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The Price Of Propaganda

In June, 2020, a 92-year-old woman was walking down the street. She was walking on Third Avenue near East 16th Street in the Gramercy Park neighborhood of New York City. As she walked, a young man noticed her, and when he did so, he violently pushed her face.

I know that sounds strange, but it’s literally what happened. The elderly woman was walking slowly down the street. She was minding her own business. She didn’t say anything to the young man who attacked her. He saw her, and, without hesitation, shoved her head.

She fell, narrowly missing striking her head on a fire hydrant. By some miracle, the old woman is expected to recover. Her attacker continued walking as if nothing had happened at all. Police — the same people “protesters” want to “defund” — later arrested 31-year-old Rashid Brimmage, who has a long rap sheet and is known to cops by name.

Let me be the first to speculate that this attack was motivated by racial hatred.

Now, you may ask: How can we possibly know that? Well, by the standards of progressive political discourse, we already know the answer. The vicious, cowardly attacker happens to be black. His victim happens to be white. Whenever a black person attacks a white person, we must necessarily presume his sole motive was race exclusively. We know this, because whenever a white person assaults a black person, and whenever a white cop uses force against a black person, we immediately assume that the only motive is racial hatred. That has been the lesson in our media these last few weeks, after all.

For example, it is under this presumption that celebrities of color speak of giving their children “the talk,” a coming-of-age briefing in which they inform their progeny that legions of racists, and especially racist police, spend every waking hour seeking excuses to murder them in the street based on the color of their skin. Therefore, if we are to apply the same standard not just to police action, but to all crime, we must assume — we are morally obligated to assume — that Rashid Brimmage (if indeed he did it) attacked an elderly woman of a different race because he is a racist.

In reality, of course, we can’t know. If Brimmage did it, he may have done it simply because he is cruel. He may have done it because he’s mentally ill. He may have done it for some reason that was entirely personal, known only to him.

But if we are to play the odds, if we are to ask if there is any external factor that might have given a young black man reason to assault, without other motivation, an elderly white woman, might I suggest that there are countless reasons pouring out of ever news outlet right now? Might I infer that when our televisions and our tablets and our computers and our radios all tell us that white people spend every waking moment conspiring to get black people, to hurt their interests, to treat them unfairly, it only makes sense that a certain amount of resentment would convert to hostile action?

Some of the analysis of the unprovoked attack on Third Avenue immediately invoked “The Knockout Game.” This is the term given to a disturbing pattern of similarly unprovoked attacks in which young black people stalk and physically assault white people (usually older, generally helpless white people) in something akin to “counting coup.” The attack is the motivation; the crime is the reward. Some authorities swear up and down that “The Knockout Game” isn’t real. Others, including some in law enforcement, insist that it is.

If it is real, it is clearly racially motivated; that is the entire point. If it is real, and certainly the Third Avenue assault bears similarity to it, we must ask an unpopular question: Why?

The answer seems obvious, too: A constant drumbeat of propaganda in popular culture and in media paints the majority demographic in the United States as the Intergalactic All Purpose Oppressor Of All Peoples. Day and night, from every media outlet, from every corporate Twitter account, from every commercial email address, we areĀ  transmitted a ceaseless stream of racial hatred and resentment that pulls no punches in identifying the villains in this oft-repeated two minutes’ hate. White people, who all have white privilege, and who all suffer from white fragility, are the only people capable of being racist, because only they have power to combine with their prejudice. So compelling is this argument that at least one dictionary has altered its definition of racism to reflect this re-imagining of the term.

Sounds viciously, horribly racist, doesn’t it? Said about any other race, about any other creed, about any other demographic, it would be condemned as the most vile and vitriolic of screeds. Yet in popular media, in mainstream news, we can condemn an entire race of people based solely on the color of their skin and never given it a second thought.

This incessant propaganda is making a difference. This ceaseless invective is creating an atmosphere in which one group of people of one skin color are presumed to be villains. Another group of people with another skin color are presumed to be victims. And now, as rioting and looting engulfs our cities, it is small wonder if the latter group decides it’s time to make the former group pay for its crimes.

Propaganda is very popular. People spread it because it is seductive. Propaganda provides easy answers. Propaganda produces convenient scapegoats. Propaganda makes us feel better about ourselves because it tells us that our problems are somebody else’s fault.

But propaganda always comes at a price. Sooner or later, those vilified by propaganda become the targets of righteous anger. Whether that anger is justified won’t matter. When little old ladies are being attacked in the street, seemingly for no reason, we need to ask ourselves: Is this the price of our propaganda? Let us pray the answer is no. I’d like to hope so.

But I’m not optimistic.

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