‘Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified,’ ABC News recently tweeted. The wording was perfect — better than any satire as an illustration of the corporate media’s biases. These biases have lately come at cost for CNN and the Washington Post, both of which have paid to settle the suits brought against them by Nick Sandmann, a Covington Catholic High School student whose life they nearly destroyed last year. But the corporate media cannot be embarrassed into mending its ways, neither by its own risible tweets nor by lawsuits from the people harmed by its misreporting. Nobody with any real market power is going to boycott the advertisers of CNN or ABC News, and the Washington Post does not need advertising at all as long as it’s owned by the owner of Amazon.com. Who can boycott Amazon?
The arson, looting, and mayhem that attend these not-so-peaceful protests against law enforcement are violence sanctioned from above. The faculty lounge and the corporate boardroom, the world’s richest man and his newspaper, the Democratic party and the NeverTrump Republicans: they are all sponsors of this program. They know this lawlessness will not harm their interests: quite the contrary, it will help to defeat President Trump by making him look like Lyndon Johnson in 1968. Trump’s talk about economic nationalism and his populist defiance of elite norms, on the other hand, do represent an incipient challenge to the authorities that own America. Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton failed to stop Trump in 2016, the Russia hype and impeachment effort fizzled, but COVID-19 and cities on fire might be enough to guarantee the right result this November. The trick is to spin the narrative so that the arsonists are the heroes — or just the overeager vanguard of the heroes — and the police are the enemy.
This mock revolution marketed by the rich is full of ironies. The purple-haired white ladies and college kids taunting the cops (including black ones) outnumber the actually black members of Black Lives Matter by a perceptible degree: the whole thing is an act of cultural appropriation. And once again, white liberals have taken it upon themselves to approve new designations for the minorities they aim to save (i.e., exploit). Thus, the big media have now decided that black Americans are no longer like white Americans; they are today ‘Black’ Americans, with a capital ‘B’. For the moment, anyway: there was a time not long ago when the elite-approved term was ‘African American’, but the cultural revolution eventually devours its linguistic children. White liberals promoted the homogenized ‘Hispanic’ and ‘Latino’ labels for Mexican Americans, Cuban Americans, and others who were happier to identify with specific ancestral nationalities. Then they ran into intersectional identity-politics trouble because ‘Latino’ and ‘Latina’ are sex-specific terms, and so Latinos had to become ‘Latinx’. Lately there have been intense debates within progressive ranks over whether the term ‘BIPOC’ — ‘Black, Indigenous, and People of Color’ — is sufficiently inclusive for all non-whites. We’ll know once Jeff Bezos’s newspaper adopts it.
Progressive liberals are exquisitely sensitive to the correct formulary use of language, even as they neglect the lives of actual black people who are murdered by criminals every day in America’s cities. This irony is nothing but bitter. Capitalizing the word ‘Black’ is not going to save a single black child from a drug dealer’s bullet. Defunding, demoralizing, and abolishing the police, on the other hand, will predictably result in more black lives being lost to crime, which white liberals insist is a problem that went away after 1992. Yet the politics that matters for corporate America and its media has little to do with crime in the streets. Instead it’s concerned with psychological manipulation, and the mastery of language is of great value for that purpose. Progressive liberals get a psychic reward from incanting the right words, and they audit the incantations of others as indications of their obedience to the faith. While the faith lives, this kind of moral monitoring and oneupmanship (pardon the expression) is motivational and inspires conformity. It also deadens the conscience and encourages a righteous ruthlessness. The turmoil in the op-ed offices is one sign of that, but it is as nothing compared to the conscience-free outlook the liberal elites have on mayhem and murder in the streets. Next to the ideological and political struggle, the violence just doesn’t matter, except in that it’s useful.
‘Whenever the vicious portion of the population shall be permitted to gather in bands of hundreds and thousands, and burn churches, ravage and rob provision stores, throw printing presses into rivers, shoot editors, and hang and burn obnoxious persons at pleasure, and with impunity; depend on it, this Government cannot last.’ That was Abraham Lincoln’s warning to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois in January 1838. He was condemning violence against blacks and abolitionists, but also violence against gamblers and indeed all kinds of riotous mayhem, arising from what he called ‘the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country; the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions, in lieu of the sober judgement of the Courts; and the worse than savage mobs, for the executive ministers of justice.’ Those who ‘ever regarded Government as their deadliest bane’, he continued, ‘make a jubilee of the suspension of its operations; and pray for nothing so much as its total annihilation.’ And on the other side, ‘good men, who love tranquility, who desire to abide by the laws…seeing their property destroyed; their families insulted; and their lives endangered; their persons injured; and seeing nothing in prospect that forebodes a change for the better, become tired of, and disgusted with, a Government that offers them no protection; and are not much averse to a change in which they imagine they have nothing to lose.’
Lincoln was describing the effect of mob violence not upon an election but on the American constitutional order itself. If the forces of law could not withstand the mob, then Lincoln feared that sooner or later a dictator would step forward to do the job. Childish leftist hyperbole about Trump notwithstanding, we are as yet far from what Lincoln foresaw. But our problem is grave, as a self-serving class of the wealthy and educated tolerates and even promotes violence in the streets for its own political and institutional advantage. A country whose most prestigious news outlets can describe arson and attacks on police as ‘peaceful demonstration intensified’ is on its way to tyranny, whether under one man or clique.