MINOT, N.D. — There is no defense for how some in Bismarck, North Dakota's capital city, have reacted to an attempt, by a local artist, to put up a large mural of that silly Luddite Greta Thunberg on a downtown building.
I am no fan of Thunberg or her insipid brand of activism, and given the profanity he's aimed at me personally, I'm not much of a fan of the artist Shane Balkowitsch either.
He doesn't seem like a very nice person, at least based on his social media postings.
Yet the point of the First Amendment is not to protect speech you like. It's to protect speech you don't like. While this situation in Bismarck may not legally be a First Amendment issue — it was the general public, not the government, doing the censorship — let's remember that the First Amendment is more than law.
It is a philosophy that is foundational to American society.
I may not like what Balkowitsch has to say, but I'm certainly going to defend his right to say it.
Those who made threats over Balkowitsch's initial idea for a mural should be ashamed of themselves (and held accountable under the law, where appropriate). Those who have subsequently vandalized some of Balkowitsch's other work should also be held accountable.
Yet while the behavior of some in Bismarck is indefensible, it's understandable.
Remember, we're just a few years removed from the violent #NoDAPL protests which saw extremists from around the country descend on the Bismarck region.
They terrorized the people. They instigated violence with law enforcement. They vandalized and trespassed and littered, and it was all the more frustrating given how many in the news media who were covering the conflict, particularly those in the national press corps, seemed intent on ignoring that side of the story.
The only narrative they wanted to tell was one in which villainous law enforcement officers - also known as our friends and neighbors - violently suppressed peaceful Native American activists.
That wasn't accurate.
Some of the #NoDAPL protesters were peaceful and well-meaning, sure, but their actions were overshadowed by a faction which came to North Dakota bent on mayhem.
For months on end, North Dakotans living in the Bismarck region had to put up with this ugly behavior even as many of the supposed truth-tellers in the news media refused to acknowledge it.
It was happening right in front of them, and they looked the other way even as deep-pocketed, left-wing political groups sent an army of lawyers to protect those who did wrong from justice.
Why is Bismarck angry?
The feeling has its roots in what I just described.
Again, that's not justification for suppressing, through mass public backlash, a work of art.
It's not a good reason to ape the brutish behavior of the #NoDAPL extremists.
It is understandable.
Hate begets hate.
Kudos, by the way, to Fargo's Mike Williams for helping facilitate the planned mural in his community.
We can be happy that art is being allowed to happen, even if we don't like the art or the artist.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Plain Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.