Saturday, April 15, 2017
It all started in a virtual beer hall
Rick Perlstein checks in with the gun rights fringe. You didn't think they were appeased did you?
A friend writes, “For basically the past six months or so I’ve been trying to tell my lefty friends in so many words, ‘Hey, there are a bunch of people on the Internet who are waiting for someone to tell them it’s okay to start shooting at you.’” He became concerned when a thread at the non-political firearms-enthusiasts website he regularly follows became filled with comments in all caps referring to liberals as enemies who must be shot. Developments both online and off following Donald Trump’s election have caused me to share his concern.
In December, an author at the biggest and most explicitly non-political gun site, the Firearms Blog (its tagline is “Firearms, not politics”), recounted his experience with an outfit that offers tactical training based on the methods of the Israel Defense Forces. The moderator soon had to begin deleting comments. One that remains protested, “as if through the millennia, hundreds of nations, principalities and city-states reached the same conclusions,” and urged the curious to check out Judaism.is/genocide.html where one can watch the film Jewish Ritual Murder Revisited: The Hidden Cult.
Four days after Donald Trump’s inauguration, a community member on a moderate firearms law site, PAGunBlog, a civil redoubt welcoming “active participation by both firearms enthusiasts and people who hate them,” described his shock from that morning’s web-surf when “a long-time commenter who I recognized as right-leaning but mostly moderate commented that ‘The Jews own and control everything in America…’ Not many months ago no one except a flaming neo-Nazi would have dreamed of expressing such an opinion, but today it seems to have become an acceptable element of our discourse. I noticed that no one replied to or castigated the comment.”
Then came February 1 in Berkeley and things really started getting scary.
The saga of what happened when Milo Yiannopoulos came to speak at the flagship campus of the University of California has since become foundational, not just with the alt-right but with quite nearly the entire right. Alt-right provocateur Yiannopoulos was turned back by violent protests, which culminated in the burning of a portable generator. Stuffed down the wingnut memory hole are the events that preceded the mêlée. The violence was, in fact, preceded by peaceful protests by approximately 1,500 Berkeley students, until they were waylaid by a tiny handful of off-campus “Black Bloc” and “antifa,” or anti-fascist, cadres who believe racist speech licenses violent resistance. It was also preceded, less than two weeks earlier, by the shooting of a Milo protester in Seattle, by a gunman who has yet to be charged with any crime.
The Battle of Berkeley accelerated the construction of a body of mythology: the left has escalated its resistance to Trump into literal war, so Trump supporters must be prepared to resort to violence to oppose it.
He goes on to run down exactly what happened there for those who don't know. I had read about it, of course, but I did not realize how important it had become in wingnut circles. Apparently, this is now a rallying cry among the fringe that is escalating by the day:
How afraid of this should you be? The most interesting answers to that question do not come from the left. They come from concerned voices on the right, who’ve been monitoring the chatter with mounting alarm, going public with pleas to liberals to still the antifa renegades before bodies begin piling up. The most convincing evidence that they have a point comes in the ensuing comment threads, where the need to prepare for armed force is taken as gospel.
The proprietor of Being Libertarian, a Facebook community with 438,888 likes, wrote of Berkeley, “This was a riot,” and urged liberals to “BE LOUD” and renounce the rioters: “Conservatives are going to have a field day with this. If you just sit there quietly, you’re essentially letting yourself be associated with campus-pillaging barbarians.” He added, “You should consider yourself lucky nobody shot you.”
Clearly, this man knows his audience. The comment, “When someone has set your car on fire and is chasing you around with a blunt object, you get to make an executive decision regarding your continued existence,” got 1,403 likes. The conviction that this would be acting in self-defense was affirmed by the man who wrote, “these riots that have been occurring are what got my ass in gear to get the final steps of my pistol permit application completed. My unrestricted carry permit can’t come soon enough.” Someone reminded him a gun license “is not a license to kill.” His response: “Yes I’m aware. I just refuse to end up a helpless victim when crazy shit like this goes down.”
Oleg Volk is an advertising professional and Second Amendment activist based in Nashville. He wrote on a Facebook wall about the Berkeley events: “Rioting? That’s how you get Freikorps reenacting the demise of the Bavarian Republic with full approval of the majority of the population.” The Freikorps were volunteer paramilitaries set up by German World War I veterans that violently put down Communist uprisings, piling up bodies by the thousands; the movement officially came to a close in 1933 when Freikorps leaders surrendered their battle flags in loyalty to the Nazi command. Volk made it clear that he was opposed to such escalation. Commenters responding to his post were not. “Trying to decide if I will be unhappy or happy to don Freikorps attire. Then what to bring to the party,” said one. Others discussed appropriate armaments—“Ill see your 308 and raise you a 45-70” [sic]—until one Richard Carter trumped them all: “see you all that crap 50 bmg.” He was referring the .50-caliber Browning machine gun, a weapon useful for downing low-flying aircraft. After all, another commenter observed, “The Brownshirts are all liberals now.”
Another commenter offered a “Side note: Ever notice they don’t try that shit somewhere like Texas or Florida, where the odds are good that Joe Public will ventilate their asses when assaulted.” As it happened, one month later events provided a natural experiment to prove or disprove his hypothesis.
Read on. But you might want to have a drink handy.
Perlstein ends this article with:
Maybe it’s all just idle Internet chatter. But didn’t they used to say that about Munich beer halls once, too?
digby 4/15/2017 10:30:00 AM