Taranto and the Right Need a History Lesson on Digital Death Threats

Stupidity and classlessness aren't ideological issues -- they strike liberals and conservatives in equal measure.

The violent liberal blogosphere strikes again! Below a HuffingtonPost story about a bombing at the Bagram base in Afghanistan that coincided with vice president Cheney’s visit, a group of knuckle-dragging readers posted comments lamenting that Cheney hadn’t been killed.

The HuffingtonPost condemned the comments, and deleted them from the site. End of story, right? Just another day in the blogosphere were artless anonymity reigns, and the grownups need to tidy up the mess.

Not quite. On Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes last night, James Taranto, the editor of the Opinion Journal, blamed liberals for being too violent: “There is this disinhibition on a certain part of the left wing fringe, that is really hateful and really troubling,” he said. “I don’t remember a conservative friend of mine ever saying that a liberal politician should be assassinated.”

Really, James? Unlike you apparently, I recall a time long ago and far away called the 1990s, when all sorts of crazy things were said about Bill and Hillary Clinton. For help in this walk down memory lane, a July 1999 Salon article by Jeff Stein that chronicles some of the choicer quotes from the conservative blogosphere, comes in handy.

One post on the Freerepublic.com blog said, in reference to the Clintons, “genital herpes just isn’t enough for this duo…357 seems more on the mark (it may take a village to whack you, you sullen bitch!)” Another reader wrote that the Clintons “know that everybody hates them, and wants them to be dead! Senator? yea-sure, c’mon, bitch, I got yer senator rite heayre! …” If the point of any of that seems too vague for you, James, another comment dispenses with the subtlety: “People, we are going to have to go to Washington, and kill this horrible bastard ourselves!”

And then of course there’s Ann Coulter, the skeletal Siren of the right, who wrote in 1998 that while the nation debates whether or not president Clinton “did it” with Monika Lewinsky, the debate should actually be about “whether to impeach or assassinate.” Coulter, let’s not forget, has also called for the bombing of the New York Times building and the poisoning of a Supreme Court Justice.

I wonder if Taranto found any of that “really hateful and really troubling?”

If not, try this: Last October, a letter writer who claimed to be “From the right Right” called for liberal radio show host Stephanie Miller to be shot. “As with Cindy Sheehan,” the conservative wordsmith opined, “the best thing that could happen to you would be seeing some WONDERFUL activist sticking an AK-47 up your Glory Holes and sending you into eternity.”

On the Washington Post Web site this morning, Howard Kurtz rightly condemns the witless and disgusting comments on the HuffPo site, and uses the occasion to quote his best bud Michelle Malkin on the issue, who uses her blog post to link to other conservative blogs that are calling this just another case of unhinged, violent liberals doing what comes naturally.

What this all goes to show is that while Kurtz, Taranto, Hannity and others are decrying the particulars of this story, they’re totally failing to see the big picture. The problem isn’t ideology, the problem is stupidity, which comes in conservative, liberal, and every other flavor. Just because someone can summon the mental acuity to turn on a computer, doesn’t mean they’ve been graced with the power of reason, or good taste.

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Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.