What an entertaining society we inhabit. It is like a Jerry Springer Show marathon with no off button.
Friday night’s episode featured a recurring theme: the desire of political progressives to silence speech they oppose.
Donald Trump, billionaire businessman, reality television star and Republican presidential front-runner, was slated to speak to the multitudes in Chicago, the hardscrabble handiwork of community organizers such as Barack Obama.
It was not to be.
The threat of trouble and real punch-throwing, sign-shredding violence led police and security officials to recommend that Trump’s talk be canceled. Rather than put tens of thousands in physical, “existential” jeopardy, The Donald wisely agreed to cancel the speech. Somewhere in Hell, Jiang Qing and Saul Alinsky are high-fiving.
Yes, this is what we’ve come to.
One can blame Trump. As his GOP opponents did with dispatch. “Trump’s rivals criticized him, and not protesters, for a political rally that devolved into a melee,” informed The Washington Post.
“This is what a culture and a society looks like when everybody says whatever the heck they want,” argued Sen. Marco Rubio, “when everyone just goes around saying ‘I’m just going to speak my mind.’”
But speaking one’s mind is not the problem; violence is.
“Any candidate is responsible for the culture of a campaign,” Sen. Ted Cruz explained to reporters. “And when you have a campaign that . . . affirmatively encourages violence, when you have a campaign that is facing allegations of physical violence against members of the press, you create an environment that only encourages this sort of nasty discord.”
Cruz is certainly correct that Trump’s language and tone have been repeatedly crude and obnoxious. That’s why I hope he is not elected president — indeed, I hope he doesn’t win the Republican Party’s nomination. Yet, if one believes in both freedom of speech and non-violence, initiated violence continues to lack any justification whatsoever.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich blamed Trump for the “toxic atmosphere,” adding that Trump has “a right to speak, and people have a right to protest.” Yes, indeed, when protest is peaceful. No, not at all, when protest is simply a cover for violence, intimidation, theft and destruction.
And silencing a political opponent.
I find Donald Trump appalling and abhorrent. My only right is to be appalled and disgusted — and to express myself. Not to stop the Donald’s speech or to prevent others from hearing it.
There is no principled, fundamental difference between shutting down Mr. Trump’s rally and squelching speech on a college campus . . . or outlawing caricatures of the prophet Muhammad . . . or arresting the artists.
As Americans, when lacking political bread and circuses, we always have the raucous comedy known as higher education. The Oscar-worthy performance of the University of Missouri’s ensemble cast last year captivated this nation. The show-stopping moment brought us face-to-face with a journalism professor at the nation’s premier school for journalism, trying to intimidate a student journalist. When not able to shut him down, she yelled: “I need some muscle.”
Is Donald Trump a jerk? Yes. Does he deserve to be called out for his outrageous rhetoric, which toys with tough-guy violence (behind body guards, police and Secret Service agents)? Most certainly.
But the day after a presidential candidate and tens of thousands of Americans have been prevented from engaging in political discourse is not the time to highlight the many sins of Mr. Trump. It is time, instead, to say “enough is enough,” to condemn and not excuse these attacks on free speech, whether being waged by radical Islamists or American progressives.
We can deal with Mr. Trump at the box office — er, ballot box.