I see that my “SJWs Will Elect Trump” post was a big hit over the weekend (thanks, Real Clear Politics, for the link). I posted it after midnight on Saturday morning — after reading accounts of the cancelled Trump rally in Chicago — and by Sunday afternoon, had changed one thing about the view expressed in that post. I had said that the SJWs shutting down an American presidential candidate’s rally was a sign that Trump had to go on — by which I meant that the SJWs could not be allowed to win yet again.
I do believe that the SJWs cannot be allowed to win. But Trump, on Sunday morning, showed again why he is a dangerous figure. Here he is on Meet The Press yesterday:
But Mr. Trump, when you say, you know, “If you see somebody getting to ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them. Seriously, just knock the hell out of them. I promise you, I’ll pay for their legal fees.” How is that not condoning what this older gentleman did to this protester?
Well, let me explain what happened. We were told just as I was going up on the stage, I was told by the secret service, “Sir, there’s a person or two people in the audience that have tomatoes. They are going to throw them at you, we think. If they do throw them, you have to be prepared.”
Now, if you get hit in the face with a tomato, let me tell you, with somebody with a strong arm, at least, let me tell you, it can be very damaging. Not good. So I was told people were in the audience, two people, with tomatoes, and they’re going to throw them at me. What I did is I said, “By the way, if you see anybody with tomatoes, right at the beginning, you’ve got to stop them. Do whatever you want to do.” I have no objection to what I said. I would say it again. People are there doing harm, you have to go and you have to use equal force.
Do you plan – I’m just curious–
It’s not fair. It’s a one-way street.
I’m just curious, do you plan on paying for the legal fees of this older gentleman in North Carolina who sucker punched the protester?
Well, I’m not aware. I will say this. I do want to see what that young man was doing. Because he was very taunting. He was very loud, very disruptive. And from what I understand, he was sticking a certain finger up in the air. And that is a terrible thing to do in front of somebody that frankly wants to see America made great again. And so we’ll see.
And that condones —
I’m going to take a look at it. But I want to see what that man was doing.
And that condones a sucker punch though?
No, as I told you before, nothing condones. But I want to see. The man got carried away, he was 78 years old, he obviously loves his country, and maybe he doesn’t like seeing what’s happening to the country. I want to see the full tape. But I don’t condone violence.
So you might pay for his legal fees?
Well, I’m going to look at it. I’m going to see, you know, what was behind this because it was a strange event. But from what I heard, there was a lot of taunting and a certain finger was placed in the air. Not nice. Again, I don’t condone the violence. I don’t condone what he did. But you know what, not nice for the other side either.
It’s possible you could help him with legal fees, if this man needs it?
I’ve actually instructed my people to look into it, yes.
He’s talking about the elderly white guy who sucker-punched the black protester in North Carolina the other day. You’ve seen the video, probably; everybody has. The black man was being hauled out of the arena by police, and was no threat at all to the old white man. None. No. Threat. Yet the old white guy reached out and cold-cocked the black protester. Of course Trump condones that, by offering to pay his legal fees. Trump knows what he’s doing.
Bernie Sanders is lying when he says his disruptors aren’t told to go to my events. Be careful Bernie, or my supporters will go to yours!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2016
Has any American running for president ever talked this way? As Marco Rubio pointed out over the weekend, you cannot talk the way Trump does if you want to be a leader. You have to rise above the rabble. Trump stokes what is worst in his followers. Noah Rothman wrote yesterday:
I had initially assumed that Trump’s irresponsible rhetoric was simply a strong-arm political tactic — that Trump campaign operatives threatening chaos, or worse, was a strategy designed to intimidate the Republican Party into giving their candidate the nomination at a potentially contested convention. That might have been the original plan, but it’s not any longer. The violence Trump has stoked has arrived months ahead of schedule. It suggests that this is a phenomenon over which Trump no longer has full control, and the cooler heads that we all expected to prevail are still largely silent about it or positioning themselves to benefit from it.
The country is careening into a familiar dark abyss. Trump supporters now feel confident enough in their surroundings to scream “go back to Africa” at blacks and “go to Auschwitz” at Jews. This anti-social behavior is being abetted from the top, because the top seems to have no interest in stopping it. Indeed, the celebrity candidate appears to think he can ride this ugly wave into power.
John Podhoretz is correct here, talking about the left-wing provocateurs who invaded the Chicago Trump rally, then acted up:
And then they play victim. It’s straight out of the Marxist-Leninist street-game playbook, and only a historical illiterate or a fool or someone who is sympathetic to the tactics would deny it.
The larger question is what responsibility Trump bears for all this. The answer is simple: He bears most of it. He thinks it’s okay to play a wink-wink-nudge-nudge game with the people in his crowds about how in the old days a protestor would have been beaten up, or how he’d pay for legal fees if someone wants to do something to a protestor —and inside and outside his events things are getting violent. People are getting punched. Photographers are getting hurled to the ground by Secret Service agents. Reporters are getting manhandled by repugnant Trump toadies. The charged atmosphere surrounding Trump is charged because he has charged it.
And if you have the sickening feeling this is only the beginning, you’re not alone. Trump, I’ve often said, is a manifestation of Loki, the god of misrule. Misrule breeds chaos. Chaos breeds violence. A political party that chooses Loki for its leader is a political party with a rank-and-file choosing chaos. And a political party whose populist left is provoking its rival into choosing chaos is morally stained as well.
They are. For months I have been pointing out that here that the aggressive illiberalism of the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as other Social Justice Warrior groups, is calling up a backlash. It is outrageous that they have been able to intimidate college administrators and professors, and bully people who don’t share their views, especially its racial particularism, with no pushback. And it is infuriating that they shut down a political rally held by a candidate for the US presidency. From Politico‘s report going inside the Chicago planning of the disruptors:
By sundown on Friday night, the crowd assembled inside the arena was chanting and ready to cheer on their candidate: Donald Trump. Six thousand strong and still trickling in through the metal detectors at the front gate, they had traveled from across the Midwest, taking vacation days from work, booking bus tickets from afar, and waiting, at times, more than 12 hours outside on the streets of Chicago for a night with the GOP frontrunner.
But not everyone was there to cheer. Just 50 feet in front of the podium where Trump was scheduled to appear at any moment, Nathaniel Lewis, a 25-year-old African-American graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, had established a beachhead of sorts: a pocket of about three dozen college students and activists. They were ready, too.
What Lewis and dozens of his UIC classmates had planned was perhaps bigger—and better organized—than any protest Trump had faced to date. It had been a week in the making, and now everyone was in place: with roughly 2,500 on the street outside and hundreds more inside, including dozens working directly with Lewis.
Provocateurs there to deny Trump the right to speak, and those people who had traveled to hear him the right to hear him. More:
The plan was straightforward. Once Trump began speaking, Lewis would begin sending messages to the groups around the hall—and, so prompted, they would each stand up, chanting, and disrupt the speech. It would then build to a crescendo: right there, in front of Trump’s podium. Lewis and the other protesters in front were going to link up—“arm in arm,” he instructed the students around him—and make their presence known in a silent, but conspicuous, circle. “It will speak louder,” Lewis said, “than anybody who interrupts Trump’s speeches.”
They didn’t get to do it, because Trump cancelled his talk, citing safety concerns. And then:
And that was the exact moment when the violence began, pitting Trump supporters against protesters, whites against blacks. An event—teetering on the edge until that moment, but still calm—devolved quickly into an angry scrum, and Lewis and his fellow students found themselves in the middle of it. They were standing near the podium where the candidate would not be appearing—with an increasingly angry crowd around them that knew exactly who had prevented Donald Trump from showing up.
“Stay together!” Lewis urged his fellow protesters.
The Trump supporters surged toward them, shouting and swearing. The confrontation the student protesters had hoped to avoid was coming, and there was nothing any of them could do to stop it.
Read the whole thing. It’s worth it to get an idea into the mindset of the protesters. They actually seem to believe that going into the rally and repeatedly disrupting the speaker, so that the speaker cannot communicate his message, is somehow “peaceful.” Steve Sailer expresses the offensiveness of what those SJWs pulled off in Chicago, and ties it to the SJW movement on campus (N.B., the venue they denied to Trump on Friday was on a college campus):
Of course, Safe Spaces has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with the territorial imperative. Young people naturally feel the urge to fight turf wars, to stake out territory and drive out enemies. Normally in America we have laws to regulate the competition for property so territorial urges don’t turn into mob rule. But over the last year minority college students have increasingly asserted that they must be above the law because racism. It’s the only way they can be safe. …
So the violent protesters shutting down a public political gathering were engaging in self-defense, since everybody knows from watching TV that Trump supporters are Ku Klux Klanners and Nazis, so violence is okay. It’s self defense of Safe Spaces.
Sailer links to this lengthy Reddit account of the event by a Trump supporter who was at the rally, and was frightened by what he saw from the anti-Trump protesters. The Redditor concludes:
Obviously I did not see everything that occurred as I wandered the protest grounds outside the cancelled Chicago rally. What I did see, however, was fear. Fear from the rally attendees for their immediate safety, and fear of Donald Trump from the protesters.
More than that, I feel that I experienced today, for the first time in my life, true totalitarianism and authoritarianism, expressed laterally from citizen to citizen, in order to silence opinions from being shared. This enforcement was shared through sheer numbers and intimidation, and in a few cases, violence.
People brought their children, loved ones, and friends to attend the Trump rally. I saw an older Asian man and his white wife in attendance, and the looks on their faces when the rally was declared cancelled almost broke my heart. I saw scared children clinging to their parents’ sides as they exited the building to the screams of protesters. I saw a quiet, but excited crowd of Donald Trump supporters get thrown out of Chicago.
Worst of all, I saw the first amendment trampled, spit on, and discarded like trash.
This cannot go on. As I finish this, I feel a sense of utter dread and hopelessness for what is becoming of the youth in this country, particularly those of the regressive left. So polarized has political opinion become, that dissenting thoughts on college campuses are now seen as hateful. These people deal in absolutes. They are right, and whatever means they must take to achieve their ends, they will do it. They will not stop themselves from violence or censorship. They will do it, and they will call hell down upon you if anyone dare does upon them the same.
Tonight I went to the Trump Rally to hear the thoughts of not only the man who was supposed to come and speak, but the people who support him. I found respect. I found calmness. I found peace.
The truth is, I am a legal immigrant, not a US citizen. I am not American. I am not white. I cannot vote.
After tonight, I support Donald Trump.
The Redditor’s account says that even when the demonstrators inside the hall were acting in an extremely provocative way, a voice came over the loudspeaker instructing Trump supporters to leave them alone, and not to put a hand on them. For what it’s worth.
The liberal writer Jonathan Chait has a strong piece calling Trump an “unprecedented threat” to American democracy. In it, though, he criticizes the behavior of the Chicago students:
But Rubio is not wrong to draw a connection between political correctness and elements of the left’s response to Trump. Donald Trump may or may not have been forthright about citing safety fears in cancelling his speech Friday night in Chicago, and disrupting the speech may or may not have been the protesters’ goal. But it is clear that protesters views the cancellation of the speech as a victory, breaking out in cheers of “We stopped Trump!”
Preventing speakers one finds offensive from delivering public remarks is commonplace on campuses. Indeed, more than 300 faculty members at the University of Illinois-Chicago signed a letter asking the University administration not to allow Trump to speak. I polled my Twitter followers whether they consider disrupting Trump’s speeches an acceptable response to his racism. Two-thirds replied that it is. Obviously, this is not a scientific poll, but it indicates a far broader acceptance than I expected.
Because Trump is so grotesque, and because he has violated liberal norms himself so repeatedly, the full horror of the goal of stopping Trump from campaigning (as opposed to merely counter-demonstrating against him) has not come across. But the whole premise of democracy is that rules need to be applied in every case without regard to the merit of the underlying cause to which it is attached. If you defend the morality of a tactic against Trump, then you should be prepared to defend its morality against any candidate. Now imagine that right-wing protesters had set out to disrupt Barack Obama’s speeches in 2008. If you’re not okay with that scenario, you should not be okay with protesters doing it to Trump.
The threat to democracy, then, also comes from the mob that shut Trump down. This is the thing that drives me nuts about this debate. So many people on the left think that because Trump is illiberal and nasty, he and his supporters don’t deserve the basic respect that is part of the social contract in a liberal, pluralistic society. They believe that their tribe is right, and that’s all that matters. And why shouldn’t they protest like this? Their illiberal tactics have been working for months on campus.
So, I don’t at all back away from the claim that the militant left is driving a lot of this. How many Trump rallygoers left the other night thinking, “You know, these youths have a point. Trump takes things too far. I’m going to reconsider voting for him”? Not one, I’m sure. Rather, they probably left thinking, “This is why we need Trump. This is the future the left is planning for people like me: to silence us.”
And you know what? I don’t think they are wrong. I don’t expect the mainstream media to see this, because its knee-jerk response is always to Feel The Pain of protesters from favored liberal victim demographics, and either to justify or explain away those protesters’ illiberalism. But it’s plain what’s going on here, and has been going on for some time on the left.
But Trump is not innocent either, for reasons I’ve already talked about. He ought to be working towards calming things down, not doing jackass stunts like threatening to direct his violent supporters to a Bernie Sanders rally, particularly when there is no evidence at all that Sanders told his people to disrupt Trump’s event. If one of his supporters were attacked at a Trump rally, and was arrested fighting back, I would admire Trump offering to pay the man’s legal bills. But that is not what happened with that old man in North Carolina. He was in no danger at all, and his striking the protester from the side was a cowardly act. All in a day’s work for Trump, though.
Saturday, as you know, a white SJW maniac affiliated with Black Lives Matter tried to assault Trump onstage in Ohio. He’s lucky that the Secret Service didn’t shoot him dead. After that incident, Josh Marshall wrote an important essay yesterday, warning that if this kind of thing keeps going, somebody’s going to die. Excerpt:
People act very differently in crowd or mob situations than they do on their own. There are various theories as to just why this is the case – again, there’s a whole social science and group psychology literature about it. But crowd/mob situations are profoundly disinhibiting events. People sometimes do things they themselves not only regret but almost literally can’t believe they did.
None of this is meant to absolve people of responsibility for their actions. Having watched the video I have little doubt Bamberger came into the event with a lot of pretty intense feelings and beliefs that set him up for this confrontation. But would he have acted this way without all the outside stimulus he describes in his letter? Probably not. We all have angers and prejudices and hostilities which our socialization keeps in check, sometimes even hidden from ourselves. Some of us, of course, have much more than others. But in crowd settings, with what can now only be called Trump’s almost nonstop incitement to eject or beat “thug” protestors, jostling and shoving, ramped up emotions, things can escalate very rapidly. And let’s be honest, it can happen on both sides. A hypothetical: a Trump supporter shoves a black protestor, the protestor punches back, others join in. We don’t need to equate the two sides, which I do not, to see that there is a lot of anger and animus on each side. This kind of atmosphere can unleash it.
What we have seen over the last two weeks isn’t just an escalation of chaos and low level violence but a progressive normalization of unacceptable behavior – more racist verbal attacks, more violence. This is in turn clearly attracting more people who want trouble – on both sides. If you’re an angry racist who wants to act out on his anger, can you imagine any better place to go than a Trump rally? If you hate Trump, his supporters and all he stands for and want to get physical about it, where best to go?
Alasdair MacIntyre, in his early 1980s book After Virtue, explained why protest today is so fruitless. Excerpt:
It is easy also to understand why protest becomes a distinctive moral feature of the modern age and why indignation is a predominant modern emotion. ‘To protest’ and its Latin predecessors and French cognates are originally as often or more often positive as negative; to protest was once to bear witness to something and only as a consequence of that allegiance to bear witness against something else.
But protest is now almost entirely that negative phenomenon which characteristically occurs as a reaction to the alleged invasion of someone’s rights in the name of someone else’s utility. The self-assertive shrillness of protest arises because the facts of incommensurability ensure that protestors can never win an argument; the indignant self-righteousness arises because the facts of incommensurability ensure equally that the protestor can never lose an argument either. Hence the utterance of protest is characteristically addressed to those who already share the protestors’ premises. The effects of incommensurability ensure that the protestors rarely have anyone else to talk to but themselves. This is not to say that protest cannot be effective; it is to say that it cannot be rationally effective and that its dominant modes of expression give evidence of a certain perhaps unconscious awareness of this.
In less philosophical language, his point is that protest cannot hope to persuade anyone, because our culture has gone so far down the road of radical individualism that there is no longer a shared rational framework within which one can be persuaded. We are an “emotivist” culture (says MacIntyre) in which whatever people feel is true is taken as truth, rationality be damned. Protest, then, can only be expressive, not persuasive — and indeed, SJWs don’t intend to persuade anyone who disagrees with them, only to intimidate them and to make it impossible for them to speak or to be heard. As Sailer points out, that is the whole point of the “Safe Spaces” racket.
One good thing about Trump is he challenges the racket directly. But that good thing is overwhelmed by the destructive chaos he unleashes by the way he challenges it, and encourages his followers to challenge it.
What is awfully hard to take is folks on the left denouncing Trump’s implicit and explicit violence and illiberalism, when they have been silent when SJWs have done the exact same thing, over and over, on campuses around the nation. Chait is right: either we have a country in which people are reasonably free to speak their minds on political matters, or we don’t. If we cannot or will not recognize and defend that right for everybody, then what kind of country is this? On the other hand, if people exercise that right irresponsibly, by inciting violence, it brings the law and the constitutional framework into which it fits into disrepute.
The bonds of mutual affection that should hold our country together are a lot thinner than people think. Donald Trump isn’t strengthening them. Neither are his enemies. After Trump’s performance on the Sunday talk shows yesterday, I am less sympathetic to him than I was after his rally was shut down by the SJWs. I hate a mob. Hate, hate, hate a mob. The mob won on Friday night. But Trump, in a sense, is a mobster, in that he’s meeting their mob with his mob.
The GOP convention in Cleveland this summer is going to be bad news. The fact that a candidate for the presidency had to cancel his rally in a major American city because of protests is a terrible sign. It’s a victory for the forces tearing America apart.