Posted on November 11, 2020

For Five Months, BLM Protestors Trashed America’s Cities. After the Election, Things May Only Get Worse

Mike Gonzalez, Quillette, November 3, 2020

This week marks the first time in living memory that widespread violence was widely viewed as a foreseeable, and even expected, outcome of an American national election. The votes are being counted just days after riots broke out in Philadelphia, causing the governor to deploy the National Guard in the largest city of a key battleground state. Since June, in fact, such scenes have been a common phenomenon in dozens of American cities.

The Transition Integrity Project (TIP), a group that has opposed Donald Trump, ran simulations that foresee disruptions caused by pro-Trump actors. “During TIP’s exercises, Team Biden almost always called for and relied on mass protests to demonstrate the public’s commitment to a ‘legitimate outcome,’ with the objective of hardening the resolve of Democratic elected officials,” the group (somewhat predictably) reported.

On the other side of the spectrum, the Texas Public Policy Center (TPPC) and the Claremont Institute cast TIP’s prediction as a “candid admission of the high likelihood of Team Biden encouraging street demonstrations that might spiral out of control.” The Claremont-TPPC’s own simulation concluded that left-wing street violence was a near-certainty, and accused TIP organizers of coordinating strategically with Black Lives Matter and Antifa.


{snip} In the current media environment, left-of-center actors who claim to represent the cause of the oppressed are granted more moral license to use violence as a political tool.

In September, two reports were published—one shedding light on the methods and beliefs of Black Lives Matter activists, and the other analyzing the possibility that such violence will not only be sustained in coming months, but get worse.

Neither report has received much in the way of media attention, which is unfortunate, because the information they contain shows that the threat of violence won’t end with the election of a new president. {snip}

US Crisis Monitor, which receives support from Princeton University, represents a collaboration between the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) and the Bridging Divides Initiative (BDI). It self-describes as a novel project that “provides the public with real-time data and analysis on political violence and demonstrations in the United States.”

In a recent report, “Demonstrations & Political Violence In America: New Data For Summer 2020,” two ACLED researchers, Dr. Roudabeh Kishi and Sam Jones, concluded that “the United States is at heightened risk of political violence and instability going into the 2020 general election,” but laid the blame for this mostly on the police. The authors’ analysis indicated that only six percent of the demonstrations that took place in the four months following George Floyd’s death had ended in riots, which is presented as good news.

But six percent of a big number is a big number. While it may be true, as the authors announce prominently on the second page of their report, that “over 10,100 of the [10,600-plus demonstration events]—or nearly 95 percent—involve[d] peaceful protesters,” that leaves more than 500 events that involved violence. Buried inside the ACLED report, as enterprising journalist Joy Pullmann of theFederalist discovered, are numbers indicating that “of the 633 incidents coded [by the ACLED authors] as riots, 88 percent are recorded as involving Black Lives Matter activists. Data for 51 incidents lack information about the perpetrators’ identities. BLM activists were involved in 95 percent of the riots for which there is information about the perpetrators’ affiliation.”

This confirmed what an informed American could already have inferred—that the demonstrations and subsequent violence were less spontaneous than the media let on, and were connected to the explicitly radical political beliefs embraced by the most prominent groups. Even the New York Times conceded in July that “one of the reasons there have been protests in so many places in the United States is the backing of organizations like Black Lives Matter,” and “while the group isn’t necessarily directing each protest, it provides materials, guidance and a framework for new activists.”


Another report published in September, “Network-Enabled Anarchy: How Militant Anarcho-Socialist Networks Use Social Media to Instigate Widespread Violence Against Political Opponents and Law Enforcement,” was produced by a group of seven authors, three of them affiliated with the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI) at the Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience at Rutgers University (though, Joel Finkelstein, the lead author, also works for the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton). As compared with the ACLED report, the NCRI report relies more heavily on objective data analysis; and the authors don’t seek to present the data in a way that obscures the role of BLM or other groups.

Socialist and anarchist groups have created a growing online structure that serves to support violence, especially against law-enforcement, the authors conclude. Their data indicate that “the appearance of posts with anti-police outrage and/or memes and coded language increased over 1,000% on Twitter and 300% on Reddit in recent months during social justice protests.” In Seattle, groups with a radicalized collectivist agenda even managed to carve out a de facto autonomous zone for several weeks, before it collapsed into chaos and violent crime.

Common themes in the emerging constellation of radical groups include apocalyptic beliefs, a “utopian” political agenda, martyr narratives, and a cell-based organizational structure. “Many of the features of anarcho-socialist extremism seem to parallel the key tactical structures documented in libertarian-anarchist and Jihadi extremism,” they note, including the “use of memes, cloistering in fringe and private online forums, and organizing militias… These data hint that insurgent behavior, stochastic terror and even attacks on vital infrastructure may be fomenting, and even indicate the possibility of a mass-casualty event.”