Before the US election, some on the political left predicted that Donald Trump supporters would be violent if they lost. This can now be seen as an act of psychological projection, as the opposite has actually happened.
Immediately after the results came in there were violent demonstrations, including property damage and burned flags. Later, a young Trump supporter in Chicago was kidnapped, tortured and racially abused for being white.
Trump’s inauguration was accompanied by rioting on the streets, a burned out car, and further property damage.
All the while, Trump supporters have been abused online, and celebrities expressing anything other than hostility toward the new president have been spitefully insulted. Performers who were considering playing at Trump’s inauguration were intimidated into changing their minds. It was reported that opera star Andrea Bocelli received death threats.
At last weekend’s Women’s March, a demonstration of anti-Trump sentiment, Angela Davis was a speaker. If you’re not sure about her, she has a history of supporting political violence, and aligning with brutal Communist regimes.
And then there’s Linda Sarsour, one of the event’s organisers, who has tweeted repeatedly in favour of Sharia law, and expressed disapproval of state anti-Sharia bills. Take a look at how women are treated in countries where sharia law is in place, and ask yourself how that fits in with gender equality.
Absurdly extreme slurs are tossed carelessly at anyone not on board with the progressive agenda, while at the same time the left excuses real violence, from the petty to the tyrannical, when it suits their own ends.
Look at the reaction from some left wing establishment politicians to the death of psychotic dictator Fidel Castro last year. Jeremy Corbyn called him a “champion of social justice”. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed “deep sorrow” for a “larger than life leader who served his people”. And celebrities who like to chip in on politics had their say too. Russell Brand tweeted the Castro quote, “La historia me absolvera”.
How did this happen? When did human rights become a pick-and-choose concern, relevant only when politically expedient? What became of respecting different opinions, and why are personal attacks and violence being excused and validated so casually by progressives?
As I see it, there are several factors underlying the left’s comfort with hostile confrontation and physical violence.
First, there’s the way the academic liberal left seals itself off and prohibits dissent. University safe spaces illustrate this. In the safe space there can, by definition, be no opposing views. Through no-platforming speakers who don’t cleave to the progressive consensus, entire campuses become safe spaces. But ‘safe’ is an inappropriate term. In a sealed chamber, theories and ideas feed back on themselves, becoming inbred and extreme. There are no checks or balances. There’s no open marketplace of thought in which only the best propositions can thrive. An environment like that is liable to spawn ignorance and extremism, and allow fallacy to go unchallenged.
From there we get the demonization of political opponents. If liberals don’t meet any conservatives on campus, at work, or in their circle of friends, then it’s easy for them to fall into the trap of thoughtlessly placing all right-of-centre thinkers into a distant outgroup, never to be engaged with. Tribalism takes over, and opposing arguments get automatically rejected without ever being heard out or considered. Fair criticism of Black Lives Matter is shouted down as racism. Critical discussion of the Women’s March is sexist. Taking exception to advocates of sharia law is Islamophobia.
It’s a simplistic caricature world, of activists and allies on one side, and of the dreaded straight white man on the other.
Alongside this, a far-fetched narrative has been sold, through which we live in an oppressively structured tyranny. Intersectional feminists such as Laurie Penny refer to it constantly. Their sketchy ideas leak out from unhinged gender studies departments into the wider discourse, and suddenly there’s a magical explanation for everything that’s wrong with the world: the patriarchy.
The very fabric of our society becomes the enemy, and we find ourselves living in a fantasy world. Guardian columnists and their acolytes are cast as virtuous insurgents, while those who refuse to nod along with their dubious concepts are condemned to play imperial goons, marching to the tune of a global cabal of villainous capitalists.
In this world, personal responsibility is diminished and victimhood reigns. Things not going well for you? Blame the patriarchy. Life’s unfair? Tilt your head up to the next rung above you on the ladder of privilege. You’re being oppressed.
Identity politics becomes key. You’re allocated a block, and receive oppression/privilege points accordingly. Nothing is your own responsibility, because everything is structurally decided.
In such a reality, why would there be anything wrong with violently trashing the system? If the patriarchy is to blame and you’re trapped in an unjust cultural prison, property damage becomes an act of emancipation. And sometimes you can attack people too, as long as they’ve been labelled—through skin colour, gender, religion, sexual preference or political persuasion—as oppressors.
We get deindividualized and played off against each other, but crucially, those in the progressive group are always the victims, no matter what they do. Crushed by circumstance and unburdened by personal responsibility, they’re never to blame for anything.
This post can also be read at Country Squire Magazine.