The last few months have witnessed an increase in politically motivated violence perpetrated by progressives and very few people are speaking out against it.
If there is one thing that people need to know about social progressivism it is this: progressivism is not pluralism. Many progressives do not tolerate dissent; they do not believe in freedom of speech; they do not believe in freedom of thought; they do not even believe in freedom of religion. Yes, you can find some sensible progressives who will admit that maybe people with contrary opinions should be allowed to speak openly once in a while, but sadly the loudest voices in the progressive fold include journalists, activists, and celebrities who believe that all dissent must be destroyed. Sadly, we are now reaching the point where there is fantasy violence against conservatives which is slowly turning into real violence.
At one level it has to be acknowledged that progressives can be just plain illiberal. We see that in instances of “no-platforming” speakers as diverse as Milo Yiannopoulos to Germaine Greer – to be honest, I’m not a fan of either, but I prefer to listen and then refute a person rather than silence them by force.
Furthermore, the resignation of Tim Farron as leader of the British Liberal Democratic Party largely on account of his Christian beliefs is further proof of just how illiberal and intolerant the progressive left can be even to one of their own. Farron was hounded and even hunted I would say over his religious convictions despite doing his best to champion the progressive cause in the UK. But in the end, Farron had to admit that his Christian faith was incompatible with leading a progressive party. In his own words: “I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in. In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.” Hard to dispute! If there has been one common word used to describe the treatment of Farron it has been “inquisition” (see here and here). In fact, the whole Tim Farron debacle led one commentator to conclude:
Today, to be thought of as ‘tolerant’ you need to be fully signed up to society’s pre-determined and very ideological agenda. Fail to agree that same-sex marriage is right, or that abortion is a human right and you will find yourself ridiculed and dismissed as ‘intolerant’. Proponents of the new orthodoxy simply cannot abide anyone who publicly disagrees with them. Diversity for them is a diversity of people who all agree with their ‘progressive’ views.
I think that about sums it up.
But it gets worse. The progressives appetite to annihilate dissent has not been restricted to social media hysteria and leftie journalists, it has shifted into violent fantasy and now into real violence.
Recently in the US there has arisen a certain degree of anti-Trump fantasy violence where progressives have fantasized about the prospect of maiming and killing President Trump and his supporters. Here’s a venerable list of this sort of the Trump fantasy violence available:
Is then anyone really surprised that a Bernie Sanders supporter named James Hodgkinson attempted to assassinate as many Republicans as possible, severely injuring four people, and critically wounding GOP Congressman Steve Scalise at a bi-partisan baseball game in Alexandria, Virginia? Anyone who saw Kathy Griffin’s graphic video of Trump beheaded or who has listened to the mixture of hate and humiliation vaunted by late night comedians against Trump should be entirely unsurprised. Comedians have whipped up audiences into a frenzy of self-gratifying hatred that makes this kind of violent fantasy become a reality.
What was the New York Times’s response to the Alexandria shooting? Their response was in effect, “Yeah, well, what about Sarah Palin?” They tried to link Sarah Palin’s poorly chosen pamphlets featuring cross-hairs targeting certain electoral districts with Jared Lee Loughner’s shooting of Democrat Representative Gabby Giffords back in 2011. However, as David French has pointed out, Loughner was not a right wing fanatic, he was a paranoid schizophrenic who hated Giffords long before Palin turned up on the federal scene.
Australia thankfully has not had a violent incident like the one that took place in Alexandria (thank God for our gun laws), but we have had other minor incidents of a violent nature.
For a start, journalist Andrew Bolt was attacked by a trio of thugs who tried to coat him with shaving cream and glitter. Bolt got his own back on one of the assailants with a right cross, but as he explains, it is not the first-time mobs and men in black masks have attacked a public figure for their conservative beliefs.
Also, the Australian Christian Lobby has received a massive amount of verbal threats and physical attacks. Their Canberra office was the subject of a dangerous arson attack. Their staff frequently receive death threats. At ACL events, angry mobs, including masked men, verbally abuse attendees and physically threaten men, women, and even children. I know, I’ve witnessed them first-hand.
You cannot get a better example of this than with the defacement of a Christian Democratic Party sign with the words, “All bigots must die.”
Now I will be the first to admit that the progressive left does not have a monopoly on angry mobs, animosity, or violence. Muslims, LGBTI people, and others have been the victim of right-wing rage and needless abuse. We’ve seen ethno-nationalism rise in this country, especially against proposals to build Mosques at certain locations. Then there was the attack on a Muslim woman on a train in Oregon leading to the deaths of two Good Samaritans who tried to defend her. I lament how many traditional Christians have failed to explain their case for traditional marriage without treating LGBTI people with hostility. So yes, I get it. The right wing side can hardly profess to be without sin when it comes to violence and viscousness.
But I am deeply, deeply concerned. I seriously think Australia could face a tragic event like what transpired in Alexandria. I would not be surprised if at an ACL event or maybe at an IPA function, a gun man walked in and did his best to kill those bigots or murder those tories. I think it could well happen here.
Remember this. People justify their hatred by imputing hatred to others. If I can convince myself that “they” are driven by bigotry, by prejudice, and by hatred, then I’m justified in my hatred, in my anger, and in my violence. My experience as a soldier and as a priest – seeing much of human nature – has taught me this: the greatest violence in the world is not done by people who believe that what they do is wicked, it is done by those who believe that the violence they do is righteous. It does not take much for someone to say that killing Christians, Muslims, Unionists, Gays, Jews, MPs, or journalists is right because they are so wrong, so evil, and so wicked. That is the psychology behind politically motivated violence.
So as a centrist conservative, committed to confident pluralism, and Malcolm Turnbull’s sensible center, I want to affirm freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and freedom of association for everyone. I know that no political progressive would ever affirm me, but I affirm them, their right to stand up for what they believe, their right to publish and print their ideas. And I commend their principles of pursuing justice, equality, and fairness in society even if I disagree with their policies to achieve it.
But I do want to make a plea to Australia’s progressive triumvirate – the Greens, GetUp, and Fairfax – I beg you, can you please, please, for the sake of our liberal democracy, in the name of freedom, to prevent our own “Alexandria” from happening, stop whipping your devotees into a frenzied rage, stop demonizing people who are different (esp. Muslims and Catholics), speak up against politically motivated violence, prove your commitment to a pluralistic democracy, and reaffirm the values of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
Alas, I won’t be holding my breath.