It’s often tempting to dismiss events on the political fringe with a light laugh. Some of us occasionally responded thus when the latest news arrived about race, class, and gender studies on college campuses. But derisive levity was a mistake, not least because the expectation that students would bump hard into sobering reality when they left college and entered the world of work proved unfounded.
The joke was on us. Radicals graduated from academia and instead of getting a short, sharp shock that fitted them for the world as it existed, they brought their crackpot theories with them and changed the world. They open-carried intersectionality into their jobs and destroyed many individual careers and workplaces in general.
We’re living with the consequences, and they’re only just getting started. There is much worse to come.
There is a lesson here about the allied problem of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, or CHAZ, so named by extreme left-wing activists who have taken control of a few blocks of central Seattle. Only someone with a heart of stone could fail to laugh at the occupiers’ inconsistency, for they define themselves partly by antagonism toward the police, yet phone 911 to get first responders to come and put out a fire. They also, risibly, posted a list of needed supplies, conjuring a mental image of their mothers dropping off the bourgeois Bolsheviks’ groceries in soccer-mom SUVs. Did they take home their laundry for them? They could certainly use it.
But, while it’s easy to mock middle-class brats playing revolutionaries, it’s advisable instead to admit that they are not playing. This isn’t a game, and it’s better not to underestimate the danger they pose. The occupiers patrol with guns and baseball bats and reportedly have sought revenues from businesses within their perimeter. They created a police no-go area without being given democratic authority by voters to do so. If there is a cardinal feature of democracy, it is voter consent to be governed.
Yet Jenny Durkan, the flaky mayor of Seattle, who was elected within the democratic system, described CHAZ militants who arrogate power outside that system as “patriotic.” She said their takeover was an exercise of their First Amendment rights. But doesn’t that guarantee free speech, not the exercise of police-free power?
A video clip circulated recently which displayed the true colors of the Seattle Jacobins. In it, a speaker with a loud hailer pumps up the crowd, shouting, “It is not CHAZ, it is CHOP. Has anybody here ever heard of the French Revolution before? That is another revolution. Because people started putting property over lives. They started putting money over people. Does anybody here know what happened to people who did not get on board with the French Revolution?”
The crowd responds: “Chop,” slicing their hands downward in imitation of a guillotine blade.
Leader: “Say it louder.”
Leader: “Say it louder.”
People who invoke the guillotine for opponents have no interest in the Constitution except as a liberal democratic tool to be used to destroy liberal democracy. Look at the indiscriminate vandalism with which their cause is articulated. If your aim is an egalitarian leveling up of black people to parity with whites, as the initial protests over the death of George Floyd suggested, you don’t smash black neighborhoods and loot black businesses. If your wrath is directed against the founders of, and fighters for, antebellum slavery, you might tear down statues of Confederate generals, but you don’t destroy statues honoring abolitionists, or deface an august stone and iron memorial to the first black regiment, the courageous 54th, to fight for the Union. Such acts, as the crowd in the viral video acknowledge or boast, are those of sans-culottes. Destruction is not their method but their aim.
Another target of the vandals, as we point out in an editorial, has been the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution. It was daubed with graffito declaring that the unknown soldier “committed genocide.” This is pretty much explicitly an attack on the American founding, on the country from its outset. Those now challenging legitimate authority in many places around the nation, not just in Seattle, do not believe that the United States is a legitimate country. They have been taught, and so believe, that its origin is an indelible sin.
No matter the fine ideals contained in its founding document, no matter the hundreds of millions it has freed from tyranny, no matter that this is the country that people all over the world most want to live in — our homegrown revolutionaries cannot forgive the nation that gave them everything.
Really, it’s not funny.
Hugo Gurdon is the editor in chief of the Washington Examiner.