I imagine University of Rhode Island professor Erik Loomis’ classes must be pretty interesting.
Interesting isn’t a synonym for “good” or “enlightening,” but I can’t picture being bored from what little I know about him.
Incensed, sure. Bored, no.
Loomis is a professor of history at the university, the author of several books about the labor movement and activism, and a writer for the blog Lawyers, Guns & Money. I’m a fan of 66 percent of that title’s formulation, but alas, it doesn’t quite live up to its billing — at least when it comes to Loomis’ digital scribblings.
I became aware of the blog recently, as many others did, when Loomis decided to comment on the death of Michael Reinoehl.
Reinoehl, 48, was accused of shooting and killing a member of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer during violent protests in Portland, Oregon, last month. (In an interview with Vice, the avowed antifa supporter appeared to admit to the killing, though he claimed he was trying to protect a friend.)
It’s unclear what exactly happened when police tried to take Reinoehl into custody, but what’s known is that authorities said he had a handgun on him and witnesses said he fired at police, according to The Olympian.
At Lawyers, Guns & Money, Loomis said he’s perfectly fine with one of these killings. Since I’m writing about him, you can probably tell which one it is.
“Michael Reinoehl is the guy who killed the fascist in Portland last week,” Loomis wrote in the Sept. 4 post.
“He admitted it and said he was scared the cops would kill him. Well, now the cops have killed him.
“I am extremely anti-conspiracy theory. But it’s not a conspiracy theory at this point in time to wonder if the cops simply murdered him,” Loomis continued. “The police is [sic] shot through with fascists from stem to stern. They were openly working with the fascists in Portland, as they were in Kenosha which led to dead protestors.”
Note to everyone who fancies speculation: Starting a sentence with “I am extremely anti-conspiracy theory” is a dead giveaway to everyone hearing or reading those words that the fusillade of thoughts they’re about to endure will, in fact, be a conspiracy theory. In the same way any sentence that begins with the words “no offense, but …” will invariably end in some sort of offense, any line of thinking that begins with “I am extremely anti-conspiracy theory” will go full Infowars.
In this case, police supposedly killed Michael Reinoehl because they’re in league with the fascists “from stem to stern.” They apparently shot Reinoehl in broad daylight to quietly off him during a time of rabid anti-police sentiment and thought they could get away with it.
We don’t know yet whether or not law enforcement were justified in shooting the suspect, but most of us probably don’t think it’s some kind of secret fascist conspiracy.
Anyhow, in the comments section, someone noted: “Erik, [Reinoehl] shot and killed a guy.”
“He killed a fascist. I see nothing wrong with it, at least from a moral perspective,” Loomis responded. “Tactically, that’s a different story. But you could say the same thing about John Brown.”
So, in case you’re unfamiliar with them, Patriot Prayer is a controversial group which has been a fixture in Portland’s contentious protest atmosphere for years now. It’s one of a multitude of fringe groups on the right and left which hold “protests” that usually end up with a whole lot of livestream screaming and possibly worse.
Antifa groups have long targeted Patriot Prayer events, which made the fact that a self-declared antifa member allegedly shot and killed a Patriot Prayer member one of the least surprising things I’ve heard this year, sadly.
Even if you aren’t a big fan of them, Patriot Prayer isn’t fascist and there’s no moral system under which it’s appropriate to shoot a member of the group with no or minimal provocation, which seems to have happened in Portland. Loomis’ comment would be disturbing enough if that were where his definition of “fascist” ended.
It wasn’t, of course.
So, who qualifies as a fascist? Any member of mainstream campus conservative group Young America’s Foundation, for one.
Former Campus Reform correspondent Kara Zupkus is also an editor at YAF’s New Guard magazine, and when she quote-tweeted Loomis, he responded with this:
Also, thanks for the reminder to teach my students this semester just how horribly disgusting the Young Americans for Fascism is and has been since its beginnings in the cesspool of William F. Buckley’s diseased racist brain.
— Erik Loomis (@ErikLoomis) September 8, 2020
“That’s right. And no fascists will intimidate me either. Including you,” he tweeted back.
“Also, thanks for the reminder to teach my students this semester just how horribly disgusting the Young Americans for Fascism is and has been since its beginnings in the cesspool of William F. Buckley’s diseased racist brain.” Buckley was one of the founders of Young Americans for Freedom, a group which merged with the other YAF.
I want to emphasize the danger here.
In one comment, an individual argued (not inaccurately) that Loomis’ “statements are uncomfortably close to apologetics for murder. There is, as of yet, no evidence that Reinoehl acted in self-defense other than his bare assertion. I think a core part of anti-fascism is not excusing or endorsing violence as a means of settling political disputes.”
Loomis’ response: “Let it never be said that we can have a conversation about these things without white liberals turning non-violence into a fetish.”
Loomis has a history of questionable remarks. According to Campus Reform, in 2012, Loomis called for National Rifle Association executive Wayne LaPierre’s “head on a stick” after the Sandy Hook shooting.
In 2013, he made news again by saying: “I know the central mission of the Republican Party is to have a membership made up entirely of old rural white people.”
This is quite a bit different, however — a post revealing that a man teaching at a public institution doesn’t particularly think there’s a problem with killing fascists in certain contexts and who defines fascists as YAF members.
There’s not a whole lot of internal consistency to Loomis’ arguments, but to the extent there is, he represents an unusual danger to students who dare to have different opinions than his.
A professor who’ll give you a failing grade for disagreeing with him is one thing. It’s quite another to have one like Erik Loomis who thinks, in certain contexts, violence against you is perfectly all right.
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