The “Freddie Gray” riots that are sweeping across Baltimore represent one of those moments for right-wingers—moments that are ostensibly nightmares but secretly fantasies. The images—resembling apocalyptic scenes from recent zombie films—are what we’ve always feared, and always been waiting for. These are the moments when race—and not just race but man’s primal instincts and hatreds—break into our Twitter feeds and into the usually innocuous CNN reports overheard at airports. Things got real all of a sudden.
The right-wingers who are most horrified/fascinated are not just racialists but, in fact, “conservatives” who exist within the bounds of respectability, and who actually have much more to gain by events like the one we are witnessing, at least in the short term. And there are, of course, analogues among the revolutionary Left, for whom the Baltimore riots are also a nightmare/fantasy—representing that moment when “the people” (represented by the Black underclass) rise up against exploitative capitalism and its fascist enforcers, the police.
Those who are on the edge of their seats watching the riots often subscribe (consciously or not) to what I’ve called the “Howard Beale Theory of History.” The reference is, of course, to Network, the classic dark satire of mass media from 1976, and to Beale’s famous monologue—“I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”
According to Bealean logic, “as time goes on, things keep getting worse. . . .
taxes, gays, illegal immigrants, philandering politicians, race hustlers, und so weiter . . . One day, it is assumed, a tipping point will be reached: decent folks will get fed up, and they will . . . they will . . . we’re never told exactly what they’ll do. Restore the Constitution? Kick the bums out? White Revolution? Pastor David Manning predicts that, at some point, red-blooded, God-fearing White people will get so angry that they will violently riot. (The Pastor will join them.)
Baltimore, it is assumed by Bealeans of the Right and Left, will change the game: Whites will become racially conscious . . . or, alternatively, Blacks and non-Whites will wake up to economic and social inequality . . . Whites will begin organizing around their collective interest, or the Black underclass will lead a movement for an alternative to capitalism . . . and so on.
The problem for Right and Left Bealeans is that they underestimate the system, more specifically the system’s ability to absorb and assimilate events like the Baltimore riots, and to present solutions to its own problems.
In the summer of 2011, London experienced riots that were just as “racialized” as this week’s events and were, in fact, more violent and much more symbolic. Baltimore is a relatively sleepy big city, one bogged down by its squalid Black sections, where no one, including Blacks, want to live. London is not only Britain’s capital but is a world economic center and the former head of an overseas empire. It was thus perfectly placed as a symbol of racial and historical revenger or Western civilization under siege, depending on your perspective.
What’s most remarkable is the speed at which the London riots flew down the memory hole.
Today, Britain is on the verge of electing a man as Prime Minister, Ed Miliband, who is several notches beyond Tony Blaire into postmodern, post-Left “Cool Britannia.” In other words, the riots—which, one would think, would have rubbed the public’s face in the reality of race, Islam, immigration, welfare, and more—didn’t affect the trajectory of British society and culture in the slightest.
What are the “lessons” that White people will learn after watching the Baltimore riots unfold on Facebook or their television screens? Mostly they are lessons they already know.
- Stay away from Black neighborhoods. Move to the suburbs or the expensive, gentrified sections of big cities, like Dupont Circle or Lower Manhattan.
- Placate the rioters with new federal goodies, like “opportunity zones,” affirmative-action admissions and hiring, or simply cash.
- Maintain the civic religion of individualism and equality as a good-will gesture towards those people you never want to get anywhere close to.
So many American racialists—as well as millions of American Whites—view scenes from Baltimore much as they do Internet pornography. It is a chance to indulge in primitive, outré misbehavior, safely from afar. Moreover, the American racialist movement, which loves to hate race riots like this one, has a tendency to develop a negative consciousness and, ultimately, a negative identity: We do not misbehave; we do not engage in violence and crime; put bluntly, White identity means not being a nigger.
A movement that will change the world is not a movement of “not”—nor is it one that patiently waits for hoodlums to burn the world down so that utopia can commence. Movements that change the world are based on identity, a vision of the future, and a will to enact it. That is the movement we must become.