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Irresponsible Selective Perception

What constantly amazes me about politics is the ease with which partisans can ignore the worst traits of their own ranks while casting stones at the sins of those on the other side of the aisle. It is appalling the extent to which some will go to make a point, while pretending to be completely ignorant of the atrocities committed in their name.

Take, for instance, Chris Bowers at MyDD. A recent post of his takes issue with the acts of the unhinged right.

Much like the democratic means attempted by conservatives to outlaw abortion, the media pressure against Edwards didn’t work. Unfortunately, the violent threats against Melissa did. Over at Pandagon, Amanda offers a taste of some of the tamer threats she received during the episode, and which it appears she continues to receive. Ultimately, it appears that it was the continuing threat of violence, not any media pressure or caving from the Edwards campaign, that allowed the right-wing to “take scalps” in this whole affair. (emphasis mine)

Well, if you look at McEwan’s post (which Bowers excerpts) what she said was:

There will be some who clamor to claim victory for my resignation, but I caution them that in doing so, they are tacitly accepting responsibility for those who have deluged my blog and my inbox with vitriol and veiled threats.

She received what she considered to be threats. That is, to be sure, absolutely inappropriate. The posts over at Pandagon are atrocious. The venom in them is atrocious.

The trouble is, with few exceptions, none of them, actually threatened violence. They said horrid violent things, and wished all manner of ills on Marcotte, but they weren’t specifically threatening. They wished harm on people simply because they disagreed with their lifestyle. Why does that sound so familiar? Oh wait!

They sounded like the comments of Kos himself. They sounded like the comments of the fringe left (#8 is my favorite example).

Even McEwan, at least, referred to them as veiled threats. Her post not only downplayed the nature of those threats, but also explained that those who had called for her expulsion from Camp Edwards were “tacitly” condoning those who had threatened her.

Well, frankly, that’s just stupid.

Does that mean that anyone who is pro-environment is tacitly endorsing the actions of groups like Earth First when they spike trees to break chain saws and cripple loggers? Hardly.

Does that mean that people who advocate for higher CAFE standards or electric cars are tacitly endorsing the actions of the Earth Liberation Front? Nope.

Bowers (and McEwan to a lesser extent) are guilty of exactly that of which they accuse Republicans – attempting to equate one very reasonable action to the irrational acts of a fringe element. In doing so, they seek to persuade others against the rational act.

For Catholics to oppose the continued employment of Marcotte and McEwan was a perfectly reasonable and legitimate act. Anyone who issued threats, or engaged in fringe behavior should be recognized as the fringe. Those actions are beyond the pale.

Bowers, on the other hand, uses McEwan’s post to engage in the worst possible form of misdirection. Threats against her are bad. Claiming that those threats represent some sort of sustained conscious campaign on behalf of the Republican Party is just ridiculous.

Terrorism and the threat of violence against American citizens remains a key political tool for the American right-wing. This is true both in the sense of conservatives and Republicans trying to scare people into voting for them / justifying their legislative agenda, and in the sense of actual terrorism and threats of violence against Democrats and progressives who stand in their way… physical violence and the threat of physical violence is still successfully being employed as a political tactic against individual progressives in America.

If you want to look at the use of terrorism as a political tool, fine. Do it honestly, however. Any discussion of such violence should recognize the role of the left in actual terrorism. The two examples cited above would be good places to start.

Earth First and the ELF have caused significant damages to businesses that are legally operating just as abortion clinics are. ELF was actually identified as the single greatest domestic terror threat until the attacks of 2001. Does Bowers renounce their actions? If so, why doesn’t he recognize the activity of the fringe left as well as the fringe right?

If he doesn’t reject their actions, and believes that the spiking of trees to prevent legal timber gathering, and the acts of arson and vandalism carried out by ELF are legitimate financial attacks (assuming they don’t hurt of kill anyone), then surely he believes abortion clinic bombings done after hours, when the clinics are empty, would be perfectly legitimate too. Right?

Unfortunately, he doesn’t spread his distaste of violence and threats of it around evenly. I suspect if you scan through the comments on MyDD, you’ll probably find more than a handful of veiled threats against the Bush Administration. Does he denounce all of his readers for the stupid comments of a few? If he did, maybe his claims about the fringe of the Republican Party would ring true, rather than hollow.

Written by Michael Turk