Every war is two wars, a war of ideas and a war for terrain. The war of ideas is won by argument and demonstrations of good will. The war for terrain is won by brute force.
Democracy is not supposed to be a war. It’s supposed to be all ideas all the time. You make your case. I make mine. Maybe we find compromises. The voters decide.
But for the past I-don’t-know-how-many years, one side, the left, has also been fighting a war for terrain. We on the right have been deploying our ideas, trusting in our institutions and assenting to the process. But they on the left have been using pure, brute force in an attempt to take over the intellectual terrain on which ideas are discussed.
Universities, the news media, entertainment outlets, social media — all have fallen to the pressure, blacklisting, and occasional violence of the Left. Rioters and hecklers keep conservatives off campus. The news and entertainment media blacklist conservatives, and small numbers of “boycotters” puff themselves up like adders and scare off conservative sponsors. People are fired — lose the means to support themselves and their families — for such crimes as believing that there are two genders or supporting Donald Trump.
This week, I gave a talk at Stanford on the Judeo-Christian underpinnings of Western Culture. Though no students objected, two members of the university’s administration sent out a newsletter portraying me as an anti-Muslim bigot. They said it was “unacceptable” I should speak on such a topic during the celebration of Ramadan. They managed — as they surely intended — to stir up some trouble, though not enough to bring the event to a halt.
Shame on them. For college administrators to try to convince college students that it is “unacceptable” for them to hear ideas they might disagree with is simply wicked. In my response from the podium, I explained that there are only two systems of speech: free speech and speech that is controlled by the powerful. If speech is going to be silenced on the grounds that it is hateful, you have to ask the question: who decides? The answer is always the same: the powerful — the government, the administration, big business, the mob. And it is never very long before “hateful” speech turns into “speech people in power disagree with.” That is why, for speech to be free, it must be free for everyone, even those we dislike.
Also this week, on my podcast, my friend, comedian Michael Loftus, described how his latest pitch for a TV show was turned down at several high level outlets after executives explained they couldn’t be seen to be friendly toward anyone on the right.
Also this week, my friend and frequent podcast guest Jenna Ellis Rives was blocked on Facebook for a witty pro-life post quoting Daily Wire’s own Matt Walsh. “Facebook’s ‘community standards’ simply mean they are in the business of censoring conservative thought,” Jenna told PJMedia.
Also, this week, a bright, personable young woman told me how she was suddenly fired from Apple, most likely because of her conservative Facebook posts. But then we already know Apple CEO Tim Cook believes the God-inspired conscience of a billionaire CEO is the best judge of which ideas should be given a platform and which banned.
Also this week, in my neck of the woods, a local paper started a campaign against a restaurant that hosted an event for the Log Cabin Republicans — a group of conservative gay people. “Members of the community have reached out to the WeHo Times with concerns that Fiesta Cantina… has been hosting mixers for a political group known for their open support of President Trump.” As if supporting the American president were something shameful that must be done in secret.
These are not honorable sallies in a war of ideas. These are acts of force meant to seize terrain.
This is what Donald Trump understands that too many conservative intellectuals miss. The belligerent and obstreperous Trump was called to the presidency by voters who know that, while the war of ideas can and should be waged politely by American friends, a war for terrain is a much uglier business.
Thus, also this week, the Trump Administration boldly refused to join the so-called Christchurch Call, a Global agreement by 18 nations to censor online speech. Also this week, the Trump Administration launched a website where you can file a complaint if you feel you’ve been censored on social media for your political opinions.
Good for Trump. For too long, the right has acted as if the violent seizure of the territory where speech takes place could be met with sweet reason.
But a war in which only one side is fighting can only end one way.