Up in Smoke

Article by Gideon Rozner

Decades Of Noxious Ideological Battles Have Left The West Divided

Out of The Frying Pan and Into The Riots

Writing about current events in the “post-COVID” world is a tough gig. Things move quickly, and everything I come up with these days is out of date by the time it gets published. Last time I filed for Penthouse, it looked like the sheer craziness of it all had peaked.

But a couple of days later, the murder of George Floyd would reverberate around the world like a twenty-first century Franz Ferdinand. An enormous vat of kerosene had been poured on the dying embers of our disjointed, shell-shocked post-corona world.

It wasn’t as if the protesters didn’t have a point — at least initially. Any reasonable person would be horrified that an American citizen could be summarily executed, on a public footpath, in broad daylight, by uniformed officers with the motto, “To Protect with Courage, To Serve with Compassion” emblazoned on their shoulders.

And more to the point, it would be naïve to deny that there was a racial element to Floyd’s death. We don’t know about any particular prejudices held by Derek Chauvin — who importantly was since sacked and now faces murder and manslaughter charges — but we do know that black Americans do face disproportionate attention from the police.

Failed Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg admitted as much himself five years ago when he said that, as mayor of New York, he “put all the cops in minority neighborhoods…because that’s where all the crime is.” Presumably, the city of Minneapolis — which has not elected a Republican mayor since 1957 — has a similar modus operandi.

But even by the standards of what passes for contemporary political debate, the popular reaction to George Floyd morphed into obnoxious and twisted performance art with astonishing speed. Within a couple of days, what started out as understandable and important public anger was fed through the familiar meat grinder of social media, infused with Marxist claptrap, and hijacked by professional anarchists. And so, right on cue, the riots began.

Up in Smoke — Smoldering

Much has been made about the difference between the actual protests — which have been largely peaceful — and the violent antics of a minority, but that is somewhat beside the point. Violent or not, the response to the killing of George Floyd did not have anything close to the courage of Martin Luther King marching on Washington or Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat. There was a nasty, subrational nihilism at play.

Whereas King and his cohort invoked American ideals like the notion that “all men are created equal,” groups like Black Lives Matter have declared those same ideals inherently racist. Decades of misguided revisionism — ranging from the New York Times’ discredited 1619 Project to the perennial push to have monuments and statues removed for one reason or another — has fueled the notion that the American project has been poisoned by various evils from the start, that it is not worth saving.

Never mind that many of the shops that were looted and destroyed were owned by Black Americans. Never mind that Black police officers were among the ones killed in the riots. Never mind that the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Regiment — the memorial for which was one of the many defaced in the riots — was comprised entirely of Black soldiers. Everything must go. Everything.

The Democratic governors and mayors presiding over the riots were predictably quick to point the finger at Trump, but they had only themselves to blame. It was the culmination of decades of cynical race-baiting, the logical conclusion of the poisonous identity politics that has entrenched itself in the underbellies of America’s major cities.

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