Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Another Good Article About Revolutionary Rhetoric

This Salon article is particularly well put in explaining the difference between standard political bluster, common for most of American history, and the newly discovered language of revolutionary rhetoric that is typified in the revolutionary-named Tea Party and other major sources of right-wing fulminations against the current government:
When she's not talking about God, Sarah Palin's talking about guns. Practically all her rhetoric is blood-soaked, and proficiency with firearms is a key element of her persona. Her cult can claim her stupid map wasn't supposed to show rifle sights aimed at vulnerable Democratic districts, but anyone who's ever seen a violent movie — which is to say, Americans of all ages — knows what cross hairs look like. "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD" isn't one unfortunate incident of over-the-top language, it's her mantra. "Going Rogue" begins with that line, attributed to her father.

Everyone uses battle-related language in politics, of course. "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun," candidate Barack Obama said in 2008. Rahm Emanuel's comically exaggerated speech is the stuff of (probably embellished) legend. It's perfectly legitimate, if also often counterproductive and stupid, to pretend politics is blood sport.

I'd also say that while you can argue the wisdom of either, there's a difference between using the imagery of politics as street fight and employing revolutionary rhetoric. And when you combine standard-issue violent political language with the idea — stated and reiterated by nearly every prominent right-wing politician and media figure since Obama took office — that the opponent is not simply wrong, but has illegitimately seized power, and is illegally exercising that power, the inevitable question raised is, "What do we do to stop them?" The correct answer is supposed to be "vote Republican and keep watching Fox," of course, but a good midterm for the GOP hasn't dethroned the socialist usurper-in-chief.

It's not strictly that language tinged with violent imagery is dangerous, or that heated denunciations of the motivations of your political opponents are out of line, or even that America's pervasive gun fetishization is to blame (though our gun culture is insane and bizarre to every single other developed nation in the world) for violent crimes. But when elites don't just condone but participate in the combination of that violent imagery with the idea that the government represents an existential threat — that representatives of the government are domestic enemies, that your liberty and even your physical safety are in danger — the idea of political violence is normalized. Terrorizing Congress members at town halls and "we surround you" and head-stomping and death threats and all the other bad craziness just becomes "the way we do politics in America."

The crazies are listening to the same media that the rest of us are. Charles Alan Wilson, the man arrested last year for threatening the life of Sen. Patty Murray, used the same language as Glenn Beck in his insane voice mails to Murray's office and borrowed Sarah Palin's death panels meme. (He also had a concealed weapons permit and carried a loaded .38 special.) When everyone's hoisting guns and shouting "tyranny" and playing at being a revolutionary, there will be a couple of people who don't see the wink.
"There will be a couple of people who don't see the wink."

That's it exactly. But, I'll say that it isn't just a couple of people: but millions of right wing fanatics who are convinced (just not motivated enough probably due to a sense of self preservation) that revolution — violent overthrow of the government — is necessary now and would support it wholeheartedly if it were to come about tomorrow.

It's the same thing I said 3 years ago.

Using phrases like "take 'em out" or "I want his head" or "drop a bomb" or saying "reload" instead of "try again", or using any of the thousand other violence-speckled aphorisms common in political posturing is generally harmless. Nobody is convinced to grab a rope when some pundit says, "Hang 'em high," and nobody thinks about murder when a person is accused of "throwing somebody under the bus." But, when you have an entire political establishment putting together detailed "facts" that the President is not an American... when you have people calling a politician a traitor or a domestic terrorist instead of arguing that their policies are misguided or just plain wrong... when you try to convince people that the things they hold most important, like their civil rights, or their family values, or their property, or even their very lives are under direct, immediate, and measurable threat from the government... when you tell them that armed revolution is a viable, possible, sensible option if balloting and election fails to get the results they want: People are inclined to believe that stuff, and what they are thinking about isn't just "voting Republican and keep watching Fox", but things much worse than that.
UPDATE:

Talking Points Memo has a dozen examples of politicians (all Republican) speaking about guns, gun violence or armed revolusion in connection with their campaign, political opponent, or the government in general in the most recent election.
  • "We have a constitutional remedy here and the Framers says if that don't work, revolution. If the government is not producing the results or has become destructive to the ends of our liberties, we have a right to get rid of that government and to get rid of it by any means necessary. Our nation was founded on violence.
  • "We can get new faces in. Whether it's my face or not, I pray to God that I see new faces. And if we don't see new faces, I'm cleaning my guns and getting ready for the big show. And I'm serious about that, and I bet you are, too."
  • "People are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying, my goodness, what can we do to turn this country around? I'll tell you, the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out."
  • "I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax, because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us having a revolution every now and then is a good thing. And the people — we the people — are going to have to fight back hard if we're not going to lose our country."
  • "We hunt liberal, tree-hugging Democrats, although it does seem like a waste of good ammunition."
  • "I am convinced that the most important thing the Founding Fathers did to ensure me my First Amendment rights was they gave a Second Amendment, and if ballots don't work, bullets will."

3 comments:

tasij said...

Here's a partial list of some of the incidents the left has tried to pin on conservatives. The Columbine shooters. The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing The DC sniper. The New York City Times Square car bomb attempt. They tried to blame that on some Tea Partier angry at the health law, then we find out that was radical Islamists. The February 2010 IRS plane attack in San Antonio. Remember that? It had to be an anti-government clown that flew that plane into the IRS office, had to be. The Pentagon subway shooter. The Fort Hood attack. The Discovery Channel hostage taker. And this guy [John Patrick] Bedell who went into the Pentagon and wanted to shoot these people up. Amy Bishop who shot her colleagues at that Alabama college. Let see if you can come up with a list of Tea party violence, there IS a difference between talking about it and actually doing it.

Anonymous said...

Replacing the current democratic administration with a republican administration is done,and was done recently(peacefully too!),through an election.
The term Revolution means to overthrow/replace the entire government and install in its place a new government that is not the same as the one being overthrown/replaced.A revolution is usually a violent act(coup de tat),or series of acts,where outraged citizens can no longer tolerate the ENTIRE GOVERNMENT,not just a segment or portion of it.
This is not a text-book definition and anyone can call anything whatever he/she wants to call a person,place,thing.But,
For the sake of accuracy,according to Mr.Webster,there is not a revolution going on in the U.S.A..
What is happening is a lot of subliminal imagery is being used in very overt ways by influential people to evoke violent re-actions from those just unfortunate enough to be outside of mental-health facilities.Whether those influential people want to face-up to the fact that they are succeeding in their cowardly attacks on the feeble minded is yet to be seen,and probably won't be.This is all
HARDLY A REVOLUTION.

Jungle Jil said...

Tasij,

Of course every time some American nut with a gun shows up on the news, the default assumption is that he is a right wing lunatics. (The Oklahoma militia-loving, anti-government, white supramicist bomber wasn't right wing? Oh please.) Just because a handful of those purported right wing lunatics turn out to be Muslims, insane, or just suffering from premenstrual syndrome is like saying that just because a handful of people arrested for armed robbery in South L.A. are white rich girls doesn't mean that one should be embarrassed if the first thing that pops into one's mind when one hears about such a robbery is a poor black male.

Tea party related violence? That's too easy.

How about the guy who tried to kill a guy and his daughter because of his Obama bumper sticker?

How about this Rand Paul supporter stomping on the head of a protestor at a political rally?

Here is 10 democratic members of Congress who have reported acts of violence against them... before the Arizona incident.

Virginia Congressman Tom Perriello's brother had the gas line to his home severed after Tea Partiers posted the wrong address on the internet.

Gunman in Oakland was travling to San Francisco to "start a revolution" by shooting up the offices of the ACLU.

START THE KILLING NOW! I am willing to be the FIRST DEATH!,” read a tweet at 8:01 PM that day. “After I am killed on the Capitol Steps, like a REAL man, the rest of you will REMEMBER ME!!!,” he added five minutes later. Then: “Send the cops around. I will cut their heads off the heads and throw the[m] on the State Capitol steps.”

Tea Party "Hero" arrested with grenade launcher.

Federal authorities in Seattle have filed gun and drug charges against an alleged member of a secessionist movement after agents seized a weapons cache that included four silencers, body armor and a fully automatic rifle.

Hutaree Tapes: David Bryan Stone, Sr. Rants Against "New World Order," Say Prosecutors

And in case you want to say that many of these people weren't Tea Party members... just remember: This discussion is not about whether or not actual Tea Party Members commit violence themselves, but whether their rhetoric, their beliefs, their insinuations cause violence... and as you can see above: Hell yes, they do.