Some historical forms of drama — like Greek tragedy — feature a chorus. This group of nameless individuals serves as the voice of the "common man," singing, narrating for the audience, commenting on the protagonists' struggles or warning of events to come.
Typically, it is the individual characters in such a drama whose lives are the primary focus of the performance. The chorus, unified in voice, is merely a backdrop.
But in today's fraught political theater, it is the chorus itself that is fractured and fractious, drawing the audience's attention away from the main acts.
The chorus in American politics today is broken into two warring factions. On the left, we have the Shut You Up chorus: self-appointed arbiters of equity, determined to silence and shame all those who disagree with them.
On the right, we have the increasingly belligerent Shock You chorus: self-professed liberty-loving individualists who have morphed from the meek "silent majority" to confrontational gadflies almost overnight.
The Shut You Up chorus sees no irony in using fascist tactics to protest fascism, in curbing speech to promote "liberty." The Shock You chorus has decided it will beat the left at its own game, even if it means compromising deeply held principles to prove a point.
We've seen this play, and it doesn't end well.
The battles in which President Donald Trump and self-promoting shocktivist Milo Yiannopolous presently find themselves can be seen as a part of the new retaliatory exchanges between the chorus of the perennially outraged left and those on the right who are sick to death of being shamed and silenced.
Kevin Williamson wrote a superb piece earlier this week, opening with dire warnings that certainly sounded like those leveled at Donald Trump. Three paragraphs in, Williamson revealed that the statements had been made about Mitt Romney in 2012.
The point, of course, was that the crazed accusations emanating from the left about Romney were false and overblown.
Republican voters, fed up with decades of the left's "smear-and-fear" campaigns, rejected a dozen perfectly solid presidential candidates in the 2016 campaign in favor of arguably the least-qualified person running.
The left promptly went into tantrum mode, complete with hysterical Hollywood jeremiads, marches, riots and protests.
Trump cannot go a day without drawing the ire of some part of the Shut You Up chorus: Hollywood, academia or others.
Milo Yiannopoulos has become a victim of his own outrageous statements, using what he calls "black humor" to speak about his experience as a victim of a homosexual pedophile. In the span of 24 hours, Milo resigned from Breitbart News, lost his $250,000 book deal with Simon and Schuster and his invitation to be a speaker at CPAC was rescinded.
It's worth asking: Why was he invited to speak at CPAC in the first place?
The answer can be found in the Shock You chorus. What better way to stick it to the anti-speech left than to invite the most unapologetically confrontational speaker out there?
Personalities as strong as Donald Trump and Milo Yiannopoulos likely see themselves as captains of their own destiny. But from the perspective of distance, they look more like gladiators, selected and thrust forward to fight for the faction of the chorus that chose them.
This new form of political theater threatens not only the main actors, but also the chorus itself. And, one begins to fear, the audience.