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The Violent Left, Part 1

The left has had to conjure right-wing extremism out of thin air -- see, for example, the attempts to divine sinister motives in the tea party movement -- precisely because there are so few real instances of "far-right" violence, in the sense of violence aimed at advancing right-wing economic and social agendas. (It could be argued that some Central and South American dictators were right-wing, although they tended to be authoritarian and corporatist rather than conservative). Conservatism by its very nature is antithetical to extremism. To use another example from the UK, the only mass protest in recent memory which could conceivably be labeled "right-wing" was a march in 2002 against the Labour government's proposals, motivated by class hatred, to ban the hunting of foxes with hounds. Some 400,000 took part, and aside from a few scuffles with police the event passed off peacefully.

It's a very different story on the left. Those prepared to use violence in the furtherance of core left-wing aims such as the destruction of capitalism, the abolition of property rights, and the usurpation of democratically elected governments by "enlightened" revolutionaries number in the millions, if not the tens of millions.

They range from Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot to present-day dictators like Chavez and the Castros, terrorist groups such as Bill Ayers' Weather Underground and the Baader-Meinhof gang, and environmental extremists and anti-capitalist rioters (who, unlike those pro-hunt supporters, bring chaos to London's streets every May Day and whenever else the opportunity arises).

The reasons why violence is so prevalent on the left go to the heart of the differences between left and right. If you take race, religion, and other "human" factors out of the equation, the distinction is really between authoritarianism and collectivism on the left and freedom and individualism on the right. There's no doubt which is the more attractive option for most people, all things being equal, which is why the left has to blur the distinctions and muddle the language.

This distinction is summed up in two quotes from great figures in British political history. The first, by Winston Churchill, goes something like this: "Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains." (There are several versions of the quote, and variations have been attributed to other political figures.)

The second, by Margaret Thatcher: "The facts of life are conservative."

As Churchill knew, liberalism comes from the heart, while conservatism comes from the head. Secular conservatives tend to subscribe to the "life's a bitch and then you die" school of philosophy, while the notion of "getting your reward in heaven" is the religious conservative's take on the same worldview. Left-liberals, on the other hand, believe they can bring about utopia by ridding the world of evils and injustices ranging from torture to the internal combustion engine. So noble are those ends that pretty much any means can be justified.

But as Lady Thatcher observed, conservatism is the natural order of things, and left-wing ideas therefore have had to be invented out of thin air. They go against the grain, and to enforce statist and collectivist policies inevitably requires a degree of coercion. And because left/liberalism is largely an emotional condition, those who subscribe to it are prone to extremes of emotion, which is so often manifested in violence. Even moderate leftists are susceptible to manipulation by extremists. (I have a lefty acquaintance who becomes angry and condescending within seconds of us starting a debate on any subject. The funny part? He used to work with conflict-resolution charities.)

Of course activists and commentators on both left and right know all this. As usual, it's those who only take a passing interest in politics -- independents, centrists, call them what you will -- whom the left and the media are trying to alarm and convert to their cause, with their hysteria about right-wing crazies running amock across the U.S. Those who wish to take away individual liberties are playing a high-stakes game, and a key part of their strategy is to demonize at every turn those who would oppose them. Only in Obama's America is principled and reasonable opposition routinely labeled as "hate."

Conservatives must make the case at every available opportunity that the distinction isn't between left and right but between, to borrow the title of Mark Levin's recent book, liberty and tyranny. This is easier said than done -- it's hard to change the status quo when you're out of power and it's hard for conservatives to regain power without changing the status quo -- but, thanks to the innate tendency of liberals to overreach when they obtain power, opportunities are already presenting themselves in the shape of the debates over health care reform and cap and trade.

The right doesn’t need to use violence to make its point; the truth is a far more potent weapon.