09 January 2011

On Right-wing Political Violence

I am sick at heart over what happened in Arizona. It's an appalling act, and while I am not one to pray I will be praying for the recovery of Congresswoman Giffords, and for the family of US District Judge Roll, who lost his life, for the family of the nine-year-old child who lost hers, and all the others affected by this tragedy.
But I cannot help myself from saying, in grief and anger, this was not a random tragedy.
The gunman was mentally unstable, to be sure, and his schizophrenia or whatever thought disorder he suffers from clearly was the proximate cause of today's terrible event. But the proximate cause was not the sole cause, not by any means.
Our political discourse is broken, badly broken.  The rhetoric, largely but not entirely from the right side of the political spectrum, has become dangerously unhinged. While threats of violence are nowhere to be found in the direct words of the right wing politicians and influential leaders of the movement, the language of violence is pervasive. Nowhere will you find a conservative directly inciting people to commit acts of violence against their political enemies, but the vocabulary used is that of war, in which no compromise is possible, in which the opposition is evil incarnate. For the past two years, many conservative leaders, activists, and media figures have made a habit of trying to delegitimize their political opponents. Not just arguing against their opponents, but doing everything possible to turn them into enemies of the country and cast them out beyond the pale. Instead of “soft on defense,” one routinely hears the words “treason” and “traitor.” The President isn't a big-government liberal—he's a socialist who wants to impose tyranny. This relentlessly hostile rhetoric has become standard issue on the right. On the left it appears in anonymous comment threads, not congressional speeches and national T.V. programs.

Consider:

  • Congresswoman Bachmann: "I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax, because we need to fight back," said Bachmann. "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," and, "Where tyranny is enforced upon the people, as Barack Obama is doing, the people suffer and mourn."
  • Sarah Palin famously tweeted, "Don't Retreat, RELOAD!"
  • Sharron Angle, Tea Party candidate in Nevada, famously suggested on more than one occasion that violent revolution was an option if the GOP did not win at the ballot box: "the Second Amendment is the right to keep and bear arms for our citizenry ... the Founding Fathers intended this to stop tyranny. This is for us when our government becomes tyrannical... I'm hoping that we're not getting to Second Amendment remedies. I hope the vote will be the cure for the Harry Reid problem." And also, in the same context, referred to "taking out" Harry Reid."
  • ''Our nation was founded on violence. The option is on the table. I don't think that we should ever remove anything from the table as it relates to our liberties and our freedoms.'' Tea Party-backed Texas GOP congressional candidate Stephen Broden
  • Radio host Michael Savage compared Obama to Pol Pot, adding, "Only vigilance and resistance to this baby dictator, Barack Hussein Obama, can prevent the Khmer Rouge from appearing in this country."
  • Glenn Beck -- well, it's hard to pick a single example of overheated rhetoric from this paranoic demagogue, since pretty much it's all the time, but he has said "Obama is trying to destroy the country and is pushing America toward civil war," or similar thoughts multiple times, and has had many many references to Obama and progressives as Satan, Hilter, Stalin, and has called for or warned of "revolution" multiple times. Also, ''I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. ... No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out.'' 
  • ''My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building.'' Ann Coulter
  • ''He has no place in any station of government and we need to realize that he is an enemy of humanity,'' - Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), on President Obama's decision to fund international family planning organizations that support legal abortion.
  • Rush Limbaugh almost comes across as the reasonable elder statesman, opining that Obama is a socialist and that Limbaugh is rooting for him, "to fail."
  • Erik Erickson, of CNN and Redstate.com, asked what is in hindsight a particularly sickening question: "At what point do the people ... march down to their state legislator's house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp?"   
  • And, as is now well-known, Palin's PAC featured gunsight logos, crosshairs, over the district of Rep Giffords and 19 others. Her opponent in the election held an event "Get on Target for Victory; Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office; shoot a fully automatic M16."  Rep Giffords, presciently, warned that symbolism like that "will have consequences." Tragically, she was right. 
  • And the popular movement of the Tea Party, while well-behaved and nonviolent in its rallies, also has a pervasive element of the threat of violence in many of its popular slogans; the quote "The tree of liberty must from time to time be watered with the blood of patriots." was popular on signs at many of the rallies, as well as the not-very understated threat in the movement to bring guns to rallies.

I am not aware of similar rhetoric coming from the left. If there is, from an elected official, candidate for office, or major media personality, please cite it in the comments and I will add it to the list. I will stipulate in advance that Alan Grayson was way over the line numerous times, and that Olbermann many times excessively demonizes his opponents. Still, the implicit threat of violence is as far as I know unheard of in the liberal public discourse.

Rhetoric Translating into Violence
The reason I am so worried and upset about this recent shooting is that while it appears to be the isolated act of a lone gunman, it is one of a series of events which have become increasingly common since Obama became president -- incidents which have been politically motivated or influenced and have caused multiple deaths, most commonly deaths of our public servants in law enforcement. I also remember a much-criticized Homeland Security report issued just after Barack Obama took office, which quite accurately warned of rising right-wing violence. It was decried by conservatives at the time and withdrawn. Consider, though, this sad litany of deaths and injuries caused by armed nuts inspired by the hyperbolic rhetoric from the right, just within the last two years:

These are the recent episodes that have actually progressed to true violence. One should not forget, not too long ago, there were the famous right-wing attacks on America in Oklahoma city, and the Ruby Ridge siege and the milita movement during the Clinton adminstration.  There have also been many less serious cases of right-wing violence, which were aborted by law enforcement in the pre-attack stages, as well as serious threats and near misses:

This is to say nothing of the innumerable kooks who have been arrested (or simply investigated) for sending threatening emails or leaving death threats. This is to say nothing of the routine vandalism of congressional offices during the health care debate. The fact that Judge Roll received "hundreds" of death threats after certifying a civil rights/immigration case to proceed is a sad example of how the hyper-intensity of the debate has consequences. Death threats against public officials have become routine, unfortunately. Normally, they are not serious, but unfortunately in some cases, the mentally unstable decide to follow through on the threats.
Again, for those who bring up the false equivalency of "both sides do it," I should point out that there was as far as I am aware not a single example of left-wing politically-inspired violence in the last ten years. And I'm not talking about scuffles at rallies, I'm talking about people with guns trying to kill other people for politically-inspired reasons.

Apologists for the right
Many reasonable and thoughtful conservatives who themselves would never use such loaded or vitriolic verbiage seem to feel compelled to defend Palin et al. "Palin never called for violence." They demur: rhetoric is just joking, just banter. These are just figures of speech, and are never meant to be taken seriously. They argue that there is no direct incitement to violence. They object that the link between the incitement by public figures and the actual violence is too tenuous.

To a very limited degree, they are right. Palin, I am quite sure, never actually wanted violence, and certainly never explicitly called for it. The responsibility for the violence lies with the gunmen. But is it false and dishonest to claim that the words, the language, the environment created by the political figures who deliberately cultivate for political gain an absolutist struggle of good versus evil have no relationship to the acts of the deranged who listen them and take what seems to be the next logical step.

Others object that this or that violent gunman may not have been actually motivated out of politics, or that they were actually liberals or democrats, or that their mental illness makes this all impossible to understand.  We don't know why the Arizona killer did what he did. If he is as delusional as his internet trail suggests, we'll never understand. But we know that it has been a time of extreme, implicitly violent political rhetoric and imagery: It is legitimate to discuss whether there is a connection between that tone and actual outbursts of violence, whatever the motivations of this killer turn out to be. This is not "Politicizing a tragedy," as apologists for the right are already complaining. The attempted assassination of an elected official is inherently political and it is completely germane to discuss the political environment that led to it. When MLK was gunned down, there was no controversy about discussing the role racism played in his murder; similarly, when right-leaning psychopaths are repeatedly taking up arms against the government, it is appropriate and necessary to examine the forces which are driving that sort of behavior.

Put more simply:  The point I am trying to make is that Republicans need to stop whipping up crazy people with violent political rhetoric. This is really not a hard concept to follow. There are a lot of nuts out there with access to weapons. Stop egging them on.

Solutions?
To be clear: I support the first amendment and I do not propose any sort of censorship or restrictions on political speech. I do not think that there is any individual on the right who should share legal culpability for the acts of madmen. I do think, however, it is incumbent on citizens of all political leanings to call out and reject overheated, absolutist, demonizing, or violent speech, wherever it may come from. And I wish we could make it clear to the professional rabble-rousers whose careers depend on generating fear and hysteria, that they are poisoning the public discourse.

And we should remember the remarks President Bill Clinton made on the anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing about the use of political rhetoric.

"What we learned from Oklahoma City is not that we should gag each other or that we should hold less passion for the positions we hold, but that our words really do matter. There is this vast echo chamber, and the words fall on the serious and delirious alike. Have at it. Go fight. Do whatever you want. You don't have to be nice. But be careful with what you say and do not advocate violence." 

Update:

As promised, a couple of examples of left wing violence: the guy who planned to bomb the RNC convention in 2004 is a legit counter example, and the ELF/ALF are also examples of leftist groups who employ political violence. I have no trouble denouncing them.

 

75 comments:

  1. I look forward to your blogpost on left-wing political violence.

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  2. I look forward to your blogpost on left-wing political violence.

    Care to cite specific cases? There aren't nearly as many of them as there are of right-wing violence.

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  3. You have a future as a Kos diarist. All problems belong to 'them'. Nicely balanced article.

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  4. Any comments on his HS friend saying his politics were liberal?

    Also, if you haven't seen the violent rhetoric from the left you're not paying attention. No, I'm not going to find you examples. As I tell my residents, "it's a good question, go look it up and present it to us tomorrow."

    This whole thing is a tragedy, but it wasn't caused by rhetoric. Evil or psychiatric illness, most likely. Thankfully, you're rhetoric also won't cause any evil to result.

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  5. What a fantastic post. My main quibble is that there are bountiful examples of violent and de-humanizing leftist rhetoric as well, but since you've already said you'd add them to the list as folks brought them to your attention, I'm good with that.

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  6. Anon 12:33 and Shadowfax seem to have poor internet searching abilities.
    Seattle, your home, was the site of one of the G8 summits where there was significant leftist violence.
    Agree with Gruntdoc that you should volunteer to write for Kos. Just don't write that your congresswoman is dead to you.

    http://twitter.com/#!/jtLOL/status/23839578917961728

    A few links:
    http://patterico.com/2007/03/05/leftist-hate-speech/

    http://patterico.com/2011/01/09/left-and-media-but-i-repeat-myself-in-a-fact-free-frenzy-to-blame-palin-for-giffords-shooting/

    http://legalinsurrection.blogspot.com/2011/01/two-sicknesses-on-display-in-arizona.html

    Iowahawk is a satirist, but his links and commentary are real:
    http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/media_violence_project/

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  7. I apologize for using "you're" instead of "your" earlier.
    - Nuclear Fire

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  8. This is well said and I believe an accurate and balanced reflection of our current state of affairs. I hope this gets around. It may not help, but it certainly won't hurt. Thanks for putting this together in such an intelligent and reasonable voice! Dymphnasis aka Mary

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  9. Nice post. It accurately conveys the level of idiocy present in Democrats in the nation.

    Re: Michelle Bachmann quote...

    I've heard Democrats say to "fight for the poor" and "fight for the working man" etc. I presume you think this means to take to the streets and start punching people, right? Or maybe could it be a manner of speaking meant to convey a point about the degree to which someone should care about a topic?

    PS The gangbangers blowing ea other away aren't voting Republican as far as I know. The overlapping poverty/Democrat/welfare/entitlement culture is probably the most dysfunctional "culture" in America. The Christians going to church, voting Republican and hunting deer aren't really the ones to worry about. Sorry. Epic post FAIL.

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  10. I'm sure this violent, overheated rhetoric is beyond the pale:

    “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” Obama said at a Philadelphia fundraiser Friday night. “Because from what I understand folks in Philly like a good brawl. I’ve seen Eagles fans.”

    Really, my disappointment is that you're better then this.

    Allen

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  11. Okay, for some reason this post really pisses me off. To have someone blow away a 9-year-old boy et al. (I think that's the worst tragedy here, sorry) and to say that the Republicans made him do it is just sick and wrong. I will wait for the apology.

    This is an act of a sick individual. Neither party's leaders nor pundits, etc. are advocating killing anyone from the opposite party either outright or otherwise. I had a bipolar chick the other night say she was lying in the snow in the cold because she was suffering for Jesus. Jesus didn't tell her to lie in the snow any moreso than the Republicans "implied" that 22-year-olds should be killing Congresswomen.

    I've said it a hundred times, but just because you're a doctor doesn't mean you know sh*t about anything else: Politics, finance or otherwise. We got you saying Republicans made some 22-year-old try to kill a Congresswoman and Happy Hospitalist telling everyone to take their money out of a skyrocketing stock market and put it in frickin 1% return treasury bonds. And you both seem to be saying this stuff SERIOUSLY like you actually believe it.

    What I think is interesting is that if he would have done the same thing at an impromptu Republican rally, a concealed-carry permit carrier would have likely been there and kept at least some of the victims from getting shot.

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  12. I usually have a hard time swallowing your political postings, but I think your overall message that things need to cool down is spot on. We may may not agree on many things, but I hope all of us can agree that Glenn Beck and those like hie are wackos and violence isn't the answer to American politics. The beauty of our system is that we can have a non-violent revolution every time we vote. And regarding Glenn Beck, I'm a LDS (ie Mormon) constitutionalist, and I still think he's a wacko.

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  13. Balance? Balance is called for when there is equivalence, and I haven't seen much here to make me change my mind.

    ACTS of violence committed by leftists: none
    (I'll give half credit to the 2000 Seattle protests, though it doesn't meet the standard I cited in the post).

    Violent speech by prominent liberal leaders: none.
    The best you can come up with was an anonymous blogger at DKos and Obama quoting the Untouchables? Nina Totenberg? As opposed to Glenn Beck? Um, try harder.

    Hyperbolic/overheated speech by prominent liberals? Well, that one's true for sure. It should be toned down. But that's not the point. My point: both sides get passionate, both sides use strong words, ONE side uses hints of violence and fetishizes weapons.

    Again, cite me a specific example of a liberal elected official/candidate for office or prominent public figure using violent speech (not "hate" speech or mean words, VIOLENT speech) and I will happily cite and denounce it, too.

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  14. Gees, apparently you have almost no other liberals as readers. I liked what Andrew Sullivan's blog said about violence: http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2011/01/palinspeak-and-violence.html "The point is the worldview Palin holds. It is zero-sum. It expresses itself in clear and stark violent imagery."

    The psychology bloggers I read are asking us not to jump to conclusions about the shooter's mental illness. Your conservative readers are asking us not to jump to conclusions about the shooter's political beliefs. So I suppose that when we finally gain insight into why this young person shot this particular liberal Democrat, we'll all have moved on to the next tragedy, so we won't even discuss it. A schizophrenic murdered 4 people in my home town, 2 blocks away from where I live. The daughter of one of the victims, who was a baby at the time, came on my cemetery tour last spring as a 3rd grader. He was a racist who was drunk or high (according to reports) and off his meds. He killed people. Did he kill people because he was schizophrenic or because he was racist or because of political beliefs? How in heck should I know? I'm just glad that he's locked away for life in a mental hospital and that the offspring of his victim appears to be a relatively happy little girl.

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  15. I'm anon 12:24. Dear anon 12:33, let me fix your comment:

    "There aren't nearly as many of them REPORTED BY THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA as there are of right wing-violence."

    Left-wing violence:
    Animal Liberation Front
    Earth Liberation Front

    Amy Bishop, Huntsville shooter
    Joe Stack, flew plane into IRS bldg

    A 23-year-old man from Austin, Texas, who was connected to a group that planned to disrupt the Republican National Convention (RNC) in September 2008, was sentenced today in federal court to possessing destructive devices.

    The thugs who beat up Kenneth Gladney.

    G20 violence in Pittsburgh (2009)

    Black Panthers at polling place.

    Sorry it's taking me a bit of time, I can't just refer to newspaper articles b/c they don't exist. I can direct you to several good blogs, though.

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  16. Whatever became of being able to politely disagree? "I disagree, and this is why..." is a civilized statement and opens the way to an open dialog, whereas insults accomplish nothing useful. That, in a nutshell, is one of the major faults of politics in America today.

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  17. Anon 2:11, thank you. Examples are what I was asking for, and you have provided them. WITHOUT associated personal attack, for which I also thank you.
    -Anon 12:33

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  18. Obama himself said "to punish our enemies" referring to those that don't agree with him. Perhaps not the same language as some of the others but certainly worse than Rush saying he wanted Obama to fail. Metaphors are a common way to rally the troops (sorry if I join your list for saying that) and are used on both sides.

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  19. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/sep/04/man-held-in-convention-bomb-plot/

    Whatever.

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  20. Well, thanks to anon 2:11 and Nurse K, we do have a couple of winners, and as I promised, I will update the main post to reflect that. The winners:

    Mark DePalma, who planned to bomb the RNC convention in 2004. That's a clear and convincing example of real planned violence.

    Half-credit, but I'll allow it:
    The ALF/ELF. I only give this half-credit because they pretty much never have gone beyond property destruction, but it's so patently politically motivated that I think it counts. I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that the ELF and ALF are generally reviled among mainstream liberals. But still.

    The Losers:
    Amy Bishop, Huntsville shooter. Not politically motivated as far as I can tell.

    Kenneth Gladney. His story may well have been fabricated, and at the least is disputed. In any event, it fails the explicit disqualifier in the OP, "scuffles at rallies do not count."

    The Black Panthers fail because a) they don't appear to actually exist, and b) even if they did, they never did anything.

    G20: Really? Broken windows? Try harder.

    Joe Stack, IRS Plane crasher: listed in OP already. I counted him as right-influenced due to the anti-tax, anti-government nature of his issues.

    Thank you, however, for being polite and on-point.

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  21. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2008/09/rnc-protests.html

    Same event, more violent liberals. 135 charged with felonies. I'm guessing Sarah Palin conjured up all those charges?

    Would you like to get spit on, have your tires slashed, or have people crowd around you and threaten violence at, say, the ACEP meeting?

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  22. Again, check the OP. You are describing scuffles. Minor property damage, no deaths, no injuries, no guns. An angry crowd getting rowdy is a bipartisan phenomenon and not at all the same as a guy getting an assault rifle and heading down to the ACLU.

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  23. John Scalzi published an interesting analysis on his blog. He says "f your political messaging traffics in rhetoric heavy on gun imagery and revolution of the overthrow-y sort, then when someone shoots a congressperson who you opposed, then guess what: You get to spend some uncomfortable moments in the spotlight being asked if it’s not reasonable to suspect a connection between your rhetoric and the actions of a shooter targeting someone you’ve opposed. You also get to spend time being asked if, in fact, your rhetoric isn’t overblown, simplistic and on balance detrimental to the nation’s body politic. Querulous complaints about the unfairness of this can be reasonably overruled by others; the time to complain about your bed is before you make it." I recommend the entire post: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2011/01/09/quick-giffords-follow-up/

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  24. 135 felonies = Not "rowdiness". Lots of people doing "minor" things all at the same time = major issue. If you consider setting fires and throwing bottles at a major political event to be "minor", um, okay. Sorry, that doesn't sound like a "peaceful protest" to me. I'd ask the police officer if they think getting bottles thrown at them is minor or the delegates getting pushed around or spit on to be "minor". There were groups with weapons and various other things confiscated. Of course, being liberals, they're too dumb to keep their desires to cause trouble quiet and got caught before they could use the knives and various other weapons found.

    Liberal apologist.

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  25. Why do you all fight so hard for politicians. Why? There is nothing in it for you, don't you know this? All you faithful think you are doing your part to save the country. What a sad joke. In reality you are being played the fool. Those you fight so hard for, laugh at what easy marks you are. Makes me want to take advantage of you too. Get ya to keep me and my friends very wealthy for a long time.

    -SCRN

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  26. Nurse K,
    Will ya just chill out already? Glass of wine, Ativan, anything to keep ya from stroking out girl.

    -SCRN

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  27. Left wing violence

    Lee Harvey Oswald

    Sirhan Sirhan

    The Soviet Union

    Red China

    The Khmer Rouge

    The National Socialist Workers Party

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  28. The Arizona gunman was a left-wing lunatic.

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  29. I thought this was a great post.

    I don't see it as a stretch at all that violent rhetoric may occasionally push unstable individuals towards a particular act or target.

    Being from Canada, I must admit I get a little freaked out when I watch American campaign ads. The whole personal attack angle is just so tacky. And the violent undertones are, to be honest pretty creepy.

    I suppose this is why Canadian political campaigns are so boring.

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  30. I don't think the anarchists and the window breakers at the G8 summits have the backing of the Democratic leadership the way those preaching hate on the right do.

    Sarah Palin, who was urging people to reload while putting Gifford in her crosshairs was the Republican vice-presidential candidate.

    Bohner himself said that a democratic politician would be a "dead man" if he voted for the health care bill. And then the man started receiving death threats in the mail.

    When you have mainstream party candidates calling for "2nd amendment remedies" when they don't like the outcome of elections don't you think people are going to take their advice?

    Allen West had a chief of staff that said when ballots don't work use bullets. That was too embarrassing even for the republican leadership but not for Allen West who is sitting in congress. And Sarah Palin who helped put him in his seat never spoke out against him appointing her.

    And if Sarah's target on Griffin was so innocent why did she take it down when she got shot?

    Sure Loughner may have been a liberal when he was sane. Funny isn't it that when he had his psychotic break he went to the right and became a right wing libertarian. Might tell you something about the beliefs of those on the far right and how much sense they make.

    You know, it wouldn't matter if this guy was a liberal or a conservative. I don't care if he was a liberal mad at Gifford for not voting for Pelosi, its still the Republicans and the Tea baggers that are sending the message out loud and clear that if you don't like your congressman there is a way to take care of them.

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  31. Wow, I am shocked at the deliberate self-delusion shown by negative responses to this post. The death threats and vandalism targeted at government officials is overwhelmingly from the right. The language of specific, targeted violence is from the right. Threats of revolution, armed insurrection, secession, and civil war are from the right. The militias stock piling weapons and training paramilitary groups are on the right.

    You all know this. You don't want to believe it because it disrupts your comfortable self-righteousness, but you know that this violence is a the predicted result of right-wing rhetoric.

    The contrary responses posted above lack counter-examples or even counter-arguments. They're examples of exactly the dysfunctional political discourse that the original post was bemoaning.

    "Not balanced", "not fair", "epic fail", but no cogent counter positions. Pathetic right-wing whiners. If Palin, Beck, Limbaugh, et. al. had half the pride, morals, or faith that they claim, they'd be taking responsibility for what they've incited.

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  32. NurseK:

    I am a liberal with a CCW, and also DOJ licensed in my state: I am personally grateful that no one else pulled out a weapon, in that crowd and all that confusion. Have you never heard of collateral damage? Have you never read reports on how many of the rounds fired in a police firefight actually hit the intended target? And yet those are people trained to deal with adrenaline and emotion.

    CCW isn't all it's cracked up to be. My weapon keeps me safe, in my home and on my business. A CCP is not a permit to be a vigilante.

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  33. Wow. You say you believe in free speech...but the entire post is a rant against it.

    Palin's map utilized surveyor site symbols, not the crosshairs of a gun. Obama himself said 'If they bring a knife, we bring a gun' and 'punish our enemies'.

    Loughner had a problem with Giffords going back at least to 2007. According to his acquaintences he is Left wing.

    Freedom of speech is freedom of speech...or it isn't.

    Next time you smash a finger, don't exclaim 'shoot'! You will be directly responsible if some whackjob then shoots someone.

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  34. Anon 5:41 said:
    "The death threats and vandalism targeted at government officials is overwhelmingly from the right."

    Just because you say something is true doesn't mean it is. Consider the opposing viewpoint for once.

    As for a blogger who has attempted to compile left-wing political rhetoric and violence, see Michelle Malkin's post today.

    I am not denying that the right wing rhetoric is sometimes over the top, I just wish lefties would stop trying to pin this and everything else bad that happens on the right.

    After the Dems swept into office in 2008, they weren't really listening to the right, were they? "We won." It's time for the people to drove us into the ditch to let us drive, or something like that.

    Is it any wonder that the right has had to speak up to be heard? Just to be clear -- I'm not saying that has anything to do with the horrendous shooting. I just believe the left will use this crisis to shut the right up, as they have done with the race card.

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  35. I am rather disturbed by this bloggers post. I find it fully of ambiguities, falsehoods and assumptions. The blogger seems only see what they want to see. In recent years acts of violence have been perpetrated far more by people of left wing ideologies than those of the right. I have thrown together just a few of the most recent examples. Just to be clear Joe Stack was a Communist not a right winger. Lets also clear up one other falsehood. White Supremacy is NOT a Right Wing Idealogy. Hitlers Nazi regime was a National Socialist ideology, Karl Marx was a strong anti-semite. These are Left Wing Ideolgies not Right. The list:
    Fact: 2/18/2010 – Joe Stack a Left Wing progressive who cited the Communist Manifesto flies a plane into that Echelon building in Austin Texas, Killing himself and one other.

    Fact: 9/1/2010 – Left wing Radical Environmentalist James Jay Lee strapped an explosive device to himself and takes hostages at The Discovery Channel in MD.

    Fact: 2/12/2010 – Left wing Harvard Graduate and Biology Professor goes on a shooting rampage at the University of Alabama Huntsville, killing 3 people after being denied Tenure.

    Fact: Violence against Conservatives, Numerous left wing protesters and activists have called for violence against Sarah Palin and other conservatives: I.E.
    Poster: “HOPE SHE CHOKES”
    Poster: “DUMP SARAH PALIN INTO BOSTON HARBOR”
    Effigy: A Life size effigy of Sarah Palin is hanged outside a home in CA.
    Poster: “DEATH- TO EXTEMIST CHRISTIAN TERRORIST PIG-BUSH”
    Poster: “BUSH IS THE DISEASE DEATH IS THE CURE”
    Poster: “SAVE MOTHER EARTH KiLL BUSH”
    Poster: (anti-war rally) “WE SUPPORT OUR TROOPS WHEN THEY SHOOT THEIR OFFICERS”



    Fact: 3/23/2010- Left Wing threats of violence against Ann Coulter force the cancellation of her speech at the University of Ottawa.

    Fact: 9/23/2009- A Proponent of Socialized health care and a MoveOn.org member attacks an opponent of health care reform and bites off the finger of the man opposing at a healthcare rally in California.

    Fact: 8/6/2009 – white progressive SEIU members violently, physically attack a black conservative and call him a “Ni%%$^” because he does not support President Obamas health care reform plan.

    Fact: 9/4/2009 – Left Wing Radical environmentalists Topple radio towers in Seattle.

    Fact: 10/5/2004 – A left winger fires gunshots into a Bush/Cheney campaign office in Knoxville, TN.

    Fact: 8/28/2008 – Left wing members of the Austin Affinity Group planned to use built, possessed and planned to use explosive devices and firearms against the Republican National Convention in Minnesota. Bradley Neal Crowder and David Guy McKay were both convicted.

    Fact: 8/24/2009- Katyanne Marie Kibby threatened to murder a government informant who infiltrated her Liberal Austin Affinity Group that planned to bomb the RNC.

    Fact: 7/8/2008- Left wing Activist batters a Police officer in Berkeley California.

    Fact: 4/23/2010 – Left Wing Pro Illegals Violently throw objects at Police and Pro-Legal Immigration supporters.
    Fact: 3/29/2010 – Left Wing radical Norman Leboon Fires a bullet into US Rep Eric Cantors campaign office and threatens to kill him.


    These are just a few. I cannot find hardly any right wing ideologues that have actually carried out such acts of violence. It is also worth mentioning that it is Environmentalist and Anti-capitalist groups that have committed much of the domestic terrorism in the USA.

    Barak Obama said" if they bring a knife to the fight, We will bring a gun" Thats the TOP Leftist in the country. Sounds pretty violent to me.

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  36. I am rather disturbed by this bloggers post. I find it fully of ambiguities, falsehoods and assumptions. The blogger seems only see what they want to see. In recent years acts of violence have been perpetrated far more by people of left wing ideologies than those of the right. I have thrown together just a few of the most recent examples. Just to be clear Joe Stack was a Communist not a right winger. Lets also clear up one other falsehood. White Supremacy is NOT a Right Wing Idealogy. Hitlers Nazi regime was a National Socialist ideology, Karl Marx was a strong anti-semite. These are Left Wing Ideolgies not Right. The list:
    Fact: 2/18/2010 – Joe Stack a Left Wing progressive who cited the Communist Manifesto flies a plane into that Echelon building in Austin Texas, Killing himself and one other.

    Fact: 9/1/2010 – Left wing Radical Environmentalist James Jay Lee strapped an explosive device to himself and takes hostages at The Discovery Channel in MD.

    Fact: 2/12/2010 – Left wing Harvard Graduate and Biology Professor goes on a shooting rampage at the University of Alabama Huntsville, killing 3 people after being denied Tenure.

    Fact: Violence against Conservatives, Numerous left wing protesters and activists have called for violence against Sarah Palin and other conservatives: I.E.
    Poster: “HOPE SHE CHOKES”
    Poster: “DUMP SARAH PALIN INTO BOSTON HARBOR”
    Effigy: A Life size effigy of Sarah Palin is hanged outside a home in CA.
    Poster: “DEATH- TO EXTEMIST CHRISTIAN TERRORIST PIG-BUSH”
    Poster: “BUSH IS THE DISEASE DEATH IS THE CURE”
    Poster: “SAVE MOTHER EARTH KiLL BUSH”
    Poster: (anti-war rally) “WE SUPPORT OUR TROOPS WHEN THEY SHOOT THEIR OFFICERS”



    Fact: 3/23/2010- Left Wing threats of violence against Ann Coulter force the cancellation of her speech at the University of Ottawa.

    Fact: 9/23/2009- A Proponent of Socialized health care and a MoveOn.org member attacks an opponent of health care reform and bites off the finger of the man opposing at a healthcare rally in California.

    Fact: 8/6/2009 – white progressive SEIU members violently, physically attack a black conservative and call him a “Ni%%$^” because he does not support President Obamas health care reform plan.

    Fact: 9/4/2009 – Left Wing Radical environmentalists Topple radio towers in Seattle.

    Fact: 10/5/2004 – A left winger fires gunshots into a Bush/Cheney campaign office in Knoxville, TN.

    Fact: 8/28/2008 – Left wing members of the Austin Affinity Group planned to use built, possessed and planned to use explosive devices and firearms against the Republican National Convention in Minnesota. Bradley Neal Crowder and David Guy McKay were both convicted.

    Fact: 8/24/2009- Katyanne Marie Kibby threatened to murder a government informant who infiltrated her Liberal Austin Affinity Group that planned to bomb the RNC.

    Fact: 7/8/2008- Left wing Activist batters a Police officer in Berkeley California.

    Fact: 4/23/2010 – Left Wing Pro Illegals Violently throw objects at Police and Pro-Legal Immigration supporters.
    Fact: 3/29/2010 – Left Wing radical Norman Leboon Fires a bullet into US Rep Eric Cantors campaign office and threatens to kill him.


    These are just a few. I cannot find hardly any right wing ideologues that have actually carried out such acts of violence. It is also worth mentioning that it is Environmentalist and Anti-capitalist groups that have committed much of the domestic terrorism in the USA.

    Barak Obama said" if they bring a knife to the fight, We will bring a gun" Thats the TOP Leftist in the country. Sounds pretty violent to me.

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  37. Hey Shadowfax,

    I am personally glad a lot of your commenters are reminding everyone that violent words come from both sides--both sides of politics have proven themselves unable to discuss things rationally, with civil discourse.

    But I have not heard any mention yet of the fact that the shooter in this case WAS a uber-left Democrat. THIS WAS NOT AN ACT OF RIGHT-WING VIOLENCE! This was in fact exactly the opposite.

    Another example of continuing left-wing hatred in action: Fred Phelps and the Westboro "church" hate group who are planning to picket the dead girl's funeral. All Democrats.

    It's a lousy world sometimes--but no one political side has the corner on crazy and mean.

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  38. I live in England, and a am regular reader of Movin' Meat, and it's a great post.

    I think the right vs left violence debate misses a crucial point.

    Right wing violence often manifests as a perpetuation of hate and inequality.

    Left wing violence manifests as a counter to hate and inequality.

    I know a lot of left wingers in the UK and none of them as far as I know are beating up gay people and minorities, sending anonymous hate mail to politicians, and defrauding poor people as loan sharks etc.

    I do know left wingers who march and protest against intolerance and injustice, and there's sometimes a fringe that will break a few windows.

    The big difference between the UK and US is that the latter has right wing 'thuggery' in senior and privileged positions (Beck, Coulter etc). Here our senior right tends to just operate through the time honored method of protecting their wealth at the expense of a decent society, which of course the US does as well.

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  39. I just had a BIG BELLY LAUGH at the idea that Fred Phelps and the WBC are liberals.

    Thanks for that, I needed it.

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  40. Pete Stark

    http://michellemalkin.com/2009/09/03/video-rep-pete-stark-tells-interviewer-get-the-fk-out-of-here-or-ill-throw-you-out-the-window/

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  41. Mike Malloy

    http://radioequalizer.blogspot.com/2009/08/libtalker-malloy-i-hope-glenn-beck.html

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  42. I think there is a key part of your post that has been misconstrued, which is that while any individual of any political ilk may use politics as an excuse for violent acts, violent rhetoric has been more broadly embraced by the numerous right-wing pundits you cite. There is no comparable inflamatory rhetoric at the frequency and vitriol from the left.

    While violence and mental illness are clearly not a right/left problem, nor is violent rhetoric absent from any point on the political continuum, the level of denial and refusal to capably and with gravity look within is no more than I expect from voices on the right. Their history speaks for itself.

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  43. Pima County Sheriff Dupnik made very cogent comments the day of the shooting. He said,
    "I think it’s time as a country that we need to do a little soul searching. Because it’s the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the tv business, and what we see on tv and how our youngsters are being raised.
    When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And, unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry."

    It is time for some introspection about who we want to be as a country.

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  44. I keep harking back to Alec Baldwin: "We would stone him to death! We would stone Henry Hyde to death and we would go to their homes and we’d kill their wives and their children. We would kill their families. What is happening in this country? What is happening? UGHHH!"

    There's plenty to go around on both sides, but I guess if it's on the left, it's just rhetoric, though.

    Besides, it's looking more and more like the shooter Saturday was quite the leftist, who was just obsessed with the congresswoman and was stalking her, so your argument is moot.

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  45. "Mistrust of government was Loughner's defining conviction, the friends said. He believed the U.S. government was behind the Sept. 11 attacks"
    "After one woman read a poem about abortion, "he was turning all shades of red and laughing," "
    "An ardent atheist"
    "John Kerry supporter"

    Does this really sound like a right-winger to you?

    I don't think this guy was "liberal" either. I think he's szicho but your whole post is based on the premise that this guy was somehow influenced to kill based on rhetoric from the right, when more and more that comes out about him strongly argues the opposite.

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  46. In all due respect, Shadowbox, you seem unhinged yourself.
    * Rhetoric does NOT translate to violence in the able-minded.

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  47. Didn't President Obama say, "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” at a fundraiser in Philly during the election?

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  48. What I think is most revealing is that when the sheriff asked people to tone down their hate speech the only people that were offended by it were the republicans and people on the right.

    If the shoe fits...

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  49. This post, not what it says, represents the real problem with political discourse these days. Extremists on both sides try to make the argument that the other side is 100% evil and that their side is 100% right just as this post does. They attempt to appear like they don't have an agenda by saying "if you show me examples, I'll modify my statements" but they rarely follow through and when it turns out they are completely wrong, they will resist retraction at all cost.

    Again, this happens on both sides but given that the media (except Fox) is largely liberal, we see this tendency more on the left. Perhaps, you would like to give a contrary example by admitting that you may have jumped to conclusions and researched only the information that supported your argument, but I doubt it.

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  50. A good example of of the civil discourse advocated by our "progressive" friends can be found here.

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  51. A lot of people seem to be missing the basic point of the article-- there are crazy people on both left and right who use violent language, but the ones on the right are more prominent and considered mainstream.

    Almost all of the examples posted here from the left are anonymous commenters on message boards or twitter. The examples in the article from the right are from Republican politicians holding national office and pundits that are on radio or TV every night and broadcast to millions. When people in positions of real power and influence say radical things, it makes even more radical viewpoints seem reasonable. And that's the danger.

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  52. How about George Soros (the ultimate liberal) and his advocacy of the overthrow of any government he doesn't like, by any means necessary?

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  53. For those that believe the right's anger outweighs the left....

    http://michellemalkin.com/2011/01/10/the-progressive-climate-of-hate-an-illustrated-primer-2000-2010/


    Not a chance in the world....

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  54. There was an additional incident in October 2010 in Carlsbad, CA. A man went to a playground and opened fire on school children shouting "Death to Obama"
    http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/oct/12/man-accused-carlsbad-school-rampage-had-troubled-p/
    This in Carlsbad man was mentally ill but does that mean he was not influenced by the rhetoric?
    Luckily, this man did not kill anyone but it was not for a lack of trying.

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  55. Honestly, mental illness conflated with assassination, regardless of success, always reminds me of Charles Guiteau. President Garfield was a Republican, albeit a Republican from an era so far divorced from ours that his doctrine and law may seem alarmingly strange to modern minds entrenched in the current political discourse. Guiteau was supremely mentally disturbed, and ultimately killed his "friend" and idol Garfield because someone other than Guiteau was appointed as a US ambassador.

    http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/guiteau/guiteauhomelite.html

    Our current political discourse, however colorful, violent and universally disgusting, is mind-numbingly dull when contrasted with earlier eras of history which heralded change. I always remember the esteemed Congressman from South Carolina who elected to beat another Congressman like a dog, on the floor of the Senate. Then there are the cases such as that of Aaron Burr.

    Sometimes, I think the best way to deal with some of these vitriolic attacks would be a massive, bloody, no-holds-barred HALO tournament.

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  56. I find this post interesting. I especially like the Clinton comment you included regarding having care with our words. I do believe in freedom of speech, but naturally I wish those in the spotlight would be more careful. I'm not sure if this incident is strictly due to right rhetoric, mental instability, or unregulated firearm laws, but I believe it's likely to be a combination of all of the above. Unfortunately, we cannot always help the mentally ill and cannot stop Palin from making idiotic statements, but perhaps we could crack down a bit on the access to firearms. Or increase access to mental healthcare? Or perhaps put more resources into education, especially in Alaska and Arizona (joke... kind of).
    I have no answers. I know your post has been controversial (most likely because it pissed off the right-wingers), but I'm glad I got to read your article so that I can think about some of these questions.

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  57. Seems to be a contest. This essay on equivalence is therefore contributed.

    http://tiny.cc/orhlu

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  58. Michelle Malkin's examples are a joke. Madonna saying she will kick Palin's ass. I did not know Madonna represented the mainstream Democratic party.

    I didn't know she had a cable news network. I didn't know she had a seat on the house intelligence committee.

    It is the right wing that is so proud of being armed and dangerous. They're the ones that brag about it.

    Give me an example of a democratic politician saying if you don't win at the ballot box, you should overthrow the opposition.

    Glenn Beck's latest is a real doozy. Telling Sarah Palin "if someone makes an attempt on you I don't think our republic will survive" in an open letter. Well, wink wink, nudge nudge to some right wing loony.

    Its a frigging helter skelter plot like Charles Manson had.

    Oh, and pictures of the G8 protesters as representing the democrats makes about as much sense as us showing pictures of Fred Phelps or neo-nazis and saying they represent the republicans.

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  59. From up here in Canada, where the bland are leading the bland, the view is extraordinary. America is turning into a very strange place.

    You've always had a more divided, tumultuous society. I clearly remember the riots in Detroit which were incomprehensible to us in Windsor, but following each calamity something like normal always returned. I worked in the US during the 80s and 90s, and loved it. The energy and dynamism of America was invigorating.

    Since 9/11 though, something seems to have changed. Partisanship has metastasized into visceral feelings of fear and loathing of the other side. Just looking at the comment sections, here and elsewhere, the merits of the arguments are shot through with vitriol and blind allegiance to one's own side. There is no middle ground, no agreement on simple facts, and certainly no room for reflection or compromise.

    It's almost as though there is no America, or Americans anymore (unless you are outside your borders or being criticized from outside).

    Without seeming any more sanctimonious than I already must, Canada came within a half-percentage point of breaking up in the 90s. There were heated feelings, families divided, but we all knew this was to be settled at the ballot box. Even if Quebec had seceded, in the main there was an acceptance that we were all just people trying to find our way.

    It was possible to hate what the "other side" wanted, without hating the people.

    Mind you, we did not have a plurality of politicians and media exploiting fear for fun and profit. There was simply too much at stake. I wonder when the same realization will occur in the US? The stakes right now are looking pretty high to me.

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  60. What disturbs me is the refusal of those defending the right to acknowledge that it is the leaders of their party who foment this kind of violent rhetoric. It's one thing for an obscure leader of the Animal Liberation Front to call for violence. It is entirely something else when the leaders of your party are calling for it. Who are the leaders from the left that are using this kind of language? The difference is that the leaders on the right have a huge platform and legitimize the idea of using violence to solve political problems.

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  61. RE: I am not aware of similar rhetoric coming from the left.

    THEN YOU HAVEN'T LOOKED:

    http://michellemalkin.com/2006/08/31/assassination-chic/

    http://michellemalkin.com/2008/01/17/the-statistical-proof-of-liberal-intolerance/

    http://www.aei.org/article/27371

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Pressure_(film)

    ...or watch it at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FkB4uiizVo

    And here's a depiction of a pre-adolsecent girl being lynched:
    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/another-one-climate-change-ad-features-young-girl-in-a-noose/

    Do you see Right Wing imagery--graphic--of the effects of violence??

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  62. johnthetreehugger1/12/2011 11:41 AM

    some corrections for accuracy:

    2 died at the hands of an anti-liberal bigot in Knoxville, TN.

    your post says three.

    in the comments:

    Seattle happened in 1999 and was a protest against the WTO, not the G8 or G20. and nobody got shot with real bullets at that.

    also, to all you right wingers - there is NO equivalency between assassinations and attempted murders and breaking bank windows at a protest. if you think those are the same, you are in real need of some perspective. if you don't like political property destruction, move somewhere else, cause this country was founded with that as a perfectly acceptable method of sending a political message. don't agree? try looking up the Boston Tea Party of 1773 (and not the gasbags of today).

    and further more, stop looking at how many get CHARGED with felonies at these big gatherings/protests and look at how many are CONVICTED. The cops arrest everybody when the chaos starts, so you have to look at the plea bargains and convictions for a semi-accurate picture of actually how many people probably committed crimes.

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  63. "The rhetoric, largely but not entirely from the right side of the political spectrum, has become dangerously unhinged". After reading this OP and the comments that followed, I must conclude the only thing that will tone down the rhetoric and vitriol in this country is a plague.

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  64. You forgot to mention Richard Poplawski, the Pennsylvania man who feared "the Obama gun ban that's on the way."

    http://www.wtae.com/r/19096134/detail.html

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  65. The others have pretty much said it all. I don't know that I can add much other than to say I hope to hell for your patients sake that you have a better grasp on medicine and patient care than you do on politics and life. Because on the later you clearly are clueless. It is clear that I am as much Republican as you are Democrat yet I have not begun to think that this tragic shooting had anything to do with either side. In fact, as more and more has come out about this 22-year-old CRAZY PERSON it is more and more clear that he had little to do with either political side. Yet you want to try to put together a case otherwise. Like I said, I hope you do a better job with differential diagnosis and critical thinking within medicine than you do within life. Then again, I'm only a stupid paramedic while you are a DOCTOR!

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  66. Those American pop-political economists (which is nearly everyone interested thanks to the spamming of the American cerebrum via the internet) who continue to believe the battle is between "Leftist" elements and "Rightist" elements, who confound the will of the people by ever upward spiraling levels of ideological subterfuge and political violence, are politically so stupid its difficult conceiving they are capable of doing anything other than being an --indirect--cheerleader for the American autopilot...

    Once money has convinced you
    power lies with politicians,
    think tanks and ideological networks--they have won.

    Follow the money in America and you find Corporations which staff the Federal Government, and fund the most important think tanks, tank any real healthcare reform, and let American jobs fly south like birds in winter.

    Cut each others throats--Paulson and Daley thank you in advance!

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  67. James J. Lee holds three hostages at gunpoint with bombs strapped to his body at the Discovery Communications building over left-wing environmentalism.

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  68. Hey, shadowfax -
    I just ran across a comment on a shakesville post with a similar point to this one. Someone actually went to the trouble to track back all the 99 examples in the oft linked Michelle Malkin post.

    http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2011/01/lets-get-this-straight.html#comment-127102051

    She found two from prominent elected officials, one of which is the knifefight/gunfight (i.e. not equivalent) quote from Obama.

    I might be willing to throw Michelle a bone and call Montel Williams prominent, but that's a bit of a stretch.

    The shakesville post is worth a read.

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  69. Hey you're incorrect in your update about the RNC bombing.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/25/nyregion/25herald.html?pagewanted=all

    Islamic Extremist =/= Leftist Group.

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  70. It's strange seeing the right here so desperately attempting to pretend that US left-wing violence in the last few years is even remotely equivalent to the over-the-top right-wing violence. You guys are stretching things to ridiculous proportions to the point of looking stupid.

    Put bluntly, the right-wing incidents mentioned here were fairly recent actual MURDERS/attempted MURDERS, not just dumb protest signs, threats, slogans, or what amounts to little more than heated fist fights between sides at some protests. The left today simply aren't as murder-happy as the right, and to pretend otherwise is flat-out stupid.

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  71. The right believes its own hatred is justified. It has no reason to believe that, but it does anyway....just as it believes Jesus hates the poor; that those who are culturally different are to be condemned; and that what two people, straight or gay, do in the privacy of a room is something they have any business involving themselves in. College pep rallies (as well as right-wing & left-wing political rallies) have been using the word "fight" metaphorically for centuries... never has it meant anything literal...but "reload"? "2nd Amendment solutions"? "come shoot an M16 with your Tea Party candidate"? Hard to justify that anger as anything except the overflowing of the same cesspool that killed JFK, MLK, Malcolm, Medger Evers, RFK, etc.

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  72. Great Blog, well spoken and to the point.

    I'm amazed by the level of ignorance and denial that is displayed by many right wingers:

    Quote: "Hitlers Nazi regime was a National Socialist ideology. These are Left Wing Ideolgies not Right."

    Um, what? Naziism is the most extreme-right wing ideology on the planet. If you don't know even this much you better stop posting nonsense on the internet and go back to school. And this time try to stay awake during history class.

    And oh yeah, Fred Phelps is a liberal. LOL, that's not even ignorant, just stupid.

    Stop listing single, ridiculously insignificant incidents from the left (like Obama quoting Untouchables) vs. daily, constant hate speech on the right.
    Why is it that we liberals have to listen to Limbaugh and Beck calling for our deaths every day, while you rightwingers cry like little girls if one of us once every blue moon says something that even remotely compares to Beck-speak?

    Stop bringing up minor riots and property damage caused by a few lefties to counter multiple homicides by righties. Doesn't even remotely compare.
    Sure there were a few actual violent incidents coming from the left, but none even close to the seven murders mentioned in the blog or even Oklahoma city.

    Right Wingers, stop making excuses for the murderers in your political hemisphere and for those who instigate them to murder.

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  73. I understand Dr. Shadowfax is adding these to his post as he promised. He added a copule, but there were dozens more that were completely legitimate. So this is really for the readers that still care:
    Dem tells union members: 'Get a little bloody when necessary'

    Sometimes it's necessary to get out on the streets and "get a little bloody," a Massachusetts Democrat said Tuesday in reference to labor battles in Wisconsin.

    Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) fired up a group of union members in Boston with a speech urging them to work down in the trenches to fend off limits to workers' rights like those proposed in Wisconsin.


    I'm sure you libs will not see the violence in THIS, either.

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