How Portland’s violent protests are destroying the focus on social justice

portland riotPortland Oregon is a showcase for how a strongly focused international protest related to “Black Lives Matter” social justice issues can be derailed, obscured, and eventually derided by mobs of barking-mad lunatics enjoying an adrenalin rush.

The street theatre, mayhem, chaos and stupidity that defines the insanity unfolding on the streets of Portland might as well be a script written for the re-election of President Donald Trump.

As of July 22 there have been 55 days of consecutive violent protests in the city of Portland Oregon. As the New York Times reports, “In court documents, the federal government has said protesters have committed “vandalism, destruction of property, looting, arson and assault.” A Molotov cocktail was thrown on May 28, according to court papers, and security cameras on federal buildings have been vandalized. One protester was accused of pushing a glass door on July 2, causing the glass to break and injure a deputy marshal.

Again, from the New York Times, “With no clear leaders or blueprints, the demonstrators have largely embraced a strategy of spontaneous consensus, which follows the whims of the crowd and, sometimes, the resolutions of their internal disagreements — such as whether fire is an appropriate addition to their protest (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/22/us/portland-protest-tactics.html).

What this rag-tag, hyper-ventilating, leaderless group has done very successfully in Portland is dramatically shift what has been an expanding conversation about race, social justice, and the structure of policing in America, spurred on by visible but peaceful protest, into a demand for law and order and public safety. Check out what people in the proximity of Portland have shifted their Google searches for (below).

portland riots vs system racism

The search for information (follow the red line) about “Portland riots” surges dramatically over the past days and weeks while Google searches for the term “systemic racism” sinks to new lows. Now the important thing is that this evidence of a dramatic focus shift is limited to especially Oregon as well as Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.  In bordering Washington State, home to its own now-cooling street violence, “Portland riots” show equal interest through Google searches. But in New York, Chicago and most other areas of America Portland riots don’t even appear as blip of public interest with the focus still on systemic racism and police restructing. For now.

There is a long-studied, solid ground of research showing that the moment a peaceful or even disruptive public protest turns violent public support for the initial cause is lost and interest becomes captured by fires and fights (see my Protest Pivot Point below).

protest pivot point

So here’s the formula for a Trump re-election. Have the gaggle of anti-this and anti-that but pro-nothing miscreants create a state of national civil war throughout American cities by turning legitimate, focused protests into battlegrounds of disorder, violence, and mayhem striking fear into most residents. Give Trump no choice but to set off a neutron-bomb of Twitter attacks spreading wider and faster than Covid-19 (remember Covid-19?).

Next have Trump send in federal law enforcement “troops” to be the called-for defender of law and order in America, thereby causing the inevitable over reaction by the violent yahoos, resulting in more public fear for safety and security and a vote for “Keep America Safe.”

Working pretty good so far.

 

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