The Left’s Right to Silence Dissent

Trump’s first two weeks have been, if not especially interesting, predictably exciting.   A pattern has already begun to emerge:  Trump attempts to carry out one of the promises on which he successfully campaigned for the White House, and his measures are met with criticism, abuse, and public rioting.  It will be some time before we can know whether this pattern is merely a temporary panic attack or one that  holds for the duration of his term in office.

By now my readers probably do not need to be told that the Bill of Rights does not protect people who riot, interrupt business, intimidate participants in public discussion, destroy property, or generally act out their compulsive jerkitude.  Even a peaceful demonstration in favor of a good cause, such as the defense of innocent life, should not be permitted to infringe upon the everyday business of other people or cost the taxpayers a single penny for added police protection. The anti-war and civil rights protests of the 1960’s were exercises in low-level treason and insurgency and should have been put down with bayonets or Napoleon’s famous “whiff of grapeshot.”

The failure of American governments to respond properly did not so much indicate weakness of will as lack of principle and a tendency to side with the rioters.  The exceptions—responsible leaders like Mayor Daley and Sam Hayakawa at San Francisco State—were tough men of the old school.

A good way, perhaps the only serious way to approach the current disorders is to ask:  What would Machiavelli say?  I think the wise Florentine would tell us something like this:

“Look again at the first amendment in your Bill of Rights.  What does it say about protests?  “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”   Why did this provision have to be included?

The answer is simple for anyone who as studied the history of England or pre-revolutionary America.  English kings, like Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, had a nasty habit of responding to petitions by locking up the presenters of the petition in the Tower.  The Roundhead Parliament, far more tyrannical than the king (Charles I) they were accusing of tyranny, followed suit.  As the revolutionary movement  in the colonies began to come to a head, the British government made similar attempts to crack down on the press and restrict the expression of political dissent.

While the Constitution was being debated, many Americans demanded the rights of political expression and public dissent that autocratic rulers had always attempted to deny.   The protestors today, far from being dissenters from publicly imposed orthodoxy, are the walking talking automata created by an autocratic regime that exercises a virtual monopoly over the expression of opinion.  The regime controls all the media that shape opinion—education, the press, entertainment—and has forged them into a national—in fact international—ideology that allows for no dissent.

Listen to the slogans mouthed by the so-called protestors: “No wall, no borders, no nation,” which is a neat summary of the official position of big capitalism (the Wall Street Journal) and big socialism (the New York Times).  Nations, communities, regions, cultures, even families no longer exist, only abstracted individuals who bear rights created by the regime as a means of enslaving them.  Or “reproductive rights,” which means, of course, the right not to reproduce, a right that can only be exercised when a mother decides to murder her own child in the name of sexual freedom, women’s rights, and—most seriously—the right to crawl upon the earth without really being alive in any human sense.

These demonstrators are, in fact, the bullying agents of a regime that will tolerate no dissent and no opposition. The big message of equality has been so engrained in them by the regime’s employees—uneducated teachers, professors and journalists—that they cannot imagine any moral or political opinion that would differ in the slightest degree from the slogans that have been poured into their minds stunted by propaganda.”

Thank you, Niccolò, for speaking the plain truth.  A fastidious observer might object:  “But surely, this President is an inept buffoon, whose tirades, tweets, and temper tantrums justify public outcry.”  In other words, because our President is a boor, it is my civic duty to be even more boorish and join a group of thugs who are trying to silence dissent?  This is nonsense.  If Trump had all the political skills of Margaret Thatcher combined with the suavity and aplomb of an experienced diplomat, the reaction to his policies would be the same.

No, Donald’s crude manners and the absurdities of some of his leading advisors are irrelevant.  For good and ill, this barbaric billionaire is standing up to an absolutist regime that has destroyed all the institutions of civilized life and was poised, after eight years of dictatorship, to impose the Thousand Year Reich.  I cannot imagine that Trump or—more importantly—his collaborators and supporters—can come even close to reversing the revolution against all things human, but God bless them for trying.

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

7 Responses

  1. James D. says:

    A politician who actually sets about to do the things he promised? Amazing. And a Republican, at that? Doubly amazing.

    I was not surprised to find out that all of the lawsuits filed to stop Trump’s immigration actions are being funded by George Soros. Eastern European countries, including Russia, are booting Soros’ front groups out of their countries in an attempt to prevent him from poisoning their cultures and political processes. Hopefully, Trump can use some means at his disposal to neutralize Soros once and for all.

  2. Dot says:

    “”Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble…”.

    Today’s protestors of today are acting in a treasonous fashion by exercising “a virtual monopoly over the expression of opinion.” The Bill of Rights does not say “Congress shall make no law…SUPRESSING the freedom of speech, or of the press;…”. Yet this is what they, the protestors, the media and entertainment are doing. This group wants to change minds to their way of thinking. Yet those who differ complain or do little or nothing about it. By doing nothing, those whose opinion differ are allowing this monopoly of protestor and media opinion to occur and are just as culpable.

  3. Harry Colin says:

    “Listen to the slogans mouthed by the so-called protestors: “No wall, no borders, no nation,” which is a neat summary of the official position of big capitalism (the Wall Street Journal) and big socialism (the New York Times).”

    Wonderful! These are the Hudge and Gudge of whom Chesterton speaks; secretly in partnership to control our society and our lives. I am as skeptical as Dr. Fleming about the chances of the Trump insurgency, but I’m more certain that ultimately The Donald’s biggest obstacles will come from the “free traders” and war exporters inside his own party.

  4. Raymond Olson says:

    Thank you, Tom, or, I should say, Niccolo, for reminding me at a low-spirited time of precisely the First Amendment clause I needed to recall, which enjoins laws that abridge “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”. The word in the clause especially important to recall is “peaceably”, of course. That no one ostensibly on the administration’s side in the present fracas brings that word and its context up only attests how close in character they are to their assailants in the streets. God knows, the billionaire is too ignorant or slow-witted to do so. Yet he’s all we’ve got, it seems. I shudder.

    Let me end upbeat, however. I’m rereading Democracy and Leadership by Irving Babbitt and feeling quite ashamed that I had so forgotten it. I knew it was a good book, or, once read, it wouldn’t have remained in my library. I’m becoming convinced as I near completing it again that it is one of the finest books I possess.

  5. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Ray, I am delighted we agree on this. Would you be willing to take an active role in helping me to lead a discussion of Conrad’s Under Western Eyes? Seems to me he has a humane view of how to view revolutionists. After all,he came from a Polish revolutionary background but developed a healthy skepticism.

    I read Babbitt’s book about 20 years ago. It is quite sane–not brilliant but sane which is saying a great deal. We might also offer a discussion of it. I hope to be able to spend a little time chatting with you about these possibilities.

  6. Raymond Olson says:

    I expect to be in Charleston on Friday, so, yes, let’s chat. And I agree that Babbitt’s book isn’t brilliant. That is entirely in keeping with the first principle of personal and political conduct he recommends, namely, humility. Hard to be brilliantly humble.

  7. Kurt Kronfuss says:

    I think I know why there is no thumbs up, or like, to instantly click on this website as if to say-RIGHT ON- and am certain the reason is proper; but sometimes I want to click what does not exist, probably out of conditioning, but i can’t. So here is a thumbs up, again.