The Superunknown

Don't know what to believe? Don't believe in anything.

Last night, Michael Reinoehl, the man who shot and killed a Patriot Prayer-affiliated member of the Trump Cruise on Saturday, was killed by Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force in a shootout near Olympia. Reinoehl had a gun on him, but if he fired it is unclear. The Task Force shot at him repeatedly as he tried to escape in an SUV, something like 30 to 40 times. 

U.S. AG Barr issued a rather smug statement about his death, calling him antifa despite  the interview he gave to Vice News shortly before his death where he said, rather unambiguously, “I am not a member of antifa.” Reinoehl reminds me of George Zimmerman: fixated on sinister outside forces that were threatening him by dint of their existence, he took matters into his own hands and killed someone. Zimmerman still has hero status on the right, however, while Reinoehl will not get the benefit of a trial or really a chance to tell his side of the story outside of that final interview. 

His silence leaves a vacuum for those with a rooting interest to color the events as they see fit. The media struggles to frame things at all anymore, so they cede that responsibility to the participants themselves. It’s always been that way for the police--what is releasing a mugshot to be published, if not a way of framing someone’s behavior before it can actually be adjudicated?-- but the alt-right groups are taking advantage of that media confusion to push their own narrative. 

As this thread points out, Patriot Prayer and their ilk don’t really believe in anything, they only want to “own the libs” and combat antifa. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for, you know, building anything. Antifa isn’t an organization, just a loose affiliation of people who want to get into fights with the alt-right militia groups that come into Portland to stir up trouble. So, no one is operating in good faith, because the only faith they have is that they want to fight with one another. The local cops are more than happy to stand back—which is how we got to where we are now, with two people dead and more alt-right rallies coming soon.

For Patriot Prayer and others, the nihilism is the point. It’s been the point the entire time these groups have existed. They want to troll. They “support Trump” but what they want when they come into Portland is a reaction. The violence is a byproduct, but they’re no different than a cat knocking a glass of water off the table. What’s it going to take for you libs to get off the couch and come at us, they’re asking. If people do react, they can then film the “violent leftists” and disseminate the footage to anyone who wants their own worldview of Portland confirmed. It’s both chilling and depressing to think that they’re shooting people on the street with mace and pepper balls for the sake of content, but that’s where we are. 

It is often said that Portland has a protest culture, and it’s true that people love to speak up and speak out here. As the city has grown, gotten wealthier, and added residents who are not from the Pacific Northwest natives—including myself—the institutional understanding of that protest culture ebbed. New Portlanders do not have the same understanding of the “rules” as the lifers. Before, you were always free to be an asshole, but you were supposed to leave everyone else alone while you did it. Now, when being an asshole is the sole reason for your protest, it’s a different calculus. 

Mayor Wheeler still hasn’t grasped this essential fact, so he’s just going to keep on decrying the violence and property damage without ever understanding the root causes. Bad actors like the Clackamas County Sheriff, who didn’t bother to lift a finger while last Saturday’s Trump Cruise whipped itself into a frenzy at Clackamas Town Center before they even left for Portland, do nothing to deescalate the situation. Yes, that’s the same Clackamas Town Center that was the site of a mass shooting in 2012. It’s also where Tonya Harding practiced her ice skating. So, they’ve seen some things there and so they should know better.  

The inability of the state to understand these groups is reminiscent of the United States’ inability to understand the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan and the rise of ISIS. These groups were formed as opposition. They wanna blow things up, terrorize the people who they see as occupiers, and generally vent their spleen. They’re not worried about what comes after they explode the temples. I fear that, just like in the Middle East, we’re going to be terrorized by extremists with guns in pickup trucks until we declare mission accomplished without solving a damn thing.   

LINKS

This entire Anne Helen Petersen piece, featuring interviews with Portlanders about life during the protests, is wonderful. 

A tick-tock of the summer of Portland protest from Sarah Jeong.

Fascinating profile of a Clark County’s top elected official who also just happens to believe that systemic racism doesn’t exist there.