Saturday, March 12, 2005

Democratic Hysteria

That Pesky Fly Guy has a post about something that happened at a downtown coffeehouse Thursday. Read his post for Fly's description.

One anonymous call equals "fascism." By his third paragraph, he's already talking "Rethug," "Mussolini." Then, in the update, it's become "Brownshirts" and "Nazis." And why exactly are we supposed to take things like this seriously? Because it's the slippery slope. Like this kind of thing hasn't happened before, many times under different administrations.

Then read the comments for the hilarious reaction. Almost immediately it's "furhrer" and "jackboots." Watching the knee-jerk spasms of mindless reactionaries would be funny if it weren't so pathetic and chilling. The mob has its torches and are on their way to the castle! The historical ignorance on display is troubling, as much of it seems to be willful blindness for partisan advantage. If so, its the most despicable kind.

It takes a while, but some sense is restored in the comments by sober-minded people who point out some basic facts that can be investigated, and some courses of action that will result in clear answers pointing to the next level of action, if called for. It's an admirable effort to restore some sense of proportion and thought. But the largest number of commenters just want to screech and rattle their cages like upset chimps.

I pointed out an actual real-life case of "jackbooted thuggery," when President Clinton sent in military troops to remove Elian Gonzalez from his home to deport him back to Cuba. Remember?

You need only look back at the recently passed Presidential election season to see plenty of examples of Democratic intimidation tactics. Look here, or here. There were union goons who intimidated protesters in Pennsylvania at rallies (I searched for this through Google with no luck.), and Republican headquarters that had unruly mobs swarm their offices and trash the place. Shades of Krystallnacht, yes?

No. Most of Fly's commenters never got to my final paragraph before their outrage muscles started twitching uncontrollably. I pointed out that problems like this are endemic to American politics of all stripes: Democrat, Republican, Communist, Know Nothing, Whig, etc. It's nothing new. It's just that those who are prone to emotionalism over rationalism can't be controlled or deflected by cooler heads. All strong political movements engender this reaction. It's human nature.

It happened here. Rather than investigate first and then report, Fly Guy strapped on his rocket pack and blasted off to fight evil, not quite sure what or where the evil was. As one of the commenters noted, it's easy to look into this and get the facts. Having the facts, we can all look at the situation and decide what to do.

But no. There was even one commenter who did the newly developed political double back flip and labelled this a brilliant bit of Rove-fu. Ol' Karl (Hey, his name has a K in it just like the KKK! They're linked! It can't be an accident. And hey, isn't Karl Rove a German name? Ah HA!) carefully set up the situation so that Democrats look bad no matter what happens. Sheesh.

When Democrats leap to the Nazi and facsism comparisons so quickly, easily and happily it does no one a service. It diminishes the true horrors of the Third Reich, and the lessons we must never forget. It demeans the millions of deaths of the innocent. It overshadows the grim numbers of Communist oppression and murder. It is appallingly facile. It takes a common political problem -- zealotry --that can be addressed and throws it into an extreme posture that defies handling. How can we correctly address fools and criminals if we look at them with the loathing we reserve for true monsters? We can't. That's the point. Demagoguery tramples the issue and those with other agendas slip along behind.

It is the "destroy Bush by any means necessary" agenda, in this case. No, it is not correct to say the Republicans did the same thing to Clinton, as a justification. That, too, was wrong. I used to belong to that "destroy Clinton" crowd, but saw the erors of my excesses. Now, I fight political leaders and political ideologies in order to defeat and discredit them, not just to mindlessly flail and maim.

Authoritarianism is human nature. Too many humans need someone in control other than themselves. True freedom is terrifying. The Founding Fathers knew that. They didn't expect the government they'd launched to last a generation or two. That we're still as free as we are more than two hundred years later is nearly miraculous.

But everything the Founders recognised and fought to block is still with us. By slow accretion, laws and bureaucracies pile up, generation after generation. People who want political power for their own uses deform the structures and processes of government, sometimes maliciously and sometimes unknowingly. But it happens. And it must be combatted.

The surest tactic against tyranny, authoritarianism and fascism? Personal maturity and small government. A small government cannot intimidate its citizens. A mature, fully adult citizenry doesn't crave a Mommy to take care of them; it scorns those who seek to place themselves over others. True adults take care of themselves, their families and friends, and their community.

Calm down. Get the facts. Publicise those facts. Let the criminal justice system do its job. Feeding and pleasuring your emotions is not problem solving. Displays like that over at The Flypaper Theory aren't the way to go.

UPDATE: Saturday, 7PM. Already nearly 60 comments at the Flypaper Theory! The tide has turned now. Instead of howling for Bush, they've moved on to the "lone phoneman" theory, digging up every applicable law, planning strategy to SMASH THIS MISCREANT FLAT! A slight case of overbombing? Likely so.

These folks don't even know what's going on yet, but they're already thristing for blood, ready to start hurling stones, or torch the castle.

UPDATE: Saturday midnight Chris has now interviewed the business owner and gotten some details, though others remain elusive. Money quote:
Gasquet and others who have received similar calls will be discussing their polite, but unnerving calsl with Sam Seder (sitting in for Randi Rhodes) on Monday afternoon. Gasquet has also been interviewed by NPR, and Salon.
No word on contacting the police, the FBI or the phone company, but yeah, the media interview rounds have begun. I'm glad to see priorities are in order here.

UPDATE: Sunday 2PM Another voice heard from, as new-to-me blogger Autoegocrat, blogging at River City Mud, comments on both Flypaper Theory's and my posts. S/he also looks at one passage from President Bush's talk on Friday.

I'm already liking this blog because, even though our politics differ widely, Autoegocrat uses facts, links and sober analysis to advance arguments. S/he respects reader intelligence, which is always nice to see. River City Mud is already on my daily bloglist.

UPDATE Sunday 7PM And Chris responds! Not very nicely, but hey, what were you expecting at this point? Apparently my resistance to authoritarianism was too implicit for him to catch. Maybe if I use profanity, scream bloody murder, use outrageous characterisation in place of pointed questions, put hysteria ahead of facts, play to the lunatic fringe and shout down my opponents, do you think he'd understand that?

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