The Return of the Riot Ideology | The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Return of the Riot Ideology
Robert Stacy McCain
by
St. Louis police captain David Dorn (YouTube screenshot)

James Scurlock was a criminal. David Dorn was a cop. The two men never met, but the cause of their deaths — Scurlock in Omaha, Nebraska, and Dorn in St. Louis, Missouri — was related. Both were killed this past week as a result of the dangerous storm of violence that most media outlets describe euphemistically as “protests” or “unrest.”

Americans are being told by intellectuals, politicians, and TV pundits that this deadly chaos is about “systemic racism,” to quote Joe Biden, but what we are actually witnessing is the return of a dangerous belief system that Manhattan Institute scholar Fred Siegel called “the riot ideology.” People are being killed, businesses are being looted, and the fundamental basis of a free society is being jeopardized because this irresponsible mentality has been promoted as a solution to racial inequality, when in fact it is a major cause of the problem. The deaths of James Scurlock and David Dorn illustrate the damage done by the riot ideology.

Scurlock was shot dead after he assaulted a bar owner in Omaha’s Old Market district Saturday night. National media have tried to turn Scurlock into a martyr, with CBS News headlining their version of the story, “A white bar owner in Omaha shot and killed a black protester. He won’t face charges.” Was Scurlock a “protester”? He was not shot while engaged in a protest. Instead, as the Omaha World-Herald reported, Scurlock had been engaged in vandalism, caught on surveillance video smashing up an office on Harney Street about 10:15 p.m. Saturday night. Forty minutes later and half a block away, windows were smashed at a bar owned by Jake Gardner, a Marine Corps veteran who was on the premises with his father, trying to protect his business from being looted in the so-called “unrest.” The two men emerged from the bar, and the elder Gardner was assaulted by one of Scurlock’s accomplices. When the bar owner brandished a pistol, he was jumped by two people, and fired what he called “warning shots,” causing them to flee. That’s when Gardner was attacked from behind by Scurlock, who was shot dead.

The black youth of St. Louis have lost a role model, and why? Because the riot ideology justifies looting (and arson, vandalism, and every other kind of criminal violence) as an expression of “social justice.” 

All of this was captured on video, which the district attorney played at a press conference where he announced no charges would be filed against Gardner, who had clearly acted in self-defense. National media outlets, however, have sought to portray this as “the killing of a black protester,” in the words of the Washington Post, as if vandalism and assault are legitimate ways to protest, or as if James Scurlock was killed because he was black. (For more, see John Jiang’s American Spectator article, “How the Media Fans the Flames.”)

The twisted and counterfactual logic of the riot ideology justifies criminal violence as “a challenge to the injustice embedded in the social order,” as Siegel explained in his 1997 book, The Future Once Happened Here. The destruction wrought by this mentality was defended — indeed, it was celebrated — by liberal intellectuals in the 1960s. In his book, Siegel quotes as an example a 1967 New Republic editorial that declared, “Terrifying as the looting, the shooting, the arson are, they could mean a gain for the nation if, as a result, white America were shocked into looking at itself, its cities, its neglect … smugness and evasion.”

This kind of guilt-ridden white liberalism seemed to have been vanquished by the 1990s, when Bill Clinton campaigned for president boasting that he would put 100,000 new cops on America’s streets, and Rudy Giuliani’s tough-on-crime policies succeeded in restoring civilized life to New York City. Alas, the lessons of the 1990s apparently now have been forgotten. The riot ideology has returned with a vengeance, and, as in the 1960s, black people are likely to suffer most as a consequence.

Consider the tragic fate of David Dorn, a 77-year-old retired police captain who was a pillar of the community in St. Louis. Dorn was attempting to prevent the looting of a pawn shop on Martin Luther King Drive when he was shot dead by one of the criminals. Dorn’s death, captured in a heartbreaking Facebook video recorded by a bystander, inspired nationwide mourning. An online fundraiser for Dorn’s family raised more than $200,000 in 24 hours. Dorn was remembered by the Ethical Society of Police, which represents the city’s black officers, as “the type of brother that would’ve given his life to save them if he had to” — and by “them,” they meant, the looters who killed him. The Associated Press reported,

Dorn was a friend of the pawn shop’s owner and frequently checked on the business when alarms went off, his wife, St. Louis police Sgt. Ann Marie Dorn, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

David Dorn served 38 years on the St. Louis police force before retiring in October 2007. He then became chief of Moline Acres, a small town in St. Louis County.

Former St. Louis County police Chief Tim Fitch knew Dorn for 30 years and said they became close friends when Dorn and his wife were leading the St. Louis police department’s Explorers program for young people interested in law enforcement careers, while Fitch was leading the county’s program.

“He was very dedicated to youth, especially disadvantaged youth,” said Fitch, who led the St. Louis County Police Department from 2009 to 2014. “He wanted to see them succeed. He wanted to be a role model for those young men and women to go into law enforcement.”

The black youth of St. Louis have lost a role model, and why? Because the riot ideology justifies looting (and arson, vandalism, and every other kind of criminal violence) as an expression of “social justice.” If you disagree with that, you’ll be condemned as a racist. In an appearance Monday on CNN, New York Times writer Nikole Hannah-Jones defended looting as “symbolic taking” by black people who have been excluded from America’s “social contract.” In case anyone didn’t get that message, Hannah-Jones doubled down Tuesday in an appearance on CBS News, declaring, “Destroying property which can be replaced is not violence. I think any reasonable person would say we shouldn’t be destroying other people’s property. But these are not reasonable times.”

In reasonable times, some might say, Nikole Hannah-Jones would be locked up in a lunatic asylum, instead of inciting riots on TV, but she was far from the only one doing it. The Media Research Center compiled a remarkable video montage of media personalities defending the riots as “mostly peaceful” protests, including MSNBC’s Ali Veshi, who declared that the scene Friday in Minneapolis was “not, generally speaking, unruly” while standing in front of a burning building set aflame by the anarchist mob.

Media apologists for looting and arson do not seem to care about — or perhaps they’re just too stupid to understand — the predictable consequences of the violent “protests” they encourage. Begin with the loss of life. The “unrest” inspired by the death of George Floyd has already killed about a dozen people, many of them black, including Dave Patrick Underwood, a federal officer who was shot Friday while providing security at the U.S. courthouse in Oakland, California, and 22-year-old Italia Kelly, who was leaving a protest in Davenport, Iowa, when she was shot by another protester. There is also the yet-to-be-estimated millions of dollars in damage to property caused by vandalism, arson, and looting. Some businesses destroyed in this “unrest” will never return, and the resulting disinvestment in urban areas will lead to the loss of employment opportunities.

What about the distrust between police and the black community inflamed by the media’s 24/7 message that black people are routinely murdered by racist cops? On his Fox News program Wednesday, Tucker Carlson addressed that media-manufactured myth, citing specifics of the 10 cases — yes, only 10 — last year in which unarmed black people were killed by police. Nearly all those cases involved extenuating circumstances (e.g., criminals in cars trying to run over police) that justified the use of deadly force. In a nation of more than 325 million people, and more than 40 million black people, these numbers hardly justify the claims of “systemic” anti-black violence by police. As author Heather Mac Donald told Carlson, the anti-police rhetoric is part of a “narrative that is both false and dangerous.” Considering that 89 law-enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty last year, what do the media expect to happen in the wake of the “unrest” they have incited? Isn’t it likely that police will be less diligent in pursuing criminals in the black community? And how many innocent black people will those criminals kill?

Keep in mind, of course, that the reason the riot ideology has been revived is not because of what happened to George Floyd last week, but because this is an election year, and the anti-Trump media believe they can advance their partisan agenda by inciting racial animosity and stoking “unrest.” In his campaign speech Tuesday in Philadelphia, Joe Biden declared, “The moment has come for our nation to deal with systemic racism,” without bothering to explain why that moment never came during his eight years as vice president, or his 36 years in the U.S. Senate. For most of his career, of course, Biden claimed to be tough on crime, but the Democrats are now the pro-criminal/anti-police party.

In Philadelphia, where Biden spoke Tuesday, District Attorney Larry Krasner was elected with the support of left-wing billionaire George Soros. Krasner has pursued a “social justice” agenda of turning loose criminals and, quite predictably, violent crime has escalated in Philadelphia. Anyone who imagined that Krasner’s radical agenda would prevent “unrest” in Philly was deluded; rioting mobs rampaged through the city and order was only restored when the National Guard arrived Tuesday:

Two days of unprecedented violence emerged and ultimately resulted in the city being shut down — with access restricted and a curfew imposed for 6 p.m.

In the city, rioting and looting continued to run rampant. Looters ransacked businesses in Kensington and Port Richmond, and sometimes even fought with each other over the stolen merchandise.

This is perhaps the worst consequence of the riot ideology, namely that kowtowing to violent mobs only begets more violence. After the destructive “unrest” of the 1960s, America learned that lesson the hard way, and we are paying the price now because our leaders seem to have forgotten.

Robert Stacy McCain
Robert Stacy McCain
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