“We can’t allow ourselves to remain silent as foaming-at-the-mouth protesters scream the vilest of epithets at members of Congress,” wrote Bob Herbert in his New York Times column the other day. A Democrat friend of mine from Rochester, NY forwarded me the Herbert piece, entitled “An Absence of Class,” about the alleged ugly incidents in the aftermath of the US House’s healthcare vote. She accompanied the link with this single sentence: “You would never ever defend this.” The following is how I responded.
If you think I would defend it, then you completely missed the point I was trying to make before. I don’t defend the things Bob Herbert describes–if they really happened (I am completely open to the possibility that they didn’t actually happen as described, or that they were grossly exaggerated, or that Democratic members of Congress and their lackeys would make up or even stage such incidents in order to achieve exactly what the incidents have achieved: a smear against thousands of people).
But let’s assume that it all did happen exactly as reported. I say, So what?
Any time you gather thousands of people together, no matter what the cause they’re gathering to demonstrate for, you can take it as virtually guaranteed that some of them aren’t going to be nice or well-behaved people. The vast majority of humans, of any political stripe, aren’t exactly saints. Obviously, in any gathering of large size, you’ll have a bell-curve distribution on the civility spectrum, and at one end of the curve you’ll have bad apples.
This method of gathering an unruly mob to make a political point in the streets, by chanting and waving signs (as opposed to making the points on the pages of a newspaper or at the debate lectern or in some other measured and intellectual manner) has been a favored practice of the Left for decades; seeing the same tactic on the other side is a fairly novel thing.
You wouldn’t seriously assert that nothing vile ever took place at any of the demonstrations in support of causes dear to the Left, over all the decades? I’ve seen a little bit of it myself. For example, sometimes I’d walk out of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California by its Franklin St. gate, during the height of the Iraq War, to find an anti-war mob with signs at the bottom of the hill, and some of them would jeer at me and call me things like “Nazi”–people who didn’t know anything about me except that I sported a military-looking haircut. But you know…so what?
It wasn’t unusual for acts of mob violence–looting, arson, etc.–to happen where MLK made a public appearance, even though King explicitly decried any such activity. Things got pretty ugly right there in your town, if I’m not mistaken. Should we paint all members of the civil rights movement with the brush of a few thuggish individuals who made the event a pretext to behave in a vile manner? Everyone who favors desegragation is is a thieving incendiary…if YOU favor desegregation then YOU’re on the side of looting and arson…yeah, okay…strong argument, huh?
Herbert says, “We can’t allow ourselves to remain silent as foaming-at-the-mouth protesters scream the vilest of epithets at members of Congress — epithets that The Times will not allow me to repeat here.” Oh really? We can’t allow it? How short his memory is, because he and his ilk were perfectly happy to keep quiet and allow it just a few years ago, when protesters were saying and doing things at least as vile against the previous administration. I doubt if any president has received the amount of abuse that Bush did. And I don’t care about that. He’s a big boy and he wasn’t drafted into the job of president, and having a thick skin is part of the job. So what?
Why is this Herbert article even worth serious consideration? His chosen method of decrying a lone idiot who spat on some politician is to spit on tens of thousands of people with vile statements like these: “For decades the G.O.P. has been the party of fear, ignorance and divisiveness….” “This is the party of trickle down and weapons of mass destruction, the party of birthers and death-panel lunatics. This is the party that genuflects at the altar of right-wing talk radio, with its insane, nauseating, nonstop commitment to hatred and bigotry.”
What is this? Fight fire with fire? This is Herbert’s own commitment to hatred and bigotry on display.
The whole article is nothing but an ad hominem. He’s not critiquing the Tea Party’s central message–he’s trying to turn people off to that message with guilt-by-association. “If you are tempted to favor shockingly radical, fringy ideas like…oh, let’s say, a limited government that is accountable to the people and stays within the bounds of the Constitution…then you’re in the company of bigots, and therefore a bigot yourself.” That’s what he’s saying. This is just the latest flavor of McCarthyism.
I’ve been called a racist and a Nazi for criticizing Obama about issues that have nothing to do with race–those names were hurled at me based on nothing other than the ethnicity of the target of my criticism, as though the only thing that keeps me from cheering him for his policies is that he’s not pure Anglo-Saxon. Apparently nobody is allowed to criticize a public official on any grounds, if the official happens to be a minority. That’s about the level of Herbert’s argument here.
I don’t care. They can call me whatever they like. All they’re doing is revealing the Orwellian inversion of language that infects their thought: If I am color-blind, applying the same standards of criticism to a black man that I would to a white man, then I’m a racist It’s no longer prejudice and racial double standard, but the absence of prejudice and racial double standard, that makes you a racist. If I’m for limited government and against the kind of centralization of economic decision-making that Nazis and other varieties of socialists espouse, that makes me a Nazi. Opposing socialism makes you a National Socialist. Up is down, black is white.