30 May 2017
Fighting words in Portland
Over the weekend, two men were killed in Portland OR, and a third man was injured, when they tried to quiet a fellow train passenger who had started ranting loudly at another passenger who happened to be wearing a hijab. Resenting their intrusion on his speech rights, the ranter stabbed them. The killings have been universally deplored, from the White House on down, but leave it to someone to overplay their hand. Drawing a link between the killer's opinions and his violent outburst, the mayor of Portland has asked for federal intervention to prevent two upcoming marches in his city, one a generic "alt-right" event, the other an anti-sharia protest. The mayor embarrassed himself by making the spurious claim that "hate speech" was not protected by the U.S. Constitution -- the charter recognizes no such category -- and the ACLU quickly joined right-wingers in defending the rights of the two sets of demonstrators. It seems fallacious to blame the killer's opinions for the killings, since the victims were not killed for who they were, all three being white. Whatever the killer's opinion of the Muslim girl, it was most likely a superficial symptom of the madness that led him to attack the other guys. It's very unlikely that Islamophobia or whatever form of white supremacy he allegedly avowed effectively made him a killer, and it should not be assumed that anyone concerned about Islamic violence is a potential killer, a trigger waiting to be pulled by some provocative orator. The law, as I understand it, is that protesters of the sort the Portland mayor wishes to ban are within their rights so long as they don't explicitly incite violence. Meanwhile, it wouldn't surprise me if violence against those protesters is already being incited in Portland -- not by Muslims but by the same "antifa" elements who've been attacking "hate speech" across the country. If anything, should the demonstration organizers not stand down, the mayor's comments have made that sort of attack more likely. I'll make this simple for liberals: if you don't think people should blame the religion of Islam for Islamist violence, then in all fairness you can't blame anti-Islamic opinion in general for an act of violence that was only tangentially anti-Islamic. We probably have millions of people in this country who are sincerely concerned about any number of threats Islam may pose, yet would never think of physically attacking a Muslim. That should be self-evident enough to dismiss the idea that any (or every) utterance against Islam is an incitement to violence. As for "antifa," every attack they make on free speech brings closer the day when someone fights back against them the way American reactionaries might be expected to fight, and when it happens they'll have no one but themselves to blame -- though they'll certainly try to blame everything else.