it's our old friend, the inevitable consequences of our own beliefs
As someone who would define their politics as antifascist (or at least anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarian) and lives in the Minneapolis neighborhood that was burned down last year, I can say that it was not fun or exciting. It was not fun to watch people from the suburbs drive 60mph down my street to join the riots. It was especially not fun to go online and see all the people celebrating the fact that my neighborhood was on fire.
It was not fun seeing people with no connection to the area describe property damage as unimportant. Never mind that most of these buildings were populated by immigrant owned businesses employing people in the community. Never mind that those buildings won't be rebuilt for at least another year, which means the people who owned those businesses need to either find a new building or new career, the people who worked there have had to find new places to work during a pandemic.
They may have just been buildings, but sometimes buildings mean a lot to people. They're places for the community to congregate and gather. This is especially true for the sizeable East African and Native American population of people who live here, who watched their community spaces get burned down with glee by people who had never even heard of Longfellow until they rolled up at midnight to smash shit.
It's easy to be pro-riot when it's happening far away to people who may as well be imaginary. We all love to see a Target get smashed, yeah?
Of course, the fallout from that Target and other big chain stores being smashed is that a lot of people in the community suddenly no longer had employment during a pandemic. Not to mention that of the 6 grocery stores that served the 30k people who live in Longfellow, only two remained standing after the first night, which means a lot of people lost their easy access to food, toiletries, etc.
I am not a fan of the guy who lives opposite me on my street who has had a Trump sign in his window since the summer of 2015. But that dude was out there every night protecting our neighborhood grocery store. Yeah, he probably was living out some deranged cowboy fantasy where he'd get to shoot some looters, but he was doing the work to protect people and build community during a pretty alarming and sometimes terrifying time.
But, yeah: not very fun! And the result of all that chaos after this most recent election is a much more moderate City Council, a Mayor with increased executive power, and a police force that feels like they won their war against the city.
Someday I want somebody smarter than me to do a deep-dive into how pandemic quarantine affected who was at street protests in 2020. So much of my social circle, liberals who were 2016-radicalized but (I assumed) never true radicals, shocked me by going out night after night into a liberal west-coast city and getting into cop chases, getting arrested, being in the crowds that threatened to burn cars and courthouses. They posted unceasingly on social media about their solemn duty to do this, on the same feeds that a week ago had been nothing but frantic finger-pointing at conservatives who were selfishly killing innocents by attending weddings and protesting lockdown restrictions. These were people who were simultaneously losing their minds in lockdown (as I was, as so many were), who were depressed and often newly unemployed, but who had wedded themselves to a political performance that required competing to see who could lock down hardest and publicly bear it best.
…Then, suddenly, a politically-sanctioned excuse - no, an imperative - arose for leaving your house, being among people, meeting your friends, and doing something that felt necessary and productive and brave, following weeks of feeling scared, helpless, claustrophobic, and unmoored. Suddenly it was ok to be outside in a massive crowd because you were allowed to believe the virus was less important than this, when you weren’t allowed to believe that about anything else. I can’t believe that’s coincidence, at least not in my (very far from Minneapolis) city.
It has shades of the Nazi-punching craze of 2017-2018, when many young academics with anxiety in my acquaintance circle started taking self-defense classes and posturing as “neighborhood protectors.” You’re a pacifist until a politically-sanctioned imperative to hurt people comes along and gives you the excuse. The difference is, none of them ever actually punched a Nazi; and pandemic lockdown was an event of mass psychological upheaval in the U.S. that I can’t think of a parallel for.
Another great piece, Freddie. I'm still not used to watching blatant selective dehumanization. There has never been any proof he was a white supremacist. Yes he went to a Trump rally and was clearly of that mindset, but that doesn't mean people know what was in his head. They needed it to be true and so they pretended it was true. Just as you point out the mundane work of knocking on doors and having conversations is hard, well so too is having humanity and reserving judgment. It is only: how can I win this today. Due process? Nope. Doesn't matter. Guilt or innocence will be decided by Twitter and the media that feeds off of it. I guess I still find it shocking that there are so few people in media who have the courage to defy the mob. I guess it comes down to that. This isn't to defend what Rittenhouse did. But I still have enough humanity left to understand he was in over his head and he should not have been out there trying to protect anyone.
That he thought it was his job is astonishing. To this day most of my friends on the left do not seem to realize just how bad things were that night and how little protection there was for small business owners who didn't have insurance to rebuild, for instance. I'll never forget one video I saw of a woman with a 100-year-old mattress store. An old man picked up a fire extinguisher to protect her store from being burned down. He was beaten up and sent to the hospital. Not only was this not news but you were told you were a racist if you showed concern. https://youtu.be/mfMbRwV1uoU
Last summer, I made a Facebook post defending riots. It was the old "Well, a burned down building is not as bad as a lost life" kind of line. I realized months later that my post didn't make sense. So why did I write it in the first place?
Because I was scared. Scared of being labelled a bad person and losing friends. Social media was so chaotic at that time, and liberal folks were on the hunt for wrongthink so they could mob and shame people. They would shame people just for being silent! So I felt that if I wrote a post to signal to liberals "okay he's cool, we don't have to worry about him," they'd move on to other targets.
This dynamic is not the least bit surprising to most of us, I'm sure.
I know it's never going to happen, but I really wish people in the media and especially politicians would observe the convention of not commenting on ongoing criminal trials. Nobody who cares about justice should want to see elected officials stating that a defendant should be 'locked up and we should throw away the key'. There's also a dispiriting amount of criticism of the judge in this case enforcing rules that are supposed to protect the rights of a defendant. Rittenhouse obviously has trash politics and as many people on twitter have delighted in pointing out, is physically unattractive, but he's still entitled to a fair trial. All hell is going to break loose when he's found not-guilty
I feel the need to point out that the last dude he shot also had an illegal firearm and was chasing a dude (Rittenhouse) while pointing said illegal firearm at him. Trying Rittenhouse for wreckless endangerment and a weapons possession charge in such circumstances would still be charging based on politics and not a sense of law or justice IMO.
I was watching footage of this incident being posted on twitter as it was happening and my first and strongest thought was that, pandemic fever aside, there are a lot of young men out there who are really yearning to participate in a raw kind of rite of passage that our culture does not provide outside of military service. I don't think this is a partisan impulse, in fact I think the absence of productive ways to channel this kind of energy or at least contain it manifests in bad ways across social and economic lines. Politics aside, when the people who govern our cities cede the streets to whoever is daring or disturbed enough to go out into them we should not be surprised that the void fills up with adventurers and lunatics.
I will copy paste two sections of a discussion I had with a friend over this. Forgive the crudities, it’s how I talk in real life and the forum I typed them at was informal:
“For real though, the core issue here is the assumptions baked into the question- why are the rioters committing assault and arson treated as a fait accompli, a constant that cannot be a variable? Why are their presence and activities in neighborhoods like mine treated as the baseline, where all deviance from it must be justified? Why must Rittenhouse justify his presence there, while the men chasing him down need not?
I mean, I agree with you. Kid's a mouth breather. He shouldn't have been there. But even just saying THAT implies that the other however thousands of college kid dropouts and lumpenproletariat weren't mouth breathers too. That third fucker got shot, the one who lived- he was ALSO a mouth breather who showed up claiming to be a medic without certs, except not only was the gun he carried explicitly illegal due to his status as a felon (not that I support automatically disarming all felons but I've clearly lost that battle), but who also committed assault with a deadly weapon in the course of things- why isn't HE on trial same at Rittenhouse? They both defied the state by showing up to a riot ready to rock and roll, they both played jump rope with the law, except that One Arm Dude actually crossed the legal line and Rittenhouse didn't. Yet One Arm Dude gets to be a witness at Rittenhouse's trial.
What I mean is, Rittenhouse's real crime is that he shot "mostly peaceful protestors" in defiance of the narrative that the 2020 riots were a righteous uprising against injustice, as opposed to the summer heat/pandemic fever/twitchy partisan tantrums that they were. The fact the they can't make an example out of him is a good thing; the only reason why they even bothered to try was because the Twitter Hivemind- who collectively know nothing of self-defense laws and care even less- would have had a meltdown if they hadn't.”
Section two, much shorter:
“Differing class perspectives, I expect. I spent the 2020 riots with my gun loaded and in the holster and my body armor propped up against the wall [adding for clarification, my neighborhood was quiet but my hometown a few miles east of me was rioting; I was in no direct danger]. Whether shit escalates or not I cannot influence; I just demand assurances that if I or people like me have to shoot our way off of the sharp horns of a dilemma, the state will refrain from mercilessly crushing me in retaliation for hitting back at sanctioned rioters and surviving.”
Good job Freddie, on a total cluster-fuck of an issue. The lack of black victims doesn't seem to faze the mob at all - the real irony here is the flip-flop of historical allegiances -
The mob-left is full-throat supporting the shady prosecutors that over-charged a murder case for political reasons and assumed a slam-dunk guilty verdict and are trying to pull some hijinks (marsha clark anyone)
The wing-nut right is full-throat supporting defense lawyers and are anti-prosecutor.
the testimony I saw yesterday, I watched over 5 hours, Rittenhouse just straight-up plain ole kicked the prosecutors ass! If I was the DA, I'd have that dudes ass in my office ripping him a new one.
He got showed up by a teenager! the classic answer to the question of why he shot someone with a gun if that person with the gun hasn't shot him first?
Answer: "because he was pointing the gun at me and had just hit me in the head with a skateboard two times"
Prosecutor: So you shot him?
I think lot of people on the left were convinced by America’s one-sided media culture that they had carte blanche to commit political violence as long as they associated it with a popular political slogan. They believed rioters had the right to destroy neighborhoods and attack people like Rittenhouse for putting a damper on their “peaceful protests” by rendering first aid or extinguishing fires. For practical purposes, they unfortunately were correct about that in most instances, but this trial hopefully will show that, regardless of the dominant political narrative of the day, people actually aren’t obligated to tolerate LARPERs invading their neighborhoods to commit political violence. You can craft whatever narrative you want during an MSNBC broadcast, but it doesn’t work that way on the streets or in the courts.
And as the facts of the case are only reinforcing how destructive the riots were, last year’s radicals are stomping their feet and demanding the very authorities they performatively opposed last year save them from a pudgy, soft-spoken teenager. Yesterday it was, “Fuck you, mom and dad, I don’t need you anyway.” Today it’s, “But seriously, you’re gonna save me from the bully, right?” Pure petulance.
It’s interesting that the white felons Rittenhouse shot are being portrayed as martyrs but David Dorn, the elderly black man who was murdered by rioters after daring to question their moral authority to destroy his neighborhood, has been forgotten. It’s almost like the support for this stuff was never about racial solidarity but about centering the feelings of white progressive Twitter radicals who spent a few months living vicariously through losers like Joseph Rosenbaum.
"The threat of investment banks is vastly larger to the average poor person of color than the threat of Boogaloo Boys"
This! I'm a Jew, and I don't give half a shit about basement dwelling losers calling themselves Nazis, yelling "Jews will not replace us", or posting allegedly offensive memes on 4chan. Finance, the military industrial complex, landlords, the oil industry, etc are much larger enemies to the average person than these "fascists" will ever be. Guys in suits who talk about "synergy" and "circling back" cause way more harm than to the average person than these Nazi larpers ever will.
I'm very sorry to say I see most of post 2016 US politics as one big LARP of WWII, where everyone involved donned the trappings of their favorite faction. It's about as serious as Civil War re-enactment, but with the participants not being in on the joke. From tankie Twitter to pol, this connects the dots.
Also, I'm sorry to say that most people fetishizing street violence via Antifa aren't very good at armed conflict. The military and police tend pretty conservative and frankly they are a whole lot better at violence. I don't think they have even the faintest idea how dark the forces they are playing with are.
I mean, we're obviously living in a system where any productive energy is funnelled into unproductive activities, a system that incentivizes people doing anything other than challenging the powers that be, and in that environment it makes sense that people think that we need to go out and fight in the streets to make a difference, somehow. But man it's depressing.
I live in Portland and it strikes me that so much of this stuff stems from the "if we just do x and x, Trump supporters will disappear" attitude that's so prevalent in left-wing spaces. For some people it's all about purging Facebook feeds of "misinformation," which will immediately turn everyone into a Democrat, and for others it's a belief that we can just go out into the streets and throw enough glass bottles at their heads until they have better political positions on the issues that are important to us.
It's all delusional but I'm not seeing any way out of it, and if Trump wins again in 2024 everyone is going to completely lose their fucking minds.
Any impartial observer who did their homework and didn't rely on mainstream outlets for the facts saw what was coming months ago.
The way I would paraphrase the mindset you’ve been criticizing in several recent posts is “being on the right side of history means not needing to have or adhere to principles.”
“It’s like putting on music and getting mad when people dance.” My three year old does exactly this. I can’t bob my head or clap along; I have to simply watch him dance in awed silence. 😂