Protesters who interrupt speeches are not engaging in free speech, they are defiling it. We can expect protesters of all sizes, shapes and colors to be interfering with campaign appearances this year, forcing candidates into a lose-lose-lose proposition of either giving the activists a platform they don’t deserve, rewarding rude and disrespectful behavior and looking weak (as Bernie Sanders did last year, allowing a Black Lives Matter group to hijack a campaign appearance), trying to ignore the disruption and thus being unfair to those who came to hear a speech without static, or being confrontational with the protesters and alienating voters who may sympathize with their cause.
This is one area in which Donald Trump has a clear advantage: since neither he nor his addled supporters care about ethical values, he can safely be abusive to protesters, and he is. At the rate his abuse is escalating, I expect him to egg on one of his mobs to burning or eating one by the spring.
Thus I must sympathize with Hillary Clinton, who just had an ironic ethics encounter. Completely unfair interference from the routinely unethical Black Lives Matter resulted in Hillary getting beat up all over social media, and spawned a new hashtag, #WhichHillary, that looks like it may haunt her for long while, and perhaps to the—one hopes—bitter end. The hashtag is fair even if the means it was delivered is not.
The sequence began as Black Lives Matter protesters crashed a private Hillary Clinton event in South Carolina. One of the protesters held up a banner that quoted Hillary in 1996 talking about “at risk youths” and “super predators” while stumping for her husband’s anti-crime initiatives.
Another protester was filming Hillary with the banner in the foreground. Hillary saw what was going on, and the woman with the banner told Hillary, “I am not a super predator.” Then she asked, “Will you apologize to black people for mass incarceration?”
There is no responsible way to respond to this trap. No, dear, nobody said you were a super-predator, and when I used that term, you weren’t born, I wasn’t referring to race, and there were, in fact, predators on the street, as there are now. Apologize to which black people? The ones who were robbed or killed by the criminals who were duly convicted of crimes? That can’t be it. The ones who committed crimes? Do I apologize for wanting to enforce criminal laws? Is it my fault that a disproportionate number of African Americans committed crimes that put them in prison, or theirs? No, I’m not apologizing for enforcing laws. Those who violate them should apologize to their communities, not I.
Not that Hillary didn’t ask for this dilemma by giving irresponsible lip service to the dubious mass incarceration issue pushed by Bernie Sanders, but the Black Lives Matter spin on it is that all law enforcement is racist, and if a disproportionate number of black men are getting locked up, it must be a racist conspiracy. When the woman kept interrupting her and saying she “called black people super predators” (No, Hillary called black super predators—and white ones too— super predators, which is completely fair and accurate, then and now), Clinton said, exasperated, “Okay, you want to hear the facts, or you want to just talk?” Then the woman, and her videographer, were escorted from the event, still demanding an apology. Good.
If you want to read a completely partisan defense of Hillary, who requires none at all, go to old reliable Tommie Christopher, Mediaite’s resident knee-jerk progressive hack, who apparently thinks Clinton should have turned the entire event into a colloquy with Black Lives Matter even as he explains why their accusations were bogus. (Why Mediaite, a more or less balanced site, tolerates such a pure partisan advocate, and such an intellectually dishonest one, is a mystery for the ages.)
Ah, but it was what came next that is most intriguing. BLM put the whole video on YouTube, and ended it with #WhichHillary. The label immediately went viral on Twitter and elsewhere, with Clinton’s critics on the left and right alike using it to highlight Clinton’s, uh, flexible positions, principles, roles and statements over the years. It’s a great hashtag, and a just one. Hillary has no integrity whatsoever, and it’s nice to have a neat way to remind people.
An incident in which someone was faultless and ethical set in motion events that call attention to her lack of ethics—a desirable, ethical result from unethical conduct. Hillary Clinton was the victim, and is now appropriately suffering as a result.
Life, and ethics, are strange and unpredictable.