portland riot
© Julio Rosas/Townhall
Thursday night in Portland, Antifa and BLM rioters set fire to a 120-year-old statue of an elk, causing it such extensive damage that it had to be removed. They've accordingly come in for some mockery on social media, as people wonder how the elk expressed his "racism" and "white supremacism." Many take the destruction of the elk statue as a manifestation of the same stupidity that led rioters who proclaimed they were out to destroy monuments to slave-holders to target statues of General Grant and Abraham Lincoln. But the rioters aren't stupid, even as they destroyed the elk. Once one understands what their real goal is, all their actions make sense.

In the first place, the rioters aren't really out to bring about a societal repudiation of "racism" or "white supremacy" at all. That's just a pretext. If they were, they wouldn't have gone after Grant and Lincoln, and they didn't go after them because they were too miseducated and propagandized to know better. What the rioters want to do is the very definition of terrorism: to strike fear into the hearts of a population so that its entire existence is consumed by it, and it becomes paralyzed, unable to act even in its own defense.

Antifa and Black Lives Matter are terrorists not just because they are open Marxists who want to destroy the United States as a free republic and establish an authoritarian socialist state in its place; they're also terrorists because terror is one of their principal tactics. They want to make you afraid. They want to make you think the ground is unsteady beneath your feet, that the old order is crumbling, and that they represent the new, energized vanguard, or what another terrorist, Osama bin Laden, called "the strong horse." They also want to make you think that at any moment, you yourself could be targeted and destroyed, even if you're as innocent of wrongthink and unacceptable political opinions as the Portland elk.

In that, they emulate every Marxist state that has ever existed. In his monumental Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn explains that the law-enforcement apparatus of Stalinist Russia wasn't in the least interested in the justice of what they were doing. Officials "had no profound reasons for their choice of whom to arrest and whom not to arrest. They merely had over-all assignments, quotas for a specific number of arrests. These quotas might be filled on an orderly basis or wholly arbitrarily. In 1937 a woman came to the reception room of the Novocherkassk NKVD to ask what she should do about the unfed unweaned infant of a neighbor who had been arrested. They said: 'Sit down, we'll find out.' She sat there for two hours — whereupon they took her and tossed her into a cell. They had a total plan which had to be fulfilled in a hurry, and there was no one available to send out into the city — and here was this woman already in their hands!"

That woman was like the elk in Portland. Once news of her arrest got out, her neighbors would be well and truly terrorized: The authorities were always watching, always ready to act, always vigilant, and to all appearances arbitrary. The only hope, and it was a slim one, of avoiding arrest and a term in the gulag was to toe the Soviet line with fanatical scrupulosity, hoping by a display of zeal for the regime to make it inconceivable that the regime one served so ardently would betray such ardor.

But it invariably would. It had to. If it didn't, the population might cease to be terrorized, and start to relax. A terrorized population is docile; a relaxed one might have the leisure to start entertaining thoughts of resistance.

And so the elk had to get it. The destruction of Portland's elk statue is a warning to the rest of us: you're next. Millions of Americans are getting the message and nodding obediently: everywhere you look these days, you're inundated with tendentious Leftist propaganda that will only exaggerate, not heal, racial divisions. Many display this nonsense not because they're true believers, but because they're afraid: I know a man whose entire neighborhood has begun displaying Black Lives Matter signs, at the invitation of Leftist activists who politely knocked on their door and asked them to do so. When they came to him, he readily agreed: He knew that unspoken subtext was that if he did not, things would not go well for him in the future.

That is life in the new Soviet America that has been germinating for years and has descended upon us suddenly. Tomorrow is Independence Day. We can only hope it will inspire millions of Americans to realize what is happening, refuse to be intimidated into submission, and reclaim their history and their freedom, before it's too late.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 21 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Rating America's Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.