For all his murderous intent, Leon Trotsky once stumbled upon a piece of wisdom that has lived through ages. At the height of the Weimarian dysfunction in Europe, Trotsky wrote that sometimes, there is a limit to reasoning.
A quote often misattributed to him states that you might not be interested in war, but war is interested in you. Trotsky didn’t write “war,” he wrote dialectic, but the fundamental wisdom remains true. What are the options for you to reason with people who have already determined that you are the enemy? At what point do you realize that this is all futile, as the other side is not willing to entertain any reason, and is determined to crush you for political power?
A display of that was evident last during the Brett Kavanaugh affair. No one probably even remembers the names of the accusers anymore, and they have vanished in the fog, as political pawns usually do, once their puppeteers have deemed their time over. The latest is the Covington Catholic case.
It is hard to find a more disgraceful 48 hours for a section of American national media than the episodes of BuzzFeed’s Russia story and the unfortunate Covington kids, who were raked over the coals after they were publicly slandered by black nationalists and a Native American man. What transpired for almost two days was a mindless, emetic barbarism, by grown-up humans exulting in ritualistic bloodlust, supported by soft but vile totalitarian justifications by otherwise self-declared reasonable ones against a bunch of school kids, for what essentially amounts to their choice of hats.
Here’s what happened, as Robby Soave connected the dots for Reason, a far better reporter than anyone in CNN, MSNBC or the American papers of records. A bunch of Catholic school kids attending the March for Life were minding their own business, waiting for their bus, when they were approached by a smaller but older bunch of activists known as Hebrew Israelites, who started targeting one of the kids, who was African American. The activists called the African American kid words that are practically unprintable, and insinuated that his white schoolmates would harvest his organs. The white kids were in turn also called racial epithets.
Interestingly enough, the white school kids, while being mindlessly called racial supremacists across social media because of their choice of apparel, jumped out to defend their friend from bullying. Then suddenly, an activist with a history of crying racism approached one of the bemused kids, and started banging a drum inches from his face. Some people took a video of the gobsmacked kid, and edited and posted it on social media.
This particular kid, Nick Sandmann, was seen in the full video to be quite respectful, his emotions betraying a mix of teenage amusement, instinctive male caution, and confused curiosity. No words can do justice to what happened in the next few hours. It was a level of hysteric insanity unmatched even in our trying times.
Reza Aslan rhetorically asked if anyone has seen a more punchable face that the bemused kid in the middle, blissfully unaware of his own mug. BuzzFeed’s Anne Petersen tweeted how similar Justice Kavanaugh and this kid was, because they both look like entitled brats. TheWashington Post’s Karen Tumulty commented how this was a death of irony, as “Maga hat protesters surround a Native American” (which was not true, factually.)
Liberal role models Kathy Griffin called for doxing the kids and Stormy Daniels in a now-deleted tweet fantasized about putting these children behind electrocuted prisons. New York Times author and part-time fetish aficionado Kurt Eichenwald wished that these kids should be identified and penalized for perpetuity. Guardian blogger Jessica Valenti predictably saw the connection to white supremacy and patriarchy.
The most comical tweet of the night was, however, by one Melissa Grant which, for some reason, blasted Reason magazine for being tribal without reading the article at all, without for a moment dwelling on the irony of the situation. It was comical, except for the totalitarian Stalinist impulse displayed therein.
The list is endless. What was evidently a setup by a bunch of activists got out dormant animalistic savagery against teenagers, some of them perhaps on their first-ever trip to the nation’s capital, swept away and wondering what went wrong as they headed back home, and trying to comprehend the fleeting insanity of so many bigoted adult strangers online, some with their own kids of the same age, hating on them and desiring their blood. Whatever comes out of this will be a defining moment for all those kids and their families and the institutions that failed to protect or even stand behind them, including and especially their own Catholic diocese.
The most sickeningly disappointing was the line of argument that the kids deserved it. Consider this argument for a moment calmly: “Honestly, what were they expecting? They were Catholics wearing MAGA hats and MAGA hats are symbols of oppression, not unlike Brown Shirts and armbands under Mussolini.”
This signifies reprehensible logic, and almost no such scenario ends peacefully. Wearing MAGA hats, of course, does not automatically makes someone evil, yet almost half of the country’s population (not unlike Brexiteers here in the United Kingdom) are considered such. A hat is fundamentally not a symbolic show of audacity, nor is it barred in public spheres, or a call for abuse, physical or verbal, as well as direct action and counter-activism.
It is simply a choice of apparel that denotes someone’s political preference, and he or she should be allowed to, because that is the sign of a healthy democracy. Nor is people attending a March for Life itself scandalous. This march numerically dwarfed the Women’s March, but got one-tenth of the media coverage—perhaps a case study of media bias, and a sign of why polls and predictions fail so miserably.
But let’s take the original argument and reverse it. The logical endgame of “you are wearing this hat, and therefore you should expect what’s coming” is practically indistinguishable to a gangster’s demand. Nice hat you got there, shame if anything happens to your head.
What if this were framed in the reverse? By the same logic, a gun-toting militia man can march on and bang drums in front of anyone wearing a p-ssy hat, or verbally abuse anyone in a protest wearing black, because black denotes the colour of Antifa? Dox and threaten school kids because their parents are in Women’s March? Is this the road to the future?
Frankly, this is what it boils down to. If one side wears something, or says, writes, draws, argues or attempts something that hurts the other side’s highly delicate sensibilities, then the other side considers itself free to take direct action, abuse, and consider the former as an enemy. When politics is dragged to streets, and everything is personal, there can be no coexistence, as everyone opposed to your political position is portrayed like Mussolini. And one cannot arguably coexist with Mussolini and his brown shirts.
This is Weimarian, and will result in a backlash. And this is not just an American scenario. In Britain, those who voted Leave were called everything the MAGA kids are now being called simply because they chose to vote and win in a democratic process, which angered the other side. Now the public polling has defaulted to an even more hardline Brexit, including a No Deal with the European Union scenario being Britons’ top choice. As W.H. Auden wrote, “I and the public know, what all school children learn, those to whom evil is done, do evil in return.”
Nothing affects me more than seeing innocent people being bullied for their political choices by totalitarians who hold the cultural power and dominate the discourse. As I finish writing, I feel just a bleak, doom-filled disappointment. Those Covington school children did not deserve this for exercising their democratic rights, and taking a fun-filled trip. But hey, you don’t choose your war.