Tuesday author Bari Weiss contributed a piece to the NY Times opinion page which defended Ben Shapiro and also pointed out that many other people being routinely denounced as “Nazis” and “White Supremacists” by the far left are in fact neither of those things:
Ben Shapiro is a 33-year-old who supports small government, religious liberty and free-market economics and opposes identity politics, abortion and Donald Trump. He is, in other words, that wildly exotic creature: a political conservative…
This sharp-tongued Never Trumper was also, according to the Anti-Defamation League, by far the most bullied Jewish journalist of 2016 — quite a distinction when you think about the kind of vitriol that gushed forth this past year on platforms like Twitter. Those attacks came from the alt-right, which called Mr. Shapiro a “Christ killer” and far worse…
Let’s hope the protest against this “fascist” who has been the regular target of actual ones doesn’t result in any violence. But the brouhaha over Ben Shapiro is significant not because of what might go down Thursday at Berkeley, but because it is a perfect exhibition of a much broader phenomenon increasingly apparent in the wake of the Charlottesville, Va., demonstrations last month: the sloppy conflation between actual white supremacists and, well, run-of-the-mill conservatives, libertarians and classical liberals whose main beef is with some on the left who seem like they’d rather do without the First Amendment.
Weiss acknowledges that there were genuine neo-Nazis and white supremacists at a rally in Charlottesville. But organizers at a series of subsequent rallies in Boston, San Francisco, Berkeley and most recently in Vancouver were explicit that those groups were not wanted or invited. Weiss concludes by accusing the far left of engaging in “Reductio ad Hitlerum.”
Over at the Federalist, author John Daniel Davidson argues the goal of this reductive argument is to “redefine the boundaries” of acceptable discourse and place the right on the outside of those boundaries:
In the era of Trump, efforts to shut down free speech by force have come almost exclusively from the Left, and are part of a larger project to redefine the boundaries of political discourse in America. Anyone who espouses conservative views or support for the president (or even insufficient opposition to him) can now expect to be labeled a racist, fascist, or white supremacist…
It goes like this: if Trump is trying to undo Obama-era policies, then he is attacking progressive social values. If he’s attacking progressive social values, he’s basically advocating white supremacy. Therefore, supporting Trump means supporting white supremacy, and it’s okay to attack those white supremacists in Berkeley, or wherever they might gather.
This twisted logic is more widespread on the Left than most people realize.
I think he’s right that this view is more widespread than people realize. There are still a lot of traditional liberals who believe in free speech but their numbers seem to be shrinking and even those who remain aren’t speaking up. Why? Because they know the far left will come after them too.
That’s why when all hell broke loose at Evergreen State College only a small handful of students and professors came forward to criticize the extremists. Remember, students were berating left-wing professors on campus and demanding they justify where they were going at any given moment. At Reed College, the far left is shutting down lectures by gay, minority professors. For the far left, anyone they want to control quickly becomes a racist, sexist, etc. The traditional liberals need to do a better job of standing up to this bullying than they have been so far. It’s good to see at least one voice at the NY Times willing to do so.