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Ammo for the Battle of Ideas Liberals and Political Kitsch

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Playing the "Violence" Card

by Christopher Chantrill
January 07, 2011 at 1:39 pm


OUR LEFTY friends have just come off a pretty a good century playing the blame game on “violence.” Whether it was corporate goons whacking union organizers at the Battle of the Overpass, or racist southern cops turning the fire-hoses on civil-rights marchers, or Chicago cops attacking the “kids” in 1968, you knew who the good guys were. Somehow the story of union thugs attacking Tea Party folks, or Reverend Al Sharpton inciting anti-Korean riots, or anti-WTO anarchists vandalizing downtown Seattle didn’t have quite the same resonance with the American people. So our lefty friends play the right-wing violence card every chance they get.

In part, the reason for this that black civil rights really was a big deal, the issue of America’s original sin. But a lot of the difference comes down to whose story gets told in the media. Back in the good old days, “objective” journalists told the story, and that meant the liberal line got handed down to posterity. In consequence, lefty bombers like Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn get to pal around with future presidents; right-wing militia members and their ilk don’t.

Despite a century of good press, the veiled or not-so-veiled threat of violence sits right at the center of left-wing politics. The very word “demonstration” is a euphemism for “show of force.” Labor unions have always used the threat of violence. “Community organizing” is what left-wing activists do when they are trying to gin up a rent-a-mob for the benefit of the TV news cameras. Just to be helpful, the MSM used to warn every year of “a long hot summer” if summer jobs programs for urban youth weren’t passed.

Whenever there is actual violence by lefties, as recently by “students” in Britain or by government workers in Greece, our lefty friends play both sides of the street. If there is property damage they blame the police for not controlling the crowd. If rioters get injured they blame the police for “overreacting.” Did you know that almost all MSM reporters are labor-union members?

Richard Fernandez has an elegant description of our lefty friends’ strategy on violence. He calls it “deniable intimidation.” How right he is. If the workers/victims/students/undocumented workers get enraged by the injustice of the system, how can we stop them? No justice, no peace, as Reverend Sharpton insists. There’s nothing we can do, the lefty talking-heads will say: poverty creates violence.

Lefties are full of ideas for violence. Frances Fox Piven in The Nation has proposed to renew the Cloward-Piven strategy for the 2010s. This time she wants to mobilize the unemployed into mass protests. Recovering lefty Ron Radosh reckons the revived Cloward-Piven is probably history repeating itself as farce. It just won’t work this time, any more than it worked in the 1960s.

The left got away with subtly encouraging violence by its political clients in the last century because the American people could usually be persuaded to sympathize with the workers or the Southern blacks or the welfare recipients in question. Left-wing rhetoric often aligned with mainstream public opinion. But the Tea Party experience tells us that mainstream public opinion has changed. There’s an even chance that if the left takes to the streets in the near future the American people won’t sympathize. That’s because the likely demonstrators will not be the unemployed, but overpaid, over benefited, over pensioned government workers. Even The New York Times get it: “Public Workers Face Outrage as Budget Crises Grow.” Americans understand that taxes spent on inflated government salaries and pensions put their Social Security and Medicare benefits at risk.

Also, conservatives are better placed to compete with the left at the level of rhetoric. We all know why. The monopoly of the mainstream media is broken, by talk radio, by Fox News, and by social networking. Now it looks like we are getting a generation of conservative politicians that know how to play the blame game. It was 90 years ago when then-Governor Calvin Coolidge (R-MA) cooled a Boston police strike with the words: “There is no right to strike against the public safety, anywhere, anytime.” Now we have Sarah Palin and her “death panels” and Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ). He’s become a YouTube sensation by commenting on the teachers union leader that wished him dead.

This shouldn’t be that hard. Conservatism is all about limited government, peaceful cooperation, and the American Dream. Liberalism is a culture of compulsion, big government’s bureaucratic experts conducting double-blind tests of the law of unintended consequences.

Maybe I’m being too optimistic. But I believe we are entering an era in which conservatives can play the violence card on the left and win.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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presented by Christopher Chantrill

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