Thursday, March 20, 2003
If there is one word that sums up the events of the last couple of years, that word is consequences.

The attacks of September 11th were a consequence of many years and many layers of policies and actions, from the U.S., the Russians, the Arabs, the Radical Muslims, etc. (Don't worry, there is no Chomskyite rant coming up. But those attacks didn't happen in a vacuum.) The subsequent destruction of the Taliban was a consequence of their harboring Osama bin Laden. The current invasion of Iraq is the consequence of several wars and policies pursued by the Hussein regime, of our unwillingness to remove the regime in 1991, and the fear of what consequences may result from failing to remove it today, before it goes nuclear. Our disregard for the UN is a consequence of its loss of credibility, as it failed to enforce 12 years of empty resolution after empty resolution.

Turkey will not be getting its economic aid package, as a consequence of refusing to let our troops use their land to open a northern front against Iraq. They finally let use their airspace, in fear of more dire consequences. France will really have to be confronted with some unpleasantless, as a consequence of their attempt to score political points at our expense, and lying to Colin Powell about their intentions. Diplomatic retribution against them is a necessity, regardless of French intentions or whether the U.S. was right or wrong in this case, lest others get the idea that going against the U.S. is cheap and easy. That's an idea we've allowed to persist for way too long.

Another idea that's been around for too long and getting a bit ripe is that any "demonstration" is a legitimate expression, and therefore protected by freedom of speech. Well, this isn't legitimate. Neither is this. Both of these actions illegally restrict the freedom of movement of people who are not involved in the politics of the protestors -- and they have every right to stay uninvolved. Keeping someone from going home in order to get your onanistic self-righteousness on television is at least as wrong as the police detaining someone for their political views. Either way, the result is the same, and those responsible should be punished. The protesters are counting on the fact that prosecuting them is expensive, and lenient sentences are generally handed out to keep from having to jail them. Unfortunately, that minimizes the consequences for their disruption (which is quite the euphemism for detaining thousands of people on the road, and refusing to let them go home), which makes them more and more aggressive, violent, and destructive, and puts everyone involved -- bystander, policeman, and protester -- in danger. It also breaks down the foundations of our society, one of which is that dissent is welcomed and appreciated, as long as it is peaceful, non-destructive, lawful, and respectful towards those who disagree or are indifferent. Words, even loud ones, shouted from the sidelines are acceptable. Deliberately blocking traffic, is not.

Arresting and fully prosecuting all those people is probably impractical. But the authorities can't just let it slide without consequences, or else it will continue and get worse, until someone is seriously injured or killed. They can't arrest everyone, but they can arrest some, and prosecute them fully. I doubt that the jail terms would be long, but whatever they are, they should be fully served out; maximum fines should be levied as well. We can't surrender our cities and our process of government to self-righteous thugs.

Just to be perfectly clear: I am not suggesting that we arrest people for holding or voicing dissenting opinions. But "direct actions" that are such clear illegal assholery should have serious consequences, regardless of whether is a bunch of bigots blockading an Alabama schoolhouse, or a bunch of "anti-war" nimrods storming federal buildings and blocking people from going about their business. Your protest cannot involve unwilling participants. If it does, you're committing a crime, and violating their civil rights -- which should land you in jail. It's a consequence a true "radical" should be willing to live with.

Quick follow-up: I wonder if any of these walking street trash realize just how counter-productive their tactics are. It's a bit silly to try "raising awareness" of the Iraqi conflict now (who isn't aware?!), but there's no better way to discredit your cause than getting it associated with a few jackasses who keep decent people from going about their business. If a bunch of them got tossed in jail for a month or two, I doubt too many people would cry over it. Act like a thug, sleep with thugs -- end of story.

Update: Mike at Cold Fury has much more.

There's going to be real trouble in this country soon. If these idiots don't begin to realize that their right to protest and free speech stops well short of wanton destruction of property, of bringing entire cities to a grinding halt with their antics, of hindering people from going about their business peacefully, of tying up police and firefighters in major cities where they have plenty of better things to do - then there's going to be some heads kicked in, possibly worse. These protesters are showing how little they really value the American principles of free speech, open debate, and representative government. What they're showing is that if they lose the argument, they'll throw a hissy fit until they get their way illegitimately. They figure it worked with the Vietnam War, so it'll work now.
And so does Dipnut.

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