The Streets Pub and Grub in Sacramento, California this week issued an apology that raised concerns over the growing intolerance for those with opposing viewpoints or associations. The pub seemed to denounce itself for yielding to the temptations of a capitalist TERF and promising self-improvement. The sin of the pub? It allowed footage from “Harry Potter” video game “Hogwarts Legacy” to be shown during work hours. An activist reportedly associated with Antifa rallied the usual Internet flash mob in response to the reactionary conduct. The left has been trying to boycott the hugely popular game because they disagree with the feminist views of JK Rowling who has been labeled a TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminist). Rowling has criticized trans policies as inimical to the advancement of women.
The media has assisted in the effort to blacklist this product because it disagrees with her feminist views. Wired.com gave the game a 1/10 rating in part because of its ties to Rowling. The magazine wrote on “standing together” and drew “a direct correlation between how open Rowling becomes about her bigotry, and how flat and heartless Wizarding World media becomes.”
The Streets Pub and Grub declared itself reeducated and reformed. It issued its public apology and pledged “to be more careful” in the future: “Our sincerest apologies to those affected by this incident. Our staff has been informed to closely monitor requests from customers on what to put on our TVs.”
In other words, it will not allow people to see products associated with those with opposing views. These critics are clearly exercising their own free speech and associational rights in pressuring this pub. I have no problem with boycotts as a form of free speech. However, the pub was not using Rawling as a spokesperson or celebrity endorser. It was associating itself with her feminist advocacy outside of her work as an author. This is part of a scorched earth campaign to punish her (and anyone who likes her books or themes) for voicing objections to trans policies.
However, the incident shows the growing orthodoxy on the left and intolerance for opposing viewpoints. Public confessions raise concerns over a type of American Cultural Revolution where the failure to seek public redemption is to invite financial ruin. Keep in mind that this is all about a video game being shown in a pub. Even that level of tolerance is viewed as “hateful.”
The statement is all too familiar to many in academia where such public confessions have become common. Years ago, I expressed astonishment at the display at my alma mater at a public event. In 2020, the acting Northwestern Law Dean declared publicly to “I am James Speta and I am a racist.” He was followed by Emily Mullin, executive director of major gifts, who announced, “I am a racist and a gatekeeper of white supremacy. I will work to be better.” Such public declarations are now routine and meant to convey one’s bona fides as a faithful adherent.
The public confession by the pub was deemed sufficient by @pridewasariot, who tweeted: “Streets Pub and Grub has issued what we perceive as a genuine and authentic recognition of harm, sincerity, and apology. We encourage Trans & Queer community members to recognize this gesture as genuine, in a time when recognition and accountability is rare, especially in Lavender Heights.”
The account continued,
“Thank you to the team members at Streets Pub and Grub for demonstrating solidarity with our communities. As a reminder, Pride Was A Riot, Sacramento documents, tracks and responds to reports of hate-crime activity in Lavender Heights and much of the Sacramento region… We are only as capable as our supporters.”
Indeed, they are “capable.” To maintain speech blacklists, you need a mob and others who will stay silent in the face of such anti-free speech campaigns. The “hate-crime activity” reported here was the showing of a product associated with someone who holds different ideological views. Rowling is a liberal who believes that trans policies undermine feminist values. Rather than engage in debates on such issues, Antifa and other groups are seeking to blacklist and badger people into submission. When it comes to Antifa, this threat has always had a potential for violence, as I addressed in prior congressional testimony.
In Rutgers Professor Mark Bray’s Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, Bray emphasizes the struggle of the movement against free speech: “At the heart of the anti-fascist outlook is a rejection of the classical liberal phrase that says, ‘I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’”Indeed, Bray admits that “most Americans in Antifa have been anarchists or antiauthoritarian communists… From that standpoint, ‘free speech’ as such is merely a bourgeois fantasy unworthy of consideration.” It is an illusion designed to promote what Antifa is resisting “white supremacy, hetero-patriarchy, ultra-nationalism, authoritarianism, and genocide.” Thus, all of these opposing figures are deemed fascistic and thus unworthy of being heard. Bray quotes one Antifa member as summing up their approach to free speech as a “nonargument . . . you have the right to speak but you also have the right to be shut up.”
I previously discussed how George Washington University student Jason Charter was charged as the alleged “ringleader” of efforts to take down statues across the capital. Charter has been an active Antifa member on campus for years. Following his arrest, he claimed the “movement is winning.” It is winning. It is winning mostly since people remain silent. Silence kills free speech. Antifa knows that.
To use a Harry Potter term, they are the dementors of the anti-free speech movement. To quote Albus Dumbledore: “A word of caution: dementors are vicious creatures. They will not distinguish between the one they hunt and the one who gets in their way. Therefore I must warn each and every one of you to give them no reason to harm you.”