Feeding the Paranoid Right

In today's edition of Republicans Think the Darndest Things, a poll from Farleigh Dickinson University that came out the other day found, as polls regularly do, that Americans in general and conservatives in particular believe some nutty stuff. That's not news, but there are some reasons to be genuinely concerned, which I'll explain. The headline finding is this: Respondents were asked whether they agree with the statement, "In the next few years, an armed revolution might be necessary in order to protect our liberties." Forty-four percent of Republicans—yes, almost half—said they agreed. We've been doing pretty well with this constitutional system for the last 224 years, but it's just about time to junk it.

The right reaction to any shocking poll result is to say, "Let's not make too much of this." And I don't think any but a tiny proportion of the people who would answer yes to that question would start in or participate in a revolution. Let's take the gun owners who email me every time I write an article about guns, telling me I'm an ignorant unmanly Northeastern elitist liberty-hating girly-man wimp (yeah, they're heavy on the accusations of insufficient manliness; this is what psychologists call "projection"). If their neighbor came over and said, "Enough is enough; I'm going down to the police station to kill some cops—you know, for liberty. Are you coming?", how many of them would say yes? Not very many.

Nevertheless, the fact that so many people are willing to even entertain the idea is appalling, and we have to put the responsibility where it belongs. We don't know for sure if you would have gotten a different result had you asked this question before, say, January of 2009 (to pick a random date), because no one was asking. But Ed Kilgore has the appropriate reaction:

But our main target ought to be the politicians and pundits and bloggers that walk the revolutionary rhetorical road because it's "entertaining" or it makes them feel all macho (like Grover Norquist swaggering around Washington with a "I'd rather be killing commies" button after one of his trips to Angola in the 1980s), or it's just useful to have an audience or a political base mobilized to a state of near-violence by images of fire and smoke and iron and blood.

As I've observed on many occasions, you can only imagine how these self-appointed guardians of liberty would feel if casual talk of "armed revolution" became widespread on the left or among those people. There should not, cannot, be a double standard on this issue.

So please join me in calling on conservatives to cut this crap out and separate themselves from those who believe in vindicating the "original constitution" or defending their property rights or exalting their God or protecting the unborn via armed revolution. If William F. Buckley could "excommunicate" Robert Welch and the John Birch Society from the conservative movement back in the 1960s, today's leaders on the Right can certainly do the same to those who not only share many of that Society's views, but are willing to talking about implementing them by killing cops and soldiers.

As a general matter, I don't think it's necessary to demand that politicians repudiate every crazy thing said by anyone who might agree with them on anything.11For some reason, not everyone gets asked to do this in equal measure. For instance, in Barack Obama's first appearance on Meet the Press in 2006, Tim Russert confronted the Senate candidate with some inflammatory things Harry Belafonte had said about George W. Bush. Now what was the connection between Belafonte and Obama? I can't think what it might have been. But Ed is absolutely right: Republican politicians and conservative media figures bear direct responsibility for the rise of this vile strain of thinking on the right. They cultivate it, they encourage it, they give it aid and comfort every single day.

For instance, the NRA is having its annual convention in Houston as we speak. Yesterday, a man went into the Houston airport with an AR-15 and a handgun, fired into the air, was fired upon by law enforcement officials, and then shot himself. Glenn Beck then went on his program and told his viewers that there is "a very good chance" that the episode was engineered by the "uber left," whatever that means, and compared it to the Reichstag fire. In other words, Beck is encouraging people to think that just like Hitler and the Nazis, Barack Obama is about to use an episode like that as a pretext for the imposition of some kind of horrifically oppressive regime. Beck is a featured speaker at the NRA convention, along with a passel of well-known Republican politicians like Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum. How many of them will condemn him? None, of course.

They won't, not only because most of the people at the convention probably agree with Beck, but because what Beck says is only a tiny step or two toward the fringe from what they say all the time. Is there a prominent Republican politician who hasn't at some point in the last four years told people that Barack Obama is a tyrant, or that our liberties are being stripped away, that Obama wants to kill your grandma with his death panels, or that America is inches from ceasing to be what it has been for two centuries? Is there a prominent Republican politician who hasn't done his or her part to feed the paranoid, violent fantasies of the extreme right? If confronted, they'd no doubt say, "Oh, well I never actually said people should forget about democracy and start killing cops and soldiers in an attempt to overthrow the government. That's not what I meant at all when I talked about 'tyranny' and 'oppression' and that stuff." But that's exactly what their supporters heard, and they damn well know it. And they ought to be held to account.

Comments

Revolution is not necessarily executed with violence (Ghandi, MLK, etc). The prospect of such a revoluton is clearly a message that there is something wrong. Given our Gini index, the concentration of wealth, the movement to kill the safety net, policy and law favoring the very rich and superrich, further erosion and disitortions are embedded in the "system" that has produced the current conditions. Conservatives, noting that their foreign policy is war, assume the same about domestic conditions. Many of them are "conservatives" out of knee-jerk fear. But it does appear from liberal media that given the social and economic disparities that have grown out of right wing policies, class warfare is inevitable. The "reasoning" is that the current and growing ills cannot be remedied though a system that is "owned and operated" by and for the benefit of the wealthy plutocracy. The cure for the illness is clearly a major redistribution of wealth, reversing the lemonade of supply-side Reaganomics. Most conservatives are in denial of the massive maldistribtion of wealth and perceive themselves as members of a middle class threatened by a "working" class". The economics indicate a collapse of the middle class into a huge class of relatively poor citizens. The mythology of a "middle class" is perpetuated by the conservative right to maintain their hold on power and wealth. This mythology has become more and more evident and accounts for Obama's election. The current economic characteristics resemble the Eiffel Tower more than a bell curve.

We had plenty of reason to want to overthrow Bush/Cheney, but you don't do that in a democracy. Your candidate may lose; you get over it and look at the next election.

Jon Stewart said it best, after the GOP spent early '09 complaining about every word from the Obama administration..."You lost. It's supposed to taste like a $#!+ sandwich."

The much needed armed revolution to come won't be one with guns in the hands of the right, but with guns in the hands of the left.

What the present time thinks is wrong with everything is not what is wrong with everything. The problems destroying us aren't the problems most think are destroying us.

Here an example: without an IRA there is no Sinn Fein, and without a Sinn Fein backed by the real presence of an IRA, there is no avenue for political change.

I do not praise this, I simply acknowledge that's how it works.

On the left, I would advise not becoming too hasty in getting rid of the guns.

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