These Tedious People

The police have to follow the rules. Out here in Los Angeles, in early 1991, four white LAPD officers beat an unarmed prone and handcuffed black man, Rodney King, for almost fifteen minutes, until Rodney King was almost dead, and they had to stand trial for that. They claimed self-defense. They feared for their lives. And yes, that was preposterous, and yes, they were acquitted, and the riots that followed laid waste to most of the city – but they did stand trial. There are rules. Few police officers are ever charged with anything, and those that are charged are almost always acquitted of whatever the crime and walk free. Did they shoot and kill a two-year-old infant in a cradle? They feared for their life. Juries never turn on cops. But there are rules. They did have to say those magic words in court.

That won’t change. The police officer who held an unarmed George Floyd pinned to the pavement with his knee on Floyd’s neck, for nearly nine minutes, until he was sure Floyd was dead, with bystanders screaming for him to stop, he was killing the man, will face trial for that. He will claim self-defense. He feared for his life. And he will probably be acquitted. But he will be tried. There are rules. And it’s the same with the police officer who shot an unarmed Jacob Blake seven times in the back, in front of three of the man’s children. That police officer will stand trial too. He may walk, but he will stand trial.

But the riots that follow are always a problem. White cops rid this world of unarmed Black men quite often, and walk, or they walk away laughing, and angry people flood the streets in protest. Some have had enough of this, and enough of America – burn it all down. Some simply want justice. But the disruption is massive. Sometimes it gets out of hand, but the police do have to follow the rules. Protest is allowed, even against them. They are not allowed to shut that down. But they have to protect life and property. And that gets tricky. Protest may get out of hand, or it may not, and their options are limited. They can’t just open fire on these tedious people and be done with it and go home to the wife and kids. These tedious people get to have their say – “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances” and all that. But what’s peaceable assembly? Opinions vary. No one knew what to make of Martin Luther King back in the day. Was he inciting violence? Many thought he was.

This makes things difficult for the police. They cannot just shut down these tedious people these days. But sometimes civilians can help out. Militias, vigilantes, lynch mobs, those patriots who will do what the law, at present, cannot do. They’ll stop this nonsense, with appropriate force the police cannot yet use. Call it informal unofficial but state-sanctioned violence to shut these people up:

President Trump on Sunday amplified his call for federal forces to help subdue protests in American cities, denouncing local Democratic leaders and fanning partisan tensions a day after a deadly clash between his supporters and social justice protesters in Portland, Ore., underscored the threat of rising politically motivated violence.

Scenes of Trump faithful firing paint and pellet guns at protesters during a “Trump cruise rally” caravan through downtown Portland – a liberal bastion that has been the site of weeks of street demonstrations – raised the specter that the nation’s summer of unrest had entered a new phase in which the president’s backers are rallying to defend businesses and fight back against Black Lives Matter and other groups he has labeled “anarchists” and “terrorists.”

One man, thought to be a member of a pro-Trump group, was shot and killed Saturday night during the Portland unrest.

The police won’t start a gun battle with these uppity Black Lives Matter protesters, but the Trump faithful will. He didn’t tell them to do that, but he’s pleased that they love him so much that they did. His people, not the police, and not anyone in government, really, will take care of things.

Some found that a bit dangerous:

In a statement Sunday afternoon, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden “unequivocally” condemned the Portland shooting and accused Trump of “fanning the flames of hate and division in our society and using the politics of fear to whip up his supporters.”

“We must not become a country at war with ourselves; a country that accepts the killing of fellow Americans who do not agree with you; a country that vows vengeance toward one another,” Biden said. “But that is the America that President Trump wants us to be, the America he believes we are.”

Of course he does. Vengeance is so damned satisfying. Why does Biden have a problem with that? But now we have two worlds:

This week, both Trump and Biden will move to address the protests in a more prominent way. Trump on Tuesday is set to travel to Kenosha, Wis., where the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black resident left paralyzed, provoked street protests that culminated in the shooting deaths of two others. Kyle Rittenhouse, a White 17-year-old who had illegally obtained a rifle, was charged with first-degree intentional homicide in the killings, which came after a fledgling militia group had posted a call to arms on Facebook.

White House aides said Trump will tour property damage and meet with law enforcement officials, but they did not disclose any plans for the president to meet with Blake’s family.

Meanwhile, Biden aides said the candidate, who had maintained a lean campaign schedule, will launch a more robust public presence with a speech in southwestern Pennsylvania on Monday to address Trump’s handling of the pandemic and his response to the social justice protests.

Jacob Blake can rot in hell. Trump chose his side in this, this side:

Trump’s conservative supporters, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson, have seized on Rittenhouse as a figure of sympathy, suggesting that he acted legally and in self-defense. The president on Sunday appeared to offer his support by liking a tweet from a self-described former liberal activist who cited Rittenhouse as a reason to vote for Trump.

Conservatives also rallied around the Trump caravan in Portland, where the man who was killed was wearing a hat bearing the words “Patriot Prayer,” the name of a far-right group organized in 2016 to bring pro-Trump rallies to liberal strongholds.

In a tweet, Trump referred to Biden as a “puppet” of “crazed leaders” on the left who envision the Portland chaos as emblematic of “Joe Biden’s America.”

“This is not what our great Country wants,” Trump wrote. “They want Safety & Security, and do NOT want to DEFUND our Police!”

And yes, that’s nonsense:

Biden has stated that he does not support efforts of some liberals to drastically cut funding for local police departments and instead has outlined a proposal that would increase funding for community policing programs by $300 million as long as local departments agree to conditions such as adopting new use-of-force standards and increasing diversity among their ranks.

But maybe that doesn’t matter:

“Trump has been inciting violence for years and with deadly effects,” said author Ruth Ben-Ghiat, who studies authoritarian regimes. She pointed to a mass shooting in El Paso last summer by a gunman who cited anti-immigrant views with echoes of Trump’s rhetoric in a manifesto.

In 2018, Cesar Sayoc, a Trump supporter, mailed inoperative pipe bombs to Trump’s critics, a crime for which he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. And in 2017, a white nationalist in Charlottesville drove a car into a crowd, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer as she protested the extremist “Unite the Right” march – a movement the president failed to condemn unequivocally.

“Now he’s trained his aim on Black Lives Matter protesters and Antifa,” said Ben-Ghiat, referring to a loosely connected set of left-wing, anti-fascist groups. “So what is happening now with an escalation of violence is something beneficial to Trump. Strongmen leaders incite crises so they can pose themselves as the law-and-order solution.”

He doesn’t hate Black people. It’s not personal. He just wants to get reelected. Max Boot does not approve:

President Trump and his cronies are like the cartoon villains in movies who not only unleash dastardly plots but then helpfully explain them to the audience. Thus on Thursday, the president’s outgoing counselor, Kellyanne Conway, told Fox News: “The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order.”

Seldom has a more cynical or sordid thought been publicly expressed by such a senior White House aide. As Democratic nominee Joe Biden said, Trump is “rooting for more violence, not less,” because he views it as politically beneficial in his quest to scare White America into voting for him.

That’s what Boot sees:

On Thursday, in his acceptance speech, Trump castigated all of the “rioting, looting, arson and violence we have seen in Democrat-run cities.” On Friday, at a campaign rally in New Hampshire, Trump again calumniated protesters as “anarchists,” “rioters” and “looters.” On Saturday, a caravan of Trump supporters gathered outside Portland, Ore., and drove through the city, firing paintballs and pepper spray at bystanders.

Before long, a battle broke out between the Trump supporters and Black Lives Matters supporters, with punches thrown and debris hurled. The Washington Post reported: “Trump supporters in trucks were at one point blocked in by the Black Lives Matter activists and began exiting their vehicles, precipitating the violence.” Eventually one person – wearing the hat of a far-right group called Patriot Prayer – was shot dead.

Trump can use that against Biden, but Boot doesn’t think so:

The president said in his acceptance speech: “Joe Biden and his supporters remained completely silent about the rioters and criminals spreading mayhem in Democrat-run cities.”

That’s simply not so. Joe Biden has never supported Antifa or violence of any sort. He stated his position very clearly in a video released after Kenosha, Wis., police shot a Black man in the back seven times, leading to protests, arson, and looting. “Protesting brutality is a right and absolutely necessary,” Biden said. “Burning down communities is not protest – it’s needless violence, violence that endangers lives, violence that guts businesses and shutters businesses that serve the community. That’s wrong.” On Sunday, after the clash in Portland, he repeated his opposition to violence.

Yes, there are some left-wing radicals who support looting and rioting. But they are unlikely to be fans of Biden (author of the 1994 crime bill) and Kamala D. Harris (a former prosecutor). Violence has been consistently renounced and denounced by the entire Democratic leadership. The only way the Trump campaign can suggest otherwise is by twisting the words of Democrats.

And that’s lying:

The horrors that Trump claims will unfold in Biden’s America are actually happening right now in Trump’s America – and the president is doing all he can to create those conditions for personal and political gain. Only one presidential candidate this year is fomenting violence – and it’s not Joe Biden.

But that may be giving Trump too much credit. Trump isn’t that disciplined. That’s what Peter Baker reports here:

President Trump unleashed an especially intense barrage of Twitter messages over the weekend, embracing fringe conspiracy theories claiming that the coronavirus death toll has been exaggerated and that street protests are actually an organized coup d’état against him.

In a concentrated predawn burst, the president posted or reposted 89 messages between 5:49 a.m. and 8:04 a.m. on Sunday on top of 18 the night before, many of them inflammatory comments or assertions about violent clashes in Portland, Ore., where a man wearing the hat of a far-right, pro-Trump group was shot and killed Saturday after a large group of Mr. Trump’s supporters traveled through the streets. He resumed on Sunday night.

Here’s the quick summary:

In the blast of social media messages, Mr. Trump also embraced a call to imprison Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, threatened to send federal forces against demonstrators outside the White House, attacked CNN and NPR, embraced a supporter charged with murder, mocked his challenger, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and repeatedly assailed the mayor of Portland, even posting the mayor’s office telephone number so that supporters could call demanding his resignation.

This is not a disciplined mind:

One of the most incendiary messages was a retweet of a program from the One America News Network, a pro-Trump channel that advances extreme theories and that the president has turned to when he feels that Fox News has not been supportive enough. The message he retweeted Saturday night promoted a segment accusing demonstrators of secretly plotting Mr. Trump’s downfall.

“According to the mainstream media, the riots & extreme violence are completely unorganized,” the tweet said. “However, it appears this coup attempt is led by a well-funded network of anarchists trying to take down the President.”

Accompanying it was an image of a promo for a segment titled “America Under Siege: The Attempt to Overthrow President Trump.”

So this was never about police violence and social justice. That was just a ruse. This has always been an attempted coup, to overthrow him. And it was the same with that virus thing:

Mr. Trump reposted messages asserting that the real death toll from the coronavirus is only around 9,000 – not nearly 183,000 – because the others who died also had other health issues and most were of an advanced age.

“So get this straight – based on the recommendation of doctors Fauci and Birx the US shut down the entire economy based on 9,000 American deaths to the China coronavirus,” said the summary of an article by the hardline conservative website Gateway Pundit that was retweeted by the president, denigrating his own health advisers, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and Dr. Deborah L. Birx.

Those people were going to die anyway! But of course that misses the point:

The post was a distortion of data available on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reports that 6 percent of coronavirus fatalities list only the virus on the death certificates. For other deaths, the patients had an average of 2.6 other conditions or causes of death. The statistics do not mean that they did not die because of the virus, but help explain who is most vulnerable to it.

Twitter deleted one of the tweets that Mr. Trump reposted advancing this claim, replacing it with a message: “This Tweet is no longer available because it violated the Twitter Rules.”

Twitter seems to have a rule about posting dangerous nonsense. Don’t do that, but Trump is Trump:

Mr. Trump also retweeted a message calling for Mr. Cuomo to be locked up because of the high death toll from the coronavirus in New York nursing homes earlier in the pandemic. “#KillerCuomo should be in jail,” said the message by the actor James Woods, a strong supporter of the president’s.

Cuomo did issue a statement. He told Trump to get a life, and to come up with an actual plan to deal with this pandemic. But he shouldn’t have bothered. The president had moved on:

The president “liked” a tweet that offered support for Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old Trump supporter who has been charged with homicide after two demonstrators were shot to death in Kenosha, Wis. “Kyle Rittenhouse is a good example of why I decided to vote for Trump,” the tweet said.

Okay, Trump likes killers. Everyone knows this. And the rest was just shouting:

Many of Mr. Trump’s Sunday morning tweets focused on the violence in Portland, where the shooting death of a man exacerbated an already tense situation. The man was wearing a hat with the insignia of Patriot Prayer, a far-right group based in the Portland area that has clashed with protesters before.

Mr. Trump repeatedly assailed Mayor Ted Wheeler of Portland for resisting federal help and delighted in showcasing a peaceful protest held at the mayor’s own home on Friday, even retweeting a post accusing the Mr. Wheeler of “committing war crimes.” Rather than calling for calm, Mr. Trump seemed to justify aggressive action against demonstrators by his supporters.

“The big backlash going on in Portland cannot be unexpected after 95 days of watching and incompetent Mayor admit that he has no idea what he is doing,” Mr. Trump wrote, as he retweeted a journalist’s post reporting that Trump supporters were firing paintballs and pepper spray, including at the reporter. “The people of Portland won’t put up with no safety any longer. The Mayor is a FOOL. Bring in the National Guard!”

The mayor was having none of that:

Mr. Wheeler responded at a news conference, blaming the president’s “campaign of fear” for the violence that has afflicted cities.

“Do you seriously wonder, Mr. President, why this is the first time in decades that America has seen this level of violence?” he said. “It’s you who have created the hate and the division. It’s you who have not found the way to say the names of Black people killed by police officers even as people in law enforcement have. And it’s you who claimed that white supremacists are good people.”

Trump must have smiled. This was going well. Charles Blow explains why:

One could argue that Trump’s law and order mantra has its roots in Richard Nixon’s success with it in the 1968 presidential campaign. As Time magazine reported at the time, to some it was “a shorthand message promising repression of the black community” – and to that community, it was “a bleak warning that worse times may be coming.”

This sentiment, if not the phrase itself, has been part of presidential politics ever since. George Bush used it in 1988 with his Willie Horton campaign ad. Bill Clinton’s 1994 crime bill was an effort to demonstrate that Democrats could be tough on crime. George W. Bush ran his campaign for governor of Texas using a Willie Horton-style ad, promising to be tough on crime and asserting that his opponent, Ann Richards, was soft on it.

The 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, may have tapped into it a bit when she claimed that Barack Obama was “palling around with terrorists.”

And now Trump has brought it raging back. He knows, as politicians have known before him, how white fear of violence can be exploited and used as a political tool. He has done it before, and he will do it again.

That’s the plan:

White people still, for now, are the majority of the population in this country and hold the lion’s share of the country’s power. Trump knows that if he can convince enough of them that they are under threat – that their personal safety, their way of life, their heritage, and their hold on power are in danger – they will act to protect what they have.

What do they have? They have grips. Kevin Drum lists them:

Liberals have removed prayer from schools; banned Bible studies; refused to fund Christian schools; and tried to force Christian businesses to pay for birth control.

They have supported homosexuals in our schools and in our textbooks; they push homosexuality on the rest of us via TV and movies; and they think gay marriage is perfectly normal.

They have handcuffed the police via things like the exclusionary rule and Miranda warnings; they opposed the death penalty even when crime was skyrocketing and they continue to oppose it to this day; they looked on benignly as riots and looting broke out in cities this year; and now they want to literally defund the police.

They have tried to ban handguns – failing only thanks to the NRA – and succeeded in banning so-called assault weapons; and they want to register all gun owners in a central FBI registry.

Their friends in Hollywood have turned TV and movies into rivers of filth.

They’re eager to legalize marijuana and they treat the use of hard drugs as mere “medical problems.”

They support the murder of unborn children, seemingly with no restrictions at all.

They refuse to support effective border control, allowing Mexican immigrants to flood the country; take away our jobs; and invade our culture.

Drum adds this:

All of this is more or less true. We liberals do want to separate church and state; we do support gay rights; we do support abortion rights; etc. And this strikes a lot of rural conservatives as basically depraved. Conservative politicians and conservative media turn all this stuff into a caricature, but it’s not as if it isn’t grounded in reality.

So this leaves liberals with two alternatives. First, we can figure out a way to retain our views on social issues but convince conservative voters that they aren’t a big deal and don’t represent the fall of Western civilization. Second, we can tone down our social views to make them more acceptable to moderate conservatives.

Those are our two choices, but among the activist wing of the left we’re not really willing to pursue either one of them. We mostly ignore or mock the rural conservatives, and we certainly refuse to soften our views on social issues for them. They’re just bigots, right? Then we wonder why they vote for Republicans.

And now they’re rolling into troubled cities filled with angry protesters who had enough of unarmed Black men and women being casually executed by White cops, and firing paintballs and pellet guns at these protesters, and tossing tear gas grenades at these tedious people, hoping they’ll fire back, to have it out once and for all – and Trump smiles. He wins – unless he and his informal unofficial but state-sanctioned militias, his vigilantes, his lynch mobs, his true patriots, are the tedious people here. There are rules about this sort of thing. They’re there for a reason.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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