Home/Rod Dreher/Middlebury Spinelessness, Republican Gianfortitude

Middlebury Spinelessness, Republican Gianfortitude

Montana politics, Gianforte style (Roka Pics/Shutterstock)

Middlebury College has ended its semester by doing nothing more than tut-tutting students who prevented Charles Murray from speaking on campus, and assaulted him and a Middlebury professor. And so, this kind of thing will continue.

Last week, I was invited by a student group at a prestigious college to come speak to them in the fall. I thought about it, but turned them down, because this college has been in the news for illiberal shout-em-down student activism, and a pusillanimous reaction by the university administration. Frankly, I don’t want to take the chance that some student hotheads may decide to no-platform me, and I would not only not be able to speak, I would be dragged into a drama that I don’t care to be part of. And if it happened, I don’t have any faith that the university would lift a finger to prevent it, nor do I have any faith that if it happened, that there would be any repercussions for the little Maoists. It’s not that I’m afraid; it’s that it’s just not worth doing, at least not to me.

Maybe I’m wrong about that, but I’ve got a number of invitations to speak at colleges this fall, and I can’t accept all of them. I’m going to go to schools where I have faith that people who want to hear me will be able to hear me, and those who want to disagree with me will do so respectfully, within the bounds of civil discourse.

A lot of us conservatives have made hay out of illiberalism on campus, but now we have an egregious, high-profile example of brutal behavior on our side. Montana Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte body-slammed a reporter who asked him a perfectly normal question (about health care) that he didn’t care to answer. From a Fox News crew member’s eyewitness account of what happened:

During that conversation, another man — who we now know is Ben Jacobs of The Guardian — walked into the room with a voice recorder, put it up to Gianforte’s face and began asking if he had a response to the newly released Congressional Budget Office report on the American Health Care Act. Gianforte told him he would get to him later. Jacobs persisted with his question. Gianforte told him to talk to his press guy, Shane Scanlon.

At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, “I’m sick and tired of this!”

Jacobs scrambled to his knees and said something about his glasses being broken. He asked Faith, Keith and myself for our names. In shock, we did not answer. Jacobs then said he wanted the police called and went to leave. Gianforte looked at the three of us and repeatedly apologized. At that point, I told him and Scanlon, who was now present, that we needed a moment. The men then left.

To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff’s deputies.

It’s one thing for idiot college kids to be violent. But a middle-aged Congressional candidate?

It is disgusting to me that some conservatives are defending this thuggery, saying that the reporter had it coming. Conservatives like Rush Limbaugh:

“In Montana — ladies and gentlemen, I must do something,” Limbaugh said. “I must join the chorus of people condemning what happened out there. This manly, obviously studly Republican candidate in Montana took the occasion to beat up a pajama-clad journalist, a Pajama Boy journalist out there.”

“The story is he grabbed his neck and threw the guy to the ground because the journalist was being insolent and disrespectful and whiny and moany and accusatory,” he explained. “And the manly, studly Republican simply didn’t realize that on the big stage you can’t do this kind of stuff and kicked the guy’s ass to the ground. This cannot be accepted. This must be condemned. I wonder how many people in Montana are now gonna vote for the guy, though?”

“And there’s a brave newspaper out there,” he continued, “a brave newspaper withdrew its endorsement for this studly, manly, brutish Republican. His name is Gianforte, Greg Gianforte, and he didn’t like this reporter who’s indistinguishable from your average Millennial man today, virtually indistinguishable. He’s from the U.K. Guardian.”

These people are making America worse by legitimizing violence against non-violent people whose politics or identity they don’t like. We need fortitude in support of civilized norms of behavior, not Gianfortitude.

But then, don’t forget that this is also true:

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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