Echoes of 1930s Europe: Emerging Mobs

This blog has championed the connecting of different types of abusive behavior, grounded in the conviction that bullying, mobbing, and harassment occur in many settings, often while showing similar underlying qualities.

These behaviors are not limited to those of a given ideology.  After all, for example, horrific workplace bullying can occur in white shoe corporate settings as well as in grassroots social change organizations, in blue and red states alike.

But the violence, threats, and denunciations coming from the extremist right wing in connection with the health care legislation are disturbing and must be called out. Much of this behavior is being targeted at elected officials who had the temerity to support expanding health care coverage to all Americans:

Violence and threats

As reported by Politico:

Reps. Louise Slaughter and Bart Stupak have received death threats.

A tea party participant published what he thought was Rep. Thomas Perriello’s home address and urged disgruntled voters to “drop by” for a “good face-to-face chat.”

Vandals broke windows at Slaughter’s office in New York and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s office in Arizona.

And angry voters are planning to protest this weekend at the home of [Ohio Rep.] Steve Driehaus — who’s already seen a photograph of his children used in a newspaper ad published by reform opponents.


House GOP minority leader John Boehner isn’t above appealing to the rhetoric of death and banishment for pro-life House Democrats who supported health care reform, such as Rep. Driehaus.  As Politico further reports:

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) warned that anti-abortion Democrats would suffer politically if they voted for the health care bill; he singled out Driehaus, saying he “may be a dead man” and “can’t go home to the west side of Cincinnati” because “the Catholics will run him out of town.”

Limbaugh is fanning flames

No surprise here. For Rush, it’s not enough to disagree on policy. As evidenced by this Associated Press report, you have to put some healthy hate into it:

“We need to defeat these bastards. We need to wipe them out,” Limbaugh said. “We need to chase them out of town….”

Nancy Pelosi at the stake

NPR reported about a Republican fundraising message built around House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s role in ushering through the health care bill:

The Republican Party has sent out a new fundraising e-mail featuring a bold headline against a backdrop of flames; it reads, “Fire Nancy Pelosi.” The e-mail urges people to send money so that the GOP can win the 40 House seats it needs to take the speakership away from Pelosi.

The GOP is using the imagery of physical burning to target those with whom they disagree.   Witch hunt?  Nope, in their eyes she’s already been tried and convicted.  Now it’s time for some witch burning.

Racial and homophobic slurs

From the CBC News, here’s a report on the bigoted slurs directed at members of Congress who supported the health care bill:

Earlier, as black congressmen walked to Capitol Hill for Sunday’s big health-care debate, some were spat upon and called the “N” word and other repulsive racist slurs.

A particular target was John Lewis of Georgia, a Democratic congressman who was being pilloried because he called national health care the last missing civil right.

Another was the openly gay committee chairman Barney Frank of Massachusetts. He was showered with anti-homosexual epithets as he made his way to the chamber.

Demonizing the President

It’s not just the liberals who are becoming alarmed.  Former Rudy Giuliani speechwriter John Avlon expressed concerns about how “Obama Derangement Syndrome—pathological hatred of the president posing as patriotism—has infected the Republican Party”:

On the heels of health care, a new Harris poll reveals Republican attitudes about Obama: Two-thirds think he’s a socialist, 57 percent a Muslim—and 24 percent say “he may be the Antichrist.”

Totalitarian mindset

Even though the GOP lost the November 2008 election by a large margin, as pollster James Zogby explains, they are using totalitarian language to suggest that an elected majority is somehow imposing its will on the electorate that voted it into office:

A Republican talking point repeated ad nauseam during yesterday’s debate pounded on the theme that they, and they alone, had the right to speak for “the will of the American people.”

…Of course, the American people have spoken, and in November 2008 elected a Democratic White House and Senate and House of Representatives.

The idea that the minority party represents the “will of the people” (not some of the people, but “the people”) is the seedling of a totalitarian mindset.

1930s Europe

It is not an overreaction to suggest that these behaviors yield disturbing comparisons to 1930s Europe.  An extreme and not insignificant minority is responding to being on the losing end of the democratic process with threats and violence…and on the issue of health care, of all things.

We are at a scary time in this nation’s history, and it is up to good people of all political beliefs to stand up and object to this unpatriotic attempt to destroy civil society.


Politico article on violence and threats

AP article on Limbaugh and Tea Partiers

NPR story reporting GOP Pelosi ad

CBC News on slurs directed at Congress members

Avlon column

Zogby article

8 responses

  1. My friend Carol Fehner left this comment in another section of the blog, and it’s worth pasting in here:

    David, I agree entirely with your analysis. It seems that many Americans see us as divided between “us” and “other” which was the beginning of the holocaust in Europe. In Europe in the 30’s the news media carried these kind of outlandish stories and gave them credibility. I see that happening more and more in this country. It is concerning and frightening to see this occur. I noted the beginning of this kind of thought process during the last Administration. We seem to have lost respect for others and certainly have no regard for the common good. I guess the question is; how do we deal with it?

    Carol, it sure is a complicated question, yes?! I think education is a start — we must hope that when people see how pervasive this behavior is, they will take pause and realize this goes way beyond normal jousting.

    • I would tell all of you that pictures and video footage” do not lie. Please post video footage for me or pics of any Tea Party group being arrested for violent behavior. I can post many, many pics and photos of Liberal groups who attack GOP candidates and commentators…ALL DAY LONG. You guys are in denial about the truth of which groups really are “over the top” as opposed to who is civil. Have you ever seen Liberals attack speakers on a campus? I have. PROVE TO ME what you are claiming….on second thought…I know you won’t be able to because the footage in “non-existent”!

  2. Pingback: Echoes of 1930s Europe: Emerging Mobs

  3. Pingback: The Emerging Mob

  4. Your assessment of current right wing, extremist rhetoric and behaviors is alarmingly correct. I am growing increasingly concerned by the violence and threats made toward public officials and anyone who might oppose these goons. The threat of such organized and orchestrated violence toward the majority robs us all of our rights to elect representatives and to be participative citizens in this country that is America. Their behavior is not the American Way. I truly fear where this is leading this country.

  5. Rush Limbaugh denied a franchise in N.F.L. I wonder why.

    Sara Palin when asked recently on CNN what Barack Omaba would need to do to earn her respect. No problem if he invades Iran. (You Betcha)

    Tea Party. No minority groups in vited to this club

  6. Pingback: Gay worker bullied and harassed at Las Vegas Walmart: What’s next, “always low prices” on pink triangles? « Minding the Workplace

  7. This shouldn’t be about “us” vs. “them”, imho. After all, there are certainly Republicans (I know some of them) who are not extremist. There are also Democrats who are totally extremist. And not everybody is red or blue. Remember that the leaders don’t stand for the people. Some people may agree with the leaders, many more feel pressure to pretend, and lots (especially in the US) just think the people in power are crazy. Note that the latter two can shift as far as percentages go.

    I’ve been preparing for “WWIII” for a while. Muslims are being attacked, both on the streets and in the media (and everywhere in between). Not all of them, mind you. But it still worries me. I’m not Muslim, but I have friends who are. There’s enough fear to go around, I think.

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