A couple of right-wing protesters interrupted a New York production of Julius Caesar in which Caesar is modeled after Donald Trump. From the Guardian:
The protester, who later identified herself as Laura Loomer, interrupted the Shakespeare in the Park production on Friday night and shouted “this is political violence against the right” while audience members booed and told her to get off the stage.
The incident was filmed by Jack Posobiec, a rightwing provocateur best known for helping to spread the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. He stood up as Loomer was escorted off stage by security guards and yelled at the crowd: “You are all Goebbels. You are all Nazis like Joseph Goebbels … You are inciting terrorists. The blood of Steve Scalise is on your hands.”
Let me just make clear up front that I love Shakespeare. I’ve seen most of the plays performed, some more than once. Earlier this year I saw a rather unusual take on Romeo and Juliet at the Globe Theater in London. Back when I lived near Washington, D.C. I was a season ticket holder at the Shakespeare Theater. The Shakespeare Theater also does (or did) free Shakespeare in the park and I attended those shows several years in a row. All that to say, if someone had interrupted a performance I was watching to scream about politics, I would have been happy to see them dragged off the stage.
But here’s the point I really want to make about this incident: Everything the conservative protesters did comes directly from the progressive protest playbook. Let me give you an example. Back in 2015, Bernie Sanders held a rally in Seattle. It’s a progressive city and there was a big turnout. Before Sanders could get going, a couple of Black Lives Matter protesters got on stage and demanded Sanders give up the microphone. BLM protester: “If you do not listen to her, your event will be shut down.”
Sanders spoke one sentence and immediately a couple of Black Lives Matter protesters pushed their way on stage, stood in front of the podium, and demanded Sanders give up the microphone. Sanders can be heard saying “after” but that wasn’t good enough. Another organizer stepped in to talk with the protesters but one of the two women replied, “If you do not listen to her, your event will be shut down.”
Seeing a no win situation, Sanders stepped away to let the event organizer talk to the two protesters. The mic is cut off for a moment and when it comes back the organizer is saying, “We are trying to be reasonable.” In response, one of the women protesters is putting her forearm in his neck and shouting at him, “We aren’t reasonable! We aren’t respectable!” As the organizer says “After Senator Sanders,” the woman screams, “Stop talking! Stop talking!”
Eventually, the organizers give up the mic and the designated BLM speaker immediately calls the progressive Bernie crowd racist. “You’re never going to hear Bernie speak unless I hear it silent here now,” the woman says. After five more minutes of emoting about her cause, she demands the crowd be silent for 4 1/2 minutes to pay respect to Mike Brown. But this still isn’t enough. Next, the BLM protester attacks Sanders at his own rally and demands an apology from him. The protesters never do relinquish the mic (which should tell you what appeasement gets you) and after 25 minutes Sanders waves to the crowd and leaves the stage. Here’s video of the entire event:
Obviously, this is just one example, but this same tactic is one we’ve seen many, many times in the past couple years.
- When Black Lives Matter protesters shut down a homecoming parade at Mizzou.
- When BLM protesters blocked a freeway in California, or Minnesota, or Massachusetts.
- When protesters at Claremont McKenna wanted to shut down a speech by Heather Mac Donald. Students there were literally chanting “Shut it down!”
- When protesters shut down a speech by an ICE public relations person at Northwestern Universtiy.
- When protesters at Middlebury College attempted to stop a speech and put a professor in a neck brace.
- When protesters rioted and shut down a speech by Milo Yiannopoulis at Berkeley.
- When protesters interrupted a class at Evergreen College to demand a professor resign.
- There was even a progressive group whose stated goal was to shut down the inauguration of President Trump.
In every case, the reasoning by the protesters is some combination of two things. First, they have a political message that is more important than what anyone else is saying or doing. That’s how they justify the interruption of a massive rally or a parade or simply blocking a freeway. Second, the protesters claim that whatever they are shutting down is a threat. In the case of the highway blockades, those are attempts to demand attention be paid to a perceived threat (from law enforcement toward black lives).
If you look more closely, you’ll find that the threat is often the expression of an alternative viewpoint (on crime stats or free speech or immigration). In other words, the threat is speech. By calling speech a threat, progressives justify attempts to silence speech by others.
So, looking back at the interruption of Julius Caesar by right-wing protesters, I hope you can see that a) it could have been much worse and b) it fits a well-established left-wing protest tactic. In this case, the protesters are trying to shut down speech they have deemed to be a threat, i.e. to the President’s safety. The existence of that threat justifies trying to shut down the play. The only thing that’s unusual about this is that the attempt to “shut it down” came from the right.
I don’t support interrupting performances of Shakespeare. I also don’t think the play is a threat except in the nebulous “climate of hate” sense which the left trots out whenever they find it helpful to blame the right. However, maybe this protest will do some good if it causes people on the left to realize where this is headed. This is your politics, progressives. Can you see now how this is a bad idea? If so then, start by addressing the problem at the source: Your own backyard.