The Corner

Liberals Condemn Bad Rhetoric, Conservatives Encourage It

Bill Voegeli writes:

Newsweek’s Ellis Cose not only accuses Tea Party movement conservatives of venomous rhetoric, but says the conservative establishment is complicit in their excesses.  By contrast, he says, when the wild rhetoric 40 years ago came from groups like Students for a Democratic Society and the Black Panthers, “respectable liberals denounced the radical fringe. Now the Republican establishment quietly acquiesces. And the right-wing media egg it on.”

I’m eager to learn more about those respectable liberals and their denunciations of the radical fringe. I graduated from high school in 1972, and was nerdy enough to read a lot of political journalism in those days, but young enough to have been capable of misunderstanding much of it.  So maybe it’s just me.  But the thing is, I don’t recall any clear examples of respectable liberals in politics, journalism or academia standing up to the various left-wing extremists of that era and saying, forcefully and unequivocally, “What you people are doing and saying is ugly, and stupid, and wrong.  You should be ashamed of yourselves.”

Bill continues the post and you should read the whole thing. He demonstrates pretty effectively that Cose doesn’t know what he’s talking about. However, I do think there were some liberals who condemned actual violence in the 1960s (rhetoric? Much less so), though often with lots of throat clearing. Glad to discuss that more.

But I think Voegeli overshoots the target. What about just the last decade? In fairness, right after 9/11 a lot of liberals did condemn the stupidity to their left. But as time went on and the Iraq war grew less popular and the hard left grew more powerful, most of those liberals not only failed to condemn the rhetoric to their left, they coddled it. There were exceptions, but I’m pretty sure Ellis Cose wasn’t one of them

Oh, and one last point: The radical left during the Vietnam War era was vastly more violent, both literally and rhetorically, than pretty much anything we’ve seen over the last year.

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Jack Phillips has a right to free speech, which includes freedom from compelled speech.