This ‘Man’ Is NOT A Hero!!!

Two weeks ago, I was horrified by the murder of a Black homeless man, Jordan Neely, by a white man on a New York subway train.  But then, horror turned to rage when I saw some of the reactions, with people calling Mr. Neely’s murderer a “hero” and then when a GoFundMe account was established for his legal defense, it quickly amassed over $2 million!!!  WHAT THE SAM HELL is wrong with people in this country?  People whine and bitch about the economy, the price of fuel & food, but yet they’ve got money to throw away supporting a murderous white supremacist???  Well, rather than listen to me rant, here is what Aaron Rupar and Noah Berlatsky, two writers/journalists I have a great deal of respect for, have to say on the topic …

Daniel Penny shows how much the right loves white vigilante violence

“Law and order” is often code for white supremacy.

Aaron Rupar and Noah Berlatsky

17 May 2023

Daniel Penny leaves the 5th Precinct in Lower Manhattan on May 12. (Michael Nigro/LightRocket via Getty)

Republicans often present themselves as the law and order party — the ones committed to public safety and fighting crime. But when Daniel Penny choked Jordan Neely to death May 1 aboard the New York City subway, the right did not call for police intervention.

Penny is white and a former Marine. Neely was Black and unhoused, and was talking loudly about how hungry and unhappy he was. Neely was not threatening or assaulting anyone, but Penny put him in a chokehold and killed him. Then when Penny was charged with second-degree manslaughter, the right rose as one to condemn the law.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis described Penny as a “Good Samaritan” and called on conservatives to “stop the Left’s pro-criminal agenda” — though, again, DeSantis was the one defending a man who had allegedly broken the law and been arrested.

Even more crudely, Rep. Matt Gaetz called Penny a “Subway Superman.”

Political scientist and right-wing intellectual Richard Hanania said, referring to Neely and his defenders, “these people are animals” — less a dogwhistle than a dog siren. Meanwhile, New York Times opinion columnist David French, a supposedly reasonable conservative and anti-Trumper, justified Penny’s actions by musing, “What if Penny had done nothing? Would everyone — including Neely — have emerged from that subway car unscathed?” Neely did not threaten anyone or attack anyone. But French twists himself into knots to find a way to claim that the murder was a tragic necessity.

It’s not just politicians and faux intellectuals who have rushed to Penny’s defense. Penny’s legal defense fund has raised more than $2 million from right-wing donors —including from singer Kid Rock, who declared, “Mr. Penny is a hero.”

Not hypocrisy, but consistent racism

You could argue that this is an example of conservative hypocrisy: The GOP claims to support law and order, and then turns around and rallies behind homicidal violence when it’s convenient. They don’t abide by their own principles.

But I think in this case the GOP is upholding their core beliefs. That’s because the law they promise to uphold is the law of white supremacy and impunity, and the order they want to impose is one in which Black people are deferential, on pain of death.

Scholar Frank Wilderson III writes, “White people are not simply ‘protected’ by the police; they are the police.” White people, and whiteness, are the law; Black people are always on the wrong side of it. A white person subjugating a Black person is therefore doing the work of the law, and so of course the “law and order” party rushes to his defense.

For conservatives, racist vigilante violence undertaken by white people isn’t really vigilante violence, because white people are all, in Wilderson’s words, automatically “deputized.”

The law of Dirty Harry

Vigilante violence as white supremacist law has a long pedigree in American history. In the 1830s in New York City, for instance, kidnapping rings seized Black children and transported them into slavery. While these rings were technically outside the law and operated in semi-secret, often they were aided by New York marshals like Isaiah Rynders, and by police and judges who operated what historian Jonathan Daniel Wells referred to as a “reverse underground railroad.”

Like Neely today, Black people in the 1830s in New York were considered an affront to order merely by existing, and white people were empowered to remove them from the city with or without the direct collaboration of law enforcement.

A placard featuring an image of Jordan Neely during a demonstration at NYC’s Washington Square Park on May 5. (Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty)

As before the Civil War, so afterwards. Lynchings in the South in the Jim Crow era were technically illegal. But targets were generally accused of some crime — especially sexual crimes — and so their murders were carried out in the name of law and order. Executions of Black people were often staged on the courthouse lawn as a way of emphasizing their semi-official nature and their supposed enactment of justice.

When vigilante justice was less public during Jim Crow, officials would generally hurry to cosign it. The murderers of Emmett Till — a Black 14-year-old accused of whistling at a white woman in 1955 — were acquitted by an all-white jury in deliberations that took only an hour.

The Civil Rights movements of the latter 20th century couldn’t erase the subjugation of Black Americans by white authorities. In the 1970s and continuing for 20 years, Chicago police detective Jon Burge and some of his fellow officers used torture to elicit false confessions from more than a hundred Black men in Chicago. Suspects were beaten and shocked with cattle prods. Some were in prison for decades. Mayor Richard M. Daley, then Cook County state’s attorney, covered up the crimes.

In the Burge case, the police themselves were essentially engaged in a systematic, vicious, decades-long campaign of vigilante violence with the collaboration of overseers. That vision of law and order has often been celebrated and glorified in popular culture — as in the Dirty Harry movies, in which a rogue cop takes justice into his own hands, or in innumerable Batman stories, in which the Caped Crusader violently assaults whoever he feels has it coming — all with the enthusiastic support of police chief Jim Gordon.

Bernhard Goetz, George Zimmerman, Daniel Pantaleo, Derek Chauvin, Kyle Rittenhouse, Daniel Penny. Some were cops, some weren’t. But they all received right-wing support because they all were doing the work of law and order — defined as the violent suppression of Black people.

White supremacy Is white vigilante violence

But every once in a while, a different vision of law and order wins out in the United States — one that sees white supremacist violence as a threat to public safety, rather than as its apotheosis.

In 1996, an electronics specialist named Bernhard Goetz lost a $43 million dollar civil suit brought by his victims — four men he shot on a NYC subway in 1984. Burge eventually served two years in prison for perjury related to police torture; Chicago paid reparations to his victims. Derek Chauvin was convicted for his murder of George Floyd. Sometimes, to some degree, a different vision of law and order wins out in the United States — one that sees white supremacist violence as a threat to public safety, rather than as its apotheosis.

But conservatives are desperate to preserve the privilege of white violence, which is why the defenses of Penny sound so rabid and so unhinged. For conservatives, a world in which white men are held accountable for racist murder is a world without law, without order. It’s a world in which chaos (that is, equality) is let loose, and America’s essence (that is, white supremacy) is perverted.

Scholar Thomas Zimmer, in a thoughtful essay, argues that the right’s support of vigilantes is part of a deliberate plan to fight back against creeping egalitarianism and establish an authoritarian fascist state through widespread terror and intimidation. The celebration of Penny “encourages white militants to use whatever force they please to ‘fight back’ against anything and anyone associated with the Left by protecting and glorifying those who have engaged in vigilante violence,” Zimmer says. It’s laying the groundwork for the next coup.

Zimmer isn’t wrong. I think it’s worth emphasizing, though, that legitimizing vigilante violence is the new tactic because it’s the old tactic. Whenever confronted with a threat to white supremacy — the Civil War, the Civil Rights movement, the George Floyd protests — conservatives turn to the law and order of white impunity and white violence. White supremacy in the US has always been challenged, which means it’s always on the defensive, always insisting that extrajudicial violence is necessary and glorious.

The forces of white supremacy always deputize vigilante violence, because the right to vigilante violence against Black people is arguably what white supremacy is. The right is fighting for the right of white people to police Black people, and to inflict any extreme of violence upon them in the course of that policing. Black people “have no rights which the white man was bound to respect,” in the words of that bastion of law, the Supreme Court. That’s what American fascism looks like. It’s been around a long time, and we are not rid of it yet.

83 thoughts on “This ‘Man’ Is NOT A Hero!!!

  1. Thank you for calling out the hypocrisy of the people supporting that Penny monster. I saw a video earlier today breaking down the situation while also comparing and contrasting to other situations including one case of a Black man defending himself and his son on his property in Long Island, but got punished for it even though he had every right to do so defending his family and home against racist thugs who beat up his son and followed him home. I’m also glad how you mentioned that the term “law and order” is a dog whistle. More people need to realize that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It just makes me so angry! How can anyone think this Penny dude is a hero, when he is the exact opposite??? And at first, they weren’t even going to charge Mr. Penny … they questioned him and let him go, but the hue and cry from the community — in fact from the nation — was so great that they ultimately decided they better do the right thing. What do you bet, though, that he gets off with naught but a slap on the wrist?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Same here. I hope there’s anough pressure for him to get punished for his actions. I do worry that he could potentially get a slap on the wrist given how some of these stories go. It also infuriated me about mainstream media’s smear campaigns on the victim.

        Liked by 1 person

        • So do I, but I’m not holding my breath. Oh, I fully agree about the media … apparently all the poor man was doing was complaining about being homeless and hungry, and was not threatening anybody, but in the press it sounded as if he were threatening people’s lives.

          Liked by 1 person

            • People seem to fear that which they don’t understand. Homelessness and hunger aren’t a part of most people’s lives, so they fear it, and in their fear, they lash out. That does NOT excuse it, though … and especially does not excuse murdering someone in cold blood simply because they were hungry. 😥

              Liked by 1 person

              • Right. I know how awkward it can be since I’ve been in situations where I was around homeless people, but I wasn’t tempted to hurt or kill them. It’s just saddening to see savage behavior being justified by some people who think Daniel Penny is some kind of “Samaritan”. Those same people who claim to be Bible-readers completely missed the point of the Good Samaritan story to begin with!

                Liked by 1 person

  2. Gosh, when they talk about “law and order”, I run for miles. That usually means an authoritarian state, and I don’t want any of that. But how cruel are people that they think what that man did was ok? And if they are Christians, what about turning the other cheek? 🤔

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sadly, humans being what they are, I think that as long as humans exist, there will be a need for ‘law and order’. I certainly understand your concerns, though, especially given that your native land is the one most known for a lethally authoritarian state. That said, law & order doesn’t have to be blind and cruel … if only we could find a way to separate the best of humanity from the worst, and elect only the best … sigh. My biggest question of the ages is why anybody … whether Christian, atheist, Muslim … anybody … think that white-skinned people are in any way inherently superior??? Skin is not where brains are stored!!! But there is so much racism in every area of this country today … and it’s getting worse by the day. Sigh.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I think if “law & order” is meant in a positive way, they aren’t emphasized so much. I feel you only have to bang on about “law & order” if you want to destroy it to distract from your actions but yes, maybe that is my German heritage 🤗 as for the white supremacy. Who knows but it might be one of the aspects of capitalism.

        Liked by 1 person

        • You have a point there. If only humans would learn to treat everyone with kindness, to put their greed and arrogance to rest and be humanitarian, we wouldn’t NEED police and such terms as “law and order”. It’s really up to us, isn’t it? Sigh.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. One possible solution: I do not know how it all worked out in the end, but during the so-called “Freedom Rally” in Ottawa in 2021, THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT FROZE THE GO FUND ME ACCOUNTS SUPPORTING THE OCCUPIERS OF DOWNTOWN OTTAWA! The account held millions of dolkars, uch of it com8ng from the States. Some of the money was returned to those who donated it, the rest was confiscated. That included money donated by one Donald J. TRUMP! The last I remember hearing was that the occupiers tried to use the courts to get access to those funds, but they were denied!

    This is something the American government should take under advisement. Go Fund Me accounts supporting criminal enterprizes are illegal too by extension!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Day after day I’m horrified by the amoral attitudes of the far right. Trouble is the fat right seems to be less far all the time. DON’T THINK I don’t think I’d blame any black man who ddedided to repesat but reverse this crime but it seems the sanctity of life is stronger in people of colour.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Like you, I am increasingly horrified, and yet the nation as a whole often seems to be becoming inured to such incidents. Remember Kyle Rittenhouse, the kid whose mother took him to borrow an assault weapon from a friend, then drove him to Indiana where he killed people at a Black Lives Matter rally? He got off scot-free and now is being hailed as a hero, just as Mr. Penny is today. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr … this nation is moving backward with remarkable speed.


      Liked by 2 people

  5. This is so sad. All I saw was three burly men ganging up on a young man. There was no need to kill him. If these whimps felt to need to constrain him all they needed to do was knock him out NOT hurt or kill him. !!!!!!!!!!! They were out of control!

    Liked by 2 people

    • No, there was no need to kill him … he was not doing anything to hurt anyone, nor was he a threat to anyone. But … y’know … his skin was Black, so he should be treated like an object rather than like a human. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr … And for the people to applaud the murderer, to hail him as a hero, is disgusting.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Utterly despicable, both Penny and all those who are supporting him. It doesn’t surprise me that DeSantis and Kid Rock have spoken out for him: they are both right wing lunatics. And I saw yesterday that Nikki Haley was saying Penny should be pardoned: he hasn’t even been tried and found guilty yet!

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Pingback: Attacked, Because of, My, Skin Color… – The Ivory Tower of My Mind

  8. If the U.S. society allows white people to, murder those who aren’t whites, then, how can those of us, who are, “minorities”, ever feel safe enough, to walk down the streets in America, without fears of, getting, attacked, simply because of our, skin, colors? This is, really, bad! And what’s worse, is that the government allows for this to, keep on, happening…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Understanding is hard. Alternate realities are necessary when reality is to hard to be faced. These people don’t want you to be comfortable walking down the street. You should also understand that the fear you legitimately feel is felt in spades within the supremacist. This irrational fear is what makes them so dangerous. You don’t sell self-protection to brave confident people of any color or creed. A God need not arm his/her self with a AR15.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s