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Oh, my

The big, bloggy news today concerns a supporter of Rand Paul, the Republican candidate for Kentucky's Senate seat, who reacted badly when a female volunteer went in for a harmless prank. (For the record, I too am a Paul supporter.) Writes the Louisville Courier-Journal (boldface emphasis mine):

At one point, violence broke out when Lauren Valle of approached Paul and tried to give him an employee of the month award from Republicorp. Republicorp is a fake business MoveOn created to symbolize what it says is the merger of the GOP and business interests controlling political speech.Television video shows Valle, of Washington, D.C., being pushed to the ground and at least one foot stepping down on her head.

There is video of the incident at the first of the links above.Now, one would have thought this an opportunity for conservative pundits, especially of the Christian persuasion, to disown such violence and remind their readers and listeners that politics should be conducted in a spirit of charity, no matter who your opponents happen to be. But when it comes to Jim Hoft, of the First Things-sponsored "Gateway Pundit", such predictions tend to fall through:

Unhinged Activist Tackled and Stepped On at Rand Paul Rally (Video)

Posted by Jim Hoft on Tuesday, October 26, 2010, 4:46 AM

Another day Another unhinged leftist stalks and lunges at a Republican contract employee Lauren Valle wasnt counting on this reaction by Rand Paul supporters.She was tackled and stepped on by Paul supporters. (TPM)Look for the state-run media to make her into some kind of saint by the end of the day.

There is more in the same vein here. First things first, indeed.

About the Author

John Schwenkler is an assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy at Florida State University.



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I saw the clip on CNN. I didn't know at first who was involved, but my reaction was "This is HORRIBLE". Later I read the closed=captions and found out just what it was about. Oh, I should qualify my condemnation. Somebody did have the decency to remove the woman's glasses. Then somebody kicked her.

I'm not sure what to make of this but the current version of Mr. Hoft's entry, stamped 5:47 am, includes this: "It certainly was over the line to put a shoe on her shoulder or head."The version of Mr. Hoft's entry included in this thread was stamped 4:46 am, and does not include that sentence. Presumably, the inclusion of that sentence would have removed much of the impetus for this thread, which is stamped 4:09 pm.For the record, I am not a Rand Paul supporter (but do support First Things).

"Presumably, the inclusion of that sentence would have removed much of the impetus for this thread, which is stamped 4:09 pm."It's not a question of versions, but rather of one post followed by another, and in any case I don't see why what you say should be so. For one thing, the earlier post made no such remark, and that wa despicable. For another, there's the question of emphasis. Two substantial posts impugning the woman's character and mocking the expected media response, and one throwaway line about going "over the line"? (By the way, one wonders what Hoft makes of her having been thrown to the ground.) It seems to me that the outrage is being directed rather selectively.

I know I learned something about it being either permissible or impermissible to step on someone's head when I was taught the principle of double effect. It was something about using a younger sibling's head as a footstool to fetch an item out of reach on a closet shelf. I believe in order to be morally permissible, the intended good (retrieving the out-of-reach item) must be proportional to the foreseen-but-unintended negative consequence. I am not making this up. I distinctly remember a teacher using this example.

The brown-shirt mentality at work in the Tea Party is starting to surface. Recall that a few weeks ago, some of Joe Miller's henchmen in Alaska "detained" a reporter for asking questions. Add to that the loony Sharron Angle's intimation about "2nd Amendment remedies."

Southern chivalry.

"The brown-shirt mentality at work in the Tea Party is starting to surface."Ooh, boy - Nazi comparisons! Somehow I don't think this helps.

OK, somebody cue the conservatives to enter stage left and say that "liberals do lots of bad stuff, too, but nobody on dotCommonweal ever seems to post THAT" before we get to the Nazi comparisons, and the jokes are supposed to come MUCH later.Yeah, people can be scumbags (which is not an obscenity), all the time and everywhere, across the racial, political and religious divides. That's why God sent Jesus.When are we going to talk about Juan Williams?

John -- Oh, but they do. For one thing, political violence is nothing new in American life: anti-abortion killings, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Kent State shootings, lynchings of African-Americans, lynchings of Irish Catholics, lynchings of Mormons, Know-Nothing riots, the civil war in Kansas and Nebraska before the Civil War, etc. Most of this violence, I might add, has come from the political right -- the Weather Underground and the Haymarket bombing (if, indeed, the anarchists were guilty) pale before the carnage of right-wing extremists. As for fascist comparisons, none other than Sinclair Lewis, in the 1930s, wrote It Can't Happen Here, where one of his characters uttered ominously, "if fascism comes to America, it will come draped in a flag and carrying a cross." Why do you believe that the United States is somehow immune to the fascist mentality? Fascism, recall, is a form of right-wing populism -- Hitler and other fascists have come to power riding tidal waves of popular rage and resentment. At the same time, we've got a semi-fascist political economy: corporate capitalist economics and a fundamentally feudal politics, i.e., corporate domination of the state. E. J. Dionne's recent pieces on the Commonweal site are only the tamest intimations that our political culture is now a state of corporate plutocracy. Chris Hedges is absolutely right when he says that there are millions of Americans out there who are seething with fury at their sense of dispossession and grasping at religious/libertarian redemption. Under the right conditions -- enduring unemployment, political inertia, a mobilized and ferocious right -- fascist or shall we say very undemocratic movements could have -- and are having -- a very real appeal. Obviously, they will look different in American conditions.

And Barack Obama is a socialist. Give me a break, Mr. McCarraher.

Why do I get the feeling that when Mr. McCarraher speaks, liberals cringe.

I don't know why you get that feeling, Mark. Change in barometric pressure? Lack of sleep? Not enough selenium in your diet? Wishful thinking?Lord knows I'm not a people person, and the older I get, the more I just wish they'd leave me alone. And I have a soft spot for Sinclair Lewis, especially "Elmer Gantry." But I don't cringe when Eugene speaks (or writes). But there are three things working against fascist takeover in America. One is the fact that America survived and eventually rejected one of the worst fascist threats, the KKK in the 1920s. The last time the Klan rallied in Lansing, the only people who showed up were the anti-Klan faction. The second is the fact that Americans are too diverse and contentious for any fascist movement to organize them to any great degree.The third is "The Daily Show."Keep Fear Alive!

John -- I don't understand how that comment follows from what I wrote, but no, Obama's not a socialist -- I wish he were. As his policies and his advisors show, he's the head of the executive committee of the corporate state. He has no desire to disturb the corporate domination of the economy, and as his prosecution of two wars demonstrates, he has no desire to disturb the U. S. imperial arrangement of global power. So no, I won't give you a break.Mark -- I don't care if they cringe or if they applaud. I'm a socialist, not a liberal, so I couldn't care less. Liberals -- who do not constitute "the left" -- are too damned timid, ideologically and politically, and they've let the right call all the tunes for the last forty years. Note, readers, that neither John nor Mark takes issue with the substance of my remarks.

Jean -- Thanks. It's nice to know that you're not cringing.My point isn't that fascists are going to impose a right-wing dictatorship. My point is that a homespun American fascist movement is not at all inconceivable, and that it would take the form of a Christo-libertarian-nativist tendency. I think there are plenty of white voters who are susceptible to the appeals of such a political imagination.But I am also serious that our political economy already is far along the way to resembling the classic "fascist" model: capitalist economics, feudalized politics.

"Note, readers, that neither John nor Mark takes issue with the substance of my remarks."Yes, I do. My not-so-subtle point was that your remarks re: impending American fascism are about as plausible as the idea that Obama is a socialist, which is to say they're not especially plausible.

Eugene--It is true that I did not take issue with the substance of your remarks; I had trouble finding substance in them. For example, the tired tactic of trying to tie non-partisan violence to those you disagree with politically may work in the classroom, where there's a captive audience dependent on the professor for a passing grade, but in the real world those who are far from the left read stuff like that more with bemusement than seriousness, and those close to the left wish it would just stop. But I will say, and I mean this with all sincerity, I do find your forthrightness refreshing.

Eugene McCarraher: Which of Chris Hedges' writings are you referring to? A new book, or (God forbid) is he blogging someplace? Thanks.

I read most of Mark's posts with more pity than seriousness, but I will say, and I mean it in all sincerity, that I marvel at the way he manages to extend his swipe at Eugene to include him among those fabled liberal college professors who flunk everybody who doesn't agree with them--a tired cliche for which I wait in vain for some sort of quantitative proof. Because there isn't.

One is the fact that America survived and eventually rejected one of the worst fascist threats, the KKK in the 1920s. The last time the Klan rallied in Lansing, the only people who showed up were the anti-Klan faction.

Eugene, was there some indication of aversion in my comment/request?! I find Hedges pretty bracing, sometimes over the top, a kind of Hauerwas type. I don't have a particular opinion, but the passing summary you gave struck me as interesting and inisghtful. I haven't read Hedges much of late, so will check him out. PS: The Hauerwas piece in the Guardian has some pointed observations:

In fact, I am not convinced that the US is more religious than Britain. Even if more people go to church in America, I think the US is a much more secular country than Britain. In Britain, when someone says they do not believe in God, they stop going to church. In the US, many who may have doubts about Christian orthodoxy may continue to go to church. They do so because they assume that a vague god vaguely prayed to is the god that is needed to support family and nation.Americans do not have to believe in God, because they believe that it is a good thing simply to believe: all they need is a general belief in belief. That is why we have never been able to produce interesting atheists in the US. The god most Americans say they believe in is not interesting enough to deny, because it is only the god that has given them a country that ensures that they have the right to choose to believe in the god of their choosing, Accordingly, the only kind of atheism that counts in the US is that which calls into question the proposition that everyone has a right to life, liberty, and happiness.

What does "feudalized politics" mean? Is it a typo?

Jean -- Yes, it is a tired cliche. Mark is apparently one of those who sport their advanced degrees from the College of Hard Knocks -- a school in which all of us, Mark, have had some education. So enough of the Ivory Tower Egghead. It's boring.David -- I'm referring to American Fascists, as well as Empire of Illusion. And he writes on I don't have the same aversion to Hedges that you apparently possess. I find his attacks on liberals -- especially for their abandonment of the working class -- all too accurate. You don't?Felapton -- By "feudalized" I mean the transformation of the public good into a set of private bailiwicks. Just as feudal nobles would dispense justice, provide protection, etc., corporations now increasingly write laws, fight our wars, etc. The military-industrial complex is a perfect example of such quasi-fascist, "feudalized" government.

The attacker was Tim Profitt, Rand Paul's Bourbon County Coordinator; the campaign has distanced itself from him. According to the victim., the men involved knew who she was from previous events and had moved in front of her as soon as Paul's car showed up. of the context, I find it extremely disturbing to see a woman knocked down and a man's boot grinding her face into the ground. Why hasn't he been arrested?

Sorry, missed a comment at the above link, The attacker has in fact been served a criminal summons.

I posted this and Captioned it "Freedom of Expression"You value your free speech and decry us up here in Canada, and yet I cannot imagine a similar scene in Canada.

To the theo-politicos a question: Can libertarians of the Ayn Rand variety be Christians? (I grant that they may think they are, but are they?)

To Margaret: Can Marxists be Christians?In each case - that of the Randians, and that of the Marxists - it's obviously impossible to be fully orthodox in both directions, as Marx and Rand were both materialist atheists. But I don't think it's impossible to be a basically orthodox Christian whose political worldview is significantly informed by either of them. Mistaken, to be sure, but not impossible.

McCarraher: " Im a socialist, not a liberal" Actually, the icon of Karl Marx on your official college web page would indicate you are more than a run of the mill "socialist". Nice of you to include Jesus alongside Karl Marx, by the way.John Schwenkler: "Can Marxists be Christians?"Christians perhaps, but not faithful Catholics. CCC 2425 "The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modem times with "communism" or "socialism."

The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modem times with 'communism' or 'socialism.'"Yes, and by the same token the Church has rejected the ideologies associated with Randian libertarianism; e.g. My point was that these sorts of things can come in degrees.

After hearing the Seabrook/Overby piece NPR today on the cloak and dagger pacs based in Washington, what I fear more than the facism the right Eugene thinks is coming, but the oligarchy posing as democracy that the Randians so desperately want.

My question was: Can libertians of the Ayn Rand school be Christians? The answer is not, Can Christians be Marxists? It depend on what kind of Marxist. Leninist? Probably not. Trotskyite? It depends. My question was prompted by the flap over the Aqua Buddha fracas. Apparently Rand Paul is not an Aqua Buddha, since he insists that he is a Christian. But elsewhere I have read that he is a Libertarian of the Ayn Rand variety. Hence my question to those better read in Libertarianism than I am.

Margaret,The implication of my response was that Randian libertarians can be Christians in just the same way as Marxists can, namely by denying certain claims that were made by the founder of their "school". Moreover there are just as many "kinds" of libertarians, even of libertarians "of the Ayn Rand variety", as there are kinds of Marxists. Just as you (and I) would grant the existence of authentically Christian Marxists, I see no good reason to doubt that Rand Paul is a Christian libertarian, even if his policy positions are - as indeed they are - less than entirely Christ-like.

John, awesome update: The stomper wants an apology...

Some great comments under that article.

Flanagan -- I reject your snarky and false implication that I'm not a faithful Catholic. Are you one of those ideological police beloved of "orthodox" Catholics?

"You value your free speech and decry us up here in Canada, and yet I cannot imagine a similar scene in Canada."Michael C. --I couldn't have imagine it here until yesterday. Even the Klan wouldn't have dared do its dirty work with the media around with lights.

Rand Paul Supporter Who Stepped On Activist's Head Wants Apology; Victim Says Incident was PremeditatedTim Profitt, the former Rand Paul volunteer who stepped on the head of a activist outside of a debate on Monday, said he thinks the woman, Lauren Valle, owes him an apology."I don't think it's that big of a deal," Profitt said of the incident in an interview with CBS affiliate WKYT. "I would like for her to apologize to me to be honest with you."Profitt, a Rand Paul supporter who used to serve as a campaign coordinator for the Kentucky Senate hopeful's campaign, was caught on video on Monday stepping on Valle's head after she had been wrestled to the ground. Valle had been trying to offer a satiric award to the candidate.Profitt later said he was sorry "that it came to that," but he argued to WKYT that Valle was not an innocent bystander. . . .On CBS' "The Early Show" Wednesday morning, Valle - who suffered a concussion as a result of the incident - suggested that the attack was "premeditated." She said her companion had overheard Paul supporters saying, "We're here to do crowd control and we might have to take someone out." . . .

Flanagan,Your quote from the catechism doesn't quite answer John's question. Obviously faithful Catholics cannot be totalitarian atheists. The question is whether one can be a Marxist in any meaningful sense without also being an atheist and a totalitarian, and there is no easy answer to that question because Marx has influenced different people in different ways. For example, analytic Marxism still helps us to describe features of the market that many Christians oppose for reasons that have nothing to do with dialectical materialism.

P Flanagan,Can a Catholic be a capitalist?

Pope blasts capitalism ahead of G-8 meetingROME, Italy (CNN) -- Pope Benedict XVI, on the eve of a global economic summit, lashed out at modern capitalism for being shortsighted and short on ethics."Today's international economic scene, marked by grave deviations and failures, requires a profoundly new way of understanding business enterprise," the pontiff said in his third encyclical letter, "Charity in Truth," which was released Tuesday.The papal letter was released as the heads of leading industrialized nations started gathering in central Italy for the Group of Eight economic summit, which begins Wednesday. . .In his letter, Benedict challenged bankers to turn away from the practices blamed for bringing about the global economic crisis and instead use their power to help the world create wealth and economic development."Above all, the intention to do good must not be considered incompatible with the effective capacity to produce goods," Benedict said. "Financiers must rediscover the genuinely ethical foundation of their activity, so as not to abuse the sophisticated instruments which can serve to betray the interests of savers."The world financial crisis and the downturn in markets took a big chunk out of the retirement savings of millions of people.

We all saw the foot push down on the neck and lower head. But Fox news said it was the shoulder. Fox also said she attacked Paul's car with a sign and one commentator said she was the aggressor.....When did the media go bad? newsreels/cable went bad when Goebbels showed film footage in 1939 alleging the Poles attacked Germany.

I think the crime itself and some of the reactions to it have been pretty misogynistic and I wonder why that hasn't been noted much in the media coverage. Some blogs and articles have been minimizing the savageness of the attack or implying somehow that the girl deserved it. That she was the aggressor, looking to spark an incident, etc, etc. Or that she is some kind of madwoman.

"You value your free speech and decry us up here in Canada, and yet I cannot imagine a similar scene in Canada."I don't know if that comment was meant in jest, but wasn't Canada the country with the "Human Rights Commission" that wanted to jail Mark Steyn for daring to exercise this right with speech that the "Human Rights Commission" did not approve of? Or was that a different Canada?

Mark, what are you talking about? As I understand it, the CHRC condemned some of Steyn's more vitriolic statements, but refused to take action against Steyn or Macleans, the publication in which some of his screeds appeared, when a Muslim group complained.

So, I guess the answer is Yes, you can be an Ayn Rand libertarian and a Christian.

Add "Depending on what you mean", and yes - that's my answer.

"So, I guess the answer is Yes, you can be an Ayn Rand libertarian and a Christian."The guy who heads up the Tea Party here and is a member of the John Galt Society belongs to the local parish. It's a puzzle to me how he squares all that, but people can hold a lot of conflicting notions in their heads sometimes.On the other hand, having seen Tea Party rallies here at the local level, I think it would be wise not to demonize these people.While I find some of their ideas aborrhent, the group is by no means doctrinaire. It seems to be a loosely organized bunch with a variety of concerns about government debt and spending, the struggle of "ordinary" people (i.e., rural white blue collar workers in my area) and who are looking for local or even communitarian solutions to problems the feds have been unable to fix. I agree with some of their concerns, even some of the suggested fix-its.In fact, I'd say that the rallies here have been very good steam valves. Some yelling, some stridency, but certainly no stomping or whomping. They even wrapped a fundraiser for the local school into their first event.

Hi Jean! Your local tea partiers don't sound like libertarians; more like conservative communitarians (and some of them receiving Social Security and Medicare benefits that candidates like Rand Paul hope to reduce). When the feathers settle (I hope my Valentine's Day) I think we'll see some sharp divisions between the libertarians running on the TP manifesto and the normal Democrat/Republicans that probably make up a good part of your TP neighbors (AKA Reagan Democrats).

Jean,You say - "OK, somebody cue the conservatives to enter stage left and say that liberals do lots of bad stuff, too, but nobody on dotCommonweal ever seems to post THAT before we get to the Nazi comparisons, and the jokes are supposed to come MUCH later."Well - yeah. That was my reaction, but here's why.It's not just some sort tit for tat, you guys do it too, and it isn't just about hipocrisy. I am always being accused of doing that, and I think people are missing the point.Yes, there are hipocrytes on both sides, and yes, people do bad things on both sides. That being the case, isn't it bad analysis and unfair for the people who post things like this to do it selectively and to extrapolate these incidents into something more than what they are?You can't be credible if you say you apply neutral principles if you only apply them to people with whom you disagree. So when I make these points, it is less a criticism of liberals per se as it is a criticism of people like some of the posters who engage in moral high dudgeon when these things happen to support their point of view and don't care (or more often find excuses) when they don't.As for this situation, after seeing the videos, while this lady was obviously trying to provoke some kind of reaction and was foolish, stomping her is clearly not the appropriate one. The guy needs to be prosecuted.BTW - I think your last post regarding the nature of the Tea Party movement is pretty spot-on. Here (in New ENgland), however, I think the TP also includes a lot of small business owners and middle/upper middle class white color types.

sorry hypocrites - hypocrisy

Stepping on heads is inexcusable! Altho Democrat, I would never condone stepping on Republican heads! Its a temptation I could certainly control. Why can't the R's????

I agree with Sean. The guy (Tim Profitt) needs to be prosecuted -- and he will be: he's been ordered to court -- and the Rand Paul campaign needs to disassociate themselves from him -- and they did: he's been fired by the campaign. End of story?

I hope Ms Valle sues the pants off the guy who stomped on her head and neck.While the Tea Party movement may have some legitimate gripes, I think we are seeing some of the fringe wackos who gravitate to this loose organization.Not a pretty picture.

" , , , to extrapolate these incidents into something more than what they are?"Sean --Something *more* than they are? Come on. When was the last time you saw or even heard of such a brazen incidence of violence at *any* American political gathering? Or do you consider two thugs kicking one small woman on the ground a minor infringement of the law? We're not talking about man-handling here, Sean, or even a quick loss of temper -- we're talking about considered brutality.

AnnOutside two Health Care town hall meetings last year a union thug actually bit the end of an anti-Obama protester's finger off and a group of white union members stomped on and kicked a black tea party supporter while calling him a an N-word. Unlike this woman, he had to be taken away in an ambulance. All this was happening during a time when Tea Partiers were being accused of "Brown Shirt" tactics. I saw the tape. Like I said, the guys should be prosecuted. My extropolation argument is that. Just because one guy loses his temper and commits violence, you can't extrapolate that to the whole group.

Dear all, please remember the post you're commenting on is not so much about whether it's out of line to stomp on someone's head, which I think we've established. The post questions the propriety of responding to such an event with a sneering attack on the victim -- and that on a blog hosted by First Things. Which is something that actually happened, and that no one need "extrapolate" to find alarming or significant. That makes this a particularly bad occasion for you, Sean, to try to balance things out with tales of liberal brutality. You're changing the subject. Again.

Margaret, my point was really that the Tea Partiers are a pretty amorphous group. The guy who organizes a lot of these things is a hard-nosed hard-core libertarian John Galt-er. And there are some others like him. There are also some people who really hate Obama because they believe all black people are invested in expanding government handouts and quotas in jobs and education. And there are the communitarian Republicans and Reagan Democrats you mention.I think the reason things didn't get out of hand at the local rallies here is because a) the organizers have encouraged people to use the open mic sessions to talk about what they think should be improved, rather than just griping about how awful everything is (though there is a lot of that), and b) the rallies aren't about any single candidate, but about ideas.One of the fellows who was largely responsible for keeping things constructive at the rallies is running for village council this year, and I will probably vote for him. I disagree with his political ideas, but he's at least willing to bring new perspectives to problems here, and he's not a contrarian.

Guys - back on pointThis was a criminal assualt, not a difference of political opinion. Anyone who writes commentary that the victim "had it coming" or "caused" the incident is misrepresenting a pretty clear video record and trying to turn it into a political argument. It is not. Lauren presumably has a good lawyer and all the perpetrators should be prosecuted.It remains to be seen whether the Tea Party or Mr. Paul's particular incarnation of it, somehow contributed to the assault in setting a hostile environment or stirring up anger to the point of incitement. Since I had already voted for his opponent, this has no effect on me. I hope my fellow Kentuckians will think twice and check to see if this affects their opinions of the man.

MollieAgain, I was responding to the implication made posters that this behavior was somehow the natural result of the political leanings or beliefs of the people involved.e.g. "The brown-shirt mentality at work in the Tea Party is starting to surface" and "While the Tea Party movement may have some legitimate gripes, I think we are seeing some of the fringe wackos who gravitate to this loose organization." and Ann's implication that this is a behavior unique to conservatives.Obviously, you ignored my point - that if this is about violence and civil discourse, it ought to be about that rather than an opportunity to make hay about nutty conservatives and libertarians. Sorry you think that's off subject.

"Anns implication that this is a behavior unique to conservatives."Sean --I made no such implication. I even pointed out that this was untypical of *either* liberals or conservatives. But it is a fact that it happened at the rally of an extremely conservative candidate, and it seems to me that conservatives should be asking themselves -- why would anyone think that such behavior would be acceptable at a conservative rally?If one of your kids stole a car wouldn't you be wise to wonder why and not just dismiss it at a minor event? It's your minimizing of the incident that I fault.

I'm not sure Sean is minimizing the behavior, just resents it being exclusively associated with those who share his political leanings. Certainly, there are influential liberals who will hammer on this theme remorselessly, as anybody who watched Bill Maher last night learned. (Disclaimer: I stay with my widowed mother two weekends a month--your prayer intentions are appreciated--and she controls the remote.)But it might be useful to clear up this matter through scientific study a la research psychologist Richard Nisbett. He looked at several indicators that offered quantitative and qualitative evidence that Southern males are more prone to violence than Yankee boys. back iin 1992.

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