Prof. Reynolds, the iconic conservative bloggers who wields considerable influence in the right-leaning blogospehere and beyond, has frequently displayed a dismaying affection for the unethical response of “tit-for-tat.” Has seldom done so as blatantly, however, as in a post yesterday, linking to a National Review article about CUNY students shouting down General David Petraeus, who is now a lecturer there.
The Instapundit wrote:
“I think right-leaning groups should similarly hound Hillary and other Obama Administration apparatchiks — including Obama himself, when he ventures onto campuses, both now and post-Presidency. The standard of behavior has been established. Let them live with it.”
Even giving Reynolds the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he is speaking tongue-in-cheek or hyperbolically, as he often does, this is an irresponsible statement if he doesn’t mean it, and an unethical one if he does. He is considered a sage and an opinion leader among many conservatives, and for such a prominent figure to expressly approve of the downward behavioral tail-spin that inevitably results when each competitor or adversary re-aligns ethical standards according to the unethical acts of the other is embracing all-out culture war and chaos, with no standards at all.
“They started it, so let’s give them a taste of their own medicine and see how they like it!” is street gang thinking, (Jets: “Well they began it!” Sharks: “Well they began it!” Both: “And w’ere the ones to stop it once and for all…tonight!”— “Quintet” from West Side Story) as far from ethics as one can get, and this is exactly what Professor Reynolds is endorsing. That ethically bankrupt approach, and the fact that our political system has been operating by it at least since 2000, accounts for today’s poisonous culture in Washington D.C. It has crippled both the Bush and Obama administrations, paralyzed the government and divided the public. If political and intellectual leaders embrace this reaction to misconduct in one setting, they are implicitly accepting it as a justifiable strategy, and it is not. It is a brutal, unethical strategy.
Students who interfere with invited speakers’ efforts to challenge or enlighten university audiences should be disciplined; it doesn’t matter whether the speaker is an ex U.S.general or Ilsa, Wolf of Dachau. Interfering with speech isn’t protected speech, nor is it ethical protest. That behavior isn’t a “standard of behavior,” it is a defiance of civilized standards. The President, Hillary Clinton and other targets of the right should be allowed to speak, listened to politely, and then confronted, if they are confronted, with civil and articulate rebuttals on the basis of their words and ideas. For a university professor to advise otherwise is unconscionable. For one who is respected and followed as extensively as Reynolds to write this defies reason.