Sorry, Dr. Krauthammer: The problem is on the left

There are few political commentators who come up to the level of Dr. Charles Krauthammer, but yesterday he managed to say something very intelligent, reasonable, superficially correct, and wrong-headed.  In his appearance on Special Report yesterday, he blamed multiple factors that involve both parties for the horrendous violence enacted on a baseball practice field, turning it from a field of dreams to a field of nightmares.

ROBERTS: "In the middle of all of this, Charles, an editorial in 'The New York Times' which again repeated the much discredited meme that a Sarah Palin ad was responsible for the Gabby Giffords shooting. So even the media is in on this game, too, not just the political sides."

KRAUTHAMMER: "I agree. That editorial this morning repeating that was not only scandalous but unbelievable because that is a 6-year-old story that's been debunked within three days. It turned out it had nothing at all to do with her. The man who did the shooting was a paranoid schizophrenic. I think the problem here is twofold. It's not just a style but it's also the objectives. There's now a style in our politics where the ad hominem is a norm. People ought to fight over policy but once you begin to question the motives, the patriotism of your opponent, you have gone too far. The worst thing, and I think this is overlooked — the two parties, the two ideologies, you might say, speak about the politics in apocalyptic terms. If the other guy wins, it's the end of the republic. If the other guy wins, it's the end of the world. The man who did the shooting yesterday is a man who bought into that quite literally. You can speak about it hyperbolically. When those are stakes, when you say, 'Unless we stop Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, the republic will not survive,' then it justifies anything. That is the language, the ideology, the rationale of terrorists. The fate of the world hangs on this. And it's up to the leadership to say, 'These are policies. This is not the fate of the republic.'"

I also deplore ad hominem attacks, but they have always been with us.  When a real argument is unavailable, personal attacks will suffice in dishonest minds.  And it is true that many people are alarmed, even panicked over the stakes in politics today.  Part of that is due to the vast enlargement of the federal government and its involvement in the minutiae of our lives, down to our flushing of toilets.  Politics does matter in ways today that it did not a hundred years ago.

Unquestionably, we live in an era of apocalyptic notions, though the past is replete with apocalyptic visions motivating religion and politics.  Two things are different today, however.

  1. An important percentage of the public has embraced politics as its religion.  When people reject traditional religions, they often end up finding ultimate values in politics.  Some actually worship the government, though they would never admit it in those terms.  But they seek the perfection of the human condition through the efforts of a benevolent government acting in the interests of the entire community, not just individuals.
  2. The extinction of humanity and other apocalyptic visions are actually possible now in ways they never were in the past – a nuclear holocaust, biological experimentation or warfare gone out of control, and other technology-driven hazards, many of which are unknown.  Our power is greater than ever when it comes to the systems necessary to sustain our lives.

But these factors have been in place for a long time, and they do not explain why we now face escalating political violence.

There is a problem with rhetoric, but it is not that people see the stakes as too high.  The problem now is that one faction of politics refuses to accept the legitimacy of President Trump, and having tacitly adopted the strategy of forcing him from office, they have opened the door to legitimizing nondemocratic means of forcing political change.

The message has gotten out and proliferated among the left: anything goes!

AT readers already know that the left has been indulging in violent imagery directed at President Trump.  This directly feeds into the echo chambers of social media, where people of like mind politically vie for notoriety.  The way to get more responses is to escalate.  This is the breeding ground from which sick minds gain support as fantasies of attaining popular acclaim (in their little universe) and historic notability push them over the edge.

There is something unique in the current era, as far as my historical knowledge goes.  Fantasy political violence against political opponents is not limited to the fringe; rather, it has been embraced by the heights of cultural and institutional power: Shakespeare in the Park and the New York Times.  And on down the prestige chain:

Last month a professor called for the public assassination of the GOP house

Not one media outlet reported this -->

— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) June 14, 2017

This gets circulated on social media and read by people like James T. Hodgkinson.  I hope the FBI will publish a list of the sites and posts read by him.

Michelle Malkin nailed it:

Yes, there are extremists on all sides. But the problem is, whether we are talking about political violence against conservatives on campus, beheading rhetoric and imagery from Hollywood liberals that hate conservatives and Donald Trump to just a couple of days ago when you had one of these antifa protesters stabbing a police horse in the neck, an act for America's anti-sharia protests. There's a problem on the left and they need to acknowledge it."

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