In open, civilized societies there is a tolerance for some level of disorder, as being the price citizens collectively pay for their liberties.
But the key words in what I just said: “some level.” Today, in the year 2018, we are fifty years on from 1968, when public tolerance of disorder was tested to breaking point.
Americans had had enough of disorder.
Every time the Left stages some raucous protest I find myself wondering how long normal Americans will put up with this. How long before the reaction? How long before seasoned, skillful politicians respond to widespread desire for such a reaction?
I found myself wondering that a lot this week. In just two days, this Monday and Tuesday, there were four instances of intolerant progressive mobs attacking harmless, unarmed individuals trying to express opinions the progressives disagreed with.
I’m casting my net Anglosphere-wide here. Two of these instances were in the U.S.A.; one was in Britain, the other in Canada. The pattern was the same, though. The intolerance, the slogans, the masks were the same. (Well, the rioters wore masks in three of the events.)
- Monday March 5, at noon, Lewis and Clark Law School over in Portland, Oregon had Christina Hoff Sommers to speak to students about trigger warnings, safe spaces, and victimhood culture.
Ms. Sommers is a decent sort. She may be best known for her YouTube clip debunking what she calls The Myth of the Gender Wage Gap. That clip has clocked up close to three million views. If you’re not one of that three million, the clip is worth six minutes of your time.
That clip is not vituperative, merely factual and logical. The lady points out, for example, that if it were really true that women only make 77 cents for every dollar men make doing the same work, entrepreneurs could arbitrage themselves a nice profit by firing their male employees and hiring women, reducing their wage bill by 23 percent.
Ms. Sommers’ opinions are hardly even heterodox. For sure they are not as heterodox as mine; although, full disclosure, I once shared a platform with her at the Independent Women’s Forum in Washington, DC. I recall her as intelligent, witty, and altogether charming. Her status as a public intellectual is perfectly respectable; she is a scholar at the neoconnish, genteel-conservative American Enterprise Institute, along with firebrands like Michael Barone, Lynn Cheney, Richard Epstein, and Ramesh Ponnuru.
It was therefore astonishing to see clips of the talk she tried to give on Monday, where a gang of students shouted her down as—can you guess? yes: a fascist.
Astonishing and of course depressing. Then doubly depressing was that the college’s Diversity Dean Janet Steverson [email her]— that’s the woman’s title, Diversity Dean—took the side of the anarchists and told Christina to shut down her talk, which of course had barely begun, to proceed straight to Q & A.
Diversity Dean at Lewis & Clark was present.She approached podium in middle of my talk & asked me to wrap up my speech & take questions. I was never able to develop my argument.Shouldn’t the dean have insisted protesters allow me to finish, rather than cut speech short? https://t.co/1d43iDeo7P
— Christina Sommers (@CHSommers) March 5, 2018
Punchline, in case you missed it: this was the Lewis and Clark law school.
- Monday evening Richard Spencer gave a talk at Michigan State University, which of course brought the Antifa out in full force. This was after U had been sued—successfully—on Spencer’s behalf when the college administration had tried to prevent him speaking there.
The Antifa didn’t hold back: “Fights broke out as some protesters hurled bottles, rocks and horse manure to block Spencer’s supporters from entering the [venue]”. [Richard Spencer’s Michigan State visit culminates with fights, anti-Nazi chants, By Brian McVicar, Michigan Live, March 5, 2018]
For once the authorities showed some spine against the anarchists. Police arrested 25 people, 13 of them on felony charges like assault and battery, carrying a concealed weapon, and resisting and obstructing police. As of Wednesday, 20 people were formally charged. [8 arraigned on felony charges in wake of Richard Spencer protest, By Brian McVicar, Michigan Live, March 7, 2018]
- Also on Monday, this one across the pond, the student Libertarian Society at King’s College, London hosted the British YouTube vlogger Sargon of Akkad, real name Carl Benjamin, who describes himself as a classic liberal. Masked Antifa invaded the event and “hospitalized several university security guards, smashed the window of a grade-one listed building and threw smoke bombs.” [‘Several people are hurt’ as violent thugs shut down a FREE SPEECH event at King’s College London setting off smoke bombs and ‘punching security guards’, by Rory Tingle and Miles Tingle, DailyMail, March 5, 2018]
The topic for this event? Freedom of speech.
- The following day, Tuesday March 6th, Psychology professor Jordan Peterson spoke at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. Title of his talk: “The Rising Tide of Compelled Speech in Canada.”
Prof. Peterson became famous for protesting a Canadian law that makes it criminal discrimination to not use a person’s preferred pronoun.
So along came the Antifa and tried to drown out the lecture—unsuccessfully this time, although a window was broken and one protestor, not a student, was arrested and charged with mischief, assaulting police and carrying a concealed weapon. ” [Protester who shattered window at Jordan Peterson lecture found to be carrying a garrotte: police, National Post, March 9, 2018 ]
That was the only arrest.
I ask again: How long will the voting public in civilized countries—Dick Nixon’s Silent Majority—how long will they put up with this level of disorder?
How long before federal authorities step up to protect the civil rights of Richard Spencer and Christina Hoff Sommers?
How much longer will thoughtful, civilized people with unpopular opinions be shouted down and physically attacked by masked anarchists, while law enforcement too often (the Michigan State campus police p erhaps an honorable exception here) sit passively and watch—or, as in Charlottesville last year, actually co-operate with the people wearing masks?
John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. ) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He has had two books published by VDARE.com com:FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT II: ESSAYS 2013.