On the day of the Pentagon shooting, I posted evidence that shooter John Patrick Bedell was a 9/11 Truther and Bush-hater. Bedell, a registered Democrat, described the Bush Administration as a “collection of gangsters” that initiated the war in Iraq “in order to divert attention from their misconduct and criminality.” I posted this, not to blame left-wing rhetoric for the shooting, but to forestall the inevitable portrayal of Bedell as a right-wing extremist.
Nevertheless, left-wing bloggers and at least one media outlet rushed to describe the attack as an example of “right-wing” extremism. James Joyner collects several examples here. For example, at the left-wing blog “Crooks and Liars,” David Neiwert wrote:
Yesterday we had another act of violence by a right-wing extremist intent on attacking and harming the government, inflamed by far-right conspiracy theories about 9/11 and other supposed instances of government “tyranny.”
Neiwert made no effort to explain how a registered Democrat and avowed enemy of George W. Bush is an example of a “right-wing extremist.” But Neiwert has made a career of claiming that conservative rhetoric is to blame for the actions of isolated lunatics who commit acts of violence. Sometimes his arguments require him to bend the space-time continuum to lay undeserved blame for violent acts at the feet of conservatives.
And when confronted with evidence of a violent left-winger, Neiwert resolves the cognitive dissonance by simply relabeling the lunatic as a right-wing extremist. Once that sleight of hand is accomplished, he may safely return to the intellectually dishonest business of claiming that violent rhetoric and action is a phenomenon unique to conservatives.
Of course, it is anything but. Violent political rhetoric is hardly limited to fringe right-wingers. Many leftists, including some fairly prominent ones, have engaged in all sorts of violent rhetoric.
National Public Radio legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg once said: “[I]f there is retributive justice [Sen. Jesse Helms] will get AIDS from a transfusion, or one of his grandchildren will get it.” USA Today syndicated columnist Julianne Malveaux once wrote of Justice Clarence Thomas: “I hope his wife feeds him lots of eggs and butter and he dies early like many black men do, of heart disease.” Washington Post syndicated columnist Richard Cohen once wrote: “For hypocrisy, for sheer gall, [Newt] Gingrich should be hanged.”
I’m not done.
Comedian and (former) talk show host Craig Kilborn once ran the following caption under footage of George W. Bush: “Snipers Wanted.” Members of the St. Petersburg Democratic Club said this of Donald Rumsfeld:
And then there’s Rumsfeld who said of Iraq “We have our good days and our bad days.” We should put this S.O.B. up against a wall and say “This is one of our bad days” and pull the trigger.
Who can forget the lovable Alec Baldwin, who unleashed the following rant regarding Henry Hyde:
[I]f we were in other countries, we would all right now, all of us together, all of us together would go down to Washington and we would stone Henry Hyde to death! We would stone him to death! [crowd cheers] Wait! Shut up! Shut up! No shut up! I’m not finished. We would stone Henry Hyde to death and we would go to their homes and we’d kill their wives and their children. We would kill their families.
Spike Lee said of Charlton Heston: “Shoot him with a .44 caliber Bulldog.”
When Tony Snow died, a moderated comments thread at the L.A. Times website approved these comments and many like them:
There is special place in hell for Mr. Snow. As a co-conspirator of the Bush administration, I have no special sympathy for him. I only wish his suffering were more prolonged.
. . . .
I hope he suffered at the end. Just a terrible person.
. . . .
Thank you G*d.
Only 99 more of them to go.
. . . .
CANCER WAS TOO GOOD FOR HIM
HOPE IT WAS PAINFUL.
NOW FOR THE REST OF THIS SCUMMY ADMINISTRATION. COME ON CANCER, DO YOUR GOOD WORK……………….
I have collected many more examples here.
Moreover, leftists regularly engage in violence for political reasons. Gay rights activists have engaged in mob violence against gay marriage opponents. Recall the example of the man who almost ran a woman and her children off the road because she had a Bush bumper sticker. Or the man who tried to run down Katherine Harris in a car, and claimed it was “political expression.”
And while we don’t know whether mass murderer Amy Bishop was motivated by politics, we do know that the Boston Herald, citing a family member’s comments, described her as “a far-left political extremist who was ‘obsessed’ with President Obama to the point of being off-putting.”
Speaking for myself, I don’t subscribe to the view that the actions of lunatics can be blamed on political rhetoric. As I have written in the past, “mentally disturbed people can be set off by anything. Blame the mental illness, not the random person or event that triggered the disturbed person’s actions.” Blaming the actions of crazy people on political rhetoric is a cheap tactic best left to the David Neiwerts and Scott Eric Kaufmans of the world.
But given the inevitable certainty that leftists would try to paint Bedell as a Tea Party right-wing sort, it was necessary to expose the fact that he was a Democrat, 9/11 Truther, and Bush-hater. The facts are beginning to have an effect. For example, the Christian Science Monitor ran a story titled John Patrick Bedell: Did right-wing extremism lead to shooting? A deck headline read: “Authorities have identified John Patrick Bedell as the gunman in the Pentagon shooting. He appears to have been a right-wing extremist with virulent antigovernment feelings.”
But if you click the link to that story, it now begins with an update: “As more information emerges about Mr. Bedell, the less it appears that any coherent ideology was behind his actions, except that he was deeply antigovernment.”
I would have liked to have seen a more detailed description of what that “information” was — such as his status as a registered Democrat and his numerous examples of hatred for George W. Bush. But the update is better than nothing.
It’s more than we’ll get from the likes of Neiwert, who will no doubt continue to maintain the amazing Big Lie that a Democrat Truther who hated Bush was really a “right-wing extremist.” It takes a special sort of dishonesty to maintain such a fiction.