-- 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, because 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
I know it looks bad, but I can explain.
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
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."
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.
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 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,
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
This is terrible --
Someone might blame Rush!
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.)
That 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 is 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
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).
Old CW: Mass murderer
New CW: Clinton's patsy
BoyBlue had denounced Rep. Giffords for voting against Nancy Pelosi for
Speaker last week, declaring that Giffords "is now DEAD to me!" ("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.
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
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