Can Words Be Violence?
Episode 4 of “Wokeness, Public Safety, BLM & Antifa” w/Matt Thornton
Words can be vulgar, mean-spirited, or hurtful, but are they violent? Some activists claim certain words are “literal violence,” and they use this claim as justification to shut down speakers and curtail free speech. In Episode 4 of “Wokeness, Public Safety, BLM & Antifa,” Matt Thornton explains why suppressing civil discourse increases the possibility of actual violence.
Matt Thornton has taught functional martial arts for more than 30 years. He holds a 5th-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and is the founder of Straight Blast Gym International, training champion MMA fighters and world-class law enforcement instructors. His latest book is The Gift of Violence: Practical Knowledge for Surviving and Thriving in a Dangerous World.
Person on TikTok: “Let me explain why misgendering is an act of violence.”
Person at rally: “We’re here today not because we don’t know how to take a joke, we’re here because we’re concerned that the jokes are taking lives.”
Person in classroom: “We don’t want you to speak here. Your remarks are violence. They’re threats. You cannot be speaking here. Thank you very much.”
Pro-life activist: It’s a baby. What if someone is raped and she gave birth and she decided to kill her three-year-old child?” (phone kicked out of her hand)
So that's backwards, pernicious, dangerous, and stupid, and it comes as a result in some ways of a good thing. The good thing is that violence over the long term has been on a steady decline. We're nearing a spike now thanks to the Woke. But prior to this, for a long term, violence has been on the decline. For a lot of people in the United States, they don't really have that much experience with actual violence. And that's a good thing. I don't want people to have experience with violence, but that leads them to labeling something like language as violence.
Language is not violence. And we don't want to minimize what real violence is. When someone puts their hands on somebody else and refuses to take them off, when someone physically rapes someone, or assaults someone, or punches someone, or sets them on fire, or shoots them…that is a very, very serious thing. Words are not violence. Silence is not violence. Violence is violence. It's a very serious thing and it needs to be kept distinct from that.
The cure, especially for political violence, is to talk. The options that we have as human beings, if we have completely different ideas about how public policy should be, are to communicate with each other, and to reach some sort of consensus, either through politics or in the academy. That's what should be going on. It should be a dialog.
The worst thing you could possibly do is shut down that dialogue, refuse to allow that dialogue, because then all you've done is you've opened it up for the only other option, which is violence. You're actually creating violence by labeling words as violence and by trying to stifle freedom of speech or stop someone else who has an idea from talking. You're actually making it more likely that there will be real violence. And real violence, like I just said, is a very distinct and different thing from words. And that should never be forgotten.
Watch the series Introduction
Watch Episode 3: Disparities in Outcomes: Proof of Racism?