‘This city is not going to stop burning itself down until they [the protesters] know that this officer has been fired.’ Thus spoke Whitney Cabal, a leader of the Kenosha chapter of Black Lives Matter, in response to the latest police shooting in Wisconsin. The use of the passive in that sentence is revealing.
As Theodore Dalrymple has pointed out (see ‘The knife went in’) it is common for people to assign motive to inanimate objects when they are loth to admit to being in the wrong. I suspect that the suitably named Ms Cabal knows that the state of Wisconsin did not auto-combust this week, as Krook does at the end of Bleak House. True, there was first a police shooting and arrest. But someone must then have put a match to the place. The American public, press and politicians know that. But any willingness to say it appears now to fall along strictly party-political lines.
It is one of the most striking things about the violence and unrest that have followed the killing of George Floyd. Not the violence, but the increasingly ostentatious desire of a portion of the population to pretend they do not see it. Some friends in New York tell me of gang robberies at restaurants in broad daylight, of lootings, shootings and boarded-up shops. ‘Peaceful demonstrations’, I am assured by other friends, who identify as ‘liberals’ though have mysteriously stayed away from the city of late.
The same story is rolling out across America. The left says that there are nightly protests for ‘social justice’. When these protests involve mass lootings, such as those in Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, they are claimed (if acknowledged at all) to be the actions of a tiny fringe. Such dogged blindness has a clear political and cultural purpose. The political purpose is a desire to prevent the reelection of Donald Trump. The wider justification would appear to be a belief that ‘anti-racism’ is such an important omelette of a cause that a few broken eggs — or cities — is a price worth paying.
The extremes to which this thinking can go are perhaps best seen in Portland, Oregon, where local ‘antifa’ activists stalk the city nightly in quasi-military get-up. The participants appear convinced that their city seethes with Nazis. Even were it not the most left-wing city in America, Portland would seem an unlikely place for a Fourth Reich to be established. Still, every evening ‘antifa’ roam the streets, often advancing behind a wall of umbrellas and homemade shields, like some post-apocalyptic Roman legion. Some nights these ‘anti-fascists’ find an elderly woman to assault. On others they pull passing motorists from their cars and kick them in the head until they are unconscious. These ‘antifa’ are merely the forward phalanx of a portion of America now dedicated to weeding out an essentially phantom menace, who won’t be content until they have ripped up their country, or burned it down, to find their enemy.
Their point of view could do with being refined, or corrected. Instead most of the American media — not to mention the leadership of the Democratic party — pretends that these events in Portland are not taking place. Or are the invention of the ‘alt-right’.
If there is a couple who have come to epitomize this fork in reality it is Mark and Patricia McCloskey. They are the couple from St Louis who made headlines in June when a BLM protest broke on to private property. Fearing for their lives, and their notably elegant home, the McCloskeys came out on to their terrace with their guns and stayed there until the protesters left. This week they made a five-minute appearance at the Republican convention.
Of course, this year’s convention is virtual. But so is one of the versions of the couple. Because from the moment images emerged of the McCloskeys guarding their house, two versions of them came to exist.
The first is the one they presented at the conference. They are two law-abiding home-owners. A protest broke on to private property and they asserted their right as American citizens to defend their home. No shots were fired, yet thanks to the activist local circuit attorney Kim Gardner, the McCloskeys are now charged with ‘unlawful use of a weapon’, which is a felony. None of the people who broke on to the property have suffered any harm.
That is because Attorney Gardner is acting against a second version of the McCloskeys. This version might be summed up by the headline in which the Washington Post announced their convention appearance: ‘St Louis couple who waved guns at BLM protesters will participate in GOP convention.’ Put like that, you might feel that the McCloskeys had it coming. ‘Waving a gun’ is a somewhat nonchalant, as well as dangerous, thing to do. Nonchalantly waving guns at BLM protesters is another thing altogether.
In defense of this version, there was the iconography: Mr McCloskey in crisp chinos and nice pink polo shirt; Mrs McCloskey holding her tiny little pistol and looking a little deranged. Very hard to sympathize with them. Not like the nice Mr Floyd.
But you know, a couple of months ago Mrs McCloskey was sitting in the home she and her husband had worked their lives to create. The mob started by shouting: ‘Racist!’ Audio of the event shows that at least one member of the crowd shouted: ‘We gonna kill you, bitch.’ Soon a man in the mob was screaming: ‘I’mma rape you, bitch.’
‘You can’t stop the revolution,’ the group’s Marxist ring-leader bellowed at the couple through a bullhorn as the mob milled. That ring-leader has since been given the Democratic nomination to enter the US House of Representatives as congresswoman for the area. So she’s done nicely out of it. And if Mrs McCloskey is the loser — well then, ‘social justice’ or something.
Most of America must know this is wrong, just as they know that the cities aren’t burning themselves down. But only one half of the country remains willing to identify the fact. Perhaps the half that stays silent believes that after getting what they want at the ballot box, some greater good will emerge. But I wouldn’t be so sure. What they are doing is giving Donald Trump his best shot at four more years in office.