The Forest is Already Burning

The Joker From Batman overlaid a bunch of proud boys fighting and a forest fire in the background

After 17 year old Kyle Rittenhouse shot and killed 2 protesters and wounding a third in Kenosha, Wisconsin at a Black Lives Matter protest. I started seeing many different arguments between various people online about the numerous different variables in the case, but in my opinion they’re all missing the crux of the situation that’s upstream.

I’m quickly learning that arguing about the justification of most shootings are just a waste of time. Our understanding of justification of a shooting has become such a binary assessment of the situation that people are always going to have varying levels of what they perceive to be a threat. You can show 2 people the same video and they can walk away with two completely different takes. People will often hypothesize scenarios in their head in order justify their view in a series of what ifs, rather than deal about the case at hand. Some people, they know, but they just don’t care. Other’s simply think it’s justifiable to paralyze a man who doesn’t listen to a cop’s instructions. I know a giant stone and a endless hill when I see one.

Other arguments will trickle down into the constitution when someone brings the founders and their intent. Because of that, we all suddenly jump into a wormhole and then argue about originalism, literalism, aspirational, doctrinal or anything else unrelated to the original situation at hand.

Some bark off as if they’re the Beatles, shouting about how he’s just 17 and then it simply becomes about his age. I’m not saying that a 17 year old having access to an AR-15 is an acceptable situation, but if the main issue you have with this could be resolved if his mother only had sex a few months later, then I’m going to have to tell you that you are missing the forest for the trees. I’m not saying these aren’t important issues that we shouldn’t absolutely try and resolve as a society, but right now these issues are all different fruit of the same tree.

This is about radicalization and polarization of our society. This is about the widespread acceptance and normalization of violence that is the smoke filling the tent. This is about how a 17 year old boy and his mother, both felt justified that it was their duty and responsibility to arm themselves and drive to a protest and inject themselves into the situation and because of that 2 people are now dead. There have always been lone wolves, there are always outliers of violence that have been hard to account for, but this is different, this is the mainstream normalization of it.

We’re in a tent arguing about smoke. We’re arguing about what if its from the campfire or if its something worse. We’re telling stories about how smoke was originally used years ago and how bad it was. We’re fighting with each other about what to do if there was in fact smoke all the while the forest is already burning.

This week, I’ve seen people conclude that the shooting was completely justified because of self defense, but he shouldn’t have been there. Then I see people claim that he was wrong to shoot those people, but they were all bad anyway so it’s not a big deal. Then I see other people claim that the protests are getting bad enough, that he was fully justified in going there to protect a business, but acted like a fool when he was there. Then I see other people claim that its getting so bad and that the governor and mayor are refusing federal help where Kyle HAD to go there. If I get the all appropriate people in a room, all of their seemingly isolated conservative viewpoints can all come together and construct a Proto-Fascist Vigilante Megazord™ that can fully justify the deadly actions of Kyle Rittenhouse from start to finish while exaggerate the risk and also completely disregard the constitutional rights of protesters. How do you get those people off of the bench and into that giant robot? Just turn the heat up on fear.

What do you need to turn up the heat on that fear? A media driven by sensationalism due to the competitive market that news is forced to inhabit. No one wants to report on a demonstration of everyone singing Kumbaya and going home, violence and chaos sells. Multiply that with social media virality that drives much of the world’s reporting and it grows to become even more egregious. Do nothing to regulate social media total control over massive contol over millions of people’s worldview and you have all the ingredients for the collapse of a state.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t violence connected to the protesters. Here in Long Beach a building a few blocks from my apartment was torched back in June. That same night, there was widespread damage that occurred at the Pike in downtown Long Beach too. The way we interface is such a hurdle now because someone like myself can agree with some of the larger reasonable goals at reevaluating police budgets, eliminating qualified immunity, ending asset forfeiture, and other reforms, but now due to the overly ignorant and simplistic way we approach ideas and cannot disconnect them from others, now one has to be compelled to endorse all of the actions of the far most fringe. I can easily denounce violence, rioting, and looting, especially when the state does it. I have no problem making that prioritization because we already have a solution for the guy throwing a rock through a small business, but what is our solution when the state abuses its power?

Who Going to Be The 100th Monkey?

The hundredth monkey effect is a hypothetical phenomenon in which a new behavior or idea is said to spread rapidly by unexplained means from one group to all related groups once a critical number of members of one group exhibit the new behavior or acknowledge the new idea. In 1979, scientists in the Kojima island in Japan observed a very small group of monkeys begin to learn to wash wild sweet potatoes in the ocean before eating, this behavior led to food and other behavior changes and slowly more and more monkeys began to catch on. As soon as a critical number was reached, i.e., the hundredth monkey, than the behavior rapidly spread across the monkey population and even spread to separate islands. This is because that initial washing, allowed the monkeys to become less fearful of the water and many scientists theorize that enabled some to swim between the islands and culturally spread that technique. Basically, you don’t need to radicalize everyone, you just need to radicalize the commentators or influencers.

This is happening. Ann Coulter tweeted that she wanted Kyle Rittenhouse as president to her 2 million followers. Aubrey Huff, formerly of the San Francisco Giants tweeted that Kyle was a “national treasure” to his over two hundred thousand followers. Tucker Carlson channeled his inner Lewis Prothero and openly commended Kyle and claimed that he “decided to maintain order when no one else would.” Did I mention Tucker Carlson has the most watched cable “news” in the US? Did you see a Christian fundraiser was able to raise over $250,000 from over 6000 donations for him? We often times look to our leaders in these times as an anchor away from these radical trends and as the main entity tasked with uniting us, but what do we get? The President of The United States insisting that cops be a little more rough with suspects. Just a stroll down his twitter feed is just a trough of repeated incitements of violence. Who is going to be that hundredth monkey?

This is a Weimar redux, similarly to the pre-Nazi Germany of the Weimer Republic, the two political sides have split further and as the government swings hard to the right, any attempt at creating a united opposition is undermined by the violence of anyone portrayed to be connected to it whether legitimately or falsely. Don’t forget that the first fire started during the Minneapolis riots after was started by a white supremacist Hell’s Angel member at AutoZone. Trump has positioned himself as the Law and Order candidate this election and has cemented himself along law enforcement. That creates this dynamic that if the spin is effective enough Trump actually will gain support as the violence increases, Kellyanne Conway is open about it too since they will be painted in partisan light. Trump’s response to the violence in Kenosha was the same spin. Violence by his supports will be justified, because of how bad the violence is and the violence against his supporters will be cited as further proof of the violence. If only I could explain this liberal democracy reactor overload like Jared Harris explained the fission reactor overload like in the last episode of Chernobyl, but we have reached the point with all the bad cards on the wall.

It’s very easy for someone to profit off of violence in our current state. Just get a lil’ fire going, take a growing unrest in society at law enforcement, add widespread unemployment further compounded upon by a pandemic that has already killed over 180,000 people. Add evictions, add an abysmal reopening strategy throughout education, this all leads to more desperation, conflict, chaos. Mix that with a President whose worlds emboldens the police and whose justice department isn’t showing any interest in reforms. You start to see a complimentary relationship there. Cops can crush the protests and feel emboldened because the DOJ wont come knocking now. Protests continue, outliers on both sides begin to escalate violence further and further, shooting here, shooting there, it all keeps growing. While some are moralistically comparing flames. Add in all the influencers and commentators radicalizing their bases through their ideological lenses. Allow some other logs to be thrown in from foreign intelligence and you have quite the chaotic fire going.

Every act of violence is a spark that jumps between trees, spreading the fire further and further through the forest of our liberal democracy. The forest has been dry, the conditions are at worst case scenario. There are some that may have started small fires with flicks of a cigarette, and sometimes campfires can be the cause to something bigger. Over the last 20 years I’ve started paying attention to things in our society, I’ve seen some fires here and there and I’ve seen people come together and put them out when they pop up, but over the last few years, I’ve been hearing nothing fireworks coming from the deeper in the forest.

There have been big fires in the past that we have been able to overcome together, but, but if I’m totally honest, right now the forest is on fire larger than I have ever seen in my entire life and if I’m being honest, we should be skeptical of the guy who’s trying to sell water while at the same time also running a firework stand.