An anarchist podcast called “The Ex-Worker” explains that while some anarchists believe in pacifist civil disobedience inspired by Mohandas Gandhi, others advocate using crimes like arson and shoplifting to wear down the capitalist system. According to “The Ex-Worker,” the term “insurrectionary anarchist” dates back at least to the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath, when opponents of the fascist leader Francisco Franco took “direct action” against his regime, including assassinating policemen and robbing banks.
If that is not enough to convince you that there’s a method to the madness, check out the new report by Rutgers researchers that documents the “systematic, online mobilization of violence that was planned, coordinated (in real time) and celebrated by explicitly violent anarcho-socialist networks that rode on the coattails of peaceful protest,” according to its co-author Pamela Paresky. She said some anarchist social media accounts had grown 300-fold since May, to hundreds of thousands of followers.
“The ability to continue to spread and to eventually bring more violence, including a violent insurgency, relies on the ability to hide in plain sight — to be confused with legitimate protests, and for media and the public to minimize the threat,” Dr. Paresky told me.
Her report will almost certainly catch the attention of conservative media and William Barr’s Department of Justice, which recently declared New York, Portland and Seattle “anarchist jurisdictions,” a widely mocked designation accompanied by the threat of withholding federal funds.
There’s an even thornier truth that few people seem to want to talk about: Anarchy got results.
Don’t get me wrong. My heart broke for the people in Minneapolis who lost buildings to arson and looting. Migizi, a Native American nonprofit in Minneapolis, raised more than $1 million to buy and renovate a place where Native American teenagers could learn about their culture — only to watch it go up in flames, alongside dozens of others, including a police station. It can take years to build a building — and only one night to burn it down.
And yet, I had to admit that the scale of destruction caught the media’s attention in a way that peaceful protests hadn’t. How many articles would I have written about a peaceful march? How many months would Mr. Quinn have spent investigating suburban moms kneeling? That’s on us.
While I feared that the looting and arson would derail the urgent demands for racial justice and bring condemnation, I was wrong, at least in the short term. Support for Black Lives Matter soared. Corporations opened their wallets. It was as if the nation rallied behind peaceful Black organizers after it saw the alternative, like whites who flocked to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after they got a glimpse of Malcolm X.