The very notion of republican self-governance, which has been a core tenet of Western civilization since the demise of the great monarchs of Europe, depends upon the willingness of citizens to debate and deliberate the most pressing issues of society.
Sadly, high-profile recent examples, from the tony terrain of Stanford University all the way to the raucous streets of Tel Aviv, Israel, underscore the extent to which Western societies have given up on reasoned deliberation and capitulated to mobocracy. Where this civilizational decline ultimately ends is anyone's guess.
Earlier this month, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Judge Kyle Duncan was relentlessly heckled and successfully shouted down by a frothing mob of mini-Robespierre jackals who call themselves Stanford Law School students. The mob was simultaneously juvenile and outright vile, with one student unconscionably yelling to the esteemed jurist, "We hope your daughters get r***d!"
Even more galling, "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion" Associate Dean Tirien Steinbach finally rose up upon the judge's plea to restore order ... and, in preprepared remarks, sided with the protesters and ludicrously asked whether the "juice" (of Judge Duncan's planned remarks) was worth the "squeeze" of the alleged "harm" to the pampered brat students that Duncan's mere presence caused. (Steinbach has since been placed on administrative leave by Dean Jenny Martinez, although the culpable students have tragically escaped thus far with impunity.)
Earlier this week in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose conservative governing coalition has for months been pushing a set of anodyne, sorely needed and long-overdue reforms to the unaccountable and almighty Israeli Supreme Court, agreed to pause his legislative push amidst unprecedented pushback and widespread societal meltdown. The at-times hundreds of thousands of rioters in the streets, who blocked highways and tracked down and physically intimidated leading pro-reform legislators and even Netanyahu's wife, had reached a debilitating fever pitch.
A disturbing number of Israel Defense Forces reservists had reneged upon their military duties. Powerful unions had successfully temporarily grounded all departing flights from Ben Gurion International Airport. Venture capitalists had pulled billions of U.S. dollars' worth of investment out of Israel's thriving high-tech sector. All this, despite the left-wing opposition categorically refusing to sit down and negotiate in good faith on the judicial reform legislation.
At Stanford Law School, Judge Duncan's struggle session resulted in a heckler's veto outright precluding civil colloquy and the legitimate contestation of ideas. The tyranny of an emotive mob, in short, won the day. In Israel, foes of the judicial reform rebuffed direct political engagement, preferring instead to shriek "authoritarianism!" at the top of their lungs and gin up international incitement — indeed, an attempted color revolution — against the Netanyahu government. The tyranny of an emotive mob, in short, yet again won the day (at least for now).
An old lawyer maxim goes: "If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table." Left-wing activists increasingly find neither the facts nor the law on their side, but they have certainly become proficient at pounding the table.
There is nothing good that can possibly come from a civilization that, far from merely recognizing reason as "the slave of the passions" as per Scottish Enlightenment philosopher David Hume, completely sacrifices any semblance of reason and civil discourse at the altar of wokeness and the crass flexing of raw power.
The rot that we see unfolding, from Palo Alto to Tel Aviv and innumerable places in between, represents the triumph of animalistic, reflexive emotionalism over the distinctly human capacity to engage in logical deliberation in pursuit of that most anachronistic of concepts, the very invocation of which hearkens back to a bygone era: truth.
Mobocracy, which James Madison warned against in The Federalist No. 10 and which Abraham Lincoln so powerfully decried in his 1838 Lyceum Address, was supposed to be a thing of the past — not truth.
In fairness to Stanford Law School, Dean Martinez's post-incident letter was generally sound and even admirable, with the notable exception of its cowardly reluctance to punish the underlying student miscreants. And over in Israel, it remains to be seen what kind of compromise Prime Minister Netanyahu might still be able to negotiate with the opposition during this legislative pause.
"Indeed, Western civilization may still have some fight left in it." But it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the prospects at the moment appear pretty bleak.
Josh Hammer is a popular conservative commentator, of counsel at First Liberty Institute. He is a frequent pundit on political, legal and cultural issues, and is a constitutional attorney by training. An outspoken conservative, Josh opines on conservative intellectual trends, contemporary domestic and foreign policy debates, constitutional and legal issues, and the intersection of law, politics and culture. Read Josh Hammer's Reports — Here.