There were six men of Hindustan/
to learning much inclined,/
Who went to see an elephant,/
though all of them were blind,/
That each by observation/
might satisfy his mind.
After John Patrick Bedell shot two policemen outside the Pentagon and was killed, details, as they say, emerged. He appeared to have suffered from bipolar disorder, and had been taking medication for it — perhaps along with marijuana, which he’d been arrested for growing.
He had expressed an odd mix of political allegiances: Though registered as a Democrat, he had a mises.com e-mail address and a blog called “Rothbardix — Technology for liberty and justice,” which suggest a libertarian bent, and do some of his other online ravings against “communist and socialist governments that abolished or disregarded private property.” He was also a 9/11 truther and keenly interested in the suicide (thought by some to be a government murder) of Marine Colonel James Sabow.
As John Avlon wrote at the Daily Beast, “Bedell seems to be less connected to right-wing politics than what I call ‘fright wing’ politics — the murky ground beyond left and right where conspiracy theories reside.”
But that’s not how most people think about these things. The Christian Science Monitor got out front with a story, “John Patrick Bedell: Did right-wing extremism lead to shooting?” based on his “virulent antigovernment feelings.” (As more information, and enraged rightblogger responses, came out, CSM was forced to update: “As more information emerges about Mr. Bedell, the less it appears that any coherent ideology was behind his actions, except that he was deeply antigovernment.”)
“This mystery of an elephant
is very like a wall.”
Rightblogger responses generally took two forms: First, based on a selective reading of facts, that Bedell was obviously a liberal; second, that Bedell’s myriad influences not only prove that Bedell was a liberal, but also prove that liberals in general are prone to trutherism, insanity, and mass murder.
The first group proceeded in the manner you might expect: “Another Liberal Shoots Up a Government Building” (As Maine Goes); “Yes, the Pentagon shooter was a far left nutcase” (Sister Toldjah); “Lefties Portray Democrat, 9/11 Truther, and Bush-Hating Lunatic John Patrick Bedell as a ‘Right-Wing Extremist'” (Patterico), etc. (For many of these, the trump card was Bedell’s registration in the Democratic Party, home of Joe Lieberman and Orson Scott Card.)
“This wonder of an elephant
is very like a spear.”
The passive-aggressive approach was popular. Zombie of Pajamas Media saw a “deafening quietude on the left-leaning blogs about this guy’s affiliations and belief systems” to mean that they had no armament on the subject, and he declared, “instead of playing the blame game so unapologetically employed by the Left when they feel they can spin things to their political advantage, I’m not going to say that Bedell’s actions at the Pentagon epitomize the leftist worldview” — which would have seemed more generous if he hadn’t already said that Bedell was “frothing at the mouth with Bush hatred,” that “98% of folks who think 9/11 was a hoax are left-wingers, or at the very least fit in very comfortably in the left-wing milieu,” etc.
Later, when Zombie found some liberal types who did not engage in “quietude” about Bedell’s illiberal leanings, he sighed, “Can we for once not make this into a political boxing match?” Apparently not; Zombie also added, “Exactly as I had surmised, Bedell seems to be a nutcase who overwhelmingly tends to lean left but with a sprinkling of libertarian attitudes thrown in just to spice things up.” Zombie probably doesn’t think the dummy in contract bridge is playing the game, either.
Even more boldly, The Other McCain echoed Chris Rock: “Whatever happened to crazy?” Why not, he asked, just leave it that — Bedell was insane? Stipulating, of course, that Bedell’s insanity was a product of “therapeutic morality,” which leads to “self-pitying rationalizations,” which is associated with “a main theme of modern liberalism, namely class warfare,” etc. And yet some people want to make the whole thing political!
“I see,” quoth he,
“the elephant is very like a snake.”
At America’s Right, Jeff Schreiber said, “Contrary evidence aside, this shooter will inevitably be characterized as a radical right-wing activist” because “the mainstream press wants these shooters to be right-wingers.” But Bedell had to be liberal, Schreiber explained, because conservatives are too cheerful to be violent.
“What liberals don’t seem to understand is that, for the most part, we don’t wake up each morning with that same anger with which they greet each day,” said Schreiber, because “we generally have the facts on our side.” Thus conservatives “awake in the morning thankful for another day on God’s green Earth, wondering how we might contribute to our success in our lives, whether it’s prosperity at work or just making our families happy at home.”
Liberals, on the other hand, are “intent upon allowing a raincloud to follow overhead all day,” said Schreiber. He offered as “evidence of liberals’ anger,” via conservative ray-of-sunshine George Will, “the faded and tattered ‘Kerry/Edwards’ and ‘Gore/Lieberman’ bumper stickers often displayed with bitter pride on hybrid vehicles and gas efficient small station wagons…” (Oddly, he said nothing about their Obama/Biden stickers.) “If such a difference exists,” he concludes, “why wouldn’t it manifest itself in ways like we saw with shooters Bedell and [Amy] Bishop?”
“‘Tis clear enough the elephant
is very like a tree.”
Angry White Dude took a similarly thoughtful approach: The crowds at Obama’s inauguration left a lot of litter, he said, whereas “the 9-12 million person event’s trash was neatly bagged and stacked 20 minutes after the event.” Want more proof Bedell was a liberal? Conservatives “can acquire concealed carry gun permits, carry guns and not create havoc,” said AWD, while “unlicensed, liberal criminals who carry guns don’t follow the law and cause all of the gun crime. Which political party do you think criminals support?”
The convincer: “If a crowd or individual causes destruction or death, you can assume 99.9 of the time they are liberal.” Numbers don’t lie!
“This marvel of an elephant
is very like a fan.”
Saberpoint’s proof of Bedell’s liberalism was that Saberpoint, a conservative, and Bedell don’t have anything in common. Saberpoint, a conservative, doesn’t think 9/11 was an “inside job”; Bedell did; so, being Saberpoint’s opposite, he’s a liberal. “In other words, he was one of YOURS, lefties. You lose. Again.”
This circular logic reached a lovely apotheosis: “Paranoid, angry people,” said Saberpoint, “will often become conspiracy theorists and hate certain authority figures while identifying with others.” Whereas Saberpoint identifies with certain authority figures while hating others. See the difference?
“I see,” said he, “the elephant
is very like a rope.”
Mark Noonan at Blogs for Victory went for root causes — that is, he blamed liberals for Truthers because, like Truthers, they didn’t like Bush. “The truth here,” he proclaims, “is that by praising things like Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 and not dropping like a ton of bricks on all those who claimed that Bush lied to get us in to Iraq, liberal leaders have created the stage for these acts.” Similarly, if you think the President is lying about his birth certificate and therefore illegitimate, you “create the stage” for — well, we’re sure Noonan didn’t think that one through.
So six blind men of Hindustan
disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
exceeding stiff and strong;
Though each was partly in the right,
they all were in the wrong!