Pitchforks and Pistols

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Angry mob 

I wanted to share this timely opinion from the New York Times by Charles M. Blow, Pitchforks and Pistols:

Lately I’ve been consuming as much conservative media as possible (interspersed with shots of Pepto-Bismol) to get a better sense of the mind and mood of the right. My read: They’re apocalyptic. They feel isolated, angry, betrayed and besieged. And some of their “leaders” seem to be trying to mold them into militias.

At first, it was entertaining — just harmless, hotheaded expostulation. Of course, there were the garbled facts, twisted logic and veiled hate speech. But what did I expect, fair and balanced? It was like walking through an ideological house of mirrors. The distortions can be mildly amusing at first, but if I stay too long it makes me sick.

But, it’s not all just harmless talk. For some, their disaffection has hardened into something more dark and dangerous. They’re talking about a revolution.

Some simply lace their unscrupulous screeds with loaded language about the fall of the Republic. We have to “rise up” and “take back our country.” Others have been much more explicit.

For example, Chuck Norris, the preeminent black belt and prospective Red Shirt, wrote earlier this month on the conservative blog WorldNetDaily: “How much more will Americans take? When will enough be enough? And, when that time comes, will our leaders finally listen or will history need to record a second American Revolution?”

Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, imagining herself as some sort of Delacroixian Liberty from the Land of the Lakes, urged her fellow Minnesotans to be “armed and dangerous,” ready to bust caps over cap-and-trade, I presume.

And between his tears, Glenn Beck, the self-professed “rodeo clown,” keeps warning of an impending insurrection by saying that he believes that we are heading for “depression” and “revolution” and then gaming out that revolution on his show last month. “Think the unthinkable” he said. Indeed.

All this talk of revolution is revolting, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.

As the comedian Bill Maher pointed out, strong language can poison weak minds, as it did in the case of Timothy McVeigh. (We sometimes forget that not all dangerous men are trained by Al Qaeda.)

At the same time, the unrelenting meme being pushed by the right that Obama will mount an assault on the Second Amendment has helped fuel the panic buying of firearms. According to the F.B.I., there have been 1.2 million more requests for background checks of potential gun buyers from November to February than there were in the same four months last year. That’s 5.5 million requests altogether over that period; more than the number of people living in Bachmann’s Minnesota.

Coincidence? Maybe. Just posturing? Hopefully. But it all gives me a really bad feeling. (Where’s that Pepto-Bismol?!)

Mr. Blow is correct. What saner minds see as laughable buffoonery from people like Michelle Bachman and Glenn Beck can poison weak minds and make them a danger to society. These weak minds frequently post comments to this blog. Don't just dismiss their comments as harmless stupidity. There are a lot of crazy people out there in this world who are capable of doing all kinds of crazy things. They just need someone to tell them that their bigotry and hatred are justified by God, or country, or whatever and that acts of violence are "patriotic." This is what makes the demagogues of talk radio and Faux News so utterly irresponsible, and so dangerous.

0 responses to “Pitchforks and Pistols

  1. I guess the real issue is that we are two distinctly different people sharing the same land. On one side we have the enlightened liberal that sees no problem in using the power of the government to protect or expand their special interests. On the other end, the conservatives see no problem in using the government to protect their interests. The fact that their is no common ground (transcending issue) only heightens the problem. The two party system offers bloggers and readers a sort of emotional release for those who have bought into the system. There is in this country, a group of people are disgusted with the system, and they describe themselves as three percenters.

    This is no different than the conditions that existed at the time of the revolution. About a third of the people in the colonies favored the Crown, a third supported the revolution and a third took whatever came along. Of the third that favored the Revolution, about 3% actually took up arms, and were supported by about 10% of the total population.

    The people that Mr. Blow is expressing concern over, are distrustful of both conservative and liberals. These people are taking a look at the founding documents and are learning that these documents are not being applied to modern American life. Mr. Blow’s concern is founded because we are living in a polarized country, where the politicians play to their base and in the back room, they are all friendly and working together to support their particular special interest.

    What will it take to prevent this from happening? It will take a common problem, or a well defined enemy. We need something that transcends (or wrecks) the stratified society created by the special interests of all kinds. When we stop blaming a particular political party for the mess, and come to realize that both teams are acting in their own best interest (which is to gain and hold power) and not the common good, then we stand a chance at preventing a revolution. If we can’t get there, then we need to prepare for it.

  2. Tucson Vice


    You are correct that I do not oppose the lawful ownership of firearms. There are firearms available to us, however, that I don’t think should be owned in private homes. Some things, I feel, are best left to our military and our SWAT teams.

    I would not seek to redefine the terms specifically, I would support and any effort to better define the freedom itself, in a way that coheres with our modern way of life. This would have to be done through Constitutional Amendment which, as we both know, is a long a difficult process. It is difficult for a reason–the very reason that you stated. These changes can not come lightly or by simple majority.

    I admire your devotion to to the document and it’s freedoms. I share it with you.

  3. @Tucson Vice,
    I accept that your sincere belief is that you don’t oppose lawful self-defense ownership of firearms (please correct me if I am wrong).

    I think that anybody who attempts to redefine the meaning of the US Constitution harms society by asserting that the contract limiting government power should be watered down through redefining the terms.

    Soften any portion of the Constitution by calling a portion a relic and you weaken the entire document and the protections it offers us all.

  4. Tucson Vice


    I think it does mean what it says. I just don’t think that it applies to us in the same way, over 200 years later.

    Again, I’m not an anti-gun guy. Actually, I work with firearms all the time. I just reject the assertion that the constitution gives us a universal right to own firearms. Do we need to peaceably defend ourselves with 50 cal sniper rifles? I think no. Do I care if my neighbor owns a handgun to protect his wife and kids? No. I think that we have a ways to go before we find a decent middle ground.

    Also, I do believe that the 2nd is a relic. It seems very obviously out of date and it refers to things that no longer exist in practical terms, like the well regulated militia, for one. I would love to see it revised one day.

  5. @Tucson Vice

    Freedom to peaceably defend yourself is not and should never be called a relic. The purpose of the US Constitution wasn’t to ensure that the paid members of the US armed forces were well armed anymore than the well armed British armed forces were defending the best interests of the American colonists.

    Your claim that the second amendment doesn’t mean what it says is (in my opinion [well, and the US Supreme Court in DC v. Hill]) false.


    “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”


  6. I love how the sheapenny’s of the world are un-ironically calling for “teaparties” while they whine at the same time that Obama doesn’t properly know how to kiss up to the royalty in Britain and Saudi Arabia.
    Maybe they are talking about “tea” in a British House of Lords sense…

  7. Remeber when Fox News thought Nazi analogies were a bad thing?

    That was then, of course, and this is now. Here’s Fox News star Glenn Beck on April 1 (Think Progress, 4/1/09):

    Our government is … marching us to a non-violent fascism. Or to put it another way, they’re marching us to 1984. Big Brother…. Like it or not, fascism is on the rise.

    Beck’s rant came complete with footage of marching jackbooted Nazis. No word yet from Fox News on how “hateful” and “despicable” such comparisons are.

  8. AzBlueMeanie

    From Daily Kos:

    Today [April 4], in Pittsburgh:

    Three Pittsburgh police officers were killed and two others were wounded after a heavily armed man began firing at them as they responded to a domestic call this morning at a home in Stanton Heights.

    According to a friend of the shooter:

    “He always said that if someone tried to take his weapons away he would do what his forefathers told him to do and defend himself.”

    … Mr. Poplawski was opposed to Mr. Obama’s election, which he thought would result in the loss of his rights, Mr. Vire said. […]

    Mr. Poplawski told him he bought his guns “because he felt the quality of life was being diminished,” Mr. Vire said.

  9. AzBlueMeanie, I always love teaching Brandenburg because I get to read over the call for “revengeance” — a wonderful would-be word.

    My own Con Law prof kept mispronouncing the standard as “*eminent* lawless action.”

  10. Well, it’s all part of what David Frum called “alienation.” If you read blogs like Seeing Red AZ or Sonoran Alliance, these people seem to feel alienated from mainstream American society. I don’t know whether to think their posts about “socialism” or rants against a company like McDonald’s offering mildly friendly gestures to LGBT customers or hearing people speak Spanish are to be laughed at, pitied or feared. They do occasionally come close to the rhetoric of the militia guys who bombed the Alfred Murrah building, however. I call them hate-America blogs because they seem to despise the multicultural, cosmopolitan, pragmatic society around them.

    I never cared for left-wing rhetoric demonized George W. Bush or the jokes about his being stupid (he seemed perfectly intelligent to me; a low IQ was not the problem with the way he ran his administration), and, yes, some left-wing blogs also sounded a bit apocalyptic at times. But they seemed more angry at the elected leaders; these conservative haterz seem to despise not just Obama and his administration but the voters who elected and support them.

    Their sense of grievance is palpable on every post.

  11. AzBlueMeanie

    Exurban John: Is it your intent to ascribe the posts you cite to me? Because I am not the author of those posts, Michael Bryan is. Michael is a big boy who can defend himself.

    Further, nowhere do I “preach against the dangers of free speech.” Mainstream news media outlets in radio and television have a public responsibility. As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes observed in Schenck v. U.S.:

    “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic. […] The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.”

    Schenck was later reversed and its test of free speech limited in the case of Brandenburg v. Ohio, which adopted the “imminent lawless action test” for judging seditious speech under the First Amendment:

    “These later decisions have fashioned the principle that the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”

    The test applies to the individual actor making the speech. Mainstream media outlets are not the actor making the speech per se (in fact, even Faux News on occasion issues a disclaimer stating that the facts and opinions contained in this program do not necessarily represent the opinions of Faux News), but they do provide the electronic public soapbox, and since they are not the government, they are free to limit the content of what they broadcast on the air (it is done all the time).

    What we are seeing today is a lack of discretion being exercised by mainstream media. Faux News in particular is coming very close to crossing the line into the “imminent lawless action test” with some of its programming. They should tone it down before they incite one of their mentally unstable viewers to violence.

  12. Tucson Vice


    The Second Amendment is a Constitutional relic. It is one sentence long and links the necesity of a well regulated militia to that militia’s need to be armed. We now have a well regulated militia (national guard) and it is extremely well armed. My neigbors ownership of a semi automatic AK-47 doesn’t further the mission of the national guard.

    I’m not anti-gun per se, but lets not pretend that the 2nd Amendment grants or implies a universal, unrestricted right to possess firearms. It doesn’t.

    Given how obviously outdated the Amendment is, I think gun owners should be satisfied with the fact that the 2nd hasn’t gone the way of the 18th.

  13. See all of you at THE TEA PARTY on APRIL 15TH DOWNTOWN!

  14. Temper, temper.

    “If people are being ‘disarmed’, who bought all those guns in the last couple months?”

    Well, those would be people who know they won’t be able to get them in the future.

    Katrina, the D.C. Gun ban (Supported by Obama), and the new push to ban semi-automatic rifles adds real motivation to this surge of gun purchases.

    I’m not a “gun dick” but I certainly understand the importance of the 2nd Amendment.

    I also understand what a detrimental blow the latest Supreme Court ruling is to the 2nd Amendment.

    And that ain’t no lie.

  15. If people are being “disarmed”, who bought all those guns in the last couple months? The government? Sorry, the data show that no one is being disarmed.
    Once again, if you have to lie to make arguments it must mean you have terrible arguments. Further, if you are trying to use your lying arguments to affect American politics, I personally interpret that disrespect for our political system as hating America.
    P.S. In those links posted by Exurban John, I find no veiled threats of violence towards anyone, including the President. I’ll chalk that up to more lying.

  16. Eric Kurland

    Maybe we can all just be quiet for a moment and find our humanity. There is unfortunate truth in the words…”Mr. Blow is correct. What saner minds see as laughable buffoonery from people like Michelle Bachman and Glenn Beck can poison weak minds and make them a danger to society.”
    -From today’s news-
    Gunman ‘lying in wait’ kills 3 Pittsburgh officers
    Friends: Suspect upset about losing job, feared gun ban by Obama administration.

  17. Jacques Whaldrinski

    What’s sadder? The New York Times article or Meanie’s follow through with what seems to be an act of pigeon-holing all serious calls for revolution into the group of disaffected neo-cons crying along with Glen Beck.

    Beware the pomposity of self proclaimed intellect. It can be as rationally weak and as misleading as Fox News.

    People are indeed being disarmed, their biometric data is being collected arbitrarily and they’re lulled into accepting this stupidity by the likes of Faux News and company. We’ve become a surveillance state and people like it because they are told to trust authority to make them safe. U.S. sovereignty is being usurped, and treason against this nation is a reality. Makes me wonder- is the reason for such intellectual yoga to avoid these realities a concern for violence? Since when does any serious, effective revolutionary movement in this country call for violence?

    Only a short time before such collective mindrot took hold, smarter publications like “The Lies of Our Times” would take the New York Times to task over this sort of drivel. This blog embraces it. Sad.

  18. Before preaching against the dangers of free speech, you might want to review the Left’s commentary for the past eight years. To wit:

    “Andy Thomas’ Bad Case of Fascist Disease” http://arizona.typepad.com/blog/2008/06/andy-thomas-bad.html

    “Such a purge isn’t solely a bad thing; it puts the nasty fascist hatred at the heart of the modern conservative movement on public display.” http://arizona.typepad.com/blog/2006/10/nbc_exclusive_f.html

    “…demonstrate Republican voters’ rejection of the growing fascism of their own party’s policies.”

    There’s a lot more of this — as you call it — “utterly irresponsible” and “dangerous” commentary on this blog. But as you know it is mild compared to many other left-leaning commentary. If the Democrats had employed more civil rhetoric over the past two terms, you would have a far stronger argument today.