The below piece was written by Quillette reader Nitram Nosirrag in rebuttal to James Lindsay’s Quillette Magazine piece How the Left Turned Words Into ‘Violence,’ and Violence Into ‘Justice’.
Quillette publisher Claire Lehman has publicly promised her readers “Right of Reply” as long as rebuttals are well-written and argued. Lehman chose not to publish (much less respond to the submission of) the following:
James Lindsay opens his recent Quillette piece by quoting Charlotte Clymer, who in the aftermath of Andy Ngo’s pummeling and milkshaking by Antifa on the streets of Portland, tweeted the following:
“…“Ngo intentionally provokes people on the left to drive his content. Being attacked today on video taken by an actual journalist (because Ngo is definitely not) is the greatest thing that could have happened to his career. You know it. I know it. He knows it. We all know it. Violence is completely wrong, and I find it sad and weak to allow a sniveling weasel like Andy Ngo to get under one’s skin like this, but I’m also not going to pretend this wasn’t Ngo’s goal from the start. I mean, let’s cut the shit here. This is what they do.”
Lindsay quickly (and rightly) pegs Clymer–who does PR for a large LGBTQ advocacy organization–as an activist. In contrast to her, Lindsay paints Ngo as a impartial journalist (On this second point, I would beg to differ–but more on that later.)
Lindsay then condemns Clymer by writing “…So this is where we are right now: A staffer for a human-rights organization dedicated to helping gay people is publicly cheering the beating of a gay man…”
So far, so good. Now–you have read the Clymer tweet. In it, Clymer states explicitly “Violence is completely wrong…” She does not write, “Though violence is generally wrong, it was justified in Ngo’s case.” She writes “Violence is completely wrong…” That seems unequivocal. So how can a writer logically contend, as Lindsay does, that Clymer’s tweet was “publicly cheering the beating” of Andy Ngo?
Of course, aside from the leap in logic, there is the issue of Ngo’s sexuality. Lindsay informs us multiple times in his piece that Ngo is gay. However, Ngo was not targeted for his sexuality, he was targeted for doxing an Antifa member and for advocating on behalf of Antifa’s rival gang, The Proud Boys (Both groups are engaged in a violent, turf, gang war played out during protests on the streets of Portland.)
Moreover, Antifa is adamantly pro-gay. So Ngo’s sexuality is altogether irrelevant to what happened to him. But by hammering home the “beating of a gay man”, Lindsay is choosing to pedal a narrative straight from the identitarian playbook of those he condemns–this in a blatant attempt to smear an individual, Clymer, who works advocating for the rights of those, who, like Ngo, happen to be gay.
This Lindsay does, I suspect, because Clymer’s tweet contains the unmistakable tenor of truth: condemning the violence, she nonetheless sees through the false “journalist” narrative spun by Ngo and his supporters and considers the Quillette writer and editor a partisan victim—i.e. an opportunist.
(It’s important to remember: those brave few who responded with skepticism in the direct aftermath of the alleged attack on Jussie Smollett were subjected the same kind of specious yet damaging attacks Lindsay here levels at Clymer.)
It’s true, Clymer herself is biased–due to the fact her advocacy is prized by the left, it’s only logical she would empathize more with Antifa than Proud Boys. But that hardly makes her a cheerleader for Ngo’s beating. In fact, Ngo getting beaten (and gaining public sympathy and money—to the tune of 200K from supporters) has made Clymer’s job as a woke activist more–not less–difficult. Why then would she cheerlead an attack that led to incredible sympathy for an enemy and public condemnation of a group under her own ideological umbrella?
Lindsay then goes on to condemn other mainstream reporters for pieces in which, he claims, contained the subtext “…Yes, Ngo got beaten. But c’mon—the guy had it coming.”
To this, my response is that it is both legitimate and important to distinguish Ngo from say, a truly innocent victim like Brian Stowe, the SF Giant fan permanently disabled in an unprovoked attack by a rival LA Dodger fan. The Ngo who’s built a flourishing livelihood promoting one side over another in a violent turf war–and who ended up getting roughed up and ‘shaked because of that activism–is hardly a Brian Stowe.
Though what’s happening on the streets of Portland may be reflective of national, even global political tensions, it is still a local, gang war—those who declare allegiance to one side may not lay legitimate claim to innocent victimhood.
Yes, embedded journalists are often victims in war, but Ngo was hardly providing the kind of balanced, nuanced reporting of the conflict that would have marked him as a journalist. He had clearly chosen a side–the politics of his Patreon donors (both before and after his beating) make that clear. These kinds of patrons–whether right or left–do not make a habit of contributing financially for ambiguity or shades of grey.
It’s also clear Ngo was aware of the threats made against him by Antifa members prior to the incident and could have insisted that the publications he write for hire a security detail to protect him or pony up for security himself using resources collected via Patreon. He declined to do either—why?
No legitimate answer to this question has been forthcoming from the Ngo camp, aside from that Ngo should not have to be protected—the police should have protected him and in not doing so, the police must somehow be against him. (“We are going to sue EVERYBODY!” Ngo’s lawyer roared in the wake of the incident.)
This response is yet another illogical argument borrowed from the left. Law enforcers, as a group, skew significantly conservative, not liberal. (If it needs explaining, this is in Ngo’s ideological direction, not away from it.)
Clymer’s tweet implies that the real answer to the fair question of why Ngo chose not to protect himself on a gang battlefield is that he sought (subconsciously or not) this very incident—and the attendant attention (and funds to his business) it would bring.
Given other facts—that Ngo summoned his attorney to the hospital before almost immediately appearing on CNN and flying to LA to appear on twin podcasts, even though he had supposedly suffered a serious brain injury—leaves me agreeing with and supporting the tweet of an individual with whom I disagree on most things political, Charlotte Clymer.
Lindsay goes on to criticize at length an argument some on the academic left have made, that what Ngo is engaging in is a kind of violence all its own—a form of fascist violence. Though Lindsay’s theoretical thesis is interesting on its own (and extensively researched and cited), I find it immaterial to whether Clymer and others were justified in balking at the narrative spun by Ngo supporters—that of Ngo as an innocent, preyed upon, gay (read: helpless) journalist attacked on the job, rather than a partisan activist “working” an unjustifiably violent–though not surprising–attack for maximum social media and monetary effect.
Lindsay’s theory is immaterial because simply publishing views critical of Islamophobia or Antifa does not make Ngo a fascist–or an activist. Earning one’s living, however, from partisan donations and then reporting just what those partisans want to see (editing out anything sympathetic to the other side—often literally, by turning off the camera) does make Ngo an activist. And though he might not be an activist on other issues, he long ago crossed the line from journalist to activist on this one.
As such, it is perfectly reasonable—and it turns out also correct—to question the official narrative of Ngo’s victimhood–as Clymer, who skews left and surely disdains Quillette, did in her tweet and I, who skew right and regularly read Quillette, have attempted to do in this rebuttal.
–Nitram Nosirrag (a pseudonym) is a conservative writer and film editor who lives in a tiny solar house on wheels in the left-dominated, San Francisco Bay Area.