“See, the Democrats are violent too!”

With the news that a mentally ill man in Pennsylvania had threatened the life of Republican Congressman Eric Cantor, conservatives everywhere have begun jumping up and down, waiving their hands around wildly (imagine Arnold Horshack trying to get Mr. Kotter’s attention), and claiming that this definitively proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Democrats are just as prone to violence as Republicans are. And, they’re taking the opportunity to demand that the news media pay as much attention to this one death threat against a Republican, as they do to all the violence committed by the far-right in aggregate. It’s a ridiculous notion to begin with, that there should be some kind of artificial equivalence between stories of violence on either side, regardless of the severity or importance, but it’s made even more preposterous by the fact that this fellow who threatened Cantor has also threatened the life of Obama. I was planning to write about this at length tonight, but then happened across a great piece by Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post, that says what I wanted to much better than I ever could have. Here’s a clip:

…The episode highlights the obvious: For decades now, the most serious threat of domestic terrorism has come from the growing ranks of paranoid, anti-government hate groups that draw their inspiration, vocabulary and anger from the far right.

It is disingenuous for mainstream purveyors of incendiary far-right rhetoric to dismiss groups such as the Hutaree by saying that there are “crazies on both sides.” This simply is not true.

There was a time when the far left was a spawning ground for political violence. The first big story I covered was the San Francisco trial of heiress Patricia Hearst, who had been kidnapped and eventually co-opted by the Symbionese Liberation Army — a far-left group whose philosophy was as apocalyptic and incoherent as that of the Hutaree. There are aging radicals in Cuba today who got to Havana by hijacking airplanes in the 1970s. Left-wing radicals caused mayhem and took innocent lives.

But for the most part, far-left violence in this country has gone the way of the leisure suit and the AMC Gremlin. An anti-globalization movement, including a few window-smashing anarchists, was gaining traction at one point, but it quickly diminished after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. An environmental group and an animal-rights group have been linked with incidents of arson. Beyond those particulars, it is hard to identify any kind of leftist threat.

By contrast, there has been explosive growth among far-right, militia-type groups that identify themselves as white supremacists, “constitutionalists,” tax protesters and religious soldiers determined to kill people to uphold “Christian” values. Most of the groups that posed a real danger, as the Hutaree allegedly did, have been infiltrated and dismantled by authorities before they could do any damage. But we should never forget that the worst act of domestic terrorism ever committed in this country was authored by a member of the government-hating right wing: Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.

It is dishonest for right-wing commentators to insist on an equivalence that does not exist. The danger of political violence in this country comes overwhelmingly from one direction — the right, not the left. The vitriolic, anti-government hate speech that is spewed on talk radio every day — and, quite regularly, at Tea Party rallies — is calibrated not to inform but to incite…

And he’s absolutely right. It’s not that the left is incapable of violence. It’s not as though there haven’t been other periods in American history in which it was the folks on the left, like Bill Ayers, building the bombs. But, right now, at this point in history, the threat is clearly coming from the right.

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  1. Lacy
    Posted March 30, 2010 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    One of my several sources for actual news, The Christian Science Monitor, had an interview with Chip Berlet of the Southern Poverty Law Center (that group that closely monitors militias and hate groups; I’m sure you’re familiar with their work) on why our region is a “hotbed” for this type of activity.

    I humbly submit that those readers, and our host, who label the opposition as akin to Nazis aren’t that much more useful to civil discussion than those with guns and cable news pulpits. According to Berlet:

    “While you can look at the Republicans and right wing and say, ‘you let things go too far,’ the Democrats use very demonizing language and aren’t interested in a policy debate, either,” says Berlet. “They’ve been interested in bashing the Republicans and right wing as crazy and ignorant. So it’s a mess.”

    I realize the Hutaree probably haven’t made this a receptive environment for my comment. I simply ask that readers take a moment to reflect on whether their comments are violent and demonizing, whether or not they’re backed by actual arsenals.

  2. dragon
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    God, where to begin. This is hackery in the finest order, lacy. First, your false equivalency of “demonizing language” and actual pipe bombs with threats against policemen all even out if you really think about it, is lazy at best and complete idiocy at worst. You take one sentence from someone who has spent his life writing about right wing violence and who’s book “Challenging the Right Wing Backlash” is summerized by chapters covering attacks on immigrants, lesbians and gay men, people of color, environmentalists, artists, and educators, and shows how these disparate groups are linked by the need to resist the over-arching anti-democratic objectives of the right-wing offensive. And from your same news source (CSM) Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates in Somerville, Mass., has been tracking extremism for nearly 30 years and today he reports that he see’s “one of the most significant right-wing populist rebellions in United States history.”
    And if that Hannity like display of ‘fair and balanced’ wasn’t enough, you completely contradict your own incredible display of even-handedness by attacking Brackinald 8 fucking minutes later by saying ” Is there really nothing you find detestable about this group and their intentions? Who are you surreptitiously defending?”
    Really? Who’s he defending? You just told us who he’s defending in your opening salvo, those using demonizing language. Fuck You.

  3. Brackinald Achery
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    As much as it may hurt your cause, Lacy, I agree with you completely. I find the eagerness to demonize any and everybody on the right for the actions of a few others to be highly disturbing.

    Here’s an article about Naomi Wolf thinking the tea-parties are a good thing.

  4. Kim
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Naomi Wolf, it should be noted, is making a boatload of cash off these Tea Partiers.

  5. Lacy
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    dragon sweetie, you miss the point. I’m very familiar with Berlet’s credentials. That’s why I think it is powerful and worth pause when he, of all people, says that the left is largely interested in “demonizing” and “bashing” opponents as “crazy and ignorant.”

    Brackie’s link to the Wolf article is also worth a read. Here’s a quote from Naomi:

    There is also a deliberate building up of two camps that benefits from whipping up home team spirit and demonizing the opposition … With so much propaganda it is hard to calm down enough to listen.

    On the topic of this post, now the right is trying to make the left look violent. I’m tired of the inflated schoolyard tit-for-tat with each side painting square little mustaches under the opposition’s noses.

    Obama is not a death panel socialist. And every tea-bagger isn’t a religious wacko waiting for Jesus with pipe bombs. But hold onto that anger and keep spitting fire, dragon. Your welcome to let your anger feed on me.

  6. Edward
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    CNN video with Congressman Grayson. He starts at 4:10.


  7. Edward
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    It gets really good at the 10 minute mark.

  8. Andy1313
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Quick correction – Eugene *Robinson* (U-M alum and recent Pulitzer recipient), not Roberts…

    Also, fwiw Lacy, the comment from Berlet would be more persuasive if you had included his examples and context of demonization coming from the left. There is certainly some negative reaction to the internal incoherence of the teabag movement, but nothing rising to any kind of organized demonization as far as I’ve observed.

  9. Andy1313
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    @Lacy – I found and read the interview you cited, and unfortunately Mr. Berlet fails to support his claim in any way, or those details were not included in the article.

    Given his experience his claim is interesting, but would be more compelling if it were something more than a throwaway line at the end of discussion about growing right wing violence.


  10. Lacy
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    Here’s Janeane Garofalo on Olbermann, discussing the Tea Party.

    (begins minute 3:00)

    I can’t speak to what particular representation Berlet had in mind, but I think this would be a decent example of how some on the left are electing to respond.

  11. Dirtgrain
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    Like this? Oath Keepers and the Age of Treason

    I can see some merit in Berlet’s claim–it’s all throwing stones in politics lately. Still, while I’ve seen some hardcore leftist anarchists who had AK-47s and cookbooks, the gun fanatics do tend more often to the right. That’s my experience–not something I’ve quantified–but it’s obvious which side is fighting for gun owner rights, which side is more in bed with the NRA. A Second Amendment argument I hear often from the Right is that we need to be armed to keep the government in it’s place. These people will be quick to tell you not to point a gun at somebody unless you are willing to use it. Their Second-Amendment argument is a collective gun pointing . . . How far will they let the government go (by their metrics) before they are willing to pull the trigger?

  12. Brackinald Achery
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Why look further than this blog for examples of the left’s inflammatory demonizing rhetoric?

  13. Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    There’s a whole world of inflammatory demonizing rhetoric out there, Brack. You’re really missing out by not getting out there and exploring it.

  14. Oliva
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    Why look further than this blog for examples of the left’s inflammatory demonizing rhetoric?

    I’m biased, true, but what I hear way more is sadness, frustration, confusion. It would be so much better if our society weren’t so damningly at odds right now, when such a diverse range get along surprisingly well–the possibilities could be wonderful and endless. And instead we’re trying to fend off, make sense of, transform, such a shockingly bold disregard for civility and good society. Too much mean-spirited stuff for me, some just fiery, ugly rhetoric but some built around weapons, a sense of self-righteous entitlement in some cases, and too many beliefs that simply can’t be validated by reality but are accepted as truth by (surprisingly, disturbingly) big swaths of angry, armed Americans going unchallenged–worse, being pushed by dishonest, greedy politicians and “news” outlets. Here some venting, that’s true, but also some real reporting and thoughtful discussion, for which I’m grateful.

  15. Brackinald Achery
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    You don’t hear it so much, Oliva, because you are not the target of the demonizing rhetoric of some on the left.

    I think it’s obvious that there are people on the right who espouse and believe some real whoppers (death camps, for instance), but what galls me is that the response of some on the left is to say the motivation of the right all boils down to racism or homophobia or some other demonizing bullshit. I see a couple of my own friends eating it up, who’ve known me long enough to know better, because that’s what they want to believe… right = evil. That’s it, plain and simple, no exceptions. Right = evil. That’s Pavlovian in a scary way from people who are smarter than that.

    Hell yes there are people on the right who are racists or conspiracy freaks or whatever. I have to endure a racist coworker’s bullshit all the time, but we agree on other things which have nothing to do with racism, and it certainly doesn’t make me or any of my other coworkers racist by association. Just like any other people aren’t all anything because of some idiots associated with them in some way. Everyone is an individual.

    It’s that sort of in-kind reaction to crazies on the right (the death camp etc. people), that’s demonizing all small government people, and entrenching them. The “you’re all a bunch of racists/homophobes/terrorists” shit is driving a lot of middle-grounders towards the right, and galvanizing the people already on the right.

    Our (small-government people’s) motivation is not racism, or homophobia, or (by-and-large) retarded conspiracy theories (yes, they are motivations for some, but not the majority by far).

    Our primary motivation is that out-of-control unconstitutional (and therefore ILLEGAL) government has gone way too far, isn’t respecting either the highest law of the land or the will of the people, and we’re f-ing sick of it. We’ve endured it for decades, and lately it’s gone beyond endurance — starting with the hypocrite, GW Bush. We don’t want big government ideologues to help take care of us, or make us do shit for our own good; we want them to fuck off, leave us alone unless we’ve committed a real crime, and mind their own goddamn business like they’re supposed to for once. The less people on the left hear that, and the more they demonize instead, the more they entrench others and inflame passions.

    I don’t know why that’s so hard to see.

  16. Dirtgrain
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 5:19 am | Permalink

    “Why look further than this blog for examples of the left’s inflammatory demonizing rhetoric?”

    Identifying a problem is inflammatory? We have a problem, and we want to fix it, but to identify it is forbidden? Let me know how you work your way out of that Catch-22.

  17. Frosty
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Republicans (who now own the “Tea Party” brand) are pushing something called the Fairness Doctrine. According to this doctrine, any mention of an act of Republican violence would have to be accompanied by a mention of some Democratic evil.

  18. EOS
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    No, the Fairness Doctrine is a Democratic proposal in response to the failure of Air America or any other radio talk show that advocates the liberal viewpoint, other than the highly subsidized NPR.

    The Tea Party certainly isn’t owned by the Republicans. Incumbents from both parties will be packing their bags and leaving Washington. Congressional approval ratings are less than 20%. They may run on the Republican ballot, but those that win will be real conservatives.

  19. Robert
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    The vast majority of people seem to have no concept of statistical context. For a population sample of 300,000,000, incidents of politically motivated violence are incredibly low here in the US. Thousands of non-political assaults and murders occur for every one seemingly politically motivated incident. It is just that these very few incidents are plastered all over the news with so much sensationalism and hype. In the mean while, we have very real problems in this country with violence and other crimes which get almost no media attention at all by comparison. Do you have any idea what the child abuse statistics in this country are at? Do you know the rates of sexual assault?

    Sure the nuts on Fox and talk radio are egging on the lunacy, but still the response has been remarkably innocuous. Glen Beck is more likely to give himself an aneurism than he is to provoke anybody else to commit some sort of offense.

  20. Robert
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Here, lefties disrupt a Karl Rove book tour event:


  21. Brackinald Achery
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Right on, Robert.

    Seems like this is about demonizing small-government ideology in order to stifle free speech and political activism on the part of big-government’s political opponents. That’s a pretty neocon thing to do.

  22. Y2
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Listen, Bozo, no one wants to take away your right to free speech. If we wanted to do that we’d create special little “free speech zones” like Bush did. All we want is for you to please not kill the rest of us. This is about violence, not free speech. Unless, of course, you consider violence free speech.

  23. Brackinald Achery
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    I’m threatening to kill you? News to me.

    Please don’t kill me either, I guess.

    Actually, it is about free speech. You’re just trying to hide that behind hysterics.

  24. Dirtgrain
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    I thought free speech zones were first created under Clinton’s presidency.

  25. Frumpht
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    As everyone can tell, Brackinald’s speech is sooooo restricted.

  26. Dirtgrain
    Posted April 2, 2010 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    FBI warns extremist letters may encourage violence

  27. Brackinald Achery
    Posted April 2, 2010 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    It is obvious to anyone with an ounce of objectivity that both political correctness and tying certain political concepts with extremist violence is an attempt to stifle speech (specifically of small-government proponents) by making the speakers afraid of speaking, lest they be unfairly labeled a racist/bigot/domestic terrorist/ etc.

  28. Brackinald Achery
    Posted April 2, 2010 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    The reason my speech isn’t restricted, is because I have balls. But there certainly are consequences to my having the balls to tell the truth. That in itself speaks volumes.

  29. Kim
    Posted April 2, 2010 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    It’s like Christians claim they’re being attacked in popular culture every time someone says, Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.

  30. Peter Larson
    Posted April 2, 2010 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    You vastly overestimate yourself, BA. Truthfully, I don’t think many people care what you have to say since you aren’t making violent threats against police officers.

    That’s the trouble with this Hutaree thing. By stupidly creating half baked plots for killing members of the Hudson police force, they have given themselves a national forum for their brainless nonsense.

  31. dragon
    Posted April 2, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    But there certainly are consequences to my having the balls to tell the truth.
    The downside to your testicular fortitude is that it causes you to miss Y2’s correct description of you as a Bozo since these giant balls obscure your ability to see the clown shoes you choose to wear around here.

    demonizing small-government ideology
    I think you are confusing ‘pointing and laughing’ with demonizing.

    stifle speech by making the speakers afraid of speaking.

    You say “afraid” I say embarrassed and humiliated by the sheer hypocrisy and stupidity of their arguments.

  32. Posted April 2, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Dirtgrain, about your link above about those letters to the governors, I’m trying to figure out what the scoop is behind it, and so far it’s beyond me.

    I found the letter itself, but it was typed in an old-English style font, and I found the font choice annoying so I didn’t finish it. Also there’s a lot of legal terms in it I’m not familiar with. Maybe I’ll try again later.

    I’m listening to an online broadcast about it as we speak… still no clue. They claim it’s a lawful, peaceful way to change all the corporation-ruled government, and it’s backed up by top military people and people in other countries or something. Also something about grand juries.

    The jury’s still out, but so far, I’m confused and … slightly… dubious.

  33. Posted April 2, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    Alright, here’s the letter:


    Somebody else read it. What a horrible font.

  34. Peter Larson
    Posted April 3, 2010 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    The letter made me seasick. Go to their site, it gets even dumber.


  35. Posted April 3, 2010 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    That was a two-hour long broadcast signifying two hours I’ll never get back.

    One thing I’ll say is these guys are not full of shit. Shit actually has some substance. These guys are full of flatulence, and I feel dirty for listening when the media held a microphone up to it as they let ‘er rip.

    Basically their thing is that all US governments aren’t lawful anymore because they’ve been replaced by corporations pretending to be governments, and that the peaceful way to make everything okay is for them (the sovereign share-holders of these corporations) to essentially tell the corporation governments to knock it off with a letter. They also say that they were urged to do it by top people in the military and from around the world who knew all about it and knew some secret legal way to unravel it all. Of course, these top military people would be 100% behind them if the governors refused to leave their corporation government positions. Which, of course, is flatulently false.

    If they didn’t make up the top military stuff out of thin, methane-smelling air, then they were just FBI guys calling in, pretending to be top military people, so that these idiots would do something stupid.

    If violence comes from this, it should be self-inflicted by these Guardians of the Free Republic when they look themselves in a mirror one morning and realize they suck.

  36. Dirtgrain
    Posted April 3, 2010 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Their attempt to mirror the language of the Constitution was bizarre–as if that would lend legitimacy to their claims.

  37. Peter Larson
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    HuffPo or not, this peaceful man with the CC permit just got busted for making threats against a Democratic Senator:


    I thought CC permits were only issued to peace loving people who wanted to defend themselves against black people? Hopefully, he’ll get it revoked.

  38. EOS
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Anyone else noticing the large amount of arrests and left-wing violence at the immigration and Cinco de Mayo rallies?

  39. Edward
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    And I even saw one of them carrying a sign about how he wanted to kill cops and get everything for fee.


    What? Photoshop? I don’t get it. I can see the photo.

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