Bizarre Attacks on Conservatives

Watch out! Conservative ideas might subject you and your family to thuggish home invasions. Even more creepy, conservative ideas might get you erased from your own personal history. As we observe American conservatism from the outside here at ILYBYGTH, we’ve noticed the steady stream of conservative complaints about persecution. Today’s crop of victim alerts, though, rises to a new level of weirdness.

As one sophisticated and good-looking regular reader of I Love You but You’re Going to Hell (SAGLRROILYBYGTH) noted recently, conservatives are not the only ones to emphasize their own status as victims. Patrick asked,

Who doesn’t emphasize their own victimhood these days? Perhaps the question should be why doing so has become an American tradition. One way of looking at it is to point out that we are an optimistic bunch, perpetually hopeful that if we consistently expose unfairness and hypocrisy, we will help solve the problem by raising awareness of it. Why else would the news always be so depressing?

It makes intuitive sense that every side in our tumultuous culture wars would complain loudly about their own suffering. It is the same dynamic as any family squabble. Victims get justice. Aggressors get punished, at least in theory.

Bubbling up from the conservative commentariat this morning we find two new claims to victimhood. In Wisconsin, we hear, conservative activists have been subjected to jackbooted attacks. And one high school has taken steps to erase its memory of one of its conservative graduates.

First, to Wisconsin: David French’s exposé of hardball culture-war politics tells the story of mild-mannered conservative families subjected to brutal attack. In the aftermath of Wisconsin’s Act 10, conservatives have been targeted as part of a concerted campaign to embarrass and humiliate them. In short, according to French, Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm pushed a “John Doe” investigation of Wisconsin conservatives.

In this kind of investigation, proceedings are kept secret. Investigators have wide latitude to seize relevant documents. As a result, conservative activists had their homes invaded by terrifying police agents. Doors were pounded on. Floors were stomped on. Children were shaken out of bed. Neighbors gathered and gaped. Conservatives were threatened. Computers and phones were seized. Dogs barked.

As French put it, “For select conservative families across five counties, this was the terrifying moment — the moment they felt at the mercy of a truly malevolent state.”

These raids turned at least one Wisconsin conservative into an outlaw, in her imagination at least. As she explains,

I used to support the police, to believe they were here to protect us. Now, when I see an officer, I’ll cross the street. I’m afraid of them. I know what they’re capable of.

Yikes.

Conservatives targeted for home invasions precisely because of their conservative activism. Police used as intimidation agents, to harass and intimidate political activists. All bluster aside, these are profoundly disturbing charges.

Even more bizarre, though, is the story coming from a Baltimore high school. Ryan T. Anderson, an outspoken opponent of gay marriage, was first lauded, then removed, from his high school’s Facebook page.

Anderson had been the subject of a front-page story in the Washington Post. The article called Anderson a “fresh voice” for traditional marriage.

At first, according to a story in the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal, Anderson’s high school posted news of this alumni success on its Facebook page. Later, the school took down the post. Why? In the words of school head Matt Micciche,

I can understand why the belief that Mr. Anderson’s views were being endorsed by the school would be deeply troubling to some members of our community. The nature of these views goes beyond the realm of abstract political ideology and calls into question the fitness of same-sex families to raise children and the right of gay and lesbian citizens to marry the person they love. While Mr. Anderson undoubtedly has the right to express such views, by posting this article we created legitimate confusion as to whether or not they were being validated by the school.

Maybe it is less scary to be removed from Facebook than to have one’s house broken into by aggressive police, but the implications of this Baltimore story are, IMHO, more sinister.

We're proud of our alumni!  Oh, wait...no.

We’re proud of our alumni! Oh, wait…no.

By removing notice of the significant conservative accomplishments of Anderson, his alma mater, in effect, suggested that conservatism is somehow shady, illegitimate, disreputable . . . even shameful.

I don’t say this as an endorsement of Anderson’s ideas. Nor do I claim to understand the intricacies of Wisconsin’s culture-war politics. For those of us trying to understand conservatism and the culture wars, though, both these stories raise important questions:

  • Is it legitimate to oppose same-sex marriage?
  • Do conservatives have a claim to victimhood?
  • Do these strange stories offer proof that conservative thinkers and activists have been uniquely and unfairly persecuted?
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5 Comments

  1. Agellius

     /  April 21, 2015

    “Do conservatives have a claim to victimhood?“

    I don’t know how to prove such a thing. All I can say is that that’s how it feels from where I’m standing.

    Maybe I can only answer it by defining “victimhood”. Victim of what?

    Some conservatives have certainly been victims of something. I would say that Brandon Eich was unquestioningly a victim. Ryan Anderson? He didn’t really lose anything, not him personally. Taking his picture off the school’s Facebook page won’t hurt his career. But the point in this instance is, what message does it send to other conservatives students in the school?

    Anderson is not a combative, Westboro Baptist type. He doesn’t argue that people who disagree with him are evil, or that they’re going to hell — which is precisely his appeal, and a large part of the cause of his success. His crime lay in the pure fact of his opinions, period.

    The message sent to other conservative students in the school is, “these opinions are forbidden.” In other words, holding the conservative Christian (or Muslim or Jewish) opinion on gay marriage will get you into trouble. If you do hold it, you’d best keep your mouth shut.

    When this kind of message is sent often enough — thinking also of the Memories Pizza fiasco — you get to where you need to look over your shoulder to see who’s listening before stating your honest opinions at work or in school. So yes, it feels like victimhood.

    Reply
    • Someone less partisan than the National Review is going to have to cover the John Doe story to make some credible sense of it for me. Sensationalizing what a police raid is like (yes, not nice) doesn’t get at the substantive facts of law and process at work in this story, but it does seem abusive. Wisconsin politicos hate each other so deeply I wouldn’t say it is about “conservatives” — it is about Walker and his particular agenda to destroy all unions — except those for police and firefighters. TAL ran this story showing how petty and vengeful he can be — against kids — who signed onto his recall: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/509/it-says-so-right-here?act=3

      Ryan Anderson’s situation is akin to a hypothetical gay employee of World Vision. They’re not the target, they’re collateral damage as these organizations’ constituencies attack the organization for perceived support or non-support of LGBT people. People are very, very angry over this issue too. The School and World Vision both felt compelled to reverse themselves under pressure. Obviously they had no problem initially with posting about their WaPo alum or deciding to hire married gay Christians. This sort of stuff breeds cynicism and hysteria all around. After reading about the role of unfounded fears in the Reign of Terror, perhaps we need a reminder to fear (and question) our fear.
      http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/05/terror-at-the-dawn-of-modern-europe/389552/

      Reply
      • Agellius

         /  April 27, 2015

        Dan:

        I don’t claim that my perceived need to look over my shoulder is as bad as other kinds of fear. But I do feel that need nevertheless.

  2. Sorry, I didn’t mean to reply to you directly. Just some thoughts on the article. I wasn’t offering that as an invalidation of your feelings. The point is more general — everyone engaged in identity politics feels hurt, and it’s getting so heated now the anger and fear can get really damaging. There are valid questions that can be asked or positions asserted in “liberal” or “conservative” strongholds nowadays that will get you attacked, and I don’t think it really matters who is right or who the victims are; it matters that so many people are being so unreasonable, intolerant, and resorting to bullying tactics.

    Reply

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