Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 28, 2008

THERE IS NO PARALLEL.... Though it's unclear how close they were to executing their plot, two young white supremacists were arrested in Tennessee yesterday, in advance of an alleged plan to assassinate Barack Obama and murder 102 African-American kids.

Federal officials told reporters yesterday that the plot had not yet moved to an advanced stage, but the two would-be assassins had acquired weapons for their "killing spree."

For reasons that I don't understand, the Tennessee Republican Party felt compelled to issue a public statement after the arrests.

"Hate is not a political party, policy statement, agenda or ideology -- it is a pure evil that no place in civil society," said Robin Smith, Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party. "Whether it is neo-Nazi skinheads plotting a racist shooting spree targeting Sen. Obama, or West Hollywood liberals hanging Gov. Sarah Palin in effigy and calling it 'art,' or unknown anarchists tossing bricks through the windows of a county Republican headquarters in Murfreesboro, Americans of all political views should be outraged."

There's an odd tendency in some far-right circles for conservatives to feel like they're victims of some kind of persecution. The problem with this bizarre complex, though, is that a) it's absurd; and b) it leads to ridiculous comparisons like this one from the Tennessee Republican Party. The statement seems to argue, "Sure, white supremacists planned a killing spree, but everyone should feel sorry for us because we've been targeted, too."

The Tennessee GOP really sees a parallel between a crude piece of art, random vandalism, and a plot to kill more than a hundred children and a presidential candidate. In Robin Smith's eyes, there's some kind of equivalency between the three. This is pure madness.

This is, of course, the same Tennessee Republican Party that's been so extreme in its vile attacks against Obama that McCain and GOP lawmakers felt the need to condemn them.

We'll see if there's any pushback against Robin Smith's breathtaking press release.

Steve Benen 8:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (37)

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I dunno, Steve, the press release doesn't strike me as a that big of a deal. The guys that targeted Obama sounded like a couple of losers that were all talk--they were talking about wearing white tuxedos as they completed their task. And hanging Palin in effigy was in very poor taste.

Seems to me like we have enough legitimate gripes against Republicans that we don't need to start manufacturing controversies.

Posted by: Dudley on October 28, 2008 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

Palling around with terrorists is no virtue. To defend America against Socialist Radicals is no vice.

Posted by: gregor on October 28, 2008 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

This press release is a result of trying to reconcile reality (which usually contains a continuum of choices) with black-white thinking (which contains no shades of gray). YES, this two state thinking is madness, but it's widespread and encouraged by many on the right and certain religions.

Posted by: slanted tom on October 28, 2008 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

They weren't much of a threat to Obama, but with a little luck, they could have succeeded in terrorizing or killing some kids. I wouldn't take this too lightly.

Posted by: MaryL on October 28, 2008 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

Methinks the lady doth protest too much. It's not their fault if in firing up their base, they get a slice of their base fired up enough to plot mass murder. How could the repubs possibly be responsible for the actions of extreme racists, when they have only sought to stoke fear of racial extremism?

These are repubicans we are talking about. They care very deeply about personal responsibility - just so long as it's never asked from them.

Posted by: JoeW on October 28, 2008 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

While we're on the subject, does anyone know why the numbers 88 and 14 have numerological significance for white supremacists? (Apparently, our two would-be Turner Diaries reenactors wanted to kill 102 children because that number is the sum of 88 and 14.)

Posted by: Dave Nichols on October 28, 2008 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

False equivalence of this kind can be summed up in three words: "He started it!"

Posted by: The Answer Is Green on October 28, 2008 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

I don't see how they could have accomplished both an assassination and a mass murder, but my guess is the mass murder would have seemed the easier choice. This sounds serious. Those kids were in real danger. Remember the yahoos in Oklahoma City.

Posted by: Ron Byers on October 28, 2008 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK


From HuffPo: The numbers 14 and 88 are symbols in skinhead culture, referring to a 14-word phrase attributed to an imprisoned white supremacist: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children" and to the eighth letter of the alphabet, H. Two "8"s or "H"s stand for "Heil Hitler."

Posted by: chrenson on October 28, 2008 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

does anyone know why the numbers 88 and 14 have numerological significance for white supremacists?

According to teh Editors, 88 represents their IQs and 14 is the age at which they marry their sisters.

Posted by: Jennifer on October 28, 2008 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

I think this may backfire on her. By bringing up West Hollywood liberals she is clearly trying to link them to the Democratic Party. If people do make the link they may also like the skinheads to the GOP.

Posted by: CarlP on October 28, 2008 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

The statement, when deconstructed, indeed cheapens the lives of hundreds of school-children that were the initial targets of these madmen. To compare this conspiracy plot with any of the mentioned protest actions is ridiculous. The Palin effigy (see the link to photo below) invokes a criminal punishment, whereas the plot is simply a very serious crime in itself.

As usual, the GOP bed-wetters can only pity themselves for their extreme privileges.

Posted by: on October 28, 2008 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

I'm struck by the attempts to equalize violent racism with rude political statements. They are not equivalent.

Similarly the racist attitudes of many white voters, saying the "never would vote for a black (or N word)" and comparing it to the attitude of African Americans who say they will vote for Obama is a false equality.

I'm not advocating voting by race but in history how many times have African Americans been able to vote for a white person for president? an African American?

Posted by: Cycledoc on October 28, 2008 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

Ron: Not to mention the yahoo at Virginia Tech.

Posted by: chrenson on October 28, 2008 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

I'm with Dudley @ 8:41. I don't think this is anything to get wrapped around the axel about.

Posted by: on October 28, 2008 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

At the next press conference, Palin should be asked if she intends to tone down her rhetoric given its impact in inspiring these bozos. Making her deny any influence will simply highlight the connection.

Posted by: jen f on October 28, 2008 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

"Seems to me like we have enough legitimate gripes against Republicans that we don't need to start manufacturing controversies."

What controversies are "we" manufacturing?

Taking a 7 year old interview by Obama about the Supreme Court completely out of context is manufacturing controversy.
Talking-up a fake racial political attack is manufacturing controversy.

I think Steve is just pointing out the obvious.

1. Why the hell does the TN RNC feel compelled to even make such a statement.(covering their asses from all the hate stoking rallies I'd say)
2. Why make vandalism and liberal "art" equivalent to a mass murder plot?

Posted by: Jim on October 28, 2008 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

It's bizarre--an effigy, while very strong, is definitely political and within the bounds of a civilized nation's discourse. It's right up against the envelope, but it's still legit political activity.

Murdering children, OTOH, is so demented, destructive, and radical, far out of the mainstream that it's shocking to me the Republicans would draw this false equivalence. It shouldn't even BE on the political spectrum, it's so far gone and a sign of such a breakdown of civilization.

I agree with the above that drawing this false equivalence actually makes Republicans look very bad. Like, okay, the worst of the left-wingers make dolls that look like famous politicians and yell at them. The worst of the right-wingers plot to murder children.

Is this what they really want people to think?

Posted by: anonymiss on October 28, 2008 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

And CHRISTMAS! Liberals hate Christmas! That's WAY worse than shooting a bunch of worthless ni**ers!

Shit, Kentucky repugs are bad, but they're just barely not THAT bad.

Posted by: Yellow Dog on October 28, 2008 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with Steve.
It's a horrific and artless false equivalency.

Proof: I'll trade 10,000 bricks through windows and 10,000 burnt Palin effigies for the return of 1 of the 102 murdered souls.

Do we have a deal?

Posted by: koreyel on October 28, 2008 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, really, it's not like there's any difference between being hanged in effigy and being, you know, hanged.

And who knows if that brick incident was done by a crazed Democrat or an Ashley Todd Republican?

Smith even went for the "West Hollywood" dog whistle -- ie, Democrats are all gay!

Posted by: gradysu on October 28, 2008 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

What's bizarre to me is how very close the Tennessee RNC came to releasing a responsible, sensible statement. They could have just said, "There's no place for hate like this in today's society." And left politics out of it. Democrats could have made the same statement.

Instead, they essentially compared an opinionated artist and a teenage vandal to Hitler.

Posted by: chrenson on October 28, 2008 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

False equivalency is the luxury of baffoons - perpetrated by the manipulator to stir the unassuming to act irrationally. -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on October 28, 2008 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

gradysu: Ashley Todd Republican! Now that's a moniker I can use liberally! Thanks!

Posted by: chrenson on October 28, 2008 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

Might the significance of "fourteen" have to do with the fourteenth amendment rather than only the number of words in a (deluded) sentence?

Posted by: Georgette Orwell on October 28, 2008 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

As for whether these skinheads were an "actual threat," it seems to me that anyone who's compiled guns for something like this is an actual threat. God knows the Bush Justice Department has gotten its panties in a bunch over far less, when it served their "Be afraid, very afraid--vote Republican!!" purposes.

Remember the "terrorists" in Florida, who had reportedly hatched a plot to blow up big buildings? They merited press conferences, news releases, and front-page headlines, and they didn't even have any ammunition. They did, however have uniforms! Oooooooooooh, scary!!

Posted by: gradysu on October 28, 2008 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

The plot: "an alleged plan to assassinate Barack Obama and murder 102 African-American kids."

What scares me: more than the threat to Obama, who is surrounded by some of the best body guards in the world, I'm scared by the threat to college kids. Been on a college campus lately? Remember how easy it is for a guy or two with guns to get on campus and start killing? Surely I don't need to start listing examples. By the way, I had never heard of the University of Central Arkansas, or of a town named Conway, until a few days ago.

What also scares me: Ashley Todd. For those of you with a literary persuasion, remember "To Kill a Mockingbird"? For those of you who know history, remember Rosewood? It doesn't take much to set off a killing spree. Or, in some more recent incidents, mass searches and arrests.

So, a big "thank you" to the ATF, the Secret Service, and the police department in Pittsburgh. A final aside: anyone else struck by how Sarah Palin fired the police chief in Wassilla and the safety commissioner of Alaska because they wouldn't submit to her partisan and personal whims (on top of what Bush-Cheney have done to the Justice Department!)? We need Obama, among so many other reasons, to maintain and restore professional law enforcement in America.

Posted by: CMcC on October 28, 2008 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

The Tennessee Republican Party's statement is queer, as if they are afraid Senator Obama will appear to be a bigger victim than Senator McCain. Why would anyone take an occasion like the breakup of a mass killing spree and candidate assassination plot to claim, "Hey, look over here, we're victims, too!"

I've noticed this tendency among conservatives for years. Many of them claim to be victims in just about every aspect of their lives. They attend "The One True Word of God" megachurch and claim elitist, East Coast Christians are biased against their faith. They advocate for Intelligent Design in the schools and claim bigotry when courts bar their actions. The "liberal media bias" will forever be an evil force that portrays different sides of an issue.

You can't disagree with these kinds of conservatives or have a serious policy dialogue for more than five minutes without them claiming to be victims of arbitrary bias, intolerance and outright bigotry. Coming from people who are often authoritarians in other aspects of their lives, this "conservative victim" line is a convenient way to shut people up, to discredit the merits of differing views. It is at its root a profoundly anti-intellectual sentiment.

According to this line of thinking differing opinions are irrational and can only be explained by bigotry. And it's a short step from here to conservatives saying how much they hate people who think they are better then them. You here echos of this at Palin rallies. But I heard this "victimization" line even when conservatives held the presidency and both houses of Congress.

It's one of the passive-aggressive aspects of modern day authoritarian personalties. If it seems keep people sympathetic or intimidated they will continue to use it. It amazes me how the party dedicated to protecting the interests of America's wealthy elite can claim victimization. Before claiming victimization they should visit a refugee camp in Darfur.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on October 28, 2008 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

The natiional news failed to mention that the Democratic headquarters in Fort Bend County, Texas was vandalized last night. This normally would be considered just another minor local crime except that this is Congressional District 22 where a very vicious political contest is raging between the incumbent Nick Lampson and rethuglican carpetbagger Pete Olson. ( Tom Delay's toadie successor. The RNC is leaving no stone unturned in its quest for control.

Posted by: tex on October 28, 2008 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

jen f: At the next press conference, Palin should be asked if she intends to tone down her rhetoric given its impact in inspiring these bozos. Making her deny any influence will simply highlight the connection.

We'll get right on that as soon as Palin holds her first press conference.

Posted by: on October 28, 2008 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

I've been accused of being tasteless on Halloween, but isn't that what it's all about?

Halloween has gotten such a bad rap in the past 20 years. The lunatic fringe has for all practical purposes tried to abort the fright from "Fright Night", making it as lame as a quilting bee. And that makes me angry!

The LA Sheriff made the decision to ignore the damned effigy on the grounds that 1) it's a political statement and, 2) it's freaking Halloween. The sheriff also said these decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. It's not like it's a conspiracy you idiots, it's the context.

The context for the neo-snotzies scheme, however, is blatantly different and the vile notion is shared by many. An acquaintance of mine, an Iraq veteran recently uttered a similar sentiment, something so wretched and unexpected that when I dropped the call, I refused to pick up the next time. Now that's scary!

A big thank you to the Law Enforcement officers in all these states and cities with the soundness of mind to know the difference between hate and Halloween.

Posted by: StapleFood on October 28, 2008 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

The only way that it makes any sense to equate breaking a window with killing blacks is if one considers them both "property" crimes. And, frankly, with the turn towards madness that the Republican party has taken, it's not even stretching things to think that's the way it was meant.

Posted by: PGE on October 28, 2008 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

The GOP loves equivalency:


Posted by: Lab Partner on October 28, 2008 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

A statement of condemnation rendered ridiculous by tossing in the singular act of one artist who used very crude and wrong-headed judgment. A tit-for tat dig they feel compelled to attach each and every time, no matter that it is a related but separate issue. No matter that it waters down the significance of the condemnation, of what the skinheads fantasized doing.

It's like when you give someone a 'back-handed' compliment--it ends up being very opportunistic, insulting and completely undermines what you pretended to intend (to compliment).

Posted by: iseerussiafromyhouse on October 28, 2008 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

"Its all in the bloodline."

I go back to the remark made by the woman going into the Sarah Palin rally when asked if Barack Obama is a terrorist. That's white supremacist language. The AIP also has long standing ties to white supremacist groups. The Republican Party had better be very careful. Especially with the nature of this election it won't take much prodding to appeal to an element they'll dearly regret. "Terrorist!", "Kill him!", "Off with his head!", "Treason!", "He palls around with terrorists.", "He has views that are un-american", supporters showing up with sock monkey dolls with Obama's name, "He thinks white people are trash"...the McCain campaign and the Republican Party bear the responsibility for the tone of this campaign, and they must bear the responsibility for the consequences.

Posted by: Saint Zak on October 28, 2008 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

The guys that targeted Obama sounded like a couple of losers that were all talk--they were talking about wearing white tuxedos as they completed their task.

Trying to assassinate Obama was supposed to be the end of their task. They'd already gotten illegal guns, planned to rob another gun store to get more, and decided which elementary school they were going to storm so they could kill some black children.

After Columbine and Buford Furrow, do you really want to take a chance that white supremacists are just kidding when they say they're going to kill children and start accumulating guns and ammunition to do it?

The Obama part is just a distraction, and frankly sounds like something they added on during their interrogation to aggrandize themselves. But he was never the original target.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on October 28, 2008 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Why do independents always get off scott-free?

Posted by: Zli on October 28, 2008 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK



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