There seems to be a reflexive response to political events built into people these days. Resistance and protest is good, no matter what one is protesting against or the methods used. I was saddened to see the glorification of political violence taking place in the Nordic countries following the recent march by a Neo-Nazi group in Sweden. A 80-something year old grandmother wanted to run down a group of Nazis preparing to march with a shopping cart. A shopping cart assault isn’t ISIS truck-style terrorism, but the underlying principle is actually similar. Violent action justified with political rhetoric. Many people showed their support for this would-be octogenarian physical assaulter. The media gleefully brought to our attention the calls for a statue to be erected in honor of this brave woman.
I don’t get why it is supposed to be a good thing to use the methods of the people one is protesting against. Germany bans Nazi-glorifying speech. Guess who else banned political speech they disagreed with? You of course know, the Nazis. The above-mentioned grandmother wanted to use political violence to protest against political violence. Unfortunately these are no longer isolated incidents. Following the massacre in Las Vegas the usual dark underbelly of Twitter and other social media domains surfaced. Calls for further violence against Trump supporters weren’t uncommon. A CBS executive was even fired for her comments following the tragedy.
The parallel to the Vietnam War era has been made many times, especially since Trump gained steam in the primary season last year. I’ve just finished the excellent Ken Burns documentary film series about the war. It was the first time I’ve seen extended video of the protests of that age. Even though the media plays up what is going on with the “Resistance” to Trump, I have to disagree with the comparisons. What is going on today is very different from what took place five decades ago. The amount of people participating is orders of magnitude less, the intensity is nowhere near the same level and the response from the authorities can’t be compared at all. The repression that took place back then, including beatings and killings at the hands of police and soldiers, is not seen in today’s climate of protest.
Even the violence done by Antifa and their ilk pales in comparison to the campaign of terror committed by the likes of the Weather Underground. What has changed is the moral legitimacy bestowed by the media. Back then as I understand it, at most the protesters were given a platform and sympathetic understanding. Now, the media are leading the dogs of war, pouring gasoline onto the fire, no matter the consequences. Persuasion mastermind Scott Adams brought up the Las Vegas massacre on a recent broadcast. According to him, the shooter here might be the second in a line beginning with the Scalise shooting of people radicalized by the mainstream media committing political violence with the intent to kill.
Another dissimilarity with Vietnam, is that the opposition then was rooted in good, moral principles. It was people’s objection to the mass killings of civilians, the methods used and the brutality they had to suffer that triggered the massive outpouring of demonstrations. Now, the tables have in a sense turned. The protesters are the ones primarily committing the violence and brutalizing their political opponents. In Charlottesville as a case study, the police didn’t intervene and massively beat up the protesters, they stood back. In the Vietnam era mass assaults by police on protesters were a common occurence and a lasting image of that time. Now, I’ve often wanted the police to crack down on unrest more harshly, questioning their reluctance to intervene.
So, in today’s political climate, the police are largely “peaceful”, the protesters are the violent ones. The “resistance” to the prevailing order are legitimizing violence, unrest and chaos, muchly assisted by their nefarious allies in the media. Things are different, but the level of societal discord is about the same. Society would benefit from taking a time-out to reassess where we stand on principled issues, such as political violence and out response to it.