Misconceptions of Political Protests and Knifing Balloons

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knifing balloons

In response to President Donald Trump’s recent visit to London, protestors have once again marched through the streets with the Trump “Baby Balloon.”

Pro-Trump activists responded to the earlier protest in 2018 with their own balloon of London mayor Sadiq Khan. Both protests moved forward rather peacefully, and both sides made their case.

This time, things went a bit differently. A pro-Trump individual who refers to herself as “Based Amy” recorded herself knifing the balloon before being arrested.

Nearly everyone on the left, and many on the right, have rightly condemned her actions. Destruction of property is not acceptable, and neither is interfering with peaceful protests.

But, unfortunately, there have been a few on the right that defend her and attempt to justify her actions, many relying on generalizations and underlying misconceptions.

Accepting The Risk

Some have argued that the anti-Trump protestors understood, and therefore accepted, the risks when parading around with such controversial political imagery. They argue that if someone were to leave their valuables unattended in a high-crime area for a long period of time, can they really complain when these valuables are stolen?

This argument has one major flaw: even if someone is severely irresponsible with their belongings, this does not in any way justify the actions of the thief.

The proponents of this argument make the same error as those that constantly accuse others of victim blaming. It is true that these protestors should understand that many will be outraged by their statement, but this in no way justifies any violent action against them.

Retaliation

Many have argued that stabbing a balloon is a small retaliation in response to leftist violence against the right.

On that same day, around 20 Trump supporters were moved into a London pub for safety, after protestors crowded around and threatened them, shouting “Nazi scum off our streets.”

Surely a minor tear in a balloon is hardly anything compared to recent leftist violence against anyone to the right of progressives, right?

But this is just one problem with making massive generalizations of “left” and “right” or “pro-Trump” and “anti-Trump.” Guilt must be assigned to the individual, not the group.

Granted, one can learn a lot about an individual if they proudly consider themselves part of an openly violent organization. But to justify an attack against one left-wing protestor as a form of retaliation against the violent actions of another left-wing individual is merely giving into the collectivist generalizations that many on the left use to justify attacks on centrists.

Generalizing political ideologies and groups as left and right is fine for simplicity when it is clearly understood to be a generalization. But assigning collective moral guilt to half the political spectrum is how violent extremists justify attacking centrists. If “the right” holds collective guilt for the eco-fascist’s attack on a New Zealand mosque, then this justifies Antifa’s attacks against moderate conservatives.

This obviously isn’t the case. We should only be assigning blame to those individuals directly responsible for violence, and not to peaceful individuals with loose ideological connections.

Accomplishments

Some political activists can be so caught up in fighting their political opponents that they often forget to really analyze what they are accomplishing. As many on the right have pointed out, a giant Trump Baby Balloon accomplishes very little. It is a symbol and rallying point for anti-Trump activists. It clearly conveys what they think.

But besides that, it doesn’t do much else. It’s not swinging anyone’s politics in any direction. Nobody’s opinion of Trump will be changed by looking at a giant balloon. If anything, it makes the protest look more like a tantrum than a genuine political statement.

Therefore, even if we were able to justify the damage done to the balloon, what is accomplished by this? Absolutely nothing. All the damage shows is that some on the right are unable to tolerate peaceful protestors.

Numerous recent defectors from the left to the right have mentioned that they’re running from the left, not necessarily towards the right. It’s not that the right has appealed to them, but rather that the left has become so awful that they don’t want anything to do with it.

They say that many actions by those on the left are self-defeating. Sometimes retaliation isn’t necessary. And the balloon is a similar situation. Sometimes the best thing to do is let activists on the left do their thing, and respond by providing a better alternative.

There are many ways for right-wing political activists to defeat the terrible parts of the left. Knifing balloons is not one of them.

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Nathan A. Kreider is the host of The Conversation, a podcast about ideas and how to spread them. He also publishes a blog and video content, including short book reviews, which can be found on his website nkreider.com. He can be contacted by email via [email protected]