The level of violence humming barely below the surface of our politics is intensifying. In Boston over the weekend, anti-mask protestors and counter-protestors got into a serious rumble on the Common. Rep. Paul Gosar, the lunatic from Arizona, posted a piece of anime that depicted Gosar murdering Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez with a sword. So far, no action has been taken against Gosar, and none is likely....The main inspiration for Pierce's post is a recent Reuters story about supporters of Donald Trump who've threatened election officials.
And there’s Representative Clay Higgins of Louisiana, who seems unaware that Mel Gibson already made Braveheart.“Let me be clear to all the oppressors. You’ve drawn a line in the sand. Be prepared to defend your position .. We would rather die on our feet than live on our knees ... Some of us are prepared to carry that fight with every drop of our blood.”
In Arizona, a stay-at-home dad and part-time Lyft driver told the state’s chief election officer she would hang for treason. In Utah, a youth treatment center staffer warned Colorado’s election chief that he knew where she lived and watched her as she slept. In Vermont, a man who says he works in construction told workers at the state election office and at Dominion Voting Systems that they were about to die. “This might be a good time to put a f‑‑‑‑‑‑ pistol in your f‑‑‑‑‑‑ mouth and pull the trigger,” the man shouted at Vermont officials in a thick New England accent last December. “Your days are f‑‑‑‑‑‑ numbered.”For the most part, these people aren't being pursued by the authorities. Many of them allowed themselves to be interviewed by Reuters and identified themselves by name. They're unashamed. They're brazen.
But they're not sufficiently brazen to move from talk to action, at least for now.
Why is this? I keep thinking about the audience member at an Idaho speech by Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA who said this to Kirk:
You're brave. You're brave for what you say, and the fact that you stand up there and say it, and I appreciate it. I think we all appreciate it actually, because there's not a lot of people that have the balls to do it. But I want to ask you something a little bit out of the ordinary, so prepare yourself. At this point, we're living under corporate and medical fascism. This is tyranny. When do we get to use the guns? No, and I'm not — that's not a joke. I'm not saying it like that. I mean, literally, where's the line? How many elections are they going to steal before we kill these people?Most people who watched the clip, or read about it, focused on the threat -- but I'm wondering why this guy, and a lot of other people like him, haven't already grabbed their guns and just started shooting people.
He says, "When do we get to use the guns?" He's waiting for someone to give him permission.
Honestly, a lot of these people are cowards, especially the ones phoning and emailing death threats -- they talk a big, scary game, but they'd never do anything. This guy? I'm not so sure. He sounds ready. But he's holding back.
This man and others like him feel that violence would be fully justified -- which is horrifying enough -- but they also think they're not allowed to attempt it. Obviously they're afraid of the law. But the likely outcome of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial suggests that the law is fairly flexible when white conservatives are violently angry about something. (On the other hand, the January 6 prosecutions send the opposite message.)
The word "get" is the same word Rambo uses in First Blood Part II when he's released from prison and offered a mission to locate U.S. prisoners in Vietnam: "Sir, do we get to win this time?" -- a line that deeply resonated with an earlier generation of angry right-wingers. It's the same message: Every decent person knows what needs to be done, but they won't let us do it -- and they includes sympathetic members of the Establishment (Charlie Kirk in Idaho, who counseled against violence; Colonel Trautman, who comes to Rambo with the mission, in the movie).
I think there'd be more right-wing political violence in America if angry, armed right-wingers didn't cherish their sense of victimization. They're used to believing that even their allies aren't completely with them -- they won't sanction taking up arms, which is what all True Patriots feel compelled to do right now! Right-wingers felt less constrained on January 6 -- they were urged on by Trump and other authority figures -- so the violence happened.
Also relevant to this, I think, is Amanda Marcotte's idea that right-wing vaccine refusal is war by other means:
Vaccine refusal is being presented in right-wing media as a noble act of resistance against Democratic "tyranny." Any effort to prevent the disease ... is increasingly viewed as an attack on red-state America. After the Jan. 6 insurrection failed, the radicalized members of the GOP have had few options to exercise their militaristic fantasies against Joe Biden's administration. Refusing the vaccine isn't as sexy as taking up arms against the government, but it still plays with the glamorous notion of putting your body on the line for your political views....Their leaders are sanctioning this embrace of death. Right-wing authority figures are telling the rank-and-file that they "get" to do this, so they're doing it.
I don't think we've seen the worst yet. Maybe we won't. If Republican politicians, Fox hosts, radio talkers, or popular podcasters start telling these guys to shoot people, they'll do it. But most of them are holding back for now, even though they're ready and willing.