There’s been a lot of posts in the last week or so about Megan McArdle of The Atlantic’s insane post in which she poo-pooed the idea that teabaggers openly carrying guns to presidential town halls were in fact dangerous or likely to increase the risk of violence perpetrated as a political act. McArdle has repeatedly demonstrated herself as one of the most willfully ignorant members of the Baby Journalist set (though her pal Russ Douthat gives her a run for her money). But this post really helps redefine one’s perceptions of her idiocy.
Thomas Levenson of The Inverse Square Blog has what will surely go down as the definitive Fisking of McArdle’s puddle of drool in favor of bringing guns to political protests. After dissecting the numerous logical fallacies and intellectual shortcomings put forward by McArdle, he packages the overall rebuttal not with the specifics he’s just put forth, but the common force of history:
But the point I’d finish with here, to counter McArdle’s attempt at a conclusion, is to remind everyone of the intellectual and emotional poverty of McArdle, along with that of those on the right who like her are trying to turn our politics into a game of high-school debate, unanchored in lived experience. She asserts, in effect, and almost in so many words, that the fear of political violence is a mere abstraction — her “symbolic belief.”
She is, of course, totally, utterly, and almost painfully wrong — as everyone knows who can remember back just a few years, read a book, perhaps, …or even managed to recall the fate of a couple of people who shared a last name with someone else famous who died on Tuesday.
Specifically: I was born in 1958. Since then, there have been ten presidents who have served before the current incumbent: Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II. Of them, one was killed by a rifle. Another had guns drawn on him twice in two weeks. A third was shot outside a Washington DC hotel by a deranged celebrity hound. Three out of ten.
More: Over the history of the presidency, ten out of the first 43 presidents were subject to attempted or successful assassinations. Political violence is a fact of American history.
I think this is a point that most pundits simply refuse to acknowledge: “Political violence is a fact of American history.” It is even more pronounced, as Levenson notes, when it comes to African-American leaders. Yet to McArdle, it is an act so rare that it does not even merit concern at a time when teabaggers are openly carrying military-type rifles in close quarter to the President of the United States. Levenson’s right: she is “totally, utterly, and almost painfully wrong.”
“Political violence is a fact of American history.” We can only hope that it is not a fact whose empirical repertoire is enhanced during this administration or any other. But it is impossible to be aware of the role violence has played as a means of furthering political arguments in American history and not be deeply afraid for what might come next in our country. As Atrios is wont to say, “I wonder just what it is about Obama that inspires such lunacy…” But we all know the answer to that question and as such, we must be reminded that a distinct subset of political violence in America is violence perpetrated by white racists against African-Americans. Levenson makes a similar observation regarding the historical danger and the need to take the threats against Obama even more seriously.
I hope with all sincerity that none of these nut jobs who bring guns to political rallies and Obama town halls, carrying signs that refer to watering the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants, decide to act on their image and use the guns they carry. But it is fundamentally naive and dangerous to assume that the addition of firearms to political protests does not increase the risk of violence, as McArdle does. We should all hope she’s right, but if she is, it won’t be because she’s made a persuasive argument and only that people aren’t as crazy as they seem and/or the Secret Service is phenomenally good at what they do. At this point in time, though, I would not bet against the Obama administration being free from political violence perpetrated by right wingers, though I hope I am wrong.
(Via The Poor Man Institute)