Was the Holocaust Museum shooter right or left? Or how about just crazy?
Ben Smith in Politico:
The suggestion that the Standard may have been a target complicates any view of the racist shooter in contemporary left-right terms. Von Brunn’s white supremacist roots put him under the rubric of a “right-wing extremist,” but the substance of his views — which included everything from believing that President Bush may have been in on the September 11 attacks to denying that President Obama is an American citizen — are too far on the fringe to fit into conventional political classification.
The focus on the Standard, though, appears to be of a piece with his central motivation: Anti-Semitism. In one essay, Von Brunn attacked “JEWS-NEOCONS-BILL O’REILLY,” and the suggestion that neoconservatism is a specifically Jewish conspiracy is common on the racist fringe.
I’m not sure what he’s talking about here. First, the “conventional political classification” is a rubric that accounts for extremists on the far right or left who abhor Democrats or Republicans. Ralph Nader has a lot of bad things to say about the Democratic Party, but that doesn’t make him hard to classify on the left-right spectrum.
Second, a certain strand of conservative thought is comfortable with most of the tenets of Republican doctrine with the exception of free trade and, especially, Jews, Israel, and neoconservative influence. Pat Buchanan is the emblem of this brand of conservatism. Buchanan is generally a Republican partisan except for Jewish/Israeli/Middle Eastern issues where he takes strong exception. Von Brunn is pretty clearly a violent and more extreme adherent of Buchanan’s basic worldview. That he would detest a neoconservative institution like the Standard isn’t “complicating” or surprising at all.
Jon correctly identifies Brunn as essentially being “pretty clearly a violent and more extreme adherent of [Pat] Buchanan’s basic worldview,” that is, a racist, nativist, isolationist paranoid about the power of global elites (Jews). But where Jon is wrong, at least in my estimation, is his implication that these views are uniquely characteristic of the far right. They might have once been, but certainly are not anymore.
Jonathan Chait responds
The American political spectrum is extremely narrow. For all the seriousness of the differences that separate Democrats and Republicans, both parties are thoroughly persuaded of the legitimacy of liberal democratic government. That’s a wonderful thing, since it’s produced long-lasting civil peace and stability.
But that very peace and stability, and the ideological narrowness that makes it possible, can also lead us to forget the persistent character of the anti-liberal left and anti-liberal right, with which we (unlike citizens in less fortunate regions of the world) have very little acquaintance. The anti-liberal left has historically been defined by the radical universalism of its principles, the anti-liberal right by its exclusionary (racial, ethnic, national) particularism. That is the primary difference between them. And that’s why Von Brunn is unmistakably a man of the anti-liberal right: he believes in a particularistic vision of the world in which Jews, blacks, neocons, people with low IQs, and sundry other classes and groups of people have been eliminated; on Wednesday, he made a small contribution to realizing this distinctively right-wing ideal.
Ben Smith again:
I could have been more precise: It’s not that Von Brunn doesn’t fit into an established tradition; it’s that he doesn’t fit easily into the current, mainstream left-right political spectrum, a point Jamie Kirchick also tries to make a bit more clearly than I did.
Indeed, he’s so far out to the right that he seems to despise most of what we consider the right: The Washington, D.C., Fox News Affiliate reports that his notebooks included “a Fox News location” among potential targets. That could also be coherent with an extreme Buchananite, but it’s far enough out that it seems silly to suggest he’s really an “extreme” version of, say, a Fox News Republican, rather than the product of an ideology with different roots.
Jonah Goldberg‘s column in National Review
Jonathan Chait on Goldberg’s column
Allah Pundit on the targeting of TWS and Fox News
John Cole on Allah Pundit
While the left is blaming the right for the shootings, and the right is blaming the left, a colleague pointed out to me that at notorious white supremacist Web site Stormfront, they know exactly who was responsible for the attack: The Jews! (No link — this story has forced us to link to enough neo-Nazis already, thank you.)
I will freely grant this this guy is a man of the extreme right. To posit the notion, as many on the left have been doing the last few days, that this guy has any connection whatsoever either in his philosophy or ideology with mainstream conservatism is ludicrous. It is equally fanciful to blame “right wing hate speech” emanating supposedly from mainstream conservative media outlets for this guy’s actions. The idea that von Brunn needed any motivation at all beyond his sick, twisted, personal extremist ideology and whatever demons possessed him ignores reality – about what we’ve come to expect from the “reality based community.”
By the same token, desperately seeking a way to disown von Brunn because the left has seen fit to smear all conservatives with his racist, anti-Semitic stench is equally ludicrous. We don’t have to disown him. It is self evident to any rational, semi-fair minded person that this guy had as much to do with mainstream politics as a member of the Black Panther party or some other far out, whacko leftist group. To think otherwise is to believe nonsense. To think that anything said by a mainstream conservative set this guy off and contributed to his rampage is equally bogus. The only people who believe that are those who are pre-disposed to believe the worst about conservatives. And nothing anyone says will change their idiotic, exaggerated, hysterical notions about the mainstream right.
David Weigel in Washington Independent:
Other conservatives spent Wednesday explaining that von Brunn was not actually right-wing, and that his anti-Semitism and his conspiracy theories about the attacks of 9/11 pegged him as a left-winger. Leon Wolf of the conservative RedState.com wrote that the media’s treatment of the story — “because von Brunn is a racist, he must be a right-winger” was wildly off-base. “Von Brunn would have been banned within his first three comments of posting at RedState, but would likely have enjoyed a long career as a recommended diarist at DailyKos.” Michelle Malkin, a conservative columnist who spent several days asking why President Obama did not immediately respond to the murder of Pvt. William Long, pointed to von Brunn’s hatred of neoconservatives and cited an FBI visit to the offices of the Weekly Standard as proof that he was an “equal opportunity hater.”
“From what I can tell,” explained Jonah Goldberg, the author of the 2008 bestseller “Liberal Fascism” and a writer for National Review, “his hatreds echoed the kind of stuff we hear from the Kos crowd, Chris Matthews, Andrew Sullivan et al.” Goldberg called Von Brunn “objectively crazy,” but argued that “his hatreds would be easier to find at an ANSWER rally than at CPAC.”
The responses to von Brunn from some of the far-flung groups who attacked or appropriated the “rightwing extremist” report was not quite so definitive. The Thomas More Law Center, which filed a suit against the DHS on behalf of a veteran offended by the report, did not comment and warned that chief counsel Richard Thompson “would not be comfortable commenting at this point.” A spokeswoman for the Liberty Counsel, a legal group that offered its members “Right Wing Extremist” business cards, simply said that the cards were “not going to change” after the events at the Holocaust Museum.
John Cole on Moran’s post
Steve Benen on Goldberg’s piece
Adam Sewer in Tapped on Goldberg’s piece
UPDATE #2: Goldberg responds to Sewer and Dave Neiwart
UPDATE #3: Kenneth Silber at New Majority
Bill Scher and Matt Lewis at Bloggingheads
UPDATE #4: Jack Hunter at TAC responds to Goldberg