A leftover from yesterday that economically features two of the dumbest staples of “climate of hate” arguments in two short paragraphs. Bob Romanik is a Trump-loving foul-mouthed right-wing talk radio host known for spicing up his daily rants with the N-word. James Hodgkinson was the Bernie-loving far-left scumbag who nearly pulled off a mass murder of Republican senators and congressman on a baseball field in Virginia. What do they have in common? Well, they’re both from the same town — Belleville, Illinois. And they both disdain Washington for their own reasons.
That’s close enough to causation to justify a story about Romanik and his possible influence over Hodgkinson for D.C.’s most famous newspaper.
The nation was shocked, but Romanik — who seems to delight in launching savage attacks on local politicians and stoking his listeners’ many frustrations about race, crime and government — certainly wasn’t. Despite being a die-hard supporter of President Trump who has perfected the art of the dire populist message, many of Romanik’s biggest fans in southern Illinois are disgruntled Democrats like Hodgkinson.
“I can’t say for sure if this Hodgkinson guy listened to me, but he probably did,” Romanik said in a recent interview. “If people would be honest about what drove Hodgkinson to the point of violence, you’d probably see a lot of people right on the same page with him all over the country. But around here, for sure.”
It’s telling that Peter Holley, the author of the WaPo piece, never mentions that Hodgkinson’s Facebook page was adorned with anti-Trump and anti-Republican news articles. Nor does he mention that Hodgkinson’s targets were all Republicans, saying only that he “shot four people at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria.” The only clue as to Hodgkinson’s political bent is the reference to “disgruntled Democrats.” Gabe Malor summarizes:
(1) Find inflammatory local radio host.
(2) Find people who listen to him.
(3) Say shooter could maybe have been a listener.
— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) July 9, 2017
That brings us back to the two “climate of hate” staples. The first staple: An actual link between right-wing word and murderous deed need never be proved. If Sarah Palin’s PAC publishes an electoral map with crosshairs on it and some nut goes and shoots a Democratic congresswoman, that’s close enough to causation for the media to make the connection. Showing that the crank actually saw the map and drew his inspiration from it is beside the point. The sleight of hand in the WaPo piece is that there are “disgruntled Democrats” who listen to Romanik’s N-bomb rants, and James Hodgkinson was himself a “disgruntled Democrat.” Therefore it’s fair to imply that Romanik may have inspired Hodgkinson.
The second staple: Right-wing “hate” can push far-left killers over the edge, although of course the reverse is never true. If that bizarre logic seems familiar, that a “climate of hate” on end of the political spectrum might somehow drive someone on the other end to murder, there’s a reason. It’s the same argument leftist polemicists have used for years to try to turn the Kennedy assassination, carried out by an actual communist, into a right-wing operation. Dallas was filled with right-wingers who despised JFK, the theory goes, and the resulting “climate of hate” took over Oswald’s brain or somehow shifted the Overton window in his mind of what was politically permissible, never mind that he’d tried to kill a far-right general months before the Kennedy shooting. Needless to say, should a right-wing nut attack a liberal, there’s no example you could find of fire-breathing progressive rhetoric that the media would accept as possibly having motivated the attacker. The “climate of hate” is always and forever necessarily a right-wing climate. The concept wouldn’t be politically useful to liberals if it wasn’t.
The only novelty in WaPo’s story is that they have Romanik himself on record, with zero evidence, as being credulous that Hodgkinson might have been one of his listeners. Exit question: Why might a self-promoting fringe broadcaster be eager to boast of his political influence to a major American newspaper as part of a splashy national profile of him and his audience?