Are you against murder? Of course you are. Murder is not merely illegal, but also morally wrong, and you would never advocate or condone murder. What about racism? Are you also against racism? Certainly, every American can be expected to condemn prejudice, racial hatred, and unjust discrimination. There is widespread agreement in our society that racism is a bad thing, and therefore it may be assumed that everyone reading this was horrified by the video of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Four police officers involved in Floyd’s arrest were dismissed from the force, and one of them, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder. There is no controversy or political division over this; every public official commenting on the case agrees that what happened to Floyd was wrong, and authorities in Minnesota have declared that justice will be done.
Why, then, was there a need for protest marches from coast to coast? And why, when these protests predictably turned into riots, were so many people reluctant to condemn the lawless violence that many headlines euphemistically referred to as “unrest”? People were killed and injured as a result of these seemingly pointless riots, and the damage from vandalism, looting, and arson will amount to many millions of dollars, and the question no one can answer is, why?
Stores were ransacked, people were killed or injured in the mayhem, and even the historic St. John’s Church near the White House was set ablaze by the mob.
Most of the blame for this situation belongs to the media, especially cable-news networks, which provide the audience for performative protests that are as ritualistic as kabuki theater. The opening act is an “incident” involving the death of a black man at the hands of the police. This is followed by demands for justice, with activists denouncing the incident as proof of systemic racial oppression. A hashtag campaign emerges on social media platforms, and Hollywood celebrities lend their voices to the outcry. Cable networks convene panel discussions, and the story is updated hourly in the days leading up to the protest rally. The participants in this demonstration are “mostly peaceful,” we are told, while we watch the protest turn into a devastating riot in front of our eyes.
We have seen this drama performed many times over the years, especially during the heyday of the #BlackLivesMatter movement that emerged in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014, and continued through the Charlotte, North Carolina, riot of September 2016. For some reason, the kabuki-theater protest ritual ceased its regular performances after President Trump’s election, as if the producers at CNN and MSNBC had lost interest in the theme of police brutality against black men. On the other hand, perhaps the cessation was simply because there wasn’t a case in the past three years with the kind of clear-cut video evidence needed to hype up a firestorm of indignation. Whatever the explanation, the George Floyd case became the latest enactment of the familiar drama, and no one in the media seems to be asking the obvious question: Why?
What purpose were the protest marches intended to accomplish? To express disapproval of racism? Yet if practically everybody is against racism — and it is quite difficult to find self-avowed racists in 21st-century America — who are the protesters marching against? Consider the case of Minneapolis, in particular. The city has long had a reputation as a bastion of liberalism. Hubert Humphrey, an outspoken champion of racial equality, was mayor of Minneapolis before winning three terms in the U.S. Senate and becoming vice president during the presidency of Lyndon Johnson. Minnesota is such a stronghold of the Democratic Party that not even Ronald Reagan’s historic 1984 landslide could tip the state into the GOP column. So if Minneapolis is now run by a secret cabal of racist officials determined to oppress the city’s black residents, these oppressors must be Democrats. Surely such an accusation cannot be what inspired the protest marches that followed the death of George Floyd, can it?
Whatever wrongdoing might have been committed by the police implicated in Floyd’s death, no one could plausibly assert that officials in Minneapolis endorsed it. If every elected official in the city is against racism and against police brutality, then why was it even necessary to organize a protest march? Our Constitution guarantees “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” What grievance did the #BlackLivesMatter protesters in Minneapolis have against the municipal government they have themselves elected? This is a great mystery, given that the prosecution of charges in the Floyd case will be directed by Minnesota’s black attorney general, Keith Ellison. No one has ever accused Ellison of kowtowing to racists, so what concern for injustice could explain the protests in Minneapolis?
Logically, the protests make no sense as a means of seeking a “redress of grievances.” There is no legitimate reason to suspect that Keith Ellison will engage in a cover-up of racist wrongdoing in Minneapolis, so why did the George Floyd protests turn into a nationwide movement? What is the grievance of the protest mobs that took to the streets in Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, and other major cities across the country?
Perhaps the answer can be found in the rhetoric of the protesters. In Miami, for example, they carried signs with such slogans as “Your Silence Is Violence” and “Stop Killing Us.” As arguments, these slogans are inadequate. How does silence become violence? What this seems to suggest is that anyone who does not vocally support the protesters is complicit in murderous police brutality. The specific problem here is that incidents like the death of George Floyd are actually quite rare. In fact, Heather Mac Donald has demonstrated that black people face a far greater danger from black criminals than they do from racist police, as I explained in a 2016 column:
In 2015, more than 6,000 black people were victims of homicide, while 258 black people were killed by police. This is a 23-to-1 ratio, but the vast majority of police shootings are justified, a consequence of efforts to arrest armed criminals. Only 38 unarmed black people were killed by police in 2015, so that even if all of these 38 deaths were blamed on police racism, this would still mean that black people are nearly 160 times more likely to be murdered by a black criminal than to be unjustly killed by a racist cop. However, as Heather Mac Donald points out, racism cannot be blamed for every incident in which an unarmed person is shot by a cop. Of the total of 987 people shot by U.S. police in 2015, half of them were white, and 31 unarmed white people were shot by police.… While black males accounted for 40 percent of the unarmed people killed by police [in 2015], data from 2005 and 2014 show that 40 percent of cop-killers were black.
Has anyone on cable news ever cited these statistics? Are the actual facts about race, crime, and law enforcement of no interest to TV reporters? Or is it rather the case, as I suspect, that most journalists are unwilling to mention these facts for fear of being accused of racism? One can imagine the firestorm of outrage that might erupt on Twitter if Jake Tapper or Wolf Blitzer ever mentioned those statistics on CNN, and certainly the MSNBC audience would go berserk if anyone on that network tried to discuss race and crime outside the narrow parameters of progressive “social justice” discourse. Thus it is that millions of Americans are led to believe police routinely murder innocent black men, despite all evidence to the contrary.
“Stop Killing Us,” the protest signs demand, but this should not be interpreted as an invitation to ask the question, who is killing whom? The protesters are not interested in a discussion of facts. They’re simply parroting slogans inspired by the dishonest rhetoric used by activists to incite them to anger. We do not need to speculate what political agenda this rhetoric seeks to advance; it’s an election year, after all, and anyone can see which party’s politicians are celebrating the #BlackLivesMatter protests. Joe Biden (or at least, whichever one of his staffers runs his Twitter account) declared on Saturday, “If we are complacent, if we are silent, we are complicit in perpetuating these cycles of violence. None of us can turn away. We all have an obligation to speak out.”
What does that mean? Of what “cycles of violence” was Biden speaking, and how are we “complicit in perpetuating” them? I’ve only been to Minneapolis once in my entire life, to attend a three-day conference in 2011, and have never been consulted about their law-enforcement issues. Exactly how does one incur an “obligation to speak out” about a problem in a city more than 1,000 miles away? But never mind such questions. No one on cable TV was interested in a critical discussion of Biden’s vapid platitudes. It is simply taken for granted that, like all other Democrats, Biden supports the #BlackLivesMatter movement. By logical obverse, Republicans are assumed to oppose this movement, but as a rule GOP politicians try to avoid saying so specifically. Open antagonism to #BlackLivesMatter would be racist, after all, and nobody wants to be a racist.
This is all part of the media’s narrative, you see. The protests function as a partisan propaganda operation to impugn Republicans as racists, to make the damaging accusation implicitly, without the accusers being forced to defend such a claim in open debate. If the claim were ever made explicit — if the protest leaders ever dared to assert that Republicans were to blame for George Floyd’s death — the rebuttal would be as simple as one word: “How?” As previously explained, Minneapolis is a bastion of liberalism, and the site where Floyd was arrested (on suspicion of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill) is in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District, whose current representative is Ilhan Omar, arguably the most far-left Democrat in Congress. Republicans are quite scarce in that vicinity, so how could the GOP possibly be blamed for the unfortunate death of George Floyd?
Logic means nothing when Democrats start playing the race card, of course, and the party’s publicists in the media establishment went into 24/7 coverage mode as soon as video of Floyd’s arrest hit the internet. Having decided to whip up a mob fury, the Democrats and their media henchmen simply did not care about the consequences of their irrational race-war propaganda. Stores were ransacked, people were killed or injured in the mayhem, and even the historic St. John’s Church near the White House was set ablaze by the mob. Can anyone imagine that George Floyd would have wanted a 200-year-old Episcopal church burned to honor his memory? Was the cause of civil rights advanced by a nationwide spree of looting and arson?
Well, it’s probably racist to ask such questions. That’s the peculiar thing about these liberal media narratives. Criticism is essentially prohibited. If you hate CNN or the New York Times, you’re obviously a racist. And if you don’t applaud the mobs of arsonists and looters, well, “your silence is violence.” There’s no logic to any of this, except the remorseless logic of partisan politics. Democrats evidently believe they can burn and loot their way to the White House, so the media will keep inciting riots until November, or until there’s nothing left to steal or burn.