By the way, apropos targeting metaphors and the like
VOLOKH at law.ucla.edu
Fri Apr 2 17:23:26 PDT 2010
(1) Are we now at the level of just "paint[ing] the [other side] in ways that would make violence against [it] appear somehow understandable"? If that's so, that's a breathtakingly broad standard. How about calling one's enemies racists, for instance? Or alleging that they stole an election? Or that they're bought and paid for by your class enemies? Or calling them "crazies," "narrow-minded ... nut jobs," "vile two-bit wing-nuts" who refuse to "slink back into whatever century they crawled out of," "slimy thugs," and "right-wing extremists" to whom "[w]e gotta take this fight"? How about "gas bags" "spewing venom"? That's all from a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee mailing signed by James Carville, http://www.dccc.org/page/invite/fire .
(2) But beyond that, it seems that the message below is reaffirming what I saw in the preceding message - that, according to the author, it's somehow less culpable for Democratic thugs to attack Republicans on the theory that some completely different Republican thugs attacked some different Democrats earlier. That, at least, is how I read the analogy to "A (a six-year-old) hit[ting] B (a six-year-old), then B hit[ting] A," and to the "brick through the GOP offices in Albemarle County occur[ing] just a few days after Rep. Tom Perriello's (D-Va.) brother's gas line [being] cut in Albemarle County."
Now the message below says "none of the behavior is justified or acceptable or understandable." But how is that consistent with the earlier statement that "If A (a six-year-old) hits B (a six-year-old), then B hits A, asking for the same standard to be applied to both blows can become a request for false equivalence"? As I understand that statement, it means that the retaliation - not just against the attacker, but against others in the supposed attacker's political camp - is not "equivalen[t]" to the original misconduct, precisely because it's retaliatory. After all, it's "a request for false equivalence," the claim goes, to treat the bad behavior by the initial attackers the same way as the behavior by the retaliators (again, even if the retaliation is against a completely different person).
So notions of group guilt are being used to suggest that violence and vandalism against Republicans is somehow different from violence and vandalism against Democrats, because (supposedly) some Republicans had done bad things first. A pretty unpleasant sort of argument, it seems to me.
From: Chambers, Hank [mailto:hchamber at richmond.edu]
Sent: Friday, April 02, 2010 12:19 PM
To: Volokh, Eugene; 'conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu'
Subject: RE: By the way, apropos targeting metaphors and the like
The original debate the Democratic leadership wanted to have was not carried on at a level of abstraction. The leadership suggested that the behavior of the House Republicans encouraged the rancor against Democrats which led, in part, to actions against Democratic lawmakers and their offices. Most assuredly, the argument made by the Democratic leadership is related to whether the congressional Republicans painted the Democrats in ways that would make violence against those Democrats appear somehow understandable. We may agree or disagree about whether the Democratic leadership's analysis is correct, but the argument made by the Democratic leadership is not an abstract one.
By the way, the brick through the GOP offices in Albemarle County occurred just a few days after Rep. Tom Perriello's (D-Va.) brother's gas line was cut in Albemarle County. The two incidents may not have been related, but we tend to be so genteel in Virginia that I doubt they were random.
None of the behavior is justified or acceptable or understandable. That is the statement the Democratic leadership wanted to wrest out of the Republican leadership. Whether that was a reasonable expectation given the political climate is a different issue.
Henry L. Chambers, Jr.
Professor of Law
University of Richmond
28 Westhampton Way
Richmond, VA 23173
From: conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu [mailto:conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu] On Behalf Of Volokh, Eugene
Sent: Friday, April 02, 2010 2:35 PM
To: 'conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu'
Subject: RE: By the way, apropos targeting metaphors and the like
Have we really gotten to this? No-one is talking about one person retaliating against another person because that other person is himself personally culpable. The vandalism and scattered violence are by some people on the Left against other people on the Right, and also by entirely different people on the Right against entirely different people on the Left. Are we now stooping to some sort of collective political guilt through which some Republicans are now fair game for vandalism or violence by Democrats because other Republicans have engaged in vandalism or violence against other Democrats?
Of course, if one is trying to figure out who hit whom first, the matter is pretty complex, no? What about the vandalism and violence at the 2008 Republican Convention in St. Paul? What about the attacks on Republican party offices before the 2008 election, which I mentioned before? Or do those somehow deserve to be ignored, just like left-wing vandalism and violence against Republican targets has so often been ignored in many of the e-mails on this thread?
All the more reason, I think, to stay away from this line of analysis, under a hypothetical Democrat's breaking my windows somehow becomes morally more justifiable if a different hypothetical Republican had broken some other Democrat's windows before.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Chambers, Hank [mailto:hchamber at richmond.edu]
> Sent: Friday, April 02, 2010 10:53 AM
> To: Volokh, Eugene; 'conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu'
> Subject: RE: By the way, apropos targeting metaphors and the like
> If A (a six-year-old) hits B (a six-year-old), then B hits A, asking for the same
> standard to be applied to both blows can become a request for false
> equivalence. I refuse to treat the blows the same. I will leave to the side
> whether A is really a D or an R and whether the first punch was "justified."
> I want to point out that the pox-on-both-their-houses argument is problematic
> in the context of the specific claims made by the Democratic leadership.
> Henry L. Chambers, Jr.
> Professor of Law
> University of Richmond
> 28 Westhampton Way
> Richmond, VA 23173
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