Liberals, Leftists, Violence, and Justice

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153 Responses

  1. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    One of the dividing lines between liberals and leftists is that liberals believe that certain procedural aspects of law or civil society need to be maintained even in the wake of injustice. Another way to put it is that law and order are important values for liberals in their own way.Respect for the property of others is one of those. People further to the left are more willing to permit a certain amount of rage in the name of perceived injustice for various reasons.Report

  2. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Regardless of how you feel about the destruction of property, for protests over this (or any) issue to have an effect, they must focus on duration over intensity. You have to show you’re not going away. The established order can deal with the fallout of one night of just about anything and forget about it less than a week later. You have to be a nuisance over time and get them to ask what it is you want already.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy says:

        They obviously weren’t wildly successful, and I do think they traded intensity for sustainability to a smaller degree, but I think they demonstrated the basic point, yes. The name at least indicates an awareness of it. I do believe the drove the conversation on inequality that ended up influencing the 2012 election campaign discussion (if not the result) a bit. But at the same time, they occupied some spaces that were chosen for visibility over sustainability, so they weren’t completely committed to the concept. OTOH, it’s kind of a basic tension because you do need to make enough of a nuisance of yourself for anyone to even notice or care in the first place. Once you’ve done that, though, I think you want to focus on transmitting your determination to stay a nuisance, not to become an acute threat. It’s more clear to authorities what to do in the latter situation.

        Not to be the standard-issue liberal or anything, but it pays to study what has worked, and the Gandhi-King tradition has worked when executed well. You may need tactical geniuses like them leading the execution, but I’m not aware of what other model has even a single example of triumph to recommend it.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

        OWS never really had a clear point, though, just a generalized discontent. These protests have a much clearer target and solution.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Kazzy says:

        OWS never really had a clear point, though, just a generalized discontent. These protests have a much clearer target and solution.
        Generalized discontent is, in some ways, a bigger issue.

        A clear problem with clear solutions? That’s pretty easy — it’s either worth fixing or it’s not (and protests can push fixes just to shut up the protesters). Generalized discontent — especially sustained — generally indicates a structural or complex problem that lacks any clear resolution.

        You can fix clear problems. It’s really hard to diagnose and fix something nebulous, yet still strong enough to register over weeks or months or years as something wrong.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy says:

        OWS lack of a clear point or clear leadership was somewhat intentional because they were trying to avoid problems perceived in the anti-globalization protests of the late 1990s and early 2000s. The good thing was that OWS protests were very non-violent compared to the earlier anti-globalization protests, which was intended. The bad thing was that they didn’t have any real goals to work for besides vaguely hoping from some solution to the problem of wealth inequality.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy says:

        @james-hanley

        Yes. I was in a hurry there and forgot that I meant to mention that OWS really did lack a clear set of goals, as we discussed here, which was ultimately an obstacle to their achieving effects. Indeed, they were antagonistic to trying to get past that.

        But that seems like a different, indeed strategic, issue than the tactical one I was highlighting, and so actually I think supports my point about the tactic of communicating staying power over explosive power. They initially communicated the intention staying power but ultimately didn’t have it because they lacked strategic purpose. I agree that the strategic vision is probably clearer on the present issue, but it looks to me like the tactical focus on staying power hasn’t come together yet. It still might, though.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Kazzy says:

        They did have a clear point – they were demanding investigation, arrests, and prosecutions, of the bankers at the heart of the corruption that led to economic collapse. Their point was simple enough to fit on a bumper sticker: “Banksters y u no in jail?”

        That the mainstream media spent countless hours feigning puzzlement at how they had no clear demands said far more about the media outlets than about the protests.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy says:

        @dragonfrog

        That’s one thing some of them were demanding. But it was not the only or main thing all of them were. (In fairness, there is a good argument that economic management in that period was so bad that they opened themselves to criticism of a blinkered view of the situation if they narrowed their specific diagnoses and demands much. But that’s not really much of a strategic argument from an efficacy standpoint. You have to have clear aims to achieve any through the means of protest.) There was no clarity or unity of strategic purpose, though, largely because there was little leadership, which was largely because the consciously abjured it.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Kazzy says:

        I’d argue that while, there are no direct links between the OWS movement and actual results, the difference in rhetoric among most of the Democratic Party is a difference. I don’t think you get large parts of Obama’s 2012 campaign without OWS. Because he still would’ve been obsessed with getting a Grand Bargain.

        Now, you can either make the argument that the DNC is still a bunch of neoliberal sellouts or whatever the whine is among the Left today, but there was a shift in the aftermath of OWS, even if OWS itself wasn’t successful.Report

    • Avatar LWA in reply to Michael Drew says:

      Thats a good point- the point of protest is to force the conversation, to make it impossible to continue the status quo.
      Shattering a few windows – or dumping tea into Boston Harbor- is pointless, if it doesn’t fit into a long term program of resistance.

      This is where I part ways with “work within the system” argument; sometimes the system can work, other times it can’t.
      Right now, the criminal justice system is rigged to produce exactly the results we are getting.

      Its also good to have radicals, who can frighten the power structure into negotiating with the moderates; Nobody would have worked with MLK if the Panthers hadn’t been around.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to LWA says:

        The Panthers entire method was to show they weren’t going away. They used violence, but the point was that they were going to continue to do it methodically, not that there were going to be extremely episodic spasms by people without a longer-term plan when the rage rose past the boiling point and exploded uncontrollably, as it appears to have done in Ferguson (understandably).Report

      • Avatar SaulDegraw in reply to LWA says:

        I think your history is a bit off. The Black Panthers did not emerge until 1967 or so. By that time, MLK had been in action for over a decade and Freedom Summer passed. The Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act also passed. There was a massive amount of successful, non-violent resistance and protest before The Black Panthers emerged.

        This is not to say everything was paradise but I think that the emergence of more militant radicals did give rise to white flight and the rise of the Nixonian far right.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to LWA says:

        Its also good to have radicals

        But only for my side of the issue. Radicals on the other side are demon-spawn. They may frighten the establishment into moving in the wrong direction!Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to LWA says:

        Saul,
        That’s actually bullshit. I can pull the laws on the books if you’d like, but the racist laws that were self-segregating blacks into public housing (and giving whites FHA loans) existed well before the 1970’s.Report

  3. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Who were the people demonstrating in SF? Did they look more like Brown or Wilson? Or something else?

    One of the problems of criticizing these actions as unproductive is that such a mindset perpetuates the various power imbalances. “Speak out in the manner we prefer or we will not listen.” Often the case is that the preferred manner is a constantly moving target. Practically speaking, you mag be right that the chosen manner is un- or even counterproductive. But the choice of which manner to employ should be decided internally, not on behalf of the group by benevolent outsiders.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Kazzy says:

      With all due respect, and you do have a point about benevolent outsiders, nuts. I’d love to see something change, how will these riots lead to camera’s on cops, or more powerful civilian review boards or radically different training for cops or less tolerance for cops violence. I’m not seeing how that is coming out of the riots.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

        @greginak

        I’m not arguing about the actual effectiveness of any given strategy. I’m attempting to shed light on the role of “outsiders”… those who may be allied with a marginalized group but who are not members of it. As a pretty empowered individual (white, male, straight, upper-middle class, etc, etc, etc.) I see two primary routes I can go: I can attempt to instruct black folks how they can get white folks to listen to their concerns or I can work with white folks on why and how to listen to the concerns of black folks. These aren’t mutually exclusive mind you. And if a black guy or gal asked me, “Hey, Kazzy, how can we get white folks to listen to us?” I’d be happy to help as best I could. But for me to look at what is happening and say, “No, no, black folks. You’re doing it all wrong! Do *this* and we’ll listen!” feels problematic for any number of reasons. In particular because I don’t think we’ve identified a particular “this” to point to.

        Change ultimately comes about because the people empowered to make change choose to make it. So I’m personally going to focus the bulk of my time and energy working on that side of the coin because that is where I can be most influential.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to greginak says:

        @kazzy I don’t necessarily disagree but i think there are some missing. One is that in the long history of violence it has often ended up falling on other marginalized people. The powerful have cops to defend themselves so random stores or even some less powerful groups get the brunt of the violence.

        Second it is less powerful minorities that need support from at least some of the majority. If we were in a country where the powerful were a minority who were ruling over a large, but powerless, majority then democracy is the primary solution. But blacks in america are a minority, they need, or at least benefit very strongly from having white allies. That doesn’t in any way discount the point that it is easy for the comfortable to tell other people to just chill and be polite. I am completely behind people pushing hard even if that makes the comfortable less so.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

        @greginak

        I’m not sure we’re actually disagreeing here. I don’t object to the demonstrations (at least as far as I know what they entail; I’ll confess to not following the most recent developments that closely). More importantly, I don’t think I have standing to approve or disapprove of them. I am more than willing to be an ally. I just think allies need to do more than just demonstrate along side the group they are allying with. Sometimes we need to leverage our power, our privilege, and enact change within our own groups and institutions.Report

  4. Avatar Notme says:

    Do you want cheese with that whine? You have the most thoroughly investigated police shooting ive ever seen and you still cant accept the results. Not everything is caused by racism. Arent you always telling folks on the right to “accept the facts?”

    But in the mean time the rioting i predicted shows people their true nature.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Notme says:

      Like i said, it just confirms and hardens the racism of some.Report

      • Avatar Notme in reply to greginak says:

        So the fact that that i dont chant the liberal party line makes me a racist? From the begining i said get all the facts and let the chips fall wherever. If you have any evidence im a racist please present it. If not kindly stfu.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to greginak says:

        “So the fact that that i dont chant the liberal party line makes me a racist? ”

        Nah. There are a bunch of people here — now and in the past — who don’t chant the party line who I’ve never considered racist. Heffman, Hanley, Kuznicki, Kowals, TVD, Koz, Famer… it’s a pretty damn big list.

        So no, I don’t think you are a racist because you don’t chant liberal party lines.

        I tend to think things about you because you are uniquely you.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Notme says:

      “You have the most thoroughly investigated police shooting ive ever seen and you still cant accept the results. Not everything is caused by racism. Arent you always telling folks on the right to “accept the facts?””

      The very real existence of the ‘Kosher Nostra’ did not make Henry Ford any less an anti-semite.

      “But in the mean time the rioting i predicted shows people their true nature.”

      If this were anyone else on this site, I would have assumed that was a just sloppily written sentence.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Notme says:

      In the meantime, the shooting and the manipulation of the grand jury show everybody their true nature.

      I’m bemused that people who are comfortable with police shooting an unarmed teen are decrying violence. Their concern seems…selective.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Notme says:

      What facts, specifically, did the grand jury find? What’s your source for this? Did they complete a verdict sheet setting forth their factual findings? Where, exactly, did they find that Brown was not, in fact, surrendering, regardless of how Wilson perceived those actions?

      The jury found one thing, and one thing only – that there was not probable cause to overcome Wilson’s anticipated defenses, one of which (that an officer may shoot a fleeing suspect) is not even an actually available defense but which the “prosecutor” presented as available nonetheless. We don’t even know which of Wilson’s anticipated defenses the grand jury found to be lacking in probable cause for the “prosecutor” to overcome. And guess what? Just because someone might have a viable affirmative defense as a legal matter does not make their actions morally justifiable and does not make the availability of that affirmative defense morally justifiable. People are angry not only because Wilson was not indicted despite substantial evidence that Brown was surrendering, but also because it’s too easy for police officers to claim justification.

      Also, please name a case – not including other officer-involved shootings – where a prosecutor presented a grand jury with as much evidence as possible to support the suspect’s hypothetical affirmative defenses? Can you see why people would be suspicious of this double-standard, in which prosecutors essentially never present exculpatory evidence to grand juries except when their allies and fellow state agents in the police force act as judge, jury, and executioner?Report

  5. Avatar greginak says:

    A riot might the langauge of the unheard or it might be the scream of teh easily incited and violent. If it won’t accomplish anything then there is no difference. I’m not sure what liberals and leftists have to do with it. As has been discussed there are many conservative elements in contemporary black culture, lots of them likely aren’t leftists in any sense. If it accomplishes nothing to further their goal and will only likely reinforce the hostility racists and cops already have AND the people who are being harmed had nothing to do with the original event ( so they are innocent collateral damage) the riots are stupid and wrong.

    Are they understandable, yeah i can see that. Sadly people who thought the GJ were going to indict were, i think, deluded. The GJ was never likely to especially given the bias of the DA and the weird, inappropriate actions of the cops after the shooting.Report

  6. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Saul: “I am fairly certain that rioting and destruction are going to make people think “You know, we need less police and we need to end the war on drugs.””

    Did you mean to say that you are sure these thing *won’t* make people think that?Report

  7. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    As to the post itself, I wonder if you have read Ta-Nehisi’s latest from earlier this week. Here is a taste:

    “What clearly cannot be said is that American society’s affection for nonviolence is notional. What cannot be said is that American society’s admiration for Martin Luther King Jr. increases with distance, that the movement he led was bugged, smeared, harassed, and attacked by the same country that now celebrates him. King had the courage to condemn not merely the violence of blacks, nor the violence of the Klan, but the violence of the American state itself.

    What clearly cannot be said is that violence and nonviolence are tools, and that violence—like nonviolence—sometimes works. “Property damage and looting impede social progress,” Jonathan Chait wrote Tuesday. He delivered this sentence with unearned authority. Taken together, property damage and looting have been the most effective tools of social progress for white people in America. They describe everything from enslavement to Jim Crow laws to lynching to red-lining.”

    Report

    • Avatar SaulDegraw in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      I don’t think Chait was speaking with unearned authority. I think he was speaking as a student of history. When did riots or terrorism ever accomplish the goals of rioters and terrorists?

      There are also interesting things in the word unheard. Who are in the unheard? What if the unheard are bigoted reactionaries commuting hate crimes because minorities are advancing in economic life? There is a long history of unlawful and immoral race riots against peaceful protests or minorities just being.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to SaulDegraw says:

        As I said, you should read Ta-Nehisi’s piece.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to SaulDegraw says:

        When did riots or terrorism ever accomplish the goals of rioters and terrorists?

        Well, if Al Qaeda wanted us to bankrupt ourselves and get rid of Saddam for them …Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to SaulDegraw says:

        “When did riots or terrorism ever accomplish the goals of rioters and terrorists?”

        There was this little bar in the West Village called Stonewall. On one hot summer night…Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to SaulDegraw says:

        @veronica-d

        I would call Stonewall more of a self-defense action than a riot in the traditional sense despite the name of the event. It was also followed with much more traditional non-violent protest and political action and litigation.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to SaulDegraw says:

        It went on for three days and it was definitely a riot.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to SaulDegraw says:

        “It was also followed with much more traditional non-violent protest and political action and litigation.”

        Um, duh?

        That’s sort of the mechanism of a politically successful riot.

        In addition to stonewall and the riots Ta-Nehisi Coates lists, add the White Night riots that followed the slap-on-the wrist sentencing of Harvey Milk’s assassin–They were followed by improved representation of gays in Bay Area government, and more equitable punishment for crimes with homosexual victims.

        Even the 1992 LA riots–the most deadly and destructive American Riot of the 20th century–got Daryl Gates fired and was a pretty significant step on the path to reform of the LAPD.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to SaulDegraw says:

        1970’s pittsburgh — got some of the unions fixed (they were previously very discriminatory. had to have references to get in…)Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to SaulDegraw says:

        slap-on-the wrist sentencing of Harvey Milk’s assassin

        I always feel the need to point out that White also killed George Moscone (the mayor of San Francisco), so there was more going on with the verdict than letting a gay-killer off lightly.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to SaulDegraw says:

        “When did riots or terrorism ever accomplish the goals of rioters and terrorists?”

        1773-1781. Also, 1865-(NET) 1970. 1917-1991 also comes to mind.Report

  8. Avatar LWA says:

    Had the black community in Ferguson peacefully “let the process work”, would we be talking about it today?
    Would it even have made the news outside of St. Louis?Report

  9. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Saul, here’s a post which addresses pert-near exactly what you’re struggling with. Some quotes for folks who don’t wanna link thru:

    Typically, when events like the Ferguson rebellion occur, well-meaning people rush to condemn the participants. At a minimum, they dismiss rioting as unproductive and opportunistic — a few bad apples spoiling the bunch. This is precisely the attitude that Deandre Smith was criticizing in his first interview. Most detractors, some of whom are black themselves, seek to police these communities with “respectability politics” — a call for subjugated people to present themselves in ways that are acceptable to the dominant class in an effort to make political gains.

    As the political scientist Frederick Harris wrote in an article this year:

    “What started as a philosophy promulgated by black elites to ‘uplift the race’ by correcting the ‘bad’ traits of the black poor has now evolved into one of the hallmarks of black politics in the age of Obama, a governing philosophy that centers on managing the behavior of black people left behind in a society touted as being full of opportunity.

    But the politics of respectability has been portrayed as an emancipatory strategy to the neglect of discussions about structural forces that hinder the mobility of the black poor and working class.”

    Whereas riots are often galvanizing community events with the potential to unleash concerted political energy in dynamic and unpredictable directions, the stale politics of respectability only leads to further marginalization and dislocation. Now, it’s possible to disagree with the utility of insurrection. But these communities’ responses to subjugation must be discussed in political terms and not simply dismissed out of hand.

    We live in a context of white supremacy and neoliberal capitalism, where race-neutral policies are being used to maintain class exploitation and racial hierarchy, and any overt attempts to address racism are being dismantled or disregarded. These policies only intensify the economic dislocation and poverty experienced by those at the margins.

    What both the local news interviewees and the crowd at the scene of Brown’s death seemed to understand was that they needed to disrupt the interplay between racial subjugation and capitalism. They felt that a march or some other acceptable form of benign indignation would not address their political needs — and they weren’t wrong.

    Many of us rush to condemn these types of disruptions because we’re actually content with neoliberalism’s post-racial illusion.Report

    • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Stillwater says:

      This. Another way to put it is this:

      “Over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”[…]”

      -Martin Luther King, Jr.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Robert Greer says:

        @nevermoor @stillwater @robert-greer

        The Chait article quotes the Phil Ochs song at the end and I still stay with in the torments of liberalism as Chait called them. Years ago, I remember seeing a Robert Frost quote about never daring to be radical when young out of a fear of becoming a reactionary when old.

        Riots, Property Damage, and Looting are not necessarily always going to hurt the really wealthy and powerful or even the upper-middle class. They are usually going to hurt people who might be relatively new immigrants and working-class people who worked long and hard to own their own small stores and businesses. I simply don’t see how justice is accomplished by bashing in the windows of a small coffeshop, grocery/convenience store, or family-owned restaurant.

        And as I said before, I think revolutionaries seriously underestimate how much damage and misery can and will be cause by any “revolution”. I’m highly influenced by Hannah Arendt here. When people talk about revolution, I often think that they don’t think about the faminines, starvation, and refugee situations that tend to follow. And playing revolutionary is just as easy for upper-middle class and comfortable people to do as it is for upper-middle class and comfortable people to tell people to calm down. The reason someone like Ronan Farrow can tweet the MLK quote is because he comes from enough wealth and privilege to incite but not really face any damage. The protestors are not going to storm is doorman building or the Farrow family home in Connecticut. He is quite literally above the fray in many ways. He also comes from enough wealth that he could easily repair replace almist anything done to his property and he has the name and legal backing that make insurance companies play nice instead of hardball.

        There are probably times when armed resistance is necessary. People have a right to self-defense. There is not a right to physical damage of public property or the property of another person because of rage at the system and injustice.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Robert Greer says:

        ” as I said before, I think revolutionaries seriously underestimate how much damage and misery can and will be cause by any “revolution”. ”

        You assume that damage and misery are not the intent.

        A key element of any revolutionary philosophy is the idea that the people currently in charge are Morally Wrong and need to be Shown The Error Of Their Ways.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Robert Greer says:

        Saul,

        For whatever it’s worth, you’re response repeated all the “politics of respectability” talking points mentioned in the article without ever addressing the core issue in the passage I quoted. As DD says right up above me (in so many words) the protestors are *trying* to inflict damage and misery. And their doing so is in fact a political act. Your casual dismissal of *that fact* strikes me as an example of precisely the type of thinking the quoted article is criticizing and trying to draw attention to.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Robert Greer says:

        @stillwater

        You assume that all the people who are joining in the protests are doing so out of sincere conviction instead of a potential desire to just be malcontents or mere vandals.

        The Jacobin article probably describes the situation in Ferguson actively but it does nothing to explain why it makes sense to inflict damage on the property of people several thousand miles. A business owner in Ferguson does not equal the same background as a business owner in Oakland or San Francisco or Philadelphia, etc.

        I agree that the looting and rioting is not mindless and it is a political act. I don’t think it is a political act that is going to work and I think DeAndre Smith’s analysis is wrong. DD did not seem to be exactly issuing high-praise to the protestors either. His comment seemed to be dripping with sarcasm against the looters. But let’s look at what @densityduck said

        “A key element of any revolutionary philosophy is the idea that the people currently in charge are Morally Wrong and need to be Shown The Error Of Their Ways.”

        This requires seeing the business owners as being “in charge”. Perhaps they are higher up socio-economically but that does not necessarily make them in charge. How does breaking the windows of say, a family restaurant run by Vietnamese immigrants and their first generation American children punish those in charge? How is that family “morally wrong and need to be Shown the Error Of Their Waves?”

        The Jacobin article is basically advocating for collective punishment. Collective Punishment solves nothing and never has. The problem with a riot is that a riot is indiscriminate. A riot can’t decide “this is a business owned by someone who is in charge and morally wrong” and “this is a business owned by immigrants who worked long and hard for their little restaurant.” The Jacobin article seems to solve this problem by sticking their fingers in their ears and saying “la la la, let’s pretend that all the businesses being smashed are owned by wealthy white reactionaries.”Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Robert Greer says:

        Saul,

        Fair enough, Saul. I mean, I disagree with you about your accounting, analysis, assumptions and conclusions, but I had no expectations that you’d actually agree with that article. I’m just glad you read it.

        But tell me: given your above comment, what do you think the guy who wrote is trying to accomplish by writing all that stuff? Why’d he put those words to paper and hit “publish”?Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Robert Greer says:

        Don’t forget, businesses aren’t necessarily target randomly in a riot.

        Certainly there’s opportunistic looting, but much of the violence targeted at local businesses is done so for pretty specific reasons.

        For example, the store in Ferguson that was burned down was thought to have called the cops on Michael Brown. Korean businesses were targeted in the LA riots because many Korean business owners were mistreating their black customers, and one shot and killed a child he wrongly suspected of shoplifting.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Robert Greer says:

        @alan-scott, how are aggravated African-Americans targeting Korean owned businesses any more just than aggravated European peasants and working class people rioting against Jews? A pogrom is a pogrom.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Robert Greer says:

        @leeesq The difference, at least theoretically, is that the current protests are aimed at people because of their allegedly exploitative and racist practices, while the pogroms were aimed at people purely because of their ethnic background.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Robert Greer says:

        @robert-greer, Jews in Europe and Koreans in Los Angeles both represented middle-men of various sorts between those in power and those not in power. It wasn’t exactly the same of course because Jews were officially middle-men but the resentment from both the European/Middle Eastern workers and peasants and African-Americans of LA towards Korean shopkeepers was based at least in part on the middle-man activities and relative prosperity of both groups. I’m not seeing any good justification for either. If riots do serve a legitimate purpose, they shouldn’t be aimed at the people stuck in the middle.Report

      • Avatar Dand in reply to Robert Greer says:

        For example, the store in Ferguson that was burned down was thought to have called the cops on Michael Brown.

        What was wrong with them calling the police?Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Robert Greer says:

        @leeesq ,
        I don’t mean to suggest that the violence targeted against Korean-owned businesses was justified.

        I just mean that it’s targeted. Above, Saul seemed to indicate that the destruction of a riot is inherently random, and that rioters are just lashing out at whatever gets in their way.

        The question was whether rioters targeted those who were “morally wrong and need to be Shown the Error Of Their Ways?” Certainly the medieval peasants thought that of the Jews they targeted, even if you and I find that attitude abhorrent.

        Similarly, @dand , I don’t think the store did anything wrong–but the people who burned it down clearly disagreed. They burned it down because it was a specific target of their ire, not because they wanted to burn down something, anything, and the store was the closest flammable object.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Robert Greer says:

        DD,
        no, that’s Saudi Arabia, not the revolutionaries in Iran.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to Stillwater says:

      I call BS on the whole “politics of respectability” It is pretty obvious that this is the politics of someone who wishes to subsume the issues or racism into a larger leftist political and economic agenda. In itself, there is nothing wrong with it. The problem is that it involves dismissing people who do care about racism, but don’t share the same leftist politics.

      More importantly, the whole idea rests on a lot of faulty analysis. Here for example:

      Whereas riots are often galvanizing community events with the potential to unleash concerted political energy in dynamic and unpredictable directions, the stale politics of respectability only leads to further marginalization and dislocation.

      What exactly is the “potential to unleash concerted political energy?” How does rioting get us there? If you have an answer, tell it to the people who lost their jobs when those businesses burned.

      In terms of respectability, there is no more respectable civil rights figure than Martin Luther King Jr. And he is the symbol of a particular iteration of a movement that did produce tangible results. The Montgomery Bus Boycott worked. Show me an instance when a riot produced anything but more misery.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

      j r,

      Just saw your comment. You can disagree with the “politics of respectability” all you like. Just like you disagree with feminism and structural racism and all those other ridiculous “liberal” ideas. I believe em, and think they not only provide accurate descriptions of the world we live in, but think they provide an analysis by which to understand that world. You object, of course, but I’ve yet to see that you’re objections address either the descriptive content of those claims, or your analysis of them doesn’t rely on a competing ideological model, with all the same basic assumptions regarding values, descriptions, etc. The fact that you think you’re model can “analyze away” other people’s views – by attributing to them motives, natch – is just the icing on the cake. A cake I’ve been enjoying with you since you started commenting here, even tho I remain convinced that you don’t understand the point I’m making. ( Since you analyze it away according to the commitments of your already held views.) The circularity is really breathtaking. I mean, your comments on this thread are an example: people who have reached the breaking point on the oppression scale are “intellectual and morally depraved”. I wonder by what standard you arrive at that conclusion? Clearly the people the depraved people disagree with you, but of course they do! They’re depraved, dammit! Ignorant or evil!Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        On another level, your stridency for “peaceful means” is just another example of the “politics of respectability” imposed on folks who pretty clearly don’t have access to those “respectable” methods or they wouldn’t be in the situation they’re in.

        Not that I expect you to see it that way, acourse.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater says:

        “Just like you disagree with feminism and structural racism and all those other ridiculous “liberal” ideas.”

        Since when does @j-r not believe in structural racism?

        “Clearly the people the depraved people disagree with you, but of course they do! They’re depraved, dammit! Ignorant or evil!”

        I’m obviously projecting here, but do you suppose it’s possible for someone to honestly disagree with you about anything for reasons other than an overwhelming hatred of humanity?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        Tod,

        j r said, in response to an earlier comment of mine, that the rioters are intellectually or morally depraved.

        Also, haven’t you been following along? There’s lots of back and forth between me and j r to give you a context other than thinking I’m being an asshole.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        A third thing: if you don’t understand what I’m talking about here, or j r is talking about up there, then don’t get involved except to enforce the comment policy.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        One more thing:

        Tod, people disagree with me all the time. People make comments I disagree with and don’t respond to all the time. And in fact it has nothing to do with honesty. It has to do with whether or not I choose to respond. And most of the time I don’t think the issue is worth pursuing since nothing hinges on it. But here, in this case, we we have j r judging the moral and intellectual capabilities of people for engaging in behaviors which he disagrees with. And as far as I can see, the only legitimate moral stance to take is the “I wunna dun it” stance. But negatively judging them for engaging in actions they’ve chosen to take given the evidence and experiences of their own lives strikes me as a classic example of the politics of respectability. Or, more simply just plain bullshit.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Stillwater says:

        @stillwater

        You are making a whole lot of assumptions about what I believe and not really dealing with what I’ve said. Nowhere have I said that I disagree with liberal ideas about racism and feminism. What I object to is the quasi-Marxist, post-structuralist claptrap being trotted out in that Jacobin article. That strain of analysis is itself explicitly rejecting the liberal political and social order and, instead, calling for the people to rise up, smash it all, and hope that it all comes out better on the other side.

        Guess what? When you smash it all, it never comes out better on the other side.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        What I object to is the quasi-Marxist, post-structuralist claptrap being trotted out in that Jacobin article.

        Really? That’s it? What does the Jacobin article have to do with this, your quote citing a comment of mine:

        Me: acting on that rage is decisive evidence of intellectual or moral depravity.

        You: Because it is.

        Different thread, different arc, different context. Same ole.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        Here’s the comment for those who wanna follow at home.

        https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2014/12/01/regarding-riots#comment-955944Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Stillwater says:

        @stillwater

        You should at least quote the whole statement.

        Because it is. Looting, vandalizing, burning down other people’s property, people who have done nothing but be in the wrong place at the wrong time, is an act of moral depravity. Full stop. And defending those actions is an act of intellectual depravity. Full stop.

        I stand by that statement one hundred percent. Being aggrieved does not grant some license to go around aggrieving others. If someone punches me in the face and then runs away, I don’t get to just go punch the next person I see to make myself feel better.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        And there we have it. You think you’ve made your case. I think you’ve made mine.

        This is a perfect disagreement!

        But again, I just wonder what standard you’re applying to people, one that permits you to judge them for actions they’ve taken given (let’s just say, I know this isn’t even remotely true!) with the same amount of intellectual rigor and emotional clarity as you, even as they come to different conclusions. I mean, I’m perfectly willing to concede that you’re permitted to disagree with them. I’m just curious why you feel entitled to morally judge them.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Stillwater says:

        @stillwater

        1. Don’t you subscribe to a particular moral view? And on that view, aren’t there some actions that someone may commit that are morally unacceptable? Furthermore, aren’t there people who perform actions which according to your beliefs, are morally wrong? And also, aren’t at least some of these people culpable in their behaviour? If your answer is yes to all of these questions, then there are some people whom you morally judge too.

        2. I think you are confusing two or more types of questions:
        a) Is looting and violence against innocent shop-owners effective for meaningful change (or their most effective course of action)?
        b) Is looting and violence against said shop-owners morally justified (even if it turns out that it is the most effective means at their disposal for meaningful change)
        c) If not justified, are said looters morally culpable/blameworthy?
        d) If not justified, are such actions understandable?

        I think all you are entitled to say is that their actions are understandable responses to the injustice of the grand jury’s decision. It doesn’t follow that such actions are morally justified or that they are not culpable in their wrong-doing. You seem to be claiming that thinking that their actions are morally unjustified and that they are blameworthy is an attitude that can only be explained by a failure to see things from their perspective.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        Jesus, Murali, you’re acting like the folks engaging in all this haven’t thought of a single damn thing your talking about. Do you think they’re f***ing idiots?

        For my part, I have no idea how I’d act if I was a black person in Ferguson. I’d be pissed, tho. A whole lot more pissed than I am as a white guy a thousand miles away, and I’m plenny pissd. And I find it remarkable – and noteworthy – that the first thing oh-so-many people on this site and in general do is form negative judgments about the citizen’s actions rather than align with their motivations or provide similar negative judgments about the cops. I’m curious about that.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Stillwater says:

        I think this is a pretty common attitude, though. Complex thought is hard. Tribal identification is easier. Morality is navigable when it is a binary, Manichean exercise.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Stillwater says:

        @stillwater

        Jesus, Murali, you’re acting like the folks engaging in all this haven’t thought of a single damn thing your talking about. Do you think they’re f***ing idiots?

        Given the way people have been ignoring basic distinctions, sometimes you have to wonder…

        For my part, I have no idea how I’d act if I was a black person in Ferguson. I’d be pissed, tho. A whole lot more pissed than I am as a white guy a thousand miles away, and I’m plenny pissd.

        So am I and I am on the other side of the world. Of course black people’s anger at the result is acceptable and justified. It may even be that acting on that anger is understandable. But that does not make these particular actions justified.

        And I find it remarkable – and noteworthy – that the first thing oh-so-many people on this site and in general do is form negative judgments about the citizen’s actions rather than align with their motivations or provide similar negative judgments about the cops. I’m curious about that

        I don’t know about the first thing people on this site do, but if you were to ask me, I would say the actions of those cops are wrong (at least given the information that I have) and if you were to ask me about the looters, their actions are wrong too (at least given the information I have). Believing or saying one does not preclude believing or saying the other. Only an idiot, George W Bush or the Sith would think otherwise.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Stillwater says:

        Why are we angry at the police? Because they shot someone? Or because they shot someone who was innocent of anything for which shooting was a just desert?

        Can we extrapolate that to being angry at protestors? Can we be angry not because of the violence, but because of violence against those who are innocent of anything for which the violence was a just desert?

        Or is it even illegitimate to ask such questions because the latter violence is a response to something really bad?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Stillwater says:

        Stillwater,
        the first thing oh-so-many people on this site … do is form negative judgments about the citizen’s actions rather than … provide similar negative judgments about the cops.

        It seems to me we’ve been providing negative judgements about the cops since the shooting of Michael Brown occurred. It seems to me, in fact, that there’ve been plenty of negative judgements here about the cops in response to other abuses since long before Michael Brown’s death.

        So I’m puzzled by this claim, and wonder how you’d support it.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Stillwater says:

        @stillwater

        For my part, I have no idea how I’d act if I was a black person in Ferguson.

        Here is a crazy idea. Maybe you’d act like a person, someone with full use of his rational and moral faculties.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Stillwater says:

        jr,
        that really doesn’t help. Acting like a human with full use of his moral and rational facilities merely leads to “do the right thing” and “don’t get caught breaking laws.” It doesn’t actually prevent “I should kill this person” or even “I should kill this innocent little girl”… it just says “I better make sure it’s fucking worth the trouble and the hit to my own conscience.”

        Be glad you don’t on a regular basis have to make decisions that matter.Report

  10. Avatar Pinky says:

    I suspect the “liberal / leftist divide” doesn’t work like that at all. There are two things in play: the belief system and the temperament. I’ve known people who want to burn it down because of a parking ticket, and I’ve known mild-mannered people with an agenda that would give you nightmares. There are calm and crazed people on the right, left, and center. It’s not a divide so much as two continua, one of ideology and one of jerkiness.Report

  11. Avatar D Clarity says:

    This is exactly the argument that conservatives want liberals to be having with each other. Ta-Nehisi Coates is going to be useful to the 2016 Republican candidate for president. Many liberals have read Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland, but they don’t understand it.

    History rhymes.Report

  12. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    On the other hand, mabye the people smashing windows and looting stores have no more motivation than these guys.

    To wit, “all the cops are busy, it’s party time bro!”Report

  13. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    I think that everybody also needs to keep in mind that Saul and I and the author Jonathan Chait are Jews. Our group has been the victims of riots even when our group was weak and unheard. They were called pogroms. Our background isn’t one that would make us look favorably on riots because our group always tended to be on the receiving end of one.Report

  14. I find it telling when writers and pundits (and people in general) focus on the riots rather than the oppression that causes them.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Jonathan McLeod says:

      +a bazilliion

      What’s more, rioting and violence have accomplished a whole hell of a lot for white people, so saying things like, “Obama and Liberals are trying to balance several difficult issues in racism and that rioting and looting are counterproductive and more likely to increase racist sentimentm” show just how entrenched such sentiments already are.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Chris says:

        What has rioting accomplished for white people?

        Or rather, what good has rioting accomplished for white people?Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris says:

        Could the Boston Tea Party be classed as a ‘riot’? Or does its advance planning and specific symbolic target exempt it?Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris says:

        Also, I think some positive prison reforms have sometimes followed in the wake of prison riots, though that’s not always a neat racial divide breakdown. But I can’t find specific examples, I keep hitting Pussy Riot articles.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Oh, I dunno. I remember hearing about this thing that happened in Boston, some time in December, 1773. More recently, the Bonus Army springs to mind: a riot, in essence, that helped cost an incumbent president an election and got veterans benefits.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:

        @glyph

        I think of the Boston Tea Party as being more like the sit-ins and Montogomery Bus Boycotts.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Also, 19th century England. Pretty much all of the time.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Chris says:

        Does no one remember what happened in Tulsa?Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris says:

        @saul-degraw – that’s sort of what I am getting at. There seem to be at least two threads people are trying to disentangle here.

        One is: what is a ‘riot’, and what is a ‘targeted political protest’? The Boston Tea Party intentionally destroyed highly-symbolic property, which does seem a bit different than setting seemingly-random cars alight (to pick a rhetorical example).

        OTOH, it’s important that we don’t just say, “when white people do it, it’s political protest/youthful hijinks; but when black people do it, it’s rioting.”

        The other is: People seem to be taking the position that riots are either all good, or all bad, when the truth is: it depends.

        They can easily spin out of control and hurt many innocent people and harden the resolve of oppressors against the rioters’ group (real or perceived).

        They also can draw attention to injustices, and prompt change.

        A riot should never be anyone’s first choice; but it’s not always and ever the worst one either.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris says:

        @mike-schilling – well, I didn’t (holy s**t!), but maybe that’s not a surprise:

        The events of the riot were long omitted from local and state histories. “The Tulsa race riot of 1921 was rarely mentioned in history books, classrooms or even in private. Blacks and whites alike grew into middle age unaware of what had taken place.”[3] With the number of survivors declining, in 1996, the state legislature commissioned a report to establish the historical record of the events, and acknowledge the victims and damages to the black community.

        Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        I suppose we can exclude the Tea Party, but there were dozens of riots in the colonies, mostly related to taxation, in the century preceding the Revolution, and riots were actually used as a tool during the Revolution as a way of disrupting British rule. Americans continued frequent rioting after the revolution, most notably (and again demonstrating my point) with Shay’s Rebellion. Riots against immigrants and black people throughout the U.S. were common through the first half of the 19th century, and of course the draft riots of the Civil War (which may not have ended the draft, but affected the behavior of local politicans greatly, including NY Dems paying to get people out of the draft).Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Great quote:

        In the cities in the American North, in the early and mid-nineteenth century, rioting was as much a part of civilian life as voting or working and in those cases, in general, all the rioters were white.

        Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Chris says:

        Riots against immigrants and black people throughout the U.S. were common through the first half of the 19th century, and of course the draft riots of the Civil War (which may not have ended the draft, but affected the behavior of local politicans greatly, including NY Dems paying to get people out of the draft).

        You have an interesting definition of good.

        The Civil War draft riots are a pretty good example of what I am talking about. A bunch of people with a legitimate beef give vent to that beef by forming up a mob and going after people who are only tangentially related to that beef. So, a bunch of people who don’t like the idea of getting drafted to fight against slavery end up lynching about a dozen black men and even burning down a black orphanage. Can we agree that this is wrong?

        I honestly do not understand the desire to defend rioting and looting. You can simultaneously believe that people have a legitimate cause for discontent and believe that this particular mode of expression is wrong. It’s wrong form the standpoint of affecting positive change and wrong from a moral standpoint.

        Rioting, and all other sorts of mob violence, is one of the worst things that human beings do.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Can we agree that this is wrong?

        Oh, sure, we can agree that was wrong. I didn’t say they were right. I said they accomplished things for white people. Which, as I noted, they did.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Chris says:

        Which is why I added the qualifier “good.”

        Put another way. Lots of good has come from specific acts of violence, some random and some coordinated. Lots of good has come from civil disobedience. Good has even come from acts that we would today define as terrorism. None of that, however, is rioting.

        There is nothing good or just or even justifiable about taking aggressive action against Peter, because Paul has wronged you.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Lots of good has come from specific acts of violence, some random and some coordinated. Lots of good has come from civil disobedience. Good has even come from acts that we would today define as terrorism. None of that, however, is rioting.

        It’s a riot if it doesn’t accomlish something good, not a riot if it does? That seems to be what you’re saying.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Chris says:

        It’s a riot if it doesn’t accomlish something good, not a riot if it does?

        That is not what I am saying at all. I go out of my way to use words in ways that are objectively true to their meaning and not subjectively justified to making a point. A riot is more than a crowd of people acting violently. Gettysburg was not a riot. It was a battle. A riot is uncontrolled. It is unfocused. It is a mob of people committing acts of violence, destruction and theft indiscriminately.

        The Bonus March was not a riot, it was a protest that went south when the U.S. Army attacked. The Boston Tea Party or Shay’s Rebellion or John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry were not riots; they were organized acts against specific targets. Again, it’s not necessarily the violence of riots that bother me (although violence does often bother me); it’s the indiscriminate nature of the violence.

        Burning down a convenience store, because the police have wronged you is not a justifiable action. It’s like getting ripped off by your boss at work and then going home and slapping your wife to vent your anger.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Chris says:

        “Good” is such a subjective measure that we’ll never agree on it. How about something more objective, like “It accomplishes the goals of the rioters”? Race riots have done that for white people, repeatedly.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Chris says:

        jr,
        Unions, among other things. There’s a reason 3rd world corps hire women and not men.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        jr, note, again, what I claimed. You haven’t refuted it, you’ve just changed the criterion (from accomplished something for people to accomplished something “good”). Now, some might say the separation of the U.S. from the British was “good,” and riots definitely played a role in that, but for the most part, as Mike says, they often accomplished their goals.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

        Burning down a convenience store, because the police have wronged you is not a justifiable action. It’s like getting ripped off by your boss at work and then going home and slapping your wife to vent your anger.

        Coupla things:

        1. What meaning are you attributing to the word “justifiable”? Morally? Instrumentally? Instrumentally, it may in fact be justifiable if it results in some progress wrt white cop/black citizen relations in Ferguson.

        Of course, you mean the term to be understood as morally justifiable, and that punishing person B or the actions of A is morally wrong. Which brings me to

        2. IF you think the cause of the riots is merely the grand jury decision regarding Wilson, then I think you’re misunderstanding what’s going on in Ferguson. From their pov, and they’ve been pretty clear about this all along, the decision to refrain from charging Wilson is simply the final, definitive indictment of a policing system in which poor blacks are being oppressed by white cops. From Newsweek:

        The paper points out that in Ferguson, 86 percent of vehicle stops “involved a black motorist, although blacks make up just 67 percent of the population.” In addition, blacks stopped in Ferguson “are almost twice as likely as whites to be searched (12.1 percent versus 6.9 percent) and twice as likely to be arrested (10.4 percent versus 5.2 percent)”. Searches of blacks only results in discovery of contraband 21.7 percent of the time, whereas contraband is recovered from their less frequently stopped white counterparts 34.0 percent of the time.

        Municipalities’ seeming willigness to profit off of minorities has undoubtedly fueled the flames ignited by Brown’s shooting. One resident quoted in the study said, “It’s ridiculous how these small municipalities make their lifeline off the blood of the people who drive through the area.”

        Twenty-two percent of Ferguson residents live below the poverty line, and 21.7 percent receive food stamps. The unemployment rate in the town is 14.3 percent, or more than double that of St. Louis County and Missouri as a whole.

        “Despite Ferguson’s relative poverty, fines and court fees comprise the second largest source of revenue for the city, a total of 2,635,400,” according to the ArchCity Defenders report. And in 2013, the Ferguson Municipal Court issued 24,532 arrest warrants and 12,018 cases, “or about 3 warrants and 1.5 cases per household.”

        The expressions of violence that object to aren’t motivated by, or even targeting, anything specifically related to Wilson or the Grand Jury. The target is an entire system of oppression which blacks In Ferguson have been subject. So, the moral argument you make has bite, it seems to me, only if what is in fact the proximal cause for the rioting (the Wilson GJ decision) is viewed as the only cause. And it’s not.

        On the other hand, you might make the argument that even if that violence is caused by and a response to institutionally-based oppression, the intentional targeting of the property of individuals who are not direct perpetrators of that violence is *still* wrong. Morally? Instrumentally?

        Personally, I’m on the fence regarding the moral argument since oppressed people are almost by definition deprived of the “respectable” mechanisms by which policies are established and changed. And insofar as the latter condition is the case, moral judgments against violent actions lose much of their purchase. (Well, except when expressed by folks who are “content with neoliberalism’s post-racial illusion”.) So on that score I’m right with Jonathan McLeod’s sentiments expressed at the top of this subthread.

        Are the riots justified instrumentally? By one way of thinking about it, the answer will depend on whether or not these disruptions actually do lead to changes within the institutional structures the rioters currently live in and are subject to.

        And one last thing: insofar as the costs incurred by the riots have an expected value greater than the cost of maintaining the institutional status quo while while trying to prevent them, rioting is economically justified as a mechanism to achieve political ends. I mean, it’s not like Ferguson black residents are trying to get more welfare or something morally obscene. THey just want the cops off their back.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Chris says:

        @j-r

        A riot is uncontrolled. It is unfocused. It is a mob of people committing acts of violence, destruction and theft indiscriminately.

        I’m not sure much of the violence in Ferguson meets the strict definition of riot that you’ve just outlined. Your go-to example, the Quik-Trip arson, was certainly not indiscriminate. The people who burned it down believed that the Quik-Trip’s employees were responsible for initiating the encounter between Wilson and Brown, and targeted it for that reason.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Chris says:

        On the other hand, you might make the argument that even if that violence is caused by and a response to institutionally-based oppression, the intentional targeting of the property of individuals who are not direct perpetrators of that violence is *still* wrong. Morally? Instrumentally?

        “Might make the argument?” Are you kidding me? In what universe would you make any other argument? What is the moral argument for using others instrumentally, doing harm to others, to seek justice for yourself?

        Personally, I’m on the fence regarding the moral argument since oppressed people are almost by definition deprived of the “respectable” mechanisms by which policies are established and changed.

        This is a tautological argument. And a bad one at that. There are lots of people protesting in Ferguson and elsewhere who have refrained from vandalizing and looting. Does that mean that they are less oppressed? What about those protesters who actually decided to stand guard in front of business to stop looters? Are those people less authentic?Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris says:

        @alan-scott the Quik-Trip arson, was certainly not indiscriminate. The people who burned it down believed that the Quik-Trip’s employees were responsible for initiating the encounter between Wilson and Brown, and targeted it for that reason.

        OK, in that case “indiscriminate” may not be the most accurate word; but neither would words like “correct”, or “just”, which is the root point @j-r is making.

        Even IF the Quik-Trip was responsible for calling the cops, it is at most tangentially or minimally responsible for what a cop did once he got there.

        In the absence of further info, it makes no moral or logical sense to me to place any blame on the Quik-Trip for what happened to Brown. So why are they the ones targeted for retribution?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

        This is a tautological argument. And a bad one at that.

        No, it isn’t. It’s an application of the ought implies can principle. And it’s not bad at all. Pretty sound, actually. (If you accept that ought implies can, anyway.)Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Chris says:

        @stillwater

        Don’t know to what you are referring, but this is what I am talking about:

        …oppressed people are almost by definition deprived of the “respectable” mechanisms …

        That is a tautology. You are defining oppressed people by their lack of respectable options, but offering no evidence other than the assertion embedded in your definition.

        It is circular and, what’s more, it is falsifiable. There are lots of people in the same situation as the looters and vandals who chose the respectable route of not rioting, who chose to peacefully protest, and who chose to try and stop the looters.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

        j r,

        Oh! You mean my use of the word “definition” in that comment?

        Here’s the Merriam Webster definition of oppression: Oppression is the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner. Am I using the word in a question begging way? Or are you objecting to my inference that oppressed people “almost by definition” are deprived of access to respectable solutions to their problems?

        I take that as a logical consequence of the definition, actually, since it’s not by their choice that they are oppressed yet the policies under which they suffer have resulted from some sort of political process, respectable or otherwise.

        I also think your confusing an ability to peacefully protest as somehow entailing that the changes they’d like to see become realized. Furthermore, who are you to say they’re wrong to think that? It’s one thing to say that you, j r, wouldn’t engage in that behavior, but judging themfor doing so is quite another. We’re getting dangerously close to Roger-land here where you view anyone who disagrees with you as either evil (immoral) or stupid.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Jonathan McLeod says:

      @jonathan-mcleod

      I am concerned about the cause of oppression but I think Chait was correct in his essay when he talked about understanding the counterproductive nature of rioting and smashing windows. I am also skeptical that all the looters are really concerned about the decision, you could just have a lot of malcontents using the protests for cover. This further hurts any chance of justice and reform.

      How does breaking a window of small business in San Francisco help achieve justice for the horrible system of institutionalized racism in Ferguson, MO? Does SF have issues with instituionalized racism, inequality, and marginalism? Almost certainly. Do these issues need addressing? Yes. Does breaking the window of a small business do anything to achieve those aims? No.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I am also skeptical that all the looters are really concerned about the decision, you could just have a lot of malcontents using the protests for cover.

        I’m quite certain that not “all” of the looters are concerned about the decision.

        However, have you done any research on what sparks this sort of reaction? Damaging property and such, I mean? Where does your opinion come from, other than the Chait article?Report

      • For me, this is the question: Is someone arguing (basically):

        (a) Michael Brown shouldn’t have been killed, but rioting is bad; or
        (b) Rioting is bad, but Michael Brown shouldn’t have been killed?

        The former is troublesome.

        It’s much easier to have an academic debate about the value of riots when it’s not a member of your community lying dead in the street.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        …It’s much easier to have an academic debate about the value of riots…

        This is not an academic debate. Riots take a human toll. They take an economic toll. People die. People get hurt. People lose their businesses and their jobs. And it’s not “the man” who gets hurt.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        jr,
        We’re still basically talking about an idiot tax. If you don’t have your business insured enough to get it back on its feet, you’re an idiot. Expecting me to cry tears for you being a dumbass small business owner (there’s a reason 70% of them fail within a year or two), is pushing it a bit far.

        Do you mind paying a 10% extra “for riots” charge? Because you’re already paying more than that for “stealing” (whether by employees or not)Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        j r, you and I agree that riots are harmful. No one here is saying, “Yay, riots!” The question is actually an important one: why do people riot? People have been doing it for centuries, for a variety of reasons, with a variety of outcomes. If we’re simply asking, “Is violence bad,” then you will get an affirmative answer from me every time. If that’s all we’re asking, though, we’re avoiding important questions.Report

      • You can’t scrub the context of years, decades and centuries of oppression from the riots and then complain that I’m ignoring the real-life human aspect of them.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @jonathan-mcleod

        You can’t scrub the context of years, decades and centuries of oppression from the riots…

        Good thing I didn’t do that, then.

        @chris

        If we’re simply asking, “Is violence bad,” then you will get an affirmative answer from me every time. If that’s all we’re asking, though, we’re avoiding important questions.

        Here is the thing: I don’t think that violence is necessarily bad. I think that rioting is bad. And further, I think that if you are going to start addressing the important questions, then you have to start from a place of firm moral and ethical ground. Otherwise, this conversation devolves into an eternal battle of us vs. the other, with the sides switching depending on your demography and ideological leanings.

        The Civil War draft rioters may have had some very good reasons to be angry, but the ones who burned down a black orphanage were acting immorally and on misplaced rage. Likewise, Ferguson rioters who burned down an Asian man’s business may have had some very good reasons for being angry, but were acting immorally and with misplaced rage.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        If violence can be good, then I don’t know that riots are always bad. Again, you seem to have defined riots in such a way that any violence that is “good” can’t be categorized as a riot.

        I think the draft riots were one of the worst chapters in New York’s history, and the country’s in fact, but it is just one example of the hundreds of cases of riots in this country and Europe in the 19th century. If you’re going to define riots by it, then you’re probably not going to learn much about riots.Report

  15. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    I can easily make the argument that without the ’92 LA Riots, Daryl Gates never would’ve been fired as Chief of Police in LA and much of the reforms that happened in that city over the next decade or so wouldn’t have happened.Report

    • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

      I think this is important. Rioting isn’t a great way to get the people in charge to cave in to your specific set of demands, but it’s a strong vote of no-confidence in the people in charge. Having riots in the streets is pretty much synonymous with failure of leadership, so having one happen on your watch depletes your political capital tremendously. It’s hard for an elected or appointed executive to say, “Yeah, there were the riots, but look at the other things I did right!”Report