America on Fire
America is on fire. Many urban areas have been overrun by protests that have turned violent along with looting, arson, assault and property damage to vehicles, businesses and infrastructure. Riots first broke out May 25 following the death of 46-year-old George Floyd, a black man who was pinned down to the ground by white Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin for 8 minutes and 46 seconds after having been accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill in a nearby pharmacy.
The Current Situation
Rioting in Minneapolis has now ceased, but cities across the United States are ablaze and crammed with protesters, agitators and looters from Philadelphia and New York to Portland and Salt Lake City, with one man shot dead in Louisville, Kentucky and various reports and footage of attacks on police, and tense police driving through protesters and tasing a young black couple in their vehicle. Burning city halls and streets littered with burned-out husks of vehicles have dotted the evening news for the past week. The US National Guard was called in by a number of states this weekend and there were around 5,000 arrests made by police. There are charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter against Chauvin who was fired on May 26 along with attending officers Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and Alexander Kuen. Floyd’s family’s lawyer calls the death an act of “premeditated murder.”
This is Not a Drill
In the 2004 film Man on Fire, Denzel Washington plays a former special forces operator called John Creasy who vows to get revenge on criminals who committed an atrocity against the family he was being paid to keep safe. In 2020 America on Fire — which is not a movie — a mass of people of many grievances and agendas are being driven by blind rage at the system. They are smashing the commercial structures that no longer employ 40 million Americans and opposing the police who they associate with racist violence and brutality. There are various groups involved in the ongoing unrest in the United States, despite the attempts by various media and political sides to frame the current situation simplistically. As Murtaza Hussain of the Intercept noted, “lots of people apparently want to condemn the protests and maybe even crush them but only after they’ve labelled them as having been corrupted by some ideological group they’re more comfortable posturing in opposition against.”
A Note on Narrative Building
Political talking points and narratives are constructed constantly, especially surrounding controversial and chaotic events that leave the public wanting straightforward answers. This fits well into politicians plotting how to exploit tragedy for political leverage. Almost immediately the Trump Administration and key supporters latched onto the idea of spoiled white agitators in “antifa” and well-funded hard-left agitators being behind the main acts of violence and instigating the destruction, tying into longstanding theories about George Soros and leftist oligarchs being behind attempts to destroy the United States and collapse the Trump government. Antifa, or “anti-fascist” is a loose umbrella of socialist, communist and anti-capitalist groups with roots in Stalinism.
Liberals, meanwhile, became disillusioned by the destruction and also sought a group to blame that would fit more neatly with their ideological proclivities. After all, communists and antifa have long made it clear that “liberals get the bullet too” and that kind of militancy isn’t exactly reassuring to Sally Soccer Mom in surburban St. Paul, and neither is the idea that a group they sympathize with — namely black people facing discrimination and economic abandonment that is egged on by jackal media and political operators — could also have numerous members of their community who would commit violence and property destruction.
Is Antifa Really Behind This?
The simple truth is that despite obvious instigators and hard-left groups the violence is mainly being driven by people who are angry over the death of George Floyd, poverty and police brutality and boosted along by a some determinedly menacing pencil-armed neo-Marxist white kids with too much time on their hands. The attempt to pin this all on antifa and the claim that they are going to be categorized as a terrorist organization is clearly based on political expediency rather than a pragmatic countermeasure. As Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller put it, “Antifa is terrible and all, but my guess is they’re responsible for a small fraction of the violence and looting going on.”
What About the Racists?
For their part, some suburban liberals found a new scapegoat in the white nationalist bogeyman: this upheaval was somehow a plot to make black people look bad by white racists and Russian agents. Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, Governor Tim Walz and others promoted the idea that most of those damaging the state were from elsewhere, which turned out not to be true. Ellison has previously promoted antifa and was formerly a member of the black nationalist Nation of Islam which has long called for black separatism and violent resistance of the white-dominated societal structure.
To be sure, there is a contingent of peaceful protesters and concerned citizens, along with a smattering of hard left communists and antifa and several riot-curious far right accelerationists and white nationalists, but this last number is miniscule as far as the evidence goes. Despite bizarre attempts by some in the mainstream media to claim the majority of damage is being done by white nationalists, racists and Russian-linked provocateurs trying to accelerate the downfall of modern, multi-racial America by striking at its fault-lines, there is no proof of more than a few white nationalists, militias and Trump supporters working their way into the upheaval. There is seemingly no end to blaming Vladimir Putin for everything that happens in the United States, which is, arguably, one of the ongoing political and media delusions and deflections that has led to this violent moment.
Fox News has been chased down and insulted by mobs, several Trump supporters were surrounded and pushed back to a building with one having his Trump hat burned as the crowd screamed “F*** Trump!” and several white nationalists who did try to infiltrate a protests were tracked and then turned into a bogeyman by antifa and left groups who claim these people are everywhere. Apart from Nick Fuentes and some “boogaloo” types popping up for photo opportunities, the violence does not appear to be orchestrated by these young internet racists. It is particularly odd to see the media blaming Trump for the vandalizing of CNN headquarters in Atlanta, for example, when this was done by a crowd who clearly despises the President and his supporters as well as CNN and mainstream media.
Where’d All the Good People Go?
There are still plenty of good people. Some protesters have restrained and delivered violent agitators to police and others have done their best to stand up to violent looters and agitators. But at the end of the day what is happening in America’s cities is a social problem more than anything else. Trust has broken down and year by year Western civilization is reverting into Thomas Hobbes’ state of nature: every man and women for themselves.
The bottom line here is simple: American society is breaking down. Look for rural communities to increasingly fortify themselves against the cities, protecting their food sources, businesses and streets from outsiders through force of arms and even vigilante patrols. There is plenty of blame to go around and deep-seated problems to reference, however now the situation truly is spiraling out of control. The United States is well on the road to becoming a failed state. Economic meltdown, the COVID-19 pandemic that is still decimating the country and an enraged uprising have come together to form the perfect storm.
Certainly, economic, racial and political aspects have all had a major role in leading to this situation, but at the end of the day the sound you hear is the social fabric tearing apart from Houston to Los Angeles. It’s the frustration boiling over, and whichever agendas and extreme groups may try to use that frustration for their own purposes it would be a mistake to think that the situation itself is entirely engineered or delusional. After all, the media and many politicians continually trying to place the motivation for unrest and problems on anything other than the actual causes of those problems is a big reason why we are in this position today.
Whatever exactly is going on, Jelani Cobb of the New Yorker put it aptly in noting that “you know we’re in uncharted territory when something happens in Minneapolis and they’re setting cars on fire in Salt Lake City.”