Rioters Don’t Want Criminal Justice Reform — They Want A Revolution
These rioters aren’t Martin Luther King Jr. or even Malcolm X. They are Alex and his droogs from “A Clockwork Orange” out for a night on the town, albeit with less style and a duller patois. Violence is the point.
Protests responding to the cruel police killing of George Floyd have been turned into nationwide riots and looting. This is not about Floyd anymore. His killing was universally condemned, the cops involved were fired, and homicide charges have been brought against the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck. More should be done, and what has been done could have been done sooner, but folks are not looting the Nike store in downtown Chicago for greater justice. They just want to smash things and take stuff.
The very real problems of police misconduct and racial injustice have been buried under rubble and broken glass, then obscured in a haze of smoke and tear gas. Progress was possible— in his last State of the Union address, our bombastic Republican president was boasting about criminal justice reform — but that requires basic civil order. The problem with “no justice, no peace” is that although the absence of justice will indeed corrode peace, without peace there is no possibility of justice.
Meet the Revolutionaries
As the violent destruction escalated, much of the press spun conspiracy theories about white supremacist agitators and, of course, Russia. That was nonsense. The outside agitators are the same (mostly local) anarchist goons and Antifa thugs we have watched for years. The white privilege on display here is on the left, where radical whites play at revolution, often to the detriment of poor minorities. The radicals don’t care, because they want revolution, not reform. They want more violence, not less. They want to burn it down, regardless of whether “it” is a police station, an upscale shop, or a minority neighborhood.
Some of those taking to the streets want to protest peacefully, some are determined to incite violence and destruction, and others are somewhere in between. But in a crowd, these categories are fluid, and despite efforts by genuine protesters to maintain order in their ranks, the tendency is toward escalation, especially with the excitement of a righteous cause after weeks of being in lockdown. Mob violence, destruction, and theft are thrilling, especially after being stuck mostly alone and indoors, and Ivy League corporate lawyers can enjoy it just as much as the urban proletariat.
Never before has rioting been so recorded (often by the rioters themselves), and what the videos show is not so much the wretched of the earth rising up against their oppressors as people relieving their boredom through the rush of violence and theft.
Even the self-proclaimed revolutionaries are thrill-seekers. Most are half-cosplaying at revolution, indulging in enough street violence to be thrilling, but not enough to really risk themselves. The young lady in New York who despicably hurled a Molotov cocktail at a cop car with the officers still inside is the exception for treating this like a real life-or-death uprising, rather than a chance to collect some free swag.
Serious attacks on police seem to be increasing, but most of the rioters are not interested in a genuine insurrection against armed agents of the state. They even get indignant when police or citizens defending themselves push back. Real revolutionaries don’t whine about how unfair it is when their enemies and victims retaliate. But the rioters we see expect the law to protect them, even as they wage war on it. They believe themselves entitled to safety, even as they bring anarchy into our cities.
In this, the rioters are fundamentally affirming the authorities. Yes, they denounce them as corrupt, racist, and so on, but they leave the burden of change on them. The rioters are not trying to establish alternative powers and institutions that would assert sovereignty. They may fantasize about a socialist revolution, but they have no plans for seizing power and governing beyond a vague hope that it might happen if they make things bad enough now.
Violence Is the End Goal
This sterile destruction is intrinsic to rioting, which by nature is a repudiation of politics. It abandons reasoned persuasion, or even targeted factional violence, in favor of generalized destruction that is incapable of establishing anything, even a bad regime (though that may follow when the public demands order at any cost). The rioters are not trying to take over, they just want to pillage, burn, and then go home.
After all, why should they bother to actually smash the system, as opposed to just some windows, when the system wants to be loved by them? Elite institutions, from universities to big corporations, will respond to these riots with more PC tokenism and HR diversity blather.
The legacy media and the Democratic Party have likewise struggled to muster the moral firmness to condemn the rioters. The establishment left has an immune disorder: Its leaders are incapable of standing against radicals who use the rhetoric of social justice as a cover for evil deeds. Thus, many Democratic mayors and governors have let their cities be destroyed, and Democratic leaders have justified violence and looting as conducive to the cause of racial justice.
They are wrong. This violence is not done for justice, and it will not produce any. For most of the rioters, it is just an excuse, and a thin one at that, for a few nights of destruction and looting.
Even the ideologues do not really believe the riots will accomplish anything. Rather, they have abandoned any real hope that injustice might be remedied — note how vague they are about the actual details of their new order once they burn the existing one down.
In their ideological catechism, the problem of sin persists without any hope for overcoming it. Without hope and without love, violence becomes an end in itself. There is only power and exploitation and struggle, world without end, amen.
Nathanael Blake is a Senior Contributor at The Federalist. He has a PhD in political theory. He lives in Missouri.