Monday, May 16, 2022

Glenn Greenwald for the Defense

Given the theme of this blog, I feel obligated to point out, before launching into a discussion about free speech, that the Buffalo shooter, one Peyton Gendron was known to have homicidal intentions. He had announced them openly. For that he had been sent for a psychiatric evaluation, and had been cleared to walk free.

It is not the first time that a homicidal maniac, or a psychotic homicidal maniac, has not been subjected to involuntary psychiatric commitment. The same is true of James Holmes and Adam Lanza. If any other profession was getting it so wrong so often, people would start asking questions.

Be that as it may, Glenn Greenwald has an excellent essay this morning about our tendency to blame talk show hosts, pundits and politicians for the actions of deranged maniacs. He points out, in detail, that when someone who has been inspired by liberal pundits and politicians opens fire on Republicans or conservatives, no one traces the cause back to the words of the liberals. And yet, when someone who harbors more right wing views commits mass murder or mayhem, the pundit class will be out in force blaming a talk show host. In the case of Peyton Gendron, the leftist intelligentsia has been blaming it on Tucker Carlson. 

So, yet again, one set of rules for people on one side of the political spectrum and another set for people on the other side. It is a sign of mental derangement, and ought to have long since been retired. Dare we mention that the notion of fair and balanced judgment, using the same standards for everyone seems to have been lost in the confusion.

Anyway, Greenwald recalls the days when one James Hodgkinson shot up a Republican softball game, severely injuring Congressman Steve Scalise.

Who inspired Hodgkinson? Why, none other than Rachel Maddow. And Amy Goodman and Bernie Sanders. And yet, sharing views is not a crime. Besides, Maddow, as Greenwald points out, never espoused violent actions:

Despite the fact that Hodgkinson was a fanatical fan of Maddow, Democracy Now host Amy Goodman, and Sanders, that the ideas and ideology motivating his shooting spree perfectly matched — and were likely shaped by — liberals of that cohort, and that the enemies whom he sought to kill were also the enemies of Maddow and her liberal comrades, nobody rational or decent sought to blame the MSNBC host, the Vermont Senator or anyone else whose political views matched Hodgkinson's for the grotesque violence he unleashed. The reason for that is clear and indisputable: as strident and extremist as she is, Maddow has never once encouraged any of her followers to engage in violence to advance her ideology, nor has she even hinted that a mass murder of the Republican traitors, fascists and Kremlin agents about whom she rants on a nightly basis to millions of people is a just solution.

It would be madness to try to assign moral or political blame to them. If we were to create a framework in which prominent people were held responsible for any violence carried out in the name of an ideology they advocate, then nobody would be safe, given that all ideologies have their misfits, psychopaths, unhinged personality types, and extremists. And thus there was little to no attempt to hold Maddow or Sanders responsible for the violent acts of one of their most loyal adherents.

But those who promote black nationalism or who militate against white supremacy are not and should not be held responsible for the actions committed by people who have glommed on to their opinions:

The same is true of the spate of mass shootings and killings by self-described black nationalists over the last several years.

Needless to say, the ideas that motivated these two black nationalists to murder multiple people, including police officers, is part of a core ideology that is commonly heard in mainstream media venues, expressed by many if not most of the nation's most prominent liberals. Depicting the police as a white supremacist force eager to kill black people, “grievances against perceived white dominance,” and anger over “the white supremacism endemic in America’s system of governance from the country’s founding” are views that one routinely hears on MSNBC, CNN, from Democratic Party politicians, and in the op-ed pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Of course, no one blamed liberal commentators or liberal politicians for the actions of a few deranged lunatics:

Yet virtually nobody sought to blame Chris Hayes, Joy Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Jamelle Bouie or New York Times op-ed writers for these shooting sprees. Indeed, no blame was assigned to anti-police liberal pundits whose view of American history is exactly the same as that of these two killers — even though they purposely sought to murder the same enemies whom those prominent liberals target. Nobody blamed those anti-police liberals for the same reason they did not blame Maddow and Sanders for Hodgkinson's shooting spree: there is a fundamental and necessary distinction between people who use words to express ideas and demonize perceived enemies, and those who decide to go randomly and indiscriminately murder in the name of that ideology.

And yet, the standards applied to killers who appear to have been inspired by right wing rhetoric are quite different:

To be sure, there have been a large number of murders and other atrocities carried out in U.S. and the West generally in the name of right-wing ideologies, in the name of white supremacy, in the name of white nationalism. The difference, though, is glaring: when murders are carried out in the name of liberal ideology, there is a rational and restrained refusal to blame liberal pundits and politicians who advocate the ideology that animated those killings. Yet when killings are carried out in the name of right-wing ideologies despised by the corporate press and mainstream pundits (or ideologies that they falsely associate with conservatism), they instantly leap to lay blame at the feet of their conservative political opponents who, despite never having advocated or even implied the need for violence, are nonetheless accused of bearing guilt for the violence — often before anything is known about the killers or their motives.

In general, it is widely understood that liberal pundits and politicians are not to blame, at all, when murders are carried out in the name of the causes they support or against the enemies they routinely condemn. That is because, in such cases, we apply the rational framework that someone who does not advocate violence is not responsible for the violent acts of one's followers and fans who kill in the name of that person's ideas.

Is there a chain of responsibility that links bad ideas with bad actions? In truth, there is not:

Those who express ideas without advocating violence are not and cannot fairly be held responsible for those who decide to pick up arms in the name of those ideas, even if — as in the case of James Hodgkinson — we know for certain that the murderer listened closely to and was influenced by people like Rachel Maddow and Bernie Sanders. In such cases, we understand that it is madness, and deeply unfair, to exploit heinous murders to lay blame for the violence and killings on the doorsteps of our political adversaries.

Unfortunately, the media does not use a single standard for judging these crimes. When the shooter appears to be a right wing lunatic, the media immediately attacks conservative commentators:

But when a revolting murder spree is carried out in the name of right-wing ideas (or ideas perceived by the corporate press to be right-wing), everything changes — instantly and completely. In such cases, often before anything is known about the murderer — indeed, literally before the corpses are even removed from the ground where they lie — there is a coordinated effort to declare that anyone who holds any views in common with the murderer has “blood on their hands” and is essentially a co-conspirator in the massacre.

But, is Peyton Gendron really a product of conservative thought? Since commentators immediately seized on a single notion-- of replacement theory-- they ignored the rest of his thinking, which looks like it comes straight from the radical left:

In that manifesto, Gendron described himself as a "left-wing authoritarian” and “populist” (“On the political compass I fall in the mild-moderate authoritarian left category, and I would prefer to be called a populist”). He heaped praise on an article in the socialist magazine Jacobin for its view that cryptocurrency and Bitcoin are fraudulent scams. He spoke passionately of the centrality and necessity of environmentalism, and lamented that “the state [has] long since heavily lost to its corporate backers.” He ranted against “corporate profits and the ever increasing wealth of the 1% that exploit the people for their own benefit.” And he not only vehemently rejected any admiration for political conservatism but made clear that he viewed it as an enemy to his agenda: “conservatism is corporatism in disguise, I want no part of it.”

But, surely Gendron’s ideas were flagrantly racist:

But by far the overarching and dominant theme of his worldview — the ideology that he repeatedly emphasized was the animating cause of his murder spree — was his anger and fear that white people, which he defines as those of European descent, were being eradicated by a combination of low birth rates and mass immigration.

The left was happy to blame it all on one of their favorite bete noirs, Tucker Carlson. It is far easier to shut people up than to engage with their ideas. And since Carlson is notably intelligent, the ranters on the left seem largely incapable of taking up verbal arms against him:

Within literally an hour of the news of this murder spree in Buffalo — far too little time for anyone to have even carefully read all or most of Gendron's manifesto, and with very little known about his life or activities — much of the corporate press and liberal pundit class united to reveal the real culprit, the actual guilty party, behind this murder spree: Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

In any case, Greenwald addresses the terms of the indictment-- because, indictment it is:

That Carlson was primarily responsible for the ten dead people in Buffalo was asserted despite the fact that there was no indication that Gendron even knew who Carlson was, that he had ever watched his show, that he was influenced by him in any way, or that he admired or even liked the Fox host. Indeed, in the long list of people and places which Gendron cited as important influences on him — “Brenton Tarrant, [El Paso shooter] Patrick Crusius, [California Jewish community center killer], John Earnest, [Norwegian mass murderer] Anders Breivik, [Charleston black church murderer] Dylann Roof, etc.” — nowhere does he even allude to let alone mention any Fox News host or Carlson.

Is Gendron a conservative? Not so fast:

To the contrary, Gendron explicitly describes his contempt for political conservatism. In a section entitled “CONSERVATISM IS DEAD, THANK GOD,” he wrote: "Not a thing has been conserved other than corporate profits and the ever increasing wealth of the 1% that exploit the people for their own benefit. Conservatism is dead. Thank god. Now let us bury it and move on to something of worth.”

So, leftist commentators have divided the intellectual world into angels and devils. The first can do no wrong; the second can do no right. And you think that they have overcome theology.

But liberals are never at fault when right-wing politicians are murdered, or police officers are hunted and gunned down by police opponents, or an anti-abortion group is targeted with firebombing and arson, as just happened in Wisconsin, or radical Muslims engage in random acts of violence. By definition, "moral reasoning" that is applied only in one direction has nothing to do with morality and everything to do with crass, exploitative opportunism.

Greenwald closes:

The distinction between peaceful advocacy even of noxious ideas and those who engage in violence in the name of such ideas is fundamental to notions of fairness, justice and the ability to speak freely. But if you really want to claim that a public figure has "blood on their hands" every time someone murders in the name of ideas and ideologies they support, then the list of people you should be accusing of murder is a very, very long one indeed.


Molly Bloom said...

I think the smartest thing for the shooter to do at this point is to identify as a black female and demand that everyone recognize and respect him as such.

370H55V said...

As if this were something new?

Rush Limbaugh -----> Oklahoma City bombing 1995

Sarah Palin -----> ambush of Gabby Giffords 2011

Always remember: the truth is whatever they believe it to be, and thus you must accept it as well.

Anonymous said...

Instead of griping about the daily news' random leftist gibberish story, why not specify a priority list of what you as a "conservative" aspires to conserve? Maybe people would listen.

Anonymous said...

We remember the Boulder massacre…

Anonymous said...

I am SOOOOO happy to be far, Far, FAR from the East Coast, and all the crazies there...