La-La Land

Cripes. The right-wing echo chamber truly has become a self-contained system of fact-verification (by asking each other), fantasy and reality-denial. Just in the last few hours, another story has broken from (where else) the master manufacturer of nontroversies over at Big Government, Andrew Breitbart. I won’t link, because he doesn’t deserve the traffic*.

Earlier today, on MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan’s show, one of the guests was notorious cartoonist Ted Rall. Rall’s been a favorite target over the years of outraged conservatives because frankly, he does go over the top in some of the things he accuses major Republican politicians of having done/said/wished for. Although the following isn’t a license to get away with saying or depicting whatever one wishes, however despicable or irresponsible, it’s worth pointing out that the job of a cartoonist is to, well, make things cartoonish. That’s often accomplished by exaggerating them until what can often be hidden in the more-mundane course of everyday events is brought to light by someone highlighting it with their attention and wit. It’s the same thing comedians use, as well as – for that matter – nearly anyone who tells stories of any kind.

So, in this segment (which you can watch here in its entirety), titled “Time for Revolution?” (note question mark), Ratigan plugs Rall’s new book (which is really the purpose of the segment: to fill time by dovetailing something topical with a guest’s desire to sell a few books).

In the interview, Ratigan does indeed push Rall to say that he thinks revolution might be necessary. Rall goes out of his way to say that a peaceful one, at the ballot box, is by far the preferable method (which wouldn’t really be a revolution at all, in the traditional sense; just an election). But he does say that it’s possible none of the options save violence may work. I’m not a fan of such apocalyptic thinking, because I think it’s not far removed from the guy standing on the street corner with the sandwich board warning of the end of the world. It’s needlessly sensationalistic, and to achieve it, it’s reductionist and ignores or dismisses as unworkable other solutions. And then, of course, there’s the inconvenient fact that if it’s not actually glorifying or urging violence, at the very least, it’s saying that it might be necessary for a “higher good.” I don’t like it when anyone – especially in public – heads down this road.

However.

If you go to Google right now and type in simply “calls for revolution,” you may be surprised – even shocked – by how many of the links are to stories (mostly links to or riffs off Breitbart’s) about the MSNBC host advocating violence (or allowing his guest to do so. Not that I don’t think they have the right to say whatever they wish about this segment, but think about it for a moment. This isn’t even twelve hours old, as I write this. Heck, it’s not even six hours old yet. And it’s already EVERYWHERE on the Internet. I’m not kidding. I don’t watch Ratigan’s show (too many better hosts out there), so I only became aware of this when a conservative I occasionally talk with on Twitter sent me the link. This has gone through the wingnut Wurlitzer, the great Right-Wing Noise Machine, faster than stuff goes through the Hadron Collider.

Other than the speed with which this story has made the rounds of the right-wing haunts, the thing that’s amazing about it is some of the comments I read by the readers of this story at Breitbart’s site. They clearly think they’ve discovered that it’s been the liberals, all along, who are the violent ones. One, ah, historically challenged individual calling himself “Shrink the State” (one wonders if he tried that first on his brain) tut-tutted that “Marxist Rattigan suggested everyone stop paying their mortgage and the commie Rall agreed it would be great.” Indeed, if you watch the above-linked clip, they do discuss that sort of nonviolent tactic to bring about immediate, large-scale change…they bring it up to point out that it could never work (as Rall says, we can’t even get everyone to stop littering, so how would anyone organize most people to stop paying their mortgage). It’s not hard to tell, even if you’re not familiar with the sort of political outlook that dominates Breitbart’s comments section, that “Shrink the State” doesn’t think much of either the idea (of stopping mortgage payments en masse) or of the people who would even suggest such a thing. He apparently has forgotten the now-infamous Rick Santelli rant which is now credited for having launched the Tea Party into the semi-organized status as a pseudo-political movement today. Watch one of the traders on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (whom Santelli has just spent minutes on-air lauding as “real Americans” and “representative of the silent majority” say that “everyone should just stop paying their mortgage,” at about the 1:20 mark. Santelli nods approvingly and continues on with his tirade.

That’s what both disquiets and grinds me about the teabaggers: their completely ahistorical perspective. It’s not that I just want to play gotcha with some anonymous idiot commenter at Breitbart’s House-‘O’-Journalistic-Fakery. His oblivious comment was merely a too-obvious example of what I’m talking about to pass up. But leaving aside this one specific winged monkey of Breitbart’s, and also Santelli (who did not call for revolution, violent or otherwise, in his rant), it was depressingly easy to come up with a half-dozen-plus quotes from major Republican/Teabag figures, all since Obama’s become President, calling for revolution – usually explicitly violent revolution:

Here’s the famous Sharron Angle quote from the Lars Larson radio show back in January (I think) of this year, calling for “second amendment remedies” if the elections don’t go the tea party’s way this fall.

Here’s a less well-known teabagger who’s nevertheless a GOP candidate in Virginia, Catherine Crabill, explicitly and enthusiastically calling (on video!) for the same thing, in even more vivid language.

Small potatoes? Never heard of Catherine Crabill? How about teabagger poster child Sarah Palin? Is she famous enough for you? Here’s Palin at a teabag event (the one where she got paid $100,000 to speak and only donated her speaking fee after it became a subject of mockery in the press), calling for revolution, too.

Too tepid? How about Sean Hannity’s web site, where this poll asked not just if any of Hannity’s audience was in favor of revolution, but what kind of armed revolution they preferred. It’s been pulled down now, of course – once it was discovered – nonetheless, here it is, as it was originally put up (h/t kos, click for larger image):

Still not sure? Good; I saved the best for last. Although I think “best” might be subjective, since the first two of my last salvo here come from someone who’s considerably less plugged-in to the actual government or political machine. Nevertheless, I’m sure you’ll recognize him (though you may not have known what an enormous, unhinged wingnut he is). I speak, of course, of Chuck Norris. Here’s Chuck, in a column he (presumably) wrote over at WorldNutDaily, a veritable fly-paper trap of kooky ideas, conspiracy theories and liberal bashing, wondering (hoping?): “will history have to record a second American Revolution?”

I say “hoping” in parenthesis there, because although you might be tempted to give ol’ Chuckles the benefit of the doubt in that column, since he didn’t actually say he was in favor of a “second American revolution,” you probably won’t have any such doubts after you read this next transcript of an interview Norris did with – why are we not surprised – Glenn Beck around the same time. In this exchange, Beck says he’s dreaming of sending General David Petraeus up to Washington “to set up a military tribunal and call them in one by one, okay, going to have a little interview with you. Find out if they’re guilty or innocent of being involved in, you know, all kinds of the scandals that are going on and kick them out.” Eliminationist rhetoric isn’t particularly surprising at this point from DoucheBeck, but it’s what comes next that’s the money quote from the interview: Norris enthusiastically agrees with Beck’s military-coup fantasy, and adds to it by telling a near-salivating Beck that he wants “to go with General Petraeus myself and be next to him and when he finds out who’s guilty and, you know, dishonest, then I will take care of it for him. Took him out. I’ll choke them out, the ones that he finds dishonest, I will choke them out and stick them into a pile.

My point here is: this list is by no means exhaustive. It’s simply what I came up with out of my own memory and a little quick Internet search. There are scores more of such instances, all of them from the last two years. And that’s not even counting the similar things which were said back during the Clinton years, when the militia movement was at its highest point in decades. That’s the movement that gave us Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph. And although we’ve not had any truly spectacular incidents like those yet during the Obama era, the rhetoric keeps getting more violent, like a roided-out body builder adding muscle at the same time he adds rage. Dr. Tiller was murdered this year in his own church after years of low-level incidents and targeting by anti-abortion groups and, more recently, repeated epithet on live TV of “Tiller the baby killer” from FOX News host Bill O’Reilly. More recently, Glenn Beck himself was listed as inspiration for two separate would-be killers/self-styled “revolutionaries,” Byron Williams and Charles Wilson. Why does it seem like the people who populate the fever-swamps of the right-wing Internet (and TV, and radio, and for that matter – the very halls of congress, in some cases) are simply not willing to recognize this stuff?
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* My own semi-policy on that stuff is I’ll link to almost anyone, with a few exceptions. One of them is fire-in-a-theater type of incitment, and the other type of story/post I won’t link to is anyone who comments chiefly on political events, but repeatedly demonstrates not only a willingness but an enthusiasm for creative omission and outright fabrication of facts in order to make a story conform to their own views, whether the unvarnished events themselves lend themselves to those views or not. Breitbart falls distinctly into the latter category. You can find his bollocks-punditry easily enough on your own, if you really want indigestion: I won’t help him with the traffic, even if it’s only one or two clicks.

6 thoughts on “La-La Land

  1. if you don’t agree with Sharron Angle…or with me…that of course is your right.

    but can you explain where she is wrong…in saying that the founders of the country vested all of the power in the people of this country…and made it clear that when the people decide the government has overstepped its authority…it is the duty of the people to take it back…we hope through elections but if not…by any means necessary. Lars

    1. Quick answer: she’s not wrong. Longer answer in a minute. But first: it was a bit odd for me to see a comment from, er, me…until I realized it was actually you, host of the radio show on which Mrs. Angle made her comments. I say “me,” because my name is Lars also (no, really…just mouse over my avatar!). So…um…nice to meet me you. I still don’t meet too many of us — but then again, I don’t live in Wisconsin or Minnesota, either. Heh.

      OK, to more fully address your question, I think you already answered it yourself. It’s quite clear that the framers did indeed believe ultimate power should rest with the people. And there’s plenty of quotes along the lines of the people’s right to “alter or abolish it” – even by force – for there to be any serious doubt that such were the framers’ intentions.

      When you were asked about Mrs. Angle’s remarks earlier this year, you clarified what you believed to be Angle’s position by saying “If it continues to do the things it’s doing, I think she’s leaving open that possibility,” and “It just matters what you define as going too far.” So let me ask you a question, and you can answer it for yourself and/or speak for what you think Mrs. Angle’s views might be, since you seem to know her well enough to do so: did you support Byron Williams’ attempt earlier this year to “start a revolution” by driving to the Tides Foundation and begin shooting? Was he justified? Or did the Obama administration’s actions, at the time Mr. Williams took his revolutionary action, not yet fall on the wrong side of the definition of “going too far,” in your – or Mrs. Angle’s – opinion? Mr. Williams shares most of the views on the current government I’ve heard both you and Mrs. Angle espouse. So were you in agreement that, at the time he acted, it was time to begin violence against the government? Or – as I suspect – are neither you nor Mrs. Angle willing to fully embrace and defend Mr. Williams’ actions?

      Let me give you an opposite scenario that bears on your question and Mrs. Angle’s statements on your show. I live in Georgia today, but until late 2003, I lived in the San Francisco Bay area for nearly 20 years. I promise you, the vast, VAST majority of that region loathed George Bush and the things he and the (at the time) all-Republican congress were doing. Absolutely loathed. We went out on the streets and demonstrated – as people all around the world did – against the Iraq war, and against some other unconscionable and illegal actions of the Bush administration (as we saw them), as well. Would you have supported us – or leaders of our movement at the time – if we’d begun widely discussing the fact that we might need to resort to “second amendment remedies,” say, in the lead-up to the 2004 elections? What if the people making such observations and statements weren’t just some guy from A.N.S.W.E.R. with a bullhorn, but a liberal candidate for Senate? Or the House? Or even President? What would have thought then? Would you have been in support?

      I’ll look forward to your response, but permit me the luxury of guessing that you probably, along with your outrage (because you didn’t share those anti-war, anti-Bush views), would have pointed out that large numbers of the country’s citizens didn’t agree at all that it was time for a violent revolution. You might have noted that when it’s only a minority of people who feel it’s time for violent revolution, then any such actions would not be “revolutionary,” but rather thuggish, criminal, illegal and anarchic. Not to mention self-absorbed. I doubt seriously whether you – or Sharron Angle, if she’d heard such hypothetical suggestions – would have mildly accepted them simply due to the abstract truth that “it’s the people’s right to resort to such remedies.”

      And you know what? You’d have been right to reject such notions.

      Because – to repeat your words in your clarification of what Mrs. Angle’s beliefs were – it IS all about what one defines as going too far. But not just what ONE defines, it has to be a very widely agreed-upon belief that both a) the government is out of control and harmful to its people, and b) all peaceful attempts to change or abolish it have failed. In the hypothetical case of anti-Bush people calling for violent revolution, those sentiments wouldn’t have been widely shared. And today, as demonstrated by the case of Mr. Williams, those sentiments are obviously not widely agreed upon either- or people who share his general viewpoint would be calling him a hero.

      So here’s MY question: why bring it up? Because what I think Sharron Angle missed (and what it seems like you continue to miss) is that most voters are not political junkies like we are. Many of them, upon hearing those remarks, didn’t think Mrs. Angle was merely pointing out a little-known historical fact-of-interest for no apparent reason, they thought: “holy cow! She’s saying if the election doesn’t go the way she wants, she’ll advocate violence!” Or at least: “holy cow! She’s saying we’re getting close to the time where violent revolution might be necessary!”

      That’s just not the kind of stability most voters want in a Senator. Or in anyone, for that matter. Most voters hearing such things don’t want a Senator in office who’s just this side of Byron Williams. They don’t want a candidate for one of the most powerful offices in the land who is already thinking seriously about violent revolution against a President and congress who was elected by large margins and still supported by millions of people. So, again: if Sharron Angle really wasn’t already thinking we were getting to that point…why would she mention it? Certainly not just as a historical factoid of interest, voters concluded. She didn’t just bring that up for no reason, they suspected. That’s why, in a state with the worst unemployment and which was hit hardest by the housing bubble’s burst, where the name Harry Reid makes most people cringe, if not scowl, Reid was able to not just defeat Angle, but do it by more than five percent. The other main reason was Angle’s choice of demonizing brown people, which clearly backfired on her. But I suspect as much as anything, it was the gradual realization that many people got that this woman was much closer to Byron Williams than to Mitch McConnell.

      So: was Sharron Angle, school teacher, correct on the facts in saying that the founders held out the possibility of using “second amendment remedies” as a solution to government run amok? Of course – and I’ve never seen anyone state or even imply otherwise. Certainly I didn’t suggest that. But if Mrs. Angle wished to change her job title from “school teacher” to “Senator,” was it smart to make such statements? You tell me. Bottom line? When considering taking – or even considering – such a dramatic step as violent revolution, “the people” needs to mean ALL of the people – or nearly so – for such suggestions to not seem both outlandishly extreme and materially criminal. Otherwise, if the people are not in wide agreement, you don’t get revolution, you get civil war. And we’ve been down that road once before.

  2. Consciously or not, Sharron Angle was dog whistling to those people who fantasize about assassinating the President. All this gun militia take your country back crap is about that. Where were the second amendment remedies when the white President okayed torture?

    1. Exactly. Sharron Angle and everyone else I linked to above. That’s why the big hoopla about Ted Rall makes me chuckle at the hypocrisy and obliviousness.

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