Turn on the news today or log into your social media and you will see headline after headline of attacks on our liberty and security. Whether it’s anti-police riots, jihadist gunmen, or corrupt politicians, our nation’s traditions and principles are under heavy assault. It is demoralizing. We know who seeks to destroy our society and what their objectives are. But what can we actually do to stop them?
What we face today are multiple “wars of ideas.” While enemy combatants are not an invading force shooting bullets and dropping bombs, the outcome is the same. Our way of life is up for grabs. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is an opponent in one of the idea wars. The attacks on our police officers – and law and order itself – coming from their protests across the nation are a threat to our justice system and could have far-reaching effects if we do not engage.
Fortunately we do not need to adopt their tactics of lawlessness and violence to defeat them.
Author Robert R. Reilly lays out four maxims for winning wars of ideas in The Knowledge Group’s 2015 special report, The Islamic State and Information Warfare: Defeating ISIS and the Broader Global Jihadist Movement:
- “the first thing one must do is formulate the ideas that are so central to one’s life that one is not willing to live without them.”
- “one cannot go into a war of ideas until one understands the ideas one is at war with.”
- “wars of ideas, by definition, can only be fought by and with people who think.”
- “along with a consistency of purpose, one must have the organizational and
financial means for conducting a war of ideas over the course of generations.”
The right to free speech and to bear arms, freedom of religion, a limited and constitutional government, a right to due process, and equal protection under the law are all ideas that no American should not be willing to live without. These ideas all became law well over 200 years ago and are no longer merely ideas up for discussion. We know the groups that seek to undermine or destroy our system and replace it with their own vision. We have plenty of thinkers on tv, radio, internet, and print media that already defend our ideas.
What is missing is organization and resolve. A consistency of purpose.
Since the movement’s founding in 2012 following the shooting of Trayvon Martin, BLM protests have become increasingly widespread and violent, receiving legitimacy from media and government (including President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch) despite their criminal activity. The movement is getting stronger and the chaos they create is giving politicians the opportunity they need to act on things they otherwise would not be able to, like transferring control of policing from municipalities and states to the federal government.
So how do we fight back in this war of ideas?
We must take control of the language. “Justice” is not assassinating police officers and blocking highways. Justice is not throwing police officers in jail merely for shooting suspects that happened to be black.
We must steal the initiative by controlling the narrative. We can’t let BLM and their supporters in government and media frame the debate so we have to respond to them. They need to respond to us.
We must destroy their legitimacy. The movement’s ideology, not just their actions, has to be attacked. BLM is not seeking equality; it is a violent supremacist movement. Exposing the movement’s true intention would make their enablers in Washington and the media rethink their support.
When we fought the Germans in World War II, President Roosevelt didn’t talk about Adolf Hitler’s legitimate concerns and invite top Nazi officials to the White House. We threw everything we had at the enemy until the Germans gave up on their idea.
Reilly writes, “All wars of ideas, since they deal in moral legitimacy, have at their center a certain conception of justice. Determining and demonstrating the worth of the respective causes – who is truly just? – is one of the decisive elements in victory.”
Who is truly just: the group that seeks due process and equal protection (regardless of ethnicity) for individuals accused of breaking the law? Or the group that riots when a white police officer shoots a black suspect, solely on the basis of skin color?
“conveying the rightness of one’s cause does not guarantee victory in war,” states Reilly, “but failure to make and support the claim to the right in a convincing matter can fatally undermine the chance for success.”