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Herb London: The Virus Of Violence

A virus of devastating proportions has been let loose on the world stage. This one is far more dangerous than Ebola and much more difficult to contain. It is the use of violence as a political tactic.

The anarchists, the professional agitators, the Muslim radicals, the “lone wolves” have reached the conclusion that violence works. It achieves attention; it forces the hand of authority; it challenges the rule of law.

When people die in the wake of hostage taking in Sydney, or two New York police officers are assassinated on the streets of Brooklyn, or children are killed in Pakistan, or people are decapitated by ISIL leaders or property is destroyed by soi disant defenders of justice, the stabilizers of order are put on notice. Clearly these actions aren’t the same, and there is the temptation at conflation, but from the point of view of those challenging “the system,” either the prevailing religious sentiment or Constitutional principles, violence is a mechanism that inhibits action or intimidates a foe.

By any reasonable historic standard, the virus of the 21st century is nowhere as deadly as the violence in the 20th century. Yet there is a difference. The present virus is random. It can break-out anywhere, any time. The present virus has legs because of instant communication and social media. Most significantly, the “sensitivity trainers” have made it difficult, if not impossible, to restrain violence with counter-violence. As a consequence, the offense dominates the field of play.

In what can only be described as a mind numbing statement the President of Antioch College, James Dixon, indicates that violence has to be considered against a background of “class differences in morality”, he said, “White middle-class America is pretty cool to the use of either personal violence or mass violence as a means of solving human problems. Usually, they look for a method of accommodating or mediating differences short of personal violence. This is not the acceptable mode of moral behavior, for say, a black kid from an inner-city ghetto. At some point he confirms his morality by beating the hell out of somebody. That for him is a positive confirmation. That makes him feel a man. What in a sense is moral in terms of being consistent with the ethic of the culture for one group is not moral for another. And you’ve got a real problem under these circumstances in trying to define what’s crime.”

Should enhanced intelligence techniques be employed to avoid violence, the intelligence agents face charges of human rights abuse. Should a police officer fire his weapon to protect himself, he is guilty of killing an “innocent boy.” If we bomb ISIL headquarters to protect the besieged Yazidis or the Christian minorities from slaughter, we are the neo Crusaders. Violence initiated as a tactic has the offense covered.

When terrorists are apprehended and sent to Guantanamo, it is the American government holding them “hostage” that is labelled the “human rights” abuser. In fact, organizations exist to challenge efforts by the government to protect the citizenry from violence using civil rights arguments or selective historical antecedents.

Surely, it is not appropriate to throw out the baby with the bath water, sacrificing civil liberties for security, but we have moved so far in one direction that insecurity prevails at home and abroad. The president is reluctant to use force to protect U.S. citizens oversees and he is reticent to employ the National Guard to stem looting and mayhem at home.

Anarchism is the result with this virus metastasizing in every corner of the culture. Popular music embraces violence. Film glorify terror. Mary and John Q. Public keep their heads down hoping that they won’t be affected. But there isn’t immunity. Fear is the result of an era when the virus is rampant. There is scarcely a sensible American viewing his television screen who doesn’t ask, “What have we come to?”

Will there be a public outcry? It is so hard to predict when the public has been cowed into acquiescence. How many more murders abroad must we endure and how much destruction of property before the Silent Majority is vocal?

The activists have spoken. They control the media narrative, but building in the crevices of public opinion is another voice calling out for the defense of law and order, words that seem quaint in the present atmosphere. Will these people be heard? Do they want to be heard? This may be the most potent question of the 21st century.

Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries at www.londoncenter.org

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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