Criticism Is Not Violence

On campus, leftist violence against conservatives has become the rule rather than the exception. Two years ago, a mob of left-wing students injured Middlebury College professor Allison Stanger, herself a Democrat, for engaging in a discussion with conservative scholar Charles Murray. Last month, an attacker punched conservative student Hayden Williams in the face at UC Berkeley. Last Thursday, a masked assailant sprayed me with an unknown chemical substance during a speech titled “Men Are Not Women” at the University of Missouri Kansas City.

Ironically, just moments before Williams endured his attack at Berkeley, another student accused him of “encouraging violence.” The Kansas City Star accused me of having “inflamed students.” In one article, the Star suggested that by accepting the invitation and articulating an opinion that contradicted modern leftist ideology, I somehow bore responsibility for my assault.

Speech is not violence. The Left conflates the two in order to justify its own violent reactions to differing points of view. Hence students who wish to avoid opinions that contradict their own seek out “safe spaces.” They don’t refer to these playpens of censorship as “ideologically homogenous zones” or “no disagreement centers.” They call them “safe spaces” in order to create the impression that certain opinions constitute actual violence from which students must seek refuge.

Leftists at the national level have adopted the same cynical strategy. Freshman congresswoman Ilhan Omar has repeatedly defended terrorists and downplayed the gravity of terrorist attacks. She described the September 11 terrorist attack as “some people did something.” On another occasion, she giggled as she pronounced “al-Qaeda” and “Hezbollah” before wondering why people would discuss those terrorist organizations differently than they would “American,” “England,” or “the Army.” Yet when President Trump and Congressman Dan Crenshaw cited her own words, Omar accused them of “endangering lives,” and Senator Elizabeth Warren accused the president of “inciting violence.” According to this absurd standard, not only does criticism constitute violence, but even citing someone’s own words qualifies as incitement.

Criticism does not constitute violence. In democratic republics such as ours, citizens rely on public criticism of ideas and people to determine national policy. If self-governing citizens cannot speak to one another, they must inevitably resort to violence to achieve their political ends. The great military theorist Carl von Clausewitz famously observed, “War is merely a continuation of politics by other means.” Either instrument will suffice to decide our politics. We must choose between speech and violence. Increasingly, the Left would deny the dichotomy to conceal the choice it has already made.

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