Lee Harvey Oswald has left the building

Sunday, January 16th, 2011 · 79 Comments »
Lee Harvey Oswald poses for posterity.

Lee Harvey Oswald poses for posterity.

The past week has been full of bizarre responses to the Arizona shooting, and if I weren’t so tired and depressed I’d grace you all with a 10,000 word essay on the subject. But I am tired and depressed, so I’ll just pick the one moment that continues to intrigue me. It was this: Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s essay in the Huffington Post. It’s a fine essay, and RFK Jr.’s personal reminiscences of the impact of the JFK assassination on his family are poignant. I also share his repugnance for right-wing vitriol, both then and now.

But the essay is missing a sentence. I was so sure the sentence had to be there that I read the entire piece three times, and then started doing page searches to find the missing words. Surely the sentence was there and I was just somehow not seeing it. It’s the sentence that goes something like, “Ironically, despite the atmosphere in Dallas, it turned out that Uncle Jack’s assassin was a misguided pro-Castro Marxist.” Because that, of course, is what actually happened. That was the great irony of the JFK assassination. Dallas was infested with wingnuts (though they weren’t called wingnuts back then), and at first everybody thought that’s who killed the president. But lo and behold, it was just Lee Oswald, delusional Communist blowhard. As Jackie Kennedy remarked bitterly, JFK didn’t even have the “satisfaction” of dying for his liberal ideals; instead his assassin was just a “silly little Communist.”

In fact, that’s the point I thought RFK Jr. was going to make when I started reading the essay. Everybody in Dallas in 1963 thought it was a right-wing hit, and they were wrong; that’s the parallel with Tuscon. But no, that wasn’t the point RFK Jr. wanted to make. He just wanted to talk about the dangers of right-wing hate. Okay, fine. That’s cool. Let’s talk about it. But still: how do you leave out the sentence about Oswald? As a writer, how do you do that? I couldn’t. It feels obligatory. You write this highly-charged essay, you make a big deal about how ugly the right-wing stuff was in Dallas, you evoke the horror of the president’s death; even if you want your takeaway message to be about the dangers of superheated rhetoric, how do you leave out the undeniable historical reality that Oswald was cut from an entirely different bolt of cloth? Even if you tuck it in as a parenthetical throwaway (“of course, ironically…”), you still have to acknowledge it. Don’t you?

I had just about persuaded myself to forget about it—chalk it up to a single editorial decision not to muddy the main point—when I learned today that Eric Boehlert wrote an extremely similar essay in 2009: A President was killed the last time right-wing hatred ran wild like this. It’s exactly the same argument RFK Jr. makes, and with exactly the same stunning omission. No Oswald! Oswald has simply disappeared. He’s gone. And everything that motivated the man is gone. No Cuba, no Fidel, no Soviet Union, no Marxism, no Communism, no nothing. There’s not even a nod to Oswald’s real motive, which was the inchoate longing to be somebody, to be a great man, to be important.

So is this what we do now? Is this the program? Fifty years later, we just make it be about whatever we want it to be about? (Mr. Derrida, white courtesy phone. White courtesy phone, Mr. Derrida.)

Ironically, people will accuse me of having an ulterior motive for even saying this. So you’re defending right-wing hatred? So you’re arguing that the left is just as bad? Blah blah blah. Actually, here’s my ulterior motive: truth. I like truth. I like facts. I like knowing what really happened.

Here’s what happened in Dallas in 1963: Lee Harvey Oswald saw his chance at history and took it. The motorcade route was published in the newspaper just a few days before the presidential visit, and Oswald realized that JFK’s car would be passing right in front of his own place of employment, the Texas School Book Depository. He didn’t hate the president, but he did resent JFK’s policy towards Cuba. Oswald was a self-taught Marxist; he’d defected to the Soviet Union right after getting out of the Marines. The Russians pegged him for what he was—a mentally unbalanced loser—and tolerated him as an awkward guest. He married a Soviet wife and eventually returned to the U.S., tired of the Russian winters, the boring low-level factory work he was given, the absence of anything remotely glamorous or exciting.

Back in the U.S., he revered Fidel Castro, tried to do some political organizing for Cuba, read Communist papers, probably listened to Havana’s Radio Free Dixie on his shortwave set, and yearned to help with the revolution. He felt sure he was destined to play some stupendous role in history, if only he could figure out how. Throughout 1963 he bounced from one thing to another, from job to job, from Texas to Louisiana and back, floundering around, trying to find his place. Going to Cuba was one possibility: a few months before the JFK assassination he went to Mexico City and tried, unsuccessfully, to get a visa to Cuba. He also tried to persuade his wife Marina to help him hijack a plane to Cuba. And he seems to have hit upon the idea that shooting somebody important here in the U.S. might be a good move: maybe it would make him a revolutionary hero, or at least a name for the history books. In April 1963 he tried unsuccessfully to kill the right-wing anti-Communist General Edwin Walker, using the same bolt-action rifle he would later use to blow off Jack Kennedy’s head.

So did the atmosphere of right-wing vitriol in Dallas contribute to JFK’s assassination? I think that’s a hard case to make. The connection is tangential and reactionary at best: Oswald wouldn’t have shot JKF if he hadn’t already gotten the idea (and the nerve) to kill General Walker, and he wouldn’t have tried to kill General Walker if the latter hadn’t been a vitriolic wingnut. Hmm. Not very satisfying.

Nor can you even say that the anti-JFK stuff in Dallas gave Oswald the idea of killing the president. He’d already tried to shoot General Walker back in April. In October 1963 he watched We Were Strangers, a film about political assassination, and according to Marina was very excited by it. There’s also good reason to believe he’d seen Suddenly and The Manchurian Candidate, both films about shooting a U.S. president—and both starring Frank Sinatra, weirdly enough. (Wait, is Frank implicated?)

If you want to make the case that violent political rhetoric in general begets real violence, then make that case. Don’t fudge the data and don’t cherry pick your facts. Don’t talk ominously about right-wing vitriol and look meaningfully over at Dallas 1963, or at Tuscon 2011. Unless, of course, you want to argue that right-wing rhetoric is dangerous because it drives leftists and schizophrenics to murder, but somehow I don’t think that’s the goal.

Personally, I think the American track record for killing our politicians is born of many things. We’re a society that fetishizes violence and guns; we stockpile weapons, demonize our enemies, and leave disturbed people without help or comfort. As I wrote earlier about the attempt to blame Sarah Palin for the Arizona shooting:

It’s like, come on, dudes, try this theory with my mom. My mom, who has lived through the past blood-soaked half-century of American history, from the JFK assassination to this moment. Wave your Palin map in front of her and explain that the lady who showed up from Alaska two years ago made this happen with her scary map icons.

It’s just such a fucking insult to everyone’s intelligence.

79 Responses to “Lee Harvey Oswald has left the building”

  1. Violet nails it « The Confluence says:

    [...] at Reclusive Leftist, Violet Socks responds to a recent essay by RFK Jr. that compared last week’s shooting in [...]

  2. myiq2xu says:

    I can’t believe that some people are still trying to blame Sarah and the Tea Partiers. That’s like insisting that Saddam was behind 9-11.

  3. jb says:

    violet,
    I was 15 when kennedy was shot and have followed the books on it over the years.
    have you seen:
    Farewell to Justice by Temple Univ Professor Joan Mellen
    On the Trail of the Assassins by New Orleans DA Jim Garrison
    http://www.joanmellen.net/

  4. Violet Socks says:

    jb, Jim Garrison was flake and his whole case was bogus. Sorry.

  5. djmm says:

    Thank you, Violet! I think that the conspiracy theories started just because, given the right wing vitriol, people found the truth hard to accept. But Oswald’s attempted assassination of General Walker is critical evidence. That and his smirk when he was captured.

    djmm

  6. Violet Socks says:

    I personally think that Jack Ruby’s shooting of Oswald was the most potent thing setting off the conspiracy stuff. It was so incredibly weird.

    People always ask “Where were you when JFK was shot?” Or for my generation, “Where were you on 9-11?” Those are the great indelible moments. But I’ve always thought that the shooting of Oswald must have been even beyond that. It would be as if, after 9-11, we all tune in to see George Bush with his bullhorn at Ground Zero, and suddenly he gets shot right there on live TV! We’re already in shock from 9-11; what’s beyond shock? Stupefaction?

    Over the years I’ve asked both my parents about that moment, about what it was like sitting there watching TV and seeing Oswald get shot. They both say it was stunning, and that’s about it. No words. Just stunning. Incomprehensible. “What is going on????”

  7. Amelie says:

    Violet can I ask your opinion on two questions.

    1)What do you think of Sarah Palin’s use of the offensive term ‘Blood Libel’.

    2) Also do you agree the left is just as bad as the right?

  8. Carmonn says:

    I’m really surprised that nobody’s put out a book claiming that marina was the criminal mastermind, merclessly duping her hapless husband and in cahoots with Jackie who planned to declare martial law, depose LBJ, crown herself Empress and expand the war in Vietnam. This generalized right wing thing doesn’t sell unless it’s explicitly connected to the terrifying Hillary-Sarah-Michelle Coven of Puppy Murder. Who’s scared of right wing dudes, for goodness sake?

  9. Unree says:

    @Carmonn: That book, or at least blog post, would definitely be put out today. Misogyny was calmer in 1963.

  10. Violet Socks says:

    1)What do you think of Sarah Palin’s use of the offensive term ‘Blood Libel’.

    2) Also do you agree the left is just as bad as the right?

    1) I personally did not find it offensive. I’ve seen the phrase used for years by many people in many situations, including situations far less serious than this one. If people hadn’t made an issue of it I probably would have blipped right over it.

    I found her speech unpleasant in other ways, I didn’t think the tone was helpful, and I don’t share many of her sentiments. But that particular choice of words did not outrage me.

    Of course other people have a right to be offended as they see fit, especially Jewish people.

    2) No.

  11. caseyOR says:

    I was 11 years old when JFK was killed. I remember that entire time from Friday afternoon through the funeral and burial on Monday. And I remember quite vividly watching Ruby shoot Oswald. The whole sequence is seared into my memory’s eye. I am running through the footage in my mind as I type this comment.

    We, the entire nation, we were all glued to the TV. When Ruby stepped out of the crowd and shot the handcuffed Oswald in the stomach, right there in front of all of us, well, your parents chose the right word. It was just stunning. Of all the things that could have happened when the police transferred Oswald from the police station, I don’t think the idea that someone would step in front of that Dallas detective, the one in the big white hat, pull out a gun and shoot Oswald, occurred to anyone.

    About RFK, Jr. Even though other family members, Teddy among them, believed the Warren Commission, Bobby Kennedy did not. He never bought into the idea Oswald as a lone gunman. So, perhaps, and I really have no idea what RFK, Jr, believes about the Warren Report, but perhaps he shares his father’s skepticism.

  12. Mary says:

    Great post, Violet.

    The American public is not looking for naratives or memes from either side that use selective facts to reinforce their own preferences.

    They are, indeed, looking for facts, and for courage NOT to pick them selectively.

    Many thanks.

  13. Teresainpa says:

    I know I am in the minority in thinking the left is as bad as the right. I think that is because I live with a conservative and I do not find his rhetoric any scarier than I do my Clinton hating liberal siblings and friends. I guess familiarity makes me realize they are just people like the rest of us. The hate from the left has always seemed more potent and intense to me. And the left is every bit as self righteous and dangerous.
    And I do not mind, in fact I understand the tone Palin took, she was angry and I don’t blame her. In fact I was thinking that I would not be as calm as she was if it were me. I have been falsely accused in my life and it is ugly and hurtful.

  14. votermom says:

    Teresa, I agree – for me the most remarkable thing about Palin’s remarks was how much calm and rationality she projected. Watching it one of my first reactions was to wonder if any male pol could have projected such calm in the face of accusations of being an accessory to murder.

    Violet, as an immigrant who did not study US history, I didn’t even know Oswald was a communist. Nobody ever says that.

    as for this

    Ironically, people will accuse me of having an ulterior motive for even saying this. So you’re defending right-wing hatred? So you’re arguing that the left is just as bad? Blah blah blah. Actually, here’s my ulterior motive: truth. I like truth. I like facts. I like knowing what really happened.

    Welcome to the never-ending campaign. If you are not with them you are against them. If you don’t agree to every illogical meme you are giving aid and comfort to the “enemy.”

  15. Mary says:

    You’re not in the minority, Teresa.

    And by the way, I never believed HIllary killed Vince Foster (gag me).

    To suggest by implication that I do, is deeply insulting.

    But keep up the good fight.! :)

  16. Kali says:

    Also do you agree the left is just as bad as the right?

    I think the left is as bad as the right in inciting hatred for people they dislike (especially women), though they are more subtle and less likely to use overtly violent imagery. Being more subtle doesn’t make them any better though. It might even make the hate more insidious and legitimate. Personally, I believe that saying/suggesting “she’s the evil woman who is responsible for your unhappiness” is more likely to incite violence/hatred than putting target signs on an election map.

  17. gxm17 says:

    Teresainpa @ 11. I hear you. I find myself in the very unpleasant position of being even more disgusted with the left as I am with the right. The reason the haters on the left bother me more is precisely because we’re supposed to be on the same side.

    As for the video, I thought it was one of Palin’s weaker moments. She seems to be going for a more deliberate approach and, IMO, in doing so she loses much of her charm. Personally, I prefer the fiery Palin.

  18. Mary says:

    Violet, I know I’m new. I came by to congratulate you on your essay, which myiq called “Violet Nails It.” Basically, I was agreeing with myiq.

    I’m basically just gonna be a blog reader, since I hadn’t seen your blog before.

    But I would appreciate your letting me out of moderation so myiq will see it.

    Thanks!

  19. Alex says:

    I think in terms of misogyny, the left is as bad as the right. The violent political rhetoric in the past few years, IMO, is unparalleled in quantity and hatred toward women. And then I think back to my college days and all the wonderful liberal boyz who ended up raping their liberal female friends and girlfriends. Who rapes more? The left or the right? I imagine it’s about equal.

  20. lambert strether says:

    It’s perfectly possible not to “blame” Palin for the shooting, and to hold Palin accountable for her failure of leadership in responding to it with the “Blood Libel” speech.

    It’s also perfectly possible to reject the “Don’t blame Sarah!” frame that so many Palin supporters unanimously and instantaneously propagated, in favor of a frame that regards glamorizing political violence as immoral.

    And it’s also perfectly possible to decry the glamorization of violent rhetoric by Obama’s rump Ds on “the left,” while recognizing that as a matter of historical record over the last twenty years, strategic hate management on “the right” has been better engineered, more pervasive, and more likely to be acted out.

    Improbable possibles, I suppose. At least for some.

    Now, I’m going to go check the pipes to make sure they’re not going to freeze. I blame Sarah Palin.

  21. votermom says:

    The reason the haters on the left bother me more is precisely because we’re supposed to be on the same side.

    Yes. Exactly.
    Once the BO promoted the use on misogyny and hate in 2008, it attracted all the misogynist and haters to his camp. Not people I want to rub elbows with because I never know when their elbows will be replaced by boots on my neck.

  22. lambert strether says:

    Re “we’re supposed to be on the same side”–

    Sure, but IMNSHO it’s been obvious since early 2008 that “the same side” didn’t include “us.”

    “I’m on the side that the other two sides are trying to suppress.”

  23. quixote says:

    The left’s attitude makes me crazy. The total contempt for women they’ve been showing isn’t happening, in their world. Doesn’t even matter, or they can’t see it. I don’t know which. All bigotry is somehow on the right, even after the lynching-in-effigy garbage.

    And then, when someone points out what they’ve done, it’s “Oh, but we’re not as bad.” So the standard for what’s okay is set by the worst people? It’s “Ku Klux Klan minus a smidge”?

    They don’t seem to be noticing that they’re condoning the idea of lynching someone who looks like half the human race. Not just condoning. Saying it’s okay because it’s a joke. Was that the only mistake the KKK made? Not laughing at their victims?

  24. Valhalla says:

    In the law world, there’s a saying, “hard cases make bad law.” It seems we should have a saying for the blogworld “notorious incidents make bad tribal reasoning,” or something.

    If you want to make the case that violent political rhetoric in general begets real violence, then make that case.

    Exactly.

  25. votermom says:

    One thing I do see Palin doing is answering and rebutting every attack. I think she must have seen from the Dem primary in 2008 that “taking the high ground” is a bad idea when dealing with sexism.

  26. Lori says:

    During the Clinton administration, right wing terrorists killed almost twice as many Americans as foreign terrorists. It’s one of the truths that can never be acknowledged. So to say that the left is as bad as the right is nonsense. Here’s the list of the deaths:

    http://www.correntewire.com/domestic_and_foreign_terrorism_during_last_democratic_admin#more

  27. Truth says:

    What you left out of your post was that out of 176 murders the link attributed to the right, 168 out of them alone was done by one man (McVeigh).

    And simply lumping McVeigh and Eric Rudolf with the right wing is silly given their beliefs are way out f of the ball park for right-wingers. But if you want to play that, then want to consider the data of overall murder rates in America, and which folks murdered more than the other? Liberals or conservatives? Or want to throw in names like DC snipers as belonging to far left via guilt by association?

    Anyone can take stats to make the other side look bad.

    What’s the violent crime rate of abortion doctors in relations to their patients, spouses, and even prolifers? Want to go there?

    You might not like the stats.

    Not saying that show how awful theleft is or members of it.

    I am saying there are nutcases and violent folks in every movement, right or left.

  28. Truth says:

    Ohhh. I can throw around links to citing high crimes in any given movement:

    http://abortionviolence.com/MURDERS.HTM

    Not that it matters. Bad behavior by members of the movement individually do not discredit a movement as a whole.

    But just saying anyone can come up with stats to discredit another. Personally, I think it is silly game done by any side of the debate using it.

  29. Violet Socks says:

    Ohhh. I can throw around links to citing high crimes in any given movement:

    http://abortionviolence.com/MURDERS.HTM

    Okay, that link is absolutely batshit. It’s a list of brutal people, mostly men, who have conducted bloody back-alley and/or medically incompetent abortions or have murdered or maimed their pregnant girlfriends, etc. Posting that data as some kind of evidence about the politicial pro-choice movement is beyond bizarre.

  30. Truth says:

    You missed my point. My point is anyone can make any facts or stats fit their claims. I did not say it was legit argument. That’s my point!

  31. Violet Socks says:

    We, the entire nation, we were all glued to the TV. When Ruby stepped out of the crowd and shot the handcuffed Oswald in the stomach, right there in front of all of us, well, your parents chose the right word. It was just stunning. Of all the things that could have happened when the police transferred Oswald from the police station, I don’t think the idea that someone would step in front of that Dallas detective, the one in the big white hat, pull out a gun and shoot Oswald, occurred to anyone.

    caseyOR, thank you for sharing that. It fascinates me. My father has also said that he remembers thinking, right before the shooting, that the scene looked chaotic. He was a military guy, and he was thinking “what the hell kind of security is this?”

  32. Truth says:

    By the way, love the historical info from first hand info (I say this as one with degree in history).

  33. Teresainpa says:

    During the Clinton administration, right wing terrorists killed almost twice as many Americans as foreign terrorists. It’s one of the truths that can never be acknowledged. So to say that the left is as bad as the right is nonsense. Here’s the list of the deaths:

    sure if you want to ignore that McVeigh killed most of them. But he was not particularly right wing. He was anti-war machine, more than anti government.

  34. Violet Socks says:

    But he was not particularly right wing. He was anti-war machine, more than anti government.

    McVeigh not right-wing? Not particularly anti-government? Are you kidding?

    The dude was a walking advertisement for the right-wing anti-government militia movement, white supremacism, etc. Jesus.

  35. Teresainpa says:

    And it’s also perfectly possible to decry the glamorization of violent rhetoric by Obama’s rump Ds on “the left,” while recognizing that as a matter of historical record over the last twenty years, strategic hate management on “the right” has been better engineered, more pervasive, and more likely to be acted out.

    I am trying to imagine what your examples might be, I can’t. Want to fill me in?
    As for Palin, she is either responsible or she isn’t responsible. I am not much for getting the vapors over the idea that the term blood libel is sacred and owned by the Jews. It has simply been used by all sides for years and Palin is as free to use it as anyone else. But then I lost all my guilty white protestant liberalism several years ago when I found out I was racist. /snark

  36. Truth says:

    Right-wingers reject white supremacism.

    And left-wingers reject wars it seems (unless they are running them). Where does that put McVeigh?

    A nut is nut no matter what group.

    It is almost like sports teams and their fan bases. All of them have their shares of prima donas and jerky fans.

  37. Teresainpa says:

    Votermom, I didn’t know you were an immigrant. May I ask from whence you came? Thank your for your comments, sometimes I feel like I am seeing the world through a filter no one else is aware of.

    Mary, welcome!

  38. Lori says:

    Truth – I assembled the information and the stuff from the foreign terrorists comes from the State Department. The list of domestic terrorism came from The Terrorism Database, and since I couldn’t link to that, I used online articles.

    Tinothy McVeigh was a right wing anti-government nut who listened to Limbaugh and who believed the American people were going to rise up in rebellion against the government after his opening attack. Yes, he is a right wing terrorist – a very successful one. Eric Rudolf is cut from the same cloth and was sheltered by the radical anti-choice movement.

    Curious how you want to discount him because he was so effective.

  39. Teresainpa says:

    Violet, I think he McVeigh fit your description only shallowly. More in depth examination of his history etc… made him more complicated.

  40. Violet Socks says:

    Right-wingers reject white supremacism.

    You are not making sense. White supremacism is a right-wing phenomenon in this country. It’s at the far end of the right-wing spectrum, and is alien to more moderate conservatives, but that doeesn’t mean it’s not on that spectrum. You seem to be trying to redefine “right-wing” to include only reasonable people that you are proud to have representing the movement. Horseshit.

    It would be like me saying Oswald wasn’t really left-wing because left-wingers don’t believe in assassinating presidents.

  41. alwaysfiredup says:

    Hey, if Oswald can be redefined as a rightwinger, then white supremacists can be lefties, right? Who needs truth?

  42. Truth says:

    Would I consider Oswald’s action put him in left-winger view? Not really. He may have left wing ideas, but wrong to attached guilt to left wing in this country for his actions.

  43. Violet Socks says:

    Would I consider Oswald’s action put him in left-winger view?

    That’s not the question.

    He may have left wing ideas, but wrong to attached guilt to left wing in this country for his actions.

    Again, totally not the point and off-topic of what anybody has said.

    You’re wearing down my patience.

  44. Daphne says:

    The “spectrum” concept is troubling for everyone. It forces people to be identified with way-out fringes they want nothing to do with. I never hear right-wingers talk about white supremacy. Not ever. Not once at all in my life. I know there are old white guys in the South still chewing on that one, but they will all be dying out soon.

    Spectrum…or circle? On the far end of that circle no one wants to be identified with are the white supremacists and the progressive eugenecists. I don’t believe anyone today on the left supports abortion and birth control as a means to purify the human species. But what can you say of the photos of Margaret Sanger giving speeches to the KKK? Isn’t there a point when you can collectively reject a rotten ideology from your platform?

  45. Violet Socks says:

    I never hear right-wingers talk about white supremacy. Not ever. Not once at all in my life.

    Have you ever heard right-wingers talk about “welfare queens”? Ever heard them talk about affirmative action and “reverse” discrimination? Heard of the “southern strategy?”

    I don’t know how old you are, but the racist rhetoric of the 50s and 60s segued right into the racist rhetoric of the 70s, 80s, 90s, and so on. There wasn’t some huge break.

    Isn’t there a point when you can collectively reject a rotten ideology from your platform?

    It’s not a platform. It’s a spectrum. Socialism, for example, is on the left side of the spectrum. That does not mean that everyone left of center is a socialist, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the Democratic Party’s platform includes full-bore socialism.

    Indeed, the failure to distinguish between a spectrum and a platform is a signal characteristic of right-wing discourse in this country. It’s why the National Review (still the premier conservative publication and one which, by the way, staunchly opposed racial desegregation) accused John Kerry of all people of being a socialist. That’s right-wing discourse right down to the ground. If you’re left of center, you’re everything that’s ever been on the left.

    Perhaps that’s why they worry about being tarred as white supremacists if they even acknowledge for a second that white supremacism is on their side of the spectrum.

    As for your question as to timing: yes, at some point we can say that a particular ideology no longer applies. After a long time, after the change of eras, after all traces are gone. We certainly can’t say it about racism and the past few decades. Within my own lifetime (and I’m only 48) people have switched seamlessly from talking about the “n—–s” to talking about the “welfare queens.” These are the exact same people, you understand. There are people still in office who opposed desegregation. There are people who used to vote Dixiecrat who now vote Republican, and for precisely the same reason.

  46. Adrienne in CA says:

    Violet says:

    We certainly can’t say it about racism and the past few decades.

    Heck, we can’t even say it about the past 12 months. A dude named Rand Paul said on TV that the Civil Rights Act was federal overreach and shouldn’t have been passed. Everyone assumed he’d be toast, but no, he’s now a U.S. Senator. If that’s not white supremacy, what is it?

    *****A

  47. FemRedEll says:

    White supremacism is a right-wing phenomenon in this country. It’s at the far end of the right-wing spectrum, and is alien to more moderate conservatives, but that doeesn’t mean it’s not on that spectrum. You seem to be trying to redefine “right-wing” to include only reasonable people that you are proud to have representing the movement. Horseshit.

    Yes and No. Cultural and community affinity are more strongly felt on the right than on the left. One can include race as a subcategory or community affinity, so on that spectrum, yes, white supremacists are in tune with conservative viewpoints. However, when you drill down and examine the actual politics of these white supremacism groups what you find is a very deep affinity for socialism and income redistribution, it’s just that they want all the benefits to flow to white people and exclude others.

    These groups have a hierarchy of preference. Top of the list is to drive all minorities out of the country. Next down is to partition the country into racial enclaves. Once either of these two alternatives is achieved, these groups have plans for governance. No longer are they white supremacism groups, because that mission has now been accomplished, now they’re just political parties.

    If you strip out the racial affinity aspect of white supremacist groups, which is merely an expression of group loyalty, you’re going to have a hard time taking what’s left, the actual political positions, and finding a place on the right where you can best pin them.

    Keep in mind that extreme movements disproportionately attract those who are losers in society, for a winner doesn’t really feel the need to upend society and transform it into something else. Many adherents of white supremacism are not succeeding in life, and the ones who are willingly stepping forward to publicly bear the stigma are at a point where they have little left to lose. You find this same dynamic in the political ecosystem of socialism.

    So when we try to place them on a political spectrum we need to be cognizant of what factor we’re isolating and placing on the spectrum. Group affinity = Right. Economic and social policies = Left.

  48. Sameol says:

    I’m not sure I even care who’s worse anymore. All I know is, both sides hate me. More and more it’s glaringly obvious that all these people I know who are highly intelligent and believe in all these noble ideals and lofty causes can barely go two sentences without saying something offensive, demeaning, degrading, clueless or idiotic. My beliefs haven’t changed, but I have no faith at all that putting any of these guys in positions of power would accomplish a thing. And I don’t really know what to do with that.

  49. FemRedEll says:

    Heck, we can’t even say it about the past 12 months. A dude named Rand Paul said on TV that the Civil Rights Act was federal overreach and shouldn’t have been passed. Everyone assumed he’d be toast, but no, he’s now a U.S. Senator. If that’s not white supremacy, what is it?

    If you’re driving your car and by swerving to avoid a dog you strike and kill a black man are you any different from a person who drives around purposely seeking out a black man to run over? The end result is the same – a black man is dead. You’re arguing that outcomes are what counts and motivation is immaterial.

    Rand Paul is arguing that the Constitution doesn’t govern the interactions of non-governmental institutions and of individuals when it comes to the question of equal treatment and equal rights. The Constitution has a lot to say about government’s relation to individual civil rights, but it doesn’t have much to say (outside of penumbras) about how citizens may conduct their lives in relation to each other.

    The Constitutional principle of free association for people like Rand Paul trumps the consequence that MAY arise from its exercise. He is, after all, principally focused on the exercise of individual liberty. That’s what puts a fire in his belly. You may argue that he has struck the wrong balance between principle and outcome and you may argue that his reading of the Constitution is somehow flawed, but unless he shows evidence of being motivated by a desire to punish or marginalize or vilify black people, then you don’t really have any grounds to argue that his position is tantamount to white supremacism.

  50. Carmonn says:

    If you strip out the racial affinity aspect of white supremacist groups, which is merely an expression of group loyalty, you’re going to have a hard time taking what’s left, the actual political positions, and finding a place on the right where you can best pin them.

    You’re arguing that outcomes are what counts and motivation is immaterial.

    O, Lord, are we on Candid Camera?

  51. Mary says:

    Thank you Teresa!

    I’m so grateful to myiq for inadvertantly directing me to this blog. Any blogger than can put together a sentence like “Its just such a fucking insult to everyone’s intelligence” is my kinda people!
    Made me laugh out loud!

    I’m reading, but not commenting “over there.”
    Never will again. You guys look out for WMCB, ok? Don’t let her be the next stalkee.

    Thanks for the welcome! :)

  52. votermom says:

    Sameol @49, ITA with your whole comment!

    Teresa, I am Filipino by birth, and a weird mix by blood.

  53. stace says:

    RFK jr’s article on vaccines causing autism was just removed from the Salon archives for being dishonest. Apparently, he deliberately sliced and diced the data to fit his agenda, and now he’s been debunked.

    In his haste to politicize the Katrina disaster, he wrote a column o HuffPo saying New Orleans was spared and Mississippi was hit because of karma for having a Republican governor. This was before the levees broke, of course, after which he had to backtrack. So everyone should know that this man is not one interested in facts.

  54. Robert says:

    The reason that sentence about Oswald went missing is given here:
    http://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/lee-harvey-oswald-and-the-liberal-crack-up-10065

    Piereson later expanded this explanation into a book, Camelot and the Cultural Revolution, but the linked article works as an executive summary.

  55. Dark Eden says:

    Libertarian here, thank you for this article. I wish more people of all political stripes followed the tone you set here.

  56. DonM says:

    In like manner, McVeigh was offended by the Waco governmental murders. Yes, he was a crank, but he was a crank operating against the government, against the ATF, which puts him on the Right. It is my belief (in the absence of countering evidence) that he did not know about the day care center for government employees children in his targeted office building. Further, he did not know of the ATF exercise being held that day which had many ATF agents elsewhere.

    Loughner, though attempting to kill a Democrat, was unhappy with her for odd reasons, apparently he blamed her for his inability to master grammer.

    Guisseppe Zangara’s attempt on FDR was against the government, because he expected the government to do something for him (and for the “working man”. TR also survived several assassination attempts from the left.

    Not really a leftist

  57. Sameol says:

    Thanks, votermom. I don’t know if I never noticed how ignorant and sexist and worse my liberal guy friends are or if I justified it because I stupidly assumed they’d be on our side when it mattered. Friday night, someone I know was talking about “cat houses.” CAT HOUSES?

    Lambert, Palin isn’t a leader. She has a reality show. If she’s leading anybody, it’s the Real Housewives, so when can we stop acting like she’s President of the United States? She’s been attacked up, down, East, West, and 11 ways from Sunday, sometimes on legitimate grounds but mostly for bs. And it’s gotten gratuitous. She’s never going to be President, she may never hold public office again, and the more we parse the measuredness of her response to being accused of fomenting mass murder, the more power she gains. People understand that the reason we continue to mention her is because most people haven’t heard of Michelle Bachmann, Angle and O’Donnell lost, and nobody else has the qualifications to really get the juices flowing. Ignore her and she will go away and then we can start debating whether Blago’s endorsement of pistachios over almonds showed a failure of leadership or whether Kerry should have responded to the Swiftboaters by allowing as how they might have had a point there somewhere and doing a searching inventory of his lifelong mistakes instead of being so self-centered.

  58. tinfoil hattie says:

    If you strip out the racial affinity aspect of white supremacist groups

    … then you’re no longer talking about “white” supremacy, are you?

    WTF?

  59. ASEI says:

    I too would like to thank you for caring more about events as they are, the truth, rather than the tribal narratives being spun about them.

  60. JohnBoy says:

    Hey Violet – we are the same age.

    And I don’t know about you, but I think the country is slooooooowly moving past the whole race identity/solidarity thing. For one, the Civil Rights Act was 44 years ago. Secondly, one can argue that upper middle class kids of color now have structural advantages that poor white kids don’t have (ie college admissions). Are Obama’s daughters in need of affirmative action? Third, the whole notion of race is getting gloriously mixed up anyway. My WASP son has an Asian girlfriend. What “box” would their kids check? Do they pretend to be Anglo if there is some future soft quota on Asian college admissions? It is becoming absurd. Fourth, the kids seem color blind these days – none of the heavy boomer baggage.

    Anyway – a little OT – but I hope we aren’t still hand-wringing over race 10 years from now.

  61. votermom says:

    Violet, you got instalinked again didn’t you.

  62. spool32 says:

    It’s why the National Review (still the premier conservative publication and one which, by the way, staunchly opposed racial desegregation)…

    W.F. Buckley made a pro-segregation statement in 1957, one which the writers at National Review opposed. By the early 60s, Buckley had repudiated his earlier statement and supported the civil rights movement, as did National Review. That position is one they have continuously maintained.

    Your statement is simply incorrect, both on its face and in its insinuations.

  63. Carmonn says:

    Buckley didn’t change his views until the mid 60′s, National Review opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (no doubt wth the best of intentions, of course).

    And what position did NR take on apartheid?

  64. JohnBoy says:

    I give Violet huge credit for the tone of her comments. I like facts and reason. While I am at it, I give huge credit to Andrew Cuomo and Jerry Brown, who seemed determined to take on the corrupt public unions. Maybe there is hope.

    As a moderate righty, I find it hard to engage with the leftists who adopt the Paul Krugman attitude of “I am right, moral and smart and you are wrong, immorall and stupid.” For an example of this, check out this column, “A Tale of Two Moralities:”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/14/opinion/14krugman.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

    Mind you, he wrote this column after shamefully linking the Tucson shootings with the political right. He didn’t retreat, he reloaded.

    On another point, I am no Palin fan. But what was she supposed to do? Let’s say your neighbor takes out a full page ad in the local paper accusing you of being a cannibal and a pedophile. And then he tries to set your house on fire. Then, when you grab a hose and try to put the fire out and take out an ad defending yourself, your actions are critiqued nine ways to Sunday.

  65. K T Cat says:

    Fascinating conversation. I think things might clear up a bit if we stopped refering to left and right since people are difficult to place on a single line, to one side or another. Of course, if we treated reality as it really is – incredibly complicated and made up of thousands of dimenstions of political thought – we wouldn’t be able to generate these clever little themes – conservatives are racists, liberals are unpatriotic, etc.

    I would suggest that left/right is a convenient shorthand for political parties, pundits and the newsmedia and has little to do with reality.

  66. timmah says:

    Well, I think the comparison to Oswald may not be the best one, but don’t get so hung up on that misapplication that you miss the point here. The vitriol in Arizona did indeed contribute to the atmosphere in which Loughner shot all those poor souls. He was an unbalanced kid, but he was indeed helped along to his final destination by the strident voices bouncing about Tucson. I think that Oswald was encouraged as well by all the folks in Dallas who hated Kennedy. Never mind that his politics were not the same. I daresay that he might not have shot Kennedy had he lived up in the NE. He lived in a place where he was more comfortable killing Kennedy- just as Loughner had the delusional idea that people he knew and lived with in the Tucson community would applaud him. I don’t think

  67. Joe Newman says:

    Very much enjoyed your article Violet and agreed with much of it. Follow up comments by yourself however leave me head scratching. I see so much rage driven nastiness in US politics it amazes me a person of your intelligence could attribute more to one side than the other. Particularly when you are seriously striving to be objective.

    The embrace of “snark” is one of the primary drivers of this incivility. It adds nothing to a discussion and in a mature world would trivialize those who indulge in it as dummy spitting infants. The clowns on cable are just a symptom and I see nothing there to choose between either side. Why not just despise vitriol – the right or left wing qualifier is superfluous.

    btw a pacifier is a dummy where I come from.

  68. Carmonn says:

    And from 1965, this, via http://themoderatevoice.com/15520/recall-the-words-of-the-national-review/:

    This internal order is now in jeopardy; and it is in jeopardy because of the doings of such high-minded, self-righteous “children of light” as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and his associates in the leadership of the “civil rights” movement. If you are looking for those ultimately responsible for the murder, arson, and looting in Los Angeles, look to them: they are the guilty ones, these apostles of “non-violence.” For years now, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and his associates have been deliberately undermining the foundations of internal order in this country. With their rabble-rousing demagoguery, they have been cracking the “cake of custom” that holds us together. With their doctrine of “civil disobedience,” they have been teaching hundreds of thousands of Negroes — particularly the adolescents and the children — that it is perfectly alright to break the law and defy constituted authority if you are a Negro-with-a-grievance; in protest against injustice. And they have done more than talk. They have on occasion after occasion, in almost every part of the country, called out their mobs on the streets, promoted “school strikes,” sit-ins, lie-ins, in explicit violation of the law and in explicit defiance of the public authority. They have taught anarchy and chaos by word and deed — and, no doubt, with the best of intentions — and they have found apt pupils everywhere, with intentions not of the best. Sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind. But it is not they alone who reap it, but we as well; the entire nation.

  69. LAG says:

    RFK Jr. could live the sentence about Oswald out because he’s dishonest. You couldn’t because you’re not.

  70. Violet Socks says:

    Violet, you got instalinked again didn’t you.

    Yes.

  71. Rastus says:

    Carmonn says:

    And what position did NR take on apartheid?

    What position did NR take on apartheid? I didn’t find a reference on the Internet, and would like to do so.

    The response to S.A. apartheid vexed many thoughtful people. My father, a VP at a Fortune 100 company through the 1980′s, wrestled with it. Was it better for his company to close its S.A. operations in opposition to government social policies (as loudly demanded by anti-apartheid voices); or was it better for his company to continue providing color-blind career opportunities to its S.A. employees, and thereby contribute to the grassroots dismantling of apartheid? He, a black American, decided the latter approach had more utility both in the real-life advantages afforded to individuals, and in its helping melt the foundational presumptions underpinning apartheid.

  72. Sameol says:

    Rastus, this piece goes into it a bit:

    http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?articleId=4751

    Buckley and the National Review were staunch defenders of apartheid from beginning to end. There was no “wrestling” there was “Whites are entitled to rule” and “Mandela is a terrorist.”

  73. AliceP. says:

    “DonM says:

    In like manner, McVeigh was offended by the Waco governmental murders. Yes, he was a crank, but he was a crank operating against the government, against the ATF, which puts him on the Right. It is my belief (in the absence of countering evidence) that he did not know about the day care center for government employees children in his targeted office building. Further, he did not know of the ATF exercise being held that day which had many ATF agents elsewhere.”

    Don, my nephew was in that daycare up until the day before the bombing. McVeigh had cased that building and been to OKC BEFORE he bombed the Murrah building. He HAD to know about the daycare.He pulled that van right up in front of that daycare with the huge window you could see into from street level. He knew. From street level you could not avoid seeing right into the daycare even if you tried. It was something I remarked on months before hand. I was never comfortable with having anyone and everyone being able to gaze in upon the kids playing there.

    Many of the FBI and ATF agents had a standing date to play golf every Wednesday morning from seven to nine a.m. They usually were in the building before seven a.m. and back by nine. That day many of them had a game that ran long by about ten minutes. I don’t know what other exercise you mean that kept them out of the building. Bob Ricks of the FBI was McVeigh’s main target. He too was not in the building. My uncle was with them. And I don’t care what McVeigh was “offended” by. Waco being “governmental murders” is also ramped up rhetoric.

    McVeigh was a lot of things and yes to the far, far right on the spectrum. I don’t think most people who have ever been near an event like this care about those things too much though. This man was a murdering sociopath. Just like there are people like him to the extreme left perhaps. Like I said though, if you have ever been near something like this chances are you don’t care what the heartless person who did it believed or didn’t believe. People like McVeigh and like Oswald go off into their own fantasy land and justify the ends no matter if they are far left or far right.Some of these people are angry at their fellow students or decide to shoot up the post office or their work place. The belief system of people this sick is so twisted I wonder in the absence of any rhetoric if they would still find something to act out their fantasies of ultimate power over others. I suspect that they would.

    Not every one of these tragedies is related to politics though and what of those? Are they influenced by rhetoric too? Or is our society so overly exposed and numbed to violence that they are influenced by that more than anything else?

  74. John Scotus says:

    This was a great article. Thanks.

  75. Kristen Hannum says:

    This was thought-provoking, but it is clear how hate-filled vitriol can provoke violence – even from the other side. The hateful language makes it feel like a war. And in a war, people die.
    Why would hatred only incite troubled people from one side or another?
    And yes – Oswald was a communist wacko if you accept the Warren Report. If he didn’t act alone, all bets are off.

  76. Suzie says:

    I’m late to this party because I’ve been traveling, but I appreciate your post. I was 5 when Kennedy was shot, and we lived in Irving, next to Dallas. Adding to the uproar in our house was the fact that Ruth Hyde Paine had been my Sunday school teacher, at least briefly, at the Unitarian fellowship in Irving. Marina was living at Ruth’s house, Oswald had hidden his rifle in her garage, and he had stayed there the night before.

    I wish the public would discuss why men are much more likely to commit assassinations and mass shootings (and other violence).

  77. Violet Socks says:

    Oh my gosh, Suzie. That’s an amazing connection. Yes indeed, that was one famous garage. Did you ever see Mrs. Paine after that? In interviews and such she’s always come across to me as a very honest, forthright woman.

  78. Sharon says:

    You are so right on, Violet, as usual. Glad to see you writing aggressively again!

  79. Suzie says:

    Ruth is a Quaker, but had attended the Unitarian fellowship for lack of a Friends meeting. She has had a lifetime of service. She lived for a long time in St. Petersburg and attended the meeting there. She helped run Pro-Nica, a nonprofit that still does great work in Nicaragua.

    I live in Tampa and met her in St. Pete. She let me interview her at length for an article in the Tampa Tribune, even though she was very wary, perhaps because conspiracists have maligned her.

    She believes Oswald was the lone gunman, and she has an interesting take on it: It’s harder to think that one nut with a gun can commit such a monumental crime than to believe that there was a conspiracy with a more concrete goal in mind.