Shoot the Looters

by digby

Eric Boehlert asks the right question: what if the right wing media want mob violence?

And yes, it's been the rationalizing that's been so disturbing to watch -- the way the GOP Noise Machine fervently excused last week's violent behavior and eagerly tried to shift the blame onto the victims of the intimidation, and then demanded to know what the big deal was.

I mean, who hasn't had the line on a propane tank outside his house slashed by vandals? This stuff happens all the time, right? Didn't scores of members of Congress, immediately following the vote in 2002 to authorize the invasion of Iraq, find their office windows shattered by flying bricks hurled under the cover of darkness by nasty anti-war libs? Didn't they receive a steady stream of specific death threats and watch as relatives (and even their children) came under attack? Doesn't this kind of harassment and intimidation come with the territory, and hasn't it always been pushed out and legitimized by mainstream media outlets?

Um, not in America. But that may be changing as Fox News fuels the hate and does its best to provide cover and refuge for those supporting the intimidation campaign, as Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media rationalize the wave of political violence and do their best to shift the blame onto the targets -- onto the victims -- while always avoiding responsibility. (Did anyone on the left suggest Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) was to blame when a YouTube nut job posted a threat against his life?)

Note how so many embraced the frightening notion that because conservatives didn't like health care reform, the violence was expected and nobody should have been surprised because Democrats, by passing the bill (i.e. desecrating the Constitution), pushed people too far. "So why are people angry?" asked Fox News' Steve Doocy last week. "Maybe because they didn't want this bill?"

Talk about the rise of tyranny and the minority-rule mob.

And that's where the fear of the perpetual angry mob comes in, and perhaps why Fox News, rather than lamenting the ugly and cowardly eruptions, seems to be encouraging it, or at least rationalizing it. Perhaps Fox News wants that threat of mob intimidation on the table, and Fox News, the de facto Opposition Party, wants Democrats to be thinking about the political consequences of further upsetting that unhinged mob.

This cannot be emphasized too much. Just because you don't like a bill doesn't mean that the government has been undemocratically seized by illegitimate usurpers. It's the way our system works. I certainly understand the frustration when it happens, having just come through the Bush years, but this reaction is simply another manifestation of the right's fundamental problem with democracy itself. They are, frankly, trying to intimidate the majority into "thinking twice" about what might happen if they pass legislation the other side disapproves of. That's obscene.

It's also reminiscent of something I hadn't quite put my finger on. Until I read Boehlert's piece I hadn't seen the echoes of the early aftermath of Katrina, when the right ginned up paranoia and fear of a non-existent rampaging mob to justify their desire to shoot first and ask questions later. Here we had people who were victimized by a once in a century natural disaster and yet the voice of the right were, in effect, blaming them for their misfortune and warning them that if they "misbehaved" they would have to be killed.

I'm sure you recall this from Peggy Noonan:

After the Storm
Hurricane Katrina: The good, the bad, the let's-shoot-them-now.

As for the tragic piggism that is taking place on the streets of New Orleans, it is not unbelievable but it is unforgivable, and I hope the looters are shot. A hurricane cannot rob a great city of its spirit, but a vicious citizenry can. A bad time with Mother Nature can leave you digging out for a long time, but a bad turn in human behavior frays and tears all the ties that truly bind human beings--trust, confidence, mutual regard, belief in the essential goodness of one's fellow citizens.

Of course, there were no pictures of rampaging mobs. There were rumors, many of them propagated by right wingers warning of violence And as it turned out, it was the authorities who were shooting people down in the streets for no reason. There were quite a few incidents, and in the end, it seems the "angry mob" was not the citizens, but the people patrolling the streets living under the misapprehension that they were under siege. And it was once again the right wingers who were claiming then and for a long time thereafter that the victims had been asking for it.

This fear and threat of mob violence is a very useful excuse and tool. There's nothing terribly original about it --- it's the law of the jungle --- but I suspect it would come a quite a surprise to the founders to see that the constitution was being used to justify it.

Read Boehlert's whole post. It's right on the money.