All the garbage people. Where do they all come from?

Philippe Reines is a special strain. Reporters know him well for his … combativeness, shall we say, as one of Hillary’s most prominent flacks, but every now and then the public gets a glimpse. He’s the one who seized on the news in May that Donald Trump Jr’s family was breaking up as a reason to tweet at him that his wife must have been fantasizing about an old boyfriend when she was in bed with him. That was gross enough to earn a public rebuke from Chelsea Clinton, leading Reines to eventually delete the tweet.

But he wasn’t sorry.

A few months later he had the idea to welcome home Trump from his summit with Putin by encouraging people to bring bullhorns and air horns to the White House gates and use them at all hours of the night. Nastiness is his milieu. He’s been known for it for years. It’s made him a valuable commodity to someone who dismissed millions of her opponent’s supporters as “deplorables” in the last election. Of course he’s going to enjoy the spectacle of Republican politicians being harassed whenever they show their faces in public.

What irks me about this is less the nastiness itself than the attempt to dress it up in something finer. It can’t be that Reines is just a dick who revels in the thought of his political enemies being unable to enjoy a moment’s peace outside their homes. It’s a First Amendment issue! Or it’s an attempt to demand that Republicans provide “oversight” of Trump. (Angry confrontations in restaurants are famously persuasive in changing the target’s opinion.) Or none of this matters because the Proud Boys are bad and we should be focusing on that. There must be a noble pretext to justify the ignoble instinct. His attitude reminds me of how Gawker used to defend itself whenever it published something unusually nasty (i.e. every three hours). It was never done transparently for the lulz or the clicks or the sinister thrill of humiliating an opponent; it was always draped in moralizing window dressing. If someone surreptitiously snapped a pic of a Republican congressman taking a dump in a public restroom, that might be posted — but only with a reminder that that congressman had once voted against a bill that would have increased funding for public toilets or whatever. “Look at this guy pinching a loaf” would have been frowned upon as bullying and an invasion of privacy. “Look at this hypocrite pinching a loaf” was fair game.

It’s strange but true of American culture in our era that no amount of petty nastiness towards a vulnerable person is too small to get you in big trouble online whereas no amount of petty nastiness towards someone influential is too large that it can’t be excused as in service to some virtuous purpose. (And there’s always some purpose, as in the Gawker hypothetical, that can be conjured up, however tangentially and unconvincingly.) If a random joe were recorded being casually cruel to someone who’s down on their luck, that video might get traction online and he might soon find himself unemployed and sifting through death threats. Wouldn’t matter if his cruelty was momentary and uncharacteristic. He’ll be ruined in order to send a social signal about his behavior, pour encourager les autres. Whereas if you want to personally see to it that your least favorite politician and his/her family can’t leave the house without a Greek chorus trailing behind, hooting grievances, you’re just makin’ the world a better place. Extremism in the pursuit of “virtue” is no vice.

Right now on Earth 2, President Mitt Romney is trying to implement some anodyne conservative policy like cutting the budget by half a percent and Reines is on MSNBC demanding direct action against Republicans to stop this slow-motion atrocity. The Good People always believe the Bad People have it coming.