Virginia Shooting Proves, No Matter From the Left or Right, Radicals are the Same

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,, 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 hearthat’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.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter or Facebook to let me know what you think.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


Facebook comments

  • Millennial Matt

    I’ll admit I’m a center-right guy. I’m trying to read more left-wing sites to get a frame of reference towards how they think. And to me it seems, most, if not all of the political violence recently is from the left. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but you don’t see far-right people shooting senators on the left, or attacking people with a different viewpoint recently.

    • katkelly57

      I’d ask what rock you’ve been living under or if you are just arriving to the planet…but why bother?

      No need to reply as I am blocking you…
      Because I don’t want anymore idiotic asinine crapola in my life.

      • Millennial Matt

        Haha you just made my point. Typical leftist silencing any dissenting point of view. It’s like dealing with children who cover their ears and yell “I can’t hear you!” Grow up and start a discussion.

      • PMC

        When you type “typical leftist” you have no right to tell anyone else to grow up.

      • MisterYT_WillBurnForSure

        Your point was about political violence, not people who don’t want to listen to false assertations. You’re right that no leftist senators have been shot but violence perpetrated by people on the right against everyday citizens for nothing more than their race and/or religion is continual and ongoing.

      • Millennial Matt

        But you have to agree most leftists today do silence conservative points of view like this person did here.

      • MisterYT_WillBurnForSure

        No, I don’t. Since I don’t observe most leftists and their commenting/posting practices, or anyone for that matter, there is zero chance that I would know that. Do you have a review board over your shoulder while you surf the web? I could assume that some people silence dissenting opinions but I would also assume that’s done regardless of affiliation. Conversely, I’m sure there are those who seek out dissenting opinions.

      • frivolous01

        Except Gabrielle Giffords. The only reason the right is less violent today is because their people are in power.

      • MisterYT_WillBurnForSure

        Not a senator but I get your point. Although I don’t know if Loughner had political motivations, he’s also batshit crazy. Hodgkinson had some extreme views but no mental illness as far as I know. I would disagree that the right is less violent because they are in power. It seems they are emboldened to be more aggressive because they think “we’re living in Trump’s America now!”.

    • sockpanther109

      What about those two guys stabbed on the train, while attempting to kill Muslims? He was an alt right guy……

      • strayaway

        Actually, Jeremy Joseph Christian voted for Bernie and threatened Hillary and Trump if either got elected so in some very major ways, he wasn’t an alt-right guy. He was mad at Hillary for shutting down Black Lives matter.

      • sockpanther109

        Bullshit. He literally defended himself by saying – I did it for free speech aka an alt right slogan and had been involved in multiple alt right rallies.

      • strayaway

        So, in your world, free speech is “aka an alt right slogan”? It’s also guaranteed by the 1st Amendment. I recommend the Medium article “Portland Attacker Jeremy Christian Was A Bernie Supporter” which has quite a few JJ Christian social commentary quotes. It includes his mention of free speech. I find it odd that you find his expressed support for free speech more objectionable than his threatening Trump and Hillary. If Hillary did shut down Black Lives Matter, that would have involved shutting down free speech. But I was replying to your incorrect statement that JJ Christian was “an alt-right guy”. The Medium article, using his postings, proves you substantially wrong unless you have conceded free speech to be an alt-right issue.

      • sockpanther109

        Yes free speech is the rallying call of the alt right and their actions on college campuses. If you paid 1/2 a seconds attention to them you would know that.

        That article literally has him wearing an American flag and doing a seig heil. Go on /pol and you will find people congratulating him. He is an Alt Right guy, that almost definitely had mental issues.

        The conservative movement had killed a lot of people but the alt right is a distinct group from the “mainstream” of Trump and is clearly going through a period of disillusionment and separation (for some) from him.

      • strayaway

        Your case falls apart since alt-right guys don’t generally threaten Trump and work for the Bernie Sanders’ campaign. Of course, alt-right, like the word Nazi means whatever the user of that manufactured term want it to mean. ”

        “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.” -Lewis Carroll

        Thank you for making my point that you have conceded free speech to be an alt-right issue. A reminder that Congress shall make NO law abridging the freedom of speech.

      • sockpanther109

        What are you taking about.

      • strayaway

        It should be self explanatory: ‘Alt-right’ is vague term meaning what its user chooses it to mean while the list of social commentaries and voting record strongly suggest that “Portland Attacker Jeremy Christian Was A Bernie Supporter” although not welcomed by Bernie after his attack on Republicans which is also indicative on not being alt-right. One would think antifa types rather than alt-right guys would be more likely to attack Republicans based on their respective histories. The reminder was a quote from the US Constitution that you instead linked to the ‘alt-right’. Its a shame that some on the left have consigned the Constitution as well as the flag to the right and then wonder why they lost the election.

    • Linda Lewis

      Until yesterday you didn’t see anyone one shooting Senators from either side. That said, there will always be people on both sides who are dangerous and just fanatical enough to be unhinged. These people are mentally ill and as a result and are in need of care, if they can get it, far earlier and far more aggressive than these people have available to them. Let me ask you something before you say, “that’s what everyone says but not everyone is mentally ill”, how do you define mental illness? The answer is: the normal person would register in his thinking and behavior, in the middle of the road or near average, no extremes. Therefore, mentally ill people think, react and behave further out on the scale to the right or left. When a person reacts via murder, that is mental illness, a deviance, and so is totally withdrawing. As long as we have humans, we will have mental illness. So, shouldn’t treatment of mental illness be considered an action of safety for everyone? That applies to guns in every hand, safety, but also gun control control is common sense, not a conspiracy. Thinking gun control is a conspiracy says a lot about the mental state of the thinker, don’t you think?Removing guns frm the hands of people who who are “way out there” will save lives, even the lives of those who believe they are immune to the dangers everyone else face daily just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. None of us are immune to the bad thinking and the bad behavior of other people.

      • MisterYT_WillBurnForSure

        Uhhhh, what? Let me see if I got this straight.
        #1) Some fanatics/extremists are mentally ill.
        #2) No wait, everyone outside the middle range of views is mentally ill.
        #3) Also, anyone who murders is mentally ill.
        #4) Therefore, everyone should be treated for mental illness.

        I agree that there should be some restrictions concerning firearm ownership for people who lack the responsibility and judgement but the logical(?) path you took to get there is baffling, to say the least. Then there’s the flat-out wrongness of some of your claims.
        I don’t remember exactly but around 15 of our senators and congressmen have been assaulted or killed, most for political reasons.
        I’m pretty sure the variance of one’s political views to your own is not a measure of mental fitness.
        Everyone who commits murder is not mentally ill. Under the right circumstances everybody is capable of murder, whether it’s the last straw or the right button.
        Lastly, how in the hell do you propose to treat 320 million people when we can’t keep up with the tiny percentage that actually need treatment?
        Perhaps I misunderstood you but I read your post 3 times and this is what I heard.

  • I agree with everything you said Allen. Well written. Thank you.

    My first thought is that the right got what they asked for. The right is vehemently against any regulations regarding guns and want no background checks. They do not want any funding for mental illness and want to do away with healthcare. A portion of the right even would like to see children be able to carry guns. Yes, I read/heard that several times. The right consistently promotes the NRA and confederate ideology. If this Republican had an AK-47 fully loaded along with all his Republican friends, then maybe the good guys with a gun can prevent the bad guys with a gun from inflicting damage.

    When will the right wake the hell up and institute real gun control? I would like to see an Australia type of policy or something like in England, which is similar, no guns. Weapons is for the military and national guard, maybe the police. Lunatics and radicals with a gun are the fault entirely of the right.

    My second thought, though this guy was not a Democrat, is I do not see his problem? He was anything-but-Hilary, so he got what he wanted, Trump. Yes, this guy was identical to many on the right.

    I am disgusted that in 2017 that there are so many people, both men and women, who cannot stand a female in authority. I am also awed by how many people misuse religion and are traitors. There is a separation of church and state and the all humans are created equal.

    I have commented on the “Bernie or Bust”, “Write in Bernie”, and “Never Hillary” crowd. Here in California, I saw all three of these statements everywhere, even on cars, but not one pro-Hilary anything, even on election day. I really thought the left had more intelligent and informed people, but this last election showed how wrong that belief is.

    Do not get me wrong, had Bernie won the primaries, I would have voted for him, as he was okay, I just liked Hilary better between the two. Trump and the right are dangerous and detrimental to our country and the planet, as I knew then. Trump was very transparent, as was/is the right.

    We need to pass comprehensive gun control. The Virginia incident should never have happened. There is no excuse. The incident shows why we not only need the ACA, but need to augment and enhance it, possibly Universal Health Care, but a beefed up ACA would be a start and fully supported by all States in the country.

  • Libertarianski

    oh so a Bernie socialist isn’t a leftie loonie now?

    • strayaway

      He’s just a loonie. Bernie properly denounced his supporter’s violence. There appear to be a couple of factual errors in this article however. This article claims “this guy was not a democrat”. However, Oregon is a closed primary state so J.J. Christian would have had to be registered as a Democrat to vote in Oregon’s primary. This is not to impugn all Bernie or Democratic voters. Also, the attempt at obfuscation claiming that radical Muslims were the same as radical Christians was a stretch. There are polls indicating that the comparisons given were more accurately the beliefs of radical Christians with moderate Muslims. Also, radical Christians haven’t come near the 3,000 people killed for ideological reasons on 9/11.

      • MisterYT_WillBurnForSure

        To be clear, Christians haven’t killed en masse in the name of their ideology recently. Even today, there are small groups who would have no problem with the extermination of those they hate.