Yesterday and today, a man named John Zmirak and I had a dialogue on Twitter. He is a writer at The Stream, has authored several books, and regularly makes appearances on the Eric Metaxas Show. Yesterday, Zmirak wrote a piece defending those who rushed the stage during the Shakespeare in the Park event in New York City.
As you are probably aware by now, the play is Julius Caesar, and the play is modernized so as to depict President Donald Trump as Caesar. If you’re aware of history (or the play), then you know that (spoiler alert?) Julius Caesar is murdered in the third act.
Now, the assassination scene is allegedly brutal, so much so that some of the corporations that financially supported the event pulled their funding.
As a way to protest the play, one activist rushed the stage while a colleague (of sorts) in the audience filmed it. Ben Shapiro authored a post at his site condemning the actions of the activists. My opening tweet to John Zmirak was mostly in defense of Shapiro and his perspective.
I didn’t expect Zmirak to respond to the tweet (I wouldn’t expect a writer to have enough time to respond on social media), but he did respond, and it spawned an interesting discussion.
(Click the tweet below to open the thread)
Seems to have straw-manned @benshapiro‘s argument and denies the principles upon which it stands. https://t.co/Pi4R5OAuKR
— Brandon Elrod (@brandonelrod) June 21, 2017
Ultimately, I still disagree with Zmirak’s assessment of the protestors’ methods. I do not think that shouting at the crowd, calling them “Goebbels,” and apparently trying to shut down the play are righteous or effective methods for political discourse or activism.
I am somewhat baffled by the fact that Zmirak and Eric Metaxas would bemoan the response by conservatives such as Shapiro and David French who strongly disagreed with the protest. French and Shapiro are not meager in their critiques of the Left, and Shapiro regularly goes onto college campuses and deals the illiberalism that can be found there.
Now, I do believe that many on the Left have an extremely toxic, lethal ideology, and it certainly needs to be opposed. Still, those who seek to oppose a bad ideology should not stoop to the level of trying to shut down free speech as many on the Left so often do.
As I mentioned in the Twitter conversation with Zmirak, you don’t beat totalitarianism by becoming totalitarian yourself. Men and women of principle will not overcome evil by abandoning their principles. Zmirak wrote a piece a few days ago that essentially made this same argument, even putting the whole question into spiritual terms.
One of his final conclusions in that piece is that we cannot let the evil spirit of the age “tempt us into sharing [the] spiritual disorder” that plagues so many. I believe that the method of protest that took place in Central Park represents such a slip into that disorder.
If we cannot beat a terrible ideology while maintaining our principles, we should not join them by adopting its horrible, destructive methodology.
Does there ever come a time when it becomes necessary to fight fire with fire? Yes. World War II is the best example of that. And though drastic measures may become necessary at some point, we must weep during such a time, not rejoice–especially as Christians.