Saturday, September 18, 2004

Taking the bait

You know, call me crazy, but I think doing stuff like this with a 3-year-old ...

... is much better than stuff like this:

When I first read the news account of Phil Parlock's adventures at a Kerry rally, the question that immediately popped into my head was: What in the hell was he thinking?

I'm as politically active as anyone, and really like to expose my daughter to the workings of democracy. She went with me to our local caucuses, tags along when I vote, and has ridden on my shoulders at an occasional peaceful rally. But there's no way I would expose her to the obvious hostility she would encounter if I were to haul her to a Bush/Cheney rally -- and especially if I did as Parlock did, which was to elbow his way to the front and stand in front of a bunch of my opponents' supporters.

Because then, you know, I would consider that I was being intentionally provocative anyway. I can handle all kinds of ugly behavior -- after all, I've witnessed all kinds of violence in the process of covering events as a journalist. But I have no intention of exposing my 3-year-old to it -- let alone use her as a shield. (Perhaps I have a special repugnance for people who use their children as shields because of Randy Weaver.)

Then it turns out that, as Rising Hegemon (via Atrios) reported, Parlock has a history of getting into confrontations like this. Seems he has something of a predilection for provoking opposing protesters -- or for staging confrontations as a way of smearing the liberal opposition as violent.

The fact that Parlock has been "attacked" by unidentified "liberals" in each of the previous two presidential elections raises real suspicions about the nature of these "attacks." But even more significant, it raises real questions about why he would perch his 3-year-old daughter on his shoulders while participating in the same activity that brought about these previous "attacks." If he really is innocent, just what the hell was he thinking? Is he really so unconcerned about his little girl's well-being that he'd intentionally expose her to that?

Now, regular readers know I've been tracking the drumbeat of eliminationist rhetoric by America's right against mainstream liberals over the past year, as well as the increasing number of instances of actual violence that is almost the inevitable result.

Unsurprisingly, the ugly environment created by the right and its increasingly thuggish tactics has come full circle; liberals, increasingly, are now much less prone to sitting back politely and trying to reason with their opponents, and are becoming far more likely to strike out both verbally and, perhaps, physically. If a Kerry supporter really did tear up the little girl's sign, it's inexcusable, but considering the provocation involved, hardly surprising.

I was frankly much more disturbed by the account in a letter to the editor of the case of anti-Bush misbehavior in Telluride, Colo., experienced by a Bush supporter who had the misfortune visit the town with a bumper sticker attached to his SUV:
The morning after our arrival I went to retrieve something from our vehicle. I was horrified to discover that our car had been vandalized overnight in the parking garage. Cheese (yes, cheese) had been jammed into the rearview mirrors and under the windshield wipers. The vandals also took a black permanent marker to the back of my vehicle and defaced the stickers (no big deal really, they will be replaced). The last thing noticed was the message "Fuck Bush & fuck you" with a black swastika written on the side of my vehicle in permanent black magic marker. Imagine my horror at this unprovoked act. Although my heritage is German I am neither an anti-Semite nor am I a racist. Furthermore, imagine driving your family around your town with a swastika on the back of your car.

The victim also had to endure snotty service from the Waiter From Hell, who actually chastised the man for supporting Bush. I'm afraid I'd have walked out the door the minute some server made a similar remark to me.

All of this pales, however, in contrast with the creeping tide of right-wing violence in the current campaign, which Matt Stoller has recently discussed as well. Really, how is it possible to even compare those incidents with cases like this, this, this, or this?

Of course, there's almost no chance that the so-called liberal media will even pick up on this trend. In fact, it's far more likely that they will trumpet and play up any kind of violent behavior on the part of liberals, while ignoring similar or worse from the right. That has, after all, been their standard MO throughout the past three years.

And don't think the right doesn't recognize it. Indeed, one of the central themes of this year's re-election campaign is the charge that the left has been consumed by "hatred" of President Bush, and that they're all wild-eyed and out of control. That's why the right has been sending out provocateurs like the Protest Warriors and the Freepers to anti-Bush demonstrations -- in the hopes that they'll finally respond in kind, and the resulting incident can then be played and replayed on cable news networks as an example of the Awful Left.

Notably, liberals have been smart about not rising to the bait. I was especially impressed by the restraint showed by demonstrators at the Republican National Convention in New York, who despite numerous provocations held back and refused to respond in kind.

That being the case, it seems now that right-wingers -- frustrated in their hopes of obtaining useful propaganda against the left -- are now resorting to staging the violence themselves.

And using little 3-year-old girls as props and shields for doing so.

Exactly what kind of "family values" izzat?

UPDATE: Drew at Daily Kos has been keeping a Diary update of the Parlock matter, including another case of victimhood: Parlock was an eyewitness to a shot fired at Republican headquarters in Cabell County, W. Va. (though the script at the link has since been removed).

Also: Yes, that's an "I am Atrios" hat I'm wearing.

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