So Many People With Nothing Left to Lose
I came across this article that examines the protests and focuses specifically on the media narrative of violence and looting. It gives us a good jumping off point to further discuss points brought up in comments in some of the most recent essays on the protests.
In this article, the writer interviews
Darnell Hunt, the dean of social sciences at UCLA, who has done extensive research into the 1992 uprisings in Los Angeles following the acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King.
The views expressed by Hunt reflect much of my own which is why I am linking it.
Hunt takes great exception to the way the media has framed the protests as being violent and fraught with looting. This immediately creates a negative image in the public's mind that it is the protestors who are violent and all protestors are looting. This serves to promote a corporate narrative that diminishes the root causes behind the protests. (my in the quotes below)
So, of course, when violence breaks out, that becomes the lead. Looting becomes the focus. What tends to happen in the evolution of news coverage of urban unrest is an ever-deeper focus on the particulars of protesters and what they’re doing, which all too and fails to distinguish between those who are possibly peaceful protesters and others who may be participating in other activities for other reasons.
Hunt delves into the background issues behind the protests such as the pandemic, job and income loss, lack of health care, and other macro issues facing a broad spectrum of people. The killing of George Floyd was the spark behind the deep helplessness and frustration facing a broad swath of the American people.
If you look at the video coverage of what’s happening across the country, this is a multiethnic, multicultural protest in many ways, again, triggered by a specific instance of police brutality, but an instance that was the bookend to other cases of police brutality in the last few weeks and months, going back to Ahmaud Arbery in Atlanta to Breonna Taylor in Louisville. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The interview goes on to discuss the media focus on property destruction and looting. I think it is important that people understand the nuances of what is happening in that regard. Hunt breaks it down as he sees it. It bears careful reading because we all may not agree. However, my own take is that as with any large gathering or protest, some people will take advantage of the situation to engage in vandalism and looting. And such acts should not be blamed upon the protests as a whole or be used to diminish the issues behind them. Here is what Hunt has to say.
In any instance of urban unrest, you’re going to see a range of different motivations, tactics, and approaches. Some people are going to do it by the book: strictly peaceful and law-abiding through nonviolent direct action. Then there’s the response from those who believe that confronting authority figures and the police by overturning police cars and vandalizing police stations are actions that have to be done to get the attention of the system.
You also have other people who aren’t necessarily proponents of either philosophy, who see the moment as an opportunity to get ahead for whatever reason. Typically, these people feel economically marginalized and don’t have a lot to lose. People with a lot to lose don’t do things like that. That’s the fundamental underlying question.
In a recent essay posted here by snoopydawg, Creosote posted a link to a Chris Hedges recent essay published on Common Dreams. In it, Chris wrote the following in which he quoted Stokely Carmichael:
“In order for nonviolence to work, your opponent must have a conscience,” Stokely Carmichael warned. And if your opponent is bereft of a conscience, then state violence is inevitably met with counter-violence. Tyranny takes the place of reform.
The oligarchs have no conscience. We have seen that from the Congressional and Trump Administration's response to the pandemic. Trillions of dollars went to corporations and the richest people in the country who got more in total than those of us who got a measly one time check for $1,200 which was a slap in the face. Forty million people are now out of work and even more are without health insurance. Many of those jobs are gone for good.
America is a tinderbox ready to explode. People with nothing left to lose are the most dangerous people to entrenched power. The powerful have been creating a vast underclass of people for decades. This is a fact that most blacks and people of color have always known, but now a significant number of whites and most of our young people see it head on.