I want the politicians, academics, corporate flacks, and journalists who are willing to celebrate somebody else’s bacon being fried in the name of flattened curves, new forestation, and utopian revolutionary dreams to stop and think about what they are doing. Don’t cry “burn it down” unless you are willing to stand in the ashes of your own gated community and mourn the heap of rubble that was once your Starbucks.
“What business?” asks the pig.
“A restaurant,” says the chicken. “We’ll call it ‘Ham-n-Eggs!”
“No thank you,” the pig replies. “You would be involved in it, but I’d be committed to it.”
The story is often used in business and sports contexts to make true but somewhat bland points about the nature of teamwork. It is, however, a somewhat dark story if you think about it. It is also utterly appropriate for our times, for we see the chickens everywhere these days. The commanding heights of our society is one long Chicken Run—an overclass squawking out directions to everybody else while keeping their own coops comfortably feathered.
They have been around at least as long as the revolutions of the late sixties, as Charles Murray reported in his 2012 book Coming Apart. They preached free love, secularism, and the foolishness of work to the masses while they themselves get married and stay married, go to church, and work very hard.
They proclaimed the glory of the local public school system and the evils of those who would advocate for vouchers or school choice while they themselves lived in tony suburbs or sent their own children to private prep schools.
They were happy to make calls for lockdowns in various states in response to the threat of the coronavirus. Those who could work acquiesced in having other people’s businesses labeled “non-essential” and thus shuttered, whether they could be operated safely or not. “Let us Flatten the Curve,” said the Chicken to the Pig. Any warnings that such an enterprise might be more costly than its purported rewards was written off as silly and piggish. “You just value eating brunch over saving lives.” And so we saw spikes in suicides all over the country, civil unrest, and now, in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands (or rather knees) of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, massive protests and riots.
I do not mean to suggest that there are not protests that should be lodged in our justice system about episodes of police brutality (especially in poor or minority neighborhoods), questions of qualified immunity, or police union behavior. But what we are seeing is not simply the result of actions in Minnesota or Kentucky (Breonna Taylor) or Georgia (Ahmad Arbery). This sort of destruction has altogether too much to do with such incidents happening to a people who have had jobs and freedom taken away from them by authorities and onlookers who were involved but not committed.
To the foolishness of the state and city authorities and their media allies who were willing to demonize peaceful protesters demanding the right to operate their businesses again were added the foolishness of those who not only applauded the legitimate protesters but ignored their suddenly legitimate violations of “social distancing” and even apologized for or excused the violence of those who destroyed public and private property and attacked individuals. They are celebrating what Dan McCarthy called in Spectator USA “a moral revolution in education, one that has created a mythology in which police and other traditional authorities are automatically assumed to be evil while young vandals who riot on the pretext of social justice are holy innocents.”
Virginia Attorney General Maura Healey blithely philosophized: “Yes, America is burning. But that’s how forests grow.” As if a mob destroying a neighborhood is akin to foresters doing a controlled burn of dead limbs. What does that say about a vision of our poor and minority neighborhoods? Steven Thrasher, inaugural Daniel H. Renberg Chair in Social Justice in Reporting at Northwestern University in Illinois, defended in Slate the destruction of police stations but also stores, on the grounds that if we defend property we are not defending life. And oh, by the way, those businesses aren’t really good for people anyhow. Professor Thrasher, who no doubt makes six figures at the elite university, likely doesn’t have to worry about the stores getting burned down in his neighborhood.
But Mr. Thrasher’s apologia for others’ was nothing compared to other journalists. On May 28, sports journalist Chris Martin Palmer tweeted comment, appended to the picture of a building being burned down, was: “Burn that s*** down. Burn it all down.”
Less than three days later he tweeted: “They just attacked our sister community down the street. It’s a gated community and they tried to climb the gates. They had to beat them back. Then destroyed a Starbucks and are now in front of my building. Get these animals TF out of my neighborhood. Go back to where you live.” Apparently unable to stop himself, Mr. Palmer continued with this bon mot: “Tear up your own s***. Don’t come to where we live and tear up our neighborhood. We care about our community. If you don’t care about yours I don’t give a s***.”
Now, it’s hard to imagine a series of comments less self-aware than these. The idea of celebrating the burning down of any building is absurd, but the one in Mr. Palmer’s picture was actually a 189-unit low-income housing complex that was nearly finished and was going to be available for Minneapolitans in the fall. But it is the chutzpah in complaining about a Starbucks and one’s own building in a gated community being attacked that earns Mr. Palmer the Chicken of the Year award.
All for the destruction of others’ property—as long as it’s in one’s own neighborhood, apparently—he is suddenly shocked at the idea that his own life or property might suddenly be in danger. One of the more amusing responses to his tweets got at the dark side of Chicken Entrepreneurialism. “‘I never thought leopards would eat MY face,’ sobs woman who voted for the Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party.” While he did delete the first tweet, he refused to apologize for his change of tune. Being a Chicken means never having to say you’re sorry.
He is not alone. One progressive independent newspaper editor had been publishing in favor of the protests, never making any distinctions between “protesters” and “rioters” or “looters” even as she documented the destruction of countless businesses in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina. She discovered that those who destroy property and loot are like God only insofar as they show no partiality among businesses. She hid in the basement as they went through her offices, and then left town afterward.
Not all Chickens get their comeuppance as these two did. No news of AG Healey’s or Professor Thrasher’s communities (gated or not) being torched. Nor do I want them to. May the “holy innocents” they foolishly celebrate never torch their coops. But I do want them and all the other politicians, academics, corporate flacks, and journalists who are willing to celebrate somebody else’s bacon being fried in the name of flattened curves, new forestation, and utopian revolutionary dreams to stop and think about what they are doing. It is depressing that I think these people are far beyond the golden rule of doing to others what you would have them do unto you. Perhaps, however, the silver rule is still within their reach: do not do to others what you would not have them do unto you. At the very least, do not urge others to do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.
Don’t cry “burn it down” unless you are willing to stand in the ashes of your own gated community and mourn the heap of rubble that was once your Starbucks.
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The featured image is courtesy of Pixabay and has been brightened for clarity.