Torched Cars Coming to a Neighborhood Near You?

Acts of violence against America are usually reserved for Islamic extremists because of their hatred for America. Here’s how Allan J. Ashinoff puts it:

Muslims hate America because of who America is and what America represents. Muslims hate the core of American culture and they fear that America’s influence in politics, entertainment, and wealth will erase their culture. To a devout Muslim America is vile, blasphemous, and as far from “pure” as pure can be. Muslims see American women degrading themselves on the silver screen and being unfit as wives and mothers. Muslims see American men as slovenly, easily corruptible, lacking of virtue, and wallowing in one vice or another. Are they wrong?

There are lots of Americans who don’t like what America has become. In fact, they would agree with a lot of Muslims that America is corrupt. The difference, however, is how to change America. It’s certainly not by blowing it up. The radicals from the 1960s started as a violent movement but saw that bombing buildings, rioting, participating in sit-ins, and harassing the police got them nowhere.

In time the bomb throwers of the 1960s realized that participation in the American system was the way to change the American system. In his Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky (1909–1972) outlined the winning strategy:

“Do one of three things. One, go find a wailing wall and feel sorry for yourselves. Two, go psycho and start bombing — but this will only swing people to the right. Three, learn a lesson. Go home, organize, build power and at the next convention, you be the delegates.”1

The radicals knew it would be necessary to capture the institutions without ever firing a shot or blowing up another building. Roger Kimball captures the tactic well in his book The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America: “The long march through the institutions signified in the words of [Herbert] Marcuse, ‘working against the established institutions while working in them’. By this means — by insinuation and infiltration rather than by confrontation — the counter-cultural dreams of radicals like Marcuse have triumphed.”2

The Occupy Wall Street Crowd has not learned these lessons. They still believe that revolutions are won by outside forces. All you get with their tactics is a pile of rubble and idealistic claims that out of the rubble a new civilization will be born.

There is another type of radical. They are resentful that other people are prosperous. They believe that it’s the prosperity of others that’s making them poor. They are more than jealous of what people have; they are envious. Envy is not the same as jealousy or covetousness. The covetous person says, “I wish I had what he has, and I’m miserable that I don’t have it.” Envy is qualitatively different.

The envier says to himself: “I’d like to have what he has, but I know I can never get it. If I can’t have it, neither should anyone else, and if I can’t make this happen, I’ll make sure it costs him a lot of trouble and money to own it. I’ll work to destroy people who can afford these things. Maybe I can get the government to make it illegal to own or too expensive to keep.” This is why the Bible describes envy as “rottenness of the bones” (Prov. 14:30).

The German man who torched more than 50 cars and caused 3$ million in damages in Los Angeles had a message for the policeman who arrested him: “I hate America.”

Burning cars, especially expensive ones, is a common crime in Germany. Large cities like Berlin and Hamburg “are magnets for young, ‘left-wing’ idealists” who protest “the establishment, gentrification of their neighborhoods and globalization. On May 1, Labor Day in Europe, residents with especially flashy cars move them to paid garages or to neighborhoods deemed safer. For example, in October, a man in Berlin was arrested for torching 100 luxury cars, and 470 cars had been set on fire in the city by that time last year, the BBC reported.”

Here’s what a senior police official said about the man who torched the 100 cars: “He wasn’t motivated by politics but rather social envy. He said in essence: ‘I’ve got debts, my life stinks, and others with fancy cars are better off and they deserve this.’”

America may be facing a similar mentality. If people like the Occupy Wall Street crowd don’t get what they want, they may result to destroying the images that remind them of their failures.

  1. Saul D. Alinsky, Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals (New York: Vintage Books, [1971] 1989), xxiii. []
  2. Roger Kimball, The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America (San Franciso: Encounter Books, 2000), 15. []