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Opinion: We’re on a road to ochlocracy

The conclusion of the Rittenhouse trial reminded us of the summer of 2020. It is a painful reminder.

  • Monday, November 22, 2021 12:01pm
  • Opinion

The conclusion of the Rittenhouse trial reminded us of the summer of 2020. It is a painful reminder. In city after city and night after night there was rioting and looting and burning and destruction. But beginning with the riots in Minneapolis, and then in so many other cities (Portland, New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and others) there always seemed to be one common denominator — the absence of police. In city after city the looting and burning went on for hours. We saw it on TV. But the police never showed up. Why is that? In all the articles that were written at the time and since, I have never seen an article which delved into exactly why the police stayed away, time after time when that was their job, to protect citizens and property from exactly that.

I have my own theory. It includes the notion that they chose the easiest course of action, which is to do nothing, They abdicated their responsibilities because to confront the mob would have resulted in violence and they did not want the optics; the specter of police beating back Black people protesting the murder of a Black man by a white policeman. Except that it was more than that. The murder of George Floyd became a catalyst for an uprising against the social order, such as it is. Another reason for inaction was expressed by the Mayor of Minneapolis Jacob Frey. He said that buildings can be replaced, but lives cannot. And that is true, but this inaction, this failure to do anything to stop the looting and burning had its own price. It meant that the mob won. Time and again the mob won. And it is still winning.

I suggest that the very reason we have laws and mechanisms to enforce those laws is to prevent mob rule. I believe that today in a real sense we are living under mob rule: an electronic mob. Twitter erupts and the media follows and the politicians follow the media. Weak politicians. Weak leaders. This is not good.

I suggest that loud voices do not equate to probity or rectitude, even a lot of them. Anonymous voices.

We are on a bad path.

• Ray Preston resides in Juneau.

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