I heard Michael Moore interviewed on NPR the other day. It was the best interview of him that I’ve come across. He spoke about his personal life which gave the background for what motivates him. He was raised in a politically active family, but fairly conservative. His grandfather was a Republican politician who taught him the values of conservatism such as conserving the environment. He grew up Catholic and still goes to church. He has been married to the same woman for something like 3 decades. He tries to be a good person and live by the principles that Jesus taught. Moore is one of those social justice Christians that Beck thinks are the worse of the worse.
I bring up Beck for a reason. Beck often uses violence as a theme in his show. One particular example was when he was talking about killing Michael Moore and he wondered if he should kill Moore himself or hire someone. I think that is an extreme statement to make on mainstream tv. Conservatives don’t seem offended by such hate-filled language, but if a liberal said something like that conservatives would go batshit crazy. Moore has never made a statement like that. Moore even said he wouldn’t even say he hated Bush even though he strongly disagreed with him. From Moore’s Christian perspective, hatred and violence aren’t Christian values. Also, he believes religion is a personal matter and shouldn’t be used as a talking point or a wedge issue. Moore chooses to live his values rather than righteously preach down at others.
Moore is considered by rightwingers as the most loony of the leftwingers. So, if Moore is the worst kind of liberal, that is a compliment to liberalism. Compared to the worst kind of conservative, Moore comes off as a moderate. Even if you disagree with Moore’s claims or arguments, at least he doesn’t threaten violence and spout hate speech.
This distinction isn’t limited to Moore and Beck.
There was an interview Buckley did with Chomsky. Buckley threatened to punch Chomsky in the face and it wasn’t the first guest he had threatened in this manner. It’s a rather odd response to have in a televised interview especially with someone like Chomsky who is as cool-headed of an intellectual as you can find. Chomsky is very easygoing and quite understanding of those different from himself. Chomsky even defended Tea Party protesters saying that they shouldn’t be criticized by liberals but instead that liberals should try to understand their perspective. Understand the perspective of someone you disagree with? Why does it take a liberal to point out that sympathetic understanding is better than righteous hatred?
Let me provide two other examples.
Compare Bill O’Reilly and Jon Stewart. Stewart is fairly easygoing although not the intellectual that Chomsky is. Like Chomsky, Stewart doesn’t come off as mean-spirited and always gives people the opportunity to speak and he actually listens to others. O’Reilly, on the other hand, often yells at people, tells them to shut up and talks over them. O’Reilly isn’t always that way, but my point is that he acts that way quite often and Stewart never acts that way. I truly doubt that Stewart has ever told a guest to shut up.
And compare Ann Coulter and Bill Maher. Maher also lets anyone to state their opinion. He has strong opinions, but he doesn’t bludgeon people with them. He for some strange reason even considers Coulter a friend of sorts and has had her on his show. Coulter is very different. She is the most rude and bigoted person I’ve ever seen on mainstream tv. She either intentionally makes offensive statements or she is almost entirely oblivious, but she doesn’t seem stupid enough to be that oblivious.
Obviously, this isn’t limited to the behavior of people on tv. I’ve discussed this topic before and I mentioned the differences between conservative and liberal activists. A clear example are the two sides on the abortion issue. Pro-life activists have committed decades of a wide variety of violence, but I never hear of violence by pro-choice activists. I’m not saying that all conservatives are violent. What I am saying is that the conservative mindset seems to make one more prone to violence. As a contrasting example, I like to bring up the Weather Underground which is considered the most violent liberal activist group in US history. The difference is that the Weather Underground never killed anyone nor tried to kill anyone. In fact, they went out of their way to avoid killing anyone.
Another example is that of guns. Conservatives bring guns to rallies and protests. Liberals don’t. If asked, many liberals support the right to own guns or even carry guns. But, for whatever reason, the threat of violence bothers liberals more… maybe because the violence is typically turned towards liberals. And yet it’s conservatives who feel the most defensive when violence is used against the country.
There are many explanations for why this difference exists. I tend to favor psychological explanations based on personality research, but there are cultural reasons that could be considered as well. Anyways, the reason for this difference isn’t my concern in this post. I was partly just noting the difference as I just heard the interview with Michael Moore. But what ultimately concerns me or rather what makes me wonder is: Why do liberals notice this difference but conservatives don’t? When I’ve seen this brought up with conservatives they tend to explain it away. If a liberal used violence, even liberals would condemn it. But when conservatives use violence, conservatives often will defend it or try to find some kind of rationalized justification. For example, Palin said a conservative who killed some liberals wasn’t a terrorist even though the killing was politically motivated. Even a conservative politician can defend violence and not be held accountable.
As a liberal, I fear violence by American conservatives more than I fear violence by Islamic extremists. And my fear is reasonable. A large percentage of recent acts of violence have been committed by conservatives and often directed at liberals. It’s a fact of life in the US that conservatives are prone to violence. Maybe it’s a fact of life in all countries.