[Baltimore: Yet another Community Victim of Anarchy]
Mass riots are becoming the new normal in the USA. Watching the public lawlessness spread from city to city throughout the USA each night on the evening news is now common place. Rioting has landed this past week in Baltimore, Maryland. The Baltimore riots, with television cameras rolling makes all of us become eye witnesses to events that have nothing to do with Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin or any of other names central to alleged cause of riots in Baltimore, Maryland; Ferguson, Missouri or Sanford, Florida. In fact looting, arson and similar outbursts have nothing to do with civil rights and more than likely are much less spontaneous than they appear.
Many of my generation, popularly referred to as the baby-boomers witness legitimate civil rights movements in action in buses filled with “freedom riders”, and in sit ins of segregated facilities and in somber marches in places such as Selma and Montgomery Alabama. Always peaceful and purposeful, those demonstrations gave rise to a sea change in the USA. Martin Luther King’s moving words about his “dream” became the new norm in the USA and led dramatic legal changes in the name of civil rights by the end of the 1960’s. Desegregation and equal rights amendments became the new norm.
However, the scenario of recent events across the USA in 2015 is quite different from any of those lofty and principles that led to much needed change. Many of the faces of rioters in Ferguson and Baltimore are eerily the same giving rise to concern that an itinerant gang of anarchist thugs is operating in the USA. Could it be that anarchist thugs have mobilized themselves so as to quickly move onto the scene in hotspots where a black person has died resulting from police actions? Freddiie Grey, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown all happened to be young black men who died violent death. In each case, rather than allowing the justice system and the courts to weigh evidence and determine guilt of innocence, we watched a similar plot unfold repeatedly. In each case, we begin with local crowds made up of not only blacks but anyone concerned about injustice. Usually, within a span of less than 72 hours, these valid concerns have each time escalated into terrorist activity. The entire fabric of the USA Constitution and the Courts has been brushed aside by looting arson and open insurrection.
Many of us can observe another eerie similarity between these riots and the “Occupy” movement that attempted to dispense anarchy in major cities everywhere. Those similarities run deeper than simple strategies into actual tactics. While watching a CNN news updates from Ferguson or in Baltimore the “Occupy” tactic of employing the human microphone. The “human microphone” technique used at Occupy Wall Street’s general assembly meetings to amplify speakers’ voices without the aid of a sound system. Protesters started repeating en mass every few words a speaker would say . The Human Microphone nicely reinforces the protesters’ messages of community, horizontalism, and strength in numbers. That same tactic eventually became standard operating practice for numerous anarchist demonstrations and activities under the “Occupy” banner.
An interesting aside to the “human microphone” is that the instigator’s words become the audience’s words by way of process. Each participant thus buys into the speaker’s words and can legitimately claim that those words are his/her words as well. Such techniques of crowd manipulation are much more sophisticated than what would be expected from a rag-tag gang of rabble rousers. When a speaker’s words become mantra we have a phenomenon with huge potential being created. The stirring words of Martin Luther King when he spoke in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963 echoed the aspirations of wonderful leaders who preceded Dr. King such as Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Frederick Douglas to name a few. It seems that true leaders (such as King) succeed by way of following. To my knowledge, Dr. King never resorted to brainwashing tactics such as the “human microphone”. Such tactics were more the operating style of other movements operating at the same time. Certainly the workings of the Black Panthers have great deal more in common with the events at Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland. I suspect that King, Parks et al would weep today to observe civil rights movement and causes being co-opted by wanton anarchy.
It may well be that each of us needs to accept a bit of responsibility as we watch property burning and looting take place. We may all have become too tolerant of the new wave of vigilante that roams the streets, taunts authority and erodes the central values of a great society made up of all races. Once lawlessness becomes acceptable, we all lose. The message being delivered by these mobs is that the police, the governments and the courts are not to be trusted. It leaves us to a paradoxical situation. Who then should be trusted?
It may be time for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI in the USA) and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS here in Canada) to begin identifying leaders of these itinerant thug groups that attach themselves to situations such the events in Ferguson and Baltimore and physically culling such people out of the public stream so as to protect all of us. Terrorism has no race and certainly has no nationality. It is fair to say that the workings of such groups represent a far more present threat to the general well being of North American Society than equally evil organizations such as al-Qaeda. At the end of the day, all terrorist organization share similar tactics. A full scale study of terrorist strategy and tactics was carried out by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The MIT study helps us understand that terrorists are not a crazy unorganized cadre of extremists who commit indiscriminate acts of violence, without any larger goal beyond revenge or a desire to produce fear in an enemy population.
Terrorism works not simply because it instills fear in target populations but because the civility of its targets (countries or societies) precludes simply cutting the head off the snake and ending such threats before they escalate. The wide spread fear that terrorist actions create an undeserved legitimacy for the espoused aims of terrorists – either foreign or domestic.