As someone who considers myself pragmatic, rational, and fairly grounded when it comes to politics, I’ve often stated my belief that a radical is a radical — period. While the far-left and far-right couldn’t be more different when it comes to many things, they’re much more alike than either side will admit.
The reason for that being is, whether or not either side wants to admit it, they’re both radicals and fanatics. A radical, or fanatic, is typically someone who’s irrational, often devoid of facts, prone to believing in conspiracy theories to confirm something they want to be real (even if it’s not true). These types of individuals are usually driven by emotion instead of reason, and, at times, can be very dangerous.
Based on the Facebook posts of the Virginia shooter James T. Hodgkinson, he:
- Was a left-wing radical.
- Was extremely pro-Bernie Sanders.
- Was very anti-Hillary Clinton.
- Was a “never Hillary” person.
- Wanted Clinton to concede the nomination even after the party’s convention.
- Thought voter fraud existed and electronic voting machines were behind it.
- Thought the Democratic primary was rigged.
- Encouraged people to vote for Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein.
- Thought Clinton was nothing but a “Republican in a pants suit.”
And, according to comments Sanders made early Wednesday, Hodgkinson even volunteered to work for his campaign.
Of course, Bernie Sanders is not responsible for what happened — not even in the slightest bit. When an individual does something like this, ultimately, they’re the only person responsible.
Let me also clarify that this guy was not a Democrat. Based on what I saw on his Facebook account, he was every bit as anti-Clinton as any Republican I know. He promoted Stein and the Green Party — not the Democratic Party.
That being said, as I’ve stated in the past when I’ve spoken about right-wing radicals who’ve acted out violently, I believe it’s disingenuous to discount the impact that those on either the far-left or far-right — people and media outlets who push conspiracies and pander to the factually devoid radicals among us — has on folks.
For those who might not remember, just a couple of years ago, right-wing radicals from all over the country believed that a military exercise known as Jade Helm was some secret government plot by Barack Obama to declare martial law and seize guns. Even though the conspiracy was completely ridiculous, and Republicans knew it was, that didn’t stop Texas Governor Greg Abbott from ordering the Texas State Guard to monitor the U.S. military or Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) from suggesting citizens had a right to be concerned.
It was that pandering to insanity and conspiracy theories that ultimately led to two separate instances of people opening fire on military personnel in Mississippi.
As I wrote then:
Normally I don’t like to take a couple of isolated violent events and link them to any particular political party, because “crazies” can come from all political ideologies. Just because someone shares a specific set of political beliefs, then goes out and commits some atrocious act, doesn’t mean their behavior was linked to whatever political party with which they align.
However, when the act of violence that was carried out is directly linked to propaganda that’s been irrationally pushed and supported by the Republican party and the conservative media – that’s an entirely different story.
Very early on into Sanders’ rise, I identified a disturbing trend linked to a very small, yet very vocal, part of his supporters that eventually turned into the Bernie or bust/Never Hillary crowd. What concerned me most was how very tea party-like these folks behaved. They were hostile, aggressive, pushed conspiracy theories, and usually rejected any attempts to be reasoned with. As Sanders’ popularity grew, this very small section of his support base became even more vocal, hostile, aggressive, and prone to believing in outlandish conspiracies.
A BBC article from January 28, 2016 contained the following passage:
Some say Sanders is the symptom, not the cause – the “Bernie bro” is just an old troll with a new name. Indeed, Sarah Jeong, a journalist who is the frequent target of sexist attacks, has received so much vitriol in the name of Sanders she set her Twitter account to private – even though she too is a Sanders fan.
Kathleen Geier, a freelance contributor to The Nation and herself a Sanders supporter, says while she has gotten her fair share of ugly online comments from male Clinton supporters, the level of vitriol coming from what she calls a “tiny minority” of Sanders boosters troubles her.
“I think they’re doing harm to the cause,” she says. “I haven’t seen people treat Obama supporters like this, or supporters of other male establishment candidates – just Hillary. So it’s definitely misogyny.”
I knew things were completely coming off the rails when I saw stories like this where Sanders supporters were being attacked and criticized by this small, yet very aggressive, group of supposed “Bernie supporters.” Eventually this tiny part of Sanders’ base reached a point where they were lashing out at anyone and everyone who didn’t give into their demands and do what they wanted, even Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
These were people driven and manipulated by hacks like H.A. Goodman, U.S. Uncut, and a section of the “pro-Sanders liberal media” that began to act every bit as unhinged and radical as anything I was seeing from the conservative media. They often twisted or distorted the facts to push what they called a “pro-Sanders” message — that was typically just anti-Clinton propaganda. At various points I saw several pro-Sanders “liberal” websites, blogs, and Facebook pages sharing right-wing sources and Russian-fed fake news conspiracies aimed at trying to defeat Clinton. One day I even saw some of these various people promoting a trash anti-Clinton poll that was commissioned by the ultra-conservative Washington Free Beacon — a website that sells things like body armor and promotes George W. Bush as one of our greatest presidents.
Eventually I even saw many of these far-left radicals begin defending Russia’s role in the cyber attack against our election. Some even started pushing the conspiracy that the emails that were given to WikiLeaks were an “inside job” and Clinton may have been behind the tragic murder of former DNC staffer Seth Rich who they claim was the person leaking the emails.
In many ways, these far-left fanatics became the left’s version of Breitbart, Drudge, WND.com, and InfoWars. Dangerous, hyper-partisan echo chambers that presented themselves as the “only beacon of truth against the mainstream media and lies the establishment wants you to believe,” when they were really nothing more than mostly conspiracy theorists targeting ignorance, fear, emotion, and paranoia.
I bring that up, not to blame Sanders for Wednesday’s shooting (again, I absolutely do not), but to emphasize how this growing trend of pandering to the “populist bases,” even if you have to push conspiracies and preposterous propaganda in order to do it, is becoming extremely dangerous.
Another example I used to prove how the far-left and far-right radicals are much more alike than they realize is when I asked my followers on Facebook to tell me who I was talking about, Trump or radical Sanders supporters based on the following. They believed:
- The Democratic primary was rigged against Sanders.
- Hillary Clinton belongs in prison.
- The system, itself, is rigged.
- The FBI’s investigation into Clinton was fixed.
- Clinton’s Goldman Sachs speeches proved she was a sell out for Wall Street.
- Their candidate won every presidential/primary debate and cited non-scientific online polls to “prove it.”
- Their candidate was the only hope for the nation and if they didn’t win the country was doomed.
- The establishment didn’t want their candidate to succeed.
- Clinton would take us into another war.
- If you didn’t support the candidate they did, then you weren’t a real “progressive/conservative” and just an “establishment shill.”
- The mainstream media can’t be trusted and was in the bag for Clinton.
- Downplayed, if not outright denied, Russia’s role and influence on last year’s election.
I asked this rhetorical question to prove my point that emotionally-driven radicals who’ve decided that what they want to believe is more important than what’s factual are the same, no matter if they come from the far-left or the far-right. That no matter how many massive differences the two sides have, they’re still very… very similar on many levels.
Once again, let me reiterate, I’m not blaming this shooting on Sanders or his supporters – not even a little bit. Though I’m sure I’m going to get plenty of hateful comments, messages, and emails from people claiming that’s what I’m doing.
My point of this article is to point out that a radical is a radical and pandering to these types of fanatics, which is what I’m seeing more and more of here lately, is dangerous.
By that I don’t mean expressing a partisan opinion. People do that all the time in constructive ways that don’t end in violence. What I mean is when we reach this level where bona fide, unhinged conspiracy pushers are becoming accepted as “credible” sources of information because they’re pandering to what some irrational people want to hear — that’s dangerous. That’s also exactly what hostile foreign agitators like Russia want to happen, because it makes their goal of infiltrating minds and driving people apart much, much easier.
Another comparison I could use is religion. While radical Christians and Muslims couldn’t be more different when it comes to a lot of their beliefs (for the sake of not having this spin out of control, I don’t mean terrorist, I’m simply referring to the non-violent fundamentalists), they’re much more alike than either side would care to admit. They both:
- Believe their views are the only acceptable ones and everyone should follow them.
- Think homosexuality is a sin.
- View women as secondary to men.
- Oppose the right for a woman to have control over her own body.
- Think government should be a theocracy.
- Believe education should be based on religion instead of science.
- Oppose birth control.
- Body shame women — in some extreme cases, feel that a woman is “asking for it” if she’s sexually assaulted.
- Feel that their religious views should supersede law.
What’s worse is that, as “different” as the two sides claim to be, the similar views I just listed make up the foundation for both groups of religious fanatics. The truth is, at the heart of both, is essentially the same blind, radical religious ignorance and intolerance.
Undoubtedly the conservative media is going to try to spin this shooter as an example of the “dangerous, left-wing fanatics who are becoming increasingly violent against Trump.” Meanwhile, many on the left are going to downplay his political beliefs, claim they have nothing to do with what he did, and some may even try to blame Trump, claiming this is what he’s pushing people toward.
That’s all bullshit.
This guy was an unhinged, emotionally unstable fanatic (albeit from the left, not the right), who was worked up by those out there whose goal it is in life is to push conspiracies and factually devoid propaganda, all while preying on ignorance, fear, emotion, paranoia, and hate.
At the end of the day, there’s one thing for certain: No matter what side they’re on, or issue with which we’re discussing, a radical is a radical — period.