Evergreen, Portland, And The Censorship-Violence Nexus

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Alex Grass Freelance Writer
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At the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, “anti-racist” protests spilled over once again into threats of violence. Every year at Evergreen, minority students play virtue-signal hooky to highlight “racial inequities.” They call it the “Day of Absence.” When this year’s Day of Absence turned into the Day-That-Evergreen-Students-Demand-That-All-Whites-Leave-Campus, Professor Bret Weinstein disobeyed—shades of Thoreau!—and calmly explained the difference between Evergreen’s past clarion calls to anti-racist righteousness and this year’s diktat to discrimination: “The first is a forceful call to consciousness which is, of course, crippling to the logic of oppression. The second is a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself.”

Here’s the rub: Weinstein has deluded himself if he thinks the Day of Absence was ever about “crippling” oppression. Today’s student demands are about power exercised through threatened and actualized violence.

It’s everything to do with Evergreen students’ fascistic beliefs and threats—so severe that the Olympia chief of police told Professor Weinstein it was unsafe for him to go to the college’s campus—and nothing to do with equality or equity.

You might be wondering where the Mayor of Olympia is in all this, or why the damn police aren’t getting in gear. Because left-leaning professional politicians, increasingly isolated on the coasts, choose to abstain from the free speech fracas unless they’re dragged in. The party being banded to a coastal sliver means they’re hardened by the demands of a homogeneous progressivist base.

A little south of the Evergreen fray, in Oregon, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced that he would “not issue any permits for … alt-right events” scheduled to take place in the weeks following the Portland stabbing carried out by Joseph Christian.

To support his position, Wheeler used the same canard about there being a “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment that Howard Dean peddled in justifying Ann Coulter being barred from Berkeley. Let’s call it the Wheeler-Dean Theory of the First Amendment. Here’s the proposition: A) Right-wing political positions are “hateful” and disfavored by progressives; B) that which is “hateful” is not protected by the Constitution; therefore, C) the spoken political positions of the Right are unconstitutional.

Howard Dean, completely ignorant of the history he thinks supports his position, is fond of citing the WWII-era case Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, the source of the “fighting words” doctrine (which doesn’t apply to hate speech).

Dean’s discursus conveniently omitted how vile the Chaplinsky case really was. Chaplinsky was a Jehovah’s Witness being accosted by a town mob. He was arrested for opposing the war and calling a police officer—brace yourself—a “damn fascist.”

Citing Chaplinsky proves nothing other than that Mayor Wheeler and Howard Dean both unthinkingly draw from the well of authoritarianism. It’s a bad case.

Inconvenient truths like the true story of Chaplinsky are obscured by a supine media who obsess over the apparition of white-race-hatred. Notice that “white supremacy” is the catch-all term used to justify the most outrageous behaviors, including Evergreen College students using physical intimidation to confine administrators. The willingness of Evergreen College president George Bridges to give in to their every babyish demand doesn’t help much either.

The concern for “white supremacist activity” overwhelming society is, of course, absurd. Joseph Christian, for instance, is more crazed hobo than calculating hater; he was swigging from a bladder of purple-drank sangria before he attacked, he hadn’t had a permanent address in years, he once robbed a convenience store because “the guy there d[id]n’t sell any winning lottery tickets.”

Calling Christian a white supremacist is a misdirect, a red herring, a tactic used to raise the stakes so that restrictions applying to only one side of the political spectrum can be justified.

Will more violence come in our cultural Cold Civil War? If it does, it won’t be frivolous. It also won’t be the doing of the criminally insane like Joseph Christian. If violence comes, it will be a return to the insecurity of the 1970’s, when 1,470 terror attacks resulted in the deaths of 184 people. It will be terror and political violence.

The sum-total of terror’s toll—mortality, fear—will rattle us. And if there is a John Brown moment, a Wall Street Bombing moment, or anything of the kind, the Cold Civil War is going to heat right up. The bloodshed will come on the heels of censorship. The Battle of Berkeley is so much evidence.

Free speech is, as Dr. Jordan Peterson puts it, “the mechanism by which we keep our society functioning.” The apparatus to which Peterson refers is a safety release valve, a kill switch on combat.

People need to feel like they have an outlet; they need to know they can jettison the frustration (and even the poison) that accumulates in their mind. But today, the institutions of civil society—what’s left of it, anyway—have formed an anti-speech coalition: students against speech, politicians against speech, intellectuals against speech, journalists against speech, and on and on.

You’ll remember that The Washington Post assumed a new tagline—Democracy Dies in Darkness—which like most contemporary clichés is not true at all and means nothing. As a matter of fact, democracy dies in the blazing solar heat of the public forum, where the “wrong” ideas swelter in the hot box, awaiting a heatstroke-induced death, while the emboldened authoritarians of the left wait in the cool shade.

This will cause incalculable damage. And lots more violence.