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.