Monday, April 27, 2015

Flames and inflammation

In principle, this site does not comment on local news.  Facebook already handles that, down to a granularity of minutes and inches.  But public rhetoric does fall within our brief, as a linguist.  And as the city burns, it is hard not to notice these wingèd words of an elected official, destined to pass into legend.

Mayor of Baltimore, sounding like a French socialo:

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake held a press conference Saturday alongside community and religious leaders and asked for peace as hundreds marched in Baltimore in honor of Freddie Gray.
But when one reporter asked to comment on how Baltimore police responded to the protestors she said she instructed officers to allow protestors to express themselves and that “we also gave those who wished to destroy   space to do that as well.”

Such, indeed, is the covert policy of administrations that send cops unprotected, in short sleeves, to face swarms of assailants, knowing they will be attacked;  and secretly hoping that the sight of injured officers  will pacify the mob.  But, Madame Mayor -- you're not supposed to say that out loud.  -- Anyhow, she got her wish.

Police say 15 officers have been injured in the Baltimore riots and two are still in the hospital.
More than two dozen people have been arrested after people looted stores, set cars on fire and threw bricks at police.
As police moved away from the mall into a nearby neighborhood, the mall became unprotected and people started carrying clothes and other items away.
Cars have been burned, other stores have been looted and a pharmacy caught fire during the mayhem.

Fire sale

Smoke billowed from the broken windows of the pharmacy. Police said via Twitter that rioters cut a hose firefighters were using to battle the blaze.
Police said on Twitter that looters were "continuing to break into businesses and set cars on fire'' in the area, and that they were responding to reports of looting inside Mondawmin Mall.

Shop till you drop!

The mayor’s remark may be the most ill-starred executive intervention  since Dubya’s “Bring it on!”, which indeed helped bring it on, to the discomfort of the guys who had to do the actual fighting.

Reader comments:

There's no walking it back. She said it and she meant it.
Hate to say it, but the residents of Baltimore have earned the reputation. I remember the 1978 snow storm, and the looting that followed.


[Update 28 April 2015]  The media have done a good job pointing out a most curious background of Monday’s rioting:  the flash-mob aspect, based on social-media propagation of an invitation to a “purge” at a certain mall.
 The reference -- and it is an essentially literary reference, not a tropism of the id -- is to a fairly schlocky but popularly successful movie called “The Purge”, depicting a controlling dystopian future  in which, however, annually, for a brief period  all law and morality are suspended.  That might strike you as a weird futuristic wrinkle on the standard post-apocalyptic flick, but actually the notion has roots in classical antiquity:  in the ancient Roman festival of the Saturnalia.  Since Wiki has a characteristically excellent article on that, I’ll not discuss that Fasching-like revelry further.

Gaudeamus  igitur

Wikipedia itself, however, in its article on “The Purge”, offers an even more recondite classical comparison, to the Crypteia -- q.v.
Rule of thumb in Socialmedialand:  The rioters are calling for The Purge;  the Second-Amendment fundamentalists, for the Crypteia (in the Plutarchian sense).

(Incidentally -- purely from the standpoint of art criticism -- notice the similarity in the staffage of the painter’s vision, and the actual figures frolicking at the 7/11.
Here is a cropping of the same painting that brings out the more classical aspect.  You could probably do the same thing with the photograph -- the youngster in the orange hoodie  corresponding to the young man seen full-face.)

[Update 30 April 2015]  This mayor continues to amaze.

BALTIMORE — With buildings ablaze and looters rampaging through city streets, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake faced television cameras Monday night and sternly denounced the rioters as “thugs.” The next day, with some black residents in an uproar over a word they call racially charged, she walked it back.
There are no thugs in Baltimore,” the mayor, who is African-American, said at a church, where she met with members of the clergy.

So, we suddenly have a thug-free Baltimore!  That is very good news indeed.

[Update 3 May 2015]   Now, here’s a detail you probably haven’t heard:

Residents say arsonists singled out businesses owned by Asian-Americans during the rioting on Monday.

Try fitting that into The Narrative.

It actually does make sense, though at a level deeper than that in which the media deals.   We have glanced at the matter here.


Meanwhile in Tel Aviv, même jeu :

Une cinquantaine de personnes, en majorité des policiers, ont été blessées dans des heurts dimanche 3 mai au soir à Tel-Aviv après un rassemblement contre les violences policières et la discrimination dont sont victimes les Israéliens d'origine éthiopienne.

La police montée a tiré des grenades assourdissantes pour disperser la foule et l'empêcher de s'en prendre à la mairie de Tel-Aviv. Les manifestants ont lancé des pierres, des bouteilles et des chaises sur la police. Des canons à eau et des bombes lacrymogènes ont également été utilisés pour éloigner des manifestants des rues alentours, en vain.

Selon la police, 46 policiers et au moins sept manifestants ont été blessés

That’s a lot of injured cops …

[Update 4 May 2015]  Oh, great;  thanx, Fox.
Baltimore police said on Monday that a Fox News report of a black man being shot by police in the city was not true, and the cable news network quickly issued an apology.
Baltimore police later tweeted that the report of a man being shot was not true and that a suspect had been arrested at the scene with a handgun.

That sort of premature-ejaculation on the part of reporters  could get buildings burned.

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