On campus and off, the Right are coming under attack in America. And one does not need to approve of Donald Trump to abhor the violence currently being directed at his supporters
The Washington Post reports on a disturbing turn of events:
Protests outside a Donald Trump rally in downtown San Jose spun out of control Thursday night when some demonstrators attacked the candidate’s supporters.
Protesters jumped on cars, pelted Trump supporters with eggs and water balloons, snatched signs and stole “Make America Great” hats off supporters’ heads before burning the hats and snapping selfies with the charred remains.
Several people were caught on camera punching Trump supporters. At least one attacker was arrested, according to CNN, although police did not release much information.
“The San Jose Police Department made a few arrests tonight after the Donald Trump Rally,” police said in a statement. “As of this time, we do not have specific information on the arrests made. There has been no significant property damage reported. One officer was assaulted.”
In one video circulating widely on social media, two protesters tried to protect a Trump supporter as other protesters attacked him and called him names.
Another video captured a female Trump supporter taunting protesters before being surrounded and struck in the face with an egg and water balloons.
To be sure, there have been instances of Donald Trump supporters behaving aggressively and attacking anti-Trump protesters, too. But the strong trend at present is that of anti-Trump supporters being unable to contain their anger and committing acts of violence and intimidation against Trump supporters.
Worse, though, is the way in which these acts of mob violence are often being blamed squarely on Donald Trump – as though the screaming, egg and punch throwing protesters are utterly blameless and without agency or responsibility for their actions. In this case, the mayor of San Jose was quick to blame Donald Trump for inciting the violence and his beleaguered supporters for bringing it upon themselves.
From local news:
The mayor, a Democrat and Hillary Clinton supporter, criticized Trump for coming to cities and igniting problems that local police departments had to deal with.
“At some point Donald Trump needs to take responsibility for the irresponsible behavior of his campaign,” [San Jose Mayor Sam] Liccardo said.
How quickly the much-vaunted compassion and tolerance of the Left evaporates when someone they don’t like is in the crosshairs.
And so we have the bizarre spectacle of the mayor of San Jose condemning Donald Trump for daring to hold a rally in the city for his supporters, and in so doing inflame the violent passions of the mob which then duly assembled to attack them. At one time, many on the Left could reliably be found condemning the act of so-called “victim blaming”, but when the victim hails from the radical Right then apparently those rules are inverted and the people cleaning blood and egg from their clothes are exclusively to blame for the behaviour of their attackers.
Or as Brendan O’Neill rightly puts it:
The behaviour of anti-Trump protesters is becoming more and more despicable. Last night in San Jose they physically attacked people leaving a Trump rally. This woman was cornered, spat on and pelted with eggs. Anti-Trump protests are starting to look less like left-wing demands for a more progressive politics and more like expressions of middle-class fury and disgust with the white proles lining up behind Trump. Class hatred disguised as radical politics.
There is a lot of truth in this. Many people have serious objections to Donald Trump and his presidential campaign. That is fair enough – this blog certainly does not want Trump within five miles of the Oval Office. But what we are now seeing in some of these protests goes beyond anger and objection to Donald Trump’s policies and behaviour, and is more an expression of rage and revulsion at those segments of American society which are receptive to the Trump message.
People who think that most voters will see these riots and reason that while the riots are terrible, we have to remember that Trump is worse — they’re deluded. Even if it is true, most people, left and right, don’t vote on the basis of reason. They vote on emotion. They vote on what’s in their gut. These Social Justice Warriors are making lots of people feel in their gut that Donald Trump is the only thing that stands between them and those mobs, and that if Hillary Clinton wins, mobs like that will have their champion in the White House.
Don’t come back to me and say, “It’s ridiculous that anybody would think such a thing.” Maybe it is. But it’s going to happen. A lot of people legitimately criticized the Republican Party and its presidential candidates for not taking Trump seriously enough early on, when they could have stopped him. Now the Democrats are not taking the effect of these anti-Trump rioters seriously enough. If they think Donald Trump is a threat to democracy, then the most important thing for them to do is to do whatever they can to stop street mobs from vindicating Trump’s critique.
[..] I’ll say it again: Trump is a bad man. And the Left is doing its part to put him in the White House by vindicating his critique. The media may think it can control this by downplaying those videos of street violence, but there were many people there recording what actually happened and distributing those scenes on social media. Outside the leftist bubble, those videos are hand grenades.
Is this what the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics looks like, outside of the academic university setting? I think Dreher has a point – we are witnessing the more militant wing of the social justice movement.
On campus, there are powerful authority figures who can be co-opted by the Left to shut down “offensive” talks, place limits on free speech, create safe spaces in buildings and trigger warnings in the curriculum to protect students from incurring emotional “harm”. And increasingly, all it takes is a short social media campaign or a quick protest outside the chancellor’s office to bring spineless universities to heel in enforcing the new doctrine.
Outside of academia, it is different. There is no central authority which can be co-opted to make Bad Men with their Scary Ideas go away and silence those who anger the Left – at least not so long as the First Amendment exists. And in this non-academic environment, some people are clearly more used to settling disputes with their fists rather than their words. So perhaps it is not surprising that the same impulse to shut down Donald Trump and his supporters that would have seen No Platform petitions and safe spaces pop up to help traumatised students on campus is leading instead to physical violence in the real world.
Maybe, maybe not – it’s a working theory. But these protests are disturbing, and they show a particularly nasty aspect of the Left. The Tea Party rallies of the early Obama years, for all their tri-cornered hat festooned silliness, were typically not violent. American conservatives disagreed profoundly with the policies of Barack Obama, but they were not moved to rove the streets in gangs looking to beat up Obama supporters heading to one of the president’s re-election rallies. Though there are many obvious exceptions, as a general rule the Right seem better able to tolerate dissent – perhaps through being constantly exposed to liberal trends in the culture.
The Left, by contrast, are struggling at the moment. Whether it is their fortified enclaves in academia or out on the street, the American Left is becoming increasingly unable to tolerate dissenting opinions or to meet offensive speech with reasoned counterargument. Now, they are far more likely to respond with free speech restrictions at best, and outright violence at worst.
This phenomenon is bigger than Donald Trump and bigger than any one election cycle. But it is going to get worse before it gets better. And the real danger is that the Right, already cowed into virtual silence on campus and now under physical attack on the streets, will come to the conclusion that the only way to prevail is to adopt exactly the same tactics as are currently being used on them. And then we will have two sides seeking to ban each other’s guest speakers, restrict one another’s language, shelter in their own safe spaces and feeling entitled to attack other people simply for holding different political views.
Unpleasant? Yes. But unthinkable? Not any more.
In short, the forbearance of the Right – under considerable provocation – may be the only thing preventing serious civil unrest this election cycle.
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