Politics

04.16.13

In Defense of Measured Speculation

It’s interesting to me that some conservatives take umbrage at any speculation that the bombings might have been the work of right-wing fringe groups. Why? What affinity does a rank-and-file conservative feel with a militia type?

I feel no affinity whatsoever with far-left violent radicals who might try to kill innocent people. I make no excuses for them, whether they’re American or Palestinian or whatever they are. I see that I got a little bit flamed on the Twitters last night for saying that we haven’t heard from left-wing fringe groups “in many a year,” but that was just a statement of fact, depending I guess on your definition of many a year. The Weather Underground Brinks Robbery, the last big fringe-violent left-wing attack that I remember, happened 32 years ago. I think it’s fair to call that “many a year.” Others may not, I suppose, but to most of us it's a long time ago.

I see that I was also supposed to know about every plot that didn’t reach fruition, like last year’s attempted bombing of a bridge in Cleveland by anarchists. I actually hadn’t even heard of that. Maybe I should have heard of it, so fine, that’s my lapse. But evidently some people assumed I was covering up for the far left by not mentioning it—the plotters apparently had ties to the Occupy movement and decided it wasn’t getting anything done. So here I am mentioning it. To jail and to hell with those guys. I have no use for them at all and certainly no interest in hiding their crime.

There are some people who think anything remotely resembling speculation is totally irresponsible. I can understand that point of view. But as I watched CNN and MSNBC last night, all the way to Brian Williams going live after midnight, they were constantly asking their terrorism experts about clues and meanings that might suggest this group or that, which is all I tried to do.

Maybe they’re all being completely irresponsible. I don’t think so. I think as long as one doesn’t charge out there with incendiary language like “this has all the hallmarks of…” or something like that, I don’t think it’s irresponsible to say that history suggests that A, B, or C type of person could be behind this. I don't think journalism, whether reporting or commentary, should be crafted with a nervous eye toward how the most extreme readers will react.

Also, something tells me that some of the people who are now fomenting that any speculation is irresponsible might be doing some speculating of their own if the circumstances were different--if, say, someone had bombed the Stock Exchange on May Day, or a Republican Party headquarters somewhere on Patrice Lumumba's birthday.

But back to my original question, which is very interesting to me. I actually don’t think most rank-and-file conservatives have any affinity for far-right violent radicals. I think most regular conservatives would say to hell with them.

What seems true instead is that for a certain percentage of people on the right, a liberal columnist even broaching the topic provides the chance for some conservatives to inflict what my football coach used to call a “free lick” (when we were on defense and an offensive player jumped the snap count). Fair enough. Maybe I deserved that lick. But as I say, I did only what the cable nets spent all night doing.

One can’t help wonder if there’s a little more to the story, but I think I’ll save those observations for a less fraught time.

Personally, I hope it’s a nonpolitical lone wolf, and we don’t have to go through any political mishegas with this.The temperature is high enough as it is. And with that, back to other news, until we know something.