In 1968 — another angry wrong-track era very like but unlike today — there was a fad of students streaking naked in otherwise staid situations. Of the several such streakings I witnessed during that era, one that stood out was during a guest lecture in a college graduate class in which a nude man ran in front of the guest speaker, jumped up and down, and then ran off. Most of us were embarrassed.
The lecture was on the merits of American foreign policy, and I remember listening to it while my draft notice was sitting in my backpack.
In the seminar class following the incident, I asked my political science professor, a brilliant man whose home was literally floor to ceiling books (and he’d read and assimilated them all) how he analyzed such rude behavior in political terms. “He violated the norms,” my Prof observed. And then he smiled.
Today, a man identified first as a “British comedian,” also violated the norms by running up to News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch who was testifying before a Parliamentary committee. The man attempted to throw what’s being reported as a shaving cream pie into the elder Murdoch’s face. The pie-man was then reportedly struck by Murdoch’s wife before being captured.
Without further explanation or justification, the norm violating pie-man will now presumably face arrest, possible trial and jail for what is usually seen as the crime of assault. It’s the law.
My reaction, upon hearing this news, was to recall my wise Prof’s observation and to smile. Of course, it’s not polite or civil to throw pies at people when they haven’t literally asked for it, and it’s always helpful to remind ourselves about the slippery slope we’re on once we’ve endorsed even modest physical violence.
So I wasn’t surprised to learn that various liberal acquaintances, all good people, were worried about how the incident would be portrayed. Would “liberals” be blamed for resorting to violence or excusing it? Should “we” immediately denounce this violation of the norms? Should we insist this man’s actions be viewed as just a random act by a nut case with whom we have no relationship, let alone responsibility? There was anguished hand wringing all round.
Well, posh. Rupert Murdoch is one of the elite bullies who have been looting the nation and skating on both sides of the law. As a media mogul, he’s been enabling other predators who’ve been looting the nation’s wealth, damaging its environment, and harming hundreds of millions of people. He’s hushed up people and rival corporations who sued his companies for unlawful behavior by buying them out. So far, the political and judicial systems that Mr. Murdoch and Fox/Friends have been corrupting have done almost nothing to hold Mr. Murdoch or any of these thugs accountable.
In the last week alone, a stunned public has learned that Mr. Murdoch’s companies illegally hacked the phones of innocent people, misled or interfered in murder and terrorism investigations, corrupted and bribed police and obstructed criminal investigations, violated people’s privacy to make a buck off their personal problems, and corrupted our political discourse with lies, misrepresentations and faux outrage at made-up crises. About a dozen people associated with these activities in the UK have been arrested, and the UK Prime Minister may fall. They’ve been doing this for decades with zero accountability, because they either bought and sold or blackmailed politicians at the highest levels of government into looking the other way.
Perhaps there’s still enough democracy, moral outrage, and respect for the rule of law left to bring such scoundrels to account. Heaven knows, the public would welcome that. But I doubt it. Sooner or later, violating the norms is all you have left.
Note: FDL’s owner reminds me that any overt advocacy of violence is prohibited on this site. Smiling is okay.