Maybe Attempted Whitmer Kidnappers Were Just Trying Throw Her A Surprise Party, Huh?

Right Wing Extremism

Whenever an unarmed black person is killed by police officers, the absolute first thing conservatives do is look into their backgrounds, find things they may have done wrong in their lives in order to paint them as a criminal or otherwise unsavory person, thereby justifying the actions of police officers with no known psychic abilities. Breonna Taylor, they wanted people to know, should have at least understood that that's just what happens when you date a drug dealer.

Things are a little different, of course, when white people commit actual crimes.

On Thursday evening, Sheriff Dar Leaf — who had, in the past, been acquainted with two of the accused attempted kidnappers, Michael and William Null and even shared a stage with them at at least one Second Amendment rally — shared his view that perhaps we shouldn't rush to judgment, because maybe they were just trying to arrest Gov. Whitmer on felony charges.

Sheriff Leaf said:

It's just a charge, and they say a plot to kidnap, but you gotta remember ... are they trying to kidnap? Cause a lot of people are angry with the Governor and, uh, they want her arrested. So are they trying to arrest or was it a kidnap attempt. Cause you can still, in Michigan, if it's a felony, you can make a felony arrest.[...] And it doesn't say that if you're in elected office that you're exempt from that arrest. So I have to look at it from that angle and I'm hoping that's more of what it is.

Oh! And maybe they were just gonna kidnap her for her birthday, but ... then the entire plot of the movie Jawbreaker happened?


On Friday, Sheriff Leaf came back and said that he wasn't making excuses for their behavior, but rather that he was trying ensure they got a fair trial.

Sheriff Dar Leaf responds to reaction


But Sheriff Leaf has not been the only person trying to make excuses for these men or at least trying to explain away their behavior. There have been multiple tweets, articles and what have you pointing to the fact that at least a few of these men appear to have been living in squalid conditions.

As a result, there's been a lot of "being poor doesn't make you racist" and "they weren't so poor they couldn't afford $3,000 tactical gear" dialogue.

Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with discussing these things, I don't even think there is anything intrinsically wrong with mentally working out ways in which those accused of crimes might be innocent (though "maybe they just wanted to arrest her" is certainly a stretch).

I also happen to believe that, yes, economic hardship absolutely contributes to a variety of societal ills that have nothing directly to do with poverty and that it's probably easier to radicalize people who are not having a particularly great time of things than it is people who are relatively comfortable. That is not "class reductionism," that is "the term 'hangry' exists for a reason."

The thing here is that it very much seems that white men, conservative white men in particular, are the only recipients of this largesse, generosity and fair-mindedness. That's the problem. We are socialized to see white men as fully realized human beings full of both good and bad in a way we are not socialized to see anyone else. We're socialized to assume goodness of them, and then when they don't turn out to be good, we are supposed to ask what went wrong? What outside forces combined to push this man to do this kind of thing? How did society fail them?

It would be great to live in a world where we treated everyone with the generosity and understanding that some people are trying to treat these men with — even all criminals. We don't. Hell, we treat white male perpetrators of crimes more generously than we treat Black victims of crimes.

And as long as that is the case, no one really wants to hear about how the poor militia guy who tried to kidnap a woman had to live in a basement with a bunch of vacuum cleaners because he spent all of his money on guns. It makes people feel like being a little chintzy with the compassion.

Now that I've ranted my face off, it's your turn — because this is your open thread!


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Robyn Pennacchia

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. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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