By the way, apropos targeting metaphors and the like
VOLOKH at law.ucla.edu
Thu Apr 1 14:06:57 PDT 2010
I appreciate Prof. Smith's kind words, but I'm afraid I have to disagree with her analysis.
1. I find it hard to see substantial distinctions to be drawn between the Democrats' two (not one) targeting bullseye maps, with talk of "targeting" and (in one) "Behind Enemy Lines," coupled with the "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun," the "pitchforks" line, and the "punch back twice as hard," and the "Fire Pelosi" / flames picture plus Sarah Palin's targeting cross-hairs map, even with her "don't retreat, reload" statement. Both are well within the core of standard politics-as-war talk. I can't imagine either being either more likely to be intended to produce violence, or more likely to simply produce violence.
2. The melding of accusations of "violent verbal and visual rhetoric" with accusations of "a strategy of fear and hate" simply reinforces my sense that what's really happening here is just an attempt to taint with allegations of violence people whose viewpoints and policy prescriptions one wants to condemn. Of course one should fear terrorists, who these happen to be mostly "Arab." Of course one should fear criminals who are released on furloughs or otherwise. There is a plausible debate to be had about whether the political tactics are excessive or not, and whether they play unduly on racial or religious hostility -- just as there's a plausible debate to be had about whether the constant cries of racism and bigotry about a wide range of national security arguments, crime policy arguments, race relations arguments, immigration arguments, and the like are undue attempts to silence legitimate opposition. But what I see below is basically a statement that the Republican Party is evil, that its positions are bigoted, and that therefore we should be faulting them for extremist right-wing action -- while presumably the Democrats get a pass from extremist left-wing action (anti-police riots, anti-globalization riots, and so on) that is just as indirectly linkable to mainstream Democratic ideas as the extremist right-wing action is to mainstream Republican ideas.
I will have no part of that. When there are attempts to taint people on my side -- not extremists, but the legitimate political opposition using standard political imagery -- with alleged responsibility for the actions of a few kooks and fools, I'm not going to stand by and accept that.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Nareissa L. Smith [mailto:nsmith at fcsl.edu]
> Sent: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 12:05 PM
> To: Volokh, Eugene; 'conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu'
> Subject: RE: By the way, apropos targeting metaphors and the like
> Professor Volokh,
> I have the deepest respect and admiration for your body of work. However, I
> steadfastly disagree with you here. Your message below is creating a false
> First, it is a false equivalency to compare the democrats map with targets on
> Republican districts to the Sarah Palin map with democratic districts in the
> crosshairs. This is so not only because cross-hairs are much more suggestive of
> violence than a bullseye, but also because the democratic map was not
> accompanied by a suggestion that supporters "reload." Messages are all about
> context. The fact that one - ONE - DNC map can be pointed to does not erase the
> background and the backdrop of what is happening in America right now. It is that
> backdrop that gives the crosshairs meaning. This violent verbal and visual
> rhetoric has not been isolated. Rather, it has been the stock-and-trade of the
> GOP for some time. Over the past few decades, the GOP has adopted a strategy
> of fear and hate to win elections. Sometimes it's a fear of brown people (1988 -
> Willie Horton), (2004, "Arab" terrorists). Sometimes it's a fear of people who love
> differently (2000 and 2004 and 2008 initiatives to ban same sex marriage to "get
> the base out.") The rancor surrounding the 2008 campaign illustrates this as
> well. From the very beginning, the McCain-Palin rallies attracted - and in the
> beginning at least, stoked - flames of hatred and resentment. The signs and
> messages at those rallies were appalling to many Americans - left, right, and
> center. It got so bad that McCain himself had to intervene to tell a supporter that
> she could in fact trust Barack Obama if elected, that he was a good man, and not
> a Muslim. That was the beginning. Then you had the town hall "meetings" and
> the tea party "protests." Protesters even attempted to carry guns to an event
> where the newly elected President was speaking. The rage has been barely
> containable. Moreover, you have elected members of Congress encouraging this
> uncivil and unsafe behavior. Not to mention, there is the far right wing - Rush and
> Glenn - that stoke the flames of hatred every day on their programs. So, I
> respectfully disagree with you here. In crim law, we would say that the mens rea
> is proven through circumstantial evidence. In evidence, it would be evidence of
> modus operandi. At any rate, given the back-drop, there is no way to equate the
> right with the left. The right has the clear intent and desire to benefit from this
> hatred and mean-spiritedness.
> This is particularly true because leaders on the left are not encouraging the
> violence. John Boehner had a chance to distance himself and his party from this
> mess when he was asked about the recent threats to members of Congress. But
> rather than say, "It is always wrong to harm a member of Congress," (which is
> true), he spent the first few minutes justifying and explaining why these people are
> angry. A member of Congress excused the actions of the man that flew a plane
> into a Texas FBI building. Some on the right are even trying to explain away a
> right-wing militia's plan to assassinate POLICE officers(!). That is not
> leadership. The message from GOP leadership has not been strong against the
> threats of violence nor the actual violence that has occurred.
> All of this amounts to "fomenting and encouraging," in my opinion.
> Compare this to the reactions from the left. Barney Frank and John Lewis are
> verbally attacked in the most vile of ways. Barney Frank says it's part of the cost
> of being a high profile Congressman. Joe Wilson shouts down President Obama
> in the State of the Union. The President responds by smiling. Smiling. That is the
> difference. There is no organization or responsible elected official on the left that
> is fomenting a climate of hatred and outright disrespect. Therefore, the cases are
> Nareissa L. Smith
> Assistant Professor
> Florida Coastal School of Law
> 8787 Baypine Rd.
> Jacksonville, FL 32256
> (904) 680-7674
> -----Original Message-----
> From: conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu [mailto:conlawprof-
> bounces at lists.ucla.edu] On Behalf Of Volokh, Eugene
> Sent: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 2:16 PM
> To: 'conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu'
> Subject: By the way, apropos targeting metaphors and the like
> To then-candidate Obama's "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,"
> President Obama's warning about people with "pitchforks" coming for business
> executives if it weren't for his Administration, and the White House's advice to
> "punch back twice as hard," let me add two more items:
> (1) A recently uncovered 2004 Democratic Leadership Committee map with
> targets on the states that the DLC urges targeting, the headline "Targeting
> Strategy," and a caption that starts, "Behind Enemy Lines." See
> http://www.verumserum.com/?p=13647 .
> (2) A Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee site,
> http://www.dccc.org/content/recovery (also pointed to by the page I just linked to
> above), with targets on the districts of targeted Republican congressmen. Click
> on each target to see the congressman's photo and name, and the title "Targeted
> Now I wouldn't suggest that any of these are reprehensible "fomenting or
> encouraging" "vandalism and violence." None of these, I think, are intended to or
> likely to lead to vandalism or violence; they are just normal political rhetoric. But
> since some think that "Fire Pelosi" with flames in the background of a picture of
> Pelosi, or the Sarah Palin map with the cross-hairs on districts that are being
> targeted, qualifies as such "fomenting or encouraging," and since the question
> was raised whether Democratic and Republican readers have tried to do this to
> the same extent, I thought these examples were worth noting. I expect there are
> plenty of others; but it's not easy to search for them, since they haven't led to
> much public comment precisely because they are normal political rhetoric.
> Also, on the separate topic of speech by the rank and file, see
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6b1VOAATNk, containing quite a compilation
> of "Bush as Hitler" and similar statements. Naturally these are cherry-picked by
> the creator of the video, and not representative of critics of Bush generally; but my
> sense is that the same is true with Obama as Hitler statements.
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