Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The consequences of conservative speech: Violence against Democrats over health-care reform


Maybe it's flying your plane into an IRS office. Maybe it's blowing up a government office building. Maybe it's any number of violent actions, including:

Vandals smashed doors and windows at five Democratic offices around the country in the days surrounding the landmark House health care vote Sunday night, and a right-wing blogger in Alabama is taking credit for starting a so-called "window war."

And it looks like we know who's behind this:

Pinson, Alabama-based blogger Mike Vanderboegh has been tracking the breaking of windows at Dem offices after issuing a call Friday: "To all modern Sons of Liberty: THIS is your time. Break their windows. Break them NOW."

It's far from clear whether Vanderboegh's call to arms has anything to do with the incidents around the country.

The Kansas City Star identifies Vanderboegh as a former leader of the Alabama Constitutional Militia.

Now, I do not mean to suggest that these actions have resulted entirely from conservative speech, let alone from mainstream conservative political speech, such as the speech against health-care reform -- dishonesty, misinformation, and propaganda that spewed forth from the mouths of Republicans and conservatives, and that continues to do so. There is extremism all around, and especially the violent extremism on the right that would exist regardless of the political machinations of the GOP.

But what do you think is going to happen when you call the president illegitimate, a foreigner who essentially stole the election? Or when you stoke fears of a socialist-fascist takeover of government and of government assault on freedom? Do you not think that some out there will convert your speech to action -- hording guns, building bunkers, and otherwise preparing for violence? And do you not think that some will actually take to the streets to wage whatever war they think you're calling on them to wage?

There just isn't this sort of reckless irresponsibility on the left -- are radicals attacking churches, for example, or smashing the windows of Republican offices?

And it isn't just window-smashing. As Think Progress is reporting, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) received an assassination threat against "the children of lawmakers who voted yes," that is, against her own children.

There is no other word for this but terrorism -- coordinated attacks against a perceived enemy intended to send a clear message and perhaps also to cause serious physical harm.

Conservatives, including those in the mainstream and within the Republican Party, would do well to repudiate this sort of violent action. But they would also do well to repudiate much of their own speech, the rhetoric that underpins, and that to an extent is directly responsible for, this action.

But that would require conservatives to repudiate much of their own conservatism -- an ideology and political agenda that has turned ever more extreme in recent years, with the Republican Party moving ever more to the right and now embracing the anti-government Tea Party "movement" that itself exists on the cusp of violence.

And that, I'm afraid, isn't about to happen in any concerted way.


UPDATE: CNN is reporting that more than 10 Democrats have "reported trouble" since Sunday, according to an estimate by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. For example, in Virginia:

U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello's brother received a threatening letter in the mail on the same day that someone apparently severed a gas line at the home in Ivy.

Two conservative Tea Party activists posted the address of the home on the Internet on Monday, mistakenly believing it was the home of the congressman. One of the activists urged others to "drop by" and "express their thanks" for Perriello's vote in favor of health care reform.

Apparently, Rep. Bart Stupak has also received threatening messages.


UPDATE 2: NBC New York is reporting that "a package with white powder and an angry letter that referenced the health care legislation" was sent to Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner's Kew Gardens office:

The letter said the Congressman should "drop dead" and complained about the historic health care legislation passed by Congress this week.

As it turns out, the white powder appears to be "harmless," but the message, and the threat, is pretty clear.

Also, CNN is reporting that Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum has received "obscene and threatening letters." As all Democrats should, she is standing firm in the face of such right-wing vileness: "I will not back down in the face of attacks, threats, and violence," she said in a statement. "I do not regret my vote, and I will proudly stand in the face of opposition and defend my support of health care reform."

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  • I smell Nazism.

    Kristallnacht (German pronunciation: [kʁɪsˈtalˌnaxt]; literally "Crystal Night") or the Night of Broken Glass was an anti-Jewish pogrom in Nazi Germany and Austria on 9 to 10 November 1938.

    Different mind you, but not really (broken glass and intimidation).

    I say the April 19th gathering should get no media coverage. They can all gather with their guns and if the rest of us get lucky, perhaps they will shoot each other.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:36 AM  

  • Michael J.W. Stickings on the Fort Hood shootings in November:

    Given how little we know, it is ridiculous, as Joe Lieberman did, to call the Fort Hood massacre a "terrorist attack." (It seems to have been an act of violence, not terror, as the point was not to terrorize, or necessarily to act to effect political change, which suggests the creation of abject fear beyond the act itself. Still, it's clear we don't really know yet what it was. At the very least, it is premature, and somewhat irresponsible, given how freely the word is thrown around post-9/11, to call it terrorism.)

    But piece together some smashed windows and telephoned death threats (never acted upon) with the coincidental rantings of some Alabama yahoo, and you have a coordinated terror campaign against Obamacare.

    Nice hysteria, Stickings.

    By Anonymous infidel91, at 1:59 PM  

  • If that made you hysterical, you're either deranged, a liar or a Republican. And of course the "Aw it's nothing and they'll get tired of it and go away" attitude didn't help the Germans any more than it will help us, nor will pointing out the parallels harm anyone -- but then you don't give a shit about my country, do you?

    Don't forget, you actually do live in a glass house.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 11:46 AM  

  • And I'm not the only anti-Republican blogger to get death threats (not yet carried out of course, as though that made it OK) and it's not just windows being broken at democratic headquarters in several states. Gas lines have been cut, which could potentially be fatal to a great number of people.

    I'm sorry, but if the witch Coulter can claim assault every time someone walks past her house and scream she's being violated because Canadian law isn't as lenient with incitement to violence, then you people don't get to scoff when people threaten to kill us, which is in many cases a criminal act.

    It wasn't us who started the shit storm and he who flung it doesn't get to complain about the mess.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 12:45 PM  

  • “There just isn't this sort of reckless irresponsibility on the left.”

    So true!

    The people who besieged Bart Stupak and his family with hateful phone calls and threatening messages *before* he agreed to vote for the bill? All right-wingers!

    The nut who killed the pro-life activist in Michigan last September? A conservative, to be sure!

    The gay militants who defaced churches and hounded Christians out of the Castro last year after the passage of Prop. 8? Righties, each and every one!

    The environmental extremists who spike trees in order to maim loggers, or who vandalize SUV dealerships? Republicans, no doubt!

    The animal-rights activist who have trashed scientific facilities where animal research takes place? Bushies, of course!

    The Unabomber? A notorious right-winger!

    And, of course, no liberal *ever* described G.W. Bush as an illegitimate president “who essentially stole the election,” or fretted about a “fascist takeover of government and of government assault on freedom” during the Bush years.

    Because, as you know, ideology confers virtue — as long as it’s the *correct* ideology!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:48 PM  

  • Hey, if it makes you feel all snug and self-righteous to pretend that those on today's American left are the nation's first and only victims of politically-motivated intimidation, well, knock yerself out there, Foggy!

    By Anonymous infidel91, at 9:04 PM  

  • Apples and oranges, infidel91. The Fort Hood massacre was obviously much worse than smashing windows, but it wasn't necessarily terrorism. Terrorism, by definition, is about creating terror. It is willful and often concerted. The Fort Hood killer did what he did out of a certain derangement. That doesn't excuse what he did, but it explains, I think, that he acted alone, out of personal motivations. The concerted effort to attack Democratic offices around the country as a response to health-care reform amounts to terrorism, if on a relatively small scale. The intention is to terrorize, and to send a clear political message.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 10:22 PM  

  • Well perhaps you should follow up on some of the election fraud cases if you think those were empty accusations. Jail time is being handed out, Diebold admitted two years ago that their machines were hacked and If you're trying to tell us the unabomer was a political pundit with a following of millions and a mansion in Palm Beach, you're simply drowning in false and fabricated equivalences.

    It wasn't the DNC who blew up the Murrah building, it was one of your miserable and God forsaken crew and you'll have a hard time topping that one: people who murder doctors, people who blow up parks and buildings, people who murder homosexuals, people who mail out white powder, the KKK, the Aryan Brotherhood, the Neo-Nazis - want to tell us they're "liberals?"

    Virtually all the political violence and calls to violence today is from the far right and you know it. It isn't me waving my guns around and fomenting insurrection, it's the assholes you sleep with.

    Fact is, that Bush did more to curtail constitutional rights than anyone in a long, long time, lied to start a war, demolished the economy and so much more. And of course you're putting words in my mouth - "first and only" for instance. That makes you a lying sack of shit, but of course I'm too polite to call you that.

    So if you can dredge up some other isolated and inapposite crappola to counter a nationwide highly funded campaign of calls for window breaking, vandalism death threats against public officials and weapon brandishing demonstrations, go ahead, I never expected anything but lies, distortions, distractions, diversions and other assorted malicious and moronic mendacities.

    The Civil War is over - you lost. Get over it or get the fuck out.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 1:17 PM  

  • Here's an incomplete short list of violence/vandalism against Republicans in recent years:

    March 30, 1981: Just 69 days into his presidency, there was an assassination attempton President Ronald Reagan. President Reagan and three others were shot, one of them crippled for life. President Reagan’s lung was punctured.

    September 2, 2004: Gun Shot Fired Into Huntington, WV, Republican Headquarters.

    September 3, 2004: Windows Broken, Anti-Bush Messages Scrawled At Gallatin County, MT, Republican Headquarters.

    September 2004: John Kerry supporters take to the streets of NYC destroying property, beating a NYC detective into a state of unconsciousness and harassing attendees during the 2004 GOP convention in NYC

    September 6, 2004: Huntington, WV, Republican Headquarters Egged.

    September 13, 2004: Swastika Drawn On Duluth, MN, Resident’s Lawn, Signs Also Defaced With Words “Nazi” And “Liar.”

    September 22, 2004: West Elmira, NY, Resident Found Swastika Drawn On Bush Campaign Sign In His Yard.

    October 1, 2004: Swastika Burned Into Front Yard Of Bush-Cheney ‘04 Supporter In Madison, WI.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:13 PM  

  • October 30, 2006: RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman Responds To Today’s Letter From DNC Chairman Howard Dean GOP October (?) 2006: Staffers from Chuck Schumer’s office steal the social security number of Michael Steele then run an illegal credit report

    September /October 2008: Sarah Palin effigy hanging in someone’s yard, and the burning of her church

    October 1, 2008: Vandals destroy Republican candidate signs,

    October 22, 2008: Minnesota, Senator Coleman campaign: Senator's garage vandalized Associated Press

    January, 2009: Hackers get Republican Senator Norm Coleman’s donors’ credit card info and post it on the internet

    March 22, 2010: Bullet shot through window of Republican Congressman Eric Cantor's Richmond, Virginia campaign Office.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:13 PM  

  • October 15, 2004: Someone Destroyed Large Plywood Bush-Cheney ‘04 Sign, Then Tried To Smash Debris Though Glass Door Of Santa Fe, NM, Republican Party Headquarters.

    October 15, 2004: Someone Lined Window Sill With Bullet Casings At Littleton, NH, Republican Headquarters.

    October 16, 2004: Unknown Suspects Vandalized Large Bush-Cheney Campaign Sign In Hollister, CA, With Obscenities.

    October 18, 2004: 21 Protesters Arrested At Bush-Cheney ‘04 Campaign Headquarters In Arlington, VA.

    October 20, 2004: Rocks Thrown Through Windows At Multnomah County, OR, Republican Party Headquarters.

    October 21, 2004: Bomb Threat Made Against Lake Havasu, AZ, Republican Party Headquarters.

    October 22, 2004: Break-In Discovered At Cincinnati, OH, Victory 2004 Headquarters.

    October 22, 2004: Chunk Of Concrete Tossed Through Glass Door Of Republican Headquarters In Santa Cruz, CA.

    October 23, 2004: Two Kerry Supporters Arrested After Stealing Pro-Bush Signs From Activist And Pushing Police Officer At Edwards Rally In St. Petersburg, FL.

    November 2004, Election Day: 30 vans intended for getting out the vote in Milwaukee in 2004 had their tires slashed . . .Of the four men who were arrested, one is the son of Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, and one is the son of former acting Milwaukee Mayor Marvin Pratt.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:13 PM  

  • October 2, 2004: Collinsville, OH, Resident Chains Down Bush-Cheney ‘04 Signs After Several Signs Stolen And One Was Replaced With Kerry Sign.

    October 3, 2004: Burglary At Thousand Oaks, CA, Victory 2004 Headquarters Where Bush-Cheney ‘04 Banner Was Stolen From Outside Premises.

    October 5, 2004: Gun Shots Fired Into Knoxville, TN, Bush-Cheney ‘04 Office, Shattering Office’s Glass Front Doors.

    October 5, 2004: AFL-CIO ACTIVISTS RANSACK BUSH HEADQUARTERS IN ORLANDO, The Orlando Sentinel . . . part of 20 coordinated union attacks across U.S.

    October 9, 2004: Oxnard, CA, Supporter Placing Bush-Cheney ‘04 In Yards Verbally Abused, Knocked Down And Had Signs Stolen.
    October 13, 2004: Walls And Windows Of York, PA, Victory 2004 Headquarters Vandalized With Pro-Kerry Spray-Paint And Signs Outside Destroyed.

    October 13, 2004: Kerry Supporter Caught Stealing Bush Sign In Cape Girardeau, MO, Pulled Knife On Sign’s Owner And Was Arrested.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:13 PM  

  • i welcome the violence. i'm tired of democrats being the whipping boy, and i'm tired of being the party of diplomacy and rationality. for once i want this kind of bullying and aggressive fear mongering to be met by my party with equivalent anger and force.

    please, please, please, i'm begging you tea-bagger scum to take one shot at my president...
    then you pricks can blog about the time you had to put the fires out on your childrens backs.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:34 PM  

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