For a couple of years now, I’ve noted that despite all the calls for “civil discourse” and “respect” and “tolerance,” the easiest way for a group to gain attention and deference — often far out of proportion to their numbers — is to make convincing threats of violence. This isn’t something I’ve endorsed or even welcome, but a regretful acknowledgment of reality. The most prominent example, of course, is Islam — Muslims get to routinely constrain others and censor their critics by merely hinting at how such “provocations” will only “instigate violence and hatred and intolerance.” Which translates into “don’t upset us, or we’ll get violent.”
And their enablers, those who speak most passionately about how we all should demonstrate respect and tolerance and civility towards those who have the least familiarity with it, are actually saying “don’t piss off the crazies, ‘cuz they scare us.”
Well, you can only play that game for so long until the nominally-civil side figures out the rules: that the game is seriously rigged to benefit those who make the most plausible threats.
I’m not happy about it, but I do understand it. “Playing by the rules” only works when the rules are fair — and they most certainly are not in this arena. The anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, pro-Islamic militant faction — as well as a lot of their allies of the left — have literally spent years demonstrating their mastery of the “heckler’s veto,” using disruption, threats of violence, and even outright violence to silence their opponents. And they have been rewarded for doing so, with authorities tolerating their tactics — with the occasional wrist-slaps purely for appearance’ sake. They never once stood up against the mob thuggery approach, never once exerted their authority to confront and punish those who engaged in this kind of bullying.
A few examples? The 2004 Republican National Committee, and the efforts to sabotage it. The spate of physical attacks on conservative speakers on college campuses and other venues (Ann Coulter, Pat Buchanan, Michelle Malkin, Karl Rove, and a host of others). The denunciations of critics of militant Islam as “hate groups” and “hatemongers.” The list goes on and on and on.
So the message went out: this is what works. This is what gets results. And this is what you can do without risk of punishment or penalty.
So now the other side is trying it, and it’s working for them, too.
What will happen next? Certainly not a confrontation between the two threatening factions. No, they won’t go up against each other directly. Their focus is on threatening the authorities, the nominal neutral parties, the mediators. Both will increase their threats to convince these third parties to bend to their will. After all, that’s what has worked so well for years.
How will these authorities react? Will they weigh the two threats, and cow to the one they find more perilous? Will they ignore both, and — for once — live up to their ideals and enforce their principles objectively? Will they decide one side is bluffing, and attack them for their threats? Or will they lash out at all threatening parties, reasserting the principle that in a civil state, the government must hold a monopoly on force?
I dunno. I don’t even know what would be the best answer.
I just know that we’ve been building towards this for years, and it’s finally coming to fruition.