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The political is personal June 10, 2009

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in we're only gonna die.
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This whole series of tubes is clogged with a lot of people up in arms about the outing of the liberal blogger Publius by National Review Online’s Edward Whelan III (conservative legal analyst, Harvard Phi Beta Kappa, Harvard Law magna cum laude, Deputy Assistant AG at OLC during W’s 1st term, former Scalia clerk, size 11 shoe, huge Kenny G fan*, and, ironically, president of something called the “Ethics and Public Policy Center”).  This comes on the heels of Publius’ colleague Hilzoy’s recent outing as well.

Add this trend of identifying pseudonymous left wing bloggers to the Valerie Plame scandal.  Add it to the stream of ad hominem attacks right wing talk radio and cable “news” spews forth daily.  Add it to the recent criticism surrounding Supreme Court nominee Judge Sotomayor’s ethnicity and gender (which apparently partially precipitated the fight between Whelan and Publius).  Add it to the years of personal harassment of Dr. George Tiller that made him a target.

The trend is just another example of the right wing tendency to attack their opponents personally.

It’s no secret that extremists and radicals on either side of the political spectrum tend to use terrible, brutal tactics with no regard for others or the results of those actions, but in this country, the right wing extremists are the ones who aim those tactics at individuals.  Modern left wing extremists like the ELF, ALF, and Earth First! seem to aim their actions at property.  This is part of why we live in fear of our right wing in the US.

Look at our domestic terrorists: “pro-lifers,” militia members, racists, religious extremists (yes, including Muslim ones).  Look at assassinations in the US over the last 40 years: abortion providers like Dr. Tiller, chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party Bill Gwatney, Democratic Tennessee State Senator Tommy Burks (though a conservative himself, killed by his Republican opponent), anti-discrimination activist Alex Odeh, Alan Berg (killed by neo-nazis), musician and peace activist John Lennon, Harvey Milk, Fred Hampton, RFK, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, JFK, Medgar Evers…the list goes on.  Hell, even George Rockwell, who founded of the American Nazi Party was murdered by another nazi.  In all these cases, either the victims were on the left or the killers were on the right.

Let’s be clear.  I am in no way shape or form comparing what Ed Whelan did to an assassination.  I’m simply adding that tiny act to a long, long list of acts that, whether minor or horrifically violent, illustrates a consistent trend of the right wing in the US to literally attack their opponent rather than the opposing view.

Despite all the furor over the DHS Report On Right-Wing Extremism  and Secretary Janet Napolitano begging for forgiveness, we do have a dangerous problem with our right wing, and, petty as it might be, Whelan’s outing of his critic Publius associates him with this right wing tendency toward personal attacks.  We saw recently in Wichita how easily ad himinem becomes incitement.  Publius isn’t going to get killed for being a liberal blogger, but it might just cost him (or his family members) a job.

Where should we draw the line?  Where should Whelan, the President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, have drawn it?  He’s acknowledged that he crossed it and apologised.

More importantly, why does the right wing attack its opponents personally? There is a link, obviously, between the rhetoric and the violence.  Why do they attempt to injure their critics rather than debate them?  Why can’t they debate the merits of their arguments and leave personal attacks out of it?  Why do the same folks that cling to god, cling to guns?  Why do pro-immigrant groups march and protest, while anti-immigrant groups take up arms and patrol the borders?

The right wing is waging a war while the left is holding a debate.  Why is that?  And should the response of the left be in kind?

* Okay, fine, the stuff about shoes and Kenny G may not be true.  We’ll never know unless the real “Ed Whelan” is identified and his feet measured.