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_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!