Those “Dissent Is Patriotic” Signs

My Alexandria, Virginia neighbors are fond of simple-minded and obnoxious virtue-signalling signs, as I discussed here.

Another one has started popping up, this one proclaiming “Dissent is Patriotic.” As a general proposition, little of value can be stated in three words, especially those with “is” in the middle. “Dissent is Patriotic” is a gross generality, and a sign like this bolsters the delusions of smug absolutists and the historically ignorant.

The ACLU has been pushing this slogan (to sell T-shirts, it seems), and it had a re-birth thanks to the NFL kneelers, who are in truth a perfect example of when dissent isn’t patriotic. Incoherent dissent isn’t patriotic: it makes all dissent look bad. Dissent based on hate, lies, or a desire to divide isn’t patriotic: it’s hateful, dishonest and divisive, which is to say harmful, and thus unethical.

Speaking of dishonesty, many of these signs use the phrasing you see on the left, which is a fake quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson. Attaching a dubious assertion to a much-admired historical figure is an unethical propaganda tactic employing a dishonest appeal to authority.  (This is a famous example.)

As Ethan Epstein wrote in The Weekly Standard,

Few if any Americans are associated with more apocryphal quotes than Thomas Jefferson, but the false notion that he said, “dissent is the highest form of patriotism” is among the easiest to dispel. Because Jefferson never would have said something so idiotic. Of course dissent can be patriotic, but it isn’t inherently so. What one is dissenting from matters. Were members of the German American Bund, who protested the U.S.’s anti-Nazi policies in the 1930s and ‘40s, enacting the “highest form of patriotism?”

I don’t see what was patriotic about the various Women’s March programs around the country. Self-indulgence and echo chambers aren’t patriotic; ranting isn’t patriotic; grandstanding isn’t patriotic; sexism isn’t patriotic; hate isn’t patriotic. “Well, “Donald Trump, let me tell you something, you are an asshole!” declared Tamika Mallory, the co-president of the Women’s March Board, at the Las Vegas demonstration. How patriotic! “I have never seen anyone like the president that we have. I can’t even call him the president that has been willing to destroy our country for money and power,” said Cher. Yup, that’s a fair characterization. But so patriotic!

Jane Fonda was at the Sundance edition of the Women Hate Trump demonstrations. She single-handedly demonstrated how dissent could be unpatriotic during her Hanoi Jane moment, emulating World Ward II traitors —dissenters?--Axis Sally and Tokyo Rose, when she broadcast a North Vietnam sponsored message to our troops designed to demoralize them. Remember? She ended that broadcast with..

But now, despite the bombs, despite the crimes being created–being committed against them by Richard Nixon, these people own their own land, build their own schools–the children learning, literacy–illiteracy is being wiped out, there is no more prostitution as there was during the time when this was a French colony. In other words, the people have taken power into their own hands, and they are controlling their own lives. And after 4,000 years of struggling against nature and foreign invaders–and the last 25 years, prior to the revolution, of struggling against French colonialism–I don’t think that the people of Vietnam are about to compromise in any way, shape or form about the freedom and independence of their country, and I think Richard Nixon would do well to read Vietnamese history, particularly their poetry, and particularly the poetry written by Ho Chi Minh.

The rest of that trip included such patriotic gestures–Dissent! Dissent!—as posing on a North Vietnamese  anti-aircraft gun used to shoot down American pilots, and saying that the Viet Cong torturing captured  Americans was “understandable.”

Yes, dissent and protest is a core American right, and like any right, they can be exercised responsibly or irresponsibly. Irresponsible dissent is not patriotic, much less “the highest form of patriotism.” Sorry, Fake Thomas Jefferson.  Dishonest dissent is not patriotic, nor is ignorant dissent, or hateful dissent.

Or stupid dissent, which is what the NFL kneelers were engaging in.

Those who seek to make their neighbors similarly stupid by proclaiming the false assertion that “Dissent is Patriotic” do not signal their virtue, as they intend.

They reveal their civic incompetence.


32 thoughts on “Those “Dissent Is Patriotic” Signs

  1. Wait! Virtue signalers: What’s GOOD about patriotism? Isn’t it the last refuge of scoundrels?

    It’s hard to keep score without a program in the Days of Trump.

    • Oooo, another of my favorite MIS-USED quotes.

      “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel” has been mis-used by those who poo-poo patriotism time immemorial.

      Except that the quote ACTUALLY holds patriotism in high regards. Why else would a scoundrel resort to it after ALL OTHER options to make his life better have been exhausted?

  2. Just under a year ago today those signs would have been branded racist and if we were now one year through the first female president’s first term they would be branded sexist. What’s more, no one would be taking to the streets in black masks to smash things and beat and kill those who disagree with them, leave alone lionizing that sort of behavior as heroic. On top of that no public figure would be withholding his/her loyalty until this country comported with his/her vision of the way things ought to be. I’ll also hazard a wild guess that public figures wouldn’t be tweeting rants punctuated with extremely foul language and sometimes composed almost entirely of extremely foul language all directed at the president and the party he belongs to.

    The fact is that most of those on the political right still have respect for the process, respect for law and order, and respect for other people as people. Of course the extremists get all the press, sometimes a fair amount of embellishment, and often the bum’s rush based on a quick slap-on of the word “hate.” I’m not sure most of those on the political left still do based on what we’ve seen come from their mouths and pens over the past year.

    I don’t doubt a lot of them believe themselves to be good, but too many of them take that belief in themselves as good to mean that they should be able to tell others what to do in keeping with this belief that they are good: their heroes, not anyone else’s, their holidays, not someone else’s, in some cases their way of speaking, not others’.

    They’ll use the state apparatus when they can control it, when they can’t, they’ll turn to loud dissent, disruption, vandalism, and ultimately violence – like rioting if they lose an election or smashing a statue they don’t have the votes to remove. That’s not being good. That’s being intolerant and controlling. That’s the kind of “goodness” that ultimately leads to tyranny. It’s what gets you a Francisco Franco, who promises to keep order in a nation weary of chaos, a Benito Mussolini, who “made the trains run on time,” and ultimately someone like a Pol Pot, who promises to bring peace in the wake of a messy civil war and transition from colonialism. It’s what got South America the Pink Tide of hostility to the US and the Spanish portion of their culture, and we all can see where that’s gotten them.

    Patriotism shouldn’t be a partisan thing. We’re all supposed to salute the same flag, obey the same Constitution, speak the same language, and share the same history. We’re all supposed to respect the same elected leaders and public servants. We’re all supposed to work from the same book of rules in public life. If this isn’t the case, then we aren’t a nation, but an increasingly loose confederation of tribes vying for the biggest piece of the power and profit pie. It’s one thing to accommodate a few backward by choice (the Amish) or neutral on all issues (JWs) folks who are in this nation but don’t wish to be of it, and don’t wish to cause trouble. It’s another for prominent figures of one ethnic group or one religion to encourage defiance of these things, saying that until everyone sees them our way, we withhold our loyalty. It’s another for authorities that are supposed to be subordinate to the Federal government to openly defy that government. It’s yet another for one political party to try to not just oppose the one currently in power, but to attempt to make it impossible for the party in power to govern.

    It’s the height of chutzpah, and not in a good way, to do all this and then say something like “we’re trying to save this nation from itself” or “we just practice a different form of patriotism.” It’s the height of chutzpah, supremely ironic, and hypocritical to say and do all of what I have just enumerated when, before November 8, 2016, the same people saying and doing these things were calling those who expressed dissatisfaction with the leaders then in power racists and even traitors, attempting to force state governors who disagreed with Obama’s immigration non-policy to get in line, on pain of using the courts or force, and saying things like “if the Republican Party won’t step aside and let the President govern, then maybe it’s time to consider outlawing the Republican Party.”

    That’s not the behavior of patriots. That’s the behavior of tyrants, and not those tyrants who want to rule with an iron hand while leading a nation into democracy or to a better place, that’s the behavior of tyrants who really don’t stand for any value except the will to power – the kind of power where everyone with any kind of decision making authority agrees with them, those who disagree with them either fall silent or disappear, and before long no one dares say a word against the party line. I don’t blame you if you laugh at the idea of Hillary Clinton giving a Stalin-esque speech, the image is slightly ridiculous in light of her inability to stand through a normal day or her attempt to act charming and grandmotherly. I don’t think you laugh as much at the idea of Harry Reid lying openly on the Senate floor then laughing about it as working, or Elizabeth Warren thinking she is some kind of heroine for persisting when she knows damn well she broke the rules and tried to avoid the consequences, nor of Cory Booker ranting at the Secretary of Homeland Security like he was ready to jump across the table and attack her, because all these things actually happened. Liars, rule-breakers, and thugs. Some group of patriots.

    • Yes, great comment. It’s becoming painfully clear that the Democratic party doesn’t believe in the concept of “nation.” I had a discussion recently with several progressive Democrats for whom it was more important that we relieve the suffering of Haitians and Nigerians (by increasing immigration quotas for them) than that we safeguard the security and prosperity of Americans. And of course these folks also say things like the Dreamers are “just as American” as those of us who are native-born citizens or those who abided by our laws to become citizens. Never mind the “citizen of the world” slogans they deploy when they don’t feel the need to pretend to be patriotic. I’ve even seen one arguing that the political goal of the Democratic party should be to realize the fears of ordinary white Americans, especially the sort who voted for Trump, “because they’ve earned it.”

      • Hypocrisy knows no bounds when it comes to the political left. Apparently hatred knows few bounds either. Not too much difference between these folks and the IRA and UDL saying they’re going to target the other side where they live because THEY’VE earned it. Keep pushing this angle and don’t be surprised if some Trump-supporting guy gets beaten to death leaving a bar Friday night for no reason other than he was an outspoken conservative, and don’t be surprised if some outspoken liberal on his way home to do the dirty with his latest squeeze gets shot dead in retaliation.

  3. I was wondering why so many were protesting the lack of female representation in Congress. Do they not understand that one must run before they can be elected? What is their expectation of government here? Do they expect to be simply appointed as if they were selected to be on some Board?

    Other than just claiming that they are protesting could someone articulate the demands and how they expect the demands should be met.

    • The Economist ran an article bemoaning China’s lack of women in its highest ranking party structures.

      As though gender diversity is a major problem with Communism…

      • Tex

        I see a bit of a difference. On one hand we have people not advancing themselves to achieve a goal by getting elected by the citizens and in your Communist party example that is the party leadership works to maintain gender dominance within its own ranks.

  4. About 9-10 years ago I used to give the ACLU donations and in fact said “dissent is patriotic.” In reflecting on that time I realize now that I was often stirred to indignation based on my multiple minority statuses while being woefully unaware of how government actually works. Then I believed yelling loudly in the streets and decrying The Patriarchy™ or The Man® or The Rich Whites© would somehow magically bring peace. No wonder I was often bitter, hurt or vaguely depressed. It takes a lot of energy to not know what the heck you’re talking about.

    Today I feel like I’m watching in slow motion horror what I contributed to then. Having our own car messed with because of our Christian fish emblem, being called a “wing nut Republican” for questioning Obama’s war tactics, and seeing smug liberal yard signs every 10 feet + protests that claim to speak for folks like me – makes me wish I had done my research. I was a useful idiot because I blindly believed those slogans were wise and revolutionary.

    It was 2010 when I finally began to question the validity of such thought stopping slogans. Who said them and under what context. Then I began to research every tenant that was supposed to speak to or for a variety of folks and came away with the distinct understanding that perpetual anger is a tool used to control.

    By controlling, for example, what minorities believe and say, nefarious liberal elites get to have their “guard dogs” do the dirty work. Foolishly with gritted teeth the masses of those who hate hate continue to be the hate they wish to not see in the world. And all one needs to be convinced their hate is the right kind of hate is to be poorly informed and unwilling to question their own beliefs about fill-in-the-blank downtrodden groups. It also helps to strangle the voices of minorities who refuse to be victims and leave the liberal plantation.

    This is why today I question and research what leaders want me to think, regardless of political party. To me thinking is the highest form of patriotism and caring about other humans. I once was blinded by calls to anger & dissent. Today I see the hysterics for what they are and am grateful for being less offended all the time.

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