No, Gregg. The TEA Party and its Ringleaders Push Violent Narratives All The Time

Gregg Smith has a long post today at the Electric City Weblog attacking theMontana Human Rights Network over an opinion piece published in that known leftist rag, the Great Falls Tribune. While I know that the attack fits a common conservative narrative in Montana—that an organization dedicated to fighting discrimination—is somehow a dangerous, conspiracy against the citizens of the state, its fundamental arguments rely on deliberate ignorance about the facts.

Smith suggests that he’s never seen any hint of racism or homophobia in his encounters with the Tea Party:

I’ve met many retired veterans, politically engaged younger people, and…not one said anything inappropriate about homosexuals, ‘people of color,’ or anyone else.

Perhaps Gregg should read a newspaper or use the Google to research the Tea Party locally and nationally. I’m not sure how Gregg missed Tim Ravndal’s ouster from and subsequent appointment to positions in Lewis and Clark County TEA Party positions. Perhaps Gregg doesn’t feel that joking about the brutal murder of a gay college student is homophobic, but to suggest that the local TEA Party movement doesn’t have homophobic elements is to ignore their rhetoric, signage, and membership.

Surely, these posters were also not about race, either. No doubt references to white slavery and Jewish control are being blown out of proportion by the liberal media.

Next, Gregg moves to the game of false equivalency being played by conservatives when it comes to violent rhetoric. To imagine or pretend that the level of violent discourse used by the Right and the Left in this country is the same depends on willful ignorance. A Republican candidate for Vice President used a map with crosshairs to indicate “targets” in an election, all while relying on rhetoric about reloading. Montana’s Republican candidate for Attorney General posted an image of the Democratic logo riddled with bullet holes, calling it a “target.”  Daily, logic and reason are assaulted by hate-filled speech on talk radio to an army of eager listeners who become less informed about the issues and angrier every day.

Violence and violent rhetoric in the United States is not exclusively Right or Left, but to argue that the side dominated by Palin and Limbaugh, Cheney and Savage isn’t more prone towards violent rhetoric is absurd on its face.  What’s more, this rhetoric is having an impact: 13% of of TEA Party members believe that “violence against the current American government is justified.”  13%. Maybe Gregg just needs to talk to a few more people at his next TEA Party gathering.

On a final note, I wish that Gregg would please lay off trying to set the narrative about Jared Loughner’s motivations before anyone knows what really happened. Greg writes:

We are all in agreement about one, fundamental fact: Jared Lee Loughner was a psychopath, not a disgruntled TEA Party minion.

Given the conservative outrage about a rush to judgment in the incident, wouldn’t it be prudent to wait to hear what Loughner has to say, rather than relying on third-hand psychiatric evaluations? Come on. This isn’t Terri Schiavo, who could be diagnosed by Republican members of Congress from 1000 miles away.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • The news that Jared Loughner had been pulled over three hours before his Safeway date, clicked. That his behavior had been documented by poorly-equipped staff, clicked. An isolated manchild with access to guns, clicked. When a troubled college student was involved it clicked again. Five instances of domestic terrorism; five red states.

    Think about it: except for the attacks of September 11 (because some would argue that that was a case of domestic terrorism, too) mass killings take place overwhelmingly more often in red states.

    Timothy McVeigh was 27, Eric Robert Rudolph, part of the Christian Identity movement, was 30, Eric Harris was 18 and Dylan Klebold, 17, Seung-Hui Cho was 23, Nidal Hasan was 39, Jared Loughner, 22. Average age–25 years. The acts of domestic terrorism were all committed by these guys in red states. All seven men were victims of bullying, isolation, and ostracism. All seven had histories of extensive video game exposure and easy access to firearms. Distrust of government was a factor in most, if not all of these episodes. Ted Kaczinski, likely master of the minds in all these events, punctuates this post since he resided in Montana, a red state when, at 36, his activism morphed. His case changes the average age to 26.5.

    Red states are failing their populations.

  • Just for the record, I know Gregg. I like him and I respect him. It doesn't surprise me that he is willing to defend the Tea Party or their sympathizers. I'm certain that the people he knows who favor the values that the TP professes are good people. So is my brother, and he has sympathy for what the Tea Party is supposed to be. That certainly doesn't mean that it is any such thing. And i do wish that Gregg would spend more time critically thinking about his commenters.

    As to the pushback against violent rhetoric, I strongly disagree with his defenses and distractions, though most of my struggle has been against Dave "don't tell me what I don't want to hear" Budge. I think most of us, even in disagreement, can understand where they're coming from. They feel blamed, 'under the gun' if you will. What they're lacking is any sort of empathy for how those of us left-leaning have felt watching "liberal hunting permits" go viral across the Internets. We're never going to get them to admit that they are following fear-lies. That would be for them to admit culpability for very real violent outcomes.

  • Yeah, I can't even bring myself to go back. Yes, I did call out Gregg's post today. I wanted to have an argument about the issue. The level of response over there made it easy to realize there's no reason to go back.

    Life's too short to waste arguing with people who have an unlimited supply of bile, and as reasonable as Gregg seems to be most of the time, the same can't be said for the other regulars at his site.

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