There was a lot of Twitter hysteria over the weekend around a two-person assault on Shakespeare in the Park’s offensive version of Julius Caesar. In a conformist and shallow piece of political whinery, the playmakers opted to dress Caesar up as Donald Trump (which I guess made him Orange Julius). Audiences could thus watch the president of the United States brutally assassinated each night for their edification and delight. No matter what the point was supposed to be, it was a disgusting and despicable thing to do. Shame on them.
At the Friday performance, Rebel Media journo Laura Loomer charged the stage, screaming, “This is violence against the right.” Alt-right activist Jack Posobiec stood up in the audience and shouted, “You are all Nazis.” Loomer was arrested and must appear in court to face charges.
A segment of the right vociferously supported the attack online. #FreeLaura was the top trend on Twitter for part of Saturday. There was the usual taste-of-their-own-medicine braggadocio about how we on the right had to use the tactics of the left to beat the left and anyone who disagreed was a coward and we weren’t going to knuckle under to any of this Alinskyite stuff where the right has to live up to its values while the left can do whatever it wants, etc. This was civil disobedience! This was Jesus among the money changers! This was what winning looks like!
The attempt to shut down the play was wrong in every way: morally, politically and tactically. It wasn’t winning. It was losing.
Putting on a tasteless and ugly version of Shakespeare is not an injustice, not an outrage, not an act of war. It is speech — the very stuff we right wingers are fighting to keep free. This is more than a mere matter of law. The First Amendment, which protects us from anti-speech legislation, is not worth the crinkly brown paper it’s written on if the values of free speech are not upheld in our hearts and minds.
Clearly, a large swath of the left — with their snowflake riots against conservative speakers on campus, their push for hate speech legislation, their blacklisting and career destruction of anyone who violates their politically correct pieties — has lost those values. They are trying to destroy free speech. We on the right are trying to protect it. You can’t protect it by stopping it. You can only become what you’re fighting against.
If we become the anti-speech people, what are we protecting? What are we fighting for? What are we trying to win?
This is not a question of cowardice or of being too fine to play smash mouth politics. Five-foot-nine Ben Shapiro has repeatedly faced down Social Justice Snowflakes and Black Lives Matter thugs to speak the conservative truth on campus in no uncertain terms. But he doesn’t stop others from making their speeches and delivering their points of view. Because then he could no longer represent his own values. He’d be them, not us.
This is not a question of two-wrongs-don’t-make-a-right either. Sometimes, awful as it is, the other side plays so dirty you have to play dirty back. If a peaceful conservative demonstration is attacked by Anti-fa fascists while the police stand by and do nothing, protecting such gatherings with right-wing vigilantes may become a terrible necessity. But if right-wing vigilantes respond by attacking a peaceful left-wing gathering, the battle is lost. Because then, you’ve destroyed the very principle you were trying to protect.
I voted for Donald Trump in large part because I thought Hillary Clinton would destroy the First and Second Amendments. I knew there were moral hazards to a Trump presidency, but I thought the risk was more than worth it to stave off leftist oppression. So far, I’ve been well pleased with my decision. Wild as Trump can be, he has stood up for our rights and reinvigorated the freedoms eroded under Obama. The continued grumbling of Never Trumpers has seemed to me poorly reasoned, unhelpful and ill-advised. I’m glad Trump won.
But there is no point in winning if you forget what it is you’re fighting for. A conservatism that can’t tell the difference between doing battle and shooting itself in the foot is a conservatism that will not win anything except perhaps the power to become the very tyrants they opposed.
Don’t #FreeLaura. #FreeSpeech.
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