NYT editor: By golly, these anarchists just want to watch the world burn

No kidding. In an op-ed headlined “The Truth About Today’s Anarchists,” New York Timed editorial board member Farah Stockman unveils her epiphany about the nature and aims of the people burning down America’s cities over the last four months. She links to the reporting done by photographer Jeremy Lee Quinn, who began to suspect from the first moments of unrest that the riots and looting were not, as many assumed, simply spontaneous outbursts of anger over oppression catalyzed by the death of George Floyd. Instead, Quinn found that the violence and looting were planned, strategically deployed, and had little or nothing to do with the social justice issue du jour.


Quinn also didn’t find evidence for the most popular counter-narrative on the Left either, which were that these were conducted by “white supremacists.” Antifa is exactly who everyone except media outlets like the NYT thinks they are — leftist “insurrectionary anarchists” who just want to watch the world burn:

He expected to find white supremacists who wanted to help re-elect President Trump by stoking fear of Black people. What he discovered instead were true believers in “insurrectionary anarchism.” …

Mr. Quinn discovered a thorny truth about the mayhem that unfolded in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man in Minneapolis. It wasn’t mayhem at all.

While talking heads on television routinely described it as a spontaneous eruption of anger at racial injustice, it was strategically planned, facilitated and advertised on social media by anarchists who believed that their actions advanced the cause of racial justice. In some cities, they were a fringe element, quickly expelled by peaceful organizers. But in Washington, Portland and Seattle they have attracted a “cultlike energy,” Mr. Quinn told me.

Ahem. The “talking heads on television” chose that as a narrative rather than bothering to do any research or connect any dots. The anarchists have conducted these operations since at least the 1999 World Trade Organization riots in Seattle. The graffiti hasn’t changed, and neither have the tactics or the rhetoric. We have seen it repeatedly over the last generation, including in Washington DC at Donald Trump’s inauguration, where the very same tactics were deployed. As Quinn himself notes on his bloghe has seen it since 2014 and Ferguson. Where was the NYT?


Had anyone bothered to do the least amount of research, they could have easily diagnosed the issue immediately when the riots started. In fact, these anarchists have been quite open about their operations and tactics all along:

Don’t take just Mr. Quinn’s word for it. Take the word of the anarchists themselves, who lay out the strategy in Crimethinc, an anarchist publication: Black-clad figures break windows, set fires, vandalize police cars, then melt back into the crowd of peaceful protesters. When the police respond by brutalizing innocent demonstrators with tear gas, rubber bullets and rough arrests, the public’s disdain for law enforcement grows. It’s Asymmetric Warfare 101.

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.

No one needs to “take just Mr. Quinn’s word for it,” but one does have to ask why a major American media outlets didn’t connect these dots for itself. It’s been over four months since the start of these riots, and yet an editorial board member for one of the largest media outlets in the country just figured this out. And she only figured it out after reading Quinn’s blog rather than the work of the reporters she employs. What does that say about the New York Times and its ability to report the truth rather than regurgitate popular narratives?


Stockman also notes that “some Black leaders wish they would go home,” but that’s not the whole truth either. It’s very true of the people who live in the neighborhoods and their leaders, mainly but not exclusively black, who have been yelling from the rooftops that they need more police (with reforms on use of force), not fewer or none. Instead of promoting those views, the media has instead promoted Black Lives Matter and its “abolish the police” demands as the true voice of the people, and whose own radical agenda requires the destruction that these “insurrectionary anarchists” provide. BLM scrubbed its agenda from its website when people began to point out their radical aims, but again, that scrutiny never came from media outlets like the NYT.

Stockman’s epiphany at the end is almost comical in its tardiness:

That’s the thing about “insurrectionary anarchists.” They make fickle allies. If they help you get into power, they will try to oust you the following day, since power is what they are against. Many of them don’t even vote. They are experts at unraveling an old order but considerably less skilled at building a new one. That’s why, even after more than 100 days of protest in Portland, activists do not agree on a set of common policy goals. …

In other words, it’s not really about George Floyd or Black lives, but insurrection for insurrection’s sake.


Again, this might have been information that would have been helpful in late May or early June. That might have saved us some time in making decisions that would restore order and put Antifa’s “insurrectionary anarchists” out of business. It’s the kind of information and news that people used to expect media outlets like the NYT to report immediately, especially with all the dots in place to be connected. Unfortunately, we live in a journalistic era where narrative trumps truth and “social justice” as defined by reporters and editors comes before the facts.

Unfortunately for Ms. Stockman, we don’t really have a Joker Award for Belatedly Discovering That Some People Want to Watch the World Burn. (Maybe that should be an Alfred Award, anyway.) However, we do have the Captain Louis Renault Award, and it applies well to an NYT editorial board member who is shocked, shocked to learn that her own paper can’t report on reality:

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