MANHATTAN -- So perhaps Jon Elliott wasn't exactly cool as a cucumber when he took to the airwaves early Tuesday to announce fellow Air America host Randi Rhodes had lost several teeth in an cold-blooded assault while walking her dog on the streets of New York City. Maybe Elliott, who prides himself on being "The Most Dangerous Liberal in America," sounded a little bug-eyed crazy. Fair enough. But with the proverbial Reichstag in flames and the fascist takeover of the United States clearly under way, neither calm nor restraint were buzzwords of the day.
"Is this an attempt by the right wing hate machine to silence one of our own?" Elliott -- no doubt only "dangerous" in the most loving, progressive way possible -- breathlessly asked his audience. "Are we threatening them? Are they afraid that we're winning? Are they trying to silence intimidate us?"
The answer for many was a resounding, "Yes!" Over at Rhodes' official messageboard, more than a few suspected a "Nazi Brownshirt" attack. "If you've watched The Sopranos you know how easy (and cheap) it is to buy that kind of hit," one intoned darkly. "IF this was a political hit from Blackwater or whoever, there is going to be the wrath of G-d on the perpetrators," another added. The proprietor of TalkingRadio wailed, "These whack jobs appear determined to whatever it takes to silence the opposing point of view." And a visitor to Think Progress, the blog of the Center For American Progress -- a self-declared "nonpartisan organization" paradoxically fighting against the "Radical Right-Wing Agenda" -- posited Rhodes was "probably beaten up by some nutball in the Mallkin [sic] Mongoloid Mafia...that's the type of viscous [sic] rabid people they are."
When it was suggested that perhaps assigning blame before having all (any) of the facts might be a bit premature, an angry commenter at Watching the Watchers -- "Independent Media Criticism That Bites" (presumably they mean "With Bite") -- snarled that there was "no reason not to suspect conservatives."
"They're vicious, violent, and unprincipled, just like unaffiliated muggers," he wrote, adding, in retort to one conservative who protested, "We are not animals," "Well, you're sure not human...not if you can still call yourself a conservative after seeing what your people really have in mind for this country. I won't say 'our country' as I'm now ashamed to admit that I was born American, and technically still am one, although I've washed my hands of your nightmare psychologically, and soon, physically as well."
This prompted yet another commenter to relate a lesson from his father -- a "very smart man," we are assured -- who taught him long ago, "people like these right-wing pundits have souls that look like maggot-infested corpses, you know, like the ones you always see in horror movies."
PROGRESS! MAGGOT-INFESTED OR NOT, a liberal acknowledges the existence of a conservative soul! Nevertheless, the ex-pat-in-waiting and maggot hunter were hardly alone. Here are but two choice cuts from the exchange that followed:
Adolph Hitler's right wing thugs regularly 'mugged' opponents and members of unpopular groups even before he came to power....Given Randi Rhodes courageous outspokenness about the sinister intentions of the right wing, it is not unreasonable to suspect that this non-robbery assault is an attempt by Neo-conservative thugs to silence her views.And:
Have you ever noticed that when one of ours shoots one of theirs (Reagan, Ford, Wallace), it's always an amateurish lunatic like Squeaky Fromme or John Hinkley [sic] acting alone and without a plan or a mind, and that little or no blood spills, but that when they come after one of ours (Malcolm, JFK, MLK, RFK), it is a flawlessly executed surgical strike from triangulated professional snipers who leave no witnesses or other loose ends behind, just the corpse of a formerly great liberal leader and an unwitting patsy to take the fall (Oswald, Bremer, Sirhan)?
A Democratic Underground member went so far as to divine from the assault the opening salvos of "an ideology war between conservatives and liberals that will rip this country apart...a war that will be bloody, and claim lives....Hell, maybe this is what has to happen before we can start to take our country back."
THE ONLY PROBLEM WAS, this hadn't actually happened. As the New York Daily News soon reported, not only had Rhodes "never filed a report and never claimed to be the victim of a mugging," but her own lawyer insisted the talk show host's injuries were the result of a fall, not a "hate crime." (A fall outside a bar?) Air America followed this up with a short statement, which read in part: "The reports of a presumed hate crime are unfounded."
End of story, right?
Despite the contentions of Rhodes' own lawyer and Air America Radio -- not likely members in good standing of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy -- Rhodes' fans refused to let the hate crime narrative give up the ghost. "We are likely to be more accurate on this board than the entire domestic news industry," one aficionado declared at Rhodes' official site. Another seconded that dismissal: "Unfortunately the AAR statement was so vague it only worsened the situation."
Vague? The reports of a presumed hate crime are unfounded seems to be the sentence-length antonym of vague. And even leaving aside whether a person whose profile lists his location as "The 13th Floor of the Tower of Terror" and auto-signs every post with the refrain, "Republicans will never be happy until they have completely destroyed the earth and ended all life as we know it" is going to be more accurate than the entire domestic news industry, is he going to be more accurate than Rhodes' lawyer and uber-liberal employer?
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say...probably not. There is, however, something bigger going on here, encapsulated in the determination of Rhodes' fans, against all facts to the contrary, to hold-tight to the pipe dream of right-wing fanatics hiring Blackwater agents to beat her as she walked her dog: They so wish it were true. As with global warming alarmism, these sorts of messianic martyr fantasies about neo-Nazi conspirators aligned against liberals' salvation program for the masses are delusions designed to assure people clearly desperate for meaning in their lives that they are historically significant figures living in historically significant times. History, sadly, is not made within the virtual walls of online echo chambers.
NOT LONG AFTER the first (erroneous) report of an attack, a Rhodes fan let it be known that she hoped police would find the attacker and somehow induce him to "explain what circumstances in his background led to his rage."
"This knowledge may help us all avoid attacks on the street in the future," she wrote.
At the time, no doubt, the expectation was the explanation would be Rush Limbaugh or College Republicans. Now that the culprit is nonexistent or inanimate, depending on how one classifies culprits, the question of what caused "his" rage is moot. Or, considering the complete psychological profile our left-wing friends had already worked up, is it more a case of an answer looking for a question?
Either way here's wishing Ms. Rhodes a speedy recovery and here's hoping her supporters find a way to get to the bottom of their own rage, which they so adeptly project on others.