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They’re making a list. They’ve been telling us they intend to make a list. When your enemy (I use the term advisedly) tells you he intends to harm you, you should believe him. We’re down to the nut-cracking now, and the plan on the left, now that they have their claws on the levers of power, is to identify as many Trump voters as they can, label them as “domestic terrorists,” and to disenfranchise the lot of them.
No access to the automated communication platforms or financial systems of the world.
They’re already doing it. How far they are able to succeed remains to be seen, but my own intuition is that they will be able to do a great deal of damage to real human beings before anyone rises up to stop them.
Any response by the right to the usurpations of the left, if it ever comes, will come only when a critical mass of people on the right believe that the left represents an immediate existential threat. I’m not talking about a they-annoy-me-on-Facebook kind of threat. I’m talking about the realization that these people are going to impoverish the right and do physical harm to them if they can. Until there is a widespread sense that such harm is imminent, it will be mostly jaw-jaw on the right. I guess that’s kind of understandable, in a way.
In times of conflict, I think people are continuously engaged in a cost/benefit analysis, trying to decide if they can avoid escalation. It’s almost always easy to talk yourself into avoiding escalation.
Part of the problem is complexity. The political and cultural situations are complex. So are individual circumstances. Faced with the current lawless escalation by the left, it’s hard to do the cost/benefit analysis on conservative escalation.
This is where one of the advantages of having actual principles comes into play: principles have the effect of de-complicating otherwise complex analyses. Part of the reason is that they have a tendency to brush aside the merely utilitarian concerns that are cluttering up the analysis – principles cut through the fog.
A few years ago, I faced a health crisis and had just 18 hours to make a decision about submitting to a risky, speculative procedure that might extend my life. The problem was that the procedure involved an unhappily high probability of being cognitively altered in some way, and the recovery was going to be hellish and prolonged. (Some of you reading this post may be saying to yourself, “I think he lost that bet on being cognitively altered.” I know what you mean.)
My wife and I sat up all night in intensive care discussing whether to go through with it. It was a very complex cost/benefit analysis. The risks of being permanently damaged, the pain and struggle of recovery if that even turned out to be possible – all of that left me going back and forth in my mind about what to do. If I did nothing, I was left with only a few days to live.
But in the middle of the night, a lightbulb went off for me regarding my decision: years before I had made a vow. I had promised my wife at our wedding that I would never leave her of my own volition. And it occurred to me, as I lay there in the hospital, that perhaps choosing not to at least try was a form of abandonment. All of the noise and complexity evaporated in the realization that there was an overarching commitment I had already made that was still at work.
I know there are medical circumstances in which trying to prolong one’s life is only to prolong the suffering. I get that. But I’m writing in this post about a circumstance that was both highly complex and for which the outcome was uncertain. And here is what I’ve learned: principled vows have a way of making complex decisions much less complicated.
I think many conservatives may be facing this kind of complexity – trying to decide if escalating their actions beyond rhetoric and argumentation is called for. And like my wife and me in the hospital that night, the answer may hinge on one’s commitment to principle.
We’re at the point where there is a material price to be paid for embracing a bias toward liberty. The economic targeting of conservatives has been growing for a while now. Economic targeting is a one-way ratchet that seems to only affect those whose views are out of step with leftist orthodoxy. Targeting people for exercising their constitutional rights is anathema to conservatives but it is increasingly a central tactic of the left. Beginning with such things as getting people fired (e.g. Brendan Eich) and now silently dropping books that run afoul of leftist sensibilities from the platform that accounts for 83% of all book sales.
The complexity surrounding the cost/benefit analysis of our current situation is only going to increase. We need to resist the adolescent self-congratulatory temptation to commend ourselves for holding conservative views while never actually acting in any specific way that involves personal sacrifice.
These remarks from Dr. Robert George, of Princeton, come to mind:
Undergraduates say the darndest things. When discussing the history of racial injustice, I frequently ask them what their position on slavery would have been had they been white and living in the South before abolition. Guess what? They all would have been abolitionists! They all would have bravely spoken out against slavery, and worked tirelessly in the cause of freeing those enslaved. Isn’t that special? Bless their hearts.
Of course, it is complete nonsense. Only the tiniest fraction of them, or of any of us, would have spoken up against slavery or lifted a finger to free the slaves. Most of them—and us—would simply have gone along. Many would have supported the slave system and, if it was in their interest, participated in it as buyers and owners or sellers of slaves.
So I respond to the students’ assurances that they would have been vocal opponents of slavery by saying that I will credit their claims if they can show me evidence of the following: that in leading their lives today they have embraced causes that are unpopular among their peers and stood up for the rights of victims of injustice whose very humanity is denied, and where they have done so knowing (1) that it would make THEM unpopular with their peers, (2) that they would be loathed and ridiculed by wealthy, powerful, and influential individuals and institutions in our society; (3) that it would cost them friendships and cause them to be abandoned and even denounced by many of their friends, (4) that they would be called nasty names, and (5) that they would possibly even be denied valuable educational and professional opportunities as a result of their moral witness.
In short, my challenge to them is to show me where they have at significant risk to themselves and their futures stood up for a cause that is unpopular in elite sectors of our culture today.
Alas, for us, there is a growing gap between being a Facebook/Twitter conservative, and real-life resistance to the left. Like Dr. George’s undergrads, we need to ask ourselves what price we’re willing to pay for our opinions. It probably needs to start by putting our money where our conservative mouths are – and doing this far beyond merely contributing to conservative political candidates. Purely political solutions have shown themselves to be leaky vessels for conservatives. We need to be contributing to conservative lawfare organizations. We likely need to engage in widespread legal harassment against progressive organizations and companies. We should not expect them to change their behaviors until they pay a price for engaging in viewpoint discrimination. Progressives have engaged in legal harassment that they have repeatedly and predictably lost. Conservatives are naïve to believe progressives do this because they think they will win. They don’t. They do it to artificially raise the cost to conservatives of exercising their civil rights.
We should make harassing conservatives far more expensive and painful for progressive groups and companies than we do. We should probably also be far more selective about the businesses we patronize. It is a pain in the neck, I know, and it is inconvenient to do this. But, once again, progressives and their sympathizers have repeatedly shown their intention of doing harm to conservatives, and they are unlikely to stop unless/until the cost outweighs the benefit.
We also need to be building technology that undermines progressive-sympathizing companies. We should intentionally try to wreck their business models. If we lack the skills, we should be investing in those who have the skills. In general, we need to do everything we can to drive up the cost of progressivism until they stop the aggression.
The decision to embrace the risks involved in escalation can be complex, but our principles can make the decision much more straightforward. If we’re willing.Published in