Liberty, Tyranny, and Modern Culture
August 19, 2017
This week I suffered a series of unfortunate events that have encouraged me to share my concerns in a more permanent form than social media. I hope to alert people of good will to my belief that we need to be more careful in our public discourse, and that the danger of politically correct groupthink is growing exponentially.
Let’s backtrack to last Saturday, August 12. I was at a three-day conference in which I was out of touch with my normal news sources. However, because some idiot I once knew was supposed to be a speaker at the Charlottesville, Virginia protest, I was referred to a story late in the day by a friend. The story reported three deaths associated with the event.
What I later learned is that a series of street riots broke out between white supremacist KKK members and neo-Nazis, battling Antifa and Black Lives Matter mobs. Sticks, bats, armor, and helmets were evident on both sides of the fracas. The Neo-Nazis were carrying guns openly, but no shots were fired. Then a schizophrenic Nazi-supporting madman on psychiatric drugs (like the Columbine, Newtown, and other mass murderers) killed an innocent young woman and injured a dozen other people with his car. A truly awful day.
It was horrible. President Trump said so publicly on Saturday before all the facts were in. His statement wasn’t good enough for the media who simply hate him. He amplified his comments on Monday, naming and denouncing the KKK by name. The Media and his political opponents in Washington (“The Swamp”) accused him of being insincere. On Tuesday, he held a press conference on his administration’s infrastructure plans, during which he went off script and blamed both sides for the street fighting in Charlottesville. The Media/Swamp went ballistic, hyperventilating as if Trump had condoned or created the attacks.
On Wednesday morning, I shared the video of his Tuesday press conference. I made a few additional posts about my disagreement with tearing down Confederate monuments, and compared the recent American statue-mania to the behavior of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Syria. I criticized iconoclastic rage that inevitably leads to death. I openly worried about the fate of the Ancient Egyptian monuments. Like Trump, I blamed both sides for the Charlottesville fight. One cannot have a battle without an opponent.
The Nazi/KKK side had a permit and were initially peaceably expressing their stupid and hateful ideas. The Antifa/BLM side was assisted by local police who began herding the KKK people into the Antifa area and then stood down as the clashes assumed epic proportions. My statement was essentially that peaceful counter-protestors do not come to events equipped with helmets and batons, and that both sides were intentionally engaging in violence and wrongdoing. (The role of the police and Virginian political leaders remains open to question.)
After the horrific attacks in Berkeley last year against Milo Yiannopoulis and Ann Coulter, as well as the attacks against Charles Murray and others, it never occurred to me that people would question the inadvisability of violence in political discourse, or the culpability of some on the Left and their increasing calls for censorship.
I was about to be re-educated. The term Nazi is derived from National Socialist. The KKK was an organ of the Democrat party since Reconstruction. Democrats Woodrow Wilson, Hugo Black, William Fulbright, and Grand Kleagle Robert Byrd were either card-carrying KKK members or ardent segregationists. Black Lives Matter is a racialist organization initially built on a lie. The Gentle Giant, Michael Brown, beat up a diminutive Korean grocer, robbed him, then walked into the middle of the street and tried to forcibly disarm a cop. There are plenty of Black victims of police brutality. No one in his or her right mind would question that for a second. But Michael Brown was not a victim of anything other than his own actions. I also do not hear Black Lives Matter spokespeople discussing the horrific annual death toll from black-on-black murder in places like Chicago (4,000 last year!) and Baltimore. The Black lives they proclaim they are so concerned with are elusive to me.
I spent the rest of Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday being assaulted by some very vocal members of my nearly 5,000 Facebook contacts. The worst were screaming charges of my being a Nazi sympathizer, a racist, and a “collaborator.” In each case of false accusation, I denied the charges, and tried to explain my position in a reasoned tone until I was blue in the face and occasionally frustrated into impoliteness. On Friday, someone suggested I publicly condemn the bad guys (as I had been doing for three days). I created a funny Internet meme, questioning the need to state the obvious, but making the ritual condemnation he suggested.
I even allowed 99% of the most hostile and vicious comments to remain on my Timeline, deciding that the best way to expose these vile people for who they are was to allow them to hang themselves by their own petards. A lot of real Facebook friends got the point and enthusiastically supported my position.
On Friday afternoon, one of my antagonists started an Internet petition, falsely smearing me, calling me a racist and hate group supporter and/or apologist. He encouraged people to boycott my writings. One of his acolytes posted the suggestion that people should inform my clients of my evil thoughts. It was not enough for them to smear my reputation and destroy my writing career, they wanted to destroy my livelihood.
Thankfully, the petition was modified later that night and my name removed. Without the lies about me, it is, I guess, a reasonably intelligent indictment of attitudes any normal person would find appalling. Although I don’t quite see the necessity for stating the obvious about Nazis (like, who likes Nazis?), I privately thanked the author for removing my name from his petition.
When I reflect on the sheer hatred that was unleashed against me for things I never said or implied, I am speechless. I was raised Jewish and Bar Mitzvahed. My entire European family was killed by Nazis in the Hitler era. I worked in the Civil Rights movement in the mid-60s, marching and doing fulltime legal research for SNCC. I have a child of mixed race and was married to his mother for ten years. I met her while supporting the efforts of a black-owned spiritual bookstore in Harlem, where I later worked for over a year. I have participated in African magic with practitioners of Haitian Voodoo, Cuban Lucumi, Puerto Rican Santeria, Ghanaian Akan, and Brazilian Umbanda. I don’t quite fit the stereotype of a Nazi, or as one genius so daintily expressed it, a KKK collaborator.
On the other hand, I seem to have made the same mistake the president did. I allowed myself to honestly state that, in my opinion, groups involved in violent political protest and street riots are wrong. I stated that the racial hatred of a group like the Klan is as repugnant to me as the suppression of free speech and attempted control of thought by a group like Antifa.
I consider myself a Constitutional Libertarian. In other words, I believe in maximum freedom and laissez-faire, while supporting traffic lights, police, and the military. I am as opposed to drug laws as I am to censorship.
I am deeply concerned that America is in danger of further devolving into the unreasoning mobs of the French Revolution and the Chinese Red Guard. I guess I have no problem with the concept of revolution. I might even be able to accept that Jefferson was right about the Tree of Liberty needing to be nourished from time to time with the Blood of Tyrants and Patriots. But I think people need to know what they’re doing and what they are really talking about. A revolution in this country would be a horror show for a very long time.
The reactions to my statements this week were filled with rage, lies, ignorance, denial, and self-assumed moral superiority. These are the products of irrational emotions and lack of self-awareness. Such people, in my opinion, do not have the discipline, integrity, or training to lead a revolution. They are better off serving as keyboard ninjas.
I am also terribly troubled by the concept of political safe spaces. Ideas are developed and refined by being fiercely debated and openly challenged. Reality is the laboratory of success. If people are so threatened by statues that have stood for a hundred years, controversial lecturers speaking at college campuses, or fellow students dressing up in Halloween costumes, our culture is in trouble. I have done everything I could to help my children learn to think for themselves. I have never tried to protect them from the realities of hard choices and the discomfort of ambivalent options.
Please contemplate the fact that freedom is not free. That the only way we can celebrate success is if we are willing to risk failure. And that thou hast no right but to do thy will.