The Corner

Politics & Policy

Portland and the Left’s False Narrative

The coverage of the Pro-Trump free speech rally in Portland yesterday tells you a lot about the Left’s cultural power and ability to set a narrative even when that narrative flies in the face of known facts.

The rally, which had long been scheduled, took place a week after tragic murders of two men (and serious injury of another) in Portland who were attempting to defend two young women (one of them Muslim) by Jeremy Christian, a man who voted for Bernie Sanders, and acknowledged he could not bring himself to vote for Trump. Christian’s horrific act was immediately seized on by Ted Wheeler, the Democratic Mayor of Portland, as cause for the federal government to cancel a permit for the Pro-Trump rally.

And short of some voices on the right, and a few honorable ones in the media, the narrative continued in this way, as if there was some sort of direct line between Christian’s murders and Trump supporters advocating for their political beliefs. As for the rally itself (which did take place as the Feds declined to cancel their permit), while local media did their best to bury the story, the left-wing Antifa and their allies again made up the bulk (if not all) of arrests, in many cases for hurling various projectiles at police. Before the rally, the ACLU, which has not exactly covered itself in glory as of late, earned credit for unreservedly sticking up for the free-speech rights of the Pro-Trump demonstrators — as did some notable members of the media, but it was remarkable how much of a free pass Portland’s mayor’s stand got from many, given that his call for the rally’s cancelation flew directly in the face of the obvious First Amendment rights of the Trump supporters and that his call was so obviously pretextual. Attendees at the actual event, rather than the rally of Mayor Wheeler’s imagination, reported it to be positive and patriotic, despite the comments by Mayor Wheeler, who wrote beforehand  that “there is never a place for bigotry or hatred in our community, and especially not now.” 

Meanwhile, as for Jeremy Christian, while the legal process needs to play out, from the evidence presented at this point it seems very likely that we are dealing with a seriously mentally ill individual rather than an organized member of some far-right violent conspiracy of the Left’s fevered imagination. Before, during, and after the event, Christian exhibited behavior far more consistent with mental illness or a psychotic break (in the words of a former psychiatric nurse who observed him at a previous event) than any other explanation. Friends of his also claimed to know that he was mentally unstable. My wife, an emergency physician who works the night shift in an urban emergency room, unfortunately, sees these sorts of people all of the time in her practice, people whose florid mental illness manifests itself as an obsession with extreme political or religious views. But that doesn’t mean that Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein (Christian’s alleged preferred politicians as of early 2017) were responsible for Christian’s violence any more than Trump was. Unfortunately, mental illness has its own tortured logic. 

However, because of the Left’s cultural power, we aren’t using Christian’s heinous act to talk about mental illness or the left-wing politicians whom Christian sometimes claimed to support. We’re using it to bash Trump and his supporters for acting lawfully and exercising their rights to free expression in a place where it is not popular (and therefore it is more important than ever to protect it).  

In his continued defense of his call for the Pro-Trump rally’s cancelation, Mayor Wheeler wrote: “As we move forward, we need to reckon with the fact that racist attitudes lead to racist words, and that racist words lead to violence. And we need to decide what we’re going to do about it.”

I’d respectfully suggest that we’d be far better off concentrating on what we are going to do about the Left’s obsession with shutting down conservative speech using any pretext it can find, and how they intend to square that desire with Americans’ First Amendment rights.

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