When Is Hating Hate More Hateful Than Hate?

This week’s scoundrel of the century is Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, who faces growing calls to resign  since the website Big League Politics broke the story, that, as they put it, “Northam and a friend were photographed together—one in blackface, one in Klan robes.”

In 1984. As college students. And for this, the “Virginia capitol is thrown into chaos.” God help Virginia if a real crisis ever descends on that city.

This isn’t to defend Ralph Northam. He is, after all, a member of the Democratic wing of the establishment uniparty. Even worse than their Republican counterparts, these Democrats rely on race-baiting, gender pandering, and other divisive, prurient distractions to obfuscate the fact that they actively collaborate with globalist billionaires to destroy America’s traditions, its economy, its culture, its heritage, and its people. The Republican establishment wing of the uniparty, by contrast, just wants to sell America to the Chinese, in the name of “free trade,” and overwhelm America with millions of destitute, unassimilable immigrants, in the name of “free movement of peoples.” A pox on both wings.

Everyone wants Northam to go. But is this really the way to make America Great Again? By adopting the fascistic, zero-tolerance, pandering hypersensitivity and retribution obsessed tactics that define America’s extreme Left? Is anyone actually “healed” by this?

This is also not to disparage the website Big League Politics. As long as the tactic of personal assassination remains a specialty of the Left, the Right needs people who are willing also to play that sordid game. But at the same time, it’s necessary to be clear about what’s happening: The destruction of anyone who isn’t “perfect” by every imaginable standard of political correctness is a nihilistic dead end.

It may be offensive by the standards of any age to wear blackface, or dress up as a member of the KKK, or, for that matter, as the Frito Bandito. But even today, it is possible for people to do this with intentions that either are entirely innocent, or transgressive merely in an irreverent context and not in a malevolent, racist context. And back in 1984, we lived in a very different cultural milieu.

In 1984, you could go to bookstores (the big bookstore chains hadn’t yet emerged), and popular titles included “The Official Polish/Italian Jokebook.” Example: “How do you sink the Italian navy? Answer: Put it in the water.” There weren’t calls to ban these books. Does anyone think Polish people weren’t victimized? That they didn’t suffer historical trauma? Tell that to the old-timers who still remember that 5.8 million Poles died in World War II, nearly 20 percent of that nation’s population. Tell that to the historians who still correctly depict Poland as the perennial slaughterhouse of Central Europe, as for several centuries preceding the war they were repeatedly assailed by invaders from Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary.

We don’t tell jokes like that anymore, but we did back in 1984. Back then, every time there was a disaster in the world, within days, sick jokes on the topic would spread across the nation by word of mouth, even without an internet to spread them. Remember the famine in Ethiopia? “What happened to the Ethiopian who fell into the crocodile-infested swamp? Answer: He ate three of them before they pulled him out.” Remember the Challenger disaster? “What did the Challenger astronaut say to his spouse as he left home for the launch pad? Answer: You feed the kids, honey, I’ll feed the fish.”

If you were alive in 1984, you’ll remember jokes like that, because they were common. You may have even laughed at some of them. You may have even, gasp, repeated some yourself.

Nobody tells jokes like that anymore, just like nobody wears blackface, or KKK costumes, or dresses up as Pocahontas. But back in 1984, it wasn’t terribly uncommon. Back in 1984, the first thing you might think if someone told an offensive joke or wore an offensive costume was that they were irreverent. It would only be in the face of other corroborating evidence that you might instead think they were actually racist, or sexist, or just cruel.

Today, those presumptions have been reversed. Sometime between the 1986 Challenger explosion and the terrorist attacks in September 2001, America changed. The oppressive and relentless encroachment of political correctness on free speech paralleled this change but was a separate phenomenon. It’s worth recognizing this distinction. We changed. Certain things just stopped being funny, and they would have stopped being funny even if the politically correct crowd hadn’t come along to capitalize on that change.

Attacks on public figures based on things they did over thirty years ago are not being pursued to enact overdue justice. They are being done to virtue signal, to score political points or achieve political objectives, to create “teachable moments,” to demonize a segment of the population, to galvanize a political base. But they accomplish very little in terms of Making America Great Again, no matter how you may define “great.” Because by the standards that are being set, primarily by the Left, everyone did something back in 1984 that, today, would render them unfit for any position of public responsibility.

What the Left is doing—and the Right is now emulating—destroying public figures based on something they did decades ago, is part of something bigger. They are attempting to rewrite history at the same time that they intimidate millions of conscientious Americans to feel guilt and shame. America’s brilliant evolution to become the most prosperous, inclusive, creative, tolerant society on earth is overshadowed by epic stories of shame. Pull down the statues. Disrespect the flag. Disparage people “of privilege.” And by all means, destroy the lives of anyone who violated the standards set today, even if their transgressions were committed over 30 years ago.

It feels good to shout with the angry crowd, to be part of the hateful mob, when the target deserves to be attacked. But when does hating hate become more hateful than hate? Those on the right should take this opportunity to proclaim their intolerance of Gov. Northam’s politics on issues that matter, at the same time as they resist the temptation to join the mob in attacking him for something he probably shouldn’t have done, several decades ago. Those on the Left should take this opportunity to forgive, and spread some love around, instead of fomenting hatred of hate every chance they get.

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Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images

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About Edward Ring

Edward Ring is a senior fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He is also the director of water and energy policy for the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. Ring is the author of Fixing California: Abundance, Pragmatism, Optimism (2021) and The Abundance Choice: Our Fight for More Water in California (2022).