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« Baltimore | Main | Capitalism lectures a very confused pope »

April 28, 2015


Peter G

That's Coates for you. I'm just not sure whence came his reputation for having an excellent mind. I find his analysis simplistic and his logic suspect and what he usually winds up doing is laying a logical foundation for apartheid.

A forest fire, by the way, is often both necessary and wise in the sense that they are ecologically necessary. Without them many plants don't seed and overgrowth kills ecological niches. It's a dumb analogy. Riots serve no more useful purpose than war. If Coates chooses to treat this analytically as a war than his side is shooting themselves in both feet. Show me an urban area that has economically thrived after having such an urban forest fire. About the only time that ever happens is a recolonization that goes under the name gentrification. Maybe in a couple decades.

Anne J

I had a problem with the forest fire analogy myself, being from Southern California the land of forest fires. Many times they are set in a deliberate act of malice.

Peter G

Its true they are often set in malice. But more forest fires are set by DNR and forest service workers on purpose than any other type. So good did we become at suppressing the natural occurrence of forest fires that we made things worse. So we do controlled burns. The analogy just doesn't work here on any level.

Do riots ever spur a renaissance? They are far more likely to economically sterilize a neighborhood. Just try getting insurance for a new business in an area where riots have taken place. Insurance companies keep warehouses full of ten foot polls they can join together to keep you fully fucked off for just this reason.


It's a relief this morning to find that the more reputable news outlets such as AP are taking a fair approach to the story and examining the rioters, police, local and state governments and the DOJ. Last night Chris Matthews babbled through his entire hour with "live coverage." The most dramatic video clips started over after about ten minutes, not counting commercials, and the same voice over points were made repeatedly. After that I fast forwarded through the rest.

Anne J

Very true, Peter. I remember the L.A. riots 23 years ago this very week as a matter of fact and believe me, nothing much has changed there since then.


I can at least see where TNC is coming from, though. As he notes, in moments like this, we hear a deafening call for calm, peace, nonviolence, and the like. Of course we do. I think he has a point that these calls are often made in a self-serving fashion by those in positions of authority or privilege for no real reason other than to put the lid back on and proceed as if nothing happened and nothing need change.

That's what TNC is railing against. He increasingly writes about race as if he's at his wit's end. The black community is continually told that violence in reaction to police brutality won't help them achieve their goals, and in fact may very well prevent progress. And that's obviously true. But it's a Catch-22, is it not? If they just passively take their lumps and launch the occasional peaceful protest, no one takes notice. This "violence doesn't work, so please stop" lecture is used by many as an all-purpose shield with which to avoid or shut down a real discussion about why these things keep happening and actual action to change it. So I can see why TNC despairs - the game is rigged to prevent a real discussion and real change to take root. And maybe the riots will die out or be snuffed out via sufficient shows of force, but the anger that gives them life will live on and erupt again if provoked.

I honestly don't know how we bust out of this cycle. This is an overused cliche, but it might take a Nixon-to-China type of figure. A "law and order", NRA-approved Republican or centrist Democrat in the White House willing to scramble the usual partisan inertia and do something major in criminal justice reform. And win. But I don't see that figure on the scene now. Even as I credit him for saying some sensible things on the issue (to friendly audiences) Rand Paul is too much of a self-serving, shape-shifting weasel to expend political capital on it. So it could be a while.

Shaun Appleby

As a practical matter the forest fire analogy seems useful on several levels; unpredictable, destructive and absent moral and ethical considerations.

Shorter Coates, "Read it and weep."


Why on Earth you expect logical, rational, consistent discussion from someone named Ta-Nehisi, I have no idea. He's not Egyptian. He's not Nubian. He's an American, born in Baltimore.

The Angry Black Man has every right to be angry. He also should expect to have the establishment continue to stand on his neck until he stops being angry. Obama didn't get elected because of his exotic name. He got elected as an agent of change within the system.

And because of his cool, Vulcan demeanor, even at times like this. Which Coates wouldn't recognize if his life depended on it.

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