No matter how cynical you are about politics, it’s hard to get your brain around how responses to tragedy shape up in the heads of the GOP. I personally always imagine it’s a lot of off-the-cuff stuff, like when Bush said “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job” during Hurricane Katrina — the kind of thing that seems pretty bad in the moment but in retrospect was clearly just kind of about pretending nothing that horrible was happening so that our leaders could cope with disaster.
But that’s not really how it works, unfortunately. They focus-group this stuff, all agreeing on what the message will be, who will deliver it and when, and then they all stick to the plan, hoping to define the narrative as they go.
And mostly it works, unfortunately. The media generally gives them a free pass, never following up on questions during interviews that they clearly lied in their answers to, never asking hard questions in the first place.
But the latest example of this is absolutely beyond the pale.
The Tampa Bay Times released a memo it obtained from House Republicans that instructed fellow GOPers, in response to the recent mass shootings that have claimed the lives of so many and left the nation shaken, to minimize the impact of white nationalist sentiment on the killers and in fact to blame the left.
The talking points are innocuous enough at first, giving pretty standard responses to calls for gun control (“No, never”) — but then veer wildly into straight-up incitement against Democrats. The House GOP instructed readers of the memo, when asked whether they believe “white nationalism is driving more mass shootings recently,” to give the following answer:
White nationalism and racism are pure evil and cannot be tolerated in any form. We also can’t excuse violence from the left such as the El Paso shooter, the recent Colorado shooters, the Congressional baseball shooter, Congresswoman Giffords’ shooter and Antifa.”
Republicans really do believe that they can just say “racism BAD” and then still be racists. That’s appalling enough. But the case of whataboutism here is sickening. Number one, the El Paso shooter was absolutely a white nationalist. He quoted Donald Trump’s white nationalist rhetoric almost word for word in his “manifesto.” But aside from James Hodgkinson, the “baseball shooter” who wounded Steve Scalise and others at a Congressional baseball practice, the connection of anyone else listed there to “the left” is tenuous at best.
It goes without saying that Antifa does not commit violence, it exists in response to violence. If neo-fascists, the alt-Right, white supremacist groups, and violent Trumpists didn’t exist, Antifa members would be somewhere volunteering in a soup kitchen. If Antifa didn’t exist, all those other groups would be killing and harming people at whim, sometimes with the protection of police forces that have been infiltrated by white supremacists as well.
It’s up to us to maintain the kind of vision that seeks out this bias as it’s presented and to push back against it. Because once we start excusing the wave of white nationalist violence and murders that have taken place since the inauguration of Donald Trump because of one guy who wounded some folks at a baseball field, the battle’s over and the GOP has won.
All without firing a shot.
Featured image via screen capture
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