Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.
If you want to know who has privilege in a society and who doesn’t, follow the anger.
There are people in this country who can safely express their anger. And those who can’t. If you’re angry that Trump won, your anger is socially acceptable. If you were angry that Obama won, it wasn’t.
James Hodgkinson’s rage was socially acceptable. It continued to be socially acceptable until he crossed the line into murder. And he’s not alone. There’s Micah Xavier Johnson, the Black Lives Matter cop-killer in Dallas, and Gavin Long, the Black Lives Matter cop-killer in Baton Rouge. If you’re black and angry about the police, your anger is celebrated. If you’re white and angry about the Terror travel ban, the Paris Climate treaty, ObamaCare repeal or any leftist cause, you’re on the side of the angry angels.
But if you’re white and angry that your job is going to China or that you just missed being killed in a Muslim suicide bombing, your anger is unacceptable.
If you’re an angry leftist, your party leader, Tom Perez will scream and curse into a microphone, and your aspiring presidential candidate, Kirsten Gillibrand, will curse along, to channel the anger of the base. But if you’re an angry conservative, then Trump channeling your anger is “dangerous” because you aren’t allowed to be angry.
Not all anger is created equal. Some anger is privileged rage.
Good anger gets you a gig as a CNN commentator. Bad anger gets you hounded out of your job. Good anger isn’t described as anger at all. Instead it’s linguistically whitewashed as “passionate” or “courageous”. Bad anger however is “worrying” or “dangerous”. Angry left-wing protesters “call out”, angry right-wing protesters “threaten”. Good anger is left-wing. Bad anger is right-wing.
Socially acceptable displays of anger, from Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter riots to the anti-Trump marches to the furious campus protests, are invariably left-wing.
Left-wing anger over the elections of Bush and Trump was sanctified. Right-wing outrage over Obama’s victory was demonized. Now that left-wing anger led a Bernie Sanders volunteer to open fire at a Republican charity baseball practice outing. And the media reluctantly concedes that maybe both sides should moderate their rhetoric. Before listing examples that lean to the right like “Lock her up”.
Why were chants of “Lock her up” immoderate, but not Bush era cries of “Jail to the chief”? Why were Tea Party rallies “ominous” but the latest We Hate Trump march is “courageous”? Why is killing Trump on stage the hottest thing to hit Shakespeare while a rodeo clown who wore an Obama mask was hounded by everyone from the Lieutenant Governor of Missouri to the NAACP?
Not all anger is created equal. Anger, like everything else, is ideologically coded. Left-wing anger is good because its ideological foundations are good. Right-wing anger is bad because its ideology is bad.
It’s not the level of anger, its intensity or its threatening nature that makes it good or bad.
And that is why the left so easily slips into violence. All its ideological ends are good. Therefore its means, from mass starvation to gulags to riots and tyranny, must be good. If I slash your tires because of your Obama bumper sticker”, I’m a monster. But if you key my car because of my Trump bumper sticker, you’re fighting racism and fascism. Your tactics might be in error, but your viewpoint isn’t.
There are no universal standards of behavior. Civility, like everything else, is ideologically limited.
Intersectionality frowns on expecting civil behavior from “oppressed” protesters. Asking that shrieking campus crybully not to scream threats in your face is “tone policing”. An African-American millionaire’s child at Yale is fighting for her “existence”, unlike the Pennsylvania coal miner, the Baltimore police officer and the Christian florist whose existences really are threatened.
Tone policing is how the anger of privileged leftists is protected while the frustration of their victims is suppressed. The existence of tone policing as a specific term to protect displays of left-wing anger shows the collapse of civility into anger privilege. Civility has been replaced by a political entitlement to anger.
The left prides itself on an unearned moral superiority (“When they go low, we go high”) reinforced by its own echo chamber even as it has become incapable of controlling its angry outbursts. The national tantrum after Trump’s victory has all but shut down the government, turned every media outlet into a non-stop feed of conspiracy theories and set off protests that quickly escalated into street violence.
But Trump Derangement Syndrome is a symptom of a problem with the left that existed before he was born. The left is an angry movement. It is animated by an outraged self-righteousness whose moral superiority doubles as dehumanization. And its machinery of culture glamorizes its anger. The media dresses up the seething rage so that the left never has to look at its inner Hodgkinson in the mirror.
The left is as angry as ever. Campus riots and assassinations of Republican politicians are nothing new. What is changing is that its opponents are beginning to match its anger. The left still clings to the same anger it had when it was a theoretical movement with plans, but little impact on the country. The outrage at the left is no longer ideological. There are millions of people whose health care was destroyed by ObamaCare, whose First Amendment rights were taken away, whose land was seized, whose children were turned against them and whose livelihoods were destroyed.
The angry left has gained a great deal of power. It has used that power to wreck lives. It is feverishly plotting to deprive nearly 63 million Americans of their vote by using its entrenched power in the government, the media and the non-profit sector. And it is too blinded by its own anger over the results of the election to realize the anger over its wholesale abuses of power and privileged tantrums.
But monopolies on anger only work in totalitarian states. In a free society, both sides are expected to control their anger and find terms on which to debate and settle issues. The left rejects civility and refuses to control its anger. The only settlement it will accept is absolute power. If an election doesn’t go its way, it will overturn the results. If someone offends it, he must be punished. Or there will be anger.
The angry left demands that everyone recognize the absolute righteousness of its anger as the basis for its power. This anger privilege, like tone policing, is often cast in terms of oppressed groups. But its anger isn’t in defiance of oppression, but in pursuit of oppression.
Anger privilege is used to silence opposition, to enforce illegal policies and to seize power. But the left’s monopolies on anger are cultural, not political. The entertainment industry and the media can enforce anger privilege norms through public shaming, but their smears can’t stop the consequences of the collapse of civility in public life. There are no monopolies on emotion.
When anger becomes the basis for political power, then it won’t stop with Howard Dean or Bernie Sanders. That’s what the left found out in the last election. Its phony pearl clutching was a reaction to the consequences of its destruction of civility. Its reaction to that show of anger by conservatives and independents was to escalate the conflict. Instead of being the opposition, the left became the “resistance”. Trump was simultaneously Hitler and a traitor. Republicans were evil beasts.
James Hodgkinson absorbed all this. The left fed his anger. And eventually he snapped.
Anger has to go somewhere.
The left likes to think that its anger is good anger because it’s angry over the plight of illegal aliens, Muslim terrorists, transgender bathrooms, the lack of abortion in South Carolina, the minimum wage at Taco Bell, budget cuts, tax cuts, police arrests, drone strikes and all the other ways in which reality differs from its utopia. But all that anger isn’t the road to a better world, but to hate and violence.
Millions of leftists, just like Hodgkinson, are told every day that Republicans are responsible for everything wrong with their lives, the country and the planet. Despite everything they do, all the petitions they sign, the marches they attend, the donations, the angry letters, the social media rants, Republicans continue to exist and even be elected to public office. Where does that anger go?
Either we have a political system based on existing laws and norms of civility. Or we have one based on coups and populist leftist anger. And there are already a whole bunch of those south of the border.
Leftist anger is a privileged bubble of entitlement that bursts every other election. Its choice is to try to understand the rest of the country or to intimidate, censor, oppress and eventually kill them.
James Hodgkinson took the latter course. His personal leftist revolution ended, as all leftist revolutions do, in blood and violence. The left can check its anger privilege and examine its entitlement.
Or his violence will be our future.