Monday, August 17, 2015

#BlackLivesMatter and the politics of force

There’s an episode of "Doug" from 1993 called Doug’s Big Brawl where Doug Funnie and another boy get into a situation where they’re both expected to fight each other and Doug’s dad tells him:

"Show me a man who resorts to violence, and I'll show you a man who's run out of good ideas.”

With that in mind, I turn your attention to last Saturday’s disruption of a political rally where Bernie Sanders was prevented from speaking by several Black Lives Matter protesters. In this case there was no violence, but there was indeed a great amount of force.

My preference for political change is to reason with people and convince them with words. I understand that people reach a lot of their opinions through selfish justification and emotions, but I still feel that better arguments and better ideas are the morally superior approach and the one I support.

Black Lives Matter activists regularly uses force as their primary tactic, such as disrupting a symphony, an award ceremony for WWII vet and even shutting down highways. They are not trying to reason with people, but get their attention or intimidate them by using force.

But let’s not kid ourselves, Black Lives Matter embraces violence and destruction along crude utilitarian lines. It gently refers to riots as “uprisings” and while its members only occasionally directly instruct people to riot, the activists openly defend and justify violent riots. The “No justice no peace” slogan is not merely a threat of noise pollution.”

Black activists tried to convince us for years that there is a widespread problem with American police killing not just violent black men, but upstanding young black men too. The problem was finding an example and they seized on the death of Michael Brown to make their case. A family member called him a "gentle giant" and one Deadspin article specifically said "By all accounts, Brown was one of the good ones."

That famously blew up in their faces when the early credulous, alarmist reports fell away and the public learned about Brown’s strong-arm robbery just before he put down while trying to kill a police officer. The foundation of the Black Lives Matter campaign turned out to be a hoax.

While paragons of humility like Jonathan Capehart took back their initial embrace of the Michael Brown narrative and admitted they were wrong, Black Lives Matter instead chose to keep telling the same lie and keep chanting “Hands up Don’t shoot” and act like nothing ever happened.

A Rasmussen poll released on Aug. 13 showed 53% of respondents believe the Ferguson riots are mostly criminals taking advantage of the situation, not actual protests.

Black Lives Matter activists failed to convince the public of the importance of their message with compelling arguments, but have had some success through the use of force. That was firmly on display on Aug. 8 at the Seattle event where Bernie Sanders was supposed to speak to the crowd.

As you can see from the footage and the transcript, the activist pulled themselves on stage and immediately started hurling threats like “If you do not listen to her, your event will be shut down right now! Right now!” She later bragged about shutting down a Christmas tree lighting celebration, claimed the shooting of Michael Brown was really a murder and called the crowd racists and white supremacists for booing her obnoxious, blubbering rant.

The American left was in disarray following the Seattle disruption, as two of its large factions were put in direct conflict. Initially, some people on official-looking Black Lives Matter social media accounts claimed the Seattle protesters were not legitimate members of Black Lives Matter, but those same accounts later took those statements back and said they were not authorized to speak. 

The Sanders campaign originally promoted that angle before the correction came in, as it nullified any need for left-wing soul searching. Some people still insist they were not legitimate protesters, or were enemy agents hired by the right. That’s conspiracy-theory nonsense, but even if it were true it would be irrelevant because most Black Lives Matters leaders and sympathizers have embraced the Seattle disruption.

This also puts me in a tough spot, because I have a handful of black friends on Facebook who have embraced the hashtag from time to time. Every last one of them is gracious, gentle, kind person, and I’m puzzled why this group resonates with them.

Especially since Black Rights Matter is very much a movement against civil rights.

Before we go any further, I need to address the limits of what is and what is not a free speech issue. Free speech is commonly defined by educated people as freedom from government restrictions on speech, but not one of private limits. The most common example is if someone stops someone else from commentating on their blog or Facebook page, that is not a violation of the person’s freedom of speech. I completely agree with that example, but I do think private entities can do certain things that is on par with opposing free speech.

The obvious example is using illegitimate force to block a speaker from sharing ideas with an audience, which is exactly what we saw a mob of 100 people do at the University of Toronto in 2012, such as physically blocking the doors to the venue, pulling the fire alarm and making noise to keep people from hearing a lecture.

Which is exactly what happened in Seattle. The novice observer believes that Sanders was the victim of the Black Lives Matter protesters, while the more experienced observer understands that the audience’s right to listen to Sanders was violated, and the activists are 100% guilty of violating the civil rights of a very large group of people.

Which has been pretty consistent with the loathsome tactics used by the Black Lives Matters goons. While a lot of the focus has been on the police officers murdered and horribly wounded by Black Lives Matters activists and supporters, the group’s victims also include a lot of innocent bystanders who were just trying to drive to work, attend a public event or take an ambulance ride to the hospital.

I am not saying that Black Lives Matter has failed to have any influence, as there are a lot more police body cameras in operation today. I’m also not saying their actual influence is always negative, as I see the police body cameras to be a good thing. I am saying their influence comes from their willingness to use force on people who don’t deserve it and I don’t consider the death, destruction and violation of rights they have caused to be an acceptable trade-off.

In a particularly craven move, Sanders caved in to their demands, announcing the hire of a Black Lives Matter activist and adding some of their issues to his campaign platform. He and the staff at the Seattle event were unwilling to stand up to the activists, but I don’t think it’s because of who they are.

Sanders seems to be morally opposed to having hecklers and disruptors dragged out of his events, such as his superhuman tolerance for several rabid anti-Israel shouters at a town meeting event last year. I suspect he doesn’t want to see people cuffed or dragged away, which is too bad for his actually supporters who want to hear him speak uninterrupted.

Contrast that with Bill Maher’s legendary response to a group 9/11 Truthers who started shouting from his audience, where he told security to pull the riff riff out and ended up storming into the crowd to get lend a hand. That is what leadership looks like, not hand-wringing and instant surrender.

There was a recent episode in Utah where animal rights protesters attempted to use force to shut down a pig wrestling event by standing in the ring. A pig wrestler picked up one of the protesters and dumped them over the fence. I can understand why the police were considering charging the pig wrestler with assault, but to be honest I find it to be a superior response than giving the protester the microphone like Sanders did. Twice.

I don’t think Sanders is competent to serve on a municipal zoning board, let alone be president of the United States, but the principles at stake here are the issue, not the details of this example. That’s why I find it incredibly irksome to see so many arguments putting down the disruption by saying Sanders was an unworthy target and the activists should have done the same thing to other politicians.

Ken White recently reminded us that embracing vile tactics against our political opponents is not only immoral, but it also gives your opposition permission to use the same tactics back on you.

Don't think for a second that Black Lives Matter protesters would accept being on the receiving end of disruptions. Look at last month's Ohio incident where reporter Brandon Blackwell ignored an order for all white people to leave their event. Not only did the activists threaten him and make a scene, their supporters moaned that he was disrespectful and should have left the event when told to.

Pardon me, I think my irony levels are getting dangerously high.

Black Lives Matter activists don't use force because they have had a hard time getting their message out to the public or because they are beaten-down serfs with no other possible course of action. They do so because they don't have a strong enough case to convince people through legitimate means. The use of force comes from a place of weakness, not of strength.

The worst defense I hear for the brute tactics of Black Lives Matter protesters is that nothing else works. That's not true for most other causes. Perhaps the reason mainstream tactics don't work for Black Lives Matter is that their ideas are flawed. To return to what Doug’s father said, their embrace of force is an open admission that they are out of good ideas.


  1. Out of good ideas? Or maybe they've created an environment so inimical to truth that speaking it results in immediate denunciations and accusations of racism?

  2. Hey! Good to see you back. I saw this in the local news and wondered where the infamous Seattle police from the WTO meeting is these days.