Manhattan Institute

Turn Left and Go Over the Top

Radical opponents of free speech can’t tolerate hearing anything new.

Pity the poor members of the Resistance. They decried violence on the right—only to have GOP congressman Steve Scalise shot by rifle-wielding left-winger James T. Hodgkinson. Then, a group of theater professinals decried any attempt to quash a staging of Julius Caesar with the title character, caparisoned as Donald Trump, assassinated with shouts of revenge and gouts of blood. But soon afterward, yet another assemblage of theater professionals decided that censorship was a good thing after all.

The Lincoln Center Festival is staging a four-night production this month of To the End of the Land, a dramatization of the acclaimed novel by Israeli author David Grossman. The play is underwritten by a cultural-outreach arm of the Israeli government. The Jewish State is anathema to the radical Left, and angry members of an organization identifying itself as “Adalah-NY, the New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel,” are demanding that the production be taken off the boards before the Center dares to raise its curtain. Signatories to the demand include playwrights Tracy Letts, Lynn Nottage, and Annie Baker, as well as director Sam Gold, rock star Roger Waters, indie-film darling Greta Gerwig, and reliably anti-Israel playwright/actor Wallace Shawn.

Adalah-NY says that production of To the End of the Land will aid the Isralie government in its “Brand Israel” campaign, which aims to use arts and culture to beguile audiences into thinking that Israel is a modern, civilized nation—while the wicked Hebrews continue their “violent colonization, brutal military occupation and denial of basic rights to the Palestinian people.”

Never mind that the play is actually an antiwar document, that its Israeli writer lost a son to battle and is understandably reluctant to fan any fires, and that, in fact, it has a sympathetic Palestinian character. Never mind that Israel is surrounded by would-be assassins who have sworn to destroy the Jewish state and all who live there. Never mind that a quick glance at the state of human rights or rule of law among any of Israel’s neighbors provides the sharpest possible foil, and that not a peep has been heard from Adalah-NY about the lives of the citizen-victims of Egypt, Gaza, Syria, or Lebanon.

Where the Resistance does not demand silence, it expects uniformity of opinion —particularly from the mouth of its Enemy #1, President Donald Trump. After Trump’s speech in Warsaw last week celebrating the values of the West, the Left was outraged. In The Atlantic, Peter Beinart won the over-the-top sweepstakes with his declaration: “The most shocking sentence in Trump’s speech—perhaps the most shocking sentence in any presidential speech delivered on foreign soil in my lfetime—was his claim that ‘the first fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.’” According to Beinart, asserting cultural identity—but only Western cultural identity, of course—comprises “the ultimate statement of racial and religious paranoia.”

In the The Week, Jeva Lange came in second: “It has been said that Trump has ‘no doctrine,’ or that his doctrine is putting ‘America first.’” But, “Trump proved it to be something else entirely: a war against an undefined, and perhaps even nonexistent, ‘other.’”

Nowhere in his speech did Trump say anything triumphalist about race or religion. Nor did he declare war against any “other.” His speech celebrated the enduring values of free inquiry, creative expression, and tolerance.

Neither Beinert nor Lange demanded that Trump’s speech be censored: that would be a step too far. For now, ominor theatrical productions will do just fine as targets for silencing. What the Resistance wants from the president is what they are used to hearing from their leaders: robotic words that jibe with their own received opinions. Anything else might give people ideas.

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