Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Chicago Way

Malone: You said you wanted to get Capone. Do you really wanna get him? You see what I'm saying is, what are you prepared to do?

Eliot Ness: Anything and everything in my power.

Malone: And *then* what are you prepared to do? If you open the can on these worms you must be prepared to go all the way because they're not gonna give up the fight until one of you is dead.

Eliot Ness: How do you do it then?

Malone: You wanna know how you do it? Here's how, they pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way, and that's how you get Capone! Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that?

Eliot Ness: I have sworn to capture this man with all legal powers at my disposal and I will do so.

Malone: Well, the Lord hates a coward. Do you know what a blood oath is, Mr. Ness?

Eliot Ness: Yes.

Malone: Good, 'cause you just took one.

We live in a strange world. Michelle Malkin publishes the names of students who opposed allowing military recruiters on campus, causing some among her readership to respond to the students with death threats and other forms of harassment. Yet, it's the "left" that's "unhinged".

Nevertheless, it's counterproductive to complain or even point out, as many of my favorite bloggers have, that Malkin's behavior is "over the line" or beyond the pale, and that she should apologize. The Rush Limbaughs, Ann Coulters and Michelle Malkins of the world don't apologize. Calling for their apologies makes them stronger and more vitriolic. It makes them think we're weak. Nor is the corporate media or their political sponsors going to call them on anything they do, no matter how outrageous.

And we've seen this before. Remember the Swiftboaters? The first reaction of the Kerry campaign and many among the left was to call for the ads to be withdrawn and the sponsors to be refuted by decent figures on the political "right" (like John McCain).

That was effective, wasn't it?

There seems to be an assumption on the part of us leftists that the "right" is supposed to be playing by the rules, and they aren't.

Calls for apologies and even factual counter-presentations don't phase the "right's" pundits, screamers and hate-mongerers. It's sad to say, but there's only one language, one tactic that the "right" understands. It's action. There's only one place it recognizes, and that's the gutter.

The emergence of Daily Kos and other Democratic web-sites is proving to be an important force in shaping party politics. But I suspect that many of us are only beginning to understand the nature of the Republican underground, as represented by its talk radio hosts, web-bloggers, cable television networks, "family" advocacy councils, reconstructionist theorists, and anti-intellectual rabble rousers, which play such a large role in elevating or destroying GOP candidacies and cowing the corporate media.

So, as "Malone" might ask of us would-be-nation changers, "what are you prepared to do?...And *then* what are you prepared to do?" Many of us, I know, would rather not play this game, not stoop to the level of raunch politics specialized in by the Michelle Malkins of the world. We live in a democracy where we strive for the values of pluralism, education, and tolerance needed to support a civil society. We'd like to do our anti-war protests and democratic participation peacefully.

But our opponents are not going to let us do that. To even have a chance of turning back the nation's slide towards fascism--and that's where the Savages, Limbaughs, Coulters, and Malkins would lead us--we have to create an environment where liberal ideas can be heard. To do that, liberal groups, individuals, and leaders need to have the protection to act. The "right's" interest is in creating a climate of fear to make sure that we can't act. That's why the UC Santa Cruz group was targeted. As seemingly minor a group or effort as they appeared to be making, the "right" needs to make them an example. Creating fear on the part of the progressive community, or creating ridicule among the mass public for the left, is what the "right" has been specializing in for the last two decades. Even if the press release had not contained contact information, don't think the "right" would be beyond finding that information anyway.

So what am I saying? If we are going to take steps to turn back the tide of militarism and authoritarianism we need to recognize what the other side is prepared to do. And when the Michelle Malkins of the world step "over the line" we need to respond with action, not plaintative words or calls for apologies. We need to become actors, not reactors. We need to become the hunter instead of the hunted. When the Michelle Malkins of the world call for hate-male and death threats from their readers, their hosts need to wonder when and where the next horse's head is going show up under their bed-covers.

That's the Chicago Way.

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