I am saddened by the typical responses to the Chicago Facebook video abuse incident, responses that criticize the mainstream media for failing to shine a bright enough spotlight upon it, that if it were four white teenagers abusing a black mentally handicapped person, the 24 hour news cycle would consist of nothing but reporting and analysis of the incident, or that Trump’s rhetoric is to blame. It may be entirely true that the mainstream media would emphasize this story had the racial roles been reversed, and it can’t be wholly discounted that if not for statements made by Trump and the alt-right minorities would not feel threatened. But these criticisms gloss over what the real problem is, which is the prevailing and perverse erroneous belief some people have that one group of people gains something when a member of another group is burdened and/or punished.
I will not allow that victim’s individual sovereignty to take a backseat to what group(s) he belongs to just so commenters can make a larger point about social ills suffered by or perpetrated by whichever collective.
Very rarely can an individual belong to only one group. The subject of the Chicago Facebook video is not only white, but suffers from mental handicaps. So, he is not only the subject of a racially motivated attack, but also possibly due to his special needs classification. David M. Perry brings this up so that he can draw attention to the routine abuse the disabled suffer from. While it is fine to shine a spotlight on the abuse members of a vulnerable group can suffer from, another result of this opinion piece is that the victim is now a poster child for all disabled people who suffer neglect and abuse. The writer of the opinion piece used this incident to write a broader article that tackles this issue, but the victim did not give his consent to the writer to have his attack be made part of a broader examination of the abuse mentally challenged face. Even though the writer’s intentions are good, widening the spotlight from the victim to all those disabled people who suffer abuse is opportunistic and even a bit predatory. It’s opportunistic and predatory because the four black teens did not shout “fuck retards.” The writer has an agenda, and to execute it, the victim must be dehumanized, his individualism distorted and reformed as a statistic.
The prevailing conventional wisdom among so many social justice warriors, academics and writers is that criticism of anyone who is not a white cisgendered male is racism, which is violence against those being critiqued, and violence against someone justifies a violent self-defense. Is it any wonder that some people, like the four assailants in the video, who most likely had endured racism in their lives, would continue to fall even further down this slippery slope?
Even if the election of Donald Trump initiated a spike in racially motivated crimes that saw white assailants abusing non-whites (you can plug in any group that views a cross-defined group as its rival, i.e. Christians and Jews vs. Muslims, heterosexuals vs. homosexuals, etc.), unless the actual perpetrators of that hypothetical white on black crime are punished by black vigilantes (and this is a far from ideal scenario), justice is not being served.
The white victim in the Chicago Facebook video did not hurt his assailants, nor did he hurt any other black people. So how could his abuse be justified? Simply because he is white? He is not a surrogate, an individual unlucky enough to stand in for all white people, or for a different white person, etc., that his tormenters could use to even the playing field.
Neither white people, nor the disabled, as groups, suffered from the injuries the victim of the Chicago Facbook video suffered, just as his four black assailants did not personally suffer injuries that other black individuals may have suffered by other white people, be they police officers or private citizens. The four teenagers who abused their victim believed that a score was being evened. They coupled their abuse of their victim with shouts of “fuck Donald Trump,” “he represent Trump,” and “fuck white people.”
Their raged grievances are wholly, and egregiously, misplaced.
Proper justice is meted out when a perpetrator of violence is punished for committing a specific act. There must exist perpetrator(s) and victim(s). An aggrieved party, to maintain any legitimacy while seeking justice, must accuse and testify against his actual assailants. Justice is neither cosmic nor Karmic.
Among libertarian circles, what it is to be libertarian is often debated to such an extent that we distract ourselves from proselytizing to those we’d wish to convert, to say nothing of winning elections and embedding libertarian doctrine into public policy, because we’re still trying to figure out a universal working definition of “libertarian” and “libertarianism.” We can not win any external battles if we are still fighting internal ones.
Though this debate continues to consume us, one characteristic of the liberty movement that enjoys universal consent is that a premium is placed on prioritizing individual rights. We bristle at the oft-repeated mantra from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” We prefer to follow something closer to Sir William Blackstone’s formulation of laws that expresses the presumption of innocence for individuals in the criminal justice system: “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” That an immoral act is perpetrated when an individual’s natural rights are violated is an inviolable concept among libertarians.
Libertarians understand that we are individuals first, and members of groups second. Yet, because mainstream politics concerns itself so much with collectivizing individuals who share similar traits and backgrounds, and then imposing policies that enforce these invisible boundaries, the rights and safety of the individual are sacrificed in favor of that of the group. And that is when state violence against an individual can enjoy justification. This is a maxim that enjoys near-sacrosanct status in libertarian circles.
It very well may just be human nature to seek to partition ourselves into collectives. This attitude is pervasive throughout society, and manifests itself in benign, as well as malignant ways. We are taught from an early age that we are members of groups. We inherit practices and traditions from our ancestors due to nationalities and ethnicities. We play on sports teams, we are alumni of schools, we have differing political ideologies, sexual orientations, socio-economic classes, religions, etc. Some of these differences are voluntary, and some exist due to biology. Problems inevitably arise when members of differing groups view these differences, some of which are quite abstract, as biological imperatives.
The organization of society should not be drawn along lines of competing factions. Life is not a struggle between two football teams on the gridiron; it is a fallacy to believe we are participants in a zero-sum game. If we segregate ourselves into groups not only for identification purposes, but so that we, as individuals, feel we enjoy strength in numbers to better protect ourselves from political and economic “threats,” not only will each group eventually lose, since the struggle for hegemony is never-ending and today’s ruling class is tomorrow’s indentured servants, but the number of individuals made casualties in the culture wars will be unquantifiable.
Andrew Breitbart often said “Politics runs downstream from culture.” What he meant was conservatives and libertarians often have a difficult time winning political battles because we do not bother to fight as vociferously the battles that comprise the culture war. In general, Breitbart was right; politics often codifies into law disparities and disputes between different cultural groups (for example, the progressive tax code). In the instance of the Chicago Facebook video, the two are informing each other. The perpetrators of the violence believed this was a worthwhile activity, a meaningful response to what they consider to be social ills (the politics of Donald Trump, and by extension, all white people).
The cynic in me believes the MSM must have been happy the victim was also mentally disabled, so that they can employ a different “othering” than racism that motivated the attack, since the MSM is loath to acknowledge blacks can be racists too. But, I’m trying my best to not lose sight of the actual victim, that this individual was brutalized. Was it because of the groups he belongs to? Yes, but those groups are not the injured or aggrieved party; the only victim is the man who was actually tied up and terrorized.
Arguing that the individual deserves primacy over that of the collective is a battle in the culture war that we libertarians must fight, and must win.
This post was written by Dillon Eliassen.
The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.
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