The BLOG: Campaign 2016

Anti-Trump riots and the world gone crazy … or not

When truly pressed to find some optimism in all the garbage of current events, I’ve sometimes fallen back to pointing out that there really isn’t anything new. We’ve seen these pissant thugs before; they’re part of the ebb and flow of history. It’s not pleasant when they’re surging, and it’s especially irksome when the mainstream media and (more importantly) people with whom we disagree, philosophically, but whom we respect, can’t muster a strong denunciation of those who would beat us senseless, if given the chance.

But thems the games. It falls to us to decide whether we’re for principle or for temporary victory. We have to decide on the threshold at which prudence means breaking the other guy’s nose so that the civilized conversation can continue. And decide that we haven’t gotten there, yet.

Here’s a mild anecdote, with the juicy details drained because the main characters deserve respect as people in my life: Recently, at a children’s soccer game, I was one of several fathers who held back a peer from throwing punches on the sidelines. A father from the one team had called another guy’s wife a name, after some comments about the state of play on the field, and those turned out to be fighting words.

These things happen when parents become invested in their children’s activities and two individuals decline to deescalate. What really struck me about the incident was some of the subsequent commentary from eminently respectable bystanders who suggested that one couldn’t blame the held-back husband for his readiness to punch some guy for saying something about his wife. These are people I would have expected to understand that there are words, and then there’s violence. If somebody uses words to call you uncivilized and you react by breaking his jaw, you aren’t exactly disproving his thesis.

I raise this anecdote in the context of a post by Ace, which Kurt Schlichter characterizes (erroneously) as “deal[ing] the pain”:

The online conservative (?) commentariat is ghettoizing itself further and further from mainstream opinion, and convincing itself more and more as it self-selects down to tiny numbers that it is a Vital Remnant of Goodness and Good Sense in an increasingly ugly and stupid world.

Ace’s complaint is that “the online conservative (?) commentariat” [question mark his] didn’t rouse itself, to a man, to denounce Left-wing violence. Really? For what audience does Ace believe we’re writing? This is silly “stand up and be counted” stuff that is better left to the Left. Does it change our moment in history if only two of a half dozen (or whatever) regular daily articles on NRO attempt to say something interesting about the all-too-predictable street violence that goes with progressivism?

One gets the sense — and I may be wrong on this — that some people in the online conservative commentariat are like the parents on the sidelines in a children’s soccer game, itching for a signal that the rules no longer apply. The Left engages in political violence, and we on the Right understand that to be common, assess our reactions so as not to be drawn into a political whipsaw, and (yes) balance our time writing commentary against our other interests and things going on in our lives as individuals.

If that doesn’t satisfy you, perhaps you’re too anxious for some reason to throw your full support behind an unfit candidate for president. Maybe (to be less incendiary) you’re too keen to unite your long-time allies behind the position that you currently hold. Either way, it seems to me, you’re looking for a reason that the rules no longer apply over here on the sidelines.

Maybe it isn’t “an increasingly ugly and stupid world.” Maybe it’s just the world. Are a few thrown punches at “protests” really all that much worse than the abuses we’ve seen with the IRS, with ObamaCare regulation, with government forcing small Christian business to give money to people offended that they didn’t want to participate in their events, and with any number of other indications that our governing system is not currently what it was designed to be? If you’re looking for prescribed denunciations of the opposition, what is it you really want, if not an excuse to escalate and throw some punches?

Pull out the brass knuckles, if you insist, in order to get the aforementioned candidate into the power of the presidency (now enlarged, thanks to a guy for whom we share contempt). I’ll remain unconvinced that their hesitance to endorse that development proves that intellectuals are not fulfilling their role in our movement and our society.

Justin Katz

Justin Katz

Justin Katz is research director for the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity and managing editor of