Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden answers questions from reporters during an appearance in Wilmington, Del., September 4, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)Black Lives Matter is not a reaction to Donald Trump.
NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE ‘T he devil made me do it!” That was how funnyman Flip Wilson explained away his rogue moves in 1970s comedy bits. In 2020, it is Joe Biden’s rationalization of the Black Lives Matter revolution, with Baal taking on a decidedly orange cast.
An unmistakable correlation between the radical Left’s extortionate violence and the sudden tightening of polls has stirred the Democrats’ senescent standard-bearer to bolt the basement. He’d hoped to wait another week or so before emerging to read short speeches about President Trump’s erratic handling of COVID-19 (the government’s missteps during the Obama-era swine flu pandemic having apparently slipped Biden’s mind). But he’s got a tiger by the tail in the radical Left, which is turning electoral battlegrounds into smoldering battlefields. So now he’s hustling into the hustings with a narrative about what’s motivating his fellow travelers — who have just added murder to the mayhem they’ve wrought on America’s streets for the past three months.
Here’s the punchline: Trump made them do it!
That was the upshot of the former vice president’s speech in Pittsburgh on Monday. “Are you safe in Trump’s America?” His argument lays at the incumbent president’s feet the upheaval instigated by Democratic supporters in Democrat-run cities. In a weekend warm-up as the flames continued to rise in Portland, Minneapolis, and Kenosha, Biden claimed it is Trump who is “fanning the flames of hate.” By Monday, Biden was roaring about how, on Trump’s watch, the murder rate is up 26 percent in the nation’s cities this year (a shift from Democratic messaging of five minutes ago, which said surging crime was nothing to be concerned about because crime is still historically low — thanks to policing policies Democrats oppose, because, you know, racism).
As Rich Lowry relates, this is the Left’s blame-shifting response to violence from within its own ranks, which it lacks the will to counter. It is Trump supporters, we are told, who are “recklessly encouraging violence.” You could set your watch by it (if we still set watches): The Democratic nominee offered up the cartoon version of Trump backers, calling out “right-wing militias, white supremacists and vigilantes” as the worrisome “extremists.” And you could set your watch by this, too: no mention by Biden of the Marxist iconoclasts, the menacing Black Lives Matter activists, and the insurrectionist Antifa arsonists who are actually and quite deliberately tearing the country apart.
Exactly how are the Trump deplorables to blame? How are they instigating the violence that Biden now “unequivocally” condemns (after remaining largely mum, while his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, was promoting a fund to bail out rioters)?
Why, by saying things that offend the Left’s hair-trigger sensibilities, that’s how.
If you are a conservative, a Republican, and/or a Trump supporter, you offend by backing candidates and policies the Left opposes. And don’t even think about doing it quietly because, it turns out, “silence is violence,” too — your very existence equates to offensive speech. There is only one way out for you: submission. You need to get with the program that capitalism is white supremacy, private property is colonialist exploitation, noticing the criminal records of criminals is racism, and supporting the arrest of those criminals when they forcibly resist is police brutality.
Wait a second, you’re thinking. Biden’s not with that program. He even says he’s no “radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters.” He’s a moderate, right?
Well, truth be told, he’s a hack. For half a century, he’s blown with the progressive gales, trying to stay on whatever seemed to be the popular side on a given day. In favor of using force in Iraq but against the Iraq war. For the “Russia Reset” after Moscow annexed parts of Georgia, but wannabe scourge of Russia after Moscow annexed parts of Ukraine. Back in 1994, he labored to brand tough Clinton crime legislation as the “Biden Bill”; now, with the Left decrying that law as the foundation of America’s racist “carceral state,” he’d prefer to forget the whole thing, and hopes you will, too.
We could go on . . . and on. But why bother? After all these decades, Biden, most of all, is the former vice president of the Obama administration. President Obama is the only reason he’s gotten this far. Pre-Obama, Biden’s presidential runs were a joke (written by somebody else); post-Obama, his patent weaknesses made even Obama-world lukewarm to his current bid to lead “Obama’s third term.”
The problem, of course, is that Obama got those two terms because of his charisma. His personal attractiveness was always leaps and bounds more popular than his progressive “Hope and Change!” agenda. His historical significance as the nation’s first black president tapped into the longing of Americans to transcend our racial divide — even as his manner of governance exacerbated tensions.
With Biden, you’d get none of that mystique. You’d get an Obama administration without Obama. You’d get the policy without the pizzazz.
And getting the policy means getting the Left’s radical revision of the First Amendment, codified in the Obama-Biden administration-backed U.N. Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18. In a nutshell, it is the “heckler’s veto” — though would that the Left’s shock troops contented themselves with heckling.
I tried to warn about this eight years ago (and I’m grateful to my friend Dave Reaboi for noticing this week on Twitter). Resolution 16/18 is a blatantly unconstitutional provision the Obama-Biden government pushed to support Islamist regimes. Ostensibly, it is about religious liberty. In reality, it is the Left’s template for speech suppression.
The trick is to turn the once simple concept of incitement on its head.
The resolution purports to render unlawful any speech about religion that “constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence.” Its transparent purpose is to insulate Islamic doctrine from critical examination, notwithstanding that fundamentalists unabashedly exploit scripture to justify and promote terrorism.
In the Soviet style, the Left sustains its program with a combination of fantasy, indoctrination, and suppression. American history, for example, becomes the 1619 Project — the republic as an enterprise to perpetuate slavery. The Big Lie is cemented by Pulitzer prizes, K–12 curricula, and reparations bills; it is protected by attaching the smear of racism to naysayers who dare show that the project is farcical.
In the same vein, progressives have created their own fantasy version of Islam. Its defining tenet — indeed, its only known tenet — is anti-violence. You are to see terrorism as innately un-Islamic activity. Any claim that scripture justifies violence — i.e., any reading of what belligerent scriptures unambiguously say — is angrily rebuked as a distortion of the “true” Islam. Jihad itself is transmogrified into an internal struggle to become a better person, not a doctrinal command to wage war for the purpose of establishing the dominion of sharia (Islam’s law and cultural norms).
This is fraud. Obviously, it is not necessary for Muslims to construe their scriptures as a command to holy war in modern times, and most do not. Literally, though, the doctrine says what it says. To a greater or lesser extent, then, a not insignificant percentage of Muslims accepts this sharia-supremacist interpretation of Islam, which is backed by centuries of fundamentalist scholarship. Common sense says this is why there is so much jihadist terrorism. It is why many Islamic societies still hew to a literalist interpretation of sharia standards, endorsing discrimination, repression, and cruel corporate punishments that seem barbaric by today’s sensibilities.
That is reality. To acknowledge it as such is not to call for violence against Muslims. It is to resist violence by understanding both why some Muslims are committing it and why reformist Muslims need our support in their courageous work. Dealing with reality head-on is what adults do. It is critical thinking. The objective is to solve difficult problems, not tell stories about them.
The Obama-Biden administration rejected this approach. Their substitute is a fantasy, peddled tirelessly and protected by shutting down all debate — indeed, by making their opposition’s position unutterable, not just by intimidation but by the force of law.
Our free-expression right should make this impossible. At issue here is political speech, the exchange of ideas in examining a threat, in order to develop sensible security policy. That’s the First Amendment’s core. There have always been exceptions to free speech, however, and they include incitement: speech intended to spur people to violence and other lawlessness.
For years, the Left has been trying to reinterpret incitement (and if you can reinterpret jihad and reproductive health, how hard can incitement be?). How? By erasing the intent part. On this construction, monstrous in a free society that depends on accurate information to govern itself, I incite you not just by exhorting you to carry out violence and crimes, but by saying things that offend you.
In fact, things are now sufficiently daft that real incitement is no longer incitement if it’s done for The Cause. Joe Biden did not mention BLM in his speech because, for all his chest-beating about not being soft on violent radicals, he must give BLM immunity because, the dogma holds, BLM is fighting against racial injustice, America’s original — and apparently indelible — sin. By contrast, if you’re a conservative, or even a traditional, patriotic American liberal, you commit incitement not just when you actively offend the Woke Left by speaking up, but when you passively decline to affirm its delusions.
This contortion of incitement is the foundation of the Obama-Biden advocacy of Resolution 16/18.
Consider the following observation: There is a causative nexus between the commands to violence in Islamic scripture, the mediating influence of sharia-supremacist scholars, and the bombings of Western targets carried out by young Muslim men. When I made that observation in a courtroom in the mid Nineties, I was enforcing the law by marshaling evidence. If I made the same observation today, though, then according to Resolution 16/18, I would be violating the law by inciting hostility. The facts I’d be uttering would be as true as ever, but now, rather than informing you, I’d be framed as engaging in hate speech.
That’s the Left’s theory: It’s my fault if you can’t cope with news you don’t like. It’s not on you to control yourself; it’s on me to factor in your instability before opening my mouth. That I’m playing with fire is the offense; that you are the fire is to be overlooked, because you’re on fire over all the right things.
Back when Biden was in power, a few brave souls called the administration on the notion that our Constitution would ever tolerate a government-certified version of “truth,” insulated from dissent. It was left to Ol’ Reliable, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (the Democrats’ last presidential nominee), to defend Resolution 16/18. Unable to vouch for its constitutionality, she vowed that, if the coercive use of law were not an option, the government would “use some old-fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming, so that people don’t feel that they have the support to do what we abhor.”
That’s where Biden and the Democrats are coming from. Are you surprised, then, to find BLM provocateurs screaming in the faces of pedestrians that they must accept the slander that the nation’s police forces are hunting down black men? To find BLM rabble-rousers menacing diners until they feebly raise a clenched fist in condemnation of our white supremacist society? To find BLM mobs shutting down roads, telling the frustrated motorists they mock that their best hope is to submit? How surprising is it to find BLM portraying police and Trump supporters as deserving of forcible attack? To find them simultaneously airbrushing the criminal histories of, and forcible resistance by, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, and Jacob Blake, as if police had no cause to arrest them — as if the effort to arrest them was motivated solely by their skin color?
The Obama-Biden approach to political opposition was: Try to make it illegal, use bureaucratic intimidation against it when no one’s looking, and if all else fails, resort to good old-fashioned peer pressure and shaming . . . whatever form that may take.
Black Lives Matter is not a reaction to Donald Trump. It is a subversive movement of loosely knit but lavishly funded chapters that exploded on the scene in the Obama years, amid the rioting over the killings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. Demagogues turned those horrific incidents into racial controversies, despite the lack of evidence that racial animus led to the fatal confrontations, and despite the abundant evidence that the decedents were culpable. The Obama-Biden strategy was to embrace BLM as an ally, exploiting BLM’s agitation in order to suppress opposition to shared political goals.
It still is.