The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is far from over, but already it can claim its place as the worst national disaster to strike the U.S in the lifetimes of nearly everyone reading this.
More than 44 million Americans have filed for unemployment, and projections are more than 5 million could be permanently out of work as the country struggles through a rescession toward a depression.
A tiny, invisible virus has now far surpassed hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and droughts in the damage it has wrought.
People in all states have suffered, but some of the country’s largest cities have been especially hard hit both by the disease and the fallout in the wake of the disease. Riots have erupted in New York, Boston, Seattle, once peaceful Minneapolis-St. Paul, Oakland and other cities.
Black Lives Matter has become the rallying cry around which the chaos revolves, but this is about far more than black lives. This is about America at war with itself on multiple fronts.
Divisions upon divisions
The economic turmoil caused by the pandemic has loaded far more stress on those at the bottom of the country’s economic ladder than those at the top. There is no “work from home” for those who were employed in the country’s shutdown service industries – bars, restaurants, hotels, clubs, cab and Uber drivers, and more.
Efforts to protect people from the virus have further split the nation.
One faction in the country today wants the government to order everyone to wear masks to save us from the newest pandemic, but leave rioters to do what they want with the nation’s cities.
Another faction believes the government is so corrupt it’s running a pandemic scam to seize control of the populace and slap masks on everyone, but would be happy if the same government attacked people in the streets to keep them from peacefully protesting.
Many have taken to the streets in the name of Black Lives Matters – black Americans in the U.S. being, in general, the underclass of the underclass. Riots have sometimes ensued.
Maskers and anti-maskers in the 49th state sound at times ready to to resort to fisticuffs, but so far, the Alaska has avoided the fighting, looting and burning – Alaska being a state which often zigs when the rest zag.
Only two months ago, the state’s largest newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize with help from left-leaning ProPublica for a series arguing the solution to the social problems of rural Alaska – problems which are not unlike many of those of the nation’s inner cities – is to bring in an expanded legion of law enforcement.
The series helped Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, shake loose the tens of millions of dollars she’d been long trying to get the Trump administration to spend on increasing the number of police in the remote parts of the 49th state.
With that money now starting to flow north, there is a growing national drive do the opposite and “defund the police” elsewhere.
In Minneapolis, where a white policeman put his knee on the neck of black man George Floyd until Floyd died, “the Minneapolis city council has pledged to disband the city’s police department and replace it with a new system of public safety, a historic move that comes as calls to defund law enforcement are sweeping the U.S.,” The Guardian reported.
Floyd’s death fueled the growing Black Lives protests and the cry to defund police across the country.
An ABC/Ipsos poll found 55 percent of Democrats in favor of the idea with 59 percent wanting to turn the money over to mental health, housing and education programs. But overall, 64 percent of those polled opposed the idea with 34 percent supporting it. Two percent remained undecided.
Views appear to have been significantly shaped by the struggles going on in the country’s major cities, struggles the nation’s mainstream media (MSM) have wrestled to define. The MSM, which found a suitable dog whistle with references to “heavily armed protesters” in the crowds peacefully opposing Michigan’s COVID-19 lockdown in May, now wrestles with what to call the sometimes violent chaos.
“While the situation on the ground in Minneapolis is fluid, and there has been violence, it is most accurate at this time to describe what is happening there as ‘protests’ – not riots,” Craig Melvin, the news anchor for NBC’s Today Show Tweeted to network reporters and the world.
Fox News later pushed back with a story saying that “documentary filmmaker Ami Horowitz embedded himself in the Minneapolis protests-turned-riots and said the majority of protesters he spoke with supported an ‘orgy of violence,’ including ‘killing cops.'”
The story included video of Horowitz talking to protesters who said the only way to fix the nation’s problem is to burn things down. Such views have further divided an already divided nation.
Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan, a white woman, is now at odds with city police chief Carmen Best, a black woman, over six blocks of the city surrounding a police station seized by protesters and turned into the center of what is being called the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.”
“The order to essentially abandon the department’s East Precinct in Capitol Hill four days ago has been a sore spot between the two,” KOMO News reported. “Best admitted publicly to her officers that she did not give that order.”
Such sore spots are everywhere across a country that everyday looks more divided along conservative and liberal battle lines.
“I will say, having been on four combat tours in Afghanistan, I saw a lot of parallels with the shadow government in those countries,” Jesse Jensen, a Republican Congressional candidate, told KING-5 News afer touring Seattle’s autonomous zone.
President Donald Trump has threatened to send in federal troops to quell violent protests and end land grabs, but Democrats – among them the Seattle mayor – and some in the media have argued that is unconstitutional.
When Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., wrote an op-ed for the New York Times suggesting Trump employ the Insurrection Act in order to make available troops, the senator ended up in a fight with the newspaper’s reporting staff.
Cotton argued the Army was necessary to stop “nihilist criminals…simply out for loot and the thrill of destruction, with cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa infiltrating protest marches to exploit (George) Floyd’s death for their own anarchic purposes. These rioters, if not subdued, not only will destroy the livelihoods of law-abiding citizens but will also take more innocent lives.”
Times reporters claimed that troops would put “black New York Times reporters in danger,” though it wasn’t clear how. The real issue appeared to be deeper as Zack Beauchamp reported at VOX.
News organizations across the country, she said, “are really struggling to cover in a non, in a way that appears to be non-partisan, a kind of political landscape where one political party has in many ways gone rogue and is not following the rules. But their defense, if you just cover that straight down the line, you will look like you are picking sides, and so, adherence to evenhandedness, bothsidesism, the view from nowhere, doesn’t actually work in the political circumstances that we’re in.
“And what a lot of people said is that, you know, it is fine, we as a news organization must air the opinion of someone like Sen. Tom Cotton, but in a news article where we can test the facts, where we can push back, that you don’t just hand over your platform to someone that powerful making assertions that might have been unconstitutional and most certainly some of them were not accurate.
“So it is not just the New York Times, news organization have really been struggling with how do you cover where we are politically without always having to get those calls that somehow the coverage was in opposition to the Republican party.”
The statement sounded a lot like a pitch for the NYT to become a liberal Fox News to save itself the trouble of needing to respond to calls from Republicans believing themselves unfairly treated.
The media groupthink has become so twisted that Rolling Stone contributing editor Matt Taibbi was forced to observe that “we are seeing headlines previously imaginable only in The Onion (a satirical online website), e.g., ‘27 police officers injured during largely peaceful anti-racism protests in London.'”
Hannah-Jones’ comments appear symptomatic of the national divide that began growing under President Barack Obama and exploded under Trump. Endocrinologist Dr. Robert H. Lustig almost two years ago warned that we were headed here.
“Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) is ostensibly a mental condition in which persons have been driven effectively ‘insane’ due to their dislike of Donald Trump to the point at which they abandon all logic and reason,” he wrote at Medpage Today.
“Many have remarked that Trump operates out of his “lizard brain“….I would argue that Trump has turned our brains reptilian.”
Lustig went on to outline the hormonal, chemical changes in the body triggered by fear and selfishness, and ended by observing that “many of us have now become Trump.
“The more dopamine and cortisol, the more we lose our ability to discern truth from post-truth, the more irritable we become, and the more we abandon our cognitive control and with little regard for the consequences.”
It is easy to blame Trump for all of this, but he is not alone. The “Trump resistance movement” formed even before Trump was sworn into office and promptly accused him of the treasonist act of conspiring with Russian leader Vladimir Putin to steal the election.
That eventually led to the House of Representatives impeaching Trump and the U.S. Senate clearing him. Along the way, the few gestures toward reconciliation offered by Trump invariably blew up, and the newly elected president became more and more confrontational by the day.
He eventually began to spend an inordinate amount of time locked in a Twitter storm war of words with enemies real and imagined. And that was before the deadly disease called COVID-19 spawned by the SARS-CoV-2 virus scared the beejusus out of much of the world and upended the economic forces that serve to stabilize societies.
Prescription for a riot
The pandemic was like adding heroin to the cocaine to create a speedball, “often referred to as ‘dynamite,’ (or) ‘whizbang’ as Canadian researchers put it.
Mix this social dynamite with large numbers of out-of-work young people, and it’s no surprise the country ended up with urban streets full of angry mobs of protesters who could care less that their intermingling increased the odds of catching COVID-19.
When the left-leaning Guardian and The London School of Economics and Politics examined the 2011 London riots, which eventually spread across much of the United Kingdom, they noted that the protests were driven by students and other young people, almost 60 percent of whom were unemployed.
And in that case, as in this case with the problems that have sprung up across the U.S. since Floyd’s death and the charges of murder levied against the police officer who killed him, the uprising was born of a rebellion against law enforcement – the most obvious controlling arm of the ruling class in any society.
“The main findings from the first phase of the study are:
- “Widespread anger and frustration at people’s every day treatment at the hands of police was a significant factor in the summer riots in every major city where disorder took place. Of the 270 people interviewed, 85 percent said policing was an ‘important’ or ‘very important’ factor in why the riots happened.
- “At the heart of problematic relations with the police was a sense of a lack of respect as well as anger at what was felt to be discriminatory treatment. The focus of much resentment was police use of stop and search, which was felt to be unfairly targeted and often undertaken in an aggressive and discourteous manner.
- “Gangs behaved in an entirely atypical manner for the duration of the riots, temporarily suspending hostilities with their postcode rivals. The effective four-day
truce applied to towns and cities across England. However, on the whole the role of gangs in the riots has been significantly overstated.
- “Although mainly young and male, those involved in the riots came from a cross section of local communities. Just under half of those interviewed in the study
were students. Of those who were not in education, 59 percent were unemployed. Although half of those interviewed were black, those involved did not consider these ‘race riots.’
- “Many rioters conceded their involvement in looting was simply down to
opportunism, saying that a perceived suspension of normal rules presented them
with an opportunity to acquire goods and luxury items they could not ordinarily
afford. They often described the riots as a chance to obtain ‘free stuff.’
- “The evidence suggests rioters were generally poorer than the country at large. Analysis of more than 1,000 court records suggests 59 percent of the England
rioters come from the most deprived 20 percent of areas in the UK. Other analysis carried out by the Department for Education and the Ministry of Justice on young riot defendants found 64 percent came from the poorest fifth of areas – and only 3 percent came from the richest fifth.
- “Rioters identified a number of other motivating grievances, from the increase
in tuition fees, to the closure of youth services and the scrapping of the education maintenance allowance. Many complained about perceived social and economic injustices. Anger over the police shooting of Mark Duggan, which triggered the initial disturbances in Tottenham, was repeatedly mentioned – even outside London.”
As in England then, those protesting and rioting in the U.S. now are both black and white. The first man arrested in connection with the torching of the Minneapolis police station after rioting in that city was a blonde-haired, white man – 23-year-old Branden Wolfe from nearby St. Paul.
After Floyd’s death, Wolfe – who tagged himself as mr_wolfe_alpha on Instagram – posted there that “now there’s a brother dead, and I can’t get that image out of my head.” Wolfe is alleged to have subseqently joined the rioting and then helped to loot and burn down the Minneapolis police station.
In the days that followed the Minneapolis precinct fire, a Federal Protective Service officer, a black man, was shot and killed outside the U.S. courthouse in Oakland during a Floyd-related protest. He is now believed to have been attacked by 32-year-old U.S. Air Force Sgt. Steven Carrillo, an active duty military police officer. Carrillo’s race is unclear, but he is either white or Hispanic.
He was arrested after a shoot-out with Santa Cruz police in which Carrillo is alleged to have killed yet another police officer. The San Jose Mercury News linked Carrillo to Boogaloo, a libertarian anti-government movement that claims to be preparing for a civil war in the United States.
Carrillo apparently disliked the Republican-Democrat “duopoly” which has run the country for decades. The Boogaloo group is sometimes portrayed as far right, but it appears to be closer to where the far right and far left meet on the dark side.
“Protest for support and solidarity of Minneapolis, and the George Floyd protesters,” one of the group’s entities posted on Facebook.” “Mr Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis last weekend by the Minneapolis Police Department. The time for solidarity is now. We must set aside our differences, and unite against a common enemy in the police state.”
Noyes also grabbed a screen shot of an “Early Warning Signs of Fascism” poster from the Holocaust Muesum that was reported to have popped up on Carrillo’s Facebook page just before his last gun battle with police. The signs warns of:
- Powerful and continuing nationalism
- Disdain for human rights
- Identification of enemies as a unifying cause
- Supremacy of the military
- Rampant sexism
- Controlled mass media
- Obsession with national security
- Corporate power protected
The polar opposite of facism, in which the state controls everything, is anarchy, in which the state controls nothing. Democracies, most of which have survived for relatively short times, have always struggled with where to draw the line between these two extremes.
SARS-CoV-2 seems to be making the struggle even harder in the U.S. by the day.
This a revised version of an earlier story. It was updated to add the observations of Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi and edited to clarify the process of impeachment.