Thursday, July 04, 2019

Anti-Trump fever takes threatening turn

The toxicity of the resistance to President Trump has risen in recent days, with the nation's most respected newspapers publishing rationalizations for denying Trump supporters public accommodation and for doxxing career federal employees, while a journalist found himself under physical attack from the so-called anti-fascist group Antifa, which has stepped up its violent activities since Trump's election.

The justification for denying public accommodation came from the Washington Post in an op-ed by Stephanie Wilkinson, the owner of a farm-to-table restaurant in Lexington, Virginia. Wilkinson became famous in June of last year, when she refused to serve White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders and and told Sanders and her family to leave the restaurant. Wilkinson's staff then followed the Sanders group in protest as they tried to find another place to eat.

Wilkinson later told the press she ejected Sanders because the Trump administration is "inhumane and unethical" and because the Red Hen "has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion, and cooperation."

In her new article, Wilkinson discussed the case of The Aviary, a trendy bar in Chicago where a waitress recently spat on Eric Trump, the president's son. Wilkinson wrote that the incident, along with her own decision to oust Sanders, shows that in the age of Trump "new rules apply" in public accommodations: Americans who work for the administration or support the president should stay away.

"If you're directly complicit in spreading hate or perpetuating suffering, maybe you should consider dining at home," Wilkinson wrote.

Wilkinson noted that "no one in the industry condones the physical assault of a patron," but at the same time declared that Americans should understand that a "frustrated person" — for example, a restaurant employee — will "lash out at the representatives of an administration that has made its name trashing norms and breaking backs." Americans should accept that such things will happen.

"If you're an unsavory individual," Wilkinson concluded, "we have no legal or moral obligation to do business with you." Better to stay home than risk the spittle. (And of course, Wilkinson and her colleagues in the hospitality industry will decide who is "unsavory.")

The apology for doxxing came from the New York Times in a piece by Kate Cronin-Furman, an assistant professor of human rights at University College London. The article focused on the treatment of illegal immigrant children in detention centers near the U.S.-Mexico border.

Cronin-Furman discussed the detentions, as well as actions by employees of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in terms of the Holocaust and genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda. Those are, of course, contexts which most Americans would likely dismiss as preposterous and offensive but which Cronin-Furman and the New York Times apparently take seriously. Her idea is that opponents of the administration should publicly identify and shame low- and mid-level Customs and Border Protection employees who care for migrant children.

Such workers would be dismayed at being publicly shamed because they are "sensitive to social pressure," Cronin-Furman wrote, "which has been shown to have played a huge role in atrocity commission and desistance in the Holocaust, Rwanda, and elsewhere. The campaign to stop the abuses at the border should exploit this sensitivity."

"This is not an argument for doxxing," Cronin-Furman continued. "It's about exposure of their participation in atrocities to audiences whose opinion they care about. The knowledge, for instance, that when you go to church on Sunday, your entire congregation will have seen you on TV ripping a child out of her father's arms is a serious social cost to bear. The desire to avoid this kind of social shame may be enough to persuade some agents to quit and may hinder the recruitment of replacements. For those who won't (or can't) quit, it may induce them to treat the vulnerable individuals under their control more humanely. In Denmark during World War II, for instance, strong social pressure, including from churches, contributed to the refusal of the country to comply with Nazi orders to deport its Jewish citizens."

Needless to say, that was a clear argument for doxxing.

Finally, there was Antifa's recent attack on Andy Ngo, a freelance journalist often associated with the pro-free thought cultural publication Quillette. At a demonstration in Portland, at which Trump was a focus of dispute, Antifa fighters beat up and milkshaked Ngo, apparently because he was there and he was not on their side.

The president is not always at the center of such demonstrations, but Antifa has become an angry and violent fringe force in the Resistance. It has played an ugly role in a number of events, most notably Charlottesville, in which feelings about Trump have played a role.

Shunning, shaming, doxxing, attacking. As the 2020 campaign reaches full speed, would it surprise anyone to see all of it increase? And all from people who congratulate themselves for standing against hate. Perhaps our politics will cool down at some point in the future. But not now.



Unmask Antifa and Watch the Cowards Retreat

I’d urge everyone to read my colleague Jim Geraghty’s post on the thuggery this weekend in Portland. It was appalling to watch masked Antifa thugs attack Andy Ngo, and it was also appalling that the police weren’t immediately present to arrest his attackers. Antifa’s propensity to violence is well known, and while I’d love to hear a sympathetic explanation for the absence of police, the lack of response looks a lot like a dereliction of duty.

There is, however, a simple and well-known legal reform that will go a long way towards deterring Antifa violence — even when police aren’t close by, but iPhones are. It’s called an anti-masking law. They’ve long existed in the South as a check on Klan violence, and they not only make it easier for police to immediately identify and arrest criminals, they also allow witnesses to preserve the pictures and videos of violent attackers for later criminal or civil action.

When I tweeted over the weekend in support of an anti-masking ordinance in Oregon, a number of correspondents asked me if the laws were consistent with First Amendment protections for anonymous speech. The answer is generally (though not always) yes, and there’s relatively recent on-point case law in the Second Circuit saying so. While court of appeals cases aren’t nationally dispositive, the panel in Church of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan v. Kerik included Sonia Sotomayor, and its reasoning is instructive.

New York’s anti-masking law predates the Klan, tracing its history back to an 1845 effort to combat violent Hudson Valley farmers. The statute essentially prevents gatherings of masked people unless they’re gathering for a “masquerade party or like entertainment.” The panel considered a number of constitutional challenges, including claims that wearing masks was a form of expressive conduct and claims that wearing masks protected a right to anonymous speech. Regarding the first claim, the panel noted that the in the Klan context, the mask constituted a “redundant” form of expression:

The mask that the members of the American Knights seek to wear in public demonstrations does not convey a message independently of the robe and hood.   That is, since the robe and hood alone clearly serve to identify the American Knights with the Klan, we conclude that the mask does not communicate any message that the robe and the hood do not.

Similarly, Antifa mobs are full of people who wear similar “black bloc” gear. Their message and purpose is easily identifiable without a mask or scarf. As for the Klan’s anonymous speech claims, the court held that state interests in public safety trumped Klan members’ interest in deciding the precise manner in which they speak:

Assuming for the discussion that New York’s anti-mask law makes some members of the American Knights less willing to participate in rallies, we nonetheless reject the view that the First Amendment is implicated every time a law makes someone-including a member of a politically unpopular group-less willing to exercise his or her free speech rights.   While the First Amendment protects the rights of citizens to express their viewpoints, however unpopular, it does not guarantee ideal conditions for doing so, since the individual’s right to speech must always be balanced against the state’s interest in safety, and its right to regulate conduct that it legitimately considers potentially dangerous.

Anti-masking laws can be unconstitutional when applied to peaceful demonstrators seeking to protect their identities as a matter of personal safety, but that reasoning doesn’t apply to Antifa. Its members seek to engage in violence and destruction with impunity, and the mask protects them from legal accountability. If you think Antifa members like to have their identities revealed, watch this video of Alabama police officers enforcing an unmasking law at Auburn University:



Political violence in Portland, Oreg. a sneak preview of our unraveling civil society if all Americans do not denounce it

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is calling for federal law enforcement authorities to investigate Portland, Oreg. Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler after an incident where Quillette editor Andy Ngo was brutally assaulted by left-wing Antifa demonstrators on June 29 amid a nationwide scourge of political violence.

On Twitter, Cruz wrote, “To federal law enforcement: investigate & bring legal action against a Mayor who has, for political reasons, ordered his police officers to let citizens be attacked by domestic terrorists.”

In 2018, Wheeler told Portland police not to get involved when Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers were attacked by an Antifa mob during a 38-day demonstration at ICE facilities to protest President Donald Trump’s stance against illegal immigration.

Now, Wheeler’s hands-off-Antifa approach is coming under scrutiny as these mobs have been allowed to engage in violence and intimidation with minimal repercussions. On June 29, groups like Proud Boys showed up to support a competing #HimToo demonstration. The result was skirmishes across the city. What should have been simply two different demonstrations occurring instead turned into a scene from the Gangs of New York, with partisans kicking the crap out of each other in the streets.

Daryl Turner, President of Portland Police Association, issued a statement on Facebook decrying the violence and accusing Wheeler of tying the police’s hands, writing, “Police officers work to uphold the Constitution, including the right to free speech. It’s our job to ensure that our community can peacefully protest without fear of violence but right now our hands are tied. It’s time for our Mayor to do two things: tell both ANTIFA and Proud Boys that our City will not accept violence in our City and remove the handcuffs from our officers and let them stop the violence through strong and swift enforcement action. Enough is enough.”

Note, the Portland Police Association is denouncing violence on both sides of the skirmishes. I mention that because when President Donald Trump did the same thing, blaming both sides for the violence in Charlottesville, Va., it was wrongly pilloried. But really, it takes leadership to stand up and say political violence is destructive on all sides and must stop. You know who also said, “Violence begets violence”? Martin Luther King, Jr., who spent his career supporting non-violent protest as a mechanism for social change.

In the case of Portland, Ngo had warned about the imminent assault a day prior to the event on Twitter, writing, “I am nervous about tomorrow’s Portland antifa rally. They’re promising ‘physical confrontation’ & have singled me out to be assaulted. I went on Tucker Carlson last year to explain why I think they’re doing this: They’re seeking meaning through violence.”

Sure enough, Ngo was assaulted when he went to the event to report on it after posting several live streams on his Twitter thread. He had to go to the emergency room where he was told he had a brain hemorrhage from the attack.

Others too were attacked. Michele Malkin reported on John Blum and Adam Kelly who were also assaulted, writing, “Both John & Adam were beaten by Antifa after trying to help a gay man in a sun dress being chased down the street. While the cowards are masked, John and Adam faced the crowds openly and agreed to be named publicly. ‘I’m not afraid,’ John told me.”

One can question the wisdom of knowing that violence is being threatened and then showing up to cover or attend the event anyway. It’s an expression of free speech even to the point of danger. Ngo, Blum and Kelly clearly are standing up to the mob.

But maybe they should be afraid. These are not isolated incidents. Across the nation, Antifa demonstrators have engaged in political violence at Berkeley, in San Jose, in Chicago and elsewhere. They say they are fighting fascists or Nazis, but often the victims turn out to be journalists brandishing nothing more than smart phone camera attempting to capture these mobs in action. So, what is to be done?

The vast majority of people would prefer a civil society. Political differences in America are settled with elections. But that may be starting to change if this keeps going.

Locally, more can be done in liberal cities like Portland that I suppose are not so liberal anymore. An approach to addressing political violence will at some point require leaders to stand up and say enough is enough. There shouldn’t be a need for police associations to come forward saying they are being ordered to stand down.

Local cities need to confront rioters with riot police and shut them down. The state of Oregon has an entire chapter of the criminal code devoted “Offenses against the public order.” There shouldn’t be roving gangs brandishing weapons in a threatening manner in the streets, intimidating journalists and other bystanders and there not be a response. The outcome is in fact violence. Some are sincere partisans who are seeking it out and are looking for trouble, but invariably innocents are getting caught in the crossfire.

But Cruz has a strong point about a national approach. Organizations whose sole purpose is to use violence to achieve political ends, operating across state lines, would appear to be a matter that federal law enforcement could address. Attorney General William Barr should look into Antifa and other organizations that commit and seek out violence against their political opponents.

The scenes of political violence in Portland, Oreg. we are witnessing are just the beginning. The worst thing civil society can do in the face of it is nothing. A permissive environment is encouraging this violence and when it goes unanswered, opposing partisans appear to confront it in the streets. This is a power vacuum and a recipe for anarchy.

In short, our civil society is unraveling before our eyes.

Assuming a state of political violence is not the America we want to live in and raise our families, it’s time to let the police do their jobs. Public officials that get in the way are complicit with staging that violence. The civil society must be restored. Everyone, Republicans, Democrats and everyone in between need to speak in unison against political violence — before it’s too late. This is a sneak preview of what’s coming to all of our hometowns if we do nothing.



A Walk Into History
Last week, while the 20 presidential wannabes engaged in two debates and often looked like squabbling children, President Trump was commanding the world stage during a trip to Asia.

On Friday, Trump tweeted, “I will be leaving Japan for South Korea… While there, if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!”

The media, foreign policy establishment and armchair diplomats everywhere mocked Trump’s tweet, essentially saying, “Doesn’t he realize these meetings require months of preparation?"

These are the same critics who, when Trump tweeted tough responses to Kim in the past, warned that the president would get us into a war and that he needed to sit down and talk with Kim. Many commentators assured us that there was no reason to believe any meeting would result and that Trump would look stupid.

But lo and behold on Sunday, the president made history. As the New York Times put it, "From a tweet to a handshake to a historic 20 steps by an American leader into officially hostile territory."

The handshake in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) was a great photo-op, but it was more than that. The two men walked back across the border into South Korea where they met for an hour in the Freedom House, and announced that negotiations between the United States and North Korea would resume.

The Sunday talk shows were full of left-wing commentators and Democrat presidential candidates whining that North Korea still has nuclear weapons, that nothing has been accomplished, that Kim’s regime is still a threat. Today’s left truly resembles the "nattering nabobs of negativism."

Here’s a little reality check.

When Barack Obama took office, North Korea may have had a few nuclear bombs but no means of delivering them. By the time Obama left office, after having accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, North Korea had dozens of nuclear weapons and the ICBMs capable of threatening the U.S. mainland.

None of Trump’s critics today were demanding that Obama do something to stop North Korea during those long eight years. On this, like so many other things, Donald Trump is trying hard to clean up the mess his predecessor left behind.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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