There’s been a bit of a dust-up in the blogosphere lately over the assault of a pro-Bush blogger/demonstrator in Boston named Matt Margolis. Matt blogged about his experience here. One left-wing commenter responded to Matt’s post with the following:
Hitler had his beliefs, just like Matt has his. Sometimes violence is the only way to show people how devastatingly bad their ideas are. When society is so distraught about policy that individuals feel the need to take violent action, revolution is not only expected, but neccessary. I’m no union man, but I’d have probably taken a swing at you too.
This provoked a minor rant from Whomping Willow:
I am dumbfounded. I thought that was what civil discourse was for, but then again, I am assuming these people are civil. Bad assumption. Don’t you love people who claim that not only do they feel a certain way, but the entire society feels that way too and it’s only their ‘expected’ duty to act like stone age people and start beating the crap out of people who don’t fall into line?
I think the more revealing aspect of Hot Dem’s comment is what it tells us about when the left finds violence acceptable. Imagine, for example, a despot who oppresses the population of an entire nation. Women are raped. Children are murdered. Political opponents are fed into shredders or steamrolled underneath the asphalt of new road construction. Stipends are paid to the families of suicide bombers who kill and terrorize the innocent. The left’s response to such a despot is that we must negotiate. Endlessly. Using force against him without French permission is a violation of international law. If, hypothetically, the despot’s two sons were to be killed in a military engagement, we should put the soldiers who killed him up for war crimes.
But if someone dares to express a viewpoint that the left finds disagreeable, well then by gum it’s time for a bit of the old ultra-violence!
One other quick point for Hot Dem: You imply that you think a revolution is necessary. I disagree, but as Tolkien observed “it takes but one to start a war.” In revolutions the other side shoots back. I’ve got my gun. Do you have yours? Or would you rather go back to trying to convince people who disagree with you using words, like civilized people do?
Update: A few more thoughts.
First, I should probably refine my comment that the left is OK with using violence whenever a differing viewpoint is expressed. The hypothetical despot mentioned above expressed views that conflict with those of the left. It’s more precise to say that if someone expresses a viewpoint that poses a threat to the left’s desire for political dominance in the United States, then it’s time for a bit of the old ultra-violence.
Second, I wonder if Hot Dem would be willing to apply his stated principle symmetrically. If, for example, society is distraught about a policy that is a darling of the left (say abortion on demand), would that justify a right-wing anti-abortion activist physically assaulting a peaceful pro-choice demonstrator? My guess is no. After all, the left apparently gets to define who makes up “society”. A solid majority of the American public supported and still supports the Iraqi campaign. The president’s approval rating hovers around the 50% mark. To say that “society” is sufficiently distraught about his policies to justify physical violence is tantamount to defining those who disagree with the left out of society altogether.
It is precisely because a significant portion of society is not distraught about Bush’s policies that the left is slipping towards violence. They sense a real possibility that they will not prevail through peaceful persuasion, and so they’re starting to turn to violence as an alternative. I suppose one could say that the domestic left has learned the lesson of Madrid: it is possible to use violence directed against citizens to influence the outcome of elections.