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Popular Mechanics’ Guide to Vandalism

It's not just Confederate monuments being defaced. Rioters have damaged or destroyed statues of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. These men were not without sin. If that were the standard, only statues of Jesus Christ would stand anywhere in the world.

When toppling a statue all by yourself, “your best bet is to melt the damn thing.” That’s one method prescribed in the recent Popular Mechanics how-to guide on “safely” destroying government property.

Another method is to “snag some liquid nitrogen from a distributor like Airgas or Praxair. Then, drill a hole in the statue and pour the nitrogen inside to shatter the ankles.” It’s unclear if “snag” in this context means to legally purchase or to steal the liquid nitrogen, something which is not exactly a household item.

Of course, your best bet when illegally sabotaging a public landmark is to “recruit 70 buddies with a bit of muscle” to pull a statue off its pedestal and crashing down onto the ground, hopefully not on top of you or your buddies.

Should you happen to find yourself near a statue that you decide you no longer like, we asked scientists for the best, safest ways to bring it to the ground without anyone getting hurt—except, of course, for the inanimate racist who’s been dead for a century anyway.

From “How to Topple a Statue Using Science,” by James Stout for Popular Mechanics

The author of the vandalism instructions, James Stout, Ph.D, is a self-described “historian of anti fascism in sport” who lists his preferred pronouns on his locked Twitter account. His article came five days too late for Chris Green, who was critically injured when a Confederate soldier statue landed on him in Portsmouth, VA.

The notion that there are outdated, inappropriate and downright offensive statues in this country is genuine. As a proud Southerner and one who appreciates history in all its splendor and its shame, my position on the removal of Confederate statues might surprise some. On one hand, I think most artifacts or monuments from the 1800’s and earlier are fascinating. They tell a story – not all of which are pretty – and they memorialize significant events and figures from our nation’s past. On the other hand, I can totally understand why monuments to Confederate soldiers, generals or politicians are an offensive reminder of oppression to many Americans. Without delving too deeply into Civil War philosophy, it’s safe to say that slavery was a terrible sin and a stain on the fabric of our nation. It’s not quite so simple as to say the South was all-in for slavery and the North was completely against it, but clearly it was a central issue to the war and had the South won, slavery likely would have continued, at least a bit longer. So, it’s reasonable to me that symbols of a defeated Confederacy that seceded from the Union not be displayed on courthouse lawns or city squares as if to suggest that all Americans should honor them.

That doesn’t mean they should be defaced, destroyed or damaged by angry mobs of lawbreakers who take it upon themselves to eradicate these public symbols from government property and from the annals of history. I would fully support the orderly and careful removal of Confederate monuments from the public eye, and their preservation in museums, private collections or other places where they can be observed voluntarily and in proper historical context. To allow riotous mobs to tear them down on a whim is anarchy and it’s not safe, despite the publication of Mr. Stout’s pocket guide to destroying state property.

It’s not just Confederate monuments being defaced. Rioters (it’s important to differentiate them from protesters, who are peaceful) have damaged or destroyed statues of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. These men were not without sin. If that were the standard, only statues of Jesus Christ would stand anywhere in the world. But these are undisputed heroes of our nation’s past. Abraham Lincoln, more than any President, acted to declare and protect the rights of all Americans to be treated fairly and equally under the law. If not for Washington, Jefferson and other men of their time, we might be British subjects governed from afar. Speaking of the Brits, some of their rage-rioters have defaced statues of the very man who they can all thank for their freedom to act so disgustingly. A monument to Sir Winston Churchill in London has been spray painted with the word “racist.”

Meanwhile, left-wing agitators like Stout cheer them on from the sideline. The barbarous impudence that it takes to write such provocative rubbish and to publish it in a once respected magazine that’s been around for more than a century, is bewildering to most who consider themselves decent. While the article is free speech protected by the first amendment, Stout, in all practical purposes, aids and abets criminal activity with his writing. He could potentially be liable for injuries or death if someone without proper experience in demolition or the handling of chemical agents – as most of these vandals surely aren’t – were to meet their demise while following Stout’s advice.

Maybe the editors and publisher of Popular Mechanics think they are providing a helpful guide to protect lawless vandals from 3500 pounds of crumbling concrete. Or maybe they are trying to broaden their appeal to a new, “woke” generation who think the law is what they demand it to be. Whatever their motive, “How to Topple a Statue Using Science” is a reckless affront to the concepts of peace, lawfulness and decency. They should be ashamed. And maybe they are, since the magazine has not promoted this story on their Twitter account. They maintain a fairly patriotic front on that platform, with articles about US combat planes, space shuttles and grilling and lawn maintenance techniques. But the publication of the vandalism guide was not lost on the Twitterverse:

The time has never been more right for a sensible, peaceful discussion about the proper place for Civil War monuments. Some cities are going about it the right way and passing legal ordinances for their careful removal. The mob-mentality destruction of public property – including statues – and of private property needs to end. It certainly shouldn’t be encouraged and instructed by a magazine that has enjoyed every privilege our great country has to offer since 1902.


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