Column: The Anti-Statue Mobs Undermine Democratic Norms

June 18th, 2020 10:17 PM

One of the cultural shocks following the death of George Floyd under a policeman’s knee is the vandalism and destruction of statues across America. Usually, these are statues posted on public land by public officials with public assent...even if that came many years ago.

It’s not undemocratic to advocate that statues raised to men who are now considered unworthy be removed from public spaces. You may argue there are “too many dead white men” in parks. But it’s blatantly undemocratic to vandalize them, behead them, or pull them down. These are provocative acts, with great potential for mounting revenge, disorder, and counter-vandalism.

It’s amazing that the Left can say mere words are “violence,” or silence is “violence,” and not think it’s violent to tear down a statue

No historic figure is safe from the anti-statue mobs. Take Portland, where The Oregonian reported “protesters tore down a statue of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States who also owned over 600 slaves during his lifetime, outside his namesake high school in North Portland.”

Notice how journalists choose the word “protester” to describe the perpetrators. 

Some “protesters” look uneducated or nihilistic. A statue of an abolitionist named Matthias Baldwin, which stands outside Philadelphia City Hall, was defaced with spray paint. The word “colonizer” was strangely painted underneath. Apparently, any dead white male in a long coat must be racist?

In Boston, a monument to black soldiers who fought for the Union and against slavery during the Civil War was vandalized. Its granite backside was covered with four-letter words, alongside “Black Lives Matter,” “No Justice, No Peace,” and “Police are Pigs.”

Richmond, Virginia – with a Democratic governor and mayor -- is a hot spot for this vandalism virus. The New York Times reported “Protesters toppled a statue of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, in demonstrators across the country continued to target symbols of white supremacy after the death of George Floyd.”

A statue of Christopher Columbus was “torn down and tossed into a lake in a Richmond city park where protesters had gathered for a demonstration in support of Indigenous peoples.” 

Vandalism was not the word of choice: “Statues of the Confederate generals J.E.B. Stuart, Stonewall Jackson and  Robert E. Lee, all of which stand on the city’s Monument Avenue, were marked.” Marked?

The Times called all this “a national reckoning over racist imagery and emblems.”

Then, as I predicted, someone vandalized the statue in Richmond to Arthur Ashe, the black pro tennis star of the 1960s and 1970s. The New York Times called it “vandalized,” and not “marked.” It was not called a “reckoning.” Someone sprayed WLM (for “White Lives Matter”) on the pedestal. He was not a “protester,” just a “man” who was quoted as saying “You guys tagged my statue so I am tagging your statue.” Stupid tit and tat.

Ashe’s nephew David Harris told the Times “People are outraged that people choose to vandalize a statue that represents peace, prosperity, inclusion, education, and the life and true fabric of the country: children...there are folks out there that don’t believe in being inclusive.”

The Times fails to see the bitter irony in the assumption that “inclusion” is associated with the side that rips statues down without any care for who is not consulted, or which democratic norms are undermined. The Left and their allies in the press are favoring disorder and vandalism...if it’s on “the right side of history.”