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See, they’re not destroying and burning – they’re destroying and burning for a good cause.
It feels good.
To understand what’s happening on college campuses, where pro-Hamas mobs are gleefully menacing Jewish students and celebrating rape, torture, and murder as acts of “liberation,” start looking at transgender behavior. One of the emerging themes of biological males living in assumed female identities is the obvious importance of violence to that identity. A teenage transgender student in Riverside, California, repeatedly attacked actual girls on campus. Proud pro-trans activists punched women during a women’s rights rally in Auckland, New Zealand. An anti-trans activist who calls himself Billboard Chris has been shoved, hit, and screamed at in Vancouver and Portland.
When transgender “women” talk about what their violent behavior means, they present violence as a defense of their identity, posing with guns and boasting about their willingness to hurt actual women who try to keep them from doing things like using the women's bathroom. “I dare you to try and stop me from going into a women’s bathroom,” a well-known trans TikToker says. “It will be the last mistake you ever make.”
See how this works? Under ordinary circumstances, if you’re a man and you post video on social media threatening to hurt women – well, it tends to be frowned upon. But the magical act of becoming a trans woman recodes predatory sociopathy: You’re not threatening to hurt women; you’re promising to hurt women for social justice. You’re kindness-hurting. It’s progressive torture and degradation.
Any turn toward chaos opens a window to the pleasure of mass violence. Know that the window is there. Know that it can open. Remember what comes through it.
For years, the literature scholar Camille Paglia has described widespread trans fetishism as a behavior associated with historical end stages, which I’ve found convincing. But the author of “Sexual Personae” has also frequently linked transgender behavior to sadomasochism, which I haven’t grasped. What’s the connection?
I see it now. The news has made the point clear, with an assist from social media. The point of transmania is the license to harm. I dare you. It will be the last mistake you ever make. The point of that threat is the pleasure of making it.
So. A mob penned Jewish students inside the library at Cooper Union on Wednesday night, screaming and pounding on the doors to get in. Reports say some of the Jewish students escaped through tunnels, which is not a statement you would expect to read in America in 2023. Here’s footage of students at NYU, chanting, “We don’t want no Jew state.” Don’t miss the student in that clip with the sign that says, “We can’t wait for the caliphate.” At NYU, in Manhattan.
College students have been doing this for a while now, as when they smashed windows and lit fires to protest conservative speakers on campus. See, they’re not destroying and burning – they're destroying and burning for social justice. They have license to cause harm, because they rhetorically define harm as the prevention of harm.
The progression of putative causes around a consistent set of behaviors is telling: destruction to prevent conservatives from speaking on campus, destruction to protest the death of Michael Brown, destruction to protest the death of Saint George Floyd, destruction to stand with the people of Gaza. The mobs will oppose something new tomorrow, or next week; try to guess how they’ll express it.
In the strongest possible terms, I urge you to read Frank Dikötter’s history of the Cultural Revolution in China – and read it soon. Licensed to destroy, for the sake of progress and justice, Chinese students tortured and murdered their teachers. Joyfully, proudly. They savored acts of sadistic violence, drawing them out in rituals of sustained torture, set free by politics to explore their own personal depths.
Ideology kills, but once the course is set, it only gets you to the edge of the mass grave. The rest is the psychology of dominance and the infliction of pain, which people enjoy. The men who chased Kyle Rittenhouse were having fun. Degradation is instrumental. It opens doors to more: You got away with that part, so go on to the next thing.
The “Ferguson Summer” of 2014 ran on into 2015. In 2016, Antifa mobs were given license to commit acts of violence to impede Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017. In 2020, Antifa and Black Lives Matter burned cities, and the federal courthouse in Portland was the center of a prolonged ritual of destructive violence.
We gave them license, and they found that they liked it.
Political, social, and economic instability threaten now, as the federal government loses control of its debt and the Middle East sinks toward the possibility of regional war. Any turn toward chaos opens a window to the pleasure of mass violence. Know that the window is there. Know that it can open. Remember what comes through it.
The medicine for the sickness of mass violence, which feels good, is consequences, which feel bad. College administrators might try to notice. The Department of Justice almost certainly won’t. At a moment of rising conflict, we need institutions that speak calmly, argue for social norms, and call people to connection and shared identity. Instead we have a uniformly panicked message from Democrats and the news media blasting the new speaker of the House as a terrifying insurrectionist who intends to end democracy. We’ve reached the crossroads, and our political leaders are pointing the mob down the same dark road.
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Chris Bray is a former infantry soldier who earned his Ph.D. in history at UCLA. He writes at Tell Me How This Ends on Substack.