A few years back a righty critic at the losing end of an intellectual ass-kicking, concluded our email correspondence with almost the exact same threat: "You can have all your fancy words," he wrote back curtly, "but we own all the guns." Indeed, far from outliers, both Breitbart and my pseudonymous pen-pal are reflective of the sort of violent eliminationist rhetoric that has long permeated the mainstream of far-right-wing America. Their whole Second Amendment fetish—their open-carrying, and their angry "we have the guns" posturing—this is a glimpse at the far-right's Political Plan B: If they can't beat us at the polls or in the public debate, they'll just shoot us.
I've never actually had anybody explicitly threaten to kill me, but along with the usual collection of anti-semitic slurs and accusations of communism, I've received my fair share of warnings over the years. Emailers, callers, and commenters have threatened to "beat the crap" out of me, or beat me to a "bloody pulp" (apparently, I'm filled with crap and pulp), along with sundry variations on the "I know where you live" theme. (Um, I'm in the phonebook, Sherlock.) After I wrote a particularly scathing post on the BIAW, one angry reader emailed me a copy of my credit report, along with the caution: "Builders know how to build houses, but we also know how to tear them down." And then there was the troll who rather poetically pronounced: "When The Sweep comes, I want to be the first at your door."
It's like my own, personal online Kristallnacht.
Implicit in all these threats, but absolutely explicit in Breitbart's delusional rabble-rousing, is the notion that the left's refusal to arm ourselves will ultimately prove our downfall. "They can only win a rhetorical and propaganda war," Breitbart insists, belittling the persuasiveness of our words and ideas. Whereas he and his fellow righties: "We outnumber them in this country, and we have the guns."
And in case you thought he was kidding, Breitbart clarifies: "I'm not kidding."
Yeah, sure, coming from a paranoiac poseur like Breitbart all this comes off as an empty threat; he's the kinda guy you'd expect to be peeing himself in the foxhole rather than out on the frontline. (Come on... take the first shot, Andrew... I dare you!) But don't fool yourself that there aren't thousands, if not millions, of his fellow right-wing travelers who fantasize about the opportunity to bag themselves a few liberals.
Yes, the overwhelming majority of such threats are empty. It is the bully, after all, who is usually the biggest coward. But just because the Breitbarts currently lack the means or fortitude to carry out their threats, doesn't make their political objectives any less offensive or dangerous. I mean, I hate to go all Godwin on you, but Breitbart sure does seem to be itching for a Reichstag Fire-like moment, and anybody familiar with the political rhetoric and tactics of 1930's Germany should be well familiar with what we're hearing from Breitbart.