The Lileks Zone

Curb Your Enthusiasm, indeed

Pittsburg knows well how global summits help the local economy – why, plywood sales are through the roof. Prudent businesses board up the windows before the protestors can lob a rock though the glass. (The glazier trade does well after the summit, too.) In the protestors’ minds, the G-20 participants are waddling clones of Moneybags the Monopoly Man, a happy plutocrat in top hat and tales, using his cane to clear a path through the alms-seekers to the meeting room, where they can get on with the business of impoverishing the world for kicks ‘n’ grins. Hence the rock. If you throw some granite into a Starbucks, you might stop global capitalism in its tracks; if you fling a trash barrel stuffed with burning dog offal through a bank window, the Overlords might realize the game’s up, the people have arisen, and we’d best chuck it all for a barter economy.

Hasn’t worked yet, but hey, 327th time’s the charm, as they say.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned, though. The air is full of warnings about the climate of violence, and what all this uncivility might lead to. Speaker Pelosi, responding to someone out there saying something or other, reminded us the other day that these are difficult times, and we had better watch what we say:

“We are a free country and this balance between freedom and safety is one that we have to carefully balance,” Pelosi said. “I have concerns about some of the language that is being used because I saw this myself in the late 70s in San Francisco.

“This kind of rhetoric was very frightening and it gave — it created a climate in which violence took place and so I wish that we would all, again, curb our enthusiasm in some of the statements that are made.”

Obligatory comparison: If Bush had said such a thing the left would have emitted a fine mist of blood from their ears, convinced he’d just hinted to all via dog-whistle frequencies that he was suspending the First Amendment so people wouldn’t google “alternatives to missionary position.” (It’s all about sex for the left, which is why they think it’s all about sex for the right.) But coming from Congressmadam P., it’s a frank, sensible reminder of the trade-offs of a civilized society. You can’t shout LIAR in a crowded theater, after all.

Given that the speaker’s intellectual candlepower is somewhere between a keyfob light and a burnt match, it’s possible she believes Harvey Milk was killed by a deranged Republican instead of a deranged guy with a personal beef. We can be certain that’s her baseline for political violence, in any case. The mid-seventies. The dark nightmare of the Ford Putsch. The years of endless bloodshed – mostly from people stabbing themselves trying to put on a Whip Inflation Now pin, granted, but bloodshed nonetheless.

But who is violent? Who takes to the streets? For that matter, which side has a romantic notion of recent history as the chosen ones, the holy boomers, the street-takers who went up against the Man to ensure Vietnam could be hastened to its Golden Era of collectivism and re-education camps? Ah, but the cause was just in the 60s. History, if not several important Oscar-winning movies, have proved that for good. Since the enthusiastic days of the Vietnam protests, the left has produced nothing but civil, rational, reasoned discourse, and it’s been the right that foams and howls HITLER.

No, the left’s constant critiques of capitalism haven’t inspired window-breakers in every town where the WTO gets together. Eco-panic talk, a stock in trade of the segment of the hard left that want to kneecap the West and reduce us back to vegan tribes squatting in hemp yurts, have had no influence on the Earth Liberation Front. Gentle persuasion has always been the left’s stock in trade: if you’d put your throat in this yoke, Mademoiselle Antoinette. Merci beaucoup.
When Howard Dean said he hated the Republicans and everything they stood for, he was making an intellectual case against a set of ideas, not blurting out his own blunt contempt for people who dare to have different view of marginal tax rates.

But sometimes you wonder.

This story – appearing in one of those crazy right-wing scandal sheets published by Village Voice Media – says the FBI thinks the Weather Underground was behind the bombing. Just to restate the case: police officer killed. By a bomb. Planted by domestic left-wing totalitarians. In San Francisco. In the seventies.

A reminder of the way the seventies really were, Congressperson Pelosi’s recollections to the contrary:

In 1972 alone, the FBI attributed 1,500 bombings within the United States to “civil unrest” from domestic radical groups. Noel, the retired San Francisco FBI agent, said police officers routinely searched their patrol cars for bombs before starting their engi


As for the Weather Underground’s collaborators:

The BLA collaborated with former Weather Underground members Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert in a 1981 armed robbery in Nanuet, N.Y., that ended with the deaths of two police officers and a Brink’s armored truck guard. Ayers and Dohrn have also expressed their fondness for members of the BLA in surprisingly personal ways. Their son, Zayd Dohrn, is named after BLA member Zayd Shakur, who died in a shootout with New Jersey state troopers in 1973.

Lovely people. The article names Bernadette Dohrn – spouse of Bill Ayers – as one of the people suspected in the bombing.

Apparently Speaker Pelosi forgot about the sixties. The next time she finds herself at a conference where Ayers and Dohrn are speaking, she might ask for a refresher course. Over drinks. In a swank hotel bar. Or any other such place the Weather Underground wanted replaced with camps to exterminate anyone who listened to Lawrence Welk and wanted to own a piece of land to call their own. It would be sweet irony if they were having a civil chat while a WTO protest took place, and a molotov cocktail landed in Ayers’ lap. He’d probably throw it back.

An Enemy of the People? He could justify it in heartbeat. Someone has to lead the revolution, you know. All that cognac you liberate isn’t going to drink itself.

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September 2009