In This Volatile Time, All Sides Must Condemn All Threats And Political Violence

In This Volatile Time, All Sides Must Condemn All Threats And Political Violence

Last week, NPR reported that Christine Blasey Ford—the woman who accused now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault—continues to receive threats. According to her lawyers, Ford is unable to resume her teaching responsibilities at Palo Alto University, and her family cannot safely return to their home, after already being forced to relocate four times in the last two months.

This is disgraceful and a stain on our great country. Even if Ford intentionally lied when she accused Kavanaugh of attempting to rape her some 30 years ago when the two were high school students, vigilante justice is no justice at all. No matter how angry at Democrats for their vile verbal assault on Kavanaugh, conservatives must continue to condemn the personal targeting of Ford and her cohorts. In a free Democratic society, threats should never be justified.

Yet we are beginning to see not just threats, but actual assaults justified. We saw that last week in response to Smash Racism D.C.’s attack on Tucker Carlson’s home, when a member of the Antifa-connected group rammed the Fox News’ host’s front door, damaging it, while his terrified wife hid inside.

A video captured the scene with Smash Racism members screaming, “Tucker Carlson, we will fight! We know where you sleep at night!” One member added that she wanted to “bring a pipe bomb” to his house. The Smash Racism mob defended their actions with claims that Carlson “promot[ed] hate” and his “ideology that has led to thousands of people dying.”

Several high-profile pundits condemned the attack on Tucker’s house, but in a since-deleted tweet, Vox blogger Matthew Yglesias rationalized Smash Racism’s attack, explaining “the idea behind terrorizing his family . . . is to make them feel some of the fear that the victims of MAGA-inspired violence feel thanks to the non-stop racial incitement coming from Tucker, Trump, etc.”

Yglesias also made clear that in his mind the Carlson family was not a victim, writing: “If your instinct is to empathize with the fear of the Carlson family rather than with the fear of his victims then you should take a moment to reflect on what that is.”

Yglesias’ tweet should be a wake-up call to all Americans because it exposes a truism not often realized: To partisans, their side is right and the other is wrong. If taken to its extreme, this attitude says the opposing party is not merely wrong, but evil and even deserving of death.

The perceived righteousness of the response serves as no check on threats and violence because both left and right will see their cause as justified. Thus, it matters not whether Ford or Tucker raises your ire, the only acceptable course for our country to survive is one that leaves justice in the hands of the law and speech in the realm of the public sphere.

The public sphere is not someone’s house and it is not a restaurant. Even though confronting a political enemy at the local eatery may not rise to the level of violence, that should not be the norm. It is a slippery slope with doxing turning to confrontation, and confrontation sliding into threats, and threats turning to attempts at violence, such as seen last month when Cesar Sayoc allegedly mailed more than a dozen pipe bombs to top Democrats and top Democrat supporters.

Before our country reaches the bottom of the slope and finds itself buried in political and widespread violence, Americans need to come together and re-up the social compact that has for decades silently governed political discourse. While politics may no longer be a taboo topic for polite company, doxing and peaceful protests at private homes or during private moments should be off limits.

Also, no one should condone threats of violence, no matter how subtle. The time to return to civility is now, and conservatives can start by unequivocally condemning the threats targeting Ford.

Margot Cleveland is a senior contributor to The Federalist. Cleveland served nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk to a federal appellate judge and is a former full-time faculty member and current adjunct instructor at the college of business at the University of Notre Dame. The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.
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