Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wingnuts Go Wild Part Dieux: But What About Leftist Violence?

To follow up from something I highlighted earlier today:
The right -- the modern American right -- has a very troubled history with political violence. The ideological pattern is clear going back at least thirty years and arguably far longer. A simple review of the 1990s, particularly 1993, 1994, culminating in many respects in the tragic 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal building in April 1995 tells the tale. Mix in the militias, the thankfully inept attempt on President Clinton's life a few months before Oklahoma City (see Francisco Duran) and it's all really not a pretty picture.

One moment stands out clearly in my mind. Back in the early days of the Bush administration, Mickey Kaus had a typically contrarian post in which he suggested that with the rising tide of animosity on the left toward President Bush it was only a matter of time before we saw the outcropping of political violence on the left, to parallel what we'd seen from the right with the Clinton-hatred of the mid-1990s. (Perhaps someone can dig up the post? Late Update: Found.) It was a typically Kausian post, not only for its strained contrarianism but more for its complete failure of predictive value. And the failure of anything in parallel to arise was even more telling because antipathy toward President Bush really did become entrenched, inflamed and profound. Far more than I would have imagined at the outset.

That was from TPM. The author makes mention of something that I had discussed several years ago: the dearth of incidents of political violence caused by leftist adherents and/or left-wing groups:

One of the commenters at Daily Kos asks a pertinent question:

Is there such thing as hate crimes/murder by people associated with the extreme left? I'm just curious because the wingers have had a really hard time throughout history (and recently) of fellow wingers (even if they are on the outskirts of their philosophy) of committing awful crimes against fellow humans. You have the possible Matt Hale followers murdering the Judge's family, Timothy McVeigh, Matthew Shepphard murder, Robert Byrd's murder, Branch Davidians, KKK and lynchings, Black church bombings, etc. etc.
Truth is, it's really hard to think of anything particularly recent. Get past the bad old days of The Weathermen and the SLA (and we're talking 1960s and 1970s when bloggers like myself were preschoolers), and it's not clear that there is much if anything in the way of extreme left-wing hate crimes or murders. I did a quick search of Earth First thinking that there was a group that might potentially fit the bill, but no dice. The more radical environmentalists and animal rights activists as I recall tend to be into property crimes (I'll save my opinions of those actions for another time - suffice it to say for now I frown on those activities) rather than engaging in physical violence against others. The organizations advocating and committing acts of political violence at this point in time appear to be almost exclusively right-wing. And as noted above, it's hardly hyperbole at this point in time to assert that these very right-wing extremists increasingly have the blessing of movement conservatives in the mainstream mass media and even in our own Congress.
Really, not much has changed since then. I recall back a few years ago when cats like Kaus were convinced that during the Bush II regime a bunch of us leftist were going to go off on shooting sprees and blowing shit up. Unless I missed something, nothing ever came of that - keep in mind that I am a voracious reader, keep up with numerous news sites from a variety of perspectives, and am well-convinced that if any left-wing backed political assassinations or bombings had occurred on US soil during that period, FauxNews would have been all over that story like ugly on an ape. Rather, whatever political violence that we witness in the US is practically exclusively right-wing.

Why the lack of leftist-induced political violence? Thing is, although there were (and still are) plenty of angry leftists (I'm using the term in the broadest possible manner, ranging from liberal reformers to radicals and revolutionaries), but it generally isn't in our psychology to haul off and create a bunch of bloodshed. Hence, we express that anger in other ways. Maybe the view of humanity espoused by most leftist ideologies is sufficiently positive to preclude political violence under any but the most extreme of circumstances. I rarely encounter the level of paranoia among, say Marxists, that I encounter among those associated with, say right-wing vigilante groups, tea-baggers, birthers, and the like. Nor does one find the level of advocacy of political violence as the action of first resort among leftists that one might expect of right-wing extremists. Many leftists are die-hard pacifists, and even those of us who might accept that circumstances could exist in which political violence might by necessary tend to view such violence as to be used only as a very last resort. In a society that is relatively stable socially, politically, and economically, (such as is generally the case in the US) there would be no motivation based on what I understand of my fellow leftists to engage in the sorts of actions that seem to be acceptable to the Tim McVeighs or Scott Roeders of the world, nor even to engage in explicit or implied threats of violence as some folks who have been showing up at town halls this August carrying firearms. Even in contexts in which a nation is marked by a lack of such stability, I am often impressed with the tendency for many leftist revolutionary movements to eschew violence whenever possible (the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico are but one example). On the other hand, it seems that we can easily count on right-wing groups to shoot or bomb first, and ask questions later.

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