Vox: Riots Are Bad, But They Can to Lead to Changes for the Good!

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Vox was, well, being Vox on Monday morning as criminal justice and LGBTQ writer German Lopez ruled in a piece entitled “Riots are destructive, dangerous, and scary — but can lead to serious social reforms” that he doesn’t condone destruction of property like what was seen in Baltimore, Ferguson, and Milwaukee, but there are benefits from “a serious attempt” by rioters to “forc[e] change after years of neglect by politicians, media, and the general public.”

Somehow, Lopez gave tacit support for this behavior over the course of over 2,300 words and ignored the reality that many large cities with so many problems have been covered by Democratic for, in some cases, over half a century.

Lopez began by mentioning the shock that many Americans and in the news media have expressed upon seeing the police cars and stores being looted and set on fire before chiding them for ignoring “the real anger behind the riots” as a “culmination of serious distrust in the system — and can lead to real, substantial change.”

One of his almost humorous pronouncements that he’s no fan of violence ruled that people shouldn’t “go out into the streets and destroy their communities,” but he quickly added that more people should come “not just to understand what would compel someone to burn down local businesses, but also how to prevent such events from happening again in the future.”

Taking viewers on a short history lesson, Lopez argued that riots ranging from those mourning Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination in 1968 to the 1992 Los Angeles riots provided, in his mind, constructive change in spotlighting the plight of African-Americans in tough neighborhoods and relations with police officers. 

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“It was only when these attempts at drawing attention to systemic problems failed that demonstrators rose up in violence, including in modern-day Baltimore and Milwaukee,” he complained. 

Later under a subhead entitled “Violent demonstrations can and have spurred change,” Lopez provided more boasting as to why describing rioters as criminals and thugs is, of course, offensive:

Social justice riots are often depicted as people senselessly destroying their own communities to no productive means. President Barack Obama, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and members of the media have all used this type of characterization to describe the riots in Baltimore. It was a widespread sentiment online after the Milwaukee riots, too.

But riots can and have led to substantial reforms in the past, indicating that they can be part of a coherent political movement. By drawing attention to some of the real despair in destitute communities, riots can push the public and leaders to initiate real reforms to fix whatever led to the violent rage.

After hinting that rioting can lead to acceptable results (see: ends justify the means, Saul Alinsky tactics), Lopez started winding things down by fretting that rioting can actually have negative results like “scar[ing] away investment and business from riot-torn communities” like West Baltimore or “motivate draconian policy changes that emphasize law and order above all else.” 

How terrifying of a concept!

“So by viewing riots as criminal acts instead of legitimate political displays of anger at systemic failures, the politicians of the 1970s, '80s, and '90s pushed some policies that actually fostered further anger toward police, even as other, positive reforms were simultaneously spurred by urban uprisings. By misunderstanding the purpose of the riots, public officials made events like them more likely,” he later concluded.