American Unrest

American Unrest

For almost a week now, protests have surged across American cities in response to the videotaped police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man detained for allegedly using a counterfeit bill to buy cigarettes.

Alongside largely peaceful demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racial injustice, there have been instances of looting, arson, and aggressive police violence. Several journalists have been arrested.


In many ways, the coronavirus pandemic and recession, which have disproportionately affected black and Latino Americans, have added to the anger on the streets.

The central question of whether, and how, a deeply divided country can make progress towards racial justice can't be answered yet. But here are a few observations.

The scale and immediacy of these protests is unprecedented. Never before have protests in America against racial injustice gone both national and viral this quickly. For previous protests at this scale – whether the upheavals of the late 1960s or those that followed the Rodney King case acquittals in 1992 – you have to reach back to a period well before social media was around to capture injustices on video and to fuel further outrage. Today, everywhere that police and protesters meet, there is a flurry of smartphone cameras and an audience waiting for the footage.

Will the protests change the 2020 election? The protests are about issues that transcend any single ballot or president. And as some activists have pointed out, the policies that shape policing are made at the local level, and demand local accountability.

But with a national election just five months from tomorrow, the upheaval and its aftershocks will surely echo into the campaigns. Will they help Trump? Or his opponent, Joe Biden? The impact either way might be smaller than you think.

To make a difference in the outcome, the protests would need to change many minds either about whom to vote for or whether to vote at all. But this election is shaping up to be mainly a referendum on Trump(ism), and views of him are largely set at this point. In fact, one of the curious features of his presidency, tumultuous as it's been, is the uncanny stability of his approval ratings in the low to mid 40s.

Given the broader political polarization over the protests themselves – when Trump's supporters look at them they see destructive threats to law and order, while his critics tend to see them as justified civic actions radicalized by a violent police response and exploited by provocateurs – it's hard to see many minds changing.

How is it playing abroad? Not so well for the US. Solidarity protests have erupted outside US consulates and embassies in London, Berlin, and Milan. Meanwhile, several authoritarian countries that have recently gotten an earful from Washington over their own repression have gleefully shot back at the White House: Turkey's president decried the US' "racist and fascist" police, Iran's supreme leader let off a tweet in Spanish about the perils of being black in America, while the country's ultraconservative former president allowed himself a provocative Tupac quote. China, for its part, had a field day in light of recent criticism of its crackdown on Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, Russia and China seem to be doing their best to further inflame political tensions over the protests – not that the US needs much help on that score at the moment.

This week, the market value of Tencent, China's biggest video game company, nosedived after a state media outlet suggested that online gaming was as addictive and destructive as opium. Tencent immediately pledged to cap the number of hours people can play, and to keep minors off its platforms.

It's the latest example of a months-long crackdown on major Chinese technology firms that until recently were viewed as some of the world's most powerful and successful companies, as well as a source of national pride. Beijing's about-face on its own tech titans could have big implications for China, and beyond.

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Whenever Burkina Faso is in the news, it's often about how the crisis-ridden country has got caught up in the crosshairs of horrific jihadist violence plaguing the Sahel.

But this week, the nation of 20 million was celebrating because Hugues Fabrice Zango won its first-ever Olympic medal after finishing third in the men's triple jump in Tokyo.

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Should people get COVID vaccine booster shots? Not yet, says the World Health Organization, which is pushing for rich nations or those with access to jabs to hold off until at least the end of September so all countries get to fully vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations before some jump ahead with boosters. But the WHO's call has fallen on deaf ears in nations like Israel, France, Germany and Russia, which are already planning to offer boosters, in part to better protect people against the more contagious delta variant. What's more, mRNA vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna are recommending supplemental doses for the same reason. The problem is that, beyond the obvious moral imperative for equal access to vaccines, if the rich continue hoarding jabs while vaccination rates stay low elsewhere, the virus will continue to thrive — and mutate into new, potentially even more infectious variants that sooner or later will reach every corner of the planet.

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80: If polar ice caps continue to melt at their current pace due to climate change, 80 percent of all emperor penguins will be wiped out by the end of the century because they need the ice for breeding and keeping their offspring safe. American authorities want to list emperor penguins, which only live in Antarctica, as an endangered species so that US fishing vessels will be required to protect them when operating in their habitat.

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Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent COVID-19 policy developments:

The Biden administration extended an eviction moratorium even after the Supreme Court said they couldn't, what's next?

Well, the CDC imposed a nationwide eviction moratorium in light of increased risk from evicted people because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court in June ruled that they (CDC) overextended their authority in doing so and mandated that the moratorium expire on schedule in July. A group of progressive activists weren't happy about this and raised a huge stink in Congress, but Congress recessed for their August vacation before they could solve the problem, putting big pressure on President Biden to extend the moratorium even though he said he didn't think that it would pass constitutional muster. The CDC did it anyway, extending the moratorium until October 3rd, which is a time that's short enough to probably avoid it being overturned by lawsuits, but long enough that Congress has time to figure out how to either extend it on a bipartisan basis or put more money into a rental assistance fund that few people have taken advantage of so far. This whole incident shows the power of progressive activists in the Biden administration who were able to elevate the profile of this issue and potentially prevent millions of people from losing their homes this summer.

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On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer takes a look at the yin and the yang of alcohol's role in high-level diplomacy and society at large. Alcohol can bring people together just as easily as it can tear them apart. From a 1995 Clinton/Yeltsin Summit where a drunk Yeltsin almost derailed Bosnian peace talks, to Obama's Beer Summit and the recent G7 Summit, booze plays a part in how world leaders interact. Globally, alcohol consumption has been steadily increasing, by over 70 percent between 1990 and 2017, according to one report. . Low and middle-income nations like Vietnam, India, and China are a driving force behind that trend, with drinking in Southeast Asia rising by over 34 percent between 2010 and 2017. And yet, amidst this global booze boom, the world has only grown more and more divided.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

Equestrian jumpers, and their horses, are disciplined species. They don't appreciate surprises very much.

But many participants were caught off guard during this week's individual jumping qualifiers in Tokyo by a very daunting statue of a sumo wrestler on the hurdle course (which is dotted with statues paying homage to traditional Japanese culture, like geisha kimonos, cherry blossoms, and taiko drums).

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