No, Thuggery and Threats Of Violence Are Not ‘The Market At Work’

AP Photo/Doug McSchooler
AP Photo/Doug McSchooler

After a day of threatening phone calls, Internet sabotage, and a freaking high-school coach busted for recruiting assistance to burn the place down, Memories Pizza in Indiana was forced to close down, possibly for good.

The struggle to keep its doors open isn’t over, as a highly successful GoFundMe page created in support of the restaurant has already raised more than double its $45,000 goal, much of it arriving in small donations from folks who probably don’t have a lot of money to spare, and will likely never have a chance to eat there. A business cannot be kept running on donations, however.

[Update: support has really been surging into that GoFundMe page this morning – the total for Memories Pizza jumped to more than $100,000 just during the time it took me to write this post.  Take it as a given than any total I could mention will likely be obsolete by the time you read this.]

Are any of you “social justice warriors” planning to explain yourselves to the hard-working innocent employees you’re trying to send to the unemployment line, all because of something the owner of the restaurant said – not even something the business did?

Now that the howling hate mob has tasted blood, it’s members are starting to back away from what they’ve accomplished, comically protesting that they’re not the fascists they so obviously are. The most grimly amusing comedy routine they’re pulling is claiming that the possible demise of Memories Pizza would be “market forces” at work. No surprises there – totalitarians always try to co-opt the language of capitalism and freedom. But no, little brownshirts, forcing a business to close with harassment and threats is not “the market at work.”

No, you can’t defend yourselves from charges of totalitarianism by saying you haven’t actually killed anyone yet, or set up a concentration camp. Such things are the grim decorations of fascism, not its essence.

Totalitarianism is about eradicating the barriers between State and private industry, collectivist will and individual conscience. Everything becomes political. All that is not forbidden becomes mandatory. The difference between what is permitted and what is endorsed, is erased. No people are is allowed to demur, go their own way, or espouse forbidden beliefs. All things serve the State, which is the avatar of collective will. Fascism retains private industry but makes it absolutely subservient to the total State… which is the arrangement envisions by those who say business owners should be ruined, if they refuse to provide services deemed sacred by the will of government.

Notice how quickly freedom of speech dissolves in a totalitarian system, even when supporters used to swear it was the one right they held absolutely sacred and inviolate. The owner of Memories Pizza didn’t do anything. Her business was destroyed because of something she said, and it was only said in response to a direct question from media who sought her out, because the hate mob was looking for someone to pillory.

The media didn’t even report her statement accurately – she said she would not participate in a same-sex wedding, but would never refuse service to homosexual customers in her restaurant. That was transformed into headlines about how she hates gay people and refuses them service. You’ve got to scour Middle Eastern dictatorships for a more clear-cut example of someone getting persecuted because they exercised their right of free speech.

The character of totalitarianism doesn’t change because those in power believe themselves righteous. Haven’t any of you kids ever cracked a history book? They always think they’re righteous. A great deal of our Constitutional order was devised to protect citizens from the toxic combination of power and righteousness.

Also, let’s dispense once and for all with the silly quibbles about how it’s not really “censorship” if the government doesn’t dispatch uniformed officials to shut down free speech. There is no point in touting freedom of expression, or religion, as an official virtue if freelance thugs are free to run around silencing people. That’s what you get in places like Egypt, where the government officially grants permission to build a church, but then angry mobs shut down construction while the cops look the other way.

I know short attention spans and lack of historical memory are all the rage these days, but it was only a couple of years ago, when the Obama administration was trying to sell its “spontaneous video protest” story about the Benghazi attack, that our Left felt obliged to hold a big argument about whether freedom of speech should be curtailed to avoid offending Muslims. Remember that? We had a string of op-eds from liberals about how violating the sharia speech code, by insulting or depicting Mohammed, was equivalent to “yelling fire in a crowded theater” (a concept the Left willfully misunderstands, but that’s an argument for another day.)

But now the same people think it’s perfectly acceptable to scream threats and obscenities at a Christian pizza shop owner because she said her faith would oblige her to refuse a job catering a gay wedding. It sure does look as if our friends on the Left have very different standards for Muslim and Christian religious sensibilities, doesn’t it? Whatever could the difference between those two religious groups be? Are free speech and religious conscience now prizes to be seized by violent conquest, awarded only to those who make it crystal clear that they will physically fight to protect them? That doesn’t sound like the way things should work in the enlightened Republic bequeathed to us by our Founders.

Same-sex marriage crusaders love to compare themselves to the Sixties civil-rights movement. What do you suppose Dr. King would have said about the fate of Memories Pizza? Do you recall him endorsing such tactics in his cause?

On the other hand, Benito Mussolini would have loved today’s “social justice warriors.” That’s not a neener-neener taunt – read up on his history and political thought. Robert Tracinski references one of Mussolini’s most famous pronouncements at The Federalist today: “Everything within the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.”

Tracinski goes on to quote from three liberal writers supporting the attack on Memories Pizza in terms that align precisely with Mussolini’s ideal. One of them, Michael Tomasky, explicitly argues that since he believes same-sex marriage is on the verge of being legalized nationwide by the Supreme Court (note that it hasn’t even happened yet!) no one should be allowed to dissent from it: “What kind of court says X is the law, but disobeying X is also the law?”

That’s totalitarianism in a nutshell, folks. No fascist overlord of the Twentieth Century put it more succinctly – absolute, active compliance with the will of the state is mandatory in all things, what is legal is also required, there is no difference between tolerance and active participation. (Mussolini arguably said it more memorably than Tomasky, but he used more words.)

We’re always having arguments about the definition of patriotism, and what it means to be a good American, with the Left occasionally contributing feeble crap like “paying taxes = patriotism,” a standard they quietly waive for their tax-dodging leaders. They also try claiming that obedience to the State is the essence of patriotism, a notion that certainly wouldn’t have sat well with the original patriots, although Benedict Arnold would have agreed.

Let me give you a more robust and challenging ideal of patriotism to chew on: holding the ideals of America and her Constitution in your heart, even when you aren’t forced to obey them at gunpoint. That means actively embracing religious conscience and free speech, even when you’re not compelled to respect them by law enforcement personnel and court orders… and especially when you don’t understand the religion in question, or disagree with protected speech. Those ideals cannot endure if they are principles of American law, but not held deeply in the American heart, because the government will never have enough resources to break up every mob action.

In case you haven’t noticed, despite the vast wealth and power of the current U.S. government, it’s not doing a very good job of breaking up any mob actions, especially if the mobs agree with the current Washington regime, or are useful to its Party.

Does anyone expect President “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon” Obama to trouble himself to put in a good word for the rights of Memories Pizza and denounce the intimidation tactics used against them? A strong statement along those lines would do a lot to cool down the heated, hateful side of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act debate, and it would be consistent with the President’s sworn duty to uphold the Constitution. Maybe he’ll eventually feel pressured into saying something, since polls show strong popular majorities in favor of the RFRA, but I wouldn’t hold my breath… because the mob tactics used against the RFRA depend on the illusion that support for religious liberty is weak, and Obama won’t want to say anything that dispels the illusion.

The case for same-sex marriage has relied heavily upon the assertion that gays have been a persecuted minority until now, but they deserve full and equal respect under marriage law, no matter what their numbers relative to the straight population might be. The demand for tolerance has been loud and long… but now that the same-sex marriage crowd has achieved it, they have none whatsoever for anyone they think they’re powerful enough to crush? It seems they’ve confused tolerance with approval, in more ways than one. Tolerating same-sex marriage doesn’t require approving of it, or participating in it, and tolerating religious conscience doesn’t mean endorsing the religion in question.

There is no way to begin with the proposition that tolerance equals approval, and end anywhere except the sort of mandatory collective conscience we fought so hard to defeat across the last century. It won’t be okay to arrive at that destination even if we manage to avoid having jackbooted enforcers, concentration camps, and mass murder. We should actively reject not just the extremes and excesses of totalitarianism, but also its ideals… not just the horrible possible endings, but also the seemingly righteous beginning. I know it’s hard to do that when you’re absolutely convinced your side is right, you really hate the other side, you’re convinced you can see deep into their souls, and beating up on them is easy and fun.

Make the effort anyway. It’s worthwhile.


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