Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Justifying Left-Wing Violence
In the wake of the violent riots spreading like wildfire throughout Great Britain, a not-all-too unfamiliar narrative is unfolding in the Orwellian world of left-wing punditry. It seems that some on the left are eager to partially excuse the violence by attributing it to economic disillusionment among the British youth. Disillusionment, the argument goes, brought about by Prime Minister David Cameron’s conservative policies aimed at reining in out-of-control spending and deficits.
This morning, CNN anchor Carol Costello quoted a British Blogger Laurie Penny, who explained the riots this way: "The people running Britain had absolutely no clue how desperate things have become...They thought that after thirty years of soaring inequality, in the middle of a recession, they could take away the last little things that gave people hope, the benefits, the jobs, the support structures, and nothing would happen."
There you have it. According to Ms. Penny, senseless rioting is the rational manifestation of government policies allegedly designed to destroy the social safety net. No context, such as the unsustainable extravagance of the British welfare state, is given.
Recognizing the similarities between Britain’s austerity measures and calls for fiscal responsibility by conservatives here in the US, Carol Costello asked her viewers whether these riots could spread to the US. After all, she writes on Facebook, “The American middle class and the poor also think their government has no clue. And they worry it is about to take away Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid at a time so many depend on them to survive. For many Americans what's happening in Britain is like looking into a mirror.”
What is most striking about this line of thinking is not that Ms. Costello oversimplifies the complex issue of entitlement reform or that she engages in class warfare. It is the implication that violent riots carried out by “the middle class and the poor” in the US would be a rational reaction to policies which she deems objectionable. In other words, we shouldn’t be surprised by rioting if conservatives get their way.
Imagine if a conservative pundit floated a similar sentiment during the heated debate over Obamacare? He would have no doubt been accused of justifying if not inciting violence.Of course, there was no violent reaction to the Democratic takeover of one sixth of the US economy. American conservatives organized peacefully and spoke loudly at the ballot box last November.
The idea that the violent rioters are anything other than thugs who have no regard for private property, little regard for human life, and a deep-seated disdain for law and order is a grave insult to the thousands of UK citizens whose livelihood is being destroyed and whose personal safety is constantly being threatened.
It's also telling that while peaceful tea-party rallies are slandered by the left as hubs for violence, actual left-wing violence is excused and explained as an acceptable reaction to "unjust" policies. The hypocrisy is stunning.
Laurie Penny yearns for the pre-Margaret Thatcher days of nationalization; a time when standards of living in the UK were much lower than they are today and private entrepreneurship was discouraged and squashed by an overbearing government. She laments the current efforts to restore fiscal sanity by falsely representing necessary austerity measures as an assault on people's livelihood. For her part, Carol Costello falsely claims that politicians want to take away people's Social Security and Medicare and implies that violent rioting would be understandable if entitlements are reduced.
Not everyone on the left is rushing to excuse the riots. But those who aren’t are mostly silent. The silence is deafening when you consider how hard the left strains to portray the tea party as a racist, extreme and potentially violent movement. Where no violence exists, the left bellows in indignation. When left-wing violence is front and center for all to see, conservative policies are blamed.