Fox & Friends:

They’re attempting to push the police over to get to me, so at one point they push a policeman backwards, he stumbles and he’s trying to catch his balance and I catch the back of his flak jacket to stabilize him to make sure he’s OK because he’s our defense. If he’s down, the mob’s loose on us. I truly believe this with every fiber of my being, had they gotten at us they would have gotten us to the ground, we might not have been killed, might just have been injured by being kicked in the head, or kicked in the stomach until we were senseless… They were shouting threats to us, to kill us, to hurt us, but also threats shouting “say her name,” Breonna Taylor, and it’s like you couldn’t reason with this mob, but I’m actually the author of the Breonna Taylor law to end no-knock raids, so the irony is lost on these idiots that they’re trying to kill the person who’s actually trying to get rid of no-knock raids.

That’s right, a mob of Black Lives Matter supporters threatened and harassed the very person who has authored 22 criminal justice reforms, including abolishing no-knock raids, which led to Breonna Taylor’s death. Apparently completely ignorant of this, the mob told the libertarian-leaning Republican senator, “We’re not going to let you go alive unless you’ll say you’re for criminal justice reform.” Paul’s actions over the years demonstrate quite clearly that he is. As Paul wrote in an opinion piece for Fox News, “almost no one has said Breonna Taylor’s name as often or sincerely as I have.”

Continue reading “Rand Paul and the ignorant mob”

bookmark_borderAthletes’ boycott is inconsistent and illogical

The world is finally emerging from a government-ordered lockdown during which countries, states, and cities forbade their citizens from leaving their homes for anything other than necessities. A more severe, wide-reaching violation of people’s rights can hardly be imagined. 

Yet because of an incident in Kenosha, Wisconsin in which Jacob Blake was shot by police officers, the NBA, NHL, and MLB have decided to cancel their games as a form of protest. I do not mean to minimize the injustice of what happened to Jacob Blake. Obviously, being shot and paralyzed as a result is absolutely horrible, and he did not deserve for this to happen. But I disagree with the claims by the Black Lives Matter movement that incidents like this are symptomatic of an overarching trend of systemic racism. Like the equally unjust and tragic killing of George Floyd, this was an isolated incident. It is being investigated, and if any of the officers involved are found to have acted wrongly, they will be punished. The shooting of Jacob Blake is being handled the way it should be. 

So why did so many athletes boycott their games in response to this but not in response to issues that are actually important? 

As a result of demands by its athletes, the NBA agreed to postpone all of yesterday’s and today’s playoff games. The NHL called off today’s playoff games, and MLB postponed three games yesterday and seven games today after some players decided to sit out and their teammates and managers backed them. 

Contrast this with the complete lack of reaction when the majority of states in the U.S. enacted stay-at-home orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, banning all people within those states from traveling, going to parks, doing outdoor activities, getting together with other people, and operating businesses. Did any professional athlete express any opposition whatsoever to these tyrannical policies that violate every person’s rights on a massive scale? If so, the media has done a good job of keeping it secret. 

As another example of an issue that merits widespread protests, take the barbaric destruction of buildings, businesses, and worst of all, statues that has been perpetrated by protesters affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement across the country. Why have no professional athletes taken a stand against these violations of people’s rights? Why has no one pledged to boycott games until the vandalized statues are restored and protected?

It’s not only recent injustices that merit protests. Why have no athletes protested against technology companies’ constant tracking of everyone’s internet activities? This practice violates every person’s privacy rights. Why did no athletes protest the deployment of full-body scanners at airports in 2010, also violating every traveler’s privacy rights? Why did no athletes protest when the federal government passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, requiring all people to purchase health insurance? This law violates every person’s right to decide what to do with his or her own money. And why did no one protest the passage of the Durham-Humphrey Amendment in 1951, requiring each person to get a doctor’s permission before being allowed to purchase medications? This law violates every person’s right to make his or her own medical decisions. I could continue listing examples until this blog post became as long as a novel, but I think you get the point.

All of these issues are more important, and more deserving of protests, than an isolated incident of police brutality. The decision by so many basketball, hockey, and baseball players to boycott games over one instance of injustice while completely ignoring others is illogical, inconsistent, unjust, and unfair. Their gesture is meaningful to Jacob Blake and those who care about him, but it is a slap in the face to all those people who are negatively affected by other types of injustice. 

bookmark_borderThe way to prevent riots is by… not rioting

As supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement continue to destroy statues and other property around the country and world, it is a good time to point out a very common, but wrong way of reacting to this destruction.

Many people, even those on the right-hand side of the political spectrum, briefly acknowledge that destruction of property is bad, but then proceed to claim that those who criticize the property destruction are more problematic than those carrying it out, or that no one has a right to criticize the destruction unless he or she is helping to fix the problems that the protesters are protesting about. If the demands of peaceful protesters are not met, goes the argument, then they have no choice but to engage in rioting and destruction to get their point across. Therefore, if you don’t want violent riots to happen, you need to support the Black Lives Matter movement by praising its peaceful protests and advocating for reform of the police, the criminal justice system, the educational system, and the economy. If you don’t take these steps, the argument goes, then you have no right to complain when riots and destruction happen. In the words of one of my acquaintances on Facebook: “Condemn riots. But do so honestly – and prevent them – by doing justice and listening up.”

This way of thinking presumes that the protesters’ cause is correct and that their demands are legitimate. It has become unacceptable to say so in today’s social and political environment, but I disagree with this premise. Yes, racism is bad, and so is police brutality. Yes, what happened to George Floyd was unjust. But I disagree with the claim that systemic racism exists, as well as with the assumption that police brutality has anything to do with race. In my opinion, there are numerous injustices more worthy of protesting against than those that motivate the Black Lives Matter movement – the Durham-Humphrey Amendment, infringements on Second Amendment rights, authoritarian measures designed to slow  the spread of Covid-19, and the assault on Confederate iconography, to name just a few. Can you imagine what the reaction of the general public or the media would be if supporters of any of these causes resorted to violence because laws were not changed in response to our protests?

It is false to presume that our society is obligated to meet the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement. I don’t agree with the message of these protests, and I’m not obligated to either agree with it or accept that violent riots are going to happen.

Many people quote Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, “A riot is the language of the unheard… And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”

With all respect to Dr. King, the cause of riots is people who decide to riot. To suggest that the cause is the issues that the rioters are protesting against is to deny that people are responsible for their own actions. Why should people who have nothing to do with these riots bear the burden of preventing them, while those who are actually rioting are let off the hook? I’m not obligated to help prevent people from destroying property by addressing the issues that they are angry about. People are obligated not to destroy property, period. You know what is an absolute guarantor of riot prevention? Not rioting!

bookmark_borderFour people charged with attack on Andrew Jackson statue

On Saturday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia announced that four people were charged with attempting to destroy the statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square.

Lee Michael Cantrell, 47, of Virginia allegedly attempted to pry the statue off its base with a wooden board and to pull it down with a yellow strap.

Connor Matthew Judd, 20, of Washington, D.C allegedly attempted to pull down the statue.

Ryan Lane, 37, of Maryland, allegedly attached a rope to the statue and attempted to pull it down.

Graham, Lloyd, 37, of Maine allegedly attempted to pull the statue down with ropes and broke off and destroyed the wheels of cannons at the base of the statue.

Acting U.S. Attorney Michael R. Sherwin said: “The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia will not stand idly by and allow our national monuments to be vandalized and destroyed. This Office remains steadfast in its commitment to protect the sacred First Amendment right of individuals to peacefully protest, but these charges should serve as a warning to those who choose to desecrate the statues and monuments that adorn our nation’s capital: your violent behavior and criminal conduct will not be tolerated.”

And Acting Chief of the U.S. Park Police Gregory T. Monahan said: “Members of the United States Park Police are working tirelessly to provide quality law enforcement, safeguard lives, protect our national treasures and symbols of democracy, and preserve the natural and cultural resources entrusted to its service. We are committed to ensuring that citizens are able to freely exercise their constitutional rights in a safe and peaceful manner. The deplorable acts of violence and destruction of property are unacceptable and will continue to be pursued through ongoing collaborative investigations and enforcement efforts.”

Right on! I am heartened that something is being done to punish these disgusting attacks on statues that have been occurring with disturbing frequency. Looking at pictures of mobs trying to destroy the Andrew Jackson statue – such as the one accompanying this article or this article – makes me sick. The statue is magnificent and beautiful. How could someone look at it and want to tear it down? How could someone prefer a world without this statue and other patriotic works of art? The destructive actions of these four individuals, as well as those of countless others over the past few weeks, are morally wrong and incomprehensible. Anyone who intentionally damages a statue in any way, or attempts to damage a statue, or cheers, supports, or encourages the damaging of a statue, deserves to be severely punished.

Now that President Trump has signed an executive order calling for vandalism against statues to be punished to the fullest extent of the law, I hope that more people will be arrested on similar charges for the barbaric acts that have taken place over the past few weeks. Trump’s executive order, issued on Friday, instructs the Department of Justice to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of acts of destruction against statues, memorials, monuments, government property, and religious artwork. The Veterans’ Memorial Preservation and Recognition Act of 2003 authorizes sentences of 10 years in prison for these types of vandalism.

In the order, Trump also announced his intent “to withhold Federal support from State and local law enforcement agencies that have failed to protect public monuments, memorials, and statues from destruction or vandalism. Unwillingness to enforce State and local laws in the face of attacks on our history, whether because of sympathy for the extremists behind this violence or some other improper reason, casts doubt on the management of these law enforcement agencies. These law enforcement agencies are not appropriate candidates for limited Federal funds that support State and local police.”

This is a great idea that will hopefully result in more police departments doing their jobs instead of allowing statues to be destroyed.