There have been numerous reports of thuggish behavior by teachers’ union supporters in Wisconsin and elsewhere. For example, here’s a Daily Caller story about a man–apparently a union operative or supporter–who attempted to disconnect the speaker system being used by the Tea Party group, and then shoved an individual who attempted to reconnect it. See also our political process has been stopped by a mob:
On Thursday, legislators were advised to return to their offices and lock their doors. Mobs roamed the halls, banging on the glass of the doors, pounding on the walls. No one could move in the halls or enter or leave the building. The glass of the Supreme Court’s entrance was broken. Legislators were genuinely afraid. Our elected representatives were afraid. In our Capitol.
A young female reporter trying to get into the Senate chamber struggled to get through the crowd. She arrived disheveled and upset because she had been roughed up as she tried to get through “Bitch-slapped” the mob told her. A senior senator was spat on. A senator and his female staffer struggled to get into the capitol. He was worried about his staffer because the crowd was grabbing at her and pushing her. University Police were two arms lengths away and did nothing. They, of course, are union.
Blogger Ann Althouse, a law professor who lives in Madison, received a death threat after posting a video of protest-related activities.
Nor is this sort of thing limited to Wisconsin. In Idaho, the superintendent of public instruction, Tom Luna, has proposed some measures the teachers’ union doesn’t like. The response:
Someone went to his mother’s house — his mother’s. Someone slashed his tires and spray-painted a threat onto the door.
Of course, historically, there has always been a certain amount of violence associated with labor disputes–violence initiated by unions, and, if you go back far enough, by management. But for decades, until very recently, such violence had been dying down.
Another factor now included in the mix, though, is the anti-free-speech, anti-civility, and often outright thuggish behavior which has been incubated in, tolerated by, and sometimes even encouraged by far too many of America’s universities. See for example my post from way back in 2002 about violence and intimidation at San Francisco State University, Concordia College (Toronto), and UC Berkeley. In that post, I quoted Laurie Zoloth, a campus Jewish leader at SFSU:
This is the Weimar republic with Brownshirts it cannot control.
Or, in many cases, I suspect, doesn’t want to control.
As I said in the above-linked post, in response to Laurie Zoloth’s point about brownshirts:
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.