Political violence then and now

The men who pulled Reginald Denny from his truck during the Rodney King riots and beat him to a pulp had no idea who Rodney King was.  They just wanted the truck.

Many of the men who stormed the Winter Palace with firearms had not a scintilla of an idea what communism was.

His Majesty King Mob had a variety of motivations for being in the streets, both in 1780 and in the 1960s, few of them good.  Many of the marauders were politically no more sophisticated than a British soccer fan seeking his "agro" by breaking heads.

Venerating the mob or yielding to their occupation — as in Seattle — only gives them legitimacy, as does the pandering of Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats, draped in culturally appropriated kente cloth.

The one aspect of riots that few want to talk about is how the proper application of force will extinguish the mob in short order.

As the military historian D.J. Goodspeed has observed, no mob, no revolt, no group of conspirators ever succeeded in overthrowing the social-political order if even a single military company was willing to judiciously use force against it.

When the 82nd and 101st Airborne were brought into Detroit in 1967, the riots ceased within some 48 hours.

Rioters have varying motivations.  It is commonplace for academics and commentators to explain riots in ethereal terms that makes sense only to intellectuals and commentators talking to one another.

In my exurban community that is a shopping hub for part of the county, some 600 rioters, from out of town, descended on our outdoor shopping mall armed with crowbars.

They targeted the most exclusive stores in the mall, as the outnumbered police failed to mobilize to stop them.  There was a holiday atmosphere to the vandalism.  And if we had asked them who George Floyd was, we would guess that at least half would have no idea.

They were having their equivalent of a shopping "agro" courtesy of luxury stores.  Apparently, the memory of George Floyd is best celebrated by running through Neiman Marcus and stealing expensive "merch."

The next day, the cops came equipped with tear gas and a police dog, sufficiently mobilized to disperse the rioters and confront those who were blocking access to the Interstate ramp.

These actions brought derogatory comments from our woke upper-middle-class residents, none of whom is an expert on string theory, but all of them suddenly experts on police tactics.

It was not the rioters who were criticized by our ever-increasingly woke citizenry.

That people drove here from some distance to vandalize and loot luxury goods stores was overlooked.  Any statement critical of them was either outright racism or a display of "white fragility," certainly a concept as meaningful as any that might come out of the academic playbook to justify the behavior of hoodlums.

While we were admonished not to make statements about the black youths who came in a caravan from Oakland and destroyed much of our shopping district, it was almost a moral obligation to criticize the police for using tear gas and a police dog to open up access to the Interstate.

The presence of a SWAT team was called "provocative," as was the tear gas use.  How the police provoked a riot by people who drove in from some twenty miles away and were armed with crowbars to loot and plunder defied explanation as it defied common sense. 

In the long, hot summers of the 1960s, riots brought calls for more police protection and swifter mobilization of force that would stop the violence and looting.

Today, the refrain is to stop riots by defunding the police.  His Majesty King Mob might not yet control the streets, but he certainly controls the thinking of Americans who are mired as much in their guilt as in their stupidity.

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a distinguished fellow with the Haym Salomon Center.