In his various comments to my post, The conservative violence in left-wingers’ heads, william (sic) makes much of the failure of conservatives to denounce the rabid rhetoric of a handful of right-wing extremists. As he wrote in commenting to a previous post,
Take some moral responsibility for the violent rhetoric of your movement. Maybe if more people on the right actually had the conscience or guts to call out the hyperbole and extremism within their own movement, the rest of the world wouldn’t have to. And it’s not just the left-wing that wonders if you’re all a bunch of foaming crazies, it’s mainstream America that is getting scared of the rage you and your leaders are trafficking in. For most decent Americans, the rabid vitriol and arms-bearing at the August tea-tantrums was unsettling and repugnant . . . .
First, his assumption about mainstream America are far off the mark, with Republicans polling better at the beginning of September than they were at the end of July, and with public support for the President’s health care plans (the issue which go so many of the supposedly foaming crazies so agitated this summer) plummeting.
Second, why is it that conservatives need to denounce the “hyperbole and extremism” of a handful of fringe activists (and one occasionally loose-lipped talk show host), when Democrats and liberals seemed somehow relieved of that obligation during the 1990s?
william is not alone, indeed, he is representative of a certain strand in left-wing thought (see, e.g., left-wing blogs) thundering about conservatives’ silence in the face of angry rhetoric on the right. And throughout the first eight years of this decade, some of this very same left-wingers remained silent or actively engaged in the same sort of rhetoric they now denounce.
But it takes some presumption for a left-winger to demand that we do so, particularly if he can provide no evidence that he denounced his name-calling fellow travelers who protested so loudly, so angrily, marching alongside those carrying posters advocating violence against the President when a Republican served in the White House.
Comparing the President to Hitler, something that currently gets william et al. so incensed? A staple of anti-Bush protests (and blog posts) from 2002 onward. Perhaps I might take his feigned outrage at conservative silence in the face of hateful rhetoric from a handful of extremist more seriously if he could provide evidence that he and liberal bloggers regularly denounced the regular expressions of anti-Bush vitriol and frequent advocacy of violence at left-wing protests in the George W. Bush era.
And not merely do william and his fellow travelers thunder on as if advocacy of violence were a defining feature of conservative protests (and criticism) of the incumbent President, but they make assumptions about conservative which betrays an incredible ignorance of our movement. That critic pulled out the Oklahoma City bombings as a prime example, apparently oblivious to the fact that none of the conspirators in that plot were ever involved in any conservative organization nor were they welcomed or heralded by even the most conservative voices of the day.
You’ll rage about the Weather Underground, but you’ll gloss over Oklahoma City. Never mind the time difference, never mind the body count disparity.
Conservative rhetoric did not fuel Timothy McVeigh’s rage. He’d been conjuring up such schemes long before the election of Republicans to Congress in 1994. That such rhetoric lead to his actions has been a standard left-wing talking point for over fourteen years, based on no evidence, but only left-wing eagerness to smear the conservative movement.
And while Timothy McVeigh never found favor in any circles on the right, a member of the Weather Underground has, in the past, befriended and worked with the incumbent President of the United States (who once wrote a favorable blurb about that violent man’s book). Ayers remains close to many leading Democrats in Chicago, enjoying a social and intellectual prominence that none of of the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing ever enjoyed. That, my friends, is the real disparity.
Yeah, there is some angry rhetoric on the right and there may well be a danger in it (as william ominously inveighs), but we on the right don’t excuse the violence of those acting in the name of the ideas we support. Have left-wing bloggers (and pundits) denounced the union thugs who beat up Kenneth Gladney? Or the Obamacare activist who bit off the finger of counter protester?
Yes, there has been some mean-spirited, nasty rhetoric on the right. It is entirely inappropriate and hurts rather than helps the cause they espouse. And perhaps more mainstream conservatives should more regularly denounce it (though many already have).