Just a couple of months ago, in the wake of Jared Loughner’s shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, simple talk of “targeting” a political opponent for defeat was treated as beyond the pale. But let’s look at some more recent language — and conduct — that our bien-pensant punditry can’t be bothered to notice, let alone condemn.
In Michigan, protesters opposed to Gov. Rick Snyder’s austerity budget broke a window to get into the capitol building. One faces felony charges after assaulting police with an edged weapon; 14 were arrested.
In Washington, DC, the windows at GOP headquarters were shot out, not the first time that Republican offices have been subject to such attacks.
In Madison, Wis., the state capitol was occupied for weeks by teachers union members and their supporters. Doors and windows were broken; a mob tried to keep Republican state senators from entering the Senate chamber to vote.
And blogger Ann Althouse — a Wisconsin law professor who voted for Barack Obama — received nasty threats for the crime of posting video depicting this thuggish conduct on YouTube: “We will f— you up,” the threateners wrote. This was not the first threat she has received for her blogging.
The GOP state senators who supported Gov. Scott Walker’s budget also received death threats, including an e-mail reading, in part: “I want to make this perfectly clear. Because of your actions today and in the past couple of weeks I and the group of people that are working with me have decided that we’ve had enough. We feel that you and your republican dictators have to die.
“This is how it’s going to happen: I as well as many others know where you and your family live, it’s a matter of public records. We have all planned to assult [sic] you by arriving at your house and putting a nice little bullet in your head.
“However, this isn’t enough. We also have decided that this may not be enough to send the message. So we have built several bombs that we have placed in various locations around the areas in which we know that you frequent. This includes, your house, your car, the state capitol, and well I won’t tell you all of them because that’s just no fun.”
This threat was more credible because mobs of union protesters had already visited senators’ houses, screaming and banging on the windows.
At the Huffington Post, liberal Lee Stranahan wonders why this kind of thing isn’t getting more attention from the traditional media who were tut-tutting over much more minor (and even imaginary) offenses to civility so very recently. “Ignoring the story of these threats is deeply, fundamentally wrong. It’s bad, biased journalism that will lead to no possible good outcome and progressives should be leading the charge against it.
“Just before writing this article, I did a Google search and it’s stunning to find out that the right-wing media really isn’t exaggerating — proven death threats against politicians are being ignored by the supposedly honest media. If you’ve never agreed with a single thing that Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly et al have said about anything, you can’t in any good conscience say that they don’t have a point here. Death threats are wrong and if a story like Wisconsin is national news for days, then so are death threats.”
He’s right, but the big-media folks seem so anxious to peddle the same tired storyline — right-wingers are violent and ignorant, left-wingers are peaceful and virtuous — that they almost have to ignore anything that will spoil the narrative.
But in doing this, they only undermine their own position more. Word still gets out — even to liberals at the Huffington Post. And people catch on: If there are big stories out there that traditional media won’t cover because it offends their storyline, then why listen to traditional media at all?
Glenn Reynolds teaches law at the University of Tennessee. He also hosts “InstaVision” on PJTV.com