Each American age has its scourge. For our parents (and some of us), it was the threat of the global spread of Communism. Now, it's terrorists, as evidenced by a recent rash of Republican name-calling.
The current propensity to equate opponents to religiously-motivated murderers largely swirls, as you'd expect, around the recent government shutdown. On the day before it began, Rep. Devin Nunes of California compared his far-right colleagues to "lemmings with suicide vests," suggesting that they were leading the party over a cliff. And then, apparently, blowing up the corpses.
But it's been in the aftermath of the shutdown fight, with the dawn of the interparty civil war, that the insults — and terrorism comparisons and accusations — have proliferated.
Glenn Beck calls Grover Norquist a terrorist sympathizer. Apparently in part due to Norquist's critiques of shutdown-iniator Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Beck's spent much of the week attacking Norquist. From his Monday show, via The Blaze:
“[Norquist] is the guy responsible for a lot of the Muslim Brotherhood stuff that goes on in the White House, isn’t he?” Beck asked [his guests].
“Glenn, I think most people who know Grover only as a prominent anti-tax guy in the conservative movement would find that statement unbelievable, and to be honest with you I would’ve, but for the fact that I saw it first-hand as a result of sharing office space for what I think of seven biblically long years with Grover Norquist,” [Center for Security Policy president Frank] Gaffney remarked. “I saw terrorists in his office space. I had colleagues come to me and say, ‘You know there’s a Muslim Brotherhood front operating out of his office suite?’”
Please note: your skepticism should begin with claims that Norquist, no fan or ally of the Obama administration, is responsible for anything that goes on at the White House. Gaffney's claims are based on Norquist's work with a group called the Islamic Free Market Foundation, but there's not much point exploring those claims any further. It's just more of the sort of guilt-by-chalk-line-association that made Beck famous.
But, to belabor the point, the rebuttal to Norquist's critiques of Cruz: Norquist associates with terrorists.
A director at Americans for Tax Reform calls shutdown architects terrorists. According to a report at the Daily Beast, Ryan Ellis, the director of tax policy at Americans for Tax Reform, made his own terror analogy to a private email list.
[Ellis] declared, “the Repeal Coalition was hijacked by Defund terrorists. They flew the plane in a new direction and assured us that x, y, and z would follow. Not only did they not follow, but in fact a, b, and c happened.”
The head of Americans for Tax Reform? Grover Norquist. As mentioned above, Norquist himself has attacked the defunders — but he used a we-got-pushed-into-traffic analogy. Ellis went for the triple dog dare of insults.
Pamela Geller calls New York mayor-to-be Bill de Blasio a terrorist. In a series of ads set to run in subway stations around the city, long-time Islamophobe Geller links the likely next mayor of New York to to separate groups of terrorists. The New York Daily News spotted the ad, which is at right. This isn't new rhetoric for Geller, who made her name with virulent opposition to the so-called "Ground Zero mosque" in 2010. In 2012, she paid to run anti-Islam ads in the transit system.
You'll notice that Geller, a traditionalist, mixes two eras of critique in her attack on de Blasio. He is a Communist ("Red Bill") and a terrorist-sympathizer ("partners with vicious terror-aligned foes") and a Communist terrorist-sympathizer ("supported bloody Communist terrorists").
That's actually pretty appropriate for the moment. After all, the Republicans are only following the recent trend in pejoratives. Below, a look at the use of three terms — communist, socialist, and terrorist — in books since 1900. "Terrorist" is having a moment. And the GOP, always following trends, have embraced the idea.
Photo: Geller, yelling. (AP)
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.