Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Dear Conservatives: Enough Of The Victim-Blaming, Already

There is a lot of back and forth going on these days about freedom of speech, even when the message that is being offered is a vile, despicable one. Conservatives and liberals generally agree that freedom of expression is more or less an absolute right, as long it falls within the commonly accepted bounds: no advocating for illegal acts (sedition, treason, and so on); keep it nonviolent; don't violate local, state, or Federal laws (a march that trespasses on private property, for example) ... the usual accepted restrictions. And if there is anything positive to be taken from the events in Charlottesville, it is this public unanimity of opinion.

The problem that is developing, as it usually does after events like this, is that less-informed members of the public -- and some prominent leaders, who should definitely know better -- attempt to lay blame at the feet of people or organizations with which they disagree. Since I'm a liberal, I will be focusing on the conservative arguments and showing why they are wrong. Again.

Bear in mind, these are not direct quotes from any one source; they are merely distillations of sentiments openly expressed by some conservatives. A few of the conservatives I have heard from are closeted (or openly) racist; the vast majority are not.

Again, and this is crucially important, the vast majority of conservatives are not racist. However, in their zeal to demonize the left, they have a tendency to skate blithely past the racism on their way to triumphantly painting liberals as "hate filled bigots," in the words on one of my conservative acquaintances.

It's Obama's fault.

A member of the Rainy Day Tea Party Patriots Party in Alabama maintains that President Obama "set back race relations 100 years with his divisional rhetoric." To begin with, President Obama did not employ "divisional rhetoric;" his message was generally one of inclusion. It was Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan (and before him John Boehner), and the Republican Party who have espoused views that have engendered division by making false claims -- Obama is going to take everyone's guns; the Affordable Care Act is going to institute "death panels;" and other, similar, nonsense.

These divisions were also the result of things like the birther movement started and promulgated by donald trump that, for years, tried to cast doubts on the legitimacy of the Obama presidency despite ample proof to the contrary.

What about the Black Lives Matter movement killing police in Dallas?

On  July 7, 2016, Black Lives Matter organized a demonstration to protest the shooting and killing by police of two African-American men: Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Dallas police were on the scene of the march to provide traffic control, to keep order, and to make sure the march stayed within the bounds of agreed-upon borders.

A man named Micah Xavier Johnson ambushed the police and opened fire, killing five police officers.

Many conservatives have seized upon this as evidence that BLM is a violent movement and have placed the murder of these police officers at their feet. This is a false narrative, plain and simple. The facts are these.
  1. Micah Xavier Johnson was not a member of Black Lives Matter. While he may have sympathized with them on any number of issues, he was not a member of the movement and was not involved with it.
  2. Johnson had been a member of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) chapter in Houston several years prior to the shooting, but had been asked to leave for "violating the chain of command" and promoting dangerous rhetoric such as killing black preachers because they were more interested in money than they were in God.
  3. In addition to the NBPP, Johnson had also expressed sympathy for organizations such as the Nation of Islam, the Black Riders Liberation Army (both of which were classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as hate groups), and the African American Defense League, an organization whose leader, Mauricelm-Lei Millere, publicly called for the murder of police officers in the wake of the shooting by police of Laquan MacDonald in 2014.
Again, for those in the back who didn't hear it the first time, Black Lives Matter had nothing to do with the ambush of Dallas police officers. The attack was carried out by Micah Xavier Johnson, acting independently.

Constant conservative drumbeats that the BLM is as much to blame for Charlottesville as white nationalists and Nazis is nothing more than an attempt to rationalize hatred. Period.

It's the fault of the Antifa movement. They were stirring up trouble, as leftists do.

Again, this is nothing more than an attempt to release the alt-right from responsibility. Are the Antifa protestors violent? Yes. Do they commit despicable acts? Yes. Yet they do not represent the mainstream left any more than the Nazis represent the mainstream right. However, all too often rank-and-file conservatives engage in a bit of intellectual dishonesty on this issue by making the claim that liberals and the alt-left are the same thing while simultaneously trying to distance themselves from the alt-right.

As an example of this, I myself have been called a "full blown propaganda tool of the alt-left (and a shitty one)" by a conservative of my acquaintance. Granted, this guy has a personal gripe against me for some reason and his perceptions are colored by this animus, but I much prefer being accused of being a shitty representative of the alt-left than an effective one. Not that I am actually either, but you get my point.

Black Lives Matter people were throwing bricks at the car that drove into the crowd.

There are a couple of big problems with this. First, I have seen the video of the car that drove into the crowd, and when it first appeared there was no evidence that it had been hit by bricks -- or anything else, for that matter. My car has a dent from when my lawnmower picked up a dime-sized piece of gravel and tossed it at the right rear door ... a brick, which weighs about 10 gazillion times more than that piece of gravel, has sharp edges, and was probably traveling at a similar speed to the gravel, would have left definite marks on the vehicle ... and if it had hit a window, the window probably wouldn't be there any more. Yet in the video recording of the car plowing into the crowd, it looked pretty much brand new.

Second, the subtext here is that this is an attempt to somehow justify the actions of James Fields (the driver of the car that killed one and injured nineteen). Kinda like a schoolyard bully, when asked why he was beating up a smaller kid, replies with "Just look at him! With a stupid face like that he deserved it!" Based on this "logic," protesters pissed Fields off, so he was justified in reacting violently.

Finally, what does it matter? No jury in the world would accept the argument that "someone threw a brick at my car" as reasonable justification for a terrorist attack resulting in murder.

And this was definitely an act of terrorism.

These arguments from some conservatives are nothing more than an effort to smear Democrats/liberals and somehow minimize the culpability of the right in fostering an atmosphere that allows these hate groups to emerge from the shadows. Claiming anything less than that is simply disingenuous at best, and most likely a blatant lie.

I gotta lie down.

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