Liberals scrambling to distract attention from the abject failure of Democrat-dominated cities are once again attempting to sanctify riots as a form of “free speech” or a “legitimate political strategy,” as an exceptionally foolish headline at Salon puts it. Even more insultingly, Salon author Benji Hart describes at as a “Black political strategy,” sticking a thumb in Martin Luther King’s eye by insisting we must see “non-violence” as a tactic, not a philosophy… and if non-violence “fails to win people over, it’s a futile tactic.”
These are the same people who scream that Republicans have a problem with racism.
Hart essentially argues that riots are what a dispossessed minority must do to be taken seriously, when it can’t express its political will any other way. This is the negation of civilization, an endorsement of mere barbarism, and a sentiment expressed by the leaders of every violent terrorist organization in the world. The people who blow up buses in Israel will also tell you they’ve decided the “tactic” of non-violent expression has proven futile, so they feel justified in murdering innocents until they get what they feel they deserve.
There is an important difference between true free speech, and various forms of collectivist thuggery hiding under the mantle of free expression: the audience for free speech is free to walk away. No one is forced to listen. Once force is introduced to the situation, it’s not “free” any more, is it?
The need to engage and hold voluntary audiences tremendously improves the quality of free speech, as competition improves all other things. The speaker must be compelling and reasonable, engaging both the the empathy and intellect of his audience. This makes it necessary to understand the audience and respect its viewpoint to some degree, or else it’ll grow annoyed and tune out relentlessly hostile speech.
As greater amounts of force and compulsion are imposed on “free” speech, the quality of discourse suffers. We have big problems in this country with the suppression of speech and thought, especially at universities, which should be gardens of vibrant intellectual exchange where free expression flourishes. It’s equally important to concern ourselves with compulsion against audiences, forcing them to accept certain ideas, or harshly penalizing them for dissenting from imposed orthodoxy.
A great deal of our political discourse sadly fails to meet the high standards of truly free expression, because the immense size and power of government infuse every “national conversation” with threats of coercion and punishment. We celebrate a mythic ideal of “national consensus” that has very little to do with the grubby reality of whipping up passionate support from a few key voting blocs and using raw political power to ram sloppy, hideously expensive compulsory schemes down the throats of a vanquished majority. Notice that the people who are most interested in such compulsive schemes are also the people who talk longest and loudest about “consensus” and “the will of the people.”
Riots and unlawful demonstrations that shut down cities are obnoxious examples of compulsory speech – you must listen to us, we give you no choice; you must give us what we want, or we’ll destroy your property and assault your person. (It’s worth noting that many of the rioters are not the political actors liberals romanticize them as – they’re just opportunists joining the mayhem for fun and profit. Of course, according to left-wing dogma, even the guy emerging from the fiery wreckage of a pharmacy with an armload of stolen goods is an unconscious political actor.)
On a less incendiary scale, this confusion between free and compulsory expression was a fundamental error of the Occupy Wall Street movement, whose defining tactic of illegally “occupying” property was an effort to compel attention.
The Left thinks everything is collective and political, which means everything is compulsory, because human beings hardly ever achieve 100 percent voluntary “consensus” on anything, and even 70 percent agreement is rare. (Of course, when 70 percent agreement in opposition to the Left’s agenda appears, the “will of the people” suddenly doesn’t matter at all, and the mission of enlightened left-wing government becomes “transforming” the populace against its expressed desires.)
It’s no wonder they romanticize rioters and looters as victims whose plight is the collective fault of “society” – which, in these urban disaster zones, is defined as everyone who doesn’t have a “D” after their name, even though Democrats have completely controlled their fortress cities for generations. When you hear a liberal praising a gang of thugs who burned down a church as “resisters,” remember they don’t mean resistance against the Democrat municipal machine that has held power for generations, the Democrat congressional representatives who have been parked in safe seats longer than most of the rioters have been alive, or the Democrat President who has held unprecedented, unconstitutional power for six years. They’re essentially drafting the rioters into the Democrat political machine as foot soldiers who “resist” whatever dwindling percentage of society and private commerce the Left doesn’t control yet.
The hard, cold truth is that these fiery “demonstrations” are being conducted against a system the rioting mob voted for, as did their parents and grandparents. Their existential despair has been carefully cultivated by the Left for political power. They grew up being told they’re perpetual victims, at risk from ill-defined predatory forces that can only be kept at bay by an enlightened Ruling Class… but they’re also told they can’t hold that Ruling Class accountable for the corruption endemic in big cities, arguably including the worst elements of city police forces.
Those who “work hard and play by the rules” are constantly used as political props by Democrats… but when their hard-earned property and personal safety are threatened, Democrats are nowhere to be found. Like President Obama, they’re holed up with advisers, polishing speeches where they’ll blame everything on Republicans who have no power whatsoever in the affected areas. Those who work hard and play by the rules take little comfort from the spectacle of their community leaders and political representatives coddling thugs – some even object to calling them thugs – while politicizing and denigrating the police forces that good, hard-working people depend on for protection.
No wonder there’s frustration and resentment boiling in the inner cities. Riots are not a legitimate means of expressing that discontent. They’re also not effective, as the end result tends to be more rich, empowered liberal bosses rolling around in limousines, while nothing changes for the people they harvest votes from.
Here’s an idea for a dramatic, constructive demonstration of inner-city rage: vote Republican. Burn down the system that’s disappointed you for generations. If the Republicans disappoint you, burn them down, too. Keep going until you get something approaching honesty and true equality… which has nothing to do with the collectivist, redistributionist swill that has been peddled to you for so many years. Spit that nonsense out, and become the kind of discriminating audience that worships free speech properly by walking away from failed ideas and bankrupt rhetoric.