Scrolling Headlines:

Former NAACP President Benjamin Jealous gives talk at UMass -

February 25, 2017

Anti-racism workshop teaches tactics to fight oppression in community -

February 25, 2017

Providence power play haunts UMass hockey in 6-2 loss -

February 25, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 10 Providence on Senior Night at the Mullins center -

February 25, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falters in the second half, falling to George Washington 83-67 Thursday -

February 24, 2017

UPDATE: SGA announces second and third artist for ‘Mullins Live!’ -

February 23, 2017

Divest UMass and STPEC host panel on building ‘solidarity economies’ in the Trump era -

February 23, 2017

UMass women’s basketball losing streak extends to 10 games after loss to URI -

February 23, 2017

Sixth annual Advocacy Day set to take place March 1 -

February 23, 2017

Panel discusses racial, sexual and psychological violence in response to art exhibit -

February 23, 2017

Judy Dixon enters final season with UMass tennis with simple message: One match at a time -

February 23, 2017

UMass baseball enduring early-season limitation in playing in New England -

February 23, 2017

Minutewomen softball begins season with cross-country travel, string of tournaments -

February 23, 2017

UMass baseball looks to bounce back from disappointing 2016 season -

February 23, 2017

UMass women’s lacrosse senior Hannah Murphy is Angela McMahon’s latest legend in the making -

February 23, 2017

UMass women’s lacrosse senior defenders accept leadership roles in quest for ninth consecutive Atlantic 10 Championship -

February 23, 2017

Kelsey McGovern rejoins UMass women’s lacrosse as an assistant coach after starring for Minutewomen -

February 23, 2017

UMass men’s lacrosse looks to continue improving throughout 2017 season -

February 23, 2017

Spring Sports Special Issue 2017 -

February 23, 2017

UMass men’s lacrosse defense relying on senior leadership with new faces in starting lineup -

February 23, 2017

Politics: Nasty, brutish and short

Point-counterpoint: Little the better for anything else

In the wake of Tucson, there’s been a lot of talk about violent rhetoric in politics. Trust me: Divorcing politics and violence is impossible – politics is violence. It’s been that way ever since some dude in Babylonia thousands of years ago said to his buddies – probably after a really long day made worse because brewing beer back then was a crapshoot so it sucked much of the time – said, “I hate being an early agriculturist, let’s make some weapons and get these chumps to do all the work for us.”

That’s how government got started, and that’s pretty much how it is today. Back then, of course, the services provided by the government were more along the lines of “Hand over your bushel of grain or the king will be upset. If the king gets upset the gods get angry and if the gods get angry everyone will suffer – especially you.” There was also some defense provided, although this was occasionally more of an inherent obligation to the community. In some ancient societies, armies were medieval Halliburtons.

The really strange thing, though, is not that politicians want to tone down violent rhetoric, they really want to water-down anti-government rhetoric. Politicians love militaristic metaphors – that’s why we have wars on drugs, poverty, terrorism, cancer and crime. Presumably we’ll get a “War on Violence” in the near future, because I honestly doubt anyone in government is intelligent enough to appreciate the irony.

We in the news media love those kinds of metaphors, too. So reformers are always “crusading,” rivals are always “rattling their sabers” and headlines about contested probate judge elections will always be some variation on “battle of wills.”

More importantly, the talk about rhetoric is always directed squarely at one group: conservatives. Take this editorial from The Boston Phoenix, “Desert Storm: How the GOP and the Sunset State nurture the lunatic fringe.” The title alone should make it clear just what writer David Bernstein wants to get across, namely that conservatives are insane. The article was written soon after the Tuscon shootings, so it would be unfair to criticize him for things that subsequent information rendered moot.

Nevertheless, his article is packed with turns of phrase such as, “This is typical of how ever-deeper levels of lunacy get introduced to conservatives.” One section is headed “Rally ‘round the nutjobs.” Honestly, it’s not surprising that conservatives feel threatened with liberals saying they’re insane all the time. It might even be a self-fulfilling prophecy, where liberals have told each other that conservatives are crazy so often that they’ve convinced themselves it’s true. But the worst thing Bernstein wrote is this: “Comparisons of dangerous rhetoric of the left and right miss the underlying fact that, in today’s American landscape … there is little or no extreme-left equivalent to the gun-fetishism, government-hating, racist, anti-Semitic extremes of the right.”

In general, it’s just not true. Although the most violent acts have been carried out by far-right supporters, the extreme left is just as violent and has been for longer than the right. In fact, the very first leftists, led by Maximilien Robespierre, orchestrated the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. Anarchists carried out bombing campaigns in 1919 and an anarchist is believed to have thrown the bomb that led to the Haymarket Riot  in 1886. “Today’s American landscape” has been shaped by these events in ways we don’t recognize.

More recently, the Weather Underground actually issued a declaration of war on the United States government while radical leftists such as Sam Melville and Jane Alpert lobbed bombs around the country. Then there was the famous “Battle of Seattle.” G-20 protests always result in riots elsewhere; we’ve been fortunate in the United States that they haven’t been as bad here. Just  last year UMass prevented United Freedom Front leader, Ray Levasseur from speaking at the university.

Also last year, Joseph Stack flew a plane into an IRS office in Austin, Texas and decried capitalism in his suicide note. Later on, a man named Jamie Lee took hostages at Discovery Channel headquarters in Maryland because he thought the channel was anti-environment.

It’s true that Timothy McVeigh killed more people in a few minutes than all the far left groups of the 1970s combined, but that only means that he was convicted and executed while Levasseur was merely exiled to Maine. I know I wouldn’t want to be executed, but I’ve never been to Maine so I can’t say whether permanent residency there would be agreeable to me or not.

Ignoring leftist violence, like Bernstein does, is irresponsible. We live in an age when political violence is more visible than at any other time in history and there is no indication that this will change anytime soon. Ignoring any of it will only convince its perpetrators that more is needed to get our attention.

Matthew M. Robare is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at mrobare@student.umass.edu.

Comments
One Response to “Politics: Nasty, brutish and short”
  1. muad'dib says:

    Apparently even a libertarian as intelligent as Matt can’t resist the “Zeitgeist”-style impulse to disregard the Enlightenment and call every government a conquering king, and every religion a manipulative, cynical lie.

    Whatever.

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