From the midweek Morning Jolt:
The Rhetoric-Triggers-Violence Claims Reflects a Nurtured Disdain for Political Foes
One more key point to add to Monday’s column about why the Left believes conservative rhetoric spurs violence but their own never does, and why certain gunmen require national conversations about collective blame and responsibility but others are simply random nut-jobs with no greater lessons or cultural accomplices….
A lot of people, from low-information voters to activists eagerly sharing Facebook memes to the biggest columnists, think the opposing political side is generally full of bad people. Not mistaken or foolish people, but genuinely malevolent and dangerous people.
There is a sizable number of liberals who believe that most conservatives are hateful, rage-filled ticking time bombs. They think the average Romney voter is just one televised martial metaphor away from dropping the Bible they cling to, grabbing the gun they cling to with both hands, and lashing out at the nearest target of convenience.
Of course, their own side of progressives, liberals, or plain old Democratic party loyalists is full of good, rational, wise, right-thinking, emotionally-well-adjusted people. So they conclude that incendiary rhetoric is inherently more dangerous when used by the other side than by their side.
Do conservatives think that leftists are ticking time-bombs as well? Perhaps a few, such as the occasional college professor who encounters a student photographer and cries, “Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here.” (Yet another sad case of outsourcing; once again we see a job Americans aren’t willing to do themselves.) The not-so-distant past showed us the Left embracing the Black Panthers and Weathermen, the celebration of bloody revolutionaries like Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. It wasn’t California’s right-wing politicians who eagerly embraced Rev. Jim Jones; it was Jerry Brown. A little more recently, we saw the arson and bombings of the Earth Liberation Front and the vandalism and threats to contaminate food from the Animal Liberation Front.
Is a man like the Unabomber a common-variety nut-job, or a man driven to kill three people and injure 23 others because he actually believed apocalyptic environmental warnings? Black-clad, rock-throwing, store-window-smashing anti-globalization protesters cause as many headaches for Democratic big-city mayors as any Republicans, but they’re undoubtedly an offspring of the Left.
More recently, the modern Left – usually arguing for bigger government – revealed a flirtatious interest with anarchy. Occupy Wall Street featured a protester gleefully deficating on a police car; more seriously, the attempt to prevent a series of sexual assaults from continuing with special tents instead of actual police investigations. Then there were the Occupy protesters who tried to blow up a bridge in Cleveland, the homemade “incendiary devices” of Occupy protesters in Seattle, Occupy Oakland riots, Occupy DC pushing little old ladies down stairs, the $10 million arson committed by an Occupy Fort Collins protester, and the Occupy Portland protesters with mortars…
Does the urban unrest following recent prosecutorial or court decisions regarding police brutality count as political violence, or is it just blind rage in the face of perceived injustice? Or mostly opportunistic violence, i.e., aspiring arsonists? Most recently we’ve seen the violence after the enraged “burn this bitch down” cry at the Ferguson rallies, and the riots in Baltimore:
The rioters in Baltimore didn’t direct their actions exclusively at agents of the state. In addition to targeting at least one widely televised police car, they also vandalized property, some of which is surely owned by supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement, and assaulted fellow citizens, including journalists. These crimes aren’t comparable to unjustified police killings, but they are crimes—not uncontrollable, natural phenomena.
“Jim, it’s unfair to judge entire political movements by the violent, irrational actions of a few extremists within their ranks!” Yes, precisely, which is why groups like the Tea Party, gun owners, and pro-lifers deserve the same courtesy from their opponents.
The idea that good people reside on one side of the political divide and bad people on another is a naïve and foolish way to look at the world. But it’s also self-congratulatory and cultivates a sense of entitlement. The study of the concept of “compensatory ethics” suggests that people who engage in certain types of self-defined moral behavior, such as buying “green” products, are more likely to make moral shortcuts in other ways, such as cheating or stealing, according to one study by Canadian psychologists. In other words, a lot of people seem to believe that if you vote the right way and support the right causes, you’re entitled to behave badly in other aspects of your life.
Explains a lot, doesn’t it?