Unarmed, This Time

The ultra-rightist mob had a demonstration in DC this weekend. Although organizers predicted a huge turnout, and some partisans claimed over a million, reports are that there was in fact something in the mid-five figures. So it wasn't a big crowd by DC standards — maybe 30-50% the size of the anti-war rally in 2005 that got almost no media coverage.

This rally, though, got front-page treatment. In addition to having a cable network as a sponsor, this group of protesters had two other advantages: they're overwhelmingly white, and they're scary. Anti-war protesters of this decade have worked within the system, and mostly it has ignored them. (Contrast to the anti-globalism protesters, who have had a violent fringe, and have enjoyed violent police preemption and reaction.) The teabaggers act in a way that makes you think shouting at meetings is only the start.


(Source: Josh Nelson)

Imagine if anti-Iraq-war protesters had carried signs with such a whiff of violence? The media would have crucified them as the second coming of the SLA, Baader-Meinhof, and the Weathermen. But these guys? Salt of the earth, of course.

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28 Responses to Unarmed, This Time

  1. Vic Puma says:

    The fact that you obviously don’t understand what this sign is really saying is even scarier.

  2. michael says:

    So, enlighten me. It doesn’t mean “next time we’re bringing guns and might do some shooting”?

  3. Vic Puma says:

    Oh, and even assuming that this person was making a violent call to arms (which is laughable), are you seriously saying that the anti-war protest signs have been all sugar and spice and everything nice? Are you living in a cave?

    We can agree to disagree as to how to interpret anything, but let’s not be so willing to forget that things actually happened. Unless we want to be like the old Soviet Encyclopedia that would mail out new pages every so often with instructions to paste them over particular old pages (thereby wiping out the very existence of certain information, as people were expunged, and events were altered).

  4. michael says:

    Yes, I will go out on a limb here and dare you to find one single photo from the 2005 anti-war rally I mentioned — or any other DC anti-war rally since then run by a mainstream group (ie. not Trotskyites or Lyndon Larouche groupies) — in which people carried signs threatening any sort of violence. (Note that there were a number of signs like this one.)

    Let’s agree not make up facts because they suit you. And beware false equivalence.

  5. Vic Puma says:

    Oh c’mon. Doesn’t your computer have a Google Search function.

    The first thing that came up:

    (look at all the photos past the text)
    I’m sure I could find a million more examples. And I’m sure you could find some counter-examples.

    My point is let’s stop this pretence that conservatives are crazy, gun-toting wackos who couldn’t POSSIBLY have anything useful to say on anything. So long as one is willing to marginalize viewpoints, we will never move usefully further on anything.

  6. Rhodo Zeb says:

    Ha nice one! Found your little proof there on a wingnut site, eh?

    Death to ______?

    You think that is a real threat?


    I looked through that site and at the ‘evidence’, and I am seriously unimpressed. But its enough to get your average ignorant wingnut excited, I am sure.

    No one said that gun toting conservatives have nothing useful to say. Its just there is so few of them, so they just don’t have any weight to throw around.

    Which is great because for years it has been idiot conservatives who have been trying to tell everyone how to live their lives.

  7. michael says:

    Vic Puma–I specified DC anti-war rally for a reason — I think threats of violence or insurrection aimed at the capital are more serious than those elsewhere, although I will grant that all such threats are worth documenting and condemning. As far as I can tell from a quick look almost all of the examples on the site you link to are from LA or SF; I don’t know who organized those events. And those are locations far, far from the White House.

    I have to say, though, that the site looks a bit loony: for example, they say that John Kerry threatened Bush in a TV interview when in context he’s clearly saying the real national problem would be solved (aka killing 2 birds with one stone) if Kerry were president.

    Again, as far as I can tell from a quick look, there is only one DC event described on that site: someone burned Bush in effigy. (Query if that’s a threat of violence or an expression of contempt; opinions differ — I’m not sure what I think.) Note that this wasn’t part of an anti-war protest, however. If you click through the link to the video, it’s some lone guy, doing it to celebrate the end of the Bush presidency: “midnight January 20, 2009 GWB burns in effigy, celebrating the start of Obama’s Inauguration Day. Adams Morgan, Washington DC”.

  8. Vic Puma says:

    I don’t endorse that site, nor do I care what its intent is. It probably IS a wingnut site. I don’t care. My only interest is in providing photographic evidence, requested by you, that there have been folks on the left who also appear to advocate a violent solution to whatever problem they are protesting. I’m not even saying these pictures represent some sort of majority view. If you can’t see the intended/implied violence in some of those pictures, then you’re just seeing what you want to see.

    There are lots of other examples if you spend a few moments searching advocating all sorts of direct violent actions against various folks that might not be doing things as the protester desires (including one that suggested that troops kill their officers so that the war would be forced to end). Really, this should hardly be news to you and the fact that you are even making a stink about it is simply astounding! This is why political arguments never get anywhere – it inevitably turns into some sort of contest as to who is more righteous than the other, while history is ignored.

    BOTH SIDES have protested with inappropriate methods at some point. BOTH SIDES have yelled out inapproriately from the floor of the House at the President making a speach. BOTH SIDES have had members accused (and even guilty of) criminal conduct, marital infidelities, made various alternative lifestyle choices, etc. So let’s get off this juvenile moral high horse and actually debate a subject, rather than decend into moral allegations as soon as possible.

    And if you’d like to call me an ignorant wingnut again, go right ahead. I expect no less.

  9. Michael says:

    False equivalence.

    Who tortured? Who lied to get us into a war (well, LBJ most likely as well as Bush, but that was a while ago, and I was against Vietnam back then, and we’re talking now)?

    The other important difference, in this context, is how the party’s leaders deal with the violent fringe (and how large it is). Many GOP leaders, House, Senate, Governors, have been doing all kinds of things to encourage the fringe’s belief that the Obama presidency is illegitimate (this was also the line for Clinton). The Birthers are one big example, but so are many of the teaparty meetings in which people are encouraged to use shouting and intimidation to break up meetings. It’s not the Brownshirts. Yet. But it’s ugly. There is no Democratic equivalent to this behavior. And, no, suggesting that the voting machines were insecure is not equivalent — there’s considerable factual basis for worrying about them (which is why Florida for example stopped using them) as compared to, say, worrying about whether in 1961 someone salted false birth announcements in the Hawaii newspapers in order to allow a ManchuriKenyan Candidate to take office in 2009.

  10. Vic Puma says:

    I would agree that doing certain things in DC is a little different than elsewhere. It is also the case that making direct threats is taken a LOT more seriously in DC than elsewhere. The Secret Service and Capital Police take their jobs very seriously in that regard, and it doesn’t help anyone’s cause if everybody just gets arrested. So protests in DC tend to be less directly threatening for that reason. Additionally, sources of photographic evidence of such things, when they do occur, tend to be rare, because generally nobody wants to either be the one photographed in DC advocating the killing of a president, or be the source of photographic evidence to be used against such a person.

    However, contemporaneous news accounts, word-of-mouth, and common sense, support the idea that the same sorts of people who will do such things in LA, exist in some number in DC, or any other rally. I have a (liberal) friend who attended the 2005 protest (as a protester) and a quick phone call to him confirmed that there were such signs, t-shirts, etc. present at that rally. WE BOTH AGREE that it is not a sizable % of the people doing such things. But facts and common sense indicate that IF you are saying that the anti-Obama protest in DC was somehow different than previous protests, then you are simply wrong.

  11. Vic Puma says:

    Nobody who thinks that Obama should be removed from office because of birth certificate issues and what they might imply is making an argument that I would take seriously. C’mon. This is about as fringe as it gets, and just because the thought may inhabit the mind of a person who also thinks that Governmet healthcare is a bad idea doesn’t make that person completely wacko. It is possible to have both defensible and indefensible positions in the same person. Lots of very educated people, who we would both agree to be intelligent, believe in lots of weird things.

    And you can’t also have missed the various news stories about both the White House, Dem leaders, and various liberal orgs instructing liberals to take back the TH meetings by protesting even louder, shouting down conservative protesters, stacking the meetings with liberal groups so that it’s a numbers game, etc. This all happened, and I have no intention of being your fact checker. You have a web browser, look it up. Besides, this is not where the argument lies.

    See, once again, you are allowing knee-jerk reactions to define the argument. The intelligent argument here, is NOT what some wacko is shouting from either side of the aisle, it’s what might be done to solve a particular problem. There are a number of interesting healthcare ideas and information from experience that could really inform this debate. But neither you, nor it seems, anybody else, want to take your eyes off of what makes an interesting news blurb, long enough to take the long boring walk through what might actually work or not. It’s much easier to scream “health care now!!!” or “Obama wants to kill your grandma” than to look at what the actual problems are, think of creative solutions, and see if history informs. It’s much easier to claim that the Dems are offering a solution, while the Reps are only offering obstruction.

    As a law professor, I thought such a reasoned debate would be right up your alley. Disappointingly, you seem to be just using your blog as another liberal rooftop to shout more one-sided invective that is no more useful than that being shouted from every other liberal and conservative rooftop. This problem, like any problem, will not be solved from a rooftop. It WILL be solved, if at all, by liberals and conservatives dropping all the BS and looking at the problem as an actual problem to be solved. My current feeling is that if highly educated, intelligent people, can’t drop the act long enough to do so, it just won’t get done. I just have no more desire to debate about whose shouting matters more.

  12. Vic Puma says:

    As a final note, more pertinant to the OP, there is a lot of contraversy as to the counts of people at this rally in DC. Even ABC News has made estimates between 60K and 2 million. DC police, apparently claim 1.2 million. You’ll find estimates all over the map.

    The fact is, there is no accurate way to determine such things. All of it is just estimates, some of which might be colored by a bias in one direction or another. I wouldn’t put a whole lot of care on the numbers presented by anyone on this, because the reality is, nobody knows.

    People do agree that there was a LOT of people. Do numbers really matter? Do we define truth by the number of people who either believe it or don’t believe it? It’s just window dressing.

  13. Michael says:

    The claim that ABC New ever gave an estimate in six figures, much less seven, is simply…wait for it…FALSE. (They did go as high as 60-70,000.)

    And the claim that math is too hard, there’s no way to tell the difference between c. 50,000 and 1.2 million is … wait for it … FALSE.

    The DC police estimate? If they mean the Park Police… wait for it … FALSE. The 60-70k number comes from the DC Fire Dept. (See cites to ABC news above.)

    Is there a meaningful difference between 70,000 and 1,200,000 or 2,000,000? Of course.

  14. Adam says:

    While I think the gun toting protesters are right c-nts for carrying their signs, I will admit that I have seen the hitler moustache on bush, and people calling for him to be killed or tortured back in the day. Of course, Bush II wasn’t really following on the legacy of other assassinated leaders like MLK and JFK, so the posters lacked some of the weight these carry.

  15. Vic Puma says:

    Again we find Michael, dwelling on the part that doesn’t matter while avoiding ever having to engage brain power to debate an actual issue. My point was merely to say that various claims have been made (then some disclaimed), and anyway who cares? THAT was my point.

    Of course there is a difference between 70K and 2M. And of course it’s easy to convince the sheeple that anyone can tell the difference between 75K and 2M. But the reality is that there is no way to know for sure how many people were involved in this. It’s not like there was a giant gate where everyone was counted. There is no way to know. The only way the guestimates are made is to compare the APPARENT size of the crowd with previous guestimates, that themselves used the same flawed methodology. It’s all just a guestimate based on other guestimates.

    Proof of that is the fact that there are so many disparate estimates. Clearly, it’s not an easy process, or we wouldn’t even be talking about it. In fact, the fact that the numbers are so flawed is used, after every DC event, for propaganda purposes in just this way! You know this, right? C’mon, Michael, you weren’t born yesterday.

    Again, I’d like to see you use your brain to actually debate real issues on this blog, instead of lowering yourself to these rediculous side bars about how many protesters there were and what kinds of signs they had – as if that matters to people who don’t read People magazine for their news. It’s not my place, obviously, to tell you how to run YOUR blog, nor do I want that job, but I just would expect more intellectual rigor from someone who no doubt expects it of others.

    Out of curiosity, when you are teaching a case, do you ask your students “is this case decided right?,” and develope debate on it based on that, or do you approach each case as a question already decided?

  16. Michael says:

    Leaving aside the ad hominem,

    when you are teaching a case, do you ask your students “is this case decided right?,” and develope debate on it based on that, or do you approach each case as a question already decided?

    Ideally, one wants to do all these things for every important case; as a practical matter, time sometimes only permits extracting what the case did, or purported to do (and then, later, what it was held to have done). But when one can, one wants also to explore what the alternatives were, and what the consequences of those alternatives might be.

  17. King of Cats says:


    Your comments here are spot on. You’ve pwned him.

    Like most lawyers, when they loose they change the subject. That’s how you know you won.

    He’ll probably send an email to an ivy-league chum and have a laugh at your expense in order to boost his ego. But for your own edification, I’m laughing with you bro!

  18. michael says:

    This seems relevant: Fivethirtyeight.com, Size Matters; So Do Lies.

  19. C.E. Petit says:

    Three random comments, perhaps adding up to something coherent (and perhaps not):

    (1) “But the ‘other side’ was a bunch of badly behaving children, too, several years ago” is not a valid response to criticism of the advocacy of violence, whether against the nameless/faceless Gummint or against individuals who purportedly “are” the Gummint.

    (2) Even if it was a valid response, it ignores the disparity in general tone — and acceptance of the message of violence — between the sets of gatherings, which taken as a whole remains rather noteworthy.

    (3) Given the combination of both the timing and the ineptness of the demonstrations, it’s pretty apparent that the teabaggers came unarmed to a battle of wits… as in “keep the Gummint’s hands off my MediCare.”

  20. King of Kitty Litter says:

    Meow, King of Cats.

    Don’t you have a lame blog to attend to?

  21. Rhodo Zeb says:

    It should be noted that the website provided as proof of equivalence has apparently been created specifically to counteract charges of implicit violence against these ‘teabaggers’ that are going around talking about carrying firearms to protests.

    And people such as these come unarmed to any battle of wits they might encounter. They are much better yelling at the tv…that contest, at least, they win.

    KoC – Learn to spell. Lose, not loose. And you got edification right! The spelling, not the meaning exactly.

  22. Vic Puma says:

    Michael – no ad hominem was really there. All I did was call you on the fact that you keep ducking talking actual issues, while posting lots of snippets that are nothing but propaganda. An ad hominem attack, as I’m sure you know, would be calling you a poopy-head or something, which I didn’t do. I’m trying to get you to do what you sometime expect your students to do – think for yourself and come up with ideas that weren’t fed to you by someone else. I’m not attacking anybody – I’d just like to see you start using your education and analytical skills, instead of just repeating what OTHER people say. Your blog is little more than a clearinghouse right now – you can do much better.

    Quoting propaganda from wingnuts on either side, or excerpts from OTHER people’s thinking, should not be acceptable to you. But for some reason it is. If you don’t want to be any better than everyone else in their tin-foil hats – have at it – but that’s your choice.

    And it’s also your choice if you want to continue to interpret someone who’s willing to call you out and maybe spurr you on a bit, maybe start an actual discourse on discourse.net, as being an attacker.

  23. Patrick (G) says:

    speaking of unarmed in the battle of wits:

    Vic Puma,
    Your discourse is full of the faults that you are projecting on our host.
    If you’re so unimpressed with this blog, why don’t you just go troll elsewhere.

  24. Rhodo Zeb says:

    Heh, KoKL, I never even noticed that KoC had a link to his blog until I saw your comment.

    But then I tried to go and check it out but he he heheh spelled ‘blogspot’ wrong.

    Heh. That was funnier than the actual blog, which is quite unexceptional.

  25. Scott Boone says:

    Just a few comments:

    1. It should be pointed out that the 912 protest was a pretty broad umbrella as far as I can tell in the sense that there were a number of different groups with a number of different agendas present. It would be interesting to know if the “next time we’re bringing guns to overthrow the government” folks were a minor subgroup or fairly central part of the protest. From what I have been able to discern, it started (e.g. gun toting Arizona guy) with a pretty fringe Ron Paul group of libertarians. An important question is to what extent it is becoming more central to the right wing.

    2. The tone and context of the 912 signs and those in the linked blog about anti-war protests in primarily California are very different. They are not that equivalent. Now that does not necessarily mean that one is worse than the other.

    3. Why do they feel the need to threaten armed violence? Why does it seem so attractive to so many hard-core right wing folks? During the height of Bush, I rarely if ever saw threats among left wing blogs and the many of thousands of people commenting on those blogs (and some of those people and blogs were pretty fringe even to the far left). Yet, it doesn’t even seem unusual on the other side. Is it purely rhetorical? Is it ok even if it is purely rhetorical?

  26. Victor (M) says:

    This sign begs the question of what actions does this sign inspire. I fear another Timothy McVeigh or Donald DeFreeze will be inspired by such slogans and carry out plans of violence that they believe will save, liberate or reclaim our country from tyranny . BLOGS, major television and radio networks and media personalities are promoting and propagating anger, fear and hatred; they sell the fear that the U.S. is in emanate danger from a totalitarian nightmare posed by an attack by liberals upon their fundamental rights. Will it soon be “that day” for patriots and tyrants?

    Words are powerful. We can’t know the understanding an individual makes of words. This will always be a personal process. “WE CAME UNARMED THIS TIME” means something; it implies something and unfortunately possibly could inspire, regardless of the sign carrier’s intent. To me, this is an obvious threat of violence. No one can change my mind on this; the understanding of words is a personal process. To others it might be a call to arms. Its hard to think of this a just a catchy slogan. I am not naive enough to be certain that uncontrolled violent civil unrest can’t happen in the U.S. I can think of hundreds of possible scenarios in which a single violent act could lead to a chain reaction of unstoppably escalating violence, particularly with the growing regional, religious and racial polarization and the constant warning by the radical right of the emanate danger posed by the Democratic party. In 1861, many people naively thought that the American Civil War would be short and relatively bloodless. What followed was violence that could not be stopped until the south could bleed no more. In his poem “Shiloh” (the first massive battle of the Civil War with almost 24,000 casualties), Herman Melville writes “What like a bullet can undeceive”.

    The left has been amazingly patience with such outrageous slogans. God forbid it, but imagine if the left wing answered in kind. Imagine if a major media network embraced a more strict understanding of the 2nd amendment and “understood” why liberals would purchase assault rifles, hand guns and ammunition, insuring that liberals not be “out-gunned” in the intimidation battle to protect our country and rights. A ‘me to” to the “cold dead hand” theory; an AMEN to the ‘aim for the head – they wear body-armor’. It would certainly attract a lot of listeners/viewers.

    Its time for all to treat each other with respect . . liberal and conservative . . . in person, in the broadcast booth, in the halls of congress and on the internet. Its time to consider what our words might inspire. Its time to center on vigorous POLICY debates and stay away from slogans of fear, anger, hatred and violence. This plea is particularly addressed to the right who are openly calling fellow citizens who disagree with their point of view names generally reserved for mortal enemies of the United States. We are not your enemies; we are your countrymen.

    As for me, I am very happy with the Obama presidency. He is doing exactly what I hoped he would do when I voted for him. If he continues as he has begun, I will vote for him again. I hope and expect that he will be our president until his last term expires in 2017. I would not vote for any any of the current leaders or media personalities of the Republican party. President Obama is the duly elected president of the United States. He is our president, just like George W. Bush was our president. This is called democracy and is something I believe in. If you listen to Fox News, you also know that many on the radical-right would do anything to undo the election and prevent a continued Obama presidency. They consider it their patriotic duty. So, am I an enemy of the United States or your countryman?

    I take threats of violence seriously. Do I feel threatened by this sign? Yes! Do I endanger my life if I talk politics with a member of the radical right? I surely don’t believe in what the Fox news crowd believe in . . and threats of violence will not intimidate me into changing my mind or my vote. Do I have the courage to enter into an open debate? Actually, No I don’t. I won’t change any minds and I am unwilling present myself to the danger of an angry, armed person who is sure I am a mortal enemy to their way of life. (A lot of the radical right carry concealed weapons in Texas, so they probably are NOT unarmed). While I don’t think anything I would say could change their minds, I do wish I could shine a light on their hatred and anger, but its not worth the risk. The radical right probably only discuss politics with those who agree with them. Most others wisely (in my opinion) change the subject; its what I do. But, what about my freedom of speech? And how do they know how irrational I think their view are. Can I count on my government to protect my rights? Which government? The State of Texas? If I did express my views, how should I protect myself when exposed to the anger and hatred of an armed person who supports those who threaten violence? Should I ‘man up’ and get a permit and carry a concealed weapon? Could this get out of control? Brother against brother. Friend against friend.

    If a threat of violence against those who disagree with them is not what the sign carriers really mean, they shouldn’t put in on a sign. If they mean what they say, then may God help us all.

  27. Vic Puma says:

    While I don’t agree with the details of everything you say, I understand what you are saying and I think you are mostly right. I’ve been saying repeatedly here that we need to actually debate ideas, not point fingers at one wacko or another and pretend that’s a policy argument.

    The problem I have is how threats and wacko-ness tends to be solely attributed to the right. BOTH SIDES have their wing-nuts and the Left has threatened at least as much violence as the right. Just look at those signs in the link I posted previously. You can find plenty more where that came from. But it seems that saying “Kill Obama” is taken as a threat, while “Kill Bush” was taken as rhetoric not to get too worked up about.

    And for the historically inclined, the Progressive Left has been intimately involved in some pretty horrible things in this country that were honestly based upon the idea of improving things for everyone. Someday look up the history of American Eugenics. To say nothing of the fact that it was Progressives and American Socialists that sided with governments of countries that have killed well over 100 million people – again saying that these are societies that have the good of humanity in their hearts. (and note Tom Friedman’s recent praise of totalitarianism for the ability to get things done).

    This is a serious history which cannot simply be wished away, or left in the past. There are a lot of Americans, alive today, who have seen this all before, have seen the good intentions, and seen the construction of the road to Hell, even in America. This is not to say that anything intended now is ACTUALLY bad, but in the early part of the 20th Century, lots of very smart people, very progressive and liberal, very educated, well-meaning, socially conscious people, supported the murder and sterilization of many thousands of Americans – for the good of us all. This happened in America. Good intentions are sometimes meaningless.

    Which is why the actual policies MUST be debated. Let’s stop all the rhetoric and name calling, and look at what the actual policies might be, how they measure against history, how they could be used in the future, and more importantly, how they could be abused in the future. Until people are willing to do that, all of this is meaningless name-calling and posteuring.

  28. LeeBuhrul says:

    To the sign carrying fascist…

    Do let me know when you decied to come armed… Glad to meet you on equal footing

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