Posted on June 1, 2020

First, Restore Order

The Editors, National Review, May 31, 2020

Doing evil in the service of a just cause does not change either side of the moral equation: Evil remains evil, and the just cause remains just — neither consideration cancels out the other or transmutes it. With riots and violence convulsing American cities after the horrifying death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, that principle bears consideration.

Protests are a normal and healthy part of democracy. Looting and arson are not. What is particularly vexing here is that the looting and arson are taking place while the gears of justice are turning — the police officers in question were dismissed and the principal malefactor charged with third-degree murder. Things have not moved as quickly as many would have liked, but this has been a matter of days, not weeks or months. {snip}

The riots only layer another injustice on top of the one done to George Floyd. One police officer is dead, at least one looter is dead, and much property has been destroyed — including the property of many black-owned businesses at the heart of the very communities whose interests the protesters purport to represent.


Restoring order should be the first priority. The dynamic of riots is always that if the police don’t show up, if they hold back, or worse, if they retreat, the disorder gets more intense and destructive. Violence must be met with overwhelming (and, obviously, lawful) force. {snip}

It’s certainly true that “Antifa” extremists have taken a hand in the destruction around the country (and sometimes been rebuked by black protesters opposed to their tactics), but there are plenty of others breaking things and looting who clearly are local residents and not members of any ideological splinter groups. {snip}


At the heart of the protests is the sense that the necessity of such reform is felt with an urgency in black America while white America thinks of it as a kind of desirable abstraction. But the burning and stealing will not only leave vulnerable communities worse off in material terms — they will leave these communities worse off in political terms, too, as well-intentioned Americans understandably recoil from the violence and disorder. Protests can be heard, but violence can only be suppressed.

It is notable that the police action leading to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has not in itself produced a polarizing national disagreement: In fact, there has been broad agreement — broadly shared horror — across the political spectrum. {snip}