I've been thinking about the topic of Amanda's last post for a while now.
Here's what claims to be video of a conservative black man allegedly getting attacked by a union member (it looks a lot more like a lot of people falling down, and I initially thought the victim was an SEIU member). From the video, I can't tell what's supposed to have happened other than a lot of uncoordinated middle-aged people scuffling with each other and then yelling about it afterwards. It's entirely unclear what the timeline of events were here, but it's pretty clear some form of violence was involved. Some on the right, incidentally, are ecstatic that this guy is black, because that means that Obama is a false prophet of racial harmony or, well, yes. And such. (Interestingly, the alleged victim's allegations initially involved the black man you see rubbing his shoulder early in the video attacking him instead of the white man who was arrested, which is...odd, I'd say.)
More problematically, SEIU is now having violence threatened against it, with one caller declaring that they're "gonna run up against the Second Amendment". Democratic Representative Brad Miller has received death threats over the health care bill. GOP Representative Bob Inglis was loudly booed for telling his audience that Glenn Beck is an asshole.
These protests are typified by a few key elements. The first is that the protesters are angry enough to spend hours preparing to scream their ever-loving heads off about...things. It's a toxic mix of racial resentment, class resentment, general liberal-hatred, a continued belief that Barack Obama is some sort of fascist/socialist/communist dictator, and a series of other beliefs ranging from the murderous aims of liberals to our intent to ban religion. It's all driven by the prophets of crazy - the Becks, Limbaughs and O'Reillys, with the lesser Malkins and Buchanans plugging along just under the surface - living the dream of becoming millionaires while fomenting radicalism, something that hairshirted liberal extremists never quite got the hang of. Clever people. The second is that there's no coherent issue these people are angry about. They've coalesced around healthcare because it's a broad enough sector of our economy with broad enough reach into our lives that it allows them to unleash the full 45 years of post-Goldwater conservative resentment on us all. Sarah Palin wrote...uh...just read it:
The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.
Such a system also does not exist. And has not been proposed. But it's emblematic of this perfect storm of crazy: conservatives have spent so long trying to keep so many groups angry about so many things that the supports have started to fall and it's all come down together like an amateur's splatter-paint canvas. Government bureaucrats are labor unions are pro-choicers are gun control advocates are euthanasia advocates are welfare recipients are gays and lesbians are race baiters are immigrants are feminazis are socialists are communists are fascists are the nanny state are skate punks are Israel-haters. None of it makes much sense, and when combined together, any one of these becomes a trigger to every other bit of hate. The hatred of government dovetails into a belief that government will kill off babies and old people because of the great deals we're getting on mass furnaces from China or something, which also means they're going to take guns because the patriots will rise up and strike down tyranny. They scream because it's the only way to be heard over the onrush of every single other element in society conspiring against them.
The third is that they want to provoke the very confrontation they're afraid of. These protesters have a view of the world that's part eschatology, part Red Dawn. They're powerless to stop the coming catastrophe, but there's no reason they shouldn't be prepared to fight it every step of the way. And maybe, just maybe, if they fight smart enough and rig enough grenade launchers out of old cans and rusted-out V12 engines, they can turn it away.
They believe they're up against a President who's "drunk with power" because he riffs on people who bitch about his solutions to the problems they created. ("Note the body language: the leading with the chin and the little smile at the end. This is a man in love with power who is angry at being defied, a man who has absolutely no interest in freedom of speech if it goes against him (no, that was too mild; he has an absolute antipathy to freedom of speech if it goes against him, and this has a long history with Obama—see this and this)." The "this" and "this" are allegations that Obama tried to squelch the free speech of people criticizing him by - wait for it - criticizing them.) The new rumor is that he's building internment camps for conservative dissidents, despite the fact that the job posting is clearly for the military prisons that already exist (and that they supported when Bush was in power). By the time it gets into swine flu conspiracy-mongering, it's pretty much over as anything even remotely rational - it's just a matter of placing conservatives as victims of the most terriblest evil that's ever existed.
Conservatives thrived for years as victims. Victims of a welfare state, victims of the poor, victims of abortion, victims of drug-addled criminals ransacking their neighborhoods. When they finally, totally lost in 2008, and to a black man no less, something appears to have finally snapped in the collective conservative id. They've fallen back into the victim mythology so forcefully it's jarred something loose; it's like someone who just needs a hug finding a binkie and sucking his thumb in the corner until someone sees him and pays attention. Before, there was an air of confidence and, yes, hope that kept the true insanity at bay (or at least churning in the ever-productive conservative bestseller industry) but this may just be too much. The only real questions that remain are one, how long will "mainstream" conservatives defend these as mere exercises of free speech and two, how long will it be until this new round of uber-ranting winds up with yet another person dead from right-wing violence?
Oh, and three, will our media ever look at this beyond the long-past-its-expiration-date "he said, she said" frame? At least we know the answer to that one.