“The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant, it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so,” Ronald Reagan once quipped of his political opponents.
For a portion of the Right, this line has served as a guiding principle in its attempt to coexist with the Left. Liberals are not bad people, the rationale goes, nor are they hateful or cruel. They simply know so much that isn’t so. Thus, for a specific segment of the Right, interactions with the Left have followed from this belief, that one is engaging a fellow citizen who is, despite all fierce disagreements, a decent and compassionate person.
The Right may need to consider reevaluating this line of thinking.
Indeed, from the way the Left responds to natural disasters in red states, one gets the sense that they are cruel, that they delight not only in the suffering of their ideological opponents but also in their deaths. From the way the Left comported itself during the COVID-19 pandemic, one gets the distinct impression that they are hateful. And now, with left-wingers cheering Hamas’s murder of Israeli civilians, one gets the sense that members of the Left are just plain bad people.
For years, it was easy for generous-minded conservatives to reject the idea that liberals are evil, arguing that the thesis relied entirely on the unhinged behavior of the Left’s most radical fringes. But what was once a bug is now a feature. Take, for example, how left-wing students and academics in the United States responded this week to news of the slaughter of 1,300 Israeli civilians, including infants, women, and the elderly, by Palestinian terrorists on Oct. 7.
At Harvard, an incredible 34 student organizations published a joint statement saying the “apartheid regime” of Israel “is the only one to blame … for the murders.” At Georgetown University, student activists held a vigil on Oct. 12 for the Hamas “martyrs” who died in the attacks. At the vigil, students handed out literature that praised the slaughter as a “tangible” step toward “decolonization.” Elsewhere in the Washington, D.C., area, George Washington University students likewise held a “Vigil for the Martyrs of Palestine,” mourning specifically the terrorists killed in last weekend’s actions.
At the University of Virginia, the campus’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter released a statement saying it “unequivocally supports Palestinian Liberation and the right of colonized people everywhere to resist the occupation of their land by whatever means necessary.” At Northwestern University, Students for Justice in Palestine issued a statement arguing Israel is not “the aggrieved party.” The group’s chapters at Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, Butler University in Indiana, the University of Louisville in Kentucky, the University of Binghamton in New York, and the University of Virginia plan to join in a nationwide “day of resistance” aimed at “dismantling Zionism.”
On Oct. 7, Israel suffered its worst terrorist attack in the post-World War II era. The death toll, which includes infants, women, and the elderly, stands at about 1,300. An estimated 27 U.S. citizens were murdered. Hamas also took more than 100 hostages, many of them innocent civilians.
Yet, the immediate response in so many colleges and universities was not to condemn the killings, the torture, the humiliations, or the kidnappings. The response was to praise Hamas while criticizing the victim of the slaughter. Equally disturbing is the fact that these rallies were not confined to institutions of higher learning. Large pro-Hamas rallies have taken place in major U.S. cities this week, the streets echoing the bloodlust articulated in the halls of academia.
The student groups and the unassociated rallies are not right-wing. They are not right-of-center. They aren’t even moderate. They are left-wing, espousing what has become a mainstream position on the Left – that Palestine is the righteous actor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that its resistance “by any means” is both justified and moral, including even ethnic cleansing. This isn’t a fringe opinion anymore. So widespread does this position appear, in fact, that even those on the left-leaning side of things have expressed alarm.
“In nearly 50 years of [Harvard] affiliation,” former Clinton and Obama Treasury official Larry Summers said in reference to the pro-Hamas Harvard letter, “I have never been as disillusioned and alienated as I am today.” Summers also previously served as the president of Harvard.
“Until the last few days, the phenomenon of Western lefties defending barbarism in the name of a desired utopian, egalitarian ideal was a historical abstraction to me,” said Puck’s Washington correspondent Julia Ioffe. “I had read about Westerners defending Stalin’s purges and collectivization campaigns and thought, well, their ideological fervor was probably just amplified by the difficulty of getting good information out of the USSR. But now I see that’s not it.”
Yes, some liberals are eager to celebrate Hamas’s war crimes. But surely, claiming the Left delights in cruelty is going a bit too far.
Recall the COVID-19 pandemic, a miserable two-year slog in which the Left all-too-giddily hailed the deaths of conservatives and right-wingers diagnosed with the virus. Don’t forget how they hoisted high the corpse of former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain in order to make some larger political point about Republican “anti-science .” Don’t forget the left-wing media personalities who spent entire news cycles gloating over the deaths of conservatives and right-wingers who had previously protested lockdowns or expressed skepticism of the vaccines or even the deadliness of the virus itself. In fact, certain left-wingers are still playing this game.
“Mary Lou Retton is in the ICU, uninsured, with severe breathing problems,” Vote.org founder Debra Cleaver said this week in reference to the Olympian champion’s ailing health. “This is awful, and I wish her a speedy recovery. Omitted from most coverage is that she is a millionaire Republican, willfully uninsured, likely unvaccinated, and I’m guessing COVID positive.”
Lastly, let’s not forget what has become a go-to response for the Left for natural disasters in red states. The response is usually something along the lines of, ” Do you believe in climate change now , hillbilly ?”
Cheering Hamas. Feeling smug about COVID-19 deaths. Gloating over catastrophes in red states. As they say, once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, and three times is a pattern. Or better yet, to parrot that miserable cliche beloved so dearly by the Left, “When people show you who they are, believe them.”
Becket Adams is a columnist for the Washington Examiner, National Review, and the Hill. He is also the program director of the National Journalism Center.