Killing in the Name Of

In the aftermath of the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and the killing of six innocent bystanders, many pixels have been spilled handwringing about what part of the political specrtum Jared Lee Loughner belongs to.

The reason for this is not, as the Palins of the world have insisted, because the left is primed and ready to “pin this on the right.” It is because the immediate reaction of the left to the shooting was not shock or surprise or disbelief. It is because, to a person, our reaction was, “Oh my God, the tea partiers have finally done it.”

And of course, if they’re honest, this was the reaction on the right as well — which is why Sarah Palin’s staffers spent the hours following Loughner’s shooting spree pulling down inconvenient photos from Palin’s site and scrubbing vitriolic tweets.

Loughner’s politics ended up being more complex than simply being a tea partier — his political views, such as they were, appear to have been influenced by the fringe-of-fringe-right sovereign citizen movement and by a deep and abiding misogyny. But his apparent mental illness makes his true motivations rather more opaque than those of his predecessor in violence, Byron Williams.

What, the name Byron Williams doesn’t ring a bell? Well, why would it? He didn’t manage to kill anyone. He was just on his way to kill people, lots of people, when he was thankfully apprehended by police in California after a firefight that, fortunately, killed nobody. Williams was, he said, on his way to kill people at the Tides Center, whose sister organization, the Tides Foundation, funds progressive groups. Williams said he intended to “start a revolution.”

But nobody died, and Obama was the true enemy of liberty, so the story got swept under the rug. But if you’re wondering, where did Byron Williams get the idea to attack a relatively unknown 501(3)(c) ? Why, from Glenn Beck:

In a jailhouse interview, Williams said that he “would have never started watching Fox News if it wasn’t for the fact that Beck was on there. And it was the things that he did, it was the things he exposed that blew my mind.” He said he regarded Beck “like a schoolteacher on TV.”

“You need to go back to June — June of this year, 2010 — and look at all his programs from June, and you’ll see he’s been breaking open some of the most hideous corruption,” Williams said.

Funny, you didn’t hear much about that two months later, when Beck was restoring honor with his goose flyover in Washington, did you?

Of course, as Sarah Palin has taken pains to tell us, just because someone on the right uses violent rhetoric, that doesn’t mean that they’re responsible for violence. And certainly, Glenn Beck never called for violence against anyone, right?

For the YouTube impaired, Raw Story sums it up:

Discussing Democratic leaders during a June broadcast for the Republican Fox News Channel, conspiracy host Glenn Beck told his followers they would have to “shoot them in the head” in order to bring an end to an alleged “communist” agenda.

“They believe in communism,” he said. “They believe and have called for a revolution. You’re going to have to shoot them in the head. But warning, they may shoot you.”

Well…okay, but Beck probably wasn’t referring to anyone like a Congressperson. He’s probably referring to a surveyor’s mark, right?

I will stand against you and so will millions of others. We believe in something. You in the media and most in Washington don’t. The radicals that you and Washington have co-opted and brought in wearing sheep’s clothing — change the pose. You will get the ends.

You’ve been using them? They believe in communism. They believe and have called for a revolution. You’re going to have to shoot them in the head. But warning, they may shoot you.

They are dangerous because they believe. Karl Marx is their George Washington. You will never change their mind. And if they feel you have lied to them — they’re revolutionaries. Nancy Pelosi, those are the people you should be worried about.

Here is my advice when you’re dealing with people who believe in something that strongly — you take them seriously. You listen to their words and you believe that they will follow up with what they say.

So you will have to shoot “them” in the head. And “them” includes — explicitly includes — the then-Speaker of the House of Representatives.

And the right wonders why the left immediately assumed Loughner was, like Williams, a Beck fan with a gun, who took the words of the leaders of the right to heart?

But of course, they don’t. Not really. Deep down, they know how much fire they’ve been playing with, they know exactly how badly this could all blow up. Indeed, it almost did in California. And the right knows exactly how lucky they are that Loughner turned out to be mentally ill, because it makes it harder for us to get to the bottom of what caused him to lash out, since crazy people are just crazy, you know? Maybe he’s a leftist. He liked Hitler, right?

No, left and right both know that the violence is situated on the right. Not because only right-wingers can be terrorists — the Weather Underground should have laid that idea to rest here in America long ago. But right now, leading voices on the right — a presidential contender, a leading talk-show host, members of Congress — are lending their tacit and not-so-tacit support to the idea that violent revolution is not just acceptable, but desirable. In the darkest days of the Bush presidency, the closest any lefty got to calling for the death of conservatives was a crappy novel by Nicholson Baker in which he concluded Bush shouldn’t be killed. You never heard Al Franken suggesting that we should shoot Dennis Hastert in the head. You never saw John Edwards put out a map with “surveyor’s marks” on vulnerable Congressional districts.

This is why rhetoric matters. Not because it necessarily motivated Loughner — it probably didn’t, at least not directly — but because it has motivated Williams. Because it could motivate others. And because even if nobody else picks up a gun based on the rhetoric of the Palins and Angles and Becks of the world, the idea that our government is not just misguided but tyrannical undermines the very foundation of that government. The statement — even spoken hyperbolically — that a literal revolution may be necessary to sweep out the “communists” in Washington is a statement advocating the overthrow of the duly elected federal government.

There’s a word for that. But of course, it can’t apply to Beck. Because “treason” is only a word liberals have to bear.

But more than anything, the word that describes rhetoric like this is wrong. It is wrong to say we need to kill our leaders. And it’s wrong — deeply, unfathomably wrong — that anyone should even need to say that.

UPDATE AND CORRECTION: I erred when I stated Beck was telling viewers to kill politicians. He was in fact telling politicians to kill liberal activists. Please see the above post for a correction and extension of this post.

This entry posted in Conservative zaniness, right-wingers, etc., Fox News. Bookmark the permalink. 

57 Responses to Killing in the Name Of

  1. 1
    Brandon Berg says:

    So I have a question. The country you and I live in was founded by people who advocated, and even went so far as to carry out, violent revolution against what they considered to be a tyrannical government. Do you feel the same way about them as you do about the modern right?

    I’m not trying to play the patriot card. I’ll be the first to admit that the case for revolution back then probably wasn’t as cut-and-dry as my eighth-grade history textbook made it out to be. Canada turned out all right, if a bit too far to the left. And I’m not saying that revolution now would be a good thing—it does have a pretty spotty record, after all. But I’m curious as to whether you’ve given any serious thought to the parallels, and whether and how they differ.

  2. 2
    Ampersand says:

    Raw Story is quoted as saying:

    Discussing Democratic leaders during a June broadcast for the Republican Fox News Channel, conspiracy host Glenn Beck told his followers they would have to “shoot them in the head” in order to bring an end to an alleged “communist” agenda.

    That’s not an honest summary of Beck’s statement.

    Don’t get me wrong, Beck’s argument is deranged. But if you read the entire context, it’s very clear that the “you” Beck was pretending to address was Democratic politicians. The argument is “you’ve been using these dangerous revolutionary communists as tools, but they’re going to attack you because they haven’t gotten what they wanted, and you’ll have to shoot them in the head.”

    Beck is odious. But this wasn’t a case of Beck calling on Beck’s followers to shoot Democrats in the head.

  3. 3
    Charles S says:

    Brandon,

    Have you given any thought to the parallels, and whether and how they differ?

    Personally, I can’t think of any parallels between a colony lacking representation in the national government, ruled by appointed governors, rebelling against the non-local national government and establishing itself as an independent state, and a particular ideological minority that has a strong representation in the elected national government and a strong representation in the elected local governments, that has only has 4 years in the past 30 when they have not controlled outright at least one branch of the national government (ignoring for the moment that they controlled the judiciary during the last two years, as that is marginally debatable as Kennedy isn’t a fire-breathing, right wing extremist, so the Beckian wing doesn’t control the SC outright), and who have been effective in preventing most legislation from being passed during the most recent 2 year period.

    The modern right’s belief that the US government is a tyranny is simply absurd, requiring bizarre conspiracy theory and outright lies, plus a healthy dose of amnesia, to maintain itself. The American revolutionaries belief that Britain was a tyranny may be debatable, but it wasn’t outright nonsense.

    While your comment makes no claims to defend the indefensible, I can see why you made it if you don’t believe the indefensible is at least a little defensible, so do tell, what are those parallels? how is the current moment like the 1770′s?

  4. 4
    JThompson says:

    It is because, to a person, our reaction was, “Oh my God, the tea partiers have finally done it.”

    Not mine. Mine was “Oh look, I bet this is another isolated incident.”
    After I read his rants I figured he was a militia nut. He certainly sounds like one.

  5. 5
    Robert says:

    It is because the immediate reaction of the left to the shooting was not shock or surprise or disbelief. It is because, to a person, our reaction was, “Oh my God, the tea partiers have finally done it.”

    Really? Because my reaction was “holy shit, oh my God, those poor people.”

    which is why Sarah Palin’s staffers spent the hours following Loughner’s shooting spree pulling down inconvenient photos from Palin’s site and scrubbing vitriolic tweets.

    Really? Because that would be rather damning of Palin, if true. Do you have any cites or evidence for this statement?

  6. 6
    SteveAR says:

    So you will have to shoot “them” in the head. And “them” includes — explicitly includes — the then-Speaker of the House of Representatives.

    Read the whole transcript. Beck was definitely not calling for anyone to shoot Pelosi or any other Democrat in the head. Using a metaphor, Beck was warning Democrats and the media, including Pelosi, about how dangerous leftist revolutionaries (he mentions some) are.

  7. 7
    RonF says:

    I got this far into the posting and I had to take note.

    And of course, if they’re honest, this was the reaction on the right as well

    So, which am I? Not on the right, or a liar? Because my first reaction, having been told about the situation from someone who had heard about it on the radio, was “Oh my God, some fool went crazy with a gun! What a tragedy.” Then I said a prayer for the victims. I never thought twice about the Tea Party movement being tied to it until I started hearing what the left was pumping out on here.

    It is because the immediate reaction of the left to the shooting was not shock or surprise or disbelief. It is because, to a person, our reaction was, “Oh my God, the tea partiers have finally done it.”

    Confirming my observations that for a great many on the left political advantage is more important than people’s lives.

    I rather imagine that Sarah Palin (unlike the DNC, which still maintains the equivalent map on their site) took that map with the “surveyors’ crosshairs” (come on, who thinks that when they see them) down because she knew based on that same observation that there was going to be a shitstorm of ridiculous claims that somehow she was to blame for this.

    Speaking of crosshairs and violent imagery, I guess we’ve all learned our lesson, right? And the left would never do anything like this, certainly, especially in the current environment. Unless, of course, it involves an evil corporation like Wal-Mart planning to replace a defunct car dealership with a non-union store. Then people have no problem calling for a group of people to march on a Wal-Mart developer’s house and publishing a flyer calling for this that has a rifle target on it with a Wal-Mart symbol in the bullseye.

    Don’t misinterpret this as me carrying water for Wal-Mart. I hate shopping at Wal-Mart; the one by me is dirty, many of the goods are cheaply made and there’s never any help around. But organizing people to descend on a private residence using a flyer with a rifle target on it and a Wal-Mart symbol on the bullseye? Yeah, we’ve learned a lot in the last week or so, haven’t we? Bet they’d jump up and take responsbility if someone in the crowd started shooting at that home.

  8. 8
    Gavin Sullivan says:

    High-endurance readers might consider my post–in which I take issue with Jeff’s Killing In The Name Of.

  9. 9
    Robert says:

    That’s different, Ron. That’s not part of the right-wing hate machine’s miasmic envelope of violence, and so it doesn’t count.

  10. 10
    RonF says:

    The modern right’s belief that the US government is a tyranny is simply absurd,

    The belief that the modern right (as a whole, not a few particular people whose livelihoods depend on getting people to watch their TV show) thinks that the US government meets the definition of a tyranny is what’s absurd. The modern right DOES think that the Federal government has too much power and controls things that should be left to the States or to individuals to decide.

    The modern right also makes a distinction between the Federal, State and local governments, which I rarely see the left do when they refer to the “government”. I am under the impression that the left disapproves of Federalism overall and would rather that the Federal government take as much power away from the State governments as possible. The right favors Federalism and would rather see the Federal government limited to those powers explicitly named in the Constitution, with the rest under the control of the States or to the citizens thereof.

  11. 11
    RonF says:

    Robert, are you sure that’s a miasma? Maybe it’s a prenumbra.

  12. 12
    Jeff Fecke says:

    Those who’ve taken issue with my characterization of Beck’s comments are right. He was calling for politicians to kill activists, not for right-wingers to kill politicians. I’ve posted a correction.

  13. 13
    Charles S says:

    Confirming my observations that for a great many on the left political advantage is more important than people’s lives.

    Wow, way out of line, Ron. This says a lot more about you as a person than it does about anyone else.

    [this commented edited because I'm a mod]

  14. 14
    Charles S says:

    The modern right’s belief that the US government is a tyranny is simply absurd,

    The belief that the modern right (as a whole, not a few particular people whose livelihoods depend on getting people to watch their TV show) thinks that the US government meets the definition of a tyranny is what’s absurd.

    Let me rephrase: “The modern belief on the right that the US government is a tyranny is simply absurd,”
    But I think your claim that that belief is restricted to tv personalities is patently absurd.

  15. 15
    Brandon Berg says:

    Charles:
    So the salient difference, then, is that the modern right does not have legitimate grievances?

  16. 16
    Charles says:

    Brandon,

    What do you see as the salient similarities?

    [just so it is clear, I "Charles" am the same commenter as "Charles S", I just posted this while I was logged in, and "Charles" is my username]

  17. 17
    Robert says:

    I agree that the modern US government is not particularly tyrannical. Making me buy health insurance when I don’t want to != King George quartering troops and taxing my tea.

    On the other hand, tyranny starts somewhere. The whole point of the founding of the US was to create a government that could not be tyrannical by design – by hobbling our government so that it had only limited powers, and effectively establishing a culture of “if you try to exceed those powers, we the people will rise up and smack you, see if we don’t”, we reduce the temptation to power that governors always seem to develop.

    There is a perception on the part of the right, and I have to say that I feel it is a very accurate perception, that people on the left don’t care about any of that. If social good X can be achieved with a little expansion of Federal power, well, that’s fine and dandy with leftists. All that fretting over the potential for tyrannical government is just silly; government is good people trying to do good things so it can’t possibly be tyrannical. It won’t go too far; we’ll never end up with crazy stuff like internment camps full of US citizens.

    Right-wingers, myself included, find that an exceptionally naive and short-sighted view.

  18. 18
    Charles S says:

    There is a perception on the part of the right, and I have to say that I feel it is a very accurate perception, that people on the left don’t care about any of that. If social good X can be achieved with a little expansion of Federal power, well, that’s fine and dandy with leftists. All that fretting over the potential for tyrannical government is just silly; government is good people trying to do good things so it can’t possibly be tyrannical. It won’t go too far; we’ll never end up with crazy stuff like internment camps full of US citizens.

    Robert, this is idiotic (I mean, it seems to be an accurate description of some of the rantings of the Beckian right, but to describe it as accurate is idiotic). The left in the US is concerned with the threat of tyranny from the part of government activity that has to do with putting people in camps, with disappearing people, with the denial of habeus corpus (all serious concerns in this last decade in the US), as are some on the right (you seem to wander back and forth between caring and not caring about those issues, in my estimation), we just aren’t concerned with the risk that fining people for not having health insurance will lead to tyranny, because, well, there isn’t the faintest reason to think it will, it never has anywhere else, plenty of countries that have insurance mandates don’t have internment camps, and if there are any countries that have had both individual mandates and internment camps (are there? you tell me.), there is no one with any credibility that has ever suggested that the introduction of the individual mandate lead to the introduction of internment camps.

    Suggesting that the individual mandate might lead to tyranny is as reasonable as suggesting that introducing tighter restrictions on whether federal money can be associated in any way with abortion will lead to tyranny. Which is to say it isn’t. You hate the individual mandate (I’m not a fan of it) and I hate the proposed restrictions on abortion, but neither of them will lead to people being rounded up and put in camps. To suggest that they will is merely to demonstrate that your arguments against the thing itself aren’t strong enough to stand on their own.

    Just as a side note, we had nearly a hundred years of tyranny in this country, post civil war, throughout the South, even after we had officially acknowledged that black people were people, so if “The whole point of the founding of the US was to create a government that could not be tyrannical by design – by hobbling our government so that it had only limited powers” I have to say it was a pretty miserable fucking failure. All those who support devolution and state’s rights as deterrent to tyranny in the US, the best possible thing that can be said for them (and I don’t think it is true mostly, but I’ll be generous) is that they don’t know shit about history. State’s rights and devolution of power as an antidote to tyranny is a proven absolute and abject failure of stunning proportions. There is a feeling on the left, and I think an accurate one, that the right in the US doesn’t acknowledge that or give much of a shit about it. But there you go, zombie hordes on all sides.

  19. 19
    Ampersand says:

    Robert, have you observed that the deep, deep concern over tyranny on the right seems very situational?

    I worry about tyranny. I worry about it when we’ve created a system where the government is allowed to grab anyone’s private laptop or thumb drive at the airport and copy all the data, without a warrant or even probable cause. I worry about it when we create huge loopholes in the right to due process so that the government can deport 400,000+ alleged undocumented immigrants a year. I worry about it when we pretend that it doesn’t go against the Constitution for the President to start wars without a vote of congress. I worry about it when the President has the right to have people arrested, tortured and even killed without trial or due process. I worry about it when state governments claim the right to force pregnant women to give birth against their will. I worry about it when we have a “war on drugs” that looks a lot more like a war on Black people’s civil liberties. I worry when the distinction between corporations and the government grows less every year (from mercenaries to private prisons to Citizens United to telecom immunity).

    There is a perception on the part of the left, and I have to say that I feel it is a very accurate perception, that with a few inconsequential exceptions the people on the right do care deeply about all of that, in the sense that the people on the right have enthusiastically pursued a more tyrannical government in each of those cases. (Sometimes aided by centrist Democrats, I’m sorry to say.)

    In short, before you strain yourself further patting your own back for belonging to The Party That Opposes Tyranny (TM), maybe you should remove the mote from your own eye.

    [Crossposted with Charles' significantly superior comment.]

  20. 20
    Robert says:

    Not “the individual mandate as a specific policy” -> “internment camps”, but “expansion of government power in the abstract, and the erosion of the idea that there are things that the government would like to do which it is not allowed to do by design” -> more tyrannical government.

    Since I wasn’t writing to advocate how awesome the right wing has been about these things, I won’t defend them here & now.

    That devolved power was also used badly & tyrannically proves that power is usually used badly, not that devolution is a failed idea. The period of bad governance you refer to was not a period where it was the Federal (and thus largely inescapable) government that was acting badly. Indeed, it was usually the Federal government acting as a check on the states at that time, and the federalist system provided alternatives and escapes for people in intolerable situations.

    Shorter: yeah, Mississippi was a shithole. But you could move to Illinois, which was a lot better, and many did. If we hadn’t had devolution, then the whole country would have been a shithole.

  21. 21
    Ben says:

    Actually, there’s long been a history of federal-level tyranny.

    Read about the reprehensible Anthony Comstock and his federal anti-sex laws -written as early as the mid to late 19th century- to get a glimpse of how the right (and by most honest standards, Comstock would fall under the category of either conservative or far-right) has already used the power of the U.S. Federal Government to oppress people.

  22. 22
    Simple Truth says:

    I think the biggest thing that strikes me about the arguments of left vs. right: right wingers are worried about what could happen, left wingers are worried about what has already been happening.

  23. 23
    Brandon Berg says:

    Charles:
    The similarity is the allegedly violent and revolutionary rhetoric from the modern right, as compared to inciting and actually carrying out of a violent revolution. If the reason you condemn one but not the other is that you think that one had legitimate grievances and the other didn’t, then this isn’t really about tone, is it? It’s about content.

  24. 24
    Charles S says:

    Why yes, oh Socrates, I hadn’t thought of that!

    (I) If you haven’t run across that argument repeatedly on left wing sites, you haven’t been reading left wing sites. I’m not going to bother giving you cites as you aren’t worth the work. Go read Digby, go read Kevin Drum. Hell, go read Daily Kos. We aren’t talking obscure sites, or even particularly left wing.

    Maybe you don’t read any of those sites, but you do read this one. Go read the fucking post you are commenting on here. Here, I’ll quote it for you: “the idea that our government is not just misguided but tyrannical undermines the very foundation of that government.” Tell me, Socrates, is that a tone argument?

    (II) If you have no legitimate grievances which require violent revolution, then you
    (a) shouldn’t be making up shit and pretending it is a legitimate grievance (death panels, taking away our guns, imposing sharia law, etc. etc.). There are people dead because of those lies, and I’m not even counting the shootings in Arizona.
    (b) you shouldn’t be advocating violent revolution.

    (III) Right wing arguments of “But left wing candidates have had ads with cross hairs too!” and main stream media pundits are the main places you’ll find tone arguments.

    I’m not even going to bother to ask you if you condemn either the lies or the advocating of violent resistance, as (a) you haven’t, and (b) I don’t really care what you do. However, in future, please spare us your attempts at Socratic dialogue. If you think you have a point, just fucking state it.

  25. An article from The New York Times about a professor at CUNY who has allegedly been receiving death threats as a result of the rhetorical treatment she has received on Glenn Beck’s show. I have not, and will not–because I don’t have the time–to watch clips from the show(s) in which the professor is mentioned, so I am not going to say anything about Beck, but I think the article points to important questions about the responsibility of someone like Beck for the rhetoric they use.

    The article also raised for me the question of whether the people on the right who are criticized by people like Olbermann, Maddow, etc. ever receive death threats as a direct result of the rhetoric they use on their shows? I mean this as an honest question. The Times article certainly suggests that this is the case in the situation it reports, but even if the Times is wrong about this, it did make me wonder if there are reported cases where death threats in response to a TV or radio personality’s rhetoric have flowed from left to right.

  26. 26
    Robert says:

    “Direct result” is awfully damn hard to pin down, in any direction, as I’m sure you grok, RJN. Few would-be killers are thoughtful enough to write “Olbermann was right…conservatives must die!!” or “Thank you Glenn for showing me the truth…” on a sticky note.

    Two cases, one obscure and hard to parse, one not.

    But from September 2010 we have the case of Casey Brezik, a young leftist who attempted to assassinate the Republican governor of Missouri. His story didn’t get much play, mainly because he tried to kill the wrong guy, used a knife rather than a gun, and failed to kill anyone.

    Brezik was also, plainly, mentally ill to a severe degree. Most political-themed killers seem to be. Without putting blame on the vast and peaceful number of people struggling with mental issues who wouldn’t hurt a fly, I think we have a deranged-people-with-access-to-weapons assassination problem, not a harsh-media-environment-promoting-assassinations problem.

    The second case? A guy named George Bush. You might remember him. Regular subject of left-wing vitriol, regular subject of death threats. Direct result? Again, hard to say…but the people at rallies burning him in effigy and whatnot weren’t O’Reilly Factor core viewers.

  27. Robert:

    Except that, assuming for the moment that the Times article is accurate, the death threats against the professor, both on Beck’s website and the ones she received personally, are in fact traceable to Beck’s shows and mention of her. I don’t necessarily approve of the way Bush was burned in effigy, but it is a slightly different situation in that there were plenty of people pissed off enough at him that they probably didn’t need the urgings of TV personalities. He was that public a figure. I doubt many people who watch or listen to Beck even knew this professor existed before he started talking about her.

  28. 28
    Robert says:

    True. Most people hadn’t heard of her before Beck brought attention to her work.

    I guess the closest comparison would be the left-wing vitriol aimed at Leo Strauss, who some on the (highly intellectual) left excoriated for his foundational/inspirational role in the neocon movement. But he was long dead at that point.

    There are a lot of folks, left and right, who say and advocate things that, if put in the glare of the public eye, would really piss a lot of people off. Pivens seems to be one such person. I think the exact form of the publicity given is highly relevant in assessing whether a media figure is responsible for, say, threats to that person’s life. If Barry is spending hours writing about how I am a kitten-murderer and his followers should come to my house and pelt me with little kitty corpses, he’s being irresponsible. If he’s spending hours about how kitten murder is wrong and linking to my published works on kitten-murdering devices, well…public intellectuals don’t really have a right to anonymity and obscurity.

    Once you write the article about how to collapse the economy through massive welfare fraud, you’re going to piss off all the people paying the bills. “Damn, I’d hoped they would all forget that” is an understandable reaction, but it doesn’t seem from the Times article that Beck has done anything more than shine light on a history that one particular leftist would rather not have unearthed.

  29. Robert:

    If he’s spending hours about how kitten murder is wrong and linking to my published works on kitten-murdering devices, well…public intellectuals don’t really have a right to anonymity and obscurity.

    Yes, but–and I will leave this here, since what I am about to write is pure speculation on my part in terms of what Glenn Beck has actually done or said–if yours is the only work on kitten-murdering devices to which Barry links and if yours is the only name he links to the notion of kitten-murdering so that your name becomes the only one associated with the impending kitten genocide that Barry fears, then things become a little more murky for me in terms of what he is and is not responsible for when it comes to effect his rhetoric may have.

  30. 30
    Robert says:

    Well, it was her idea (and her husband’s, but he’s dead), so I’m not sure how many other kitten murderers there are to discuss.

    But I am sure that if you told him “we’d like you to discuss some other left-wing ‘economic traitors’ to spread the blame around”, he’d be willing. :)

  31. 31
    Ampersand says:

    Once you write the article about how to collapse the economy through massive welfare fraud, you’re going to piss off all the people paying the bills. “Damn, I’d hoped they would all forget that” is an understandable reaction, but it doesn’t seem from the Times article that Beck has done anything more than shine light on a history that one particular leftist would rather not have unearthed.

    Beck accuses Piven of planning to “intentionally collapse our economic system” and “to overwhelm the system and bring about the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with impossible demands and bring on economic collapse.” Both of these claims are false.

    In fact, the plan was to create a crisis in the welfare system and to thus (she believed) force the government to switch to a national basic income. As Piven wrote in the 1960s:

    The ultimate aim of this strategy is a new program for direct income distribution. What reason is there to expect that the federal government will enact such legislation in response to a crisis in the welfare system?

    Piven’s program was to use large-scale enrollment in welfare to make it clear that our welfare system was in fact too small to help all the people with legitimate, legal claims on that system. She was hoping that the Democratic party, in order to keep their coalition together, would have no choice but to start favoring replacing welfare with a basic income. Note that her plan actually depends on the overall economic system continuing, not collapsing; the people who favor a national income scheme believe that it’s entirely compatible with a healthy economy.

    Calling that a plan to “intentionally collapse our economic system” is a lie — and an obviously incendiary lie.

    I don’t think Piven has any objection to this part of her history being unearthed. She does have a legitimate objection to being lied about, and she has a legitimate objection to death threats resulting from those lies.

    (P.S. Your summary of Piven’s plan is wrong on every claim — she never called for welfare fraud, her argument was that legit welfare claims alone could overwhelm the 1960s welfare system; nor did she write about how to collapse the economy.)

  32. 32
    Robert says:

    I haven’t read the article (is it available online?) so I have no idea which set of claims is true, if either. I don’t trust Glenn Beck’s characterization of it (so my apologies for just glibly repeating that characterization, in the course of conversing about it with Richard) but I don’t trust a left-wing restatement of the content either.

  33. 33
    Robert says:

    Hey, editing is back! Hooray!

  34. 34
    Robert says:

    Oh duh, your link IS to the article. I assumed it was to a Common Dreams article about the controversy. Reading now.

  35. 35
    Ampersand says:

    Many people don’t realize that the Common Dreams website has been active since 1966. :-p

  36. 36
    Robert says:

    Wow. Well, I can see why Beck (or any conservative) would absolutely f’ing go to TOWN on this, but you are right: this isn’t a call for economic collapse or welfare fraud, and I withdraw that characterization.

  37. 37
    Ampersand says:

    Thanks for withdrawing that characterization.

    Now the question is…

    If Barry is spending hours writing about how I am a kitten-murderer and his followers should come to my house and pelt me with little kitty corpses, he’s being irresponsible. If he’s spending hours about how kitten murder is wrong and linking to my published works on kitten-murdering devices, well…public intellectuals don’t really have a right to anonymity and obscurity.

    Suppose I spend hours passionately yelling about how you’re a kitten-murderer on my incredibly popular TV show. As a result, my followers (who are known to be passionate kitten-lovers) are sending you death threats, and talking about slitting your throat or killing your family on my online forum.

    Would you agree I’ve been extremely irresponsible in that situation?

  38. 38
    Robert says:

    How accurate is your allegation that I’m a kitten murderer, and what’s your tone? Kitten murder is serious business. If you’re right about what I do, and you’re not calling for violence yourself, then I am going to have a hard time putting blame for me being found dead under a huge pile of kitten skeletons specifically on you.

    You can just skip ahead and ask if I think Glenn Beck is being irresponsible. I really don’t know, because I don’t watch his show, but I will acknowledge that it would not surprise me a bit to find out that he is being irresponsible. Irresponsibility would come from (a) dishonestly presenting information, or presenting dishonest information, and (b) using dehumanizing or violent rhetoric towards the subject.

    (Tomorrow I buy a new computer, and I estimate my kitten murdering sprees will be three or four times faster. Let your followers know.)

  39. 39
    Sebastian H says:

    So far as I can tell, for so much as it matters, it appears that there is much more evidence that Loughner tended toward leftwing politics, as opposed to the frankly reaching supposition of the Bay Citizen, we have from a recent friend and bandmate that he was leftie, a pothead, anti-Iraq war, a 9-11 conspiracy theorist, and we can see that he was stridently anti-Christian and anti-religious.

    Now, these aren’t *strictly* leftist views, but they certainly tend to exist much more on the extreme left than the extreme right.

    See for example here

  40. 40
    Myca says:

    Robert:

    There is a perception on the part of the right, and I have to say that I feel it is a very accurate perception, that people on the left don’t care about any of that. If social good X can be achieved with a little expansion of Federal power, well, that’s fine and dandy with leftists. All that fretting over the potential for tyrannical government is just silly; government is good people trying to do good things so it can’t possibly be tyrannical.

    Robert, after being confronted with plenty of examples of the left being concerned specifically about this as the right cheers government abuse after government abuse:

    Since I wasn’t writing to advocate how awesome the right wing has been about these things, I won’t defend them here & now.

    Okay, man, you have to see that you’re being unreasonable here. Either this concern about government power and abuse is a characteristic the right possesses which the left does not (which was your original claim) or it isn’t.

    I realize that the conversation has moved on, and I’m sorry, but you actually were claiming that the right is significantly more awesome than the left on these issues, and you need to acknowledge that you were wrong.

    Or, I suppose, make some kind of, “I’m completely ignorant of the years 2000-2008,” claim.

    —Myca

  41. 41
    Robert says:

    *Shrug*

    I was making a point about a perception on the right, to share with you that piece of information about one narrow and specific way that we see the left as being indifferent to a threat to liberty. You want to have the bigger fight, fine, but I don’t feel like having that fight and I don’t owe you that fight. So, pass.

  42. After I read his rants I figured he was a militia nut. He certainly sounds like one.

    That’s the right; I certainly wouldn’t call militia nuts the left in the past 25 years. I don’t think anyone is (currently) saying that Loughner has been part of an avowedly right-wing organization, only that he has ideas that point to a certain degree of exposure to and sympathy with the rhetoric that has been coming from the GOP and the right, rather than that coming from the Democrats and the left (as well as some that transcends political alignment in its bizarreness).

    Speaking of crosshairs and violent imagery, I guess we’ve all learned our lesson, right? And the left would never do anything like this, certainly, especially in the current environment. Unless, of course, it involves an evil corporation like Wal-Mart planning to replace a defunct car dealership with a non-union store. Then people have no problem calling for a group of people to march on a Wal-Mart developer’s house and publishing a flyer calling for this that has a rifle target on it with a Wal-Mart symbol in the bullseye.

    Was that John Edwards doing that? Was it Al Franken? Chuck Shumer? Gary Hart?

    How accurate is your allegation that I’m a kitten murderer, and what’s your tone? Kitten murder is serious business. If you’re right about what I do, and you’re not calling for violence yourself, then I am going to have a hard time putting blame for me being found dead under a huge pile of kitten skeletons specifically on you.

    Well, what constitutes “calling for violence”? Obviously saying “you should act violently towards this person” is, but what about speaking, abstractly, about the virtues of violent acts towards perceived ailurophobes — or getting more abstract than that and saying no more than “ailurophobia is like a clear and present danger to the Republic” — and then an hour and a half later, or later in the week, saying “oh hey, this person is killing kittens”? It’s not dehumanizing or violent rhetoric towards you, per se, after all.

  43. 43
    Myca says:

    I was making a point about a perception on the right, to share with you that piece of information about one narrow and specific way that we see the left as being indifferent to a threat to liberty.

    Yeah, fair enough, I guess.

    I think it’s reasonable to say that this is the perception on the right, yes.

    I also think it’s reasonable to say that both Charles and Ampersand pretty much took you to town on how the only way to hold on to that perception is to be utterly full of shit.

    —Myca

  44. 44
    Sebastian H says:

    “That’s the right; I certainly wouldn’t call militia nuts the left in the past 25 years. I don’t think anyone is (currently) saying that Loughner has been part of an avowedly right-wing organization, only that he has ideas that point to a certain degree of exposure to and sympathy with the rhetoric that has been coming from the GOP and the right, rather than that coming from the Democrats and the left ”

    But that doesn’t seem to be the case. So far as he aligned at all it seems to have been with things more on the left–anti-Iraq war, 9/11 conspiracy, anti-religion, anti-Christian. All of those things can be found all over them map, but they certainly tend to be found more on the left in the US. Furthermore the only friend who was talking suggested that he was more of a radical leftist, at least as recently as 2007. The evidence you seem to be using to suggest that he was more on the right (violence against the government) sounds equally at home among the revolutionary left. So if most of his causes were those found on the left, it seems weird to assign him to the right purely on the violence against the government issue as if the fringe left has never and is not ever interested in violence against the (US) government.

    So far as I can tell there is zero indication that he was a Palin fan, a fan of the right in general, a fan of any of the major right-wing talk show crazies, or allied with (even just in his mind) anything Republican.

  45. 45
    mythago says:

    So far as he aligned at all it seems to have been with things more on the left–anti-Iraq war, 9/11 conspiracy, anti-religion, anti-Christian.

    I guess if one is deeply invested in pushing Loughner away ideologically, one could pretend that all of these things are “far left”.

  46. 46
    Robert says:

    Yeah, those are fairly bipartisan memes these days. One of my friends on Facebook is a nice guy and former game designer turned libertarian-conservative-Republican activist; his comment threads are *infested* with right-wing 9-11 truth idiots (of a particularly blockheaded variety) and anti-war folks (of considerably less blockheadedness). He himself is pretty anti-Christian, in a civil sort of way.

    I understand the temptation to want to put people like the Tucson murderer in the same ideological box as one’s opponents – I myself looked hard for left-wing connections – but at least in this case it doesn’t seem to hold up. He wasn’t in anybody’s box but his own.

  47. 47
    mythago says:

    It might be accurate to say that he is in that zone of politics so far to the extremes that ‘right’ and ‘left’ are pretty much irrelevant. I mean, is being anti-government ‘right’ or ‘left’?

  48. 48
    Sebastian H says:

    “I guess if one is deeply invested in pushing Loughner away ideologically, one could pretend that all of these things are “far left”.”

    Here’s the thing, what do you mean by *away*? The assignment of him to “the right”, especially initially, seems to have been done with no particular evidence more than the fact that he used a gun. Which I submit is a rather bipartisan weapon if you’re at the point of being willing to be revolutionary OR violently reactionary–i.e. it says essentially nothing about one’s politics except perhaps that in a modern Western country you’re going to far whichever way.

    The fact that you use “pushing Loughner away ideologically” to suggest a pushing away from the right, means that you’re inappropriately assigning him there. You shouldn’t be. There is essentially no evidence whatsoever that he was on the right, or particularly influenced by the right. And the very small bits of evidence that we have about his political leanings (from people who actually knew him) is that he tended to the far left.

    I happen to think that the evidence isn’t strong enough to call this a politically influenced killing at all. The only real hint that it was is that a politician was shot at. But Hinckley shooting at Reagan wasn’t a political assassination attempt either, it was a straight up crazy person fixating on craziness.

    But it is certainly a fact, that in the reporting and talking about it, blame was initially assigned to the Tea Party movement based on no real facts whatsoever. If Palin’s stupid response ends up dooming her, I’m freaking thrilled, but that in no way changes the fact that assigning blame to the Tea Party with no evidence whatsoever is an essentially bigoted response.

  49. 49
    mythago says:

    The assignment of him to “the right”, especially initially, seems to have been done with no particular evidence more than the fact that he used a gun.

    …..to shoot a Democratic Congresswoman who had been contested in a very contentious election in a polarized district. Are you really arguing that if a representative with strong Tea Party support in a majority-Republican district had been shot, that everyone would have jumped to the same conclusion?

    The facts on which people made their initial assumption were not “any political killing is by a Tea Partier”. It’s the discourse about political violence – ranging from base-pleasin’ jokes by Palin to actual calls to violence by Beck – that has been floating around on the right.

    If Rachel Maddow had been exhorting Republicans to kill Tea Party activists, if Joe Biden had been making “humorous” references to bombing GOP political candidates, if Michael Moore had been telling liberals to go back to their anarchist roots – all with reactions from the Democratic Party ranging from shoulder-shrugging to embracing – and then a Tea Party candidate in a heated district got blown up by a suicide bomber….would you be astonished if people’s initial reaction was that the bomber was a left-wing nut? I wouldn’t have been.

  50. 50
    lauren says:

    What confuses me about the debate on whether Loughner was right- or left wing is that people seem to believe that if he were more left wing, this would automatically absolve all those prominent media figures on the right from any responsibility for their violent rhetoric.

    A person doesn’t have to agree with everything someone says in order to be influenced by it. Loughner could have had his own political ideas that don’t mesh with Beck et all, but still be influenced by the dehumanising of political opponents. He could have thougt “this guys politics are totally wrong, but he might be right about violence being necessary sometimes”. He might have even thought “If they are being violent, then we have to do the same”.

    The point is that, when a climate of violence has been created, this can incite people from all sides to act violently, even those that the instigaters never thought of or never meant to influence. That is one of the reasons why it is so dangerous.

  51. 51
    Robert says:

    The point is that, when a climate of violence has been created, this can incite people from all sides to act violently, even those that the instigaters never thought of or never meant to influence. That is one of the reasons why it is so dangerous.

    To a degree, OK.

    But past a very limited point…nah. People are violent. You have the ability to murder, right now, regardless of your culture. Maybe some cultures are a bit better at inhibiting the built-ins, but your built-ins are: kill that creature, take its stuff, eats its delicious innards, use its flesh to clothe your babies. The suppressors for “that creature = my species” are weak and overridable.

    It’s a bit like racy movies and teenagers. OK, it’s plausible that racy movies are going to inspire teenage kids to sexual behavior that they might not have jumped into, right that moment, on their own. It’s possible.

    But it’s not like fucking wasn’t already in their capabilities.

  52. 52
    Sebastian H says:

    Again, I’m right there with you in thinking that we need to seriously tone down the political venom in this country.

    But can you hear yourself?

    “The facts on which people made their initial assumption were not “any political killing is by a Tea Partier”. It’s the discourse about political violence – ranging from base-pleasin’ jokes by Palin to actual calls to violence by Beck – that has been floating around on the right. ”

    Political killings in the US are VERY rare events. Especially in the last 70 years. Very rare. Tying them to anything in particular by just jumping to conclusions, is completely jumping to conclusions. We have directly-on-point post just above this. Without any need for explanation we know why this is wrong, right:

    ” # Me:: I can’t believe that someone could commit such a horrible crime. People can scare me sometimes.
    # Guy:: You know, if black people don’t want to be called criminals…
    # Me:: I didn’t say anything about what the man looked like.
    # Guy:: [Silence]”

    Even if it were true that Tea Party members were statistically more prone to violence than the average person (which btw hasn’t even remotely been established) it does not follow that it is anything more than prejudice that gets you to the above reaction when a politician gets shot at. And the meme that it really was related to Palin and Tea Party persists, I was just today talking to a friend who very seriously told me how much it worries him that Palin inspired the shooting of her opponents. Polarization, and not from the right.

    I’m sorry, but saying things like: in the next election we’re going to take these targets down, just isn’t an incitement to violence. There is a HUGE amount wrong with the US political culture that stops well before we get to incitements to violence. The Democrats being unwilling to deal with the filibuster is more of a problem. The Republicans misuse of the filibuster is more of a problem. The fact that we don’t listen to each other is a huge problem. The fact that we get caught in our own prejudices and that causes us to listen poorly is a huge problem.

    And a large part of this post and comments, has been an exercise in getting caught in our own prejudices.

  53. 53
    mythago says:

    Sebastian, when your point is that assuming all the calls to violence by a segment of the right led to actual violence is exactly like assuming all criminals are black people, then you need to get a little perspective.

    Does it really puzzle you that much that liberals would think “They finally did it”? Do you really think that’s exactly like racism?

    Robert @51: No, it’s not a bit like racy movies and teenagers. It’s a bit like as if Hillary Clinton were exhorting teenagers to go out and fuck. If people were arguing ‘the presence of GOP support for gun rights creates a violent environment’ we’d be closer to your vague example.

  54. 54
    RonF says:

    There’s a point of contention here that was brought up at the beginning of this thread and then just glossed over. Jeff said:

    It is because the immediate reaction of the left to the shooting was not shock or surprise or disbelief. It is because, to a person, our reaction was, “Oh my God, the tea partiers have finally done it.” And of course, if they’re honest, this was the reaction on the right as well ….

    To which at least 3 people that would be identified here as on the right responded that no, that wasn’t our reaction at all. So according to Jeff, none of us are honest. Just where the hell do you get off putting words in our mouths and calling us liars if we deny it, Jeff?

  55. 55
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    I did think “well, they finally did it.”

    But i think that this is a result of selective perception: I notice right-wing excesses more than I notice left-wing excesses, and therefore i reinforce my preexisting belief that the right wing tactics are excessive.

    For example, I may hear a Palin verbal error and think “see? She is a poor speaker, just like everyone says.” while a Clinton verbal error is “just a mistake,” even though I have no statistical proof of the relative frequency of Clinton or Palin errors, and even though I know that people are deliberately bringing Palin errors to the fore. It’s hard to shake.

    And I reacted to that (erroneous) statement regarding Glenn Beck differently than I would have to an equivalent statement regarding someone who shared my political position. Didn’t many people here–whether you like Beck or hate him–do the same thing?

    This is a long way of saying that the beliefs or reactions of different sets of people are pretty irrelevant IMO, since they tend not to be linked to reality. Right wingers are really poor judges of left wing actions. Left wingers are also pretty poor judges of right wing actions.

  56. 56
    Sebastian H says:

    “Does it really puzzle you that much that liberals would think “They finally did it”?

    Yes. As a first reaction with no other information, yes. Unless it is based on assigning group prejudice in which case, no it isn’t puzzling.

    “Do you really think that’s exactly like racism?” Unless you put a huge amount of freight on ‘exactly’, it depends on why they thought that. If you were assigning group prejudice, then yes it is very much like racism. If someone talks about a criminal act and you assume with no further evidence whatsoever that the criminal is likely to be black, you’re acting under racist/prejudicial assumptions. If someone shoots at a politician, and you assume with no further evidence that the criminal is aligned with the Tea Party, you’re doing the same thing with your prejudicial assumptions.

    That is exactly what happened, and in fact the meme that he was aligned with the tea party seems to be pretty hard to shake outside of political junkies, and frankly even there.

    There is literally no evidence whatsoever that he is/was/thought he was aligned with the tea party. And the small bits of evidence we have suggests that he, to the extent that he was aligned in politics, was on the left–the exact opposite of what the prejudiced response guessed. That is prejudice in action, that is how it works. I don’t know if that is “exactly like racism”, but it is exactly prejudice.

    Now I totally agree that the right in the US has been using completely out-of-control rhetoric. If they want to say to themselves: “yikes, we didn’t cause that, and we’re getting blamed for it, how much worse would it be if we actually caused it? Maybe we should tone it down,” I’d be thrilled. They probably won’t of course, but people rarely learn the lessons I wish they would.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that the reaction assigning him to the right on this case was a prejudiced one, a false one, and one that it seems people are relatively unwilling to give up even when it fails to hold on closer inspection. If you can’t wait a couple of days for actual evidence to assign a killer to your political opponents, you are part of the polarization problem.

  57. 57
    Ampersand says:

    Sebastian, I have to admit that when the news first broke, I suspected the shooter would turn out to be an extremist right-winger. I’m pretty sure that if a Republican Congressperson was shot, I would have initially have suspected the shooter of being an extremist left-winger.

    In other words, when big-league politicians get assassinated, my initial suspicion is that the murderer is someone ideologically opposed to the victim.

    Is that really an unreasonable initial assumption?

    Sticking to that assumption in the face of contrary evidence is unreasonable. But I’m not persuaded that the initial assumption is unreasonable.