On Tuesday and Wednesday, pipe bombs were discovered in mail directed toward top Democratic figures ranging from former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to former president Barack Obama, from Eric Holder to George Soros. Media outlets including CNN and The San Diego Union Tribune were also targeted.
This, obviously, is evil. Politically-motivated violence is the definition of terrorism, and this certainly fits the definition.
Yet the parallel responses of some on the Left and Right has been wildly disheartening, to say the least. The proper response to political violence isn’t to blame those who aren’t responsible for political violence — Bernie Sanders wasn’t responsible for the Congressional baseball shootings despite his anti-Republican rhetoric, nor was Barack Obama responsible for the targeting of Dallas police officers despite his critiques of supposedly systemic police racism. Yet some on the Left blamed President Trump and Republicans more broadly for the bombing attempts. Paul Waldman of The Washington Post wrote a full piece assuring Americans that Trump could safely be blamed for the bombing attempts:
Given what Trump has done and said, this was absolutely predictable. In fact, it’s a wonder that it took this long. It’s not just that Trump advocates violence against his political opponents — though he does. It’s that everything about his rhetoric pushes his supporters in that direction, even if the overwhelming majority will never get quite to the point where they’ll actually commit this kind of act of terrorism.
Here’s Joe Scarborough:
Here’s Jennifer Rubin:
Here’s Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Tribe:
And Amy Siskind:
And Tommy Christopher:
And Tommy Vietor:
And Philippe Reines:
The response in some areas of the right has been to scream, Alex Jones-style, “FALSE FLAG!” For those uninformed in the stupidities of fringe right-wing thinking, “FALSE FLAG!” means that someone on the political Left sent bombs to Democrats in order to promote an anti-Republican narrative. Thus, Frank Gaffney tweeted:
None of the leftists ostensibly targeted for pipe-bombs were actually at serious risk, since security details would be screening their mail. So let’s determine not only who is responsible for these bombs, but whether they were trying to deflect attention from the Left’s mobs.
John Cardillo tweeted:
Just too coincidental that two weeks before Election Day, as the ‘blue wave’ has turned into a ripple, and the left is losing ground because of incivility and violent rhetoric, explosive devices show up in the mailboxes of Soros, Clinton, and Obama.
Michael Flynn Jr. tweeted:
This is ugly stuff.
We don’t know who sent these bombs. But what we do know is that the rush to blame the other side of the political aisle for acts of violence condemned by everyone is actually a demonization technique that makes such attacks more likely. Castigating your political opposition as evil enough to bomb public officials gives heart to people who believe that political opposition must be fought with violence. Not only that, it makes attempts to censor speech that much more likely — after all, if speech can this easily promote violence, don’t we have to curtail speech in order to prevent such violence?
We’re living in an increasingly ugly time. That ugliness will only be exacerbated, not alleviated, by attempts to point fingers without evidence, blaming convenient political targets for acts of individual evil.