Frank Rich: White Supremacist Holocaust Museum Murderer Was an "antigovernment gunman"


Wondering how Frank "Tea Partiers are making a 'small-scale mimicry of Kristallnacht'" Rich is coping after President Barack Obama declared flatly that heated political discourse "did not" cause the Tucson shooting? Like someone who doesn't know Thomas L. Friedman's First Rule of Holes, that's how:

Since Obama's ascension, we've seen repeated incidents of political violence. Just a short list would include the 2009 killing of three Pittsburgh police officers by a neo-Nazi Obama-hater; last year's murder-suicide kamikaze attack on an I.R.S. office in Austin, Tex.; and the California police shootout with an assailant plotting to attack an obscure liberal foundation obsessively vilified by Beck.

Obama said, correctly, on Wednesday that "a simple lack of civility" didn't cause the Tucson tragedy. It didn't cause these other incidents either. What did inform the earlier violence — including the vandalism at Giffords's office — was an antigovernment radicalism as rabid on the right now as it was on the left in the late 1960s. That Loughner was likely insane, with no coherent ideological agenda, does not mean that a climate of antigovernment hysteria has no effect on him or other crazed loners out there. Nor does Loughner's insanity mitigate the surge in unhinged political zealots acting out over the last two years. […]

Have politicians stoked the pre-Loughner violence by advocating that citizens pursue "Second Amendment remedies" or be "armed and dangerous"? We don't know. What's more disturbing is what Republican and conservative leaders have not said. Their continuing silence during two years of simmering violence has been chilling.

A few unexpected voices have expressed alarm. After an antigovernment gunman struck at Washington's Holocaust museum in June 2009, Shepard Smith of Fox News noted the rising vitriol in his e-mail traffic and warned on air that more "amped up" Americans could be "getting the gun out." […]

Bold bits mine. For those keeping score at home, the go-to two-word media descriptor of Holocaust shooter James Von Brunn was not "antigovernment gunman," but rather (and rather appropriately) "white supremacist," or "neo-Nazi." That's because he was this guy:

In a recent blog post, Von Brunn wrote that Hitler's "worst mistake" was that "he didn't gas the Jews."

And I would go a little bit further than Rich's insincerely agnostic "we don't know" when it comes to whether this particular bit of "pre-Loughner violence" was inspired by Sarah Palin or Sharron Angle or Michele Bachmann. Given that Von Brunn's first attempt at ultra-violent Washington mayhem came in 1981, when he brought a sawed-off shotgun, revolver, and knife to the Federal Reserve in a bizarre plot to kidnap Zbigniew Brzezinski and Paul Volcker, about the only way to pin the basic formulation of Von Brunn's vicious nutbaggery on Sarah Barracuda is if the guy was a serious aficionado of high school girls basketball in Alaska.

As hard as it may be to believe sometimes, there just aren't many voices in America yelling (or even whispering) kill the Jews. But as Jesse Walker noted in his classic Reason piece "The Paranoid Center," which begins with a meditation on the uses of Von Brunn, there is no shortage of voices eager to pin the insane bigotries of selected murderers on entire populations of unconnected political actors. If Tea Party-inspired violence was as widespread as the Frank Riches of the world fear, then they probably wouldn't have to wrap so many unrelated assassins in the Gadsden Flag.

UPDATE: P.J. O'Rourke has more on the New York Times' use of the word "antigovernment" over at The Weekly Standard.