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Freedom & Speech

I see that my “SJWs Will Elect Trump” [1] 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: [2]

CHUCK TODD:

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?

DONALD TRUMP:

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.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you plan – I’m just curious–

DONALD TRUMP:

It’s not fair. It’s a one-way street.

CHUCK TODD:

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?

DONALD TRUMP:

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.

CHUCK TODD:

And that condones —

DONALD TRUMP:

I’m going to take a look at it. But I want to see what that man was doing.

CHUCK TODD:

And that condones a sucker punch though?

DONALD TRUMP:

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.

CHUCK TODD:

So you might pay for his legal fees?

DONALD TRUMP:

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.

CHUCK TODD:

It’s possible you could help him with legal fees, if this man needs it?

DONALD TRUMP:

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.

And this:

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: [4]

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 [5], 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: [6]

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.  [7] 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 [8], 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 [9]. 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 [10]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. [11] 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 [12] 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 [13]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. [14] 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.

 

 

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122 Comments (Open | Close)

122 Comments To "Freedom & Speech"

#1 Comment By BobSberry On March 14, 2016 @ 10:11 pm

I wouldn’t get so riled up about the Left if they weren’t so passionate about create enemies to fight. Case in point is the Black Lives Matter “movement”. Everything in that group is predicated on passive-aggressive baiting. Even their name is awful. Don’t want to join BLM? you must think that their lives don’t matter!! This is the same with calling Donald a Nazi. These people desperately want to be the ones to identify the next fascists, because they have no other meaning in their pathetic lives.

#2 Comment By Lewis on vacation On March 14, 2016 @ 11:02 pm

The Mexicans, Muslims, commies and thugs want to be perceived as menacing and aggressive. If they want to keep it up, fine; let them do it. We Trump supporters are ready. The thugs are not going to walk all over us.

#3 Comment By The Other Sands On March 14, 2016 @ 11:16 pm

I see the reluctant Trumpites are starting to crawl out of the shadows at TAC. Lots more around here will be singing his tune by November, including those who swear they don’t support him now.

#4 Comment By M_Young On March 14, 2016 @ 11:45 pm

“The folks bringing guns to political rallies in the past ten years, FTMP, have been the right. (Fortunately, nobody has started firing them).”

Bzzzz…wrong!

[15]

And [16]

#5 Comment By M_Young On March 14, 2016 @ 11:49 pm

” those two gun-nuts in Las Vegas”

Dude, those were your folks. They called the cops ‘fascists’. Unless of course you are one of those pro-police ‘antifa’, which come to think of it might make a lot of sense these days.

And if you really have protested NPI, I feel bad for you. I’ve seen the pictures…what a sorry collection.

#6 Comment By Essayist-Lawyer On March 15, 2016 @ 2:01 am

Re comparisons to Obama.

Trump has said that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue without political consequences. Cruz has just said that if Trump wins the nomination he will support him unless he shoots someone. I certainly do not take either of those statements literally or regard them as anything more than harmless hyperbole. Nor have I noticed the MSM calling either man out on these statements.

#7 Comment By sam pozner On March 15, 2016 @ 2:08 am

Do I have a right to listen on a major candidate or not? And along with me millions of other people? All those peoples civil rights were violated. Is the Obama’s justice dep. civil right’s division get involved? And if not Obama’s then hopefully Trump’s?.

#8 Comment By LauraNo On March 15, 2016 @ 10:41 am

I don’t have time to read the comments to see if this has been mentioned, but Trump was not ‘forced’ to cancel that rally. It was a publicity stunt. Chicago PD issued a statement saying they had said nothing to Trump’s campaign about safety concerns because they had no such concerns.

#9 Comment By William Springer On March 15, 2016 @ 12:27 pm

I am somewhat confused by responses here. First, people are claiming that Trump and his supporter’s “civil rights” were violated. The First Amendment prevents the government from abridging the freedom of speech. It has nothing to do with other citizens yelling loudly while you speak. Just as the Tea Partiers weren’t violating civil rights when they did this to Democrats, the Trump protestors were not violating any rights. What they both were doing is acting in a classless manner by using their speech to hinder others speech. Maybe municipal or state crime but doubtful as they have the same right to protest as Trump has to speech. Classless, yes. Unconstitutional? Far from it…indeed having the government prevent protests is actually much further down the line of a violation of civil rights.

As for violence, none of us were there to know exactly what happened. I am certain that some of the protestors went well beyond speech. I am also certain that Trump supporters did as well (as shown by the sucker punch). That doesn’t condemn either group…that condemns the individuals.

The only condemnation is for a leader pushing violence. Trump’s statements about minorities is appalling and his willingness to pay legal fees for people committing battery is unconscionable; he wasn’t telling people to go fight a war or use force against those throwing punches, he was telling them it is ok to hit people exercising their right to protest.

There is no comparison with #black lives matter, which has had little actual public meetings and is a result of a string of potentially unwarranted killings of African-Americans. Are we stating that the problems Trump is discussing, most of which actually don’t exist (the Mexican rapists or US economic losses from free trade) are comparable?

What is comparable is general movements on campus to ban free speech, such as preventing certain movies from being played or certain classes from being taught. That is abhorrent. Limiting Trump on campus is quite discomforting as well, although his violent rhetoric does provide some rationale (would you be similarly opposed to preventing a KKK rally? Probably not, so where down the spectrum of terrible views (calling for Muslim-Americans to be registered with the government, for example) would you limit this restriction).

Protestors who yell when others are speaking in attempt to disrupt them are classless and often are removed from the event. If they are violent, they are typically arrested. But they aren’t violating civil rights. And the actions of individuals in the Trump protestors and supporters doesn’t condemn the entire group. But to argue that their is comparable fault among a group of citizen protestors (or Trump’s supporters) and a presidential candidate is biased beyond belief; the presidential candidate is running the event and pushing the ideas (and creating the scene for the controversy). Protestors and supporters are mostly just exercising their freedoms, with a few committing crimes.

There are certainly people who are challenging free speech and they are abhorrent. Trump’s positions range from comical (forcing manufacturing back to US) to disgusting (see comments on Muslims, Mexicans, women…). These are people that are dangerous. Neither the Trump supporters and protestors (or movements like black lives matter), in each case when considered as a group, should be in the same conversation.

#10 Comment By M_Young On March 15, 2016 @ 1:38 pm

William Springer, there is a constitutional right to assembly. The disruptors violently interfered with that right. Read non MSM accounts of what happened.

#11 Comment By M_Young On March 15, 2016 @ 1:42 pm

“Chicago PD issued a statement saying they had said nothing to Trump’s campaign about safety concerns because they had no such concerns.”

This talking point has got to die. Frankly, for a guy whose image as that of a tough guy, backing down and canceling the event is ‘off brand’. But more importantly, the facts contradict it.

“Earlier that day: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in St. Louis. [17]

Yeah, I believe the Daily Mail before I believe just about any US mainstream outlet or the CPD.

#12 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 15, 2016 @ 2:02 pm

The First Amendment prevents the government from abridging the freedom of speech. It has nothing to do with other citizens yelling loudly while you speak.

I know I offered a thoughtful, nuanced response to that. Where is cyberspace did it go? I don’t think I used any of Word Press’s Proscribed Words.

#13 Comment By M. F. Bonner On March 15, 2016 @ 2:03 pm

“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.”

So, does this apply to all protests? Does a protester screaming “murder” at an anti-abortion protest shut down debate and conversation any less than a protester screaming “racism?” Are shouts of “murder” any more aggressively illiberal as shouts of “racism?” And what about protests when the president, or some other politician appears for a conference or meeting? Is protest only aggressively illiberal if you disagree with the goals or the methods of the protesters?

And of course, none of this even gets into the problem that comes when the protester believes his or her cry of “murder” or “racism” (or “bigotry” or “religious persecution” for that matter) is the truth.

I would assume no one wants to argue that protest should not be allowed. After all, the protester too has a certain claim to freedom of speech. Probably less at an event held on private property, but where would one draw the line?

People protest lots of things, some seem clearly more worthwhile and pressing than others, but that is also in the eye of the beholder. The value of protest speech seems to be clouded by the issue of whether or not one agrees with the protester and how you balance the free speech rights of the target of the protest against those of the protester. If you disagree with the goals of the social justice warrior, then of course their speech is “aggressively illiberal” and if you believe the goal of the anti-abortion protester is to make it harder and more traumatic to seek an abortion, then of course their speech is just as “aggressively illiberal.”

Let’s not pretend for a moment that this is just an issue with SJWs. You just don’t agree with their message (although, to be fair, I suspect that you do agree with some of their issues, like the treatment of the citizen’s of Flint), and view some of their issues as contrived.

The first amendment addresses the intersection of the government and free speech (although even there we can have disagreements), but I don’t see how the free speech referenced in the first amendment applies to Trump and folks who want to protest against him (or someone who wants to protest against Clinton or Cruz or whoever at a political rally, or wants to equate Obamacare with Nazism and the Holocaust, or engage in any other extreme and loaded rhetoric). In fact, this happens pretty frequently at campaign events for politicians, and most political campaigns are pretty adept at handling it. The police where, after all, dealing with the protester at the Trump rally before he was punched.

“Chaos breeds violence.”

On that one, I am inclined to agree. Protest certainly can encourage chaos and chaos can certainly breed violence. But this is also one of the hard issues with free speech and protest (and I would draw the line at protest that moves into civil disobedience, which clearly becomes a legal matter when the law is broken, although I might admire the courage of the person using civil disobedience, especially if I sympathize with his or her cause). But, if you want to argue that a BLM or SJW protest of racism might lead to violence (and I have seen some who argue that it encourages violence against the police), then, it seems to me that is giving credence to the idea that anti-abortion rhetoric and protest leads to violence against clinics and doctors. I won’t pretend for a moment that speech cannot incite violence, so I suspect that there is some truth to both examples, but, unfortunately, there are all too many people who need very little incitement to violence. Which is why, in the end, we accept the right of the protester to speak and the right of those who want to criticize the protester to also speak, and for those who want to criticize the folks who criticize the protester to speak as well, and…so…on…

Now it may just be that freedom of speech is one of the most dangerous and destabilizing rights that we have, which may be why it is one of the first rights guaranteed. So Trump gets to speak, and his protesters get to speak, and we all get to speak (not necessarily here, as that gets into the question of “property,” but you are extraordinarily fair about letting voices from all sides speak here).

“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.”

Sure. I don’t that this changes many minds. But again, lets be fair and admit that, for many of the clinic protesters, you could also say, “So many people on the right think that because women seeking abortion are murdering babies for their own convenience, she and her 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, for abortion you could substitute pretty much anything else that the left and right don’t agree on.

And none of this is new. Don’t think for a moment that political rallies of 100 or 200 years ago were peaceful. Of course, now we don’t have members of the senate beating each other nearly to death with canes, while other senators prevent anyone from assisting the senator under attack at gun point. Of course, that was also, an event started with a dispute over free speech…And slavery. Now, we do it at campaign rallies. I suppose that is progress, of a sort.

The wises statement in all of this is that this sort of protest doesn’t change anybody’s minds. It hardens positions, to be sure. It makes compromise on issues where there is fundamental disagreement more difficult, sure. But maybe that’s the point. None of this, on either side, is about changing minds, it is just driven by a desire to make compromise difficult because no one wants to give an inch.

#14 Comment By JonF On March 15, 2016 @ 2:07 pm

Re: Multiple law enforcement sources told DailyMail.com that there was a credible threat against Trump in Chicago

That does not say what you want it to, which would be “Law enforcement advised Trump to cancel the rally”. The two statements are not synonymous.

#15 Comment By JonF On March 15, 2016 @ 2:16 pm

Re: William Springer, there is a constitutional right to assembly. The disruptors violently interfered with that right. Read non MSM accounts of what happened.

M. Young, William Springer is correct. The First Amendment is a limit on GOVERNMENT action only. It does not limit private actors. If my employer enjoins me from certain forms of political activity (as was in fact true when I worked at Big Wall Street Bank) that is not a constitutional offense. Nor when a church advises its members against receiving communion or being married in some other church. I agree that the behavior of the Chicago protesters was reprehensible by all the standards of basic civility, but they did not commit an offense against the Constitution.

Applying the Bill of Rights against private actors is a Pandora’s Box that should remain firmly shut. Indeed, you would be doing the radical Left’s work for them by opening it.

#16 Comment By Eamus Catuli On March 15, 2016 @ 7:06 pm

@Isidore:

(Also, I now recall that while GWB was President a film imagining his assassination was produced. Think about that for a moment.)

It was a British work, I do believe. So what exactly should we be thinking about it?

#17 Comment By VikingLS On March 16, 2016 @ 12:00 am

Okay I should stay off of here, but I didn’t. So it goes.

Look, the Chicago PD may have said they could handle it, but even without Trump even showing up there was violence and people were arrested.

Given the way that the police have “handled” things with black people in the US Trump getting a little more sympathy is NOT the greater evil.

If you reduce this to a street fight the best argument you have against Trump is gone. You are losing the moral high ground quickly.

On another note, before you all try the etu quo on me, I voted for Sanders today. No, I’m not like you.

#18 Comment By BadReligion On March 16, 2016 @ 1:19 am

“Dude, those were your folks. They called the cops ‘fascists’. Unless of course you are one of those pro-police ‘antifa’, which come to think of it might make a lot of sense these days.” They were part of the Patriot Movement, used the Gadsden Flag, and hung out at the Bundy Ranch during the standoff. Having a problem with police does not necessarily make people my folks!

“And if you really have protested NPI, I feel bad for you. I’ve seen the pictures…what a sorry collection.” Elaborate.

#19 Comment By Eamus Catuli On March 16, 2016 @ 5:02 am

@VikingLS:

On another note, before you all try the etu quo on me, I voted for Sanders today. No, I’m not like you.

Well, you’re like me, apparently, at least on that point.

#20 Comment By Brian On March 16, 2016 @ 5:09 pm

You criticize SJW for using their lawful power (petitions, protest, yelling, whatever) to try and keep speech they dislike out of places, to create ‘safe space’, and you call it violence, but want to make Trump rallies into ‘safe spaces’ and blame SJWs when Trump supporters are actually violent! It could not be more surreal.

“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.”

Is that the reason, or has one side proven to be immune to rational thinking? How else can it be explained that so many people are viscerally opposed to scientific questions such as climate change?

Is it not also a stretch to conflate the expression of speech, which is what yelling in protest actually is, with violence? How is that not attempting to silence a group of people because you disagree with the way they speak? If you can call that violence, how do you not call the speech that SJW are generally protesting against to begin with violence? It is utterly inconsistent.

What sense does it make that we accept absolutist interpretations of the 2nd amendment, but not the 1st?

#21 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 16, 2016 @ 11:41 pm

M. Young, William Springer is correct. The First Amendment is a limit on GOVERNMENT action only. It does not limit private actors. If my employer enjoins me from certain forms of political activity (as was in fact true when I worked at Big Wall Street Bank) that is not a constitutional offense.

That is true, but it is also true that there are laws which proscribe as a federal felony acts of intimidation intended to suppress individuals exercising a protected constitutional right. The boundaries are indeed hazy… e.g., an employer has a good deal of legally legitimized option to restrict speech by employees that would reflect on the company. There is still a good deal of controversy over the parameters of that authority… e.g., individual speech outside of work hours is at least somewhat still protected, but not always, and the criteria are not fully clarified.

An employer threatening to fire someone if they have the temerity to register and vote is definitely a violation of law… that was one of the primary motivations for the law being adopted. A posse from the Ku Klux Klan visiting someone’s home in retaliation for a published letter to the editor, likewise.

If a public meeting is held, showing up at that public meeting in support of a different agenda that the organizers intended is not, ipso facto, a violation. Showing up to disrupt the meeting can invoke a number of criminal laws.

#22 Comment By LauraNo On March 17, 2016 @ 3:23 pm

However, CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the department never told the Trump campaign there was a security threat at the venue. He said the department had sufficient manpower at the scene to handle any situation.

Mr Guglielmi said the decision to cancel the event was made “independently” by the campaign.

Interim Supt John Escalante confirmed in a press conference that police became aware the event was being cancelled at 6:30pm, adding: “The Chicago Police Department had no role, we were not consulted or provided an opinion as to whether or not the event should be cancelled.

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