The speech Trump gave January 6 that struck the match to the mob insurrection/riot that seized our nation’s capital was not the innocent address Trumpies insist it was—nor was it the yelling of fire in a crowded theater that his enemies maintain.
It was rather Marc Antony’s speech in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.” Without the clever, crafty or literate part. Those who have seen performances of that classic may recall Antony’s speech as its most thrilling moment. Rome’s dictator Caesar lies crumpled on the Senate steps, pierced by dozens of stab wounds. Antony, his lieutenant, has been allowed by Caesar’s assassins to make a funeral oration. He knows full well that they could order him killed if he criticizes them for murdering Caesar.
So he begins modestly, almost meekly with, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.” He never criticizes the assassins, referring to them repeatedly as “honorable” and repeats, “So are they all, honorable men.” So in that sense, it is not Trumpian, since the former president probably would have called Caesar’s killers silly names like Clownish Cassius, Sneaky Brutus and Ugly Cinna. And ended the speech with, “Lock them up!”
Never once during either Antony or Trump’s oration do they call on anyone to commit violence, but they stir up passions until the crowd acquires a feral mind of its own. By the end of Antony’s speech Brutus and fellow conspirators have fled for their lives while the mob rampages “tearing” anyone they think is suspect. Score one, Antony.
At the end of Trump’s speech, his supporters were streaming in their thousands to commit mayhem and end Trump’s ambitions forever. Coincidentally it also ended on the Senate floor. Score one, anarchy.
As Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate, said this week: “The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.” The lie, which Trump repeated countless times, was that the election was stolen. His die was cast and came up snake eyes.
Trump’s play and that of his crazy supporters like Rudy Giuliani and Sydney Powell was a crime, an attempt to subvert the republic. But that doesn’t mean that those who voted for Trump, who believed in him, or conservatives and libertarians who oppose Democrats and their agenda, should be treated like pariahs. Which is what the left media and the tech lords like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Rasputin lookalike Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter—not to mention Apple, Amazon and Google are attempting to do.
They are systematically trying to de-platform the right solely based on the capital violence, conveniently forgetting about the violence that THEY condoned all during the spring, summer and fall of our discontent in cities like Portland and Minneapolis. They want to deprive the right of any voice at all. Fox News? Get rid of it! Parler? Don’t allow it to operate.
Let’s be frank, they have wanted an excuse to do that all along.
The insurrection was the Reichstag fire they sought—to suppress our free speech liberties. The Reichstag fire of 1932 in Berlin, you’ll recall, wasn’t actually set by the Nazis. They just took advantage of it to crack down on everyone who opposed them.
Don’t believe me, believe one of the few honest media liberals, Bill Maher, who headed his HBO show “Real Time” monologue last week: “Let’s Not Confuse 5,000 People With 74 Million; You Can Hate Trump, But Not All His Supporters.”
In a recent column I put some blame for the rise of Trump on Democrats and liberals, and I’ll stick with that. Hillary Clinton called most of Trump’s supporters, “deplorables” for the crime of, well, opposing her and her ideas. To the left, opposition is “hate,” and they want to squash it for good. They see the general public revulsion against Trump and his stupid acolytes as an opportunity to lump all opposition together as dangerous speech. Their favorite metaphor is “You can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater,” as though expressing support for Trump is the equivalent.
As Maher put it, “Yes, even supporting the insurrection in spirit is, well, deplorable. But there’s a difference between holding illiberal beliefs and acting violently on them. At least that’s what they always told me about Islamic terrorism.”
In the 1949 Supreme Court case Terminiello v. City of Chicago, the Justices ruled that Chicago’s “breech of peace” ordinance banning speech that “stirs the public to anger, invites dispute, brings about a condition of unrest, or creates a disturbance” was unconstitutional under the First and 14th Amendments.
Justice William Douglas wrote for the court: “A function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute.” Speech “may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger.” Score one for the First Amendment.
Maher made one more salient point: we need to learn to tolerate each other without resorting to violence. Half of the country has one set of political beliefs, half holds the other. He said, “I keep wrestling on this show with the hard question of how do Americans, all of us, learn to share a country with a—s you can’t stand.”
Trumpy types—and Republicans and conservatives who don’t necessarily agree with them but don’t like progressivism— are going to have to learn to deal with lefties like AOC, Nancy Pelosi and the myriad tech lords who want to shove their values down their throats. Reasonable lefties are going to have to deal with the reality that in a liberal, democratic republic with a constitution that has a Bill of Rights you must allow people you disagree with to speak freely. Even Republicans.