Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The NJ Star-Ledger Misses Essential Problem With Anti-Trump 'Protesters'

In a recent editorial, A suggestion to anti-Trump forces: Keep it civil, the New Jersey Star-Ledger chastised the anti-Trump protesters for their disruptive tactics, which range from “senseless acts of violence” to “F-bombs and other bilious assaults.”

Why stop the disruptions? Because, the Star-Ledger laments, they “provide all the ammunition the candidate needs to justify his campaign of unapologetic thuggery.”

Here's the best option for the anti-Trumpers: Stop.

Stop giving him what he wants. Stop being played like a sucker. Stop signing up as  extras in his tent revival routine. Stop being part of the WWE chair-tossing horde. Stop giving the press hours of B-roll they can run in a loop over their dirge-like narration.

And stop bringing protests into the building for the purpose of disrupting his polluted stream of consciousness, because his campaign feeds on that, gains strength from it, like some deadly virus bred in George Wallace's basement.

Violence is something Trump welcomes.

Not a word about Trump’s right to speak. Freedom of speech isn’t mentioned once.

I left these comments:

So the only reason to oppose anti-Trump protest tactics is that it strengthens Trump? What if the thuggery hurt Trump in the polls? Would the violence then be acceptable? That’s the implication.

The Star-Ledger’s position is hollow. True, violent and disruptive protest is uncivil. But the much more important—and essential—reason to oppose the anti-Trump tactics is that everyone has the fundamental, inalienable, moral, constitutional right to speak his mind without coercive interference. Rather than criticize the ‘protesters’ on shallow partisan political grounds, the Star-Ledger should have unequivocally defended Trump’s right to advocate his ideas.

J. K. Rowling, speaking at the Pen Literary Awards Gala and a Trump opponent, showed the right approach:

Trump’s freedom to speak . . . guarantees mine.

Unless we take that absolute position without caveats or apologies, we have set foot upon a road with only one destination: If you seek the removal of freedom from an opponent simply because they have offended you, you have crossed the line to stand alongside tyrants who imprison, torture and kill with exactly the same justification.

That’s how you oppose disruptive or violent protest (as well as any government attempt to trample free speech). As Rowling also correctly observed, the power to shut down the next guy’s speech can easily be turned against you. After all, how does one counter disagreeable ideas? With your own free speech rights. On this point, President Obama, whom I rarely agree with, had these words of wisdom at Howard University’s commencement:

So don’t try to shut folks . . . down, no matter how much you might disagree with them.

Have the confidence to challenge them, the confidence in the rightness of your position. There will be times when you shouldn’t compromise your core values, your integrity, and you will have the responsibility to speak up in the face of injustice.

But listen. Engage. If the other side has a point, learn from them. If they’re wrong, rebut them. Teach them. Beat them on the battlefield of ideas.

There is no civil society without an unencumbered battlefield of ideas. There is no battlefield of ideas unless everyone’s free speech is defended and protected absolutely and without caveats or apologies (within the context of the inalienability of all of our political rights, the only kind there are). Rowling and Obama have it right. The Star-Ledger has it wrong. The Star-Ledger exploited the anti-trump thuggery merely as a sleazy opportunity to bash Trump, when it should have taken the moral high road of defending free speech.

Related Reading:

Title 2: A Lesson on Activism - from the Left

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