Topic: Decline of the West
Only one man bears the guilt for yesterday’s shooting in Virginia that targeted Republican members of Congress: the now-deceased shooter. He and he alone “has blood on his hands,” as the saying goes. I want to make that clear in the minds of readers because what follows will no doubt provoke the Left.
In cases of political violence, the guilt of the shooter is separate from the responsibility of others and it’s legitimate to inquire whether society’s general political atmosphere, the general state of political discourse, played some role in setting yesterday’s events in motion. Regarding the current case, the Left summarily rejects any such suggestion, its escape hatch being the claim that the shooter was “mentally unstable”—a term, it must be noted, that’s somewhat lacking in precision. And Jay Cost, no leftie, has somewhat supported this defense, commenting yesterday that after all, America has a long tradition of overheated political rhetoric that usually does not spill over into actual violence.
Cost’s point is fine as far as it goes but, after all, context matters. That political opponents said ugly things about one another fifty or a hundred years ago without sparking violence does not necessarily validate the point for present-day America. In Weimar Germany, for instance, extreme political rhetoric and actual political violence went hand in hand. The rhetoric of National Socialism—talk of the “Jew republic,” the “November criminals,” etc.—was meant to and did lead to violence, from street brawls to assassinations. In no way, shape or form was the violent political rhetoric of that time and place disconnected from political violence.
So the current case must be judged, first, on the terms of contemporary American political culture and only second in the light of history.
There can be no denial that in recent years violent rhetoric has proliferated, and that it has insinuated itself into the political mainstream, Right and Left. Militaristic and revolutionary themes abound. Those opposed to Trumpism style themselves as “the Resistance,” as if they were battling a dictatorial regime or a foreign invader. Meanwhile, on the Right, progressives are excoriated as globalists, un-American rats, even traitors. Both sides characterize themselves as “fighting to take the country back.”
From the Left, much of the vitriol is flung directly at President Trump. He is routinely excoriated as a Russian stooge, guilty of actual treason, a fascist, an aspiring dictator seeking to shred the constitution, a sexist, a homophobe, a racist, etc., and so forth, on and on. And this hymn of hate is not restricted to the goons of the so-called antifa (anti-fascist) movement. Coming from extremists and head cases like Noam Chomsky or Naomi Wolf, such rhetoric could be disregarded. But nowadays, with increasing force and volume, it comes from respected academics, celebrities and, yes, supposedly mainstream progressive and Democratic politicians like Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi.
Naturally those who support Trump or even say anything positive about him come in for their own share of this hate speech—for that, literally, is what it is. Hillary Clinton’s dismissal of Trump voters as “a basket of deplorables” set the standard. In the eyes of the Left, there can have been no legitimate reason for people to vote for Trump, only racism, sexism, and hate. And this comforted the Left before Election Day, for surely such an ogre with such a following could never be elected president.
So when Donald J. Trump was actually elected president, the broad Left went into a three-foot hover of utter rage.
The assault on congressional Republicans cannot really be isolated from the escalating violence of the protests against President Trump. Groups like the antifa movement employ the tactics of intimidation and actual violence—and they do so, it must be said, with the tacit approval of establishment progressivism, the media and the Democratic Party. Which leading Democratic politicians have stood up to denounce antifa street violence or suppression of conservative speech and activity on college campuses? Which mainstream media outlets have decried the rising tide of leftist street violence? Few if any. And this is hardly surprising, for the hostility of, say, CNN to Trump is only somewhat less unhinged than that of, say, MoveOn.org. Mainstream progressivism, though perhaps made uncomfortable by the violent rhetoric and actual violence of the Resistance, doesn’t really disapprove of it.
In New York City, the much-respected Public Theater is currently presenting Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. It has often been remarked that this play is a timeless commentary on politics and political ambition, capable of being staged against any backdrop. The Public Theater’s offering has its actors costumed in contemporary clothing—and Caesar himself is made up to look just like Donald J. Trump. Since Julius Caesar’s first climax is the title character’s bloody assassination, the Public Theater has come in for a great deal of criticism. The critics call it “assassination porn”; the Public Theater’s defenders appeal to the sanctity of art. How it actually differs from Kathy Griffin’s severed-head-of-Trump stunt is a good question. Both it seems to me are the product of the extremist rhetoric and occasional violence of the Resistance.
And so we circle back to a disaffected leftist’s shoot-up of the GOP House baseball team. The broad Left, knowing that it had a problem on its hands, wasted no time trying to distance itself from the shooter. He was, we were told, mentally ill. It was, we were told, really the Republicans’ own fault because they oppose more gun control. And of course it was just disgraceful to claim, as some conservatives and Trump supporters immediately did, that the Left as a whole has blood on its hands.
The last point is actually correct, though you’d think that Democrats & etc., who instantly blamed Sarah Palin for the shooting of former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords despite a lack of evidence of a connection between Palin and the killer, would blush to make it. (That shooter, incidentally, turned out to be a genuine head case: a paranoid schizophrenic, long obsessed with Giffords, who believed among other things that the rules of English grammar had been cooked up by the deep state as a mind-control measure.) No, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and the Pussy Hat Brigade et al., are not guilty of murder. But on the other hand, they do bear responsibility for the climate of fear and hate in which the attack on the GOP congressmen took place.
By all accounts the shooter, though he could certainly be described as a social misfit, was not clinically insane. He wasn’t ordered to open fire by his dog or some invisible friend. He was, rather, a man of radical progressive views, a heavy consumer of anti-Trump agitprop, a volunteer for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. His stated reasons for attempting to kill Republican members of Congress were political. To claim, as the Left is doing, that the atmosphere of seething hatred and imperfectly contained violence in its ranks played absolutely no role in motivating the shooter is simply not credible. In fact—there can be no disputing this—it was one factor among several that led this man to pick up the gun.
And I suspect that his desire to kill is shared by many others. The fervor with which Trump assassination porn is embraced by people describing themselves as progressives, devoted to social justice and all good things, shines a not-very-flattering light on the Left. Like many of the Roman senators who stood by while the conspirators stabbed Caesar to death, the progressives would not raise a hand against Trump themselves—but many wouldn’t mind seeing someone else bump him off. And before my conservative and Trump-supporting readers start feeling smug, I advise them to sample some of the rhetoric of the Right that gets put out, for instance, on Twitter. The only difference is that on the Right, there are many people who not only deplore but decry such extremism. On the Left, supposedly responsible leaders overlook it or make excuses for it. Probably the political violence in this country is going to get worse before it gets better. I have no hope at all that my appeal or anyone else’s will persuade the anti-Trump Left to examine its collective conscience and moderate its venomous rhetoric. On the other side, the more attacks that are directed against President Trump, the more firmly his core supporters will close ranks around them. I mentioned Weimar Germany above, whose liberal political order proved powerless to stem the tide of rage and hate that brought Adolf Hitler to power. The political polarization of contemporary America is nowhere near that extreme. But it seems to me that our political culture is sick and getting sicker. Our constitutional order can’t be expected simply to maintain itself. And there seem to be fewer and fewer people willing to stand in its defense. So take a good look at James Hodgkinson who, in a sinister sense of the term, is the man of the hour.
Posted by tmg110
at 12:55 PM EDT