Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Tracking the thuggery

Projection: It's not just for theaters anymore.

The talk of the horror of a rising tide of left-wing nastiness is popping up all over among the chatterers of the right. In addition to the recent accusations from Professor Bainbridge, a fresh round of accusations comes our way from T. Bevan at Real Clear Politics [permalink seems not to be working, so scroll down to the entry titled "The Civilized Barbarians"].

Now, take a hard look at Bevan's list of "shameful incidents":
Dredging up decades old images of racism to play on the anger and fear of African-American voters.

There's nothing particularly shameful about this. The reality is that the efforts of conservatives to disenfranchise black voters has a long and ugly history, and it appears to be continuing today. If they don't like being reminded of it, well, too bad. In any event, there's nothing about this behavior suggestive of actual violence, or even advocating it.
Screeching "YOU'RE A CREEPY LIAR" uncontrollably at the top of their lungs on national TV instead of debating with facts and logic.

Good grief. Has this guy watched Bill "Shut up! Just shut up!" O'Reilly? Or, for that matter, any of the army of vitriolic right-wing pundits (see Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, et. al., for starters) who've made careers out of popping corks on national TV and radio? Was he watching TV during the Clinton impeachment fiasco and the buildup to it?

Apparently not. But a liberal finally gets out of the Alan Colmes milquetoast mode and pops a cork, and suddenly civilization itself is on the brink.
Trashing signs of political adversaries.

Yes, sign theft and destruction is just awful. Funny thing about this is that I've covered politics as a reporter since 1978, and have never had a campaign go by without doing stories of sign theft/damage, with largely equal amounts on both sides. Last week's hilarity in Colorado was just one instance of rampant sign theft by Republicans too. As you go through the links I'll catalog below, you'll find stories of sign theft reported throughout. Here's one from Minnesota -- as well as a piece making clear it's happening on both sides.

Reality check: Sign theft and destruction is a commonplace of nearly all campaigns, and the mutual damage is nearly always roughly equal.
Breaking into offices of political adversaries.

As the local accounts of these break-ins make abundantly clear, there is simply no evidence that the thefts were connected to Democrats or even Bush opponents; they were just as likely crimes of opportunity. As Democratic chair Paul Berendt noted, his party had similar problems before moving their offices: "People would walk in, in broad daylight, and take laptop computers, just steal them."

Until they come up with stronger evidence, it's simply a smear to assume these break-ins were political in nature.
Throwing cinder block bricks through the front door of offices of political adversaries.

This is a clear-cut case of inexcusable violence, and it's clearly political.
Shooting bullets through the windows of offices of political adversaries.

Though again there is no evidence that these shootings were related to politics, this is nonetheless a disturbing occurrence.
Laying siege to offices of political adversaries

This appears to have been a political counter-rally (a commonplace tactic for Republicans as well) that got boisterous. If this is intimidation, well, Republicans are guilty of it too. See, e.g., the activities of Freepers (who often boast of the harassment) and the Protest Warriors.
Paying workers with crack cocaine for voter registration forms -- mostly fraudulent ones at that.

There is simply no evidence that this was associated with the Democratic Party or Kerry supporters -- and, like most of the stories of supposed Democratic voter fraud, is purely anecdotal. It has not been associated with Democratic officials in any fashion -- unlike the apparent voter-registration fraud being perpetrated systematically throughout the battleground states by an organization with undeniable ties to the Republican Party, including funding.
Sending out flyers making fun of the Special Olympics and suggesting that only a mentally retarded person would vote for George Bush.

This appears to be a false accusation. The evidence so far, as Steve Clemons has detailed [more details here], is that this was in fact a political dirty trick intended to smear Democrats.

And in the meantime, it's hard to imagine a worse flyer than the one circulated in West Virginia and Arkansas accusing Democrats of planning to ban the Bible and promote same-sex marriage. And RNC money paid for that one.
Bullying voters in line at polling places.

I'm sure none of those poll watchers being sent out by the GOP to largely minority districts in battleground states will be bullying voters, will they? Heavens no.

In any event, if we look at Bevan's list, it's clear that only two of them involve actual cases of violence -- and most of them are questionable at best, especially in terms of their actual connection to Democrats.

Best yet, though, Bevan goes on to say:
In the interest of fairness I went looking to put together a similar list of shameful incidents involving Republicans. But aside from the currently disputed and unproven allegations of some Democratic registrations being ripped up and thrown in the trash out in Nevada, I couldn't find anything comparable. In fact, using the exact same search criteria that turned up pages of stories involving the vandalism of Bush offices, etc. around the country yielded surprisingly few results when applied to John Kerry. If you know of any incidents of Republicans targeting Kerry offices or supporters with vandalism or thuggish behavior, please send them through so I can post them.


Regular readers of this blog are aware I've been running posts involving examples of right-wing thuggery, ranging from violence to threats and intimidation to lesser acts of nastiness, ever since the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. There's no doubt the levels of virulence were worse then -- replete with death threats and violent provocations aimed at war protesters -- but the ugliness is more widespread now. And, as Bevan suggests, it's clearly spread to both sides.

However, as I argued earlier:
I am fairly confident, however, that if we were to catalog all of these acts, both big and small, over the past four years, the list on the right side of the aisle would be considerably longer, and considerably nastier, than that on the left. And there's a reason for that: Unlike the nastiness on the left -- which is often reactive -- the impetus for that on the right is being encouraged (and in some cases directly fomented) by people in positions of national leadership of the conservative movement.

This ranges from figures like Rush Limbaugh (who fantasizes about killing all liberals except for a few to be kept in museums) and Ann Coulter (who argues in favor of "a little local fascism" and thinks Tim McVeigh should have targeted the New York Times Building) to Dick Cheney, who tells a senator on the floor of the Senate to go fuck himself -- and then not only refuses to apologize, but recommends such discourse as a feel-good measure.

Now, what follows will be no doubt an incomplete list. But here, for the benefit of Tad and his readers -- as well as anyone else interested -- I thought it might be useful to compile a brief catalog of incidents that have been gathered here and elsewhere.

Now, to keep things simple, I haven't included here all the instances of Kerry supporters or other dissidents being prevented from even attending a Bush/Cheney event -- just because they are simply too numerous to track. In many cases, these have involved examples of nasty intimidation, including Bush workers ripping tickets out of the hands of teenagers; as well as cases bordering on the absurd, as when three schoolteachers were threatened with arrest for wearing T-shirts saying, "Protect Our Civil Liberties."

And, obviously, there isn't a lot of sense in talking about minor acts like cable-TV screamfests or campaign sign thefts. This takes place on both sides, and it's difficult to say who's worse.

Instead, I've chosen to restrict the list to actual violence, threats or intimidation. I've broken these down by categories:

Attacks on campaign headquarters
Sacramento, California

Lawrence, Kansas

Toledo, Ohio

Barberton, Ohio

Boone, North Carolina

Galveston County, Texas

Lafayette, Lousiana

State College, Pennsylvania

Grand Rapids, Mich.

Bush supporters intimidate/assault Kerry supporters/war protesters
Vero Beach, Florida

West Boynton, Florida

Portland, Oregon

Colmar, Pennsylvania

Greenwood, Colorado

Temecula, California

Fresno, California

San Francisco, California

Police mistreat protesters
New York City

Jacksonville, Oregon

Hamilton, New Jersey

Kerry supporters' homes/cars vandalized

Threatening Kerry supporters' employment
Decatur, Alabama

Logan, Utah

Now, these comprise, as I've mentioned, an extremely limited list. I've also tried to relegate them to this year, omitting the many cases of right-wing thuggery surrounding the protests of the war in Iraq (many of which I cataloged at the bottom of this post).

If anyone else wants to help me flesh it out, please feel free to send them to my e-mail ( or in the comments thread.

UPDATE: I'm going to be regularly updating this post as fresh info comes in. In that way, I hope to make it a kind of permanent resource for people who are interested in refuting the right-wing claim that violence is emanating just from the left. And the more contributors, the merrier. Please, for now, let's try to relegate the incidents to those which fit into the five categories above; I'm well aware that there's all kinds of nastiness out there, but for now let's stay focused on the acts which are potentially criminal (i.e., assault, battery, vandalism, threats, and intimidation), the use of official force for political purposes (police abuse), or those which cross the line of lively political discourse (threatening a person's job).

Team Bush's threatening exclusion of non-supporters from his rallies is, frankly, a bizarre development that really deserves consideration on its own.

UPDATE 2 (10/25): I've added incidents in Sacramento (a really ugly one, at that); Barberton and Toledo, Ohio; Boone County, N.C.; Galveston County, Texas; and in Vero Beach and West Boynton, Fla.

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