“Let’s Kill All the Lawyers” Is a Joke, Son


Some on the left are affecting concern over right-wing pundits making cracks about “killing” their political adversaries. Like these:


“I tell people don’t kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we can have two on every campus — living fossils — so we will never forget what these people stood for.” — Rush Limbaugh


“My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building.” — Ann Coulter


“Where does George Soros have all his money? Do you know? Do you know where George Soros, the big left-wing loon who’s financing all these smear [web]sites, do you know where his money is? Curaçao. Curaçao. They ought to hang this Soros guy.” — Bill O’Reilly


Et cetera. Lefty bloggers have assembled a long list of such cracks, and every time some pathetic nutcase with any affiliation to the right goes postal they mutter darkly that he was motivated by this “hate speech.”


Gather roun’ youngsters, and let me tell you a tale from my youth.


Back in the 1960s and early 1970s there was a radical left-wing movement whose groups had names like the Students for a Democratic Society, the Weathermen, etc. These plotted and carried out the real thing – organized political violence – including murder and bombings. They weren’t just isolated, pathetic nutcakes who flipped out one day, but part of a committed, organized movement.


In 1969, during what the organizers called the “Days of Rage,” for four days in Chicago activists committed mayhem in the Loop. One person was killed, many were injured and a great deal of property damage inflicted. Over the next few years these groups committed bombings of federal buildings including the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon and the Department of State.


In my view this was one episode in what I hereby dub the “John Brown Tendency” within American political life: Periodic outbreaks of organized violence inspired in part by visions of transcendental utopianism and fed by social stress. My archetype is anti-slavery zealot John Brown, instigator of the Kansas “Pottwatomie Massacre” in 1856 and the Harpers Ferry raid in 1859. In the late 19th Century there was the Anarchist movement and the bombing in Haymarket Square in Chicago.


OK, back to today’s lefties affecting concern about “hate speech” from “extreme right-wing” pundits. What’s going on (probably unconsciously) is that they’re trying to persuade the public that these remarks are indications of a “John Brown-ian” outbreak on the right. It’s clever, because the American public has always rejected these movements. In fact, it’s the kiss of death for any legitimate politician or party who becomes identified with them. That’s why you saw GOP pols lining up to condemn “militias” after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.


Are Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Coulter, etc. really the vanguard of a radical, violent, social/political movement? Just stating the insinuation in plain English puts the lie to it – it’s laughable, and purely a political ploy.


At this point I’m supposed to tsk-tsk about the “death to liberals” cracks. But I suspect that these too are part of a long, deep and harmless tradition in American political life, and like the bitter political humor of Coulter on the right and Al Franken on the left, actually serve to relieve some of the extreme tension generated by the strong ideological differences that characterize our politics today. Anyone doubt whether the pages of Daily Kos et frères aren’t filled with similar cracks about Bushies?


What I will condemn is incivility, which is refusing to accord your political adversaries the presumption of good will. It’s seen in remarks like, “Welfare opponents want babies to starve,” or “School choice opponents want inner city children to fail.” No they don’t. They may be deeply misguided, but they’re not evil, and its wrong to claim that they are.


The odd thing is, someone can make a facetious crack like, “The first thing let’s kill all the X” without necessarily being uncivil, because of course they don’t mean it, and no one thinks they do. At the same time, the rankest incivility can (and does) pour forth from political party apparatuses every day with no faux “threats” attached.



3 Responses to ““Let’s Kill All the Lawyers” Is a Joke, Son”

  1. wctaxpayer Says:

    Jack, I love the way you write. It is almost always enlightening and entertaining at the same time. As much as I would like to line up Governor Granholm and Speaker Dillon against the wall, I don’ think I could do it. I have not yet ruled out slow torcher but I have to weigh my wellbeing and that of the people of Michigan.

    Verbosely Yours,

    Rose Bogaert, Chair
    Wayne CountyTaxpayers Association

  2. jmchugh4u Says:

    Perhaps you had in mind the – comfy pillow! :eek!:

  3. Chris Arndt Says:

    I think the deliberate false association of a mainstream political entity with radical, reactionary of violent right-wing individuals or groups is part of a left-wing tendency to build up straw men.

    Mind you, I would build straw man arguments for the left if their real life ideas weren’t so weak and insubstantial as it is.

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