Internal Memo Tells Republicans To Respond To Far-Right Violence With 'I Know You Are But What Am I?'
Today in Portland, the Proud Boys are holding a rally "To End Domestic Terrorism" and no, they're not planning on disbanding. The violent "Western Chauvinist" street gang says they are rallying to demand that "Antifa" — which is not actually an official organization of any kind — a domestic terrorism threat. The Proud Boys have been known to plan ahead at their rallies, bringing weapons and plotting to start violent incidents they can later blame on Antifa. That is almost definitely what will happen today. Because that's what they do.
There has been a major push on the Right lately to get "Antifa" classified as a terrorist group, not because of anything those associated with the organizing tactic do that would traditionally be classified as "terrorism," but because they so desperately want to be able to play the "both sides!" game. The theory, I am guessing, is that if they can get Antifa classified as a domestic terrorist group, then people won't care when they see statistics about how 73% of all extremism-related murders were classified as coming from the far-right, whereas literally no extremism murders were motivated by a left-wing ideology.
And it's not just stupid, trolly groups like the Proud Boys that are pushing this crap. In fact, House Republicans recently received a memo directing them to respond to questions about white supremacist violence by blaming the El Paso shooting (committed by a white supremacist), as well as a shooting in May and the attempted assassination of Gabby Giffords on "leftist violence" and changing the subject to "Well what about Antifa, huh?"
The document was obtained by the Tampa Bay Times, which noted that none of the examples cited actually had any "left-wing" motivations.
The GOP conference talking points ascribed other shootings as leftist violence despite ambiguous, if not contradictory, evidence. The shooter that wounded U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, a Democrat, was paranoid about government and obsessed with the Arizona Congresswoman, a law enforcement investigation found. His political persuasions were mixed and did not appear to be a factor. Nor does it seem that the May shooters at a Colorado high school — both teenagers and bullied students — were motivated by politics.
What these people are trying to do here is promote the idea that left-wing ideologies, like opposing fascism, are inherently "bad and dangerous" in the same way white supremacist belief systems are "bad and dangerous." They want people who throw milkshakes at Nazis to be as bad of a PR crisis for Democrats as Nazis who shoot up Walmarts is for them.
The thing of it is though, even if these shootings were motivated by left-wing ideology... the kind of gun control we're asking for would also apply to people with left-wing political views. It's not as though anyone is saying "We need gun control, but only for Republicans!" No! We want it for everybody! Across the board! It is very convenient in that way. You see, when you take the position that murdering people with guns is always bad, you don't have to worry about a PR crisis when someone who may agree with you on some political points goes and murders a bunch of people with a gun. You can just say "Yes, murder is bad and people shouldn't do it."
What this makes more clear than anything is that Congressional Republicans see their own ideology as inherently tied to the ideology of white supremacists, and that they fear that white supremacists getting a bad rap would look bad for them. If they didn't see it that way, if they thought of white supremacy as objectively bad, there would be no need to pivot or to qualify their statements in any way.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse