After Saturday’s shootings in Arizona — which left Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords badly wounded and six people dead — rightbloggers were swift to condemn… any possible criticism of themselves.
You can understand their defensiveness. Back during the 2010 campaign, Sarah Palin had endorsed Tea Party challengers to Giffords and others with little gun-sight images and the cry, “Don’t Retreat — Reload!” Giffords had noticed (“When people do that, they’ve got to realize there are consequences to that action…”); so did the local sheriff.
Oops. You might expect rightbloggers to be pouring oil on troubled waters right now, eschewing violence, promoting civility, etc.
You might expect that — if you didn’t know them. If you do, you will have guessed that they responded in their traditional manner: With rage at the great injustice they had suffered.
After the violence, Palin had her people try to spin that old shooty-shooty campaign material away — which we can understand, as she is an American politician and that’s what they do. Liberals gave Palin a hard time about that (“fuck it, I’m going there,” said TBogg of “Sarah Palin’s Hit List”), which we also understand.
Some leftbloggers went further, teasing out a connection between the violent, pseudo-revolutionary rhetoric sometimes heard from Tea Party people and this very violent event. “To the more mainstream right-wingers who fail to condemn the poisonous claims of the far right,” wrote Adele Stan at AlterNet, “I say, you’re hardly off the hook.” “[Accused assassin Jared] Loughner, while clearly in the grip of delusion rather than any coherent ideology,” wrote Michelle Goldberg at Tablet, “nonetheless shared many far-right obsessions.”
To be fair, we can imagine a reasonable answer to this argument. And we have to imagine it, as no one is actually making it. (Those who come closest are actually milquetoast liberals like the New York Times‘ Matt Bai who, in our current, debased political discourse, take the role once filled by moderate Republicans back when such creatures existed.)
What we got instead was less reasonable, because once a connection had been suggested between the sainted Palin and an actual, horrific act of violence — worse, a connection that such Americans as can remember back a few news cycles might actually grasp — the necessity of severing that connection became stronger for rightbloggers than any faint impulses they might have had toward decorum, logic, or common sense.
For example, when leftblogger Matthew Yglesias cited Congressnut Michele Bachmann’s 2009 “armed and dangerous” comments as an example of violent rightwing lunacy, the Daily Caller’s John Guardiano said it wasn’t as bad as it sounded: “Bachmann clearly was using ‘armed and dangerous’ in a metaphorical and political, not literal and violent, sense,” he said.
Unfortunately Guardiano tried to prove this with direct quotations from Bachmann, including this: “Thomas Jefferson told us, ‘Having a revolution every now and then is a good thing.’ And we the people are going to have to fight back hard if we’re not going to lose our country.”
As the American Revolution involved muskets and cannons, not political debates, this would seem to run exactly contrary to Guardiano’s point. In any event, Guardiano told us the real extremist here was “the reprehensible” Yglesias — “a tool of the rabid Left” who “sees people only in political, and not human, terms.”
In the real world, Yglesias is actually a moderate liberal who tries to engage small-gummint types by opposing barber licensing and going to the rifle range with Megan McArdle. But when you’re aggressively defending your own moderation, and your best defense is a reference to armed revolution, radicalizing the reputation of your opponents must seem like a good idea, if not your only hope.
The normally pithy Professor Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit devoted some relatively gabby posts to the shootings and the liberals who were the real villains of them.
“And judging from the comments to this post,” wrote Reynolds right after the event, “people are already trying to score political points. Well, they kind of telegraphed this strategy, didn’t they?”
Within that last cryptic comment, Reynolds included a link to a quote by Mark Penn — who worked for Hillary Clinton against Obama in 2008 — suggesting that Obama would gain politically from an Oklahoma City style tragedy. (Across the right blogosphere, that bombing is now generally depicted as more Bill Clinton’s crime than Tim McVeigh’s.) We’re not sure if this liberal “strategy” as seen by Reynolds involves actually hiring shooters like Loughner, or just standing ready to profit from the assassination of whatever fellow Democrats happen to get shot.
Later Reynolds added: “As with Mike Bloomberg’s immediate effort to blame the Times Square bombing attempt on the Tea Party, this swift reaction betrays their hope for an issue that could save Obama by defaming his opposition.” Still later: “CNN’s coverage [of the shooting] could be fairly described as ‘hate speech,’ couldn’t it? Because that’s what blood libel is.” No, actually, blood libel is this — but as rightbloggers believe that Obama is Hitler, maybe the comparison was intentional.
Also on the case: CNN commentator and RedState kingpin Erick Erickson. First Erickson explained to readers that RedState was suspending its current cartoon caption contest; the cartoon involved a John Boehner target being delivered to a “Left Wing Media Shooting Range.” (This good laugh over the tendency of liberals to assassinate Republicans will no doubt be resumed at a later date.)
Having thus done his bit for comity, Erickson announced that “the left is using this tragedy to score political points,” and declared that the real cause of the shooting was “Evil,” which “exists where God does not and as we drive God further and further away, evil creeps in more and more.” (Regular readers of RedState already know liberals are evil, so the conclusion is foregone.)
Later Erickson returned to say that “the media” was “subtly and not so subtly pinning the blame for the attempted assassination of the Congresswoman and the related shootings on the tea party movement, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, me, you, and everyone right of center.” And, he added, by so doing “the left and media may very well incite violence against the right.”
So that was the plan all along! Wait till some nut shoots Glenn Beck. Then we’ll know who to blame — Matthew Yglesias!
At The American Spectator, Philip Klein said, “it’s far too early to speculate on the shooters’ motives,” then speculated on the shooter’s motives. Klein noted that, among his many random enthusiasms, Loughner was a fan of The Communist Manifesto, and “unlike the subliminal message liberals attribute to Palin’s map, Marx and Engles explicitly advocated political violence.” Klein sought to prove this by quoting at length from the Manifesto, bolding the alleged calls to mayhem therein, e.g., “[the proletariat] makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production,” etc.
(This has not been a great week on the Right for contextual reading.)
Klein’s kind of selective attribution — suggesting that Loughner’s fondness for, say, Ayn Rand’s We The Living and bimetallism, and his contempt for the federal government, are meaningless, but his endorsement of The Communist Manifesto is dispositive — became a popular gambit among rightbloggers who saw that the non-political-nut explanation wasn’t getting them where they wanted to go.
“This nut was a lefty. That’s the fact,” said Atlas Shrugs. “Loughner was a ‘left-winger’ who listed amongst his favorite books The Communist Manifesto,” said Paul Joseph Watson. “As I said before, the LEFT WING WHACKO’s own this nutjob,” reasoned NoBamaNation. “He’s of their creation, of that there’s no doubt.”
And they had proof! For instance, a girl Loughner knew in high school remembered him as liberal. As everyone knows, no one who’s a liberal in high school ever gives it up.
The proof points kept rolling in: Loughner used liberal drugs. “You can almost hear the disappointment from the left that [Loughner] was a pothead rather than a Tea Partyer,” said Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post. “Described by former classmates as a pot-smoking left-wing rocker,” confirmed National Review‘s Robert P. George. This is conclusive because only liberals smoke weed; conservatives prefer Scotch and Oxycontin.
Also, Loughner’s taste in literature didn’t fit the template. “Among his long list of favorite books in his YouTube profile are Mein Kampf, The Communist Manifesto, Siddhartha,” Politico reported; Instapundit responded, “Doesn’t sound much like a Tea Partier.” Exactly — where’s the Dean Koontz?
With Loughner’s liberalism thus established, the brethren moved on to examples of other liberals assassinating people — or, failing that, the next best thing: Liberals whom they thought sounded like they were fixing to assassinate people.
Some found an equivalent to Loughner in “BoyBlue,” a poster at the liberal site DailyKos (many suggested, at least at first, that Loughner and BoyBlue were one and the same). BoyBlue had denounced Rep. Giffords for voting against Nancy Pelosi for Speaker last week, declaring that Giffords “is now DEAD to me!”
Sounds to us more like Jerry Seinfeld’s Uncle Leo denouncing his sister-in-law from a rest home than a committed assassin. But it does include the word “dead.” (“There are also several references to ‘dead’ in the comment thread,” helpfully added Rick Moran of American Thinker.) Unlike Loughner, BoyBlue is not known to have shot anyone, but really it’s the thought that counts.
Also, rightbloggers found liberal maps that had targets on them, too, and theblogprof posted examples of “eliminationist rhetoric from the left.” Representative sample: “‘We talk to these folks… so I know whose ass to kick.’ Obama on the private sector, June 2010.” Sure enough, a few months later Obama burst into a Chamber of Commerce meeting and gunned down several people. (If you didn’t know about that, blame the biased reporting of the Lame Stream Media!)
Inevitably it got around, as all things do, to Barack Obama. Instapundit was one of many to quote Obama’s citation of the “Chicago Rules” from The Untouchables (“If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun”), presumably demonstrating that the President, too, is a potential assassin. “How could [Loughner] get so close to a congresswoman with a gun?” wondered iOwnTheWorld. “I guess the secret service was too busy investigating UFC’s Jacob Volkmann because he jokingly said he would like to fight Obama.” “The man likes Carl Marx and his ideas!” said Desert Conservative. “How much more alike Obama can he be?” etc.
They’re still at it. For them it’s a big deal, spin-wise. Commentary‘s Peter Wehner was on C-Span yesterday, complaining that the rhetoric against conservatives on MSNBC was “just way, way out there.” Writers at National Review‘s The Corner even pulled unaccustomed Sunday night duty, lest the propaganda momentum be lost.
One of them, Jay Nordlinger, was in an especially somber mood: He dismally ticked off all the catastrophes that liberals had somehow unfairly pinned on conservatives — Hurricane Katrina, Oklahoma City, and the death of JFK, notable to Nordlinger for the unfair suspicion it brought on Republican Senator John Tower. Oh, and “a gun to a knife fight,” etc. “I don’t say that it ought to be this way, Lord knows,” sighed Nordlinger. “But it always has been, at least for as long as I can remember. And I fear it always will be.”
Weep not for Nordlinger. Though such extraordinary self-pity may seem from the outside depressing to live with, it has its advantages. It gives the sufferer’s life purpose and meaning. Since he’s always the victim, he never has to step up and accept responsibility for anything. In short, being a conservative means never having to say you’re sorry, which makes it ideal for people who are fundamentally incapable of admitting they ever have anything or anyone besides themselves to be sorry for.