The PJ Tatler

How Riot Supporters Think

Walter Hudson has already drawn your attention to an article in Salon endorsing urban guerrilla warfare as a viable strategy for “the oppressed.”

It’s important to take articles like this very seriously. One is tempted to shrug—”well, it’s Salon“—and go on with one’s day. But Salon is not The Socialist Worker. It isn’t even what Ramparts used to be. It reaches a much wider audience, and those who read it and write for it are not solely members of obscure sects like the Revolutionary Communist Party. They are registered Democrats and independents. They are students, teachers, journalists, and the baristas at Starbucks. They’re all around.

I cannot detect any significant opposition to the article, written by Benji Hart, in the comments that follow it. Any critical comments are immediately followed by at least one other commenter who supports the article.

The basic logic used in the article is becoming standard in all arguments about racial strife, even if others fall short (for now) of Hart’s conclusion that mass violence is acceptable. As I wrote yesterday, support for rioters comes from a particular kind of thinking. This thinking sees oppression not as something that individuals do, but as a systemic process, as intricate and efficient and predictable as a Swiss watch. In this view, Person A does not oppress Person B. Rather, “society” is structured in such a way as to make any action by Person A oppressive by definition to Person B. Person B is not oppressed by a man, but by The Man.

This is a very dangerous kind of thinking. One effect is to obliterate the importance of individual characteristics. When you shift the locus of responsibility from individuals to “society,” personal morality no longer matters. If Person A works hard, obeys the law, and treats his fellow man kindly and respectfully, he is still an oppressor because of his place in The System. And if Person B robs and kills someone, he can never really be at fault, since his place in The System compels him to do what he does. Worse, if Person B works hard and obeys the law, he is a collaborator. Virtue becomes criminality; criminality becomes virtue.

Support for mass violence is the logical conclusion of this type of thinking. Once you believe that oppression is part of The System, the only way to stop oppression is by destroying The System…and there’s no way to do that without mass violence. The oppressors are not just going to let you change things peacefully, are they?

There’s no effective way to argue against this, in my experience. No statistics, no studies, no logical and rhetorical flourishes, no testimonials, no research or documentation of any kind—nothing will convince someone who has stepped onto this merry-go-round of unfalsifiable thinking. The most you can do is to point out the remorselessness of the logic and the Stygian places it usually leads…and to prep yourselves as these arguments become more common in the United States.