Attempts to compare the insurrection at the Capitol Building on January 6 with the Black Lives Matter movement, or any other movement (real or imaginary), are bad faith arguments.
As a general rule, it is best to avoid bad faith actors and their bad faith arguments – the goal is to exhaust the efforts of good faith actors and to muddy the intellectual waters so as to obfuscate the truth while neglecting any meaningful nuance. Additionally, meeting bad faith arguments lends undeserved credibility to them by virtue of your engagement with them.
However, not all who perpetuate the harmful ideologies espoused by bad faith arguments like the one mentioned above are aware that the arguments are bad faith; they may actually believe their arguments are valid, morally grounded push-backs. It should be up to the discretion of the reader as to whether 1) they are able to argue without causing harm (emotional, psychological, or physical) to themselves, 2) they are interacting with someone who legitimately has the willingness and capacity to grow and change, 3) the environment (classroom, social media platform, workplace, household, etc.) can be fostering to meaningful conversation and can be benefited by addressing bad faith arguments.
With that disclaimer out of the way, we can talk about why comparing insurrection with a liberation movement is bad faith.
First let’s consider the motivation behind the insurrection – which included a planned and organized commitment of some individuals to do violence and to utilize further threat of violence to initiate political change. This is text-book terrorism. Alternatively, the BLM organizers are motivated by the promotion of human rights and expanding social liberties of underprivileged groups. Moreover, BLM organizers took every reasonable measure to dissuade the use of violence, to distance themselves immediately form any violence which occurred, and have spoken out against the violence which did occur during demonstrations. Or, to sum up more succinctly: BLM intends to promote human dignity and promote freedom from oppression; the insurrectionists planned for and intended to use violence as a means to undermine the Unites States’ electoral process. This alone is enough reason to reject the two as analogous, and a fortiori as equivalent.
But what makes this argument especially bad faith is the attempt to build a straw man of the BLM movement and undermine its credibility. Without adequate regard to the motivation and intention of the BLM movement, this accusation characterizes the complexity of the events surrounding the protests which happened all around the country – involving a milieu of political, historical, socio-economic, and moral factors, besides factors of racial inequality – as an icon of social justice worthy of mockery and denigration. This characterization makes a sweeping generalization about those directly involved with the formal organization of BLM, those who showed up to show solidarity and support for the advocacy of human rights, those who were compelled to make their own statements about their general dissatisfaction with the state-of-affairs of their particular situation (or perhaps their group inclusion), those who decided to take advantage of the chance to commit crimes, and those who intended to actively undermine the BLM movement with acts of destruction and violence as though the various members within these various (and non-exhaustive) groupings are all one and the same.
One might push back against the above assertion by claiming that criticisms against the insurrection are also sweeping generalizations, but this is an absurd rebuttal. Those who are being inculpated are justly categorized because their categorization is the result of their own action, not by some arbitrary label thrust upon them.
We should also take care to avoid consequentialist reduction. This assertion is in regard to those who bring up the fires lit, the businesses looted, or the people who were subjected to physical harm in the wake of the protests. To vilify an entire, dynamic movement on the basis of some consequences considered morally reprehensible by some actors only vaguely associated with that movement is to again engage in straw-manning. Furthermore, it also a questionable-cause fallacy intending to equate challenges to white supremacy with violence and the advocacy of human rights with the destabilization of society. This would be akin to condemning advocacy for the abolition of slavery because it was a causal factor in the United States Civil War. This example should conflict with our considered moral judgement; moral intuition should inform us that freeing people who have been subjected to chattel slavery is morally right, regardless of the consequences.
It should go without saying that the same considerations cannot be made for the insurrectionists. The results conform with the intent, so taking care to avoid consequentialist reduction is not applicable.
It is also worth pointing out that a significant proportion of the property destruction which took place around the time of the various protests around the country have been found to be the work of white supremacy groups, the boogaloos – who’s end goal is to spark a second Civil War, or found to be unrelated to the protests directly. The same can be said for the lives lost which have been erroneously attributed to the BLM movement.
It is important to acknowledge that perpetuating such false, bad-faith narratives do actual harm; these are not merely abstract concepts to be debated in the marketplace of ideas. Before you make attempts to demean or vilify any group, ask yourself if your position is informed by bad-faith arguments or if what you hope to accomplish is directed at doing good in the world.
Please feel free to share these arguments with your interlocutors. You can copy and paste the link, or you may use sections of this work as copy-pasta to combat bad-faith arguments you encounter in on-line spheres. I also welcome constructive feedback and would appreciate the opportunity to create stronger, more articulate, more substantive, and more morally defensible arguments.
1 David Patrick Underwood
“Staff Sgt. Steven Carrillo, 32, was charged with murder and attempted murder in the killing of federal officer Dave Patrick Underwood, 53.”
“Carrillo… traveled to Oakland with the intent to kill police and believed the large demonstrations spurred by the dealt of Floyd in Minneapolis – which they were not a part of – would help them get away”
- NBC News
2 Italia Marie Kelly
This case is less clear, and ongoing. What is clear is that Italia was there to attend the protest and was leaving when she was shot by a white male. “Police said in an arrest affidavit that Belz acted with ‘premeditation, malice aforethought and intent’ to kill Kelly.” There have been no statements as to whether Belz was a protester, anti-protester, or just some random looter.
3 Officer David Dorn
Governor Mike Parson: “What criminals have done in St. Louis and across Missouri the past few nights isn’t acceptable. They MUST be held accountable… Their conduct had nothing to do with protesting – nothing to do with George Floyd – it was criminal behavior.”
- KIRO7 News
4 David McAtee
“David McAtee, who turned his talent for food into a popular West End eatery, was shot and killed by law enforcement officers”
- Courier Journal
5 Chris Beaty
“Mosley wanted to be very clear about something else too, on this difficult Saturday night in downtown Indianapolis where protests took place, but looting did, too. ‘These were not protesters, they were just bad guys out there robbing people,’ he said. ‘And they killed my best friend.’”
- Hoosiers Now, Fan National