If you want to enact structural change within a society, short of an armed coup, what is the best method? It seems there is a group that, on the surface, believes that riots, looting, violence, and intimidation are the most practical tools available. But is this the reality of what we are seeing in the recent riots by Black Lives Matter and Antifa? Do they genuinely believe that the change they ostensibly want can be ushered in through demands of submission and conformity, or is there another aspect that a media afraid to face the facts is deliberately ignoring?
From the dawn of history, the human race has known how to mete out violence. Sometimes justified, sometimes for petty gain, but it is a trait that has arguably shaped the historical record far more than any other. The capacity for violence is in our blood. Yet there is also an element of voyeurism for violent spectacle.
Violence as Entertainment and Release
The gladiatorial events of past ages indicate that watching violence enacted in front of us is a crowd-pleaser. One could argue that we lived in more brutal times, or that the societies that paid cold cash to watch the fighters in the Colosseum were not as civilized as today. But then remember the newsroom adage: If it bleeds, it leads.
We have to ask a very simple question: Do the rioters believe their political demands will be met by burning down their own neighborhoods? It would take a pretty poor intellect to accept this as likely, so there must be something else. Is it possible that like the Romans of old, they want to engage in direct destruction for the sheer sake of it? Or perhaps they enjoy the spectacle element of such chaos?
It’s worth looking at the attitude that we have as a modern society towards violence. Ask any civilized person, and they will likely trot out a pat answer that violence is the last resort – that violence is wrong – almost as though it had been drummed into them since kindergarten. But then look to our cultural tastes to spot the lie in denial.
Millions of people pay good money to watch boxing matches. Even more fork over cash to watch exciting action movies that nowadays seem to be a series of set pieces – explosions, fistfights, gunfights – strung together with a thin veneer of story and flimsy characters. But perhaps most telling is a franchise that is as popular as it is captivating: The Purge.
This 2013 movie, created by James DeMonaco, began life as a low budget horror tale of an American dystopia. It has spawned sequels galore and even a successful TV series. The plot describes a fictional future where in order to deal with crime, violence, and the like, the government allows one night a year where all crime is permitted. From murder to torture to theft and sex crimes, the citizens are encouraged to exercise their right to purge.
But what precisely is this “purging”? The premise is that we each have an inbuilt mass of violence that needs to be expiated through a releasing surge of aggression, and it makes some sense, especially when we consider the world being created around us. Consider this: would this kind of movie have been so stupendously successful if it were made in the 1940s or ’50s?
That generation had lived through a war, it had seen violence and bloodshed, and no one was left unaffected. It seems that they didn’t need the added thrill of simulated violence. But now we have safe spaces and an easily-assembled social media mob to join. If we don’t like someone’s opinion, we can have them canceled, punished, and in fear for their lives without ever having to leave the comfort of a parent’s basement. Yet these keyboard warriors are missing something. And perhaps that is that they don’t have a real challenge to face.
Of course, some would argue that there is systemic racism, discrimination, or any other ism that happens to be the cause du jour, but a stark and frank look shows us that while discrimination exists in some areas, there is nothing systemic about it. Point to a law that discriminates against people for the color of their skin. Point to a politician who suggests that, because of a person’s sex, they are inferior or less deserving of equal rights. They just aren’t there.
Truculent and angry souls are left itching, then, for a generational battle against an enemy that does not exist – and so they base their demands on false outrage and indignation. It is no wonder that we see so many examples of the mob attempting to force private citizens to murmur “black lives matter” or to raise their fists in solidarity.
The Cowardice of the Mob
It appears this is naught but a case of cowardice. Show me an individual, one man, or one woman standing against the crowd for what they believe, and you see courage and bravery. But when five, twenty or a hundred shout at and abuse an individual, all I see are cowards. These mobs are bullies that use the power of mobs to demand obedience and obsequiousness.
Perhaps the protestors do not really seek to rebalance social justice, but rather to expiate their own feelings of inadequacy. Maybe they are just bullies seeking power over others while lacking the courage to go it alone.
They seek to make victims of the individual through the tyranny of the mob. But there are brave people out there who will stand up to them. There are people of moral character and conviction who will not kneel, will not mumble sycophantic phrases under duress. And it is in these brave warriors that our future will be assured.
Read more from Mark Angelides.