Glenn Reynolds links to Josh Marshall's essay at Talking Points Memo, where Marshall claims the political right has a deep-seated problem with violence. My first thought was "Yeah, so deep-seated that we haven't seen it for decades," reacting off the amount of public violence we have seen from the right. In further contrast, I was remembering that the FBI considers eco-terrorism the primary domestic threat in America, with $200M in damages.
But other people can go on at length on such issues. I should bring what I know about myself, that others do not.
I know these people, whether left or right - or at least I know the ones from NH. I have worked in acute psychiatric emergencies most of my 30 years at the state psychiatric hospital. I know people willing to be violent on behalf of their causes, real or imagined. I know people who have been violent on behalf of their causes.
I am not any national expert, nor have I done any scientific research in the area. I have only observations, reflecting my own biases (well to the left when I started, well to the right now). But scanning my memory, I am speaking from a familiarity with about four dozen individuals, a few of which have made the national news. In general, these folks are unclassifiable politically, as they are mixed in many ways. Given that limitation, I think that those on the right tend to hole up with weapons, believing themselves under attack, while those on the left tend more to strike outward, seeking to create a splashy situation. I won't guess what that means for more normal folks, if anything.
But Marshall's comment sets up another line of thought for me: who are each of us afraid of?. He minimizes the violence on the left, referring to "animal rights activists who freed a bunch of gerbils." He perceives no danger from the left, perhaps because he himself is not in danger from Black Panthers or union thugs. Similarly, those on the right may not perceive much danger from rightists bringing guns to health care town halls, figuring they are unlikely to be targets themselves. Josh Marshall, OTOH, may worry that he could be a target.
Fair enough. Our impression of personal danger may overwhelm our objectivity in such matters. We may all unconsciously realize what groups we are unlikely to run afoul of if we just live our normal lives, and regard them as relatively safe. Those from the other side of the ledger, who we can plausibly imagine being across the line from in a counter-protest situation, we might find much more spooky and unbalanced.
Here's the bad news: it doesn't work that way with unbalanced or sociopathic people. Think Lenin and Trotsky, or Sunnis Vs. Shi'ites. Nutcases are fully capable of turning their homicidal natures on those around them before those who are most opposed to them. We focus our impressions of who is dangerous because that is what our instincts tell us to do for safety. Beset by dangers, we try to identify the primary one. But our instincts are not designed well for that purpose, so we make up plausible stories to quiet our fears. These stories are usually wrong. We are seeking rational explanations for irrational behavior.