- The Washington Times - Friday, July 27, 2001

It has become a kind of ritual to describe left-wing demonstrators as "well-intentioned" even if possibly "misguided." The next line in the standard report is to contrast the majority of "peaceful, well-intentioned" demonstrators with the "small, violent minority." It was said about the demonstrators against the World Trade Organization in Seattle. It was said about the demonstrators against the European Union in Nice. It is being said about the demonstrators against the G-8 in Genoa.

It is a strange ritual. As if all people were not well-intentioned. As if it were just an accident that the "peaceful, well-intentioned" demonstrators are using pretty much the same language as the "violent minority," both in its political content and in its hate content.

Some cultural critics have spoken of the "cultural hegemony of the left" in explaining this kind of reporting. Others say the reports are just trying not to be unfair to the peaceful majority. Be that as it may, there is certainly a propensity for careless attribution of the moral high ground or "good intentions" to the left. One would not hear reporters speaking of the "good intentions" of Serbian nationalist demonstrators. Or emphasizing the distinction between the "peaceful, well-intentioned majority of demonstrators" and the "small, violent minority" when it comes to a right-to-life protest outside an abortion clinic. Or explaining how the "peaceful demonstrators" oppose the violence and "have something to say" that the violent minority shouldn't be allowed to drown out.

In real life, the distinction between the two halves of the protest event is somewhat artificial. It is the hate speech of the mainstream of demonstrators, buttressed by the hate speech of a wider cultural support milieu, that creates the climate within which violence flourishes the violence of Seattle, Nice, Gothenberg, Genoa. The violence has become a ritual. It keeps happening, and it seems to be getting worse. Why? The reason is easy to see: it pays. The "small, violent minority" knows by now that it has a large support milieu a subculture throughout the West that includes a substantial part of what is sometimes called the "talking class" that will justify its actions ideologically even while condemning them formally.

That comes closer to moral support than to genuine condemnation, and it provides in any case a sense of political success. A system of sound amplification like this one is simply too tempting to be stayed away from. It guarantees repeat performances.

Regarding what is called "hate speech," my use of it may surprise some people who are accustomed to its being used solely by the left when referring to the speech of the right. However, there has been more than an ample supply of hate speech in the demonstrations. Their language has been one replete with labeling, vilification and demonization. Usually this passes unremarked.

There seems to be an assumption that hatred of "the rich" and "the powerful" and "the corporations" and "global capitalism" and "the white man" is not to be classified as "hate speech" because there is some reason for it, or because it is the powerful not the weak who do the real harm. Hate speech leads to hate crimes; this is something we have learned to say but perhaps not yet learned to understand honestly. It is as true on the left as on the right. The mass-murders and tortures committed by the communists are well enough known. The smaller-scale crimes that accompany the hate demonstrations nowadays are also well enough known. The only thing that doesn't seem to be known is the connection of the deeds to the words.

In the subculture of hate, to which the "well-intentioned, peaceful demonstrators" belong as well as the "violent minority," ordinary words are turned into code words. When phrases are used such as "the corporations" or "globalization" or "corporate America," it is as terms of vilification and pointing to the enemy, not as normal terms of discourse. It is reminiscent of usages like "the capitalists" and "the imperialists" by the Old Left, "the establishment" and "Amerika" in the New Left. Violence is duly committed against the objects of hate: the "corporations" and the "capitalists" (businesses, banks), the "pigs" (police), the "imperialists" and the "establishment." Fortunately, the heads of state have thus far been out of reach.

It is the collusion of a substantial segment of liberalism in the left's culture of hate that is the root of the problem. The language of hate has become mainstream; many of the currently fashionable hate categories are used routinely in the media, to an extent that their hate content has come to pass unnoticed. Hate speech is leading to hate crimes, in Genoa as in Nice as in Seattle. Mainstream participation in the culture of hate is what makes it happen.

Ira Straus is U.S. Coordinator of the Committee on Eastern Europe and Russia in NATO.

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