WaPo columnist: I stand by what I said about that insane pilot and some tea partiers

It’s Jonathan Capehart, responding to yesterday’s post by claiming that we’ve misread him. Judging from the comments he’s getting over there, we’re not the only ones who did. But let’s see. Here’s what he wrote:

There’s no information yet on whether he was involved in any anti-government groups or whether he was a lone wolf. But after reading his 34-paragraph screed, I am struck by how his alienation is similar to that we’re hearing from the extreme elements of the Tea Party movement.

I thought he meant, in essence, “the extreme elements that comprise the Tea Party movement,” i.e. that the whole movement’s one big bag of nuts. Which, given the often hysterical coverage of TPers, is usually a safe read. If Capehart intended something more nuanced, distinguishing tea partiers with extremist views from the broader group, then fair enough. Or is it? He goes on:

I’m not the only one to make the connection between Stack’s alienation from government and the anti-government extremists who have latched on to the broader Tea Party movement…

Stack didn’t like much of anything or anyone. He railed against President George W. Bush, Wall Street, insurance companies and capitalism, to name a few. That he ends his suicide note with an apparent nod to communism doesn’t disprove the larger point. Stack was raging against a system he thought was unfair and contributed to his economic insecurity. There are extreme elements on the far right roiling with this same rage that must be called out before they root themselves further in a broader movement that has legitimate concerns about the federal government and the direction of the country. Michael Gerson does an excellent job of that today. Others must follow. We ignore others like Stack at our peril.

That’s lovely, and it’s nice of him to finally note for his readership the anti-capitalist strain in Stack’s writing (that detail was conspicuously bowdlerized by Capehart yesterday) but the point has never been to “ignore others like Stack.” Witness, most recently, Ed’s post calling out Texas tea-party candidate Debra Medina for her sin of Trutherism. The point is to ask why, with such a variety of nutty niche categories available to analogize to — militiaman, tax resister, LaRouchian, Paulnut, etc — Capehart and his pals automatically reach for “tea party.” Follow the first link in his own blockquote and read through Fox News’s story about radical anti-tax groups. You’ll find interesting stuff about militias in there but not once are the words “tea party” mentioned, and why should they be? Not every tea partier is a radical anti-taxer, and vice versa. (As I noted yesterday, taxes have been a minor point compared to federal spending among TPers thus far.) The truth is, for all its hype and impressive spread, the tea-party movement surely represents only a tiny fraction of Americans who are feeling economically insecure and angry at government right now. Right Pundits actually contacted tea-party leaders in the Austin area and they claim never to have heard of Stack, which raises the question of why a guy who’s supposedly so emblematic of the movement’s “extreme elements” apparently never got around to joining the movement.

To borrow Capehart’s own phrasing, I am struck by how the demagoguery of tea partiers since yesterday afternoon by some on the left is similar to their demagoguery in blaming conservatives for murdering that census worker who committed suicide. I’ll leave you with what I wrote at the time:

For a perfect gloss on this entire pathetic episode, read (or re-read) Jesse Walker’s piece at Reason on how the left exploits violence committed by the fringe to discredit mainstream conservatives. Despite their theatrical hand-wringing about wingnut violence, it’s really not the militia types whom the left is chiefly concerned with; it’s the mainstream non-violent types like Limbaugh, who can mobilize people to beat them at the polls, that need to be neutralized first and foremost. All conservative evildoers act in concert while all liberal evildoers act alone…

Sub in “tea partiers” for “Limbaugh” and you’re good to go.

Update: More thoughts from the boss emeritus.

Jazz Shaw Jun 22, 2021 6:01 PM ET