The other day I read Adam Gopnik’s piece in the 8/29 New Yorker about Heather Anne Thompson’s book on the Attica prison uprising, “Blood on the Water.” Gopnik writes with commanding self-assurance about a jaw-droppingly wide range of topics, always infused with several wish-I’d-written-that sentences and a couple which, after three or four passes, I give up on understanding; and this article was a good one.
Gopnik’s major point was that, tragic slaughter that it was, Attica stifled this country’s movement toward prison reform, burying us deeper in the shit that exists now. In liberal democracies, he says, violence scares people off faster that reformers can win them over. (He cites a study of public opinion polls from 1950 thru 1980 showing that a majority of Americans favored civil rights during periods of nonviolent protests and swung in favor of law-and-order when these protests turned violent. “Panicked people,” he concludes, “will almost always be the majority.”
Maybe so; maybe not. But if you’re planning on throwing any rocks through windows, maybe hold off until after the November elections.