Force and Violence: How the Left Blurs Terms

In a recent New York Times column, Frank Rich attacked and smeared the nascent tea party movement. While most of his diatribe received the fiskings it deserved, one significant fallacy went unchallenged. Perhaps it was overlooked because the left has committed it for so long now that it seems unquestionable. All the more reason to bring it to light.

The fallacy is the equation of violence with force. The error and its consequences are manifest in what the left condemns and condones. For example, the central complaint of Rich’s column is that tea party supporters are (allegedly) lovers of violence:

Such violent imagery and invective, once largely confined to blogs and talk radio, is now spreading among Republicans in public office or aspiring to it.

This evil, Rich contends, is to be contrasted with the left’s “non-violent” ways:

In the heyday of 1960s left-wing radicalism, no liberal Democratic politicians in Washington could be found endorsing groups preaching violent revolution.

It’s telling that Rich harkens back to the “good old days” of the 1960s. Not merely because its drug-addicted, anti-reason hippies are his intellectual mentors, but because they’re the ones who popularized the idea that overt violence resulting in bodily harm is the only true form of crime.

Rich’s “radicals” proudly engaged in rock-throwing student riots, forcible sit-ins, and other expropriation and destruction of private property. More importantly, they actively suppressed evidence of Stalin’s horrors, materially supported the reigning Soviet dictators, and unabashedly exhorted Mao Zedong to continue his “experiments” with the “Great Leap Forward” and “Cultural Revolution.”

Clearly their actions involved — and sanctioned — various degrees of force; small but still significant in the case of sit-ins, of historic proportions in the case of Communism. Yet none of this concerned them because, in their view, attacking property or compelling someone to act under threat of force is not “violence” and thus not objectionable. You can take a man’s property, oust him from the cities, order him onto collective farms, and force him into hard labor, but as long as the threat of force is so overwhelming that he can’t resist, there’s no “violence” and no foul. Lives are shattered and destroyed, but the left approves because there’s either no actual blood spilt or, in the case of Communism, the rivers of blood are carefully kept off camera. (Clearly leftists will countenance anything in the name of making men slaves to the State.)

The left’s modus operandi then, is to denounce the open use of “violence,” while promoting and condoning every other form of force.

Indeed, under the left’s influence and urging, government now exerts force against its own citizens in myriad and ubiquitous ways. It forcibly takes our tax dollars to fund public schools — leaving us with little choice or means to give our children the education we consider best. It decides which drugs can and can’t be tested; how approved drugs are to be marketed; and which patients, no matter how willing they are to take a risk, qualify for experimental drugs, etc. It regulates commerce and trade in issues ranging from trivial to critical. Just ask any businessman how many arbitrary rules he must heed every single day — under punishment of fine, closure or even jail. Everything from the placement of signs, to interview questions, to campaign contribution limits — even pricing! — is dictated to businessmen.