fbpx

Political Correctness Promotes Political Violence

The recent violence at Trump rallies has been the work of protesters, not of his supporters.  I am no fan of Trump, but he has as much right to speak without disruption as any citizen. Indeed, it is even more important to afford him that right than ordinary citizens, because he is the presumptive nominee of one of our two major parties. Violence distracts from the debating his ideas, such as they are, and will create greater political polarization at the expense of deliberation.

Sadly, there is a connection between this violence and the enforcement of political correctness in our educational institutions today.  The disruptive protesters at Trump rallies are almost all young—recent products of our educational system. They are thus steeped in the unreformed religion that dominates our schools—one where error has no rights.

Indeed, when Trump 2016 was chalked on the sidewalk of Emory University,  the administration began an  investigation into who wrote it. More generally, college administrators have permitted events to be cancelled because of the threat of disorder without speaking out against such cancellations. As my friend Mike Rappaport noted, those in leadership positions at universities fail to defend the idea of the university when they do not actively protect the norms of liberal discourse on campus. But their failure has social consequences beyond the ivory tower and we are seeing them now.

The difference between a democratic sensibility and an authoritarian one is precisely the acknowledgement that error has rights—a key premise of classical liberalism.  Protecting the right to put forward ideas we believe erroneous also defends a liberal democracy. That ideal of this kind of democracy ultimately depends on a system of trial and error, where we experiment with different policies, discard those that fail, and keep those that work.

This understanding of liberal democracy shows the deep connection between the rise of science and the rise of democracy—both are empirical projects. And it is why that best liberal democracies incorporate a large element of decentralization, such as a system of federalism with national exit and speech rights.  That structure maximizes the opportunity for democratic experimentation and minimizes the costs of mistakes.

Higher education has historically been the engine for creating and perfecting the democratic and scientific society by graduating a cohort of ever more intellectually curious and tolerant people.  But today our universities in particular are failing in their mission. Their decline is more dangerous than Trump’s rise and much harder to correct.

Reader Discussion

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.

on June 08, 2016 at 15:20:36 pm

From my experience, there is no more erroneous political error than stonewalling. Regardless, political correctness is not a new phenomenon. Consider the tyrant James Madison in 1785: "Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governour of the Universe."

And consider " the deep connection between the rise of science and the rise of democracy—both are empirical projects." Conserving the ages-old science vs religion debate, without considering the possibility that science is the fallible study of the facts of reality whereas religion is speculation about imagination, seems worthy of woe. Woe like DOMA being based on Judeo-Christian tradition rather than the facts of reality, discernable through physics and its offspring, biology: Only a man and a woman can independently conceive a human being.

lastly, there's a key word in this thought: "Higher education has historically been the engine for creating and perfecting the democratic and scientific society by graduating a cohort of ever more intellectually curious and tolerant people." When it comes to the work to discover, comprehend, and understand what emerges from physics, there is no room for "tolerant people." Only the humble have standing when beholding physics with their fellow human beings: No one holds the higher ground with which to be tolerant.

To be clear, I am for responsible private liberty. I work for real-no-harm (RNH) private liberty with civic morality (PLwCM), a statement which this forum helped me develop and for which collaboration I am grateful.

read full comment
Image of Phil Beaver
Phil Beaver
on June 08, 2016 at 15:24:15 pm

It's grammatically trivial, but that should be "collaboration for which I am grateful."

read full comment
Image of Phil Beaver
Phil Beaver
on June 08, 2016 at 17:23:14 pm

Not all of us are so *grate-ful*

I would also speculate that the long departed Mr. Madison would take umbrage at your characterization of him. Then again, he did so structure a governing mechanism such that it would be able to suffer FOOLS!

read full comment
Image of gabe
gabe
on June 08, 2016 at 17:27:10 pm

"..both are empirical projects" - Well said, do I detect a hint of Burke and Oakeshott here?

"But today our universities in particular are failing in their mission."

John: Understand your point; however, perhaps, it would be more appropriate to argue that the universities are FULFILLING their misssion as THEY have now defined it and that is to instill in their charges a disdain (if not loathing) for their homeland and classical liberalism.

read full comment
Image of gabe
gabe
on June 08, 2016 at 21:57:29 pm

Dear "gabe" haven't you read Matt 5:22? But I guess you are playing it safe by looking in the mirror as you tempt "Anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell."

read full comment
Image of Phil Beaver
Phil Beaver
on June 09, 2016 at 09:49:53 am

Isn't it democratic for the students of UIC to decide collectively that they will not tolerate Trump's hateful speech and rhetoric? He was not prevented from speaking -- he was simply told to take his message elsewhere. Similarly, if one accepts the notion that Trump is hateful and dangerous for minorities, then it is understandable why people should be fearful of his name written on sidewalks. It becomes a symbol of hatred and bigotry. I felt endangered and targeted when I went to the rally at UIC to protest and I heard people say some vile, disgusting, and frankly dangerous things. If "TRUMP" was scrawled on the walls outside of McCormick or Levy Mayer, I would feel afraid and saddened. Just because he is the presumptive nominee of a major party does not mean we ought to normalize or accept his ideas.

read full comment
Image of Anarchy is Liberty
Anarchy is Liberty
on June 09, 2016 at 10:35:47 am

" He was not prevented from speaking — he was simply told to take his message elsewhere."

I think that message from anyone, not just minorities, is what Trump is objecting to and why many Americans support Trump no matter how erroneous his statements may seem or how readily he back tracks on appreciating some feedback.

For example, the Christian who thinks he or she no longer has a voice in light of OBERGEFELL v. HODGES and admits to the dismal failure of Judaeo-Christianity and Congress with DOMA, sees hope in Trump's in-your-face rebuke of in-your-face activists, especially Alinsky-Marxist organizers. They think their cause justifies civic disruption and violence when trained disrupting soldiers surpass the training, caught in the moment, while the organizers "hold their coats."

We the People of the United States is comprised of all kinds--dissidents, criminals, Alinsky-Marxist organizers, others, and a civic people. A civic people (ACP) adopt the culture of morality stated in the preamble and collaborate to achieve it. ACP uses the rule of law to constrain the people who do not accept the preamble. In fact, ACP may reverse priorities and take care of personal posterity more than adult satisfactions.

read full comment
Image of Phil Beaver
Phil Beaver
on June 09, 2016 at 11:13:36 am

If you have an open forum like this, you're going to have kooks posting. That's just the nature of internet forums. There isn't too much you can do about it.

On the one hand I'm impressed with how few kooks there are here. On the other I'm disappointed at how few people read and comment. This forum is really the best one on the internet. It has the most important content. The greatest problems of humanity have their causes and solutions in good government, so the understanding of government is the most important of the arts. A bad painting never hurt anyone. Bad governments have murdered millions.

I wish there were more Richards and Gabes commenting here.

read full comment
Image of Scott Amorian
Scott Amorian
on June 09, 2016 at 12:00:21 pm

I wish there were more people with open minds and who like people commenting here.

read full comment
Image of Phil Beaver
Phil Beaver
on June 09, 2016 at 13:04:10 pm

The recent violence at Trump rallies has been the work of protesters, not of his supporters…. Violence distracts from the debating his ideas, such as they are, and will create greater political polarization at the expense of deliberation.

What, exactly, is the concern that McGinnis expresses?

1. That violence would result in censoring Trump’s ideas, because he would be too frightened to express them?
2. That violence has historically been associated with this kind of censorship, and thus we should discourage violence as a symbolic gesture in support of free discourse?
3. That violence distracts from the exposition of ideas?

If naughty college students disrupt a speaker’s address at a college campus, the entire student body will be left with no recourse … other than to turn on their iPhones and watch the speaker’s 16 hours of TED Talks on the web. Honestly, does this kind of disruption really achieve the goals of censorship-- prohibiting the sharing of ideas? Or does it serves the purpose of speech--expressing the strength of the protestors’ objections?

I’d say that such disruptions still result in a modicum of censorship. In my college days I read books I otherwise would not have merely because a given speaker was coming to campus. And I got to ask questions of people I otherwise would not have merely because the speaker was promoting a book or something. So when people discourage or disrupt a speaker, some censorship still occurs.

But clearly disruptions and violence also serve as a symbolic form of speech—and this is especially true within the tribalistic world of politics.

Hypothesis: Working-class whites, and especially white men, have seen their social status erode pretty much their entire lives. At the same time they’ve seen increased racial diversity, and the rise of public sentiments (“political correctness”) that caters to the concerns of previously subordinated groups such as racial minorities and women. Trump offers vague promises to “Make America Great Again,” which they interpret as a promise to restore their lost status. And to demonstrate his commitment, Trump appeals to violent retribution against protestors, thereby showing that he will not be constrained by effete social norms such as political correctness or free speech.

Given this dynamic, McGinnis’s admonitions (“Oh heavens, we right-thinking people would never behave that way; pass the crumpets!”) merely feed Trump’s narrative.

I don’t know that a counter-display of force would really sway these voters. But I suspect that these counter-displays bolster the spirits of Trump opponents. They know that their best hope of getting air time is to behave as outrageously as Trump.

Bottom line: In the internet age, free speech has never been freer, violent protests notwithstanding. Yet I also share McGinnis’s and Rappaport’s concerns about the disrespect shown for free speech norms, even if those displays of disrespect are mostly symbolic in practice. After all, threats of violence really can deter speech, even if they are unlikely to do so in the context of Trump’s rallies. While I don’t want to deter people’s symbolic speech needlessly, I don’t know of a better place to draw the line than at the use of violence. So I’m arriving at the same destination as McGinnis, though I may have taken a more scenic route.

read full comment
Image of nobody.really
nobody.really
on June 09, 2016 at 15:04:20 pm

Except of course you fail to mention the ACTUAL violence that HAS occurred at rallies for The Trumpster. Now you may seek to highlight the "free speech" aspects of the *objectors* yet it remains clear that the violence actually engaged in DOES IN FACT serve not just as an impediment to the speech of The Trumpster and those attending his rallies but also serves (and may very well be so intended) as a caution to others who may wish to attend future rallies AND express their free speech rights.
It is disingenuous to highlight comments by Trump supporters urging retaliation. After all, retaliation is nothing more than a response (albeit not necessarily the correct one) to a threat - in this case one that was actualized by the thuggish behavior of those suffering from all those micro-aggressions that they no doubt attribute to The Trumpster.

And, of course, we see no similar criticism of the violence attendant upon Black Lives Matter demonstrations. This is not surprising as it is evident that you view all events from a perspective of race. Why else would you attempt to assert as a given, an axiomatic principle, that The Trumpsters supporters are motivated by race and the lessened status of white men (BTW: How about the white women who support The Trumpster/) relative to those formerly *subjugated* minorities.

Ah, life is SO SIMPLE and so readily explained when one has the *clarity* provided by such a concrete construct of the world. Dang, wish I could try that!!!!
And yet, in a sense, your view of white Trump supporters is consistent with the overall view you so fregquently express, and one that is shared by your fellow Proggies: - Victimization for all, of all, by all. what you may not realize is that by casting the white Trumpsters in the light you do, you are also casting them as *victims.* I suspect that they do not see themselves in such a light.

Have fun with your "blindered" view of your fellow citizens.
Then again, what the hell do I know. I am just another UN-hyphenated American.

read full comment
Image of gabe
gabe
on June 09, 2016 at 15:17:08 pm

And then there is this. I didn't think that Roseanne Barr was a white male but then again in this age of gender fluidity - who the hell knows.

http://reason.com/blog/2016/06/08/roseanne-barr-socialist-for-trump

May have to rethink(if that is the word; perhaps, regurgitate would be more appropriate) your theory here. I mean nobody.really believes that the only reason white males support The Trumpster is because they too now feel the terrible burden of *victimhood.*

read full comment
Image of gabe
gabe

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.