So far in the 2020s, American citizens have been hectored endlessly about wearing masks, staying safe indoors and standing apart out. Yet the people who smash up neighborhoods are encouraged to keep expressing their pain. The concept of law and order is therefore becoming a twisted joke.
Yes, Minneapolis is rioting again — another police violence video circulated on the internet, another round of anarchy, another bonfire of American values.
This time it’s Daunte Wright, a young man shot dead as he tried to escape the police in Brooklyn Center, a northern suburb of the Twin Cities. The officer responsible, a woman called Kim Potter, seems to have believed she was using a Taser to stop Wright. But she got him with a gun instead. A stupid and terrible mistake, if so, but not necessarily another example of a culture in which young men are routinely shot just for being black. Certainly, it’s not an excuse for agitators to smash up streets. Daunte Wright didn’t deserve to die, but he was not blameless. He had an outstanding warrant and if he hadn’t tried to run from his arrest he would still be alive.
That rather key point is irrelevant to the politicians and many journalists who thrive on giving the rioters emotional succor as they go about menacing police officers and trashing streets. They keep excusing the looting, violent rioters, even as some of them say there is no excuse for looting and violence.
Minneapolis, we are told over and over, is a city ‘on edge’ because of the ongoing trial of Derek Chauvin, the police officer under whose knee George Floyd died last May. If Chauvin is found innocent, or even not guilty enough, a carnival of street violence is anticipated. The National Guard has been on stand-by in Minneapolis for just such an eventuality; now they’ve been deployed early to help quell the chaos and the looting in the name of Daunte Wright.
President Biden still just has about enough sense to condemn obvious criminality. ‘I want to make it clear again: there is absolutely no justification — none — for looting,’ he said yesterday. ‘No justification for violence. Peaceful protest? Understandable.’ Grandpa Joe understands that you are upset, folks, just don’t go killing people and stealing. This is the position of moderate America.
Vice President Kamala Harris is keen to place herself to the edgier left of that. She wants to be the BLM yin to Biden’s Democratic mainstream yang. ‘Prayers are not enough,’ she tweeted, imitating the already imitative language of phony, corporate-sponsored radicalism. ‘Daunte Wright should still be with us. While an investigation is underway, our nation needs justice and healing, and Daunte’s family need to know why their child is dead — they deserve answers.’
Welcome to the Biden era, much like the Trump era — you just hear a lot more cant from the leadership. We can see how for most of the media, the story — or what PR people like to call the ‘narrative framing’ — has shifted. Last year, violent rioting wasn’t just an understandable reaction to police brutality; it was in part a justified response to a racist president. That’s why in June, Harris tweeted links to bail funds to help those ‘protesting on the ground in Minnesota’ — and only right-wing news sites considered that morally questionable on her part. Now she’s one heartbeat from the presidency.
What has remained constant from 2020 to 2021 is the mesmerizingly supine response to rioting, especially among journalists. Look, for instance, at this CNN correspondent, Sara Sidner, trying to talk to a foul-mouthed protester:
— Donie O'Sullivan (@donie) April 13, 2021
‘You don’t know me, but we’re going to get to know each other… tell me what’s real?’
‘Get away from here with all that media shit that y’all doing.’
It’s hard to imagine a more perfect dialogue. It essentially captures the way elite media sucks up to the race protestors who despise them. It’s like listening to a terrible parent over-indulge an impossible teenage child. Sidner desperately tries to signal to the angry agitator that she is on his side, that she hears him. Meanwhile, he berates her for representing an evil media complex that is trying to make ‘people look all crazier than what the fuck they are’.
Sidner is being widely applauded for her courage. Certainly, she doesn’t appear to lack self-confidence. She quickly tweeted a link to that video with the following statement:
‘I’m not going anywhere. I love Minneapolis, it’s surrounding suburbs including #BrooklynCenter , and it’s people. I get that people are mad. It’s normal. I take no offense. Emotions are understandably high after the killing of #DanteWright.’
That word ‘understandably’ is so telling. One can ‘understand’ why somebody might be distressed after watching a video of a black man being killed by the police. One can understand why people think such an event is indicative of a violent police state that persecutes black people, though the statistics on that are debatable.
But ‘understandable’ is a short mental hop from ‘justified’ in this context. And in a civilized society, high emotions, even racially charged ones, can never justify lawlessness. Does the Vice President understand that?