Golly, mightn’t this play hob with the accusation that Donald Trump is the one inciting riots? Vox’s “deputy first person editor” Emmet Rensin took to Twitter last night to declare that, since Trump is a racist and a fascist (in Rensin’s opinion, at least), then all forms of violence short of murder have become completely legitimate. I wonder whether the mayor of San Jose might rethink his blame-throwing for yesterday’s violence from a leftist mob after this:
So …. who exactly is the fascist in this scenario? The Week’s Michael Dougherty seemed to wonder that himself, asking Rensin what exactly he saw as the limits of “legitimate” political violence. The answer? Murder’s out … but that’s about it:
So any violence short of murder is legitimate, as long as the political aim is pure enough, presumably. If you’re wondering what kind of violence isn’t legitimate, Jeryl Bier found this line in Rensin’s sand from last year:
— Jeryl Bier (@JerylBier) June 3, 2016
A “Stop Hillary” wifi password is literal violence, while destruction of property and shutting down free speech is just legitimate political action. Can’t wait for the Voxsplainer on that! Mediate’s Alex Griswold rounds up some of the reaction to Rensin’s rant, including a number of familiar reminders of Vox’s editorial integrity. No one’s mentioned the Gaza-West Bank Bridge yet, but I’m sure that will be literal violence too when it comes up.
By the by, Rensin’s asinine ideas about political violence don’t amount to literal incitement either, at least not in a legal sense. Incitement has to be specific to a time and place, and have a very clear and direct direction; Brandenburg restricts such legal action to “imminent lawless action.” Rensin’s statements are far too abstract for him to suffer any legal impact from his “advice.” His credibility, on the other hand, should suffer plenty of figurative violence, as should Vox’s.
The best remedy for bad speech is more speech, not fascist mob actions to silence people and intimidate others out of the public square. Calling for the latter demonstrates intellectual and moral impotence. It debases politics to a calculation of who has the biggest rocks and guns in order to impose the rule of mob force rather than reasoned self-governance … and that’s definitely a feature of fascism.
Update: The mayor is from San Jose, not San Diego. I fixed it in the first paragraph. Thanks to C. T. Rex for the correction. My apologies to San Diego …
Update: NY Magazine editor Jesse Singal asserts that the “literal violence” tweet was a joke:
— Jesse Singal (@jessesingal) June 3, 2016
It doesn’t read that way to me, especially since Rensin added, “It’s gaslighting.” However, Jesse’s take should be kept in mind.
Update: Vox editor in chief Ezra Klein announced that Rensin has been suspended for his cheerleading of political violence:
On Thursday night, Emmett Rensin, the deputy editor of Vox’s first person section, sent a series of tweets that, among other things, urged people to riot if Donald Trump comes to their town.
We at Vox do not take institutional positions on most questions, and we encourage our writers to debate and disagree. But direct encouragement of riots crosses a line between expressing a contrary opinion and directly encouraging dangerous, illegal activity. We welcome a variety of viewpoints, but we do not condone writing that could put others in danger.
In this case, Emmett’s tweets violated Vox’s standards and Emmett has been suspended as a consequence.
No comment thus far from Rensin himself. So far, he hasn’t deleted the tweets.