Rick Perlstein, Washington Spectator
15 Apr 2017
A friend writes, “For basically the past six months or so I’ve been trying to tell my lefty friends in so many words, ‘Hey, there are a bunch of people on the Internet who are waiting for someone to tell them it’s okay to start shooting at you.’” He became concerned when a thread at the non-political firearms-enthusiasts website he regularly follows became filled with comments in all caps referring to liberals as enemies who must be shot. Developments both online and off following Donald Trump’s election have caused me to share his concern.
In December, an author at the biggest and most explicitly non-political gun site, the Firearms Blog (its tagline is “Firearms, not politics”), recounted his experience with an outfit that offers tactical training based on the methods of the Israel Defense Forces. The moderator soon had to begin deleting comments. One that remains protested, “as if through the millennia, hundreds of nations, principalities and city-states reached the same conclusions,” and urged the curious to check out Judaism.is/genocide.html where one can watch the film Jewish Ritual Murder Revisited: The Hidden Cult.
Four days after Donald Trump’s inauguration, a community member on a moderate firearms law site, PAGunBlog, a civil redoubt welcoming “active participation by both firearms enthusiasts and people who hate them,” described his shock from that morning’s web-surf when “a long-time commenter who I recognized as right-leaning but mostly moderate commented that ‘The Jews own and control everything in America…’ Not many months ago no one except a flaming neo-Nazi would have dreamed of expressing such an opinion, but today it seems to have become an acceptable element of our discourse. I noticed that no one replied to or castigated the comment.”
Then came February 1 in Berkeley and things really started getting scary.
The saga of what happened when Milo Yiannopoulos came to speak at the flagship campus of the University of California has since become foundational, not just with the alt-right but with quite nearly the entire right. Alt-right provocateur Yiannopoulos was turned back by violent protests, which culminated in the burning of a portable generator. Stuffed down the wingnut memory hole are the events that preceded the mêlée. The violence was, in fact, preceded by peaceful protests by approximately 1,500 Berkeley students, until they were waylaid by a tiny handful of off-campus “Black Bloc” and “antifa,” or anti-fascist, cadres who believe racist speech licenses violent resistance. It was also preceded, less than two weeks earlier, by the shooting of a Milo protester in Seattle, by a gunman who has yet to be charged with any crime.
The Battle of Berkeley accelerated the construction of a body of mythology: the left has escalated its resistance to Trump into literal war, so Trump supporters must be prepared to resort to violence to oppose it.
How afraid of this should you be? The most interesting answers to that question do not come from the left. They come from concerned voices on the right, who’ve been monitoring the chatter with mounting alarm, going public with pleas to liberals to still the antifa renegades before bodies begin piling up. The most convincing evidence that they have a point comes in the ensuing comment threads, where the need to prepare for armed force is taken as gospel.