Friday, April 9. 2010
Political violence in the United States, of course, is hardly a novelty.
Well, see the problem with this is that John Hinckley Jr’s attack on Ronald Reagan had less to do with politics than with celebrity. He was a nutjob motivated, not by political conviction, but by the delusion that shooting Ronald Reagan would impress actress Jodie Foster. (He’d stalked President Jimmy Carter for the same reason.) There’s little evidence that Hinckley’s drive to shoot Ronald Reagan was fueled by opposition to Reagan’s politics.
Tim McVeigh on the other hand, was motivated by politics. Insane politics, perhaps, but still politics.
This false equivalency is just one part of what makes Matthew Dallek’s piece in The Daily Beast a classic example of a dozey moderate looking over history with his eyes resolutely unfocused. Like most people who promote the “all things being equal” myth about leftist and right wing political violence in this country, Dallek ignores an important difference, one that has historically made right wing violence more tolerated and, as a result, more lethal in this country. Members of the radical left could not count, as members of the radical right could (like the Klan in the American south), on covert sympathizers within law enforcement and the courts.
But the most glaring omission in the piece – and others like it -- is that we actually have today, in the United States, a working illustration of the dangers posed by right wing violence and the extent to which it can become normalized.
Moderates who dismiss the dangers of right wing violence often do so by hyperbolizing concerns about it into concerns about a massive right-wing government takeover. To read many of their arguments, those of us who criticize Fox News and take seriously the dangers posed by the rhetoric of Glenn Beck and others like him, are envisioning armies of American Brown Shirts marching down Pennsylvania Avenue, assassinating the president, and taking control of the government.
No, I don’t consider that likely. What primarily worries me and others who have followed right wing violence over the years is a resurgence of what we saw in the ‘90s, the firebombings and murders that peaked with Tim McVeigh’s attack on the Murrah Building in Oklahoma city.
But I also worry that the dismissive attitude about right wing violence towards liberals and perceived liberals could result in this violence becoming business as usual -- as anti-abortion violence has become business as usual.
Since 1993, nine people have been murdered in the United States simply because they worked in abortion clinics. Nine people have been injured, including a woman who was widowed in the same attack, and a nurse who was maimed and lost an eye. There have been 17 attempted murders. Prochoice America reported, in a January 1, 2010 report:
6,100 reported acts of violence against abortion providers since 1977, including bombings, arsons, death threats, kidnappings, and assaults, as well as more than 156,000 reported acts of disruption, including bomb threats and harassing calls.
That same report details the level of security that has become business as usual in clinics that provide abortions:
Clinics are spending thousands of dollars on bulletproof glass, armed guards, security cameras, metal detectors, and other security measures. Doctors are wearing bulletproof vests and arming themselves with handguns and other weapons. Some have even purchased armored vehicles.
The result, as that same report details, has been to severely restrict access to abortion services. What the far right has learned from murdering doctors and blowing up clinics is that terrorism works. You don’t even have to kill scores of doctors or injure hundreds of clinic workers. Just that “few” -- just those nine -- do the trick nicely.
And the reaction of many Americans? A shrug. A yawn. Oh well, that’s just the way things are, seems to be the attitude.
It didn’t have to be.
I can guarantee you that the lesson learned from the normalization of raw intimidation in this case has not been lost on the far right. We’re seeing now a grassroots drive to silence not only politicians, but liberals in general. In addition to vandalism and personal threats aimed at public figures, a doctor has boasted about turning away Obama supporters. An employer has boasted about firing Obama supporting employees. And incredibly enough, at least one Republican politician, Louisiana Representative John Fleming, has put his own stamp of approval on this idiocy, saying of that physician turning away Obama voters. “I applaud what he said and did.”
The only caveat he sees fit to add in the video embedded below is that the media might (Oh so unfairly!) make a doctor turning away sick people because he dislikes their politics sound like a bad thing.
It’s possible that Representative Fleming actually thought he was doing his bit to ratchet down Tea Party rhetoric, but his approach amounts to praising with faint damns – the same approach from the right that helped to normalize anti-abortion violence. Threats and harassment against either politicians or private citizens because of their politics cannot be treated as if it were acceptable or "understandable." It cannot be allowed to become normal.
We must not let this society get to the point where merely voicing a liberal opinion is likely to put someone a higher risk for harassment – even possibly “legal” harassment, like being fired or turned away from medical care.
Thursday, April 8. 2010
"Nothing Personal-- You're Just the Equivalent of a Foul and Pernicious Disease on The Body of Our Precious Country..."
“But when your doctor tells you ‘You have cancer’ he doesn’t hate you. ‘Why do all these doctors hate me, they keep telling me I have cancer?’ Because they’re trying to save you! We should go a doctor and he should tell us we have sniffles, and that’s what Washington is doing. But no, keep going, keep going, you’re fine. I and millions of other Americans are the doctors saying “you have cancer. And we can treat it, but it’s radical treatment, but if you don’t take it, we’re going to die.” I don’t hate you. I don’t hate you. Glenn Beck, 4/8/10.
Nahh. You just think that we progressives are a cancer that needs to be cut out of the body politic using “radical treatment.”
But it’s not that you hate us!
Gawker Headline: Wikileaks Video Demonstrates Conclusively That Innocent People Get Killed in Wars
Ah, the “Little Lady Strut.” This is one of the canned responses often offered by apologists when news is released about some undeniable -- and apparently unnecessary -- mayhem committed by the apologists’ side during wartime. The apologist, faced with the photographed, videoed, or recorded proof (of what he was often vehemently denying earlier), furrows his brow, firms his jaw, hikes up the belt of his pants, and growls, in his best John Wayne/Clint Eastwood imitation, “Well that’s what war is like, little lady. It ain’t pretty. Innocent people get hurt.”
The trick is to frame the response as if other people were objecting to the usual inevitable civilian casualties during wartime, rather than, say, an Apache helicopter blowing away unarmed people who’d stopped to help an injured man.
I suppose it’s possible that there’s some unknown fact that, if revealed, would justify shooting a bleeding, unarmed human being trying to crawl away on his belly, and then blasting someone who tries to help him. Simply copping a patronizing attitude, as this Gawker headline does, isn’t convincing.
Tuesday, April 6. 2010
A lot has been said lately about the presumed “cognitive dissonance” coming from the right. In fact, I think what we’re seeing is not so much cognitive dissonance as it is arguing in bad faith. We’re observing different levels of a lie, as various right wingers first deny, then hide, then attempt to justify a single, consistent, and damning fact.
They don’t think liberals have the right to be liberal. Or at least, not in public where Right Wingers can see them.
If I’m to understand the rationalizations coming from the right, from both the dizzy heights of Rush Limbaugh to the depths of the right-wing blogosphere:
The Right Wing does not engage in inappropriate behavior. John Lewis and others like him (if you know what I mean, and I think you do) made up that stuff about being called “nigger” or spat on because that’s just what those people do! (They’re always complaining.)
…And I don’t even think this was genuine, I think all of this was strategized. I don’t think that anybody spat on Cleaver, I don’t think that anybody called Barney Frank the ‘F’ word, I don’t think anybody called John Lewis the ‘N’ word. There’s no evidence of it other than them. Rush Limbaugh, 3/24/10
And if too many witnesses were present to deny the actual utterance of the word “nigger,” or Emmanuel Cleaver being spat on is actually captured on camera, or Tea Partiers are filmed insulting and mocking a counter-demonstrator with Parkinson’s Disease, Democrats probably staged those incidents to garner sympathy. It was Democrats who threw bricks through the windows of their own headquarters in various locations across the country, and liberals who insinuated themselves among the tea partiers to shout “nigger” and spit and wave inappropriate signs and publicly make fun of a disabled man. Liberals do this just to make conservatives look bad.
...if someone shouted something so grotesque, it was either a plant, an infiltrator, or a freak who attached himself to a group that wants no part of him. Pam Geller, Atlas Shrugged, 3/21/10
If the right wingers who did this stuff actually brag about it afterwards, (like the blogger who inspired the vandalism of Democratic Party offices) or find themselves restored to sanity and gracefully apologize (like the guy who pelted the Parkinson’s patient with dollar bills), then the liberals and Democrats in question obviously deliberately incited this perfectly understandable behavior by being liberals in front of innocent-but-passionate right wingers. Nancy Pelosi did not walk through that crowd with John Lewis as a gesture of solidarity and courage after Lewis was heckled and called a “nigger” by the Tea Partiers. Liberals can’t be courageous! They’re bad! It was part of a fanatical plot to incite violence against herself.
…and yet, here she was last Sunday, walking through that crowd. She was so afraid and she was afraid of the rhetoric, but she decided to ratchet it up by walking through a sea of people…Glenn Beck 3/26/10
The very act of being a liberal is, they believe, so outrageous, so vile, that it qualifies as an intolerable provocation that puts the onus on what happens next squarely on the shoulders of the liberal rather than the righteous right-winger who hits, spits, yells epithets, or hurls bricks.
This last explains much about the increasingly vicious tenor of right wing rhetoric. It explains that woman who, during the 2008 presidential campaign, decided to take a stand by denying Halloween candy to the children of Obama supporters. It explains the doctor who recently decided to turn away Obama-supporting patients, the volunteer gun safety instructor last year in Tulsa who ordered liberals out of his class, the recent Tea Party embrace of a man who lost part of a finger in the service of repeatedly punching a counter-demonstrator in the face. It explains footage of tea partiers mocking and shouting down sick people who dare to express what tea partiers perceive as “liberal” views in support of healthcare reform.
In the minds of many of these people, liberals shouldn’t express liberal opinions, vote for liberal leaders, or, if elected, pass liberal legislation, and those who do should be punished for it. The proper and reasonable response to liberals, in their mind, is not to attempt to change liberal minds, or to out vote them, but to silence liberals through sheer lung power or raw intimidation. Make the everyday lives of avowed liberals as difficult as possible. Turn liberals away from the doctors’ offices or publicly funded safety classes. Make the children of liberals cry.
Since abusing a liberal is so natural, so patriotic a response, liberals who are openly liberal are deliberately inviting vandalism, spitting, name-calling, and even physical attacks.
All the other things – expressed doubts about President Obama’s birthplace or religion, claims that he’s using “unconstitutional” methods to pass healthcare legislation – all that’s just smoke, just excuses.
What it boils down to is a rejection of the notion that any but their own views have a place in the public square.
Monday, April 5. 2010
Friday, April 2. 2010
I wasn’t there as a protestor. I was driving down the street, where I saw a group from Moveon.org and a group from Code Pink protesting on the corner in my home town then, which was Thousand Oaks California. My son had just been commissioned into the Marine Corps, and I was concerned that folks there may have been uh, uh, protesting against him and his bravery, and I stopped to question that. My questions were answered satisfactorily and I was in the process of leaving when I was accosted by, a man came across the street screaming at me that I was an effing idiot, and he was waving his arms in a violent way, and me came at me as if to attack me, and so a scuffle ensued and my fist ended up in his mouth and he bit my finger off. Bill Rice, Boo-hooing to Neil Cavuto About What Happened While Rice Was in the Process of Assaulting Someone
Mr. Rice went into a bit more detail last September when he was asked about it:
Neil Cavuto: …but reports are from witnesses that you threw a punch at him. What happened, really Bill?
Interesting how the story has evolved. Nothing in that first version about the guy “waving his arms in a violent way” and coming at Rice “as if to attack me.” Just the guy calling him an idiot, and Rice punching him in the face a couple of times.
And now the tea party tale is that nobody paid any attention to the incident, that only Fox News covered it at the time. Except that going back and looking at the coverage brings up accounts in The Washington Post, , the Associated Press, The Christian Science Monitor, the Atlantic, CNN...
This pretty much sums up the attitude driving the tea party movement -- a man presented by Fox News as very hard done by because he lost part of his finger while punching someone repeatedly in the face.
Thursday, April 1. 2010
I think we won the debate. Think of the vast majorities they have in congress, and they had to bribe, backroom deals, corruption, that’s all because the tea party movement, the people, all these Tim McVeigh wannabes here… Sean Hannity concluding his hosting of a discussion at the Simi Valley Reagan Library entitled, “Conservative Victory: How to Defeat the Obama Agenda” (Remarks start at 7:43 mark)>
To be fair to the audience, the applause began before Hannity mentioned Tim McVeigh, and would be unlikely to stop on a dime. It’s quite possible that many audience members were looking at each other going “waaaah?” even as they clapped.
But Hannity’s excuse? There are several possible explanations:
1. It’s a malicious April Fool’s joke and the video has been doctored. Note that the camera is not on Hannity during the comment about Tim McVeigh. Nor is it on his guests, (whose faces I would dearly love to have seen if and when they heard him comparing their fan base to one of the most loathed right wing domestic terrorists in recent memory.)
Wednesday, March 31. 2010
Peter Leboon was concerned because his brother, who he said began showing signs of mental instability three years ago, had a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
Remember that obviously mentally ill man who was recently arrested for threatening Eric Cantor online? The guy who’s apparently been posting similar threats against a range of public figures, including President Obama and the pope?
He had a concealed weapons permit.
Tuesday, March 30. 2010
Bob Shrum: Imagine if after that had happened (the Rodney King riots), Michelle Bachmann, the Republican congresswoman has said she wants people in Minnesota “armed and dangerous,” imagine if Jesse Jackson had said that, or imagine if Maxine Waters had said that. I think what gives this its power and currency is the apparent ratification of it by a lot of Republican members of congress, people standing out there…
The elephant in the room – the proliferation of guns in the US, coupled with incendiary rhetoric on all levels of the right, from obscure bloggers to Republican senators – is briefly touched upon at the end of this discussion on Morning Joe. Before that, you have Bob Shrum making a salient point about Republican lawmakers egging on the fringe elements in the Tea Party movement, and Pat Buchanan making the astounding assertion that the right didn’t “go off the rails” after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (which Bob Shrum thoughtfully reminds us Pat Buchanan opposed.)
Pat Buchanan: He mentioned the Civil Rights Act of 1964…
For the record, no, the “Goldwater people” did not riot or otherwise resort to violence. They were, however, quite happy to exploit those elements of the right wing who did, the white supremacist southern Democrats outraged by the Democratic party’s support for black Civil rights. Remember? The thugs who were not only shrieking threats and obscenities at schoolchildren walking to integrated schools, but were in some cases firebombing black churches, beating up black civil rights demonstrators, and occasionally murdering civil rights activists?
As for right wingers showing up at public venues packing heat, no, it was not “just one” demonstrator, as these panelists hasten to reassure each other. In addition to the guy at the rally last summer who was carrying a loaded gun and that sign about the tree of liberty being watered, there was the fellow in Minnesota, a convicted felon, who was hanging around with a couple of loaded guns outside a venue where President Obama was speaking.
And let’s not forget that Tea Party sign that seemed to sum up the implicit message behind the repeated invocation of gun imagery by the right:
Monday, March 29. 2010
“….that bumper sticker that maybe you’ll see on the next Subaru drivin’ by, an Obama bumper sticker, you should stop the driver and say, ‘So how is that hopey changey think workin’ out for ya?’” Sarah Palin Speech, Searchlight Nevada, at the 2.58 mark
Exactly how her fans are supposed to “stop the driver” is, of course, left up to them. “ Maybe Sarah was inspired by the recent case of Harry Weisiger, that guy in Nashville who rammed his SUV into a Toyota Camry with an Obama sticker and pushed it onto the sidewalk. Instead of leaving the scene of the accident, I guess Weisiger could have run up to the drivers’ side to ask about how the hopey changey thing was going, but I have a feeling Mark Duren, the Toyota’s driver, wanted to talk about something else.
Which is likely to be a problem faced by any Sarah Palin fan who tries this, even in less violent ways, like planting themselves in front of cars and waving their arms, or getting the Obama supporter to pull over by following closely behind it in their truck and honking and pointing at a rear wheel as if there were something wrong, or just pursuing them into a cul-de-sac and cutting off any avenue of escape. The primary thing in the mind of the Subaru driver is going to be, either “what’s wrong?” or “For God’s sake, who are you people and what do you want,” which is not exactly conducive to a meaningful political discussion.
Still, a tea-partier who does the cul-de-sac thing a few times, especially if the tea partier in question has a gun rack in his truck, and prefaces his questioning of the driver with assurances that “I’m not a violent man,” will probably report back with a gratifyingly high level of panicked agreement from drivers confronted in this manner. “Yes, yes, things are going terribly, and I’ll take the Obama sticker off right now! (scrabbles desperately at bumper sticker with fingernails) Just let me and kids go, okay?”
It’s nice to see, along with her assurances that she’s not advocating violence, that Palin is doing her part to lessen political divisiveness in this country.
Sunday, March 28. 2010
I have definitely evolved over time…Erick Erickson Explaining to Howard Kurtz Why he Regrets, Among Other Things, Publicly Calling retiring Justice Souter a “Goat-F*cking Child Molester”
Erick Erickson says he’s evolved. Honest he has! He learned his lesson after that Tweet he posted last May – twice – about Justice Souter.
Yeah, really, it was about the dumbest thing I’ve done. You now, counter-intuitively, I guess, some good came out of it, the very first time I’ve realized, Howard, how what I do for a living affects my family as well. Uhhh, having my three year old heckled and booed in the front yard by a neighbor, having my wife be berated at her office…
Yes, in the course of less than a year, Erickson has learned his lesson -- which is that Erick Erickson posting grossly irresponsible tweets accusing a public figure of bestiality and pedophilia is wrong because it adversely affects Erick Erickson and the people Erick Erickson loves.
Justice Souter’s family possibly getting heckled and berated? No biggie. It’s all about Erick Erickson, whose greatest crime in the past, really, if you listen to Erick Erickson, was being too darned modest about anyone paying attention to little ol’ him. As he blushingly confesses, “Up until that moment I always considered I was just a guy chatting with friends even on Twitter, and realized I’ve actually reached a point where people listen to what I say and care about what I say.”
Because in addition to being modest, he’s passionate! Back in 2008, when Erickson wrote a piece entitled “Is Obama Shagging Hookers Behind the Media’s Back” and concluded that “Obama’s Marxist harpy wife would go Lorena Bobbit on him should he even think about it,” he was just being “very passionate and aggressive in defending” his side. He wasn’t attacking! He was defending!
And really, he’s just an ordinary concerned citizen like any other American driven into a state of insensate rage after reading the ingredients on his box of Calgon. When Erickson wrote “At what point do people march down to their state legislator’s house, pull them aside, and beat him to a bloody pulp for being an idiot,” he was responding to the kind of provocation, the sort of “unwarranted government intrusion” that would drive any reasonable human being to react in that manner.
“The case in that situation was Washington State banning phosphates from dishwasher detergent,” he explains.
Friday, March 26. 2010
I’ve never done anything like this, but we have to because the President’s a Communist!
I liked Victoria Jackson when she was on Saturday Night Live, but at the time I thought her blonde ditz persona was an act. Apparently, it wasn’t.
Or maybe it is, and she’s a crafty prankster, a sort of solo version of The Yes Men.
Either way, the result is what looks like an SNL skit when Steve Doocy invites her onto Fox & Friends to reassure everyone that the Tea Partiers are not a bunch of comically ill-informed neo-McCarthyites who believe everything Glenn Beck says.
Thursday, March 25. 2010
Cantor said a bullet was shot through the window of his Richmond, Va., campaign office this week, and that he's gotten threatening emails.
A preliminary investigation shows that a bullet was fired into the air and struck the window in a downward direction, landing on the floor about a foot from the window. The round struck with enough force to break the windowpane but did not penetrate the window blinds. There was no other damage to the room, which is used occasionally for meetings by the congressman. From the Police Report on the Incident Cantor is referring to
So Eric Cantor is trying to convince everyone that someone shooting a gun into the air in the vicinity of an unoccupied building where he has an office - the bullet fell, hitting a window pane but not breaking it* -- is the equivalent of a blog-directed attack in which people hurled bricks through the windows of several Democratic headquarters. Not to mention the relative of a Democrat pol whose home was rather dangerously vandalized after a couple of right-wing bloggers mistakenly posted it as the pol's address.
It looks like he and others on the right are gearing up to blame the victims if and when more serious violence actually breaks out -- so long as the victims are Democrats.
There are nutballs on either side of the political spectrum, and strong feelings can bring them out of the woodwork. If health reform had failed, I have no doubt that some Republican lawmakers would have gotten threats and obscene FAXes from supporters of reform. There might even have been some smashed windows.
But there’s a difference, one that ratchets up the danger quotient here. It can be summed up in two words. “Guns” and “Influence.”
Liberals did not react to the “election” of George W. Bush by running out and buying guns and ammo to the point where gun stores were running out of stock. They did not invite attendees at demonstrations to bring weapons, even in areas where carrying a gun in public is legal. They did not post numerous messages online citing armed insurrection as an option.
Yes, there were liberals who said they were leaving the country if George Bush were re-elected, but, no prominent elected Democrat stood before a cheering crowd and invoked secession. Yes, there were left-wing bloggers who claimed George Bush was using FEMA to build and man concentration camps, and insisted that Bush had himself engineered the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11. There was, however, and there still is, no left wing equivalent to Glenn Beck coming on the air almost every night and spouting half-mad (or just plain mad) conspiracy theories to a national audience. Yes, there were rocks thrown and windows broken at some demonstrations, often in the heat of the moment. What we did not see was a coordinated effort, organized online, in which cowards planned and executed night-time vandalism on party headquarters – or released the home addresses of prominent Republicans (or their relatives) and invited their constituents to pay them a visit. When a well-known liberal blogger did once confront someone at their home, he got called out for it -- by Keith Olbermann on national TV.
And that’s an important difference. Nobody is claiming that stupidity and irrationality are unique to the right wing. Unfortunately, leaders of the Republican party have, for the past twenty years, sought to use this irrationality as leverage in a manner the Democratic party has not.
Under the circumstances, Cantor's recent effort at shushing Democrats comes across as pre-emptive damage control -- the nervousness of someone who realizes that the mob he and his friends have been inciting all these years just might not be as controllable as he thought they were.
*correction: It did break the pane.
Wednesday, March 24. 2010
Danville and Lynchburg Tea Party activists mistakenly posted the address of Rep. Tom Perriello’s brother online Monday to invite others to “drop by” Perriello’s home in Charlottesville and “express their thanks” for his health care vote…
Days after his address was posted online by a Virginia Tea Party activist, the FBI and local law enforcement officials are investigating a "suspicious incident" at the home of Rep. Tom Perriello's brother.
Tuesday, March 23. 2010
Mike Vanderboegh, of Pinson, Ala., former head of the Alabama Constitutional Militia, put out a call on Friday for modern "Sons of Liberty" to break the windows of Democratic Party offices nationwide in opposition to health care reform. Since then, vandals have struck several offices, including the Sedgwick County Democratic Party headquarters in Wichita. 13 Wham.com
The call from the right for liberals to “do what we say and you won’t get hurt” has been turned up just a notch. In reaction to the passage of health reform, a right wing blogger named Mike Vanderboegh called on his readers to break the windows of Democrats. Shortly afterwards, several Democratic Party offices in different cities were targeted with bricks flung through their windows. Mr. Vanderboegh seems positively exhilarated by the response to his message:
"Wake up and understand what is happening in this country. You need to start listening to people who you think you didn't have to pay any attention to, because sooner or later they will get your attention.”
Indeed. In fact, someone out there is so hungry for attention that someone phoned in to the office of Louise Slaughter threatening violence against the children of lawmakers who support healthcare reform.
Imagine that. A blogger posts a call to vandalism on his blog – and vandalism takes place! It’s as if words typed into the ether actually have some sort of meaning and lead to action in the offline world!
Vanderboegh, of course, insists that he’s not promoting “actual violence.” “How ambiguous is it if I say break windows? Am I saying kill people, absolutely not,” he insists.
But you see, here’s the thing about blogging -- readers are able to see, not just the message of the blogger but, through the comments section, how that message is processed and interpreted.
And looking through the comments posted on Mr. Vanderboegh’s blog does not indicate much reluctance about upping the ante if smashing windows doesn’t work. Here are a few of the comments posted by his fans in reaction to what he calls “the window war.” I should point out that the number of comments on his blog are not high, and these were not at all difficult to find:
“Hmmm, no demopub office here, far as I know. I'll think of something...”
But hey, this is all just a bunch of blog commenters right? It couldn’t possibly have an impact in the real world. It's all just posted to upset liberals.
Well, it has had an impact in the real world. Strange as it may seem to many people, those supposedly “meaningless” comments sections on a blog (and a small comments section at that) actually reflect the views of human beings who exist outside of the Internet and are capable of acting in the offline world.
Literal people, not virtual people, who are capable of reading Mr. Vanderboegh's blog, literally hefting a literal brick, and literally hurling it through a literal window.
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