George Floyd and the revenge of the elites
It has been a year since George Floyd was assassinated. Ever since Derek Chauvin forced his knee on Floyd as he gasped and cried for his mother. Ever since the image of a riding cop and a desperate black man has been released around the world, horrifying anyone who has seen it. And it’s been a year since Floyd’s murder started to turn into something else. Since he began to become a symbol, a weapon even, which was then mobilized for a larger cause. We might call it elite revenge – the exploitation of Floyd’s death to rebuke populism and to further institutionalize regressive and dominant identity politics.
As we celebrate the anniversary of this tragic event, we must consider two things: murder and mania. The murder itself and what happened after. Because even though these things seem to be related – the riots, corporate virtue signaling, and institutional self-flogging were all a response to Floyd’s death, right? – they are actually quite distinct. Floyd’s murder served as a catalyst for a political agenda and moral narrative that existed long before the fateful meeting of Floyd and Chauvin. Floyd’s death was a double tragedy in that sense. There was the tragedy of the thing itself, and there was the tragedy of how it was recklessly used to unleash political forces that still have a destructive impact in the United States and elsewhere a year later. .
Floyd’s murder was in many ways a perfect storm. First, there was the image: the long, clear video of a black man being killed and the infamous photo of Chauvin almost appearing to smile as he leaned on his victim. It was inevitable that such images would set social media on fire and make headlines around the world. Then there was the question of when this picture, when this crime first surfaced: during a near global lockdown in response to a strange new virus. The fear was heightened, the emotions suppressed, people felt caged. Floyd / Chauvin’s image crashed into this Covid apocalypse atmosphere and the results were explosive. The ripples are still felt today.
America has been gripped by its worst riots in 50 years. Businesses, many of which were owned by blacks, were destroyed in a frenzy of curious anger. Cities have suffered damage worth billions of dollars. The instability lasted for weeks. And it has become global. There have been Floyd-related protests – and massive clashes with cops – in London and other European cities. Before long, statues were demolished, from Washington, DC to Bristol in England to Brussels in Belgium, allegedly racist TV shows were canceled, people were sacked for not being devoted enough to Black Lives Matter, and sportsmen around the world ‘took the knee’. In English football, they still are.
How have understandable protests in response to unjust murder gained such extraordinary and global momentum? The transformative element, the key, was the involvement of the elites. This is the most striking and worrying aspect of the past year of post-Floyd mania: the way the elites have legitimized protests, even riots, helping to escalate and spread this strange and violent instability. It was extraordinary and unprecedented in modern times. Large swathes of the political class, establishment media, academia, social media oligarchies and influencers across the West have essentially given the green light to an explosion of destructive rage and identity regression.
We have seen it from the way many American politicians have refused to condemn the rioters. Of how the establishment media have made excuses for the looting, portraying it as a necessary expression of anger. From how corporate giants – from Apple to Nike to Instagram – have lined up behind Black Lives Matter. In the same way that even the world of finance – advance, Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan – gave his approval to the post-Floyd fury. And how the main British politicians have taken the knee to the BLM, and by extension to its divisive and pro-riot ideologies. Consider this bizarre political and historical anomaly – the leader of Britain’s Labor Party bowed to a movement whose distorted worldview was at that time sparking the worst riot America had seen in decades. None of this was normal.
The elite legitimation of post-Floyd mania was significant for many reasons. This allowed the riots to continue for longer than they could have otherwise. It has helped to globalize the destabilizing dynamic. And it also injected the violent fallout from Floyd’s murder with some political impetus. This is why the supposedly radical street uprisings in response to Floyd’s murder – as some left-wing romantics have portrayed it – have come to soak up the concerns and ideologies of the New Cleric very quickly.
The fall of the statues; the attempt to rewrite the past by erasing problematic individuals and cultural artefacts; the obsession with “white privilege” and “black victimization”; the annulment of blasphemers against BLM; obsession with thinking right and punishing crimes like “ cultural appropriation ” – all of this swirling post-Floyd activity has its origins not in the street culture of Minneapolis, Atlanta or Seattle, but in the rarefied climates of the academy, Silicon Valley, the world of think tanks and the increasingly disgusting Western cultural institutions. Either way, post-Floyd violence quickly became the militant wing of the awakened elites, a violent expression of the normative and authoritarian ideologies of the new undemocratic Smart Set.
It was not conscious. This was not planned. But Floyd’s fallout turned into elite revenge against the populist moment and the brutal rejection by the masses of their technocratic policies of racial management and social control. In the past year, we have not seen a popular uprising. We have witnessed an elite-endorsed revolt against any remaining vestiges of populist sentiment or traditional progressive values.
But the elites will live to regret their legitimacy and the exploitation of this unpredictable moment in history. Fury is easy to unleash, much harder to master. Get the green light from a culture which looks in horror to modern Western history, which demands that every institution self-flagellate itself for its alleged moral errors, and which threatens and nullifies anyone who refuses to submit to the tyranny of thought Right, the new establishment may soon find that such violent censorship can go in directions it cannot control. Consider the assaults on Jews dining out in Los Angeles or New York or how BLM and pro-Palestine youth shut down schools in the UK. These are the dismal wages of the militarization of identity politics that has occurred since the murder of George Floyd.
It turns out that demonizing Western history, undermining cultural authority, and igniting identity tensions is a recipe for social conflict and violence. Who could have guessed?
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