Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Blame the victim

Mirecki treated after roadside beating |
One of Mirecki’s most vocal critics, conservative activist John Altevogt, said he couldn’t imagine anyone he knows doing such a thing.

“This should be investigated thoroughly, and whoever did this should be punished to the full extent of the law. You don’t beat people for either their faith or their lack thereof,” he said.

But Altevogt said he was skeptical about whether Mirecki’s report was legitimate.

“He (Mirecki) has very little credibility left,” Altevogt said. “The one thing that could save his bacon is to become a martyr of sorts, or to elicit sympathy from being the victim rather than the persecutor.”

When told that some people were questioning the truth of his report, Mirecki fired back.

“The right wing wants blood, period. They’re not going to stop until they see blood. They’re not into anything else,” he said. “Whatever I do, whatever I say, they don’t believe anything because that’s the way they are... I know what happened. I got the hell beat out of me. They can say what they want.”
The notion that Mirecki made this up is bizarre, but not uncommon. It's pretty absurd though.

The reports indicate that the incident happened "south of 31st Street," which is a rural area without streetlights. It isn't surprising that he'd lack a lot of identifying details if he got beaten up before dawn in a poorly lit area.

Tony (of TKC) wonders how the people found Mirecki, noting "It wasn’t until yesterday that I saw a picture of the guy." But Tony wasn't planning an act of terrorism. Good old Google gives us plenty of photos, and even an address. Without a lot of effort, the thugs could have staked out his house and followed him.

Why did he get out of the car? Hindsight is 20-20, and one has to assume that he didn't expect that the car trying to pass him (or signal him) meant him harm. A rural road, a car flashing the high-beam and tailgating you, of course you pull over, give the loon some space. When they pull over too, you figure they need help, and you go to offer assistance.

"Why," Tony asks, "didn't they kill him?" I can think of two reasons, and they aren't mutually exclusive. It could be that these two, moral midgets though they be, have some tiny semblance of a conscience. Perhaps they took a swing, knocked him down, and thought better of it. The other possibilty that I can easily imagine is that the intent was not to kill him but to "teach him a lesson."

I called this terrorism above, and I stand by that. Who the thugs meant to terrorize is ambiguous. Certainly Mirecki, and killing him would end the terror. But Andrew Stangl, the student president of the atheist group Mirecki advises said
This whole incident is starting to cast doubt that I can actually share my thoughts effectively without someone waiting for me at my car.
And as a semi-public figure, I confess that I worry about these two loons. Who knows who their other targets are, if any.

And this is what terrorism does. They didn't knock down a building, but it's still terrorism.

The reason I used the phrase "Nazism" yesterday is that
  • I was turning around a phrase used against Mirecki
  • This sort of political terrorism is a common part of fascism (Kristallnacht, Reichstag fire, etc.)
Robert Paxton lists 9 traits of fascism, of which numbers 3, 5 and 8 are relevant here (more on this at Orcinus):

3. the belief that one's group is a victim, a sentiment which justifies any action, without legal or moral limits, against the group's enemies, both internal and external;…

5. the need for closer integration of a purer community, by consent if possible, or by exclusionary violence if necessary; …

8. the beauty of violence and the efficacy of will, when they are devoted to the group's success;
I actually find number 5 most relevant here. Events like this are terrorism; they're meant to drive off or silence offending parties.

Dave Neiwert has been documenting the ways that elements of the conservative movement in America are drifting toward "pseudofascism," and this incident plays right into that pattern. It isn't all conservatives, and I hope events like this will serve as a wake-up call to conservatives, and that they will take the time to think about how their leadership (Altevogt, Jerry Agar, etc.) may have created an environment where someone could think this sort of violence was acceptable. And blaming the victim is not part of the solution, it contributes to the problem.