Thursday, August 27, 2020

But We've Got to Do Something!

I imagine you've heard that a couple of protesters against police violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin, were shot to death, allegedly (but pretty certainly) by Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old armed with an AR-15.  He was arrested in his hometown, a half-hour drive from Kenosha in Illinois. There are numerous infuriating aspects to the case, such as that he was welcomed by police on the scene, and then allowed by them to walk away unhindered after the shooting.  But he's in custody now, charged with first-degree homicide.

In Bloomington, Indiana, where I lived and worked for many years, there was a "Defend the Police" rally last Saturday, which was countered by Black Lives Matter supporters.  According to an interview I heard with the mayor, some people on both sides were armed, but though there were some scuffles that produced minor injuries, no one was seriously hurt.  In the days before that rally, I saw some people I knew and others I didn't vowing that they would stop those Nazis from using Bloomington as a platform for their hate.  It appears that they failed.  I can't understand why - don't these middle fingers kill fascists?
I guess they were canceled out by these hippie-stomping middle fingers:
Ghod, I feel so inspired.  (The above photos were taken by Zachary Kaufman for The Bloomingtonian and appear in this gallery.  Credit where it's due.)

What I want to discuss is the reaction the killings in Kenosha have gotten from the antifa / BLM left.  Two days ago almost all such people I see online were talking up fighting in the streets, Enough Is Enough, burn it to the ground, etc., and scorning anyone who questioned their wisdom, and the wisdom of The People.  Oh, and guillotines.  And that hasn't gone away:
Oh no, someone did a bad optics. Time to stop criticizing police departments that are brutalizing protests so we can shame this powerless protesters and play into the hands for the far-right.
As I've said many times in many contexts, struggle is not a zero-sum game, the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend, and I can attack the police while criticizing the stupid tactics of those who oppose the police. Just as I can, say, attack Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

 Another one:
The Left is going to have to realize that there is no justice.

The Right is going to have to be shown that leftists have firearms too.

That's the course we're on and it's likely inevitable at this point given there is no leadership seeking any other course of action.
Exactly: there is no leadership, except perhaps for some white kids who fantasize that they are Che Guevara or Robespierre.  I've seen a lot of talk about how Kyle Rittenhouse was acting out various media soldier fantasies, but less about Antifa's media fantasies.  Can't one pure girl take down a brutal dictatorship with a hunting bow?  Or destroy Him Who Must Not Be Named with their, uh, wands?  Oh, and video war games are part of the common cultural heritage of testosterone-poisoned nitwits on all sides.

I'm not a pacifist, I think; I don't rule out violent response to state violence a priori.  But I don't think the left should resort to violence, especially armed violence, without a lot of thought and planning.  Which I'm not seeing now.

So, for example:
Please allow me a moment to break down this wicked conflation that folks are engaging in, Lisa Goodman ran this today. It is horrible and it is not helpful. These folks constantly and purposefully conflate the intent of rage, rioting and looting with the intent of protesting or advocating for systems change. They are both forms of action, direct action. but so are voting and rioting actions if you use that reductionist mind. Intent ( that is absent of any moral judgement argument) just factually don’t put them in the same sentence.
The thread continues, but doesn't get any more coherent or honest.  Many of the ACAB supporters of BLM have constantly and purposefully conflated the intent of rage, etc. with the intent of protesting or advocating for systems change.  Rioting, burning small businesses, property damage have been confused deliberately with direct action aimed at systemic change -- even after we have seen repeatedly that much of the violence has been the work of police agents provocateurs and/or white supremacists aiming to escalate the conflict and draw more police repression.  Someone (I've lost the tweet) jeered that when you're a poor black person rebelling against the cops, thinking coldly about strategy is a luxury and it's white privilege to criticize them.  That's pretty obviously racist, but it also overlooks that the protests and the riots have been going on for months, the heat of the moment has had time to pass, and serious thought about tactics and methods is not only possible but necessary.  Also, a lot of dubious action has been done by some privileged-looking white kids who always seem shocked when the police they purport to hate fail to protect them from the Nazis.

One exception: Benjamin Dixon, a black writer and activist I see on Twitter, declared a few weeks ago that he appreciated Antifa, because they put their bodies on the line between police and BLM protesters.  That certainly deserves appreciation, but it's not what I've been seeing lately.  I see people claiming to be antifa because they are opposed to fascism, which is kind of like pointing triumphantly to the "socialism" in "National Socialism", but these people's activism consists entirely of posting memes to Facebook.  As many have pointed out, "antifa" is not a centralized organization, so you have a lot people operating under that rubric: some doubtless courageous and principled, others who think that wearing a pink pussy hat or giving rednecks the finger is the kind of antifascism that won World War II.

This obfuscation has been with us for a long time, and it's getting worse.  I'd add that armed rebellion doesn't have a great record of success in this country.  From Daniel Shays' rebellion to the Civil War to the Bonus Marchers to the Black Panthers to the Branch Davidians, rebels have come up against the vastly greater firepower of the American state, and ended up dead or in prison, with a lot of collateral damage, but in the struggle against the Man you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.  Or, as one Black Panther purred to a student audience during my first year at Indiana University fifty years ago, "We must be cruel, so that others can be kind."  But the time for kindness, like the time for criticizing Democratic politicians, never seems to come.

There is leadership by black people in BLM, but the white leftists I see online aren't deferring much to them.  They are more aware of what's at stake.  The mother of Jacob Blake, the man shot in the back by Kenosha police, has condemned the violence there, but what does she know compared to the wise revolutionaries?

By the way, I noticed that for about a day after the shooting, numerous people on Twitter were reporting that Jacob Blake was dead.  It is, as they say, a mercy that he is not dead; but their eagerness to have more martyrs -- not themselves, of course, someone else - shows how much they really think Black Lives Matter.

It was a relief to encounter the writing of this woman:
1994, the women in my village created underground tunnel for every1 to live in. I was born in that same tunnel in 1995. The day I was born was the day Charles Taylor came to slaughter my people but instead he was met by an empty village not realizing we where all underground.

Im saying this to say that people who have never fought in wars need to actually start talking to the Black people here that know what a civil war looks like and the strategize we used back home.

My mom came here in 2018 and she went through an escape plan with me. My sister didn’t take it seriously bc she doesn’t remember seeing our older brother being hit by a rocket but I do. She doesn’t remember our mom getting shot five times but I do. I’m grateful for her

My mom really had me go through everything over and over again until I could remember how to get to each place without my phone or my car. You could see the sadness in her eyes. Can you imagine saving your child from war just for her to be planning for another one?
This is worlds away from the macho posturing, the giggly excitement at being bad and rebellious, that I've seen seeing online.  Things are getting bad in the US, probably worse than they have ever been before, but only refugees from US wars know what it's like to have search-and-destroy missions slaughtering whole families, bombs and other anti-personnel weapons dropping on your town for months and years.  Some have said that the right-wing militias are like the death squads the US has trained and supported in other countries for over a century.  Probably true, but not nearly as bad -- yet.  I don't see any reason to believe that these people have begun to think about what it would mean to live in a real war, or they wouldn't be so eager to start one.  I see them as being like the planners of Bush's invasion of Iraq; it'll be a cakewalk, over in a few weeks, maybe we don't have the people or equipment we should, but you work with the army you have.  Besides, the uprising will pay for itself, and antifa will be welcomed as liberators.

I was going to leave it there, but this tweet sums up for me how serious our young revolutionaries are: "I was outside by my house with my roommate for about 5 minutes and OUT OF FUCKING NOWHERE 20 bike cops rolled up and yelled at us about curfew."  So, you're living in a fascist police state, but you're surprised that they mean it?  Good thing you weren't living in Liberia when Charles Taylor came calling.