I shall hold off further comment until more facts are known.
No such circumspection stayed Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney, who reacted instantly to the "suspicious packages" mailed to the Clintons, Obama, George Soros, CNN and others, and weighed in with boundless confidence:
Hate acts follow hate speech. It is past time for us to turn down and tune out the rabid rhetoric.
This is a nitwit statement even by Mitt's recent standards, and doubtless a preview of the role he intends to play in the Senate. It is also an object lesson in the perils of Tweet-speed insight. "Moderate" "reasonable" "centrists", like all other politicians, should take a deep breath and be mindful of the old adage: Don't just say something, stand there.
"Hate speech" is not a notion a supposedly "severe conservative" (as Mitt once styled himself) would sign on to. "Hate speech" is free speech - because the concept of free speech exists for the speech you hate. In the modern world, "hate speech" is the enforcement arm of identity politics: Once an approved victim group is designated - Muslims, transgenders - "hate speech" is a pseudo-legal concept for shutting people up: Unpersuaded by the benefits of mass Muslim immigration? Concerned that seven-year-olds should not be hustled into "transitioning"? Hate speech, hate speech, hate speech...
Until you reach the stage that most of the western world is at - where polite society has ruled anything worth talking about out of bounds. At which point the masses turn to impolite society - Trump, Brexiteers, Salvini, Orbán...
Is it true that "hate acts follow hate speech"? To lazy types like, alas, "severely conservative" Republican Senate candidates, the logic is self-evident. As I wrote almost a decade ago:
Ever since this magazine attracted the attention of Canada's "human rights" regime, defenders of the system have clung to a familiar argument. In a letter to Maclean's, Jennifer Lynch, Q.C., Canada's chief censor, put it this way:
"Steyn would have us believe that words, however hateful, should be given free rein. History has shown us that hateful words sometimes lead to hurtful actions that undermine freedom and have led to unspeakable crimes. That is why Canada and most other democracies have enacted legislation to place reasonable limits on the expression of hatred."
"Hateful words" can lead to "unspeakable crimes." The problem with this line is that it's ahistorical twaddle, as I've pointed out. Yet still it comes up. It did last month, during my testimony to the House of Commons justice committee, when an opposition MP mused on whether it wouldn't have been better to prohibit the publication of Mein Kampf.
"That analysis sounds as if it ought to be right," I replied. "But the problem with it is that the Weimar Republic — Germany for the 12 years before the Nazi party came to power — had its own version of Section 13 and equivalent laws. It was very much a kind of proto-Canada in its hate speech laws. The Nazi party had 200 prosecutions brought against it for anti-Semitic speech. At one point the state of Bavaria issued an order banning Hitler from giving public speeches."
And a fat lot of good it all did.
More on this in my book Lights Out (personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available at the SteynOnline bookstore - and Steyn Club members, don't forget to enter your promotional code at checkout to enjoy special member pricing).
In fact, the opposite is true: The absence of a wide degree of vigorous free speech leads to "hate acts", to violent societies where, in the absence of a culture of dissent, the state thinks nothing of, say, chopping you into dozens of pieces in its consulate.
But Mitt took the bait and revealed, yet again, that he's a rube and a patsy and a pushover.
Let us stipulate that we live in awful, vulgar, witless hyper-partisan times. Does instant stupid mouthing-off on the Internet encourage violence? There's just as much evidence that it's a safety valve: Just as "sexting" seems to have replaced sex for large numbers of people, so venting seems to function as a violence substitute: Hey, let's get that guy and string him up on the edge of town! Er, actually, I was thinking I'd just Tweet that he's a f**ktard douchebag in capital letters, and then watch "Carpool Karaoke" before turning in...
I have had some small distant connection with letter bombs. They are an inefficient way of dispatching your enemies, which is why for high-profile assassinations the IRA preferred placing actual bombs in situ themselves: They did not trust the murders of, say, Lord Mountbatten, Sir Anthony Berry, Ian Gow, Robert Bradford and Airey Neave to the vagaries of the Royal Mail. Setting aside their unreliability, in the over-entouraged political culture of contemporary America there is zero chance of a letter bomb to a former president finding its target. Or even to Maxine Waters. From another book of mine well worth your time, The Face of the Tiger:
I have to confess that my first reaction, on hearing that 34 staffers in Tom Daschle's office had tested positive for anthrax, was a gasp of amazement: Tom Daschle has 34 staffers? Why?
A plotter competent enough to have all his "suspicious devices" arrive at the homes of half-a-dozen high-profile targets within twenty-four hours of each other is sophisticated enough to know that those devices are not going to get anywhere near close enough to kill or wound those targets - and that's before one considers the nature of the "bombs":
Some bomb technicians who studied photos of the device that circulated on social media suggested that the bomb sent to CNN had hallmarks of fake explosives — the kind more typically depicted on television and in movies, rather than devices capable of detonating.
A digital clock was taped to the middle of the pipe, a feature that experts say is typically shown on fictional bombs in an attempt to ratchet up dramatic tension, but unnecessary in real life.
In fact, bombmakers generally avoid attaching visible clocks to their devices to keep from tipping off their targets about when the bombs are set to explode.
Golly, it's almost like the "bombmaker" knew these bombs weren't ever going to be exploding anywhere, no way no how.
The point of terrorism is to terrorize - that's to say, terrorize the general population, and thereby change the way they live. Earlier this year, paying tribute to my much-missed compatriot George Jonas, I quoted one of his shrewdest insights:
George said a great thing about terrorism a couple years ago - that the the point about terrorism is: it's not about hijacking airliners, it's about hijacking the debate. It's about hijacking the conversation and that's how successful terrorism works. It wants to terrorize you into avoiding certain subjects.
Sending multiple bombs that will never reach their targets is an ineffective way to kill former presidents, vice-presidents, cabinet secretaries and movie stars ...but it's such an ingenious way to "hijack the debate" that you'd almost think that was its purpose.
Whether or not that proves to be so, the pile-on by Democrats and media these last twenty-four hours confirms they're happy to co-opt it as such: Pipe bombs? You deplorables need to pipe down.
Two years ago, after an actual political murder - of the Yorkshire MP Jo Cox - a week before the Brexit referendum, a similar effort was made to tie violence to the "tone" of conservatives:
Britain Asks if Tone of 'Brexit' Campaign Made Violence Inevitable
- above a photograph of Nigel Farage and one of his Brexit posters. Because Nige is the real perp.
A few days later, Britons who favor withdrawal from the European Union reacted to being tarred as accomplices in murder about as you'd expect. So, if the elites want more Trump, more Brexit, more populism, telling the masses to shut up pretty much ensures they're going to get it.
The answer to more violence is not less speech. That way lies darkness and tyranny. It's disgusting to see a Republican senatorial shoo-in, the next Emir of Incumbistan, too lazy to give any serious thought to the subject before reflexively virtue-signaling his compliance.
~Thank you to all those Mark Steyn Club members who helped make our inaugural Steyn Cruise a sellout. If you couldn't make it this year, don't miss our second cruise, which we'll be announcing shortly.
Catch you on the telly tonight, Thursday, when Tucker Carlson and I will have more to say about more violence and less speech, coast to coast on Fox News at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific, with a rerun at midnight eastern. Hope you can join me.
If you prefer me in audio only, I'll be back tomorrow, Friday, with a brand new nightly radio yarn in our series Tales for Our Time.
If you prefer me live in person, this Sunday afternoon - 3pm October 28th - I'll be at the Boston Marriott in Newton, Massachusetts to accept the Genesis Award from CJUI (Christians and Jews United for Israel). It should be a fun time, so, if you're in the New England area, I look forward to seeing you there.