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We've already seen law enforcement tipsheets putting cops on the lookout for Bob Barr voters and people with "Don't Tread on Me" stickers (an act of political profiling that gets a new round of high-fives from the media every time an abortionist gets murdered, or someone brings a holstered gun to a political event), and we know that agent-provacateurs were already infiltrating right-wing organizations during the Bush administration. More hauntingly, we have that atrocious mid-1990s slaughter that almost always goes unmentioned by those who today invoke Timothy McVeigh: the dehumanization-fueled government killing of 86 Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas.
But before we surrender to the fate of re-living the violence of the 1990s, it might be time to take a national chill pill. Despite the policies and rhetoric of Democrats and Republicans alike, we're a better country since then. As The Nation's Steve Bischeff—no fan at all of bringing guns to town hall meetings—rightly pointed out this week, "after six weeks of escalating (but still relatively tiny) demonstrations...there has in fact been very little violence and no gunplay at all." The August congressional recess and townhall politicking was a perfect, made-for-television opportunity for Americans to vent whatever pent-up feelings they have about economic policy over the past year; that things got mildly heated during the worst economic crisis in at least a quarter-century should be no great shocker. The great town hall mobs will be holstering their pitchforks before you know it.
So no, there isn't a brownshirt menace. No, Obama is not a
National Socialist, or a commie. If there's anything positive at
all about this season's flurry of idiotic Hitler comparisons, it's
that it demonstrates a six-decade-old truism: Americans, like
Jones, really do hate Nazis. Maybe there's hope for us
Matt Welch is Editor in Chief of Reason magazine.
* The original version of this article read: "that, as in the Esquire piece, the proponents of the theory so rarely find any actual racists to pin it on." But the assertion that Esquire was a proponent of the racial-resentment theory was incorrect.