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On Threats, Violence and Wingnuts

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Blake D. Dvorak

This has been all over the media recently:

Democratic Congress members are getting lessons from the FBI on how to handle threats such as several directed at their colleagues, including bricks hurled through windows and menacing obscenity-laced phone messages left for those who supported sweeping federal health care legislation.

Windows were shattered at four Democratic offices in New York, Arizona and Kansas and at least 10 members of Congress have reported some sort of threats, leaders said. No arrests had been made as of Wednesday, but the FBI is investigating.
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Democrats, liberal and the talking heads have wasted no time inflating these instances of threats and violence as emblematic of the anti-health-care movement overall, and Tea Partiers in particular.

It goes without saying that any mass political movement is going to attract its fair share of hotheads and wingnuts. Both parties are at constant pains to exclude the fringiest of the fringe from their tent, but the nutballs find a way to get in regardless. It shouldn't say anything about the very real concerns many Americans have about this massive growth of government intervention.

To be fair, however, both Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin have felt the need to comment on these threats. But that's because they know how badly even a handful of nutjobs can undermine the mission. In any event, a personal anecdote regarding wingnuts:

In the summer of 2004, as young journalist living in DC, I thought it'd be interesting to attend a huge anti-war rally parading through downtown Washington -- as a spectator, not a participant. And I mean huge -- tens of thousands of people streaming through the streets of the nation's capital.

In addition to genuine antiwar protesters, the usual fever swamp crowd was there: The Commies, the anarchists, the pro-Palestine folks, the eco-fanatics and the hippies. The posters of Che were ubiquitous, as were posters of Mao (yes, the butcher of 36 million people) and Arafat, and other far left luminaries. Quite a circus, and only a fraction had anything to do with the actual Iraq War. Again, movements bring out the loons.

But as I was strolling alongside the parade, enjoying the spectacle, I came upon two young guys on the sidewalk. They were standing there silently holding an Israeli flag between them-- protesting the protesters as it were. They weren't shouting or heckling. Their only provocation was the Israeli flag. Curious, I stopped to chat with them.

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For just the few moments that I took to talk with them at least half a dozen "peace" protesters walked by and spat on the flag and and at them, usually shouting "fascist" or "baby killer" or some such anti-Israel nonsense. Taken aback by this, I asked how long they had they been standing here. At least two hours, they said (it was a big rally), adding that they had had to hit up the nearby Starbucks several times to wipe the spit off their faces. One guy, they said, wearing the Palestinian head scarf, had tried to rip the flag out of their hands, and only let go when his fellow protesters forcibly led him away.

As we stood there chatting one protester with a camcorder came up to us.

"Are you Jews?" he asked us with a smile, camcorder in our faces. Yes, they said. "How does it feel to be descended from apes?" An odd comment. Aren't we all descended from apes?

"No. Jews have more ape DNA than any other human race," he explained, still filming. "You're filthy animals." He then laughed and went on his way, leaving us more perplexed than insulted.

After a few more minutes of chatting (and being spat on) I said goodbye to the two guys, adding that they were brave indeed to be standing there with an Israeli flag.

Next to nothing was mentioned in the media stories that night and the next day about this element of the protest. What was reported on were the tens of thousands who had turned out to protest the Iraq War. Well, that's not entirely true. Tens of thousands had turned out, but not all were there to protest the Iraq War, as I witnessed. But should the presence of the wingnuts, like the guy with the camcorder, have undermined the rally or the antiwar movement as a whole? Of course not. Opposition to the Iraq War was/is a legitimate position and doesn't make one a wingnut. The reporters who covered the rally understood this, even if I think they intentionally omitted what I had seen. If only the media and the pundits could apply a similar standard to the health care protesters, and the presence of wingnuts in their ranks.

But I'll say this: I've never seen more hate in my life than when I attended a "peace" rally.

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1 Comment

unclemiltie said:

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Scratch a progressive and underneath you find a fascist.

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