Sunday, January 04, 2009
Posted by Daniel Greenfield 18 Comments
Grievance based violence is random and senselessly vicious. It most often targets civilians for brutal reprisals, and yet it remains beloved by liberals... because its participants are said to be moved by their outrage at oppression.
If you've seen an angry mob torching cars or businesses, and assaulting anyone in sight while looting stores-- you've seen the most common example of "grievance based violence". This is the sort of violence that characterizes anything from the mobs of the French revolution to mobs across the Muslim world reacting to the Danish cartoons, to the Crown Heights pogrom or the original Russian pogroms or the mobs in South Africa to the Draft Riots of the Civil War.
The second most common example of "grievance based violence" is of course terrorism, which despite being more organized, is grievance based, randomly targeted and senselessly brutal-- while being justified by a sense of grievance and outrage.
Where self-defense is targeted and moral, "grievance based violence" is random in the sense that it lashes out at a general group, rather than acting in direct self-defense. "Grievance based violence" is also senselessly brutal, from the French mobs parading severed heads, to South Africa's tire neckties, to the pogroms that saw nails gouged into eyes, to the general brutality of terrorist attacks which target civilians-- atrocity is the hallmark of grievance based violence.
Why then do liberals prefer "Grievance based violence" to the right of self-defense?
The right of self-defense presumes a right inherent to the individual and the nation. Liberals routinely reject both individual and national rights in favor of group and class rights. Liberals are also biased against acts of rational self-interest, in favor of emotional expressions of outrage.
Where self-defense is often defined by liberals as a form of entitlement and class privilege. "Grievance based violence" by contrast is treated as a response to intolerable oppression, and an expression of the underclass rising up. Since in the liberal worldview, violence is divided into oppressive and revolutionary violence. Oppressive violence is a function of class privilege, where revolutionary violence is a form of revolutionary justice. So that in the liberal calculus, the middle class homeowner protecting his house from a mob, is practicing "oppressive violence", while the mob is practicing "revolutionary justice".
Understanding this is the most vital part of understanding liberal morality, or lack thereof. Class or group status, defines whether violence is legitimate or not, in the eyes of the liberal.
(Liberals naturally make exceptions for themselves, as progressives are self-defined as revolutionary, therefore liberal violence is never oppressive to liberals within the same degree of ideology, only potentially to liberals further on the left. Which is why liberals stood behind Clinton's ruthless campaign against Yugoslavia, while those further on the left protested against it. Revolutionary purity defines the right to revolutionary violence. Or by contrast why few liberals were willing to oppose Stalin. The further left you go, the greater your right to carry out revolutionary violence.)
Liberals have no problem with violence. They have a problem with violence that does not have a progressive source agenda. They are however willing to shield many forms of violence that are not at all progressive under that umbrella... so long as the violence is directed at a State or group they oppose.
This explains why liberals continue to support Islamic terrorism, when it is not at all progressive or liberal. Similarly Communists in the Czarist period, including Jewish Communists, were willing to support Pogroms against Jewish communities, as a form of revolutionary violence... even when the mobs carrying out the violence had nothing in mind beyond anti-semitism and looting, and the pogroms themselves were actually promoted by the Czarist government ; because they believed that opening the door to any peasant violence served to pave the way for an overthrow of the Czarist government. And Tolstoy, one of the architects of modern pacifism, who had a great deal to say about the evils of violence, was unwilling to condemn the pogroms.
So too, liberals held rallies agitating against war with Nazi Germany... because as long as Nazi Germany threatened Western capitalist powers, they were willing to collaborate with Hitler. Only when Hitler attacked the USSR, did the tide of opinion on the liberal side suddenly sweep to a pro-war sentiment.
Accomplishing the same kind of transformation with Islamic terrorism has however become extremely difficult, because there is no state today that represents an extreme left wing ideal in the way that Lenin and Stalin's Russia did. (Cuba is the closest thing to it.) However were such a state to exist, and were Muslim terrorists to attack it, we would see a lot more Christopher Hitchens' and Nick Cohens' around.
Today liberals see Muslim terrorism, in much the way they once saw Nazis or the pogroms or race riots-- as a tool they could leverage to change the existing power structure. Muslim terrorism is also the successor to progressive terrorism, as carried out by Marxist groups such as the PLO or the PFLC-- which liberal natively supported as "Revolutionary Terrorism". This gives Muslim terrorism a certain open door policy, particularly when the PLO switched from Marxist terrorism to martyr based Islamic terrorism under Arafat and Abbas.
Finally since Muslim terrorists come from the third world, which is considered to be the underclass relative to the first world-- Muslim terrorists are considered to be reacting to First World oppression, regardless of whether they themselves come from wealthy upper class and middle class families. Such details have never mattered to liberals, or Lenin the scion of a noble family, would never have had any credibility leading a "people's revolution".
The left wing understanding of legitimate violence as being based in class and grievance, rather than in self-defense and legal rights, must be countered by emphasizing these values instead. Rational interests must be emphasized over emotional appeals, a game at which liberals are expert at winning.
The core must be to remember that the right of self-defense is the foundation of individual and national rights for a Republic. By contrast for liberals, grievance based violence opens the door to a progressive tyranny, as it did during the French revolution or the fall of the Czars and the following interregnum, or as they still believe it will today.
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