Those Shirts Are Looking Mighty Brown, Sir

I have been puzzled and perturbed by the comments on my most recent post in which I quoted from a description of the reception of a polite but hostile questioner at a Coulter speaking event (note that this is ostensibly a lecture, not a brownshirts rally we are talking about) and suggested they sounded proto-fascist.

Here's the key quote:

At the same moment, several Republicans hurled obscenities at my wife, a Navy veteran, and one threatened her with physical violence, stating he would kick her in the head if she didn’t “shut up,” when she was asking Coulter a question.

Hissing questioners you disagree with is, I believe, quite appropriate. Booing I can understand although I think preventing people from being heard usually is an error in judgment. Even screaming “shut up” is tolerable. But threatening to kick you in the head?

Yet my readers – whom I choose to think are likely literate and well-educated – are trying to excuse it. One writes that this comes from both sides of the political aisle and has been happening for years. Rubbish. Another says that complaining about threats of violence is somehow a cheap shot on my part, and suggests that life in the ivory tower has made me forget about the rough-and-tumble of real life. The writer then equates a threat of physical violence with (unnamed) professors being verbally tough on students!

Another commentator says we should not call it “fascist” until “thugs show up”. To which I offer the following deal: how about we'll call battery fascist and mere assault — defined, please recall as “an unlawful threat or attempt to do bodily injury to another” — merely proto-fascist.

Yet another commentator says they were asking for it! (And when the Coulter fans whose rally they were at told them to shut up (did they really find this surprising?), our narrators became offended. That falls squarely into the category of “those who actively seek to be offended will usually be successful.”) Yes, those poor shrinking violets, both military veterans, had their feelings hurt…when someone threatened to kick them in the head.

We are indeed in parlous times when the articulate people — intellectuals — are providing cover for, and thus encouraging the thugs. It's enough to make you think that David Neiwert is on to something when he warns about the ill effects of eliminationist rhetoric and the rise of pseudo-fascism.

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21 Responses to Those Shirts Are Looking Mighty Brown, Sir

  1. Ugh says:

    Was my comment rubbish because I said it comes from both sides, rubbish because I said it has been going on for years, or both? If its both sides, see Stephen Bainbridge’s several recent posts on assaults on right-wing speakers. If its years, I can remember former CA Gov Pete Wilson having things thrown at him at a commencement address in the early 90s, as well as other physical assaults and threats against speakers/other students people disagreed with on my college campus.

    None of that makes it ok, and I didn’t mean to suggest it did if that’s what you thought, but really, this notion that we’re suddenly tipping into fascism based on recent incidents is way overblown (in my opinion, of course).

  2. Pat says:

    The idea that this should be ignored because it happens on “both sides” is indeed rubbish. If I’m at a talk and a “liberal” threatens a person with a dissenting view/question with harm, I ask them to stop. It is not acceptable and in some cases illegal. We must not tolerate this kind of behavior in public discourse.

    To those that say an Ann Coulter talk is not part of public discourse, you are wrong. She is free to speak her mind, no matter how wrong we feel she is…and I think she is nearly universally wrong.

  3. jack lake says:

    Ugh probably can find some examples in the last 30 years of threats of physical violence on the left; I don’t doubt it. The violence, threats of violence and strong arm tactics from the right are repeated time and again almost daily. Killing 10 people is a massacre, kill a million people is genocide.

    On a different level, the cheapest excuse of all is “they also do it.” We deal with a pained post the underscore one of the vilest persons in American politic. That is the issue at hand. Other, even similar, issues have their time and place. Didn’t you mom ask you “if they jumped off the roof would you too jump?”

  4. Bricklayer says:

    April 7, 2005:
    “Today brings news that David Horowitz was struck by a pie during a lecture at Butler University. David joins William Kristol, Ann Coulter, and Pat Buchanan in the list of conservative speakers physically attacked during on-campus speeches. Pie-throwing is not “expression.” It is assault, and it is incompatible with the marketplace of ideas. The attacker should be arrested and prosecuted.”-www.thefire.org, see also http://www.frontpagemagazine.com/blog/index.asp

    You are edging closer to the hypocrite label (you’ve already earned “myopic”) as you so summarily dismiss the possibility of violent behavior by democrats/liberals, and the abuse of power by professors within academia.

    I think I understand part of what has you so concerned. Within the neo-nazi movement it is common for adherents to wear steel-toed boots and refer to such footwear as “skull crushers” or “head stompers”, something like that. And in Germany, where neo-nazi skinheads often attack immigrants, kicks to the head are the modus operandi. I assume you are somewhat aware of this, and the “kick you in the head” statement caught your attention. But again, I think you are taking it out of context and blowing it out of proportion.

  5. michael says:

    For the record, I oppose throwing pies — or anything else — at people unless they have previously consented.

  6. Anderson says:

    It’s like listening to German intellectuals’ rationalizations in 1932. The Communists are just as bad, etc., etc.

  7. pike says:

    Bricklayer: Pie-throwing is a crime. It should not be tolerated. It is assault. Threatening to to kick the head is a crime, assault, and should not be tolerated.

    Would that Ann Coulter would try to train thugs to throw pies rather than to use baseball bats, bombs, and other lethal means. Did you look up “fascist” yet?

  8. Ugh says:

    Ugh probably can find some examples in the last 30 years of threats of physical violence on the left; I don’t doubt it. The violence, threats of violence and strong arm tactics from the right are repeated time and again almost daily.

    What makes you think the left doesn’t do this daily too? Are they somehow exempt?

    And I’m not saying because both sides do it its okay.

  9. UM1L says:

    (pike, this may help?) from wikipedia:

    The word fascism has come to mean any system of government resembling Mussolini’s, that
    – exalts nation and sometimes race above the individual,
    – uses violence and modern techniques of propaganda and censorship to forcibly suppress political opposition,

    Besides totalitarianism, a key distinguishing feature of fascism is that it uses a mass movement to attack the organizations of the working class: parties of the left and trade unions. Thus Fritzsche and others describe fascism as a militant form of right-wing populism. This mobilization strategy involves Corporatism, Corporativism, or the Corporative State, all terms that refer to state action to partner with key business leaders, often in ways chosen to minimize the power of labor unions.

    Unlike the pre-World War II period, when many groups openly and proudly proclaimed themselves fascist, since World War II the term has taken on an extremely pejorative meaning, largely in reaction to the crimes against humanity committed by the Nazis, who were allied with Mussolini during the war.

    Today, very few groups proclaim themselves as fascist, and the term almost universally is used for groups for whom the speaker has little regard, often with minimal understanding of what the term actually means. The term “fascist” or “Nazi” is often ascribed to individuals or groups who are perceived to behave in an authoritarian manner; by silencing opposition, judging personal behavior, or otherwise attempting to concentrate power. More particularly, “Fascist” is sometimes used by members of the Left to characterize some group or persons of the far-right or neo-far-right. This usage receded much following the 1970s, but has enjoyed a strong resurgence in connection with Anti-globalization activism.

    Fascism, in many respects, is an ideology of negativism: anti-liberal, anti-socialist, anti-Communist, anti-democratic, anti-egalitarian, etc., and in some of its forms anti-religion. As a political and economic system in Italy, it combined elements of corporatism, totalitarianism, nationalism, and anti-communism.

  10. Patrick (G) says:

    Ugh, and Bricklayer,
    What you don’t seem to get is that it’s your reactions to the incident that are troubling.

    Given how Conservatives portray themselves as patriotic and military-friendly, as opposed to, you-know, those cowardly, draft-dodging, peacenik Dems, real Conservatives should be first in line condeming anybody who would threaten violence against citizens who have actually put their very lives at stake to defend us and our freedoms.

    Instead you’re whining ‘the Other Side does it too!’

    That sort of blame-dodging, whiny excuse would be looked down upon if it came from a child.
    Coming from adults, it is utterly contemptible.

  11. Bricklayer says:

    Patrick- No one has condoned what happened.

  12. pike says:

    “Patrick- No one has condoned what happened.”

    That’s hardly an answer, Bricklayer. Your Sox/Yankee fan illustration on the other thread shows that you are on the “what did they expect to happen?” side of the issue, which sits in the same pew, if you will, as “they got what they deserved” parishioners. That pew is right behind the one where sits those who condone the threats.

    Instead of playing with the word “condone,” come out and say what you mean: it’s a normal and expected thing, not to worry about, for a group of thugs to threaten two veterans with violence in a Coulter lecture to keep them from asking Coulter to elucidate her position, but it would be bad if a gang of thugs disrupted a meeting where Al Gore was speaking.

    Nice distinction you drew on that one.
    Oh, yeah–and tossing a pie is also wrong. At least we agree there.

  13. pike says:

    “Patrick- No one has condoned what happened.”

    That’s hardly an answer, Bricklayer. Your Sox/Yankee fan illustration on the other thread shows that you are on the “what did they expect to happen?” side of the issue, which sits in the same pew, if you will, as “they got what they deserved” parishioners. That pew is right behind the one where sits those who condone the threats.

    Instead of playing with the word “condone,” come out and say what you mean: it’s a normal and expected thing, not to worry about, for a group of thugs to threaten two veterans with violence in a Coulter lecture to keep them from asking Coulter to elucidate her position, but it would be bad if a gang of thugs disrupted a meeting where Al Gore was speaking.

    Nice distinction you drew on that one.
    Oh, yeah–and tossing a pie is also wrong. At least we agree there.

  14. Bricklayer says:

    pike-

    Yes, I think you have summarize my position correctly. I feel a little more strongly about the behavior being wrong (because it is uncivil) than you imply, but you’re close enough. In short, michael is crying wolf (once again).

  15. Ugh says:

    What you don’t seem to get is that it’s your reactions to the incident that are troubling.

    The purpose of my first comment to the Prof’s first post on April 6, that the Prof quoted in his second post, was to refute the idea that we’re somehow recently descending into fascism because people are threatening to harm their political opponents. I could have simply responded that “this has been going on for years.” Instead, since I don’t think either side’s hands are clean, I prefaced that comment by pointing out that both sides have done it (and I also didn’t want to give the impression that it was my opinion that only the right side of the aisle has been doing this for years).

    Then the Prof called my comment “rubbish,” which prompted my second comment, in which I included the disclaimer that I don’t think either side should be doing it, since by then I was no longer simply trying to point out that violence against political opponents is a recent phenomenon but instead was trying to show that factual basis of my first comment wasn’t rubbish, which I assumed was what the Prof was after.

  16. pike says:

    : . . . it’s a normal and expected thing, not to worry about, for a group of thugs to threaten two veterans with violence in a Coulter lecture to keep them from asking Coulter to elucidate her position, but it would be bad if a gang of thugs disrupted a meeting where Al Gore was speaking.”

    “Yes, I think you have summarize my position correctly. I feel a little more strongly about the behavior being wrong (because it is uncivil) than you imply, but you’re close enough.”

    Ah, so you condone what happened and sit in the same pews. To paraphrase the conclusion: “No matter how wrong what someone on my team says, I’ll take it as a win if threats of violence can do something to quiet any argument, even if it’s wrong, so long as we don’t take the fight to them just yet.” What color is that shirt?

  17. Bricklayer says:

    pike-

    The Al Franken school of argument is as equally uncivil and annoying as the red sox fan screaming at the top of his lungs at yankee stadium. Thanks for proving my point that the left can be just as obnoxious as the best the right can dish out.

  18. Alycia says:

    I think everyone has gotten this blown out of proportion.

    People like Ann Coulter, Al Franken and Michael Moore are not real political commentators. They are entertainers. They have more in common with Dave Barry than they do with serious journalists and commentators. A few weeks ago comedian Lewis Black was heckled during a performance in Pittsburgh for having a “liberal” bias. The guy heckling was booed and threatened by the audience. Why? These folks that came didn’t pay $50+ to hear some random person ask questions. They paid their hard earned money to be entertained by Lewis Black. The same probably goes for people who went to see Ann Coulter.

    And for the record anyone who views throwing pies as assault has obviously never suffered a real assault. It would be annoying to be hit by a pie, but not much more than that.

  19. alycia says:

    I think everyone has gotten this blown out of proportion.

    People like Ann Coulter, Al Franken and Michael Moore are not real political commentators. They are entertainers. They have more in common with Dave Barry than they do with serious journalists and commentators. A few weeks ago comedian Lewis Black was heckled during a performance in Pittsburgh for having a “liberal” bias. The guy heckling was booed and threatened by the audience. Why? These folks that came didn’t pay $50+ to hear some random person ask questions. They paid their hard earned money to be entertained by Lewis Black. The same probably goes for people who went to see Ann Coulter.

  20. pike says:

    Bricklayer: I seem to have offended you by using your own words and giving them their plain meaning, which I suppose is what you mean by your reference to Franken. Do I have you wrong? Are you saying that I’ve been as obnoxious as thug who threatens to kick people in the head if they don’t shut up? I’ve been perfectly civil, which is the standard you seem to respect here. I nicely asked you to illuminate us as to your real position, and all you’ve got to tell us is essentially, “don’t worry about folks threatening others so much, as long as they don’t go out of their way to find others to threaten.” That ain’t no distinction worth making, friend.

    I suppose that had I been your professor, you’d think I was oppressing you by asking you to clarify what you are trying to say, and that were we in Florida you’d be licking your chops at the prospect of suing me for same (we all know that such a suit is far less a frivilous matter for the courts than, say, pain and suffering damages for a person who got asbestosis and cancer from his hazardous job, the hazards of which his employer took steps to hide or, say, the amount of damages a person might be entitled to from injuries caused by medical malpractice).

    Now that we’ve seen what I think you meant, you find yourself free to correct me to the exent I’m mistaken. But instead all we see is your ad hominem retort. Not that much available to you in your rhetorical arsenal? I promise not to use your words against you again, unless you come back with something as poorly thought out as what we’ve already seen. Try starting out with “threats of that nature are of course inexcusable and there is no rational reason to think that Ann Coulter was justified in calling someone who asked her to explain her position ‘stupid’ or for refusing to answer the question posed rationally, but to say that either reaction to the question indicates incipient ‘fascism’ is wrong because . . . (ah, but there’s the rub, if you know the meaning of the word–just how to distinguish?).”

  21. ant says:

    Well, Bricklayer, it is funny that you would equate pike’s argumentiveness with “the best the right can dish out.” I can only assume you didn’t mean to say that obnoxiousness or threats of violence is in fact the best the right can dish out–surely the right has better than Coulter to represent it (or, speaking of obnoxiousness and implied threats of violence, Rep. DeLay for that matter). Would you be any better a representative? So, I’ll invite you again to tell us why even the ‘myopic’ should turn a blind eye toward a ‘rightist’ who thinks a couple of veterans with questions deserve a kick in the head instead of an answer. I’ll invite you again to answer coherently any question posed to you on either thread here. Having trouble removing the beam from thine eye to see our specks clearly?

    –ant

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