How to Stop Children Intent on Destruction
President Trump has labeled today's protesters "anarchists," and rightly so. They stream through the streets, breaking windows, bashing cars, setting fires, blocking highways, occupying city blocks, beating up innocent bystanders, and disobeying and attacking the police. This is not the behavior of peaceful protesters who are only out to express their opinions. It is the work of anarchists bent on destruction.
The question is, what's behind this behavior? Is the violence purposeful, perhaps an effort to defund police; influence this year's presidential election; or bring about a coup at the local, state, or even national level? Or is it violence for the sake of violence?
It's impossible to get inside the minds of individual protesters, and most of those individuals are not very articulate — they can't get beyond chanting three words. So one must infer a motive based on their actions.
To begin, violent protesters have no interest in legitimate protest. They have seized on the death of George Floyd and other grievances as an excuse to engage in violence. And they are not "peaceful." They are instigating violence by attacking the police and destroying property. At the center of their thinking is violence itself. That mindset is the very definition of anarchy.
Anarchy is derived from the Greek word "anarchos," which means "having no ruler." In the absence of all authority, the anarchist can do as he likes: burning, looting, killing, and raping. Because he hates authority, the anarchist's particular target is the police and all others associated with authority. Even friendly officials such as Portland's mayor, Ted Wheeler, are despised because of the positions they hold.
Photographs of Antifa protesters show groups of black-clad, helmeted youths carrying communist-era flags and wearing backpacks filled with projectiles and other weapons. They carry signs supporting Black Lives Matter and other causes, but the more radical protesters dispense with signs altogether. They've come for one purpose alone, and it isn't protest.
The end that anarchists seek is not the mature goal of racial reconciliation, but instead the hope of greater division. From what we have seen of Antifa's actions, the word "motive" itself is far too rational to describe their behavior, which is closer to that of a four-year-old thrashing around and pounding his fists just because he wants to.
That sort of tantrum is, I believe, the real "motive" behind the actions of today's anarchists, and it would be better if media commentators labeled the protesters as exactly what they are. In the midst of the Portland violence, Joe Biden attacked President Trump, who, he said, is "determined to sow chaos and division." I thought it was the protesters who were doing that. Other Democrat leaders characterized federal officers as "storm troopers" and "Nazis." None of them, including Biden (who called the looters "peaceful protesters"), criticized Antifa. They were too busy attacking our own country.
Instead of siding with Antifa, our leaders should follow President Trump's example and treat them as criminals. Even if they are young and short on brains, violent protesters are nonetheless criminals if not felons, and they should be punished with long jail sentences. How many have been punished at all by authorities in Portland and Seattle?
Those who have read William Golding's Lord of the Flies will see a parallel here. Stranded on a Pacific island, the children depicted in Golding's novel soon become vicious when left to their own devices. Eventually, their society is controlled by the strongest and meanest of the boys, Jack, sinking to murder to get their way. In the absence of controlling authority, these preadolescent boys become a crazed mob that resembles Antifa in its actions.
Apart from the potential for violence, what stands out in Lord of the Flies is the dirt and degradation of the children. Even Ralph, the protagonist who clings to civilization, is incapable of instilling order and discipline, and Jack lures Ralph's followers away with promises of a sort of "summer of love" — free food, fun, no work, and the tacit enticement of violence. There must be hundreds of young people today drawn to the demonstrations by the same inducements — though there must be some, like the brighter boys in Golding's novel (who are all killed), who recognize that filth, destructiveness, and impulsive violence are not ennobling traits.
Like the boys of Lord of the Flies, the anarchist protesters are on holiday, so to speak, from school, work, and parental and societal control. They are not doing anything productive, yet they have the funds to travel to protests, feed themselves, and even supply themselves with weapons and other gear. Who is bankrolling these deviants? Their parents? Are they proud to spot their children on TV, dressed like young brownshirts marching through the streets of Munich threatening destruction?
Or is it George Soros? Just last month, Soros's Open Society Foundations announced a massive commitment of $220 million to black-led "racial justice" groups, the latest in Soros's longstanding funding of protests and so-called community action.
The problem is that while the protesters, on average, possess the mentality of a four-year-old, they also possess the bodies of adults, and in many cases that of a young, athletic adult. Also, they are almost all carrying backpacks that in many cases contain some kind of weapon. These are not just children, but dangerous children, and they must be met with enough force to control them.
Ideally, every anarchist protest should be surrounded with overwhelming numbers of local police who would employ whatever legitimate use of force is necessary to round up those who violate the law. Ideally, local courts would impose stiff sentences on these criminals so as to discourage further violence. Combined with a news ban on these attention-seekers, these tactics would discourage further anarchist behavior.
The reality is almost the opposite. The media are eager to focus their lenses on the anarchists, liberal politicians are pleased to use them for their own anti–law and order purposes, and the courts are quick to dismiss charges against what they mistakenly view as idealistic youths exercising their First Amendment rights. Given this treatment and attention, even more young people will join the protests.
As conservatives, what can we do? To begin, we can "turn them off." I no longer watch when anarchists appear on the news — they are not very attractive, anyway, and not worth watching for any reason. I do not listen to commentators who encourage the protests, and I won't be voting for politicians who take their side. If I lived in cities like Seattle, Chicago, or New York, I'd consider voting with my feet and moving to cities and states that are more responsible in dealing with the protests.
Finally, I will vote for President Trump and other GOP candidates in November and do everything I can to get them elected. Otherwise, we'll be in for at least four more years of this adolescent behavior. After all, President Trump is one of the few politicians at the national level who sees the protests for what they are and knows how they will turn out.
Given free rein, anarchists will only become more destructive, and they won't stop until everything has been destroyed. President Trump will stop them.
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).