The Right Doesn’t Need More Courage, We Need Better Training And Bigger Sticks

The Right Doesn’t Need More Courage, We Need Better Training And Bigger Sticks By  for The Federalist

No magical elves are going to build your community for you. If people are afraid, don’t tell them that they’re cowards. Teach them how to stand up.

The ongoing argument of how and whether conservatives should stand up for their beliefs in a hostile environment includes some recent interesting flareups, including here in The Federalist. The most interesting, to me, is the exchange between National Review’s David French and the Paradox Project’s pseudonymous Matt Shapiro (full disclosure: he’s written for The Federalist).

French worked as an attorney doing important civil rights work with the Alliance Defending Freedom, and Shapiro was in graduate school at a university that was one party in a case where French served as lead counsel. They experienced different parts of the same elephant.

In National Review, French decried what he called “conservative timidity”: “The battle for freedom has been fought and won. Your speech may be free, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. Truly confronting illiberal political correctness requires personal courage. Without it, the battle for the First Amendment will have been fought in vain.”

Except, of course, it’s not that easy. As Shapiro noted: “Outrage mobs will not stop because outrage mobs work. We need to either change the culture or change the law so that they no longer work. That takes a lot more than courage.” Shapiro knows, and can vividly describe, what it’s like to stand up when you’re isolated.

The strongest point in Shapiro’s essay comes when he notes that he has, in fact, made a commitment that there is a line violating his religious beliefs, a line he will not cross: “But you’re ridiculous if you think I’m telling you what that line is. The moment an activist discovers my line, they will use that information to go to my employer and demand that they find a way to force me to cross that line. And I won’t cross it. And I’ll lose my job.”

And courage can’t prevent that. French certainly can’t prevent that: after all, he went to bat for Kevin Williamson’s job at the Atlantic. How’d courage work out for Williamson?

We Don’t Need Courage, We Need a Bigger Stick

French described Shapiro’s statement as “a response worth reading,” but didn’t agree with the conclusion, maintaining, “It’s not either/or. It’s both/and. And the battle won’t be won without both/and. Two decades of litigation have blazed a trail, but sometimes folks have to just walk down that trail. If you don’t want to, I understand. It’s hard. But it’s still a failure if you don’t.”

In other words, “There may be a hockey-masked slasher down that trail, but you need to go down it by yourself anyway.” But as anybody who has ever seen a horror movie knows, fewer camp counselors would meet grisly deaths if they just figured out how to walk down trails together.

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