The son of a Wisconsin State Senator was beaten up when he objected to two men stealing a Romney sign in his yard.
One would like to believe that this is an exceptional case without larger significance. But then, I am afraid, one would be wrong.
Almost ten years ago, I wrote a post titled Be Afraid: The Rise of Political Violence and Intimidation in America. The post was inspired by a story about attacks on a pro-Israel group in Los Angeles:
“This may have been advertised as an anti-war rally,” said Suzanne Davidson, “but I could hear in the distance, as I looked at the hate-filled faces, military boots marching on broken glass.”
Davidson is a leader of a small group in LA that had been meeting regularly to show public support of Israel. Prior to the group’s usual rally on October 6, she learned that an “anti-war” group was planning a major demonstration in the same area. Should she cancel the pro-Israel demonstration? No, she decided…after all, what could be feared from a “peace” rally?
But from the very beginning, Davidson says, members of the “anti-war” demonstration behaved in a hostile and intimidating manner toward the smaller pro-Israel group, beginning with curses and a demand to “F___ off.” This escalated to the cry “You are Zionist Nazi pigs.” 1500 “anti-war” demonstrators marched past the 25 members of the pro-Israel group, some of them shouting “shame on you,” along with assorted name-calling. “I shudder to think what would have happened had the police not been there,” wrote Davidson.
As shameful as this event was, similar behavior–and much worse–has become increasingly common. At Concordia College (Toronto), Benhamin Netanyahu was prevented from speaking by a riot of Palestinian students and their supporters. Thomas Hecht, a Holocaust survivor, was pushed against a wall, spat on, and reportedly kicked in the groin. A woman said that during the same incident, attackers “aimed their punches at my breasts.” Two weeks later, at the same college, a Jewish student was beaten bloody by an Arab student.
Laurie Zoloth, a campus Jewish leader, summed up the campus situation in these words: “This is the Weimar republic with Brownshirts it cannot control.”
I cited other examples of political violence and intimidation in the post, and noted that while such behavior seemed to be most common on college campuses, it was not limited to those venues–in Colorado, for example, a car belonging to Rita Moreno (a leader of the initiative to scrap bilingual education) was torched. There was no proof that the fire-bombing was political…but Moreno says that there have been other forms of harassment against supporters of this initiative, including dumping of garbage in their yards and 3 AM phone calls.
Since that initial post, I’ve posted many stories about similar attempts at violent or near-violent political intimidation. Most of these can be found by clicking the following link: Goon Squad. Note especially this one: then he went down under a hail of black boots.
In the initial post, I said:
Suzanne Davidson’s words about “hate-filled faces” and “military boots marching on broken glass” are very apt, as are Laurie Zoloth’s words about Brownshirts and the Weimar Republic. Most Americans think of Naziism in its final state, in control of the machinery of the German government along with its police and military forces. But Naziism did not start this way. It started as a group of street rowdies, committing illegal violence to intimidate political opponents. Without such intimidation, it is unlikely that the Nazis would ever have been able to obtain control of the German government.
The rise of political violence is a serious threat to American democracy. Although not limited to the college campuses, the current wave of violence and intimidation has largely originated there. University presidents have often allowed leftist and “progressive” groups to take clearly illegal actions, such as stealing and destroying opposition newspapers, and to get away with it…indeed, they have sometimes acted as if their campuses were extraterritorial jurisdictions, in which the laws of the United States did not apply. And for years, campus “postmodern” philosphers have been arguing that speech is merely another form of action, and that free speech needs to be restricted in the service of “higher” goals. Once this philosophical position is accepted, then the use of actual violence to suppress differing viewpoints is arguably not very far away.
For at least a couple of decades now, many university administrations have been enforcing “speech codes” and conducting political indoctrination of students. They have also, far too often, turned a blind eye to activities such as the stealing of opposition newspapers, the shouting-down of politically-incorrect speakers, etc. It was only a matter of time until this poisonous contempt for free speech seeped out into the wider society, and now it has.
It seems most unlikely that an Obama administration will act effectively to protect political speech of its opponents. The behavior of Eric Holder in dropping the vote-intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party, when that case had basically already been won, sends one very clear signal. Another signal is sent by Obama’s weak position on free speech when he chose to quickly blame an American filmmaker for the Benghazi violence.
I’m afraid that we are going to witness street violence as an increasingly-significant aspect of American politics over the next several years. To some extent this will happen whoever wins the Presidency, but a re-election of Barack Obama would make it much worse, and would couple the attacks on free speech by random thugs and goons with growing attempts to restrict speech by legal and administrative means.