May 08, 2002
Strange bedfellows

Joshua Trevino has some harsh words regarding the assassination of Pim Fortuyn and those who would equivocate about it:

It's not terrifically surprising that Pim Fortuyn's assassin is a radical leftist. I've long maintained that the hard left is the greatest threat to social order in the West, and this only drives the lesson home. From near-insurrections in Seattle, Prague, Washington, Genoa, and Sweden; to pipe bombs in the Midwest; to the killing of Italian technocrats; to the FARC; to race riots in Cleveland and Crown Heights; to apologists for Islamic terrorism -- it is today's left that aids, abets, and/or apologizes for most of the violence in and against the Western world. (Notable non-leftist standouts are the Rockwell/Raimondo crowd of libertarians; but unlike the left, they've never actually killed anyone.)

The strange thing is that the left seems not to notice. Its rhetoric, after all, is the rhetoric of justice -- sometimes even of peace. And all manner of self-deception is employed to keep it that way[.]


By this light, Fortuyn brought his murder upon himself, by preaching "hate." That he did nothing of the sort is irrelevant. Cause must be tailored for the effect to be palatable. One may easily argue that Roger Boyes is an idiot -- he goes on to assert that JFK, shot by a committed Marxist, was a victim of the right. But that misses the point, which is that almost nothing -- not civil disturbance, not a massacre in Manhattan, not a slaughter at a Seder, not decades of Soviet barbarism, nor the cold-blooded shooting of Pim Fortuyn -- nothing will convince the hard core of the left that its goals, which necessitate its methods, lead inevitably to woe.

Not that all leftists are murderers. They're not. But just as neo-Confederates have a duty to root out the racists in their ranks; just as the right has a duty to weed out its paranoiacs and violent element; so too does the left have a duty to disavow and disassociate itself from its loathesome extremists.

But for the most part, they don't. In Europe, the FARC and Hezbollah remain off the official lists of terrorist organizations, and EU money demonstrably funds Arafat's terror. Here in the US, the Democratic party does not shun Al Sharpton; pacifists see no problem marching alongside Palestinian terror-apologists; and Tom Daschle and Al Gore do not repudiate the extremists of EarthFirst! or PETA -- after all, they're a reliable voting bloc, even if they block common-sense measures.

The main problem that I have with this analysis is that it commits the same sin described in the Reason magazine article that Joshua cites:

[T]he process of straining political events through the standard journalistic narrative templates - especially the right-vs.-left narrative -- can simplify a story so greatly that it emerges as a different story, perhaps even the wrong story.

Any definition of "leftist" or "the left" that includes both Al Gore and EarthFirst! is overly broad to the point of meaninglessness. Both of them agree in a broad sense that something ought to be done to protect the environment, but the paths diverge pretty sharply from there - Al Gore would like to raise fuel-efficiency standards on SUVs, while EarthFirst! would happily firebomb the plants that make SUVs.

More to the point that Joshua is trying to make, Al Gore and EarthFirst! have no use for each other. If any members of EarthFirst! bothered to go to the polls in 2000, I'll bet a sizeable chunk of my income that they voted for Ralph Nader. These people hate Al Gore with a passion because they consider him a sellout, the kind of person that Phil Ochs had in mind when he wrote Love Me I'm A Liberal.

In other words, there's no commonality between them. Joshua is arguing, as I myself have, that words of condemnation mean more coming from ideological soulmates than from political enemies. I agree with the theory, but I disagree with this particular application of it. My quarrel is that the examples he cites are, for the most part, examples of enemies. They're being cited as soulmates because they're all enemies from Joshua's perspective, but on the spectrum of "leftist" opinion, Al Gore and Tom Daschle are to PETA and EarthFirst! as right is to left.

This is not to say that those who equivocated about Pim Fortuyn's death, whether out of dislike of his politics or an actual sense of commonality with the whackjob who killed him, have any excuse for doing so. Regardless of whether you agree more with Fortuyn's ideals or those of Volkert van der Graaf, if you don't hold the basic premise that killing people because you disagree with them is absolutely wrong, then I hold you in the same contempt that Joshua does.

But what I want to know is, how much must one have in common with a malefactor in order to have a moral responsibility to speak out against him? I say that Al Gore is sufficiently far removed from EarthFirst! that he has no more need to condemn them than George W. Bush does, but if the Sierra Club were to express admiration for their violent tactics then common decency would require Gore to denounce them. It's wrong to extend the legitimate criticism of European lefists for their failure to decry this crime to a more general critique of the much broader and less cohesive American left. There's no parallel here.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 08, 2002 to Society and cultcha