I'm seeing a confluence of three different threats at present that are bad enough in themselves, but together threaten to make many US cities much more dangerous than in the past. Some suburbs may become so dangerous as to turn into 'no-go areas' for all except those trapped there.
The first is, of course, terrorism. Over the last forty-eight hours we've seen four separate attacks (and ignore the politically correct idiots who refuse to label them 'terrorism' - the reality is as obvious as the nose on your face).
- A series of bombs on a 'fun run' route in New Jersey;
- A bomb in a dumpster in New York City;
- A knife attack with multiple victims in Minnesota; and -
- An explosion at a train station in New Jersey.
Despite all politically-correct proclamations to the contrary, it's very obvious that most such terrorist incidents have involved individuals with a Muslim background. Some have been refugees from other countries with their own terrorism problems. (For example, the Minnesota knifeman is reported to have been of Somali origin. The Somali community in that state has experienced significant problems in terms of racism, economic difficulties, and radicalization of its youth - the latter exemplified by Saturday's attack.) Minnesota is far from the only state with such concentrations of immigrants and refugees that may be susceptible to radicalization. Using such communities as relatively secure bases, and with free access to vehicles, any potential terrorists can cross the country in a couple of days, carrying with them all they need to wreak havoc and carnage when they reach their targets.
The second threat is the so-called 'Ferguson effect'. We've spoken of it in these pages several times before. US police forces are basically withdrawing from high-conflict inner-city areas, because if they try to keep the peace there, they're assailed by civil rights activists and left-wing and progressive pressure groups. They're in a no-win situation; and rather than fight it, they've chosen to abandon the people in such areas to the predations of the lawless. Frankly, if I were in their shoes, I'd probably have made the same choice.
This means that a great deal of low-level crime that would normally be dealt with by the police is now allowed to continue unchecked. Those engaged in it become bolder, and their depredations increase. The path from low-level misdemeanors to felony criminal offenses is now much easier to take, with fewer obstacles to deter those so inclined . . . and that means the citizens threatened by such escalations in crime are much more vulnerable. At present the problem is largely confined to inner-city ghettoes, but every now and then it spills out into more 'respectable' areas in the form of flash mobs and demonstrations. I expect such incidents to become more frequent, and more violent.
The problem is aggravated by protests organized by Black Lives Matter and similar organizations. BLM has apparently obtained over $130 million in funding from liberal and progressive individuals and organizations. I don't think those donations were provided to fund the widespread use of tiddlywinks as a stress reliever! The left is clearly trying to use BLM as a political lever. I think that's a very dangerous thing. BLM is hardly noted for moderation. Emboldened by such support and such lavish funding, I expect its activities to grow more widespread - and more violent. That, in turn, is likely to lead to a backlash, not so much from police (whose leadership appears to be intimidated by political correctness in many cases), but from ordinary citizens. Certainly, in the part of the country where I live, one hears many outraged comments about BLM's shenanigans, along with promises to take whatever steps are necessary to stop them being perpetrated in this area. I know many share such opinions . . . and I don't think police, currently under attack (both verbal and - sometimes - physical) by BLM, are going to be overly inclined to stop them. Escalation may be inevitable and unavoidable by now.
The third is growing criminal violence, in terms of both inter-gang conflict and attempts to make certain areas 'no-go zones' to both rival gangs and the authorities. Much of the impetus for this comes from South America, where such conflicts and no-go zones have become commonplace in several countries. I'll have more to say about that in a moment; but to illustrate, in 2007 Vanity Fair published an excellent article titled 'City of Fear' about the Brazilian experience of such problems. Here's an excerpt.
For seven days last May the city of São Paulo, Brazil, teetered on the edge of a feral zone where governments barely reach and countries lose their meaning. That zone is a wilderness inhabited already by large populations worldwide, but officially denied and rarely described. It is not a throwback to the Dark Ages, but an evolution toward something new—a companion to globalization, and an element in a fundamental reordering that may gradually render national boundaries obsolete. It is most obvious in the narco-lands of Colombia and Mexico, in the fractured swaths of Africa, in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, in much of Iraq. But it also exists beneath the surface in places where governments are believed to govern and countries still seem to be strong.
. . .
But then, suddenly, on the afternoon of Friday, May 12, 2006, São Paulo came under a violent and coordinated attack. The attackers moved on foot, and by car and motorbike. They were not rioters, revolutionaries, or the graduates of terrorist camps. They were anonymous young men and women, dressed in ordinary clothes, unidentifiable in advance, and indistinguishable afterward. Wielding pistols, automatic rifles, and firebombs, they emerged from within the city, struck fast, and vanished on the spot. Their acts were criminal, but the attackers did not loot, rob, or steal. They burned buses, banks, and public buildings, and went hard after the forces of order—gunning down the police in their neighborhood posts, in their homes, and on the streets. The police shot back and killed some people, but the others did not stop. They were like ghosts. On an animated plot of São Paulo their presence would have seemed like pinpoint flashes of light sparkling at random far and wide. The sparkling was slow, but word spread quickly, and traffic snarled as citizens tried to rush home. After they settled behind locked doors, they did not dare to venture out. Restaurants and shops were closed. The boulevards lay lit and abandoned. On television came news that the attacks were the work of a prison gang, half forgotten but widely known, called Primeiro Comando da Capital, or P.C.C., the First Command of the Capital. Across the state 73 prisons rose in synchronous rebellion. This caused less concern than one might expect, in part because prison riots are common in Brazil, and are routinely if sometimes brutally contained. But the attacks against the city were something else, and the government had no idea how to respond.
State authorities claimed that the situation was under control, but television showed that it was not. In fact, the authorities were barricaded inside their headquarters watching the same broadcast scenes. Some of the replays were set to music. The attacks continued in irregular waves, without discernible patterns. Through Friday night and across the weekend the police reeled backward, abandoning their posts, only to be ambushed in the open. The police in São Paulo are despised for corruption and brutality, but they do loosely stand for law and order, and it was shocking to see them in retreat. Over the first two days more than 40 police officers and prison guards were killed, and also one of the firemen responding to the flames. For every agent killed, several others were wounded. Passersby died, caught in the crossfire ... The city huddled through the third night. On Monday morning, after a period of calm, people summoned the courage to return to work, in the hope that the trouble was over. But at midday the attacks resumed, and people again fled for their homes, creating one of the greatest traffic jams in São Paulo’s great traffic-jam history.
Then, as abruptly as they had started, on Monday night the attacks suddenly stopped.
. . .
What is certain is that the assault was a demonstration of strength, an act of self-affirmation, and a measured blow against the rule of law. Some of the attacks were so brazen as to be nearly suicidal. The point being made was not that they could be carried out, but that they could be sustained.
There's more at the link. It's a very long article, but well worth your time to read in full - because it's likely to happen here too. Forewarned is forearmed.
The great danger, one that too many Americans don't yet recognize, is that people who've grown up with such gang violence and criminal terror are now present in this country in large numbers. The activities of the MS-13 gang are relatively well-known, but it's only one gang. There are many others, some of them even more violent. Criminals from almost every country in South America have crossed our borders with impunity, and set up operations here. Cartel hit-men have been active in Phoenix, Arizona and elsewhere. Hispanic gangs - both home-grown, and infused by 'talent' from south of the border - are trying to drive out black residents from areas in Los Angeles they consider 'theirs'. Conflict between hispanic and black communities in general, and criminal gangs in particular, has been growing for a long time.
I'm waiting for the 'example' of BLM (which has almost certainly been inspired by the success of gangs in South America at making certain areas of cities 'ungovernable' by the authorities) to motivate such gangs to do likewise in their areas. It's a common progression all around the world. I saw it in South Africa during the years of the struggle against apartheid, where gangs of one political persuasion or another would seek to make a particular township 'theirs' and exclude all other shades of opinion. With certain suburbs now seemingly being downgraded by police, thanks to the 'Ferguson Effect', how long can it be before the same thing happens in some US cities?
So, to put it all together, we have:
- Terrorist attacks;
- The 'Ferguson Effect'; and
- The influence of criminal gangs and racial tensions in a number of our cities and suburbs.
I have a very bad feeling about the confluence of events at present. May I suggest that readers living in closer proximity to events such as those of the past weekend should take note, and plan accordingly?