Magazine | July 10, 2017, Issue

Shakespeare in the Dark

Did you hear about Brutus Interruptus? Some (knuckleheads/patriots) rushed the stage where a (predictable/treasonous) performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar was being put on in (New York City/Gomorrah). The NYC staging put the Roman leader in the garments of Donald Trump. You either rolled your eyes or cheered on the protest.

All performances of the assassination of Julius Caesar have had echoes of and implications for the leaders of the day, except for the first one, of course.

But of course the audience that showed up to see Caesar in the Park came to see Trumpus Maximus get the pincushion treatment.

That was the marvelous frisson, the fulfillment of the Facebook memes they had posted by hitting the Enter key with extra force, because #Resistance! What better way to signal your virtue than to frame your Caesar-Trump tickets and hang them in the bathroom so guests know that you’re part of the underground?

Not to say the pro-Trump protesters who interrupted the play were justified. The cast of Hamilton finished a show by asking Veep Pence not to put the gays in camps, which was stupid — I mean, this isn’t Cuba. The hardest, grimmest leftists believe that everything must be politicized. The softer elements prefer politics sprinkled everywhere like pollen dust or broken glass and don’t think there should be a cost for ruining art with incessant complaints. So now there’s a cost. We should feel bad?

Yes. No. But yes.

Sure, they started it. Progressives have made everything problematic. When a new idea or paradigm emerges, we must all rewire our moral and intellectual frameworks to approve, endorse, and celebrate the latest improvement in human society.

Allowances can be made, if the Left believes you are lying. It is permissible for Barack Obama to believe that transgendered interspecies polygamy isn’t the best arrangement for bringing up children, because the Left knows he’ll not only change his stance but be a reliably tendentious brow-beater for the cause:

“The arc of history bends slowly,” the former president said today from the balcony of his D.C. mansion. “But it does bend toward two yaks raising a child. I recall the old parable of the brick, which believed it was a round rock and wanted to roll with the other rocks. But it was held down by its contours, until it decided a rock is just a brick that knows it’s going places. And that brick, it rolled. Society is like that brick, sometimes. It just needs to believe.”

Everyone applauds and cries.

But let’s say you’re not one of the elect and you speak something that conforms to yesterday’s mainstream beliefs but not tomorrow’s. The Twitter mobs gather like rabid wasps and sting the accused until you have been fired and any Google search turns up “[Your name here] struggles to defend himself against charges of Yakophobia.”

That’s how they roll. The Right is less likely to destroy reputations and careers over political disagreements, having learned its lesson when Congress presided over the execution of the Dixie Chicks. (Lost them the midterms, it did.)

When leftists pay no professional price for holding up something that looks like the severed head of the president, they have an incentive to ramp it up: Those bourgeoisie ain’t gonna épater themselves, you know. Next up: Über-woke performance artists decide to draw and quarter an animatronic sex doll painted to look like the first lady. Everyone will coo with amusement: They did that in SoHo last month. Maybe you weren’t invited to the gallery.

So, the Right acts nice, hoping to shame into civility the people who walk around the Lincoln Memorial wearing vagina hats. How’s that working out?

Poorly! So turn their tactics on them, right? Interrupt their plays. De-platform their speakers. Conduct massive sponsor boycotts. Stinkbomb their movies. Glitterbomb their movie-star events. Code Pink the bejaysus out of everything they do, so that they know what it’s like to have a reasonable, civilized event disturbed by some maniac who has to be dragged out shrieking like a wolverine with its tail in a wood chipper.

They’d be uncomfortable, and isn’t that reward enough? Maybe then they’d dial it back since they know how it feels?

No. The Left already thinks the Right is a seething mass of insanity, what with the daily abortion-clinic bombings, white militia guys scalping Muslims, or just the people who call up talk radio and say things about the Constitution in a southern accent. The Right is always extreme — except for the sober types who appear on TV or write in magazines, and they’re just deep in delusional denial about the amount of hoot-at-the-moon feral bloodlust on their own side.

So, ramping it up won’t work. But even if Nasty Conservatives Who Nevertheless Persist annoy them, leftists won’t question what they do. Because they are right. They’re not only correct, they’re decent. If a few step over the line — interrupting a Captain America movie to protest the normalization of fascism! — it’s only because they feel the cause more intensely, and they are to be congratulated for their purity: Why, it is a lesson to us all.

In the end, you get two warring camps that are incapable of appreciating the value of a civil society and unable to see where the lack of a common culture will take us. You may say we’re there already, and perhaps for a while the loudest and shoutiest parts of our culture are enjoying the clarity of a Manichean world. But if we’re not past the tipping point yet . . . do you want to get out of this clown car we’re stuck in together and help push it off the cliff?

No, the answer isn’t “Depends who’s in it.” We’re all in it.

– Mr. Lileks blogs at

In This Issue



Books, Arts & Manners


Politics & Policy


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