After Friday night’s debacle at Shakespeare In The Park, wherein alt-right protesters stormed the stage at an anti-Trump production of Julius Caesar, another group of alt-right protesters imitated their predecessors on Sunday evening. The protesters, who apparently multiply like tribbles, ran up on stage again, shouting “Goebbels would be proud!” – apparently unaware of Goebbels delightful habit of sending stormtroopers to break up political speeches made by opponents.
A few minutes later, another protester stormed the stage.
I’ve written at length about why I believe such tactics to be both stupid and immoral. In short, snowflakery from the alt-right is no better than snowflakery from the left. First, when we begin equating words with violence and attributing moral responsibility for evil acts to political discourse that does not overtly call for violence (and a production of Julius Caesar doesn’t qualify), we’re falling into the “hate speech” trap of the left – the trap they’d love to spring in order to quash free speech itself.
Second, infringing on others’ free speech is not free speech, it’s trespass. You don’t have a right to attempt to shut down my college speeches, and I don’t have a right to run up on stage during your play. End of story.
My friend John Nolte has written a ringing rebuke of my position on this (at the website I run, by the way). I think it’s clarifying. I also think every word of it is wrong, including “and” and “the.” Here’s why.
1. Principles. There’s a certain fondness those on the alt-right and some in Trump-ardent conservative circles have for the newfangled phrase “muh principles.” The “muh” is supposed to mock the notion that conservatives cling to their principles, which is why they lose – if they were just a little more loosey-goosey, like the left, they’d win. But there are certain principles that John would acknowledge are sacrosanct. If not, there’s no reason to fight over politics. One of those principles is freedom of speech. Storming people’s speeches is wrong. It’s wrong whether we do it or they do it. Economic boycotts may be wrong under certain circumstances, but you have a right to do what you want with your money. You don’t have a right to do what you want with my property, invade my place of business, or disrupt my plays or lectures.
There’s another principle, too, that is important here. That’s the principle that words are not violence. When protesters run on stage shouting that a production of Julius Caesar caused the Congressional shooting, that’s absurd. It may be wrong. It may be gross. It did not cause violence, and attributing violence to words that don’t expressly advocate violence is a recipe for tyrannical crackdowns on free speech.
2. Tactics. I believe John holds this to be true just as I do – otherwise we wouldn’t be friends. But he waives that principle out of the conviction that if we hold true to it right now, we’ll lose it later. He compares people storming Julius Caesar to Lincoln suspending habeas corpus. This seems ridiculous to me, for a variety of reasons. First, Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during an actual civil war. If we want to declare war and thus suspend all peacetime morality, perhaps we ought to just do it. But let’s not pretend that wartime morality applies in normal political debate. Don’t quote Sherman unless you’re ready to burn down Atlanta.
Furthermore, to pretend that the left is winning because they “break windows, hurl eggs, shoot us, shout us down” is ridiculous. They’re losing because of all of this. The left’s insanity drove the right to victory across the country. Trump isn’t ascendant because he has no boundaries – he’s ascendant because an anti-left backlash has been rising across America for nearly a decade. He’s also ascendant not because he started shutting down Democratic rallies, but because he defended his own right to have his rallies. When John asks for a plan, here’s one: speak on college campuses, speak for free speech, shame the left routinely, force them to acknowledge their own tyranny. Don’t participate in tyranny. This is a winning plan. Even leftists like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama have been forced to disown the radical left snowflakes on campus.
3. Morality Of The Tactics. Now, I assume John would say that we’re only participating in such activity in order to counter the left – a sort of mutually assured destruction. I’m comfortable with such arguments: in fact, when I ran Truth Revolt, my partner Jeremy Boreing (also my partner here at Daily Wire) wrote an entire piece laying out the logic of using the left’s secondary boycott tactics against them. But this isn’t MAD. That’s because, first, MAD is unnecessary when they’re losing – as they most assuredly are. That’s also because boycott tactics aren’t innately immoral – it’s your money, and you can do what you like with it. When we were at Truth Revolt, we called up advertisers for Martin Bashir. But we didn’t storm his set. Finally, protesters aren’t hopping onstage at Julius Caesar to highlight the absurdity of disrupting events. They’re doing it explicitly because they are offended. They are disrupting events for the same reason leftists do it. They’re doing it not to counter leftist snowflake culture but to appropriate it. You can’t claim mutually assured destruction if you would continue to attempt to shut down events even if the left allowed Charles Murray to speak in peace.
“Muh principles” happen to be the same principles as the ones laid forth in the Constitution. They’re the basis of a civil society. But what’s been unleashed on the left – and what’s now being unleashed on the right – is a fundamental rejection of those principles in favor of “winning.” But we’re not winning, either on principle or in effect, when we become the left. Name a principle you’re not willing to shed for victory. If you can’t, you have no principles at all. At which point, you’re just an advocate for tribalism, and you’re helping us inch even closer to open conflict.