CBS show: Yes, some political speech should be met with violence

Via Rod Dreher, who titles his post about this “CBS: The Antifa Network” in honor of another organization that purports to somehow defeat fascism by mainstreaming violence against one’s political enemies.

This clip comes from “The Good Fight,” which airs on CBS’s online platform, All Access. I don’t watch the show and haven’t watched this episode so I’m hesitant to say that the character’s point of view represents the writers’ and producers’ point of view. Flawed characters are a part of drama, after all. But recaps of the episode don’t note any sort of rebuke to this opinion later in the hour. EW’s writer found himself wondering, in fact, whether the show supports the character’s perspective. The speech is delivered directly to the camera intercut with news footage of neo-Nazi Richard Spencer getting punched, lifting it momentarily out of the drama and seemingly presenting it as an earnest appeal to the viewer. Dreher notes that the show’s own Twitter account posted the clip a few days ago with the caption “This is important” before online blowback convinced them to delete it.

If the showrunners aren’t firmly pro-violence, it seems likely they’re at least violence-curious, shall we say. With lefties and righties pointing fingers at each other over incitement amid the Ilhan Omar/Dan Crenshaw spat, here’s a strong dose of the real deal:

I assume that’s the same clip the show’s account posted in its own now-deleted tweet. If so, they’re using this monologue as an ad for the program.

They may have felt comfortable doing that because the episode apparently made a point of treating Democrats and Republicans as allies against fascists, possibly expecting that that would shield the writers and producers from partisan criticism. From EW:

As Lucca and Jay wait for Polly’s doxing to do its work, they watch Naomi interview the Red Jackets’ leader, who is pretty open about his racism. After the interview ends, Jay runs into him in the bathroom and actually ends up punching him. One of the Republican lawyers is in one of the stalls when this happens, but he covers for Jay and pretends like it didn’t happen. This camaraderie rears its head again outside of the school where one of the Red Jackets flips out over being fired from his job because of Polly’s doxing. Lucca admits she doxed him and the other Republican lawyer stands up with her, as do many others. And that ends up leading to an all-out street fight between the Nazis and everyone else. The Good Fight is a fairly cynical show, but it’s rather optimistic of it to show Democrats and Republicans uniting to beat up Nazis.

That’s super but condoning violence to silence only the most offensive speech is dancing on the slipperiest part of the proverbial slope. The character doesn’t even try to present Nazism as some singular evil or sole exception to the free-speech ethic that Americans normally follow; the writers could have suggested some tit-for-tat reasoning in which it’s okay to be violent with people who themselves condone violence. Instead the character speaks broadly: “I realized there’s no better way to show some speech is not equal. Some speech requires a more visceral response.” Which speech? Spencer’s, right, but who else’s? Even if it was “only” Spencer whom they wanted targeted, Dreher marvels at the sight of a network television show using images of a real person to illustrate its message that violence in some cases is okay. They weren’t content to aim this at the Spencer-like fictional character they created for this episode. They’re basically telling viewers that if they run across the real Richard Spencer they should take a swing.

I think it all comes down to Spencer’s notoriety for the showrunners. He’s such an infamous figure that Dreher felt obliged to note his loathsomeness no fewer than three times in his own post about this, just to make sure no one accuses him of Nazi sympathies for criticizing CBS in this matter. The writers and producers probably banked on that — “surely no one except white nationalists will dare object to us placing a sort of bounty on a neo-Nazi’s head.” Well, them and everyone who thinks mainstreaming violent intimidation of people with bad opinions will lead to ruin.

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