Since writing this article, I have been the victim of abuse from far-right activists. I would appreciate your prayers, as this has left me sick. For an update on the reaction to this piece, scroll down to the section “update” at the end of this article.
The storming of the Capitol by the angry MAGA mob was not a surprise for me. I have had many occasions to witness the buildup to last week’s events as friends have become radicalized. Over the last four years I have watched conservative colleagues, parishioners, family members and friends inch closer to extremism under the influence of a strange new ideology that is a toxic synthesis of Christian spirituality, American nationalism, QAnon conspiracy theories, and the Donald Trump personality cult.
On Wednesday, as the frenzied mob of Trump enthusiasts desecrated the US Capitol, I had to go into Coeur d’Alene to run a few errands. On the street I saw a group of men and women gathered together, glued to their phones in ecstatic glee. I went into a store, where two men approached me to check if I’d heard the wonderful news about the invasion of the Capitol. They announced that the people are taking power, and this is just the beginning of a new revolution.
“And when the revolution arrives in this town,” they told me, “we’ll be driving all the liberals and BLM people into the hills.”
Now I am not a fan of BLM, for reasons I discuss here, but I would never condone violence against our liberal brothers and sisters. Moreover, I am a passionate advocate of free speech, as my motto has always been the words misattributed to Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” So when these men announced that they hoped the storming of the Capitol would culminate in the violent expulsion of their political rivals from town, I replied, “In a free society, people have the right to be jerks if they want to.” I was shouted down by everyone in the store. “Not anymore!” they yelled. “Things are different now.”
Trump supporters fought back after Capitol Police moved in to retake the Rotunda. pic.twitter.com/4e7mNyqWZy
— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) January 6, 2021
My friends were not alone. Many of the rioters who stormed the Capitol also believe the time has come for violence, as evidenced in the erection of a gallows on the White House lawn amid chants of “Hang Mike Pence!” Whatever Antifa plants may or may not have been present during this demonstration, many participants were well-known with personal histories agitating for Trumpism. Many wanted the violence to be worse, while others have promised to return in greater numbers to stop Biden’s inauguration, causing the FBI to go on high alert.
On Friday I had to go into town again, and this time I saw a friend who I will call Punch Matthews. Punch told me he is buying a gun in readiness for the coming civil war. He explained that he had already threatened one liberal individual he intends to shoot, even telling the person where on his body he would place the bullet. Over the years I have seen Punch get worked up into a violent frenzy while we were watching President Trump on TV. As the President would talk, Punch would begin making violent threats against the President’s opponents, listing the names of the people he would like targeted and saying things like, “Your blood will splatter ten feet over the sidewalk after we’re finished with you.” Previously I dismissed this rhetoric, but now that Punch is buying a gun and targeting specific individuals, I am concerned.
While thinking about this, another friend who is well connected to local conservative groups, is a member of a citizens’ militias, and a follower of QAnon theory, told me he is hoping President Trump will rise up to rule America as a dictator in the style of General Franco.
The most alarming information received came in October during the tense runup to the Presidential election. I described what happened in the following letter sent to some friends on October 24 (names and details have been changed to protect the guilty):
I want to tell you about a disturbing experience I had this week, which demonstrates how volatile things are becoming in our toxic political environment. On Thursday I was attending my bi-weekly chiropractic adjustment, and my chiropractor—himself an unbeliever and a radical liberal—told me that there are a number of citizen militia and armed individuals in the CdA and Sandpoint area associated with right-wing extremism and white supremacy. He gave me a link to an article that discusses this. My natural instinct was to dismiss the article’s concerns, because it had an obvious left-wing bias, and in my experience liberals are notorious for twisting facts and caricaturing all conservatives as racists and extremists.
Still, I couldn’t help wondering if maybe there was something to the concerns. After all, I had observed many of my own friends and fellow church-men become radicalized under the Trump presidency, through the influence of the President’s pseudo-conservative version of right-wing identity politics and his operational relativism. So the journalist in me kicked in and I decided to try to find out if the Coeur d’Alene area really is a hotbed of right-wing terrorism waiting to ignite.
That same evening I had to go to my janitorial job at a warehouse in Coeur d’Alene. One of the security guards at the facility where I clean, a man named Trigger Anderson, had previously described himself to me as a “conservative extremist,” while advocating a right-wing version of identity politics. So when I was at work that evening I decided to innocently draw Trigger into conversation to find out if he and others like him were planning to erupt in violence.
Since I am known to be conservative myself, and to write conservative articles, I have more than once found myself in the position of having extremists try to recruit me for an ally. That evening was no exception. Trigger began opening up to me about how he and others like him were just waiting for a reason to go into action and start killing liberals. “We’ll let moderate Democrats live,” he said, “but the radical liberals need to be taken out.”
I registered concern that once this reign of terror started to be unleashed, there would be witch-hunting and scape-goating, and then even moderate Republicans would find themselves victims of the feeding frenzy. Trigger replied, “No, that won’t happen, because conservatives tend to be more logical.”
I asked Trigger how he would know who the radical liberals were once the killing began. He said, “You can tell by looking at them. For example, if someone is wearing a multi-colored shirt that has a BLM logo on it, then it’s pretty obvious.”
Trigger went on to explain that he would go around to the houses that had Biden signs and help himself to whatever he wanted. “They want to be socialist, right? Okay, now they will have a chance to share the wealth with us.” In addition to this widespread looting, he shared that they plan to secure Idaho by blocking off I 90, and stopping the flow of traffic into the state. Trigger confessed that they are hoping for a reason to unleash this type of civil disorder upon us.
It would be easy to dismiss the words of this security guard as hot air and bluster, if it weren’t for the fact that the press has been full of reports of pseudo-conservatives planning for civil war. One local radical who has been in the press a lot is a man named Ammon Bundy, who has a group of armed supporters who are waiting to initiate civil insurrection.
Accounts like the above should be alarming. It should be even more concerning that this extremism is now routinely sanctified by appeals to Christian piety and theology. In all the above cases, the people I spoke with were believers.
As I have attempted to warn conservative friends about these developments, my concerns have tended to be dismissed either through direct denial or whataboutery. But last week’s raid on the Capitol, which culminated in close quarter fighting and left five people dead and multiple others injured, will hopefully make this extremism impossible to ignore. We must begin a vibrant discussion about where this radicalism came from, and how it is being fueled.
But what were the proximate causes of last week’s violence? The Left has been quick to blame President Trump for inciting the angry mob that stormed the Capitol. He told them to show strength, to fight, to eschew weakness, to begin playing by very different rules. Yet it isn’t clear that he specifically had violence in mind, as this type of demagoguery has long been part of his modus operandi. The truth is that President Trump is responsible for the violence, but not in the simplistic way much of the media is claiming. Rather, I will argue that in concert with a perfect storm of multiple causes, the Trump personality cult has helped create the conditions for what happened last week, through
- his stoking of political polarization;
- his fueling a zero-sum approach to politics;
- his nurturing of right-wing identity politics;
- his neglect of historic conservatism;
- his Nietzschean philosophy;
- his alignment with the “political illusion,” and political idolatry.
In the remainder of this article I want to address each of these factors one at a time. I will not develop any of these in detail, but simply summarize the basic concern while providing links for those wishing to engage in further study.
- President Trump Has Been Stoking Political Polarization
Ashli Babbitt, the woman shot by Capitol Police, used to be an Obama supporter but became radicalized through a toxic blend of Trumpism, QAnon theory, and right-wing extremism. In an article last Friday, Bellingcat documented the tragic progression that led to Babbitt’s radicalization and finally her death. She is one woman, but her story is typical of the thousands who have been radicalized under Trumpism.
Trumpism is radicalizing people like Babbitt through polarizing belief systems and modes of discourse. In 2018, David Blankenhorn wrote an article titled, “The Top 14 Causes of Political Polarization.” His final and most important factor is what he called “the growing influence of certain ways of thinking about each other.” These ways of thinking cause “polarizing habits of mind and heart.” These include the following, all of which have become trademarks of Trump style right-wing discourse:
- Favoring binary (either/or) thinking.
- Absolutizing one’s preferred values.
- Viewing uncertainty as a mark of weakness or sin.
- Indulging in motivated reasoning (always and only looking for evidence that supports your side).
- Relying on deductive logic (believing that general premises justify specific conclusions).
- Assuming that one’s opponents are motivated by bad faith.
- Permitting the desire for approval from an in-group (“my side”) to guide one’s thinking.
- Succumbing intellectually and spiritually to the desire to dominate others (what Saint Augustine called libido dominandi).
- Declining for oppositional reasons to agree on basic facts and on the meaning of evidence.
These ways of thinking constitute the actual precipitation of polarization—the direct and immediate causes of holding exaggerated and stereotyped views of each other, treating our political opponents as enemies, exhibiting growing rancor and aggression in public life, and acting as if common ground does not exist.
Blankenhorn’s bullet points above read like a description of President Trump. For Trump, there are no grey areas, no ambiguities, no uncertainties. In the simplistic worldview of the President, every issue and interaction collapses into simple binaries, rendering it neither possible nor desirable to find common ground with those who think differently. When you add into this mix the President’s narcissism, his aversion to complexity, and his anti-intellectualism, then it is an easy step to move from polarization to radicalization.
The first aspect of polarization that Blankenhorn mentioned, namely binary thinking, is particularly insidious because it absolves a person from the moral imperative of carefully weighing and measuring competing views and claims. When binary thinking enables us to dismiss our political opponents as deranged, then we no longer see the need to carefully listen, understand, or evaluate.
Once simple binaries have captured a person’s thinking, then facts cease to matter, because you will reinterpret facts within the context of your tribe’s echo chamber. For example, ask yourself why local Trump fans would tell me about their violent plans, when I have written so many articles criticizing the President? In all the above anecdotes I shared, every person save one had previously received copies of my articles criticizing Trump, in addition to verbal summaries from me about why I think the Trump agenda is dangerous. So why are these people still sharing their plans with me, instead of being concerned that I might report them to the FBI? Because, in their simple binary narrative, since I am not a liberal I must be a Trump fan. No matter what I say to the contrary, they believe that because I am conservative I must be on their side.
If left unchecked, this all-or-nothing, binary thinking will undermine the very foundations of our democracy. From Andrew Sullivan:
“To survive, liberal democracy must have some level of moderation, some acceptance of the legitimacy of the other side, and room for compromise. It has to be based in empiricism, shared truth, deliberation and doubt. Fundamentalist religion has none of those qualities. It’s all or nothing.
Not only is it all or nothing, but the mandate to believe it, and act on it, is from God himself. When this psychological formation encounters politics, it cannot relent, it cannot change its mind, it cannot simply move on. And a core element of our politics right now — and part of the unprecedented resilience of Trump’s support — is this total suspension of judgment by a quarter of all Americans. When that certainty of faith met a malignant narcissist who cannot admit error, a force was created that continues to cut a ferocious swathe through our culture and our democratic institutions.”
2. President Trump Has Been Fueling a Zero-Sum Approach to Politics
During the Trump presidency, political discourse has turned into a zero-sum game between winners and losers. He has introduced a new type of pseudo-conservative politics that eschews classic political virtues such as consensus building, professionalism, and compromise, in favor of a rhetoric of contempt in which politics becomes a tool for the assertion of dominance. Preserving the integrity of the system is less important than coming out on top. Every interaction then becomes transactional in the zero-sum contest between winners and losers.
Rod Dreher discussed zero-sum politics in his 2019 article “Learning From the Spanish Civil War.” The article includes a string of links to scholarship showing that, historically, zero-sum approaches to politics have spelled the end of political stability. Basically, when rival factions begin ping-ponging off each other’s excesses to justify the surrendering of fair play, then this delegitimizes the system in the minds of both citizens and lawmakers. Then, once the system becomes delegitimized, this paves the way for the collapse of order, and for the emergence of a raw power-struggle and even violence as the only remaining mode of conflict resolution. Meanwhile, public discourse collapses into a shouting match of mutual incomprehensibility.
3. President Trump Has Nurtured Right-Wing Identity Politics
In a reversal of political norms, Trump has shepherded his party into various ideologies that were previously the domain only of the Left. One of the most striking of these reversals is the new right-wing identity politics. I warned about this in my 2018 article, “The Republican Retreat to Identity Politics,” pointing out that the President has fueled “a group-based narrative of victimhood feeds on division against other groups and can really only be sustained in a climate of division.”
I wrote this article back in 2018, but I am sharing it again because it is even more relevant in light of current events.
Tolkein’s Masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, powerfully warned us against trying to use the enemy’s weapon for good, and corrupting ourselves in the process. For Republicans to try to use identity politics for conservative ends is like Boromir trying to use the enemy’s ring to defeat him. (If you need convincing that identity politics is bad then check out my article “Racism and Identity Politics in America Today.”)
Identity politics gives expression to the tribalism that emerges once members of a society can no longer think of themselves as a whole, and once society becomes so fragmented that there is no longer a shared collective memory with shared communal practices. From Oliver O’Donovan’s The Ways of Judgement:
“To have identity as a people, is to be able to conceive the whole that embraces these various constituents practically, as a coordinated agency. When it is no longer possible to discern the constituent elements within the whole, each with its stock of tradition, its reserve of memory, and its communal habits of practice, then the whole dissolves before our eyes. It also dissolves when it is no longer possible to think of these elements as acting, in some sense, together and for one another.”
4. Historic Conservatism Has Been Neglected in Education and Discourse
President Trump is typical of most American conservatives in being unaware of the historic roots for the left-right divide, which go back to the competing visions of Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine. Bereft of historical knowledge, conservatism collapses into mere tribalism or else proxy wars over silly issues like masks. President Trump has been feeding this culture of ignorance through a keep-it-simple-stupid pragmatism that embodies the assumption that learning and historically-grounded wisdom are not prerequisites to political virtue.
Many of the key principles of our tradition–things like institutional stability, respect for hierarchy, distrust of raw democracy, deference to custom and prudence, avoidance of over simplified prescriptions for social change, and the construction of political change on the foundation of virtue and spiritual order–have been explicitly eschewed by our President and the frenzied mob of his supporters that ravaged the Capitol.
Ironically, the MAGA rioters that broke into the Capitol chanting slogans like “we the people,” were unwittingly the ideological descendants, not of Edmund Burke, the Father of Conservatism, but of Thomas Paine, the father of the Left.
The true opposite of left-wing extremism is not the type of right-wing extremism we’ve seen this week, but prudence.
— Robin Phillips (@robinmarkphilli) January 8, 2021
This ignorance is not inevitable. In the United States there are many amazing conservative political scholars who are calling us back to the sources of our tradition. Many of these scholars have books, videos, podcasts, and interviews that are highly accessible and engaging. Yet these voices are largely ignored by the masses, who are schooled in ignorance by demagogues like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Steve Turley, and Donald Trump.
If you want to do further reading on the historical context of conservatism, I recommend Yuval Levin’s book The Great Debate, or the chapter on Edmund Burke in my book Saints and Scoundrels. Another great resource is the audio course The Conservative Tradition, or the interviews with scholars on the Mars Hill Audio Journal. Audible has a lot of great audiobooks from conservative thinkers like Sir Roger Scruton, Thomas Sowell, and Russell Kirk, some of which are even available for free. Also, see the section “Further Reading” at the end of this article.
5. President Trump Promotes a Nietzschean, Might-Makes-Right MO
In 2017, I observed that President Trump works with an operational relativism in which raw power replaces objective order as the criterion for thought and action. For example, when the President promotes conspiracy theories on Twitter, attacks journalism he doesn’t like as “fake news,” or is asked to explain the objective basis behind a string of doubtful assertions, instead of appealing to objective facts that can be debated and investigated, he habitually appeals to purely relative criteria. These relative criteria often include appeals to raw power (“I’m president and you’re not”), popular opinion (“Many people have come out and said I’m right”), and implicit denials of the role that facts are supposed to have in an argument (i.e., . Kellyanne Conway’s popularizing the concept of “alternative facts.”) As Bret Stephens has pointed out, the President sees facts as merely proxies for opinion and power-games.
Once political discourse is reduced to pure power, then intimidation and even violence become justifiable in principle. We see this in the way champions of Trumpism have used neo-fascist tactics to abuse the families of his conservative dissenters. Numerous conservative who do not support what Trump is doing have received death threats. The latest in this ongoing saga is that Roger Stone, the felon pardoned by Trump, is joining with others to target Republicans who didn’t support Trump.
Remember last summer, all that media Roger Stone did to tell the world what a friend he had in Jesus? pic.twitter.com/ht7PClwOoQ
— Rod Dreher (@roddreher) January 10, 2021
6. Trump Has Fostered “the Political Illusion” and Political Idolatry
The French Philosopher, Jacques Ellul, spoke of “the political illusion” to described the idea that all cultural problems ultimately reduce to political problems. We know from history that politics, while important, is not the primary driver of cultural change. In his book To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World, sociologist James Davison Hunter showed that institutions are actually more important than politics as a driver of cultural change, a perspective that has been echoed recently by Rod Dreher in his book Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents. There are additional factors that may be more important than politics, such as media and advertising, education, parenting, technology, religion, economics, even geography (last year I read a fascinating book claiming that geography is the primary driver of world events), etc.
In his campaign for President, Donald Trump embodied the political illusion by incessantly claiming that his election could fix America’s problems. Only someone with a naïve over-appreciation of the role of politics in driving change, coupled with an under-appreciation for the role of institutions and other factors in influencing national events, could make such outlandish claims.mars
The political illusion leads to political idolatry, which is a perverse fusion of religion and politics. When you believe that all problems are ultimately political problems, then it is tempting both to attach a quasi-religious importance to politics as well as to politicize religion. The latter is a particularly American temptation. Ever since the French and Indian War, there has been a tendency for North Americans to fuse politics and religion in ways that are destructive, both to politics and to the faith. The recent Jericho March was a watershed moment in this dysfunction, as it showed how thoroughly fused the religious and the political have become in the minds of so many Americans. Christians and Jews joined together in a strange type of false worship with Trump at its liturgical epicenter. We watched as the worship of Trump became conjoined with apocalyptic theories in which our nation’s future hinges on the “Stop the Steal” movement.
Eric Metaxas, who organized this bizarre politico-religious ceremony, went so far as to declare that Christians have a duty to fight “to the last drop of blood” to ensure Trump gets a second term. Those who disagree with him, Metaxas declared, are like the Germans who supported Hitler. (Wow, talk about the pot calling the kettle black.)
The obvious problem with conflating religion and politics in this way is that activists can feel pious for engaging in thuggery, as in the case of “QAnon Shaman” who told the BBC that God was on his side following the violent riots last week. Other rioters, having confused Trumpism for Christianity, held up signs saying “Jesus Saves” and “God Bless America” as they ravaged through our nation’s seat of government.
A less obvious–though equally devastating–problem with the conflation of religion and politics is that when the political system turns bad, you lose hope and despair. Outside of politics, you have no Plan B. Significantly, however, at this crucial point in American history, there are many non-political avenues for moving forward to advance Christian culture and fight back against the soft totalitarianism of the Left, including the Benedict Option, Christian education, faithful parenting, building up our institutions, strengthening Christian communities of worship–even cultivating personal virtue. Yet as Christians look only to politics for the answers, they end up neglecting these more fruitful avenues of action.
Since the 80’s, some American Christians have been tempted to react to the conflation of religion and politics by positing a total bifurcation between religion and politics, or to assume that politics can be a zone of religious neutrality. But that is a mistake. Religious neutrality is not a coherent concept for reasons that are explained here and here. More fundamentally, however, we must never forget that the Lordship of Christ has implications in our thought and practice for all areas of human life, including politics. The problem with Christians capitulating to the Trump personality cult is not that they have been applying Christ’s Lordship to how they think and practice politics, but precisely that they have not. If believers were applying the Lordship of Christ to politics, we would not be seeing the type of violent theocratic extremism I experience when I walk into Coeur d’Alene.
- The True Meaning of Conservatism
- The Non-Conservative Mind of Donald Trump
- The Republican Retreat to Identity Politics
- Trump’s Brave New World
- Trump and the Eclipse of Conservatism
- Conservatism in Historical Perspectives
- How to Discuss Politics Without Alienating Your Friends
- All Donald Trump Articles
Since writing the above, I have been receiving hate mail and abuse from Trump fans. Even conservative friends have joined in the feeding frenzy on social media, making a series of wild claims about me, including that I am pro-socialist, pro-abortion, anti-America. One person even claimed that I am a resident of Washington DC.
Before addressing any of this, I want to assure my readers that I am safe, living at an undisclosed location. Please do not worry.
I share about this recent backlash because it underscores the concern I tried to raise in this article. Every time I begin thinking that the stereotype of the frenzied Trump enthusiast might require more nuancing, I am reminded that, no, there really is reason we have the stereotype we do.
Of course, not everyone fits the stereotype. There are many good and intelligent Trump fans in America, and I have received some respectful letters from these along with the abusive ones. But the majority of my dissenters have been vitriolic and hateful. For example, one person wrote,
“Phillips is a bootlicker… a sycophant… His article is simply a way of licking the boot that is stamping him in the face… needs to change his name to Judas. Sorry. Truth hurts…. Did the Pharisees give you your silver yet?”
Others have written to question my spiritual life, telling me I need to pray more, that my article reveals that I am heading in an unhealthy spiritual direction, that I have set myself up as an expert, and so on. One person even wrote to my mother saying that her son was writing fake news. In confirmation of point #6 above, this judgmentalism is often being laced in smug piety, positioning me as opposed not only to President Trump, but also to God.
At the same time, I have received some very encouraging responses from people who were helped by my article. One reader wrote, “No doubt you will be vilified by friends, your motivations questions, and you will be dismissed out of hand as a traitor, which is why I am writing to affirm you. This is not a season where nuanced thinking is welcome, which is precisely why it must be presented.” I found that helpful, especially his comment that “This is not a season where nuanced thinking is welcome, which is precisely why it must be presented.” Another friend wrote, “just a quick encouragement on your writing. It’s excellent – some of the best stuff I read. Don’t let all the flack put you off. I really appreciate you continuing to put out balanced content in this crazy age!” Still others, observing the attack I’m under, have written to say they are praying for me. To these and all the other friends who have been supporting me through this time, thank you, thank you!
Back to those who have dissented from my article. It is pretty easy recognize legitimate concerns from readers who want to join with me in performing due diligence on questionable claims, vs. readers who just want to argue and attack. Because most of the responses have fallen into the latter category, I feel no obligation to answer them, or to defend my integrity as a Christian. That said, there are seven objections that I think it will be helpful to clear up.
First, there has been concern that I must be a closet liberal who subscribes to the whole package of pro-abortion, pro-socialism, pro-Biden, pro-BLM rioting, etc. This is the fallacy of “affirming the consequent” or “fallacy of the converse.” An example of this fallacy is the faulty argument, “If the lamp were broken, then the room would be dark; the room is dark, therefore the lamp must be broken.” Just because those who support Trump are anti-abortion, anti-socialism, etc., it does not follow that those who are anti-Trump, like me, are therefore pro-abortion, pro-socialism, etc. Come on guys!
Moreover, a cursory review the facts should immediately dispel the concern that I am a leftist. I have a history of conservative activism, including working for a conservative lobby group for almost a decade. My articles for Salvo Magazine are unapologetically pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, and anti-Biden. I hoped that President Trump to win re-election as the lesser of two evils (in that respect, I am a Trump supporter but not a Trump fan). But while most of my political articles are aimed against the Left, I have written a number of articles criticizing President Trump and his fans for not being more conservative. This latest article was one such, inspired by Trumpist violence in the news and in my home town. Now exactly how does that make me a liberal?
Second, there is the concern that in saying that the protestors “desecrated” the Capitol, I am implying that the Capitol is a sacred object. It’s hard to know how to reply to this non sequitur, since no argument was presented, but I’ll try my best.
One need not attribute sacral significant to objects like the Capitol, or the original Declaration of Independence, to affirm that these objects are worthy of respect and a certain qualified reverence. I spent 10 years in the UK, and over there we have this type of respect for the monarchy. The institutions and traditions that hold a society together will often be embodied in certain objects and ceremonies, which become very important on a symbolic level. The Capitol building was just such an object, and its desecration is symptomatic of a wider iconoclasm, from both the Right and the Left, against the institutions that hold together our national life.
Third, someone accused me of being against free speech, writing, “violent extremism? What you described was not violent. It was SPEECH. Something you say you fervently support. FREE speech.” Well, looking back over my article, this is what I described. If this isn’t considered violent, then there isn’t much more I can say:
“driving all the liberals and BLM people into the hills… chants of ‘Hang Mike Pence!’… telling the person where on his body he would place the bullet… violent threats against the President’s opponents… buying a gun and targeting specific individuals… just waiting for a reason to go into action and start killing liberals….close quarter fighting and left five people dead and multiple others injured…”
How such violence can be defended as a species of free speech is beyond me.
Fourth, someone challenged my description of the mob that stormed the capital as being “angry,” in addition to challenging my assumption that they were part of the MAGA movement. I’m willing to accept that there could have been Antifa plants in the mob. If someone has evidence for that, I will gladly evaluate it. But it seems futile to deny that there were Trump fans in the group, as many of the people arrested are known agitators for Trumpism. Those are the people I was talking about, and I linked to some of their stories since it is instructive to observe how they have been radicalized under the current administration. How do I know they were angry? I inferred that they were angry and frenzied from watching the various videos. The prevalence of the iPhone resulted in last week’s riot being a very well documented. Watch this video of a frenzied angry mob injuring a member of the Capitol police and then tell me they weren’t angry. Or see this video showing an officer being brutally beaten with an American flag. These people were out of control! Does that mean that everyone who took part in the event was angry and frenzied? Of course not. But quite a few of them were.
Fifth, some people have raised concern about my desire for the political Right and Left to find common ground. They are maintaining that this is impossible. I disagree. In my recent book Gratitude in Life’s Trenches, I talk about something called cognitive empathy, which is a skill that can be developed through which people with different belief systems can better understand each other. In chapter 5 I share some exercises for developing this skill. Education in rhetoric and logic can also help individuals learn to have constructive dialogue with their opponents. Now this is about as far away from Trumpism as you can get, and so it may seem like a pipe dream at this moment in time, but it really is possible for Republicans and Democrats to find common ground and understand each other. To read further about some of these techniques, I recommend the following resources:
- How to Listen With Attentive Understanding Even When You Disagree
- How to Think, by Alan Jacobs
- How to Discuss Politics Without Alienating Your Friends in Five Steps
Sixth, someone wrote, “are you not aware of the fact that the Democrat party and their associates in the media have no desire and make no effort to find common ground? How they talk about ‘reaching across the aisle’? Name one example of when that has ever happened?” Well, first of all, I never claimed that the breakdown of communication was only because of Donald Trump, and my credentials for criticizing the Left on the same grounds should be well known. Donald Trump’s zero-sum approach to discourse is simply a symptom of a far deeper malaise that has a complex network of antecedents.
Ultimately, this type of whataboutery makes about as much sense as if Boromir had objected to Frodo’s warnings about the ring on the grounds that Sauron had also used the ring. Ergo, the fact that the Left is just as bad, if not worse, doesn’t justify Trumpism.
Seventh, it was objected that while I write about right-wing violence, I was conspicuously silent about the BLM riots last summer. Here’s what one person slammed me with:
“Did you write about this with regard to the Leftist mobs that were burning down our neighborhoods last summer?
But for some reason, BLM violence isn’t worth writing about….where is what he wrote about the BLM riots this past summer?…
Well, I did write at length about the BLM violence. Here is a link to my longest article on the topic, and in it you can find links to all my other work about this:
Well, that’s all for now. If there are further objections that I haven’t addressed, I apologize.