“Fun And Games Until People Get Killed”: Constitutional Conservatism’s Non-Violent March To Threaten Violence
As readers have probably noticed, I’m on something of a campaign the last few days to train a spotlight on the revolutionary rhetoric and gun-brandishing of many Second Amendment activists and “constitutional conservatives,” which has leeched over into standard conservative and GOP messaging to an alarming degree. Like anyone shining a spotlight into previously dark shadows, I’m not always familiar with what I’m seeing. That’s definitely the case with Adam Kokesh, an Iraq War vet and omni-libertarian who is planning a non-violent march of armed citizens on Washington for Independence Day to show, best I can tell, that resistance to the demands of people like him that government radically retract its size and scope will eventually face real fire. Here’s Paul Szoldra’s write-up of Kokesh’s scheme at Business Insider:
Adam Kokesh, 31, is planning a July 4 rally of pro-gun activists openly carrying rifles from Virginia to Washington as an act of “civil disobedience.” The plan, according to his Facebook event page, is to march across Memorial Bridge with rifles loaded and slung across the back “to put the government on notice that we will not be intimidated [and] cower in submission to tyranny.”
The invite continues, stating, ” … This will be a non-violent event, unless the government chooses to make it violent.”
Kokesh writes that if 10,000 attendees RSVP by June 1st, “we have the critical mass necessary to pull this off.” He said he wants to have at least 1,000 actually marching in the event, and as of this writing, more than 1,400 have said they were going.
As the headline at Karoli’s post on this plan at Crooks & Liars rightly says: “Marching On DC With Loaded Rifles: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?”
But even if no violence ensues, this exercise is actually typical of an awful lot of the stockpiling-guns-to-resist-tyranny talk on the Right (and on rare occasions, the Left) these days. It’s actually the inverse of what Kokesh says: it’s an effort to intimidate political opponents with the threat, if not the immediate actuality, of violence. Otherwise, what’s the point of carrying guns to your nonviolent protest? The point, it seems clear, is to make extraconstitutional claims for the legitimacy of the “constitutional” protests against Big Government. We can peacefully debate, the potential “armed resistance” forces suggest, this or that aspect of gun regulation or Obamacare or drone policy or taxes or “welfare looters” via conventional politics. But in the end, our conviction that your “progressive policies” represent “tyranny” trumps all civil discourse, and that’s when the shooting may start.
And that, of course, is why this sort of talk is not limited to anarchists or even to the kind of “constitutional conservatives” who really do think the policies of Calvin Coolidge or Grover Cleveland or the doctrines of John C. Calhoun came down from heaven and were enshrined eternally by the Declaration of Independence. Consciously or unconsciously, regular conservative politicians see this sort of militancy as a crucial difference-maker (or in times of Democratic political success, an “equalizer”), and so they exploit it. It’s all fun and games until people start getting killed.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 6, 2013
“None Dare Call It Treason”: Combining Extremist Language About Opponents With Violent Language About Political Options
As Brother Benen notes this morning, the National Rifle Association’s new president, James Porter of Birmingham, Alabama, likes to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment as a way to ensure the American people will be able to “resist tyranny”–i.e., shoot and kill law enforcement officers, members of the U.S. armed services, and presumably anyone else (you know, like their neighbors) who might disagree with their definition of their essential “liberties”–at some undefined point in the future. And while I’ve not yet seen evidence of him calling Barack Obama a “tyrant” (though he has called him a “fake president”) I’d be shocked if it doesn’t exist.
So let’s put it this way: Porter seems to be highly representative of the amazingly common type of contemporary “conservatives” who combine extremist language about their political opponents with violent language about their political options–who in effect point their guns at “liberals” while making it known they and they alone will decide what “liberties” to surrender, democracy or laws be damned.
It makes it worse that Porter is one of the old boys who thinks it ha-larious to refer to the American Civil War as the “war of northern aggression” (as “we” put it “down south,” he said to a New York crowd recently). Since that war, whatever else it represented, was without question an armed revolution against the government of the United States, you have to wonder if the Confederacy–or as it was commonly referred to in the north for many decades, “the Rebellion”–is Porter’s model for defense of oneself against “tyranny” (you may recall that John Wilkes Booth shouted “Sic semper tyrannus“–”thus always to tyrants”) after shooting Lincoln.
Am I perhaps being unfair to these people in suggesting that they are behaving like America-haters and are flirting with treason? I don’t think so. Porter and those like him could dispel this sort of suspicion instantly, any time they wanted, by just saying: “Let’s be clear: the kind of ‘tyranny’ we are arming ourselves to forestall is something entirely different from anything Americans have experienced since we won our independence–a regime engaged in the active suppression of any sort of dissent, and the closure of any peaceful means for the redress of grievances. We’re not talking about the current administration, or either major political party, as presently representing a threat of tyranny.”
I’m not holding my breath for any statements like that to emerge from the NRA, or indeed, from the contemporary conservative movement. It’s ironic that people who almost certainly think of themselves as patriots–perhaps as super-patriots–are deliberately courting the impression that loyalty to their country is strictly contingent on the maintenance of laws and policies they favor, to be achieved if not by ballots then by bullets. Republican politicians should be repudiating such people instead of celebrating them, accepting their money and support, and even adopting their seditious rhetoric.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 6, 2013
The National Rifle Association wrapped up its annual convention over the weekend, and much of the gathering went as expected. The NRA presented its familiar faces (Wayne LaPierre), its familiar villains (President Obama, Michael Bloomberg), it’s friends who are struggling to remain relevant (Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin), and a whole bunch of Republicans who are likely to run for president (Santorum, Perry, Walker, and Jindal).
Of course, it also presented a sadly predictable ugly side. One vendor at the convention, for example, sold “life-sized” torsos made to look like the president, which “bleed when you shoot them.” Asked if the Obama likeness was intentional, the vendor told BuzzFeed, “Let’s just say I gave my Republican father one for Christmas.”
Looking ahead, one of the more notable developments for the organization is the election of James Porter, an Alabama attorney, as the group’s new president. LaPierre may be the public face and CEO of the right-wing group, but David Keene, the former chairman of the American Conservative Union, has served as NRA president.
And Porter will make Keene look moderate by comparison.
As shown by his “culture war” comment Friday and others in his past, Porter’s style is likely to be one that fans the flames of an emotionally combustible debate.
Porter has called President Barack Obama a “fake president,” Attorney General Eric Holder “rabidly un-American” and the U.S. Civil War the “War of Northern Aggression.” On Friday, he repeated his call for training every U.S. citizen in the use of standard military firearms, to allow them to defend themselves against tyranny.
That last point is of particular interest. Our friends at “All In with Chris Hayes” aired a Porter clip on Friday’s show that stood out for me: “Our most greatest [sic] charges that we can have today is to train the civilian in the use of the standard military firearm, so when they have to fight for their country, they are ready do it. Also, when they are ready to fight tyranny, they are ready to do it. Also, when they are ready to fight tyranny, they have the wherewithal and weapons to do it.”
Porter hasn’t specified who, exactly, the tyrants might be, but it sounds as if he wants American civilians to be trained to use military weapons in case they need to commit acts of violence against the United States.
Say hello to the new president of the NRA.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 6, 2013
“Feeding The Paranoid Right”: Republican Politicians And Conservative Media Bear Direct Responsibility For Vile Thinking On The 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.1 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.
1For 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.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 3, 2013
If the pending legislation intended to prevent gun violence is as awful as critics claim, they should, in theory, have a fairly easy task ahead. After all, they simply have to point to the legislation’s many flaws, and watch it crumble under the weight of its own futility, right?
But that’s always been the funny thing about demagoguery — it’s what desperate people rely on when they can’t win a debate on the merits. If accurate talking points are ineffective, just make stuff up, scare the bejesus out of people, and hope fear triumphs in the end.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), for example, published this tweet over the weekend, warning of a “national gun registry.” As a factual matter, is there a “national gun registry”? No. Has anyone proposed a “national gun registry”? No. Would the pending legislation lead to a “national gun registry”? No.
Does the bipartisan compromise on expanded background checks explicitly rule out the possibility of a “national gun registry”? Yes.
But it doesn’t matter. Either Ted Cruz has created a fantasy world in which legislative details are the opposite of reality, or Ted Cruz assumes his far-right allies are easily fooled into believing nonsense. Either way, by counting on paranoia to rule the day, the Texas Republican — a U.S. senator, not some random media personality — has no qualms about promoting a ridiculous message like this.
Similarly, in recent days, Red State blogger and Fox News contributor Erick Erickson argued that “believing in a resurrected Jesus” will make you ineligible for gun ownership in five years under the bipartisan background-check compromise. Why does Erickson believe such silliness, and feel the need to share this nonsense with others? I haven’t the foggiest idea.
I do know, however, that it’s spreading — as we talked about over the weekend, Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council also argued that Christians may be prevented from buying firearms.
None of this relates to our version of reality in any way, but for the right, real-world arguments are apparently unpersuasive, creating a demand for garbage.
The politics of paranoia are apparently all conservatives have left.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 15, 2013