It is a sad fact that both sides bear responsibility for a dramatic violation of freedom of expression – perhaps the most important of our liberties – in Chicago this past week.
Despite his pretended role as martyr, played as skillfully as a concert violinist which has marked Donald Trump’s courtship of an all too cooperative media, the leading candidate for the Republic presidential nomination bears much of the responsibility. Repeatedly, in his stream of consciousness remarks — as often as not incessantly, uncritically reproduced by the media he has alluded to the possibility of violence. Indeed he has endorsed it as part of his exploitation of antagonism and anger at the current U.S. scene, his stock and trade. He has talked of punching opponents in the face, carrying them out on stretchers, paying their insurance costs for injuries, etc. That is hardly a contribution to a measured and intelligent debate on the current political issues.
That of course is not meant to condone in any way the determined effort of an organized opposition to silence Trump, Instead of answering his arguments, it was determined to halt his speech and attempt to disperse his political rally. The discussion on the moveon.org website — with its implied ownership of so-called “protestors” determined to shut down Trump — is about as onerous as any other undemocrastic movement in America today. If, as charged, it is true that so-called protestors were paid to attack Trump’s following, it as much a threat to U.S. democracy as exists. If, as seems likely, moveon-org did organize the attempt to shut down Trump, how about our intrepid jouirnalists giving us a few names and more information. And, of course, our lagging media still haven’t come up with who, if that is true, paid the bill. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera
It is hard to believe that in 2016 there is any confusion about the basic right of all sides in any political debate to have their say. Or the corollary, that there can be no tolerance of any effort to suppress that expression of opinion.
The biographer of the French writer, historian and philosopher Voltaire, the Englishwoman Evelyn Beatrice Hall said it best in her 1906 book [an aphorism so often falsely attributed to Voltaire himself]:
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”
It is astonishing that the old axioms always held in high esteem in our democracy, is no longer understood by some of our most politically active young people. But even more frightening, that some of their professors – refugees from th 1960s — are, indeed, advocates of just such views as contradict everything held sacred in this democracy.
All of this takes place, of course, in a media that is less than professional. Trump exaggerates the numbers at his rallies, even 10 times but the media doesn’t report that the police and fire departments have a more accurate [and much smaller] count. You wouldn’t know if you read most of the media that Trump long hankered after running for the presidency but backed over several times because he was not considered serious by his peers. Trump makes the outrageous statement that huge numbers of people have approached him revealing that they never ever voted until he came along to bestir them. Is that really a questionable suggestion, given the numbers he claims from whom he heard this claim? The Trumpeters hang out that old and so often misused cliché that there has never been anything like the current Trump entourage. But one has only to think back to 1968 and to George Wallace’s mob, not the most illustrious example but a recent one. It’s fascinating to see who jumps on the Trump bandwagon, if that is what it is, an old and important element in propaganda. That even includes interviewing his son at length which hardly confirms the hypothesis that it is Trump DNA which carries magic unto new generations.
Oh well! We guess what we are saying in a nutshell is that tired, worn old cliché, which nevertheless is as valid as it has always been: the devil is in the details!