The Mob

Race Riot Roundup, Part 1

I’m going to continue my recent coronavirus roundup soon, but we also have some fairly fast-moving news with the George Floyd protests, so I want to take a break to offer a roundup of links and commentary on that story, too.

20th Century Lite

I’ve been speculating for a while that we’re living through 20th Century Lite: a replay of all the bad ideas and bad decisions of the last century, because we didn’t learn enough lessons from it.

In the case of the George Floyd protests, we’re getting a small-scale reprise of the turmoil involving race, civil rights, and crime in the 1950s and 60s. (And yes, it is still small-scale by comparison.)

Now, as then, there are a bunch of different things all going on at once, and it’s important to disentangle them all. There are legitimate grievances that black people have against their governments. There is the exploitation of those grievances by far-left radicals who just want to tear down the whole American system. There is the wavering of “moderates” who can’t decide whether it’s more important to address the legitimate grievances or to appease the far left. Then there is the overreaction by conservative reactionaries, who use the chaos created by the far left as an excuse to dismiss the legitimate grievances.

This perspective is pessimistic in one sense, because it shows how little our culture learned from its misadventures in the last century. In another sense, it’s optimistic because the problems are actually much smaller this time around than they used to be—and because America did in fact survive the turmoil of that previous era, so we’ll survive today.

But learning from this sure would help, so let’s see what we can figure out.

Let’s take things in the order I just gave: the legitimate grievances, the exploitation by the radicals, the wavering of the moderates, the overreaction by the conservatives. Then I’ll end by looking at what a rational response would be.

The rest of this edition is available only by e-mail to paid subscribers.

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