Responsible speech and citizenship

Captain Ed notes the NYTimes story about animal rights activists who were sentenced for their connections to vandalism, bombings, and death threats against medical researchers. The lesson is about responsible behavior in a representative government.

Anyone who bombs, vandalizes, or issues death threats to achieve what they cannot win through the legislative process is a terrorist, regardless of the cause. It does not matter whether that cause is abortion, the environment, animal research, or eliminating the designated hitter rule. Ends do not justify means, and living in a democracy means accepting the legitimacy of a loss in the democratic process. For years, people who acted violently in support of political issues found too much sympathy from their peers. Those days appear over, and not a moment too soon.

This is a lesson that should be taken to heart not only by the extremists but also those whose preferences are not directly expressed by their government. If you loose an election, denial and rationalization of that fact is destructive. If you are in the minority, that does not mean your job is obfuscation and obstruction and other destructive behavior.

Jacob Laksin describes the fringes of this type of destructive behavior in Historians vs. History [ 06mr03]. Scholars eschew their discipline and create paradigms of conspiracy and realities of cynicism that they proclaim as “truth.” The unwashed, although in the majority, cannot be right. They must have been mislead. It is up to us, a minority of elites who know better, to correct things no matter how. The ends will justify the means.

The problem is that using the end to justify the means is just what sentenced the animal rights activists who expressed a preference for death threats, harassment, and terrorism as their means. Those who call themselves historians but eschew the accuracy of that study do not exercise responsible speech or citizenship.

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