Violence as speech

A disturbing trend has taken root in the United States and much of the Western world. And it is the redefinition of speech by certain individuals perceived to be “privileged” as violence, and the simultaneous redefinition of violence by individuals and groups perceived to be “oppressed” as speech. Or as one commenter on 9-gag observed, speaking I will presume against conservatives given the context:

Speech is free. Violence is not. Once we define their speech as violence and our violence as speech, we win.

And the idea of violence being speech has been endorsed by a sitting member of the House of Representatives. In a poem he read on the House floor, Representative Hank Johnson [D-GA(4)] included the line “Disenfranchised youth driven to violence as speech”.

As a libertarian I am an adherent to the non-aggression principle. To the uninitiated, the principle, in short, says that aggression and violence may not be used against someone except as a response to someone else’s illegitimate violence against themselves and/or others. And when that violence is to be legitimately employed, it can only be employed to the extent that is necessary to stop the violence and threat of violence of others. It’s derived from the golden rule.

So how then have groups managed to redefine the speech of other groups as “violence”? By calling them “micro-aggressions”. Or by labeling it “hate speech” and saying that such speech has no protection — despite the fact the Supreme Court of the United States ruled quite the opposite1.

And thus the logic goes that since someone else’s speech is an aggressive act, the target of that speech has full right to respond with violence.

The problem with the left is that they view their violence as speech and the right’s speech as violence.2

The original concept of micro-aggressions thankfully predates the current generation, but that is the only saving grace on the concept. The concept was coined in 1970 by Harvard professor Chester Pierce, MD, in 1970, as a means of describing insults and dismissals against black students by whites. The concept was expanded to include women in 1973 by MIT adjunct professor and conflict resolution specialist Mary Rowe.

So under the non-aggression principle, a person is within their right to employ aggression to defend themselves and others against the illegitimate aggression of others. Speech is being labeled micro-aggression (or being flat-out labeled as violence). Thus the equation balances out with the violence by those who believe they have been victims of “micro-aggressions” with the perceived “privilege” of the alleged “aggressor” being used in determining disparity of force.

Derald Wing Sue, PhD, of Columbia University clarified the concept to mean “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership”. And the problem should be quite obvious as it labels people as bigots even if bigotry isn’t the person’s intention merely because they said something that could be interpreted as denigrating another group of people.

Add into this the redefinition of racism and sexism to mean, in short, “systematic” racism and sexism, and suddenly you find that blacks cannot be micro-aggressive against whites and women cannot be micro-aggressive against men.

Talk about being in a “privileged” position. It means that women can be blatantly sexist against men and avoid the label of sexism — “No, I can’t be sexist because women aren’t the privileged class”. It means that blacks can be blatantly racist against whites (and boy are there many, many examples of that) and avoid the label of racist because of “systemic racism” and, the almost-universal fallback, “slavery”.

And it is that redefinition that caused two black individuals, one male and one female, to believe they had the right to accost and detain a white male for having his hair in dreadlocks. As the video shows, the black female did everything to prevent his departure from the area. Both black individuals were gleefully smiling the entire time. Until they realized they were being filmed. At which point the black female tried to act like she was the victim. Which is a classic bully tactic.

Again, the concept of micro-aggressions means, in short, that all whites are racist, all men are sexist, all cis-gendered persons are transphobic, all heteronormative persons are homophobic, all atheists are religious bigots, all non-Muslims are Islamaphobic, all upper and upper-middle class people are classist, and so on and so on. It’s thought crime. And like all thought crimes, there is no escaping it.

A slight against one person is treated as a slight against all groups to which that person belongs. If I call a homosexual friend an asshole because he/she is demonstrably being an asshole, I have, by extension, called all homosexuals (and possibly including all bisexuals) assholes.

But then we also have arrived at the point wherein kindness is demeaning and denigrating. If a man holds a door for a woman, he is denigrating not just her, but all women by extension. And he is not just denigrating women, but oppressing them.

And where there is the perception of thought crime, there is thought policing. You’re presumed guilty until proven innocent. And as there is no way to prove your innocence, the presumption against you will stand in perpetuity and be used against you wherever possible. There is no escaping it.

But yet that is where “microaggressions” have brought us. Actually the original idea of microaggression theory isn’t what brought us here. What brought us here is the perception that any negative action against one individual perceived as being a member of an “oppressed” group is aggression or oppression against all members of that group.

And even better, the list of what constitutes “aggression” is being continually expanded.


  1. Snyder v. Phelps, 562 US 443 (2011) []
  2. Source: That’s Bullocks on Tumblr []