‘Burn It All Down’: Violent Language Leads to Violent Actions

July 19, 2021 Updated: July 20, 2021


You wouldn’t think opposing burning churches would be controversial in Canada. But it upsets a surprising number of people including Harsha Walia, former British Columbia Civil Liberties Association head, and a bunch of her supporters. How did we get here?

As Global News observed, “In a June 30 tweet responding to a news article about a pair of Catholic churches burning down, Walia wrote ‘burn it all down.’” And she was immediately not fired. Nor two weeks later. Finally on July 16 the BCCLA grudgingly conceded that they were cutting her loose in a cowardly act of capitulation to a racist sexist mob.

No, really. On announcing her resignation “with heavy hearts,” the board of directors said in a follow-up letter that their outfit was facing “inexcusable racism and misogyny and threats to physical and mental safety.” Apparently “We encountered a wave of hateful commentary, fuelled by the fact that our executive director is a racialized woman leader.” And crumpled.

They also squeezed out the modern I’m-sorry-you-idiots-were-offended apology, allowing that “burn it all down” as churches burned “left some people with the wrong impression about the values and principles to which we adhere.” But basically, they’re the victims. You cheer on a few lousy church burnings and the bigots come crawling out of the woodwork in numbers we no longer dare oppose.

The American Civil Liberties Union famously defended the right of Nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois, in 1978 on the principled, courageous basis that sunlight destroys evil. And it seemed to work; it wasn’t free speech but wokism that fuelled the counter-intolerance of Trumpism. Nowadays these outfits offer just cookie-cutter hard-left identity politics, as for instance Ms. Walia’s Wikipedia biography, full of anti-capitalism and noting that “She is a frequent guest speaker at campuses.” Unlike conservatives who get forcibly “deplatformed” in the name of fighting verbal violence with the real stuff. So how did we get to this dismal pass?

For 60 years now we’ve been told to let it all hang out, “Do what thou wilt,” and, frankly, give in to the dark side of the force. And we did, as the older understanding of human nature, as requiring personal and social restraints to avoid running amok because we are all sinners, gave way to an even older one where might makes right and losers are mocked.

As one lawyer tweeted about Walia, “let me be clear, I would help her burn it all down. And that would light our way forward. And also, I would help defend anyone charged with arson if they actually did burn things.” Adding “Ps. Burn it all down. Doesn’t literally mean, burn it down. But just in case, I can also defend, both civil and criminal.”

Yeah. Just in case. And some “comedian” claimed “burn it all down” is “clearly referring to a challenge to historic systemic inequities as a result of ongoing colonization and assimilation in Canada.” Shall we then “burn down his house,” a phrase here meaning challenge ideological excuse-making?

No. Absolutely not. Because this brutal neo-pagan culture is not just on one side today. Doubtless the BCCLA’s incoming social media rockets over Walia’s tweet, and before, were often racist and sexist. Internet commentary is frequently appalling on all sides, including the torrent of obscenity in place of argument. And too many right-wing pundits being sneering, self-pitying, and malevolent. When Fox’s Tucker Carlson called Walia “a monster” there was no charity.

For many years it has been canonical in the West that the Enlightenment finally pried human rights from the brutal, superstitious clutches of Christianity. It is absurdly ahistorical; the casual cruelty of antiquity is its most baffling quality, for now at least. But it is also a dangerous guide forward because it assumes we can ecraser l’infame and keep the unprecedented gentleness, pity, and second chances arising from Christianity’s transvaluation of all values with a God who embraced weakness, shame, and victimization.

Cancel culture shows we cannot. Could Caligula be less sympathetic as the lions pranced toward a doomed victim across the arena sand? Or Prime Minster Justin Trudeau’s close friend and former advisor Gerald Butts tweeting that burning churches might be “understandable” (which one doubts he would say of mosques). Or the head of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and others dismissing outrage as “pearl clutching” because “‘Burn it all down’ is part of a lexicon of social movements going back two centuries.”

Bosh. Like “Burn, baby, burn” in the 1960s as fire gutted American inner cities, the violent language means what it says, driven by violent thinking toward violent actions. And these people are not being insincere. Not even in whining about “microaggression” but cheering as churches burn. On the contrary, they think fair play is weakness, pity is for losers, and they intend to be winners.

On a charred and poisoned landscape.

John Robson is a documentary filmmaker, National Post columnist, contributing editor to the Dorchester Review, and executive director of the Climate Discussion Nexus. His most recent documentary is “The Environment: A True Story.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

John Robson
John Robson
John Robson is a documentary filmmaker, National Post columnist, contributing editor to the Dorchester Review, commentator-at-large with News Talk Radio 580 CFRA in Ottawa, and executive director of the Climate Discussion Nexus. His most recent documentary is “The Environment: A True Story.”