Know your enemy

Commenters on a right-wing website rejoice at the death of a young Obama staffer.

Alex Okrent, a 29-year-old Obama campaign staffer, died suddenly today after collapsing at campaign headquarters. No cause of death given, but it sounds like cardiac arrest.

Mitt Romney Tweeted condolences, and David Axelrod responded appropriately.

But when the news was posted on Weasel Zippers, all hell broke loose. Ninety-two comments at last count; by a generous reckoning, thirteen of them aren’t nasty. Here’s a sample of the rest:

Taliban. Al Qaeda. Black Panthers. La Raza. Nazis. Commies. Obamabots. they’re all the same. i won’t ever shed a tear when any of these cretins gets their number punched by Satan and are called down to take their rightful spot in Satan’s furnace room, right next to Che Guevara and Ted Kennedy.

him and his minions would would enslave you and your children and your grand children to Bammys economics, you can have sympathy for him if you like but as a patriot I will not remember anyone who is for the down fall of our nation or his family……… it what you will but treason is treason…………

No tears from me when my mortal enemies drop dead for any reason. And since the greater majority of them do not believe in any form of afterlife, why waste time saying worthless platitudes about them.

My money is on cocaine-induced heat attack. Democrat political campaigns are the kind of work environment that attracts coke-heads

This is wonderful news! Lets hope we hear more of this happening. Piss on these Obama utopian thugs! Lets hope the fires in Hell clean his stinkin socialist soul!

This was on top of the usual suggestions that Okrent was killed by the Obama organization because he “knew something.”

Typical of all of the Red team? Of course not. Maybe some “false flag” stuff from the Blue team? Possible, I suppose. But the site owner didn’t bother to moderate any of this hate speech. And it’s not all on their own turf; the Chicago Sun-Times had to turn off comments on its story. This is what we’re up against, folks.

Footnote And no, this is not at all like rehearsing Andrew Breitbart’s wrongdoing in the aftermath of his death. That might not have been polite, but it was about the actual conduct of an actual human being. Alex Okrent, to the Weasel Zipper crowd, is just a symbol. He’d done nothing wrong save be on our side. They piss on his grave only because yours and mine aren’t yet available. They really, really hate us. Of course we shouldn’t hate them back. But we should get even.

And no, I’m not aware of anything equivalent anywhere on the Blue side of things.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

23 thoughts on “Know your enemy”

  1. There is no equivalent on the blue side. Possibly occasional outbursts, but nothing – NOTHING – like the sustained, black hearted evil you document here. I stopped going to almost all right-wing websites years ago for exactly this reason – they’re by and large putrid swamps of hate, fear, violent rhetoric, emotional and social retardation, sixth grade (at best) tribalism, vicious bullying, and rabid authoritarianism; truly sick, diseased minds completely dependent on demonization for raison. Probably not so different a situation than throughout U.S. and Western history, but with the tubes now there for all to see. Shout it out, Mr. Kleiman.

    1. Steven B: Agreed, I used to regularly visit right-wing websites because I wanted to challenge my views. I completely stopped, partially because of the reasons you cite, but mostly because the content of these sites was total BS — lies, distortions, fallacies, demagoguery, you name it. Now the only reason I ever visit one of these sites (the Google cached page only) is to take in some delicious schadenfreude.

  2. “Typical of all of the Red team? Of course not.”

    not all, but most.
    steven b. is quite right.

  3. The
    Red team” is quickly losing the capacity to act as citizens of a democracy.

  4. Hate can be rational. The hate we see displayed by American right-wingers is not of that type.

  5. Yeah, the best way to understand anything is to read internet comments. Yep, that’s it.

    Mind you, not the posts where supposedly respectable and serious people refer to their political opponents in a liberal democracy as their “enemies”. Not that, silly. Random comments, those are the meaningful sentences. Unless they’re false flag of course, but, hey, politics aint beanbag.

    1. I think your point is fair in general. But the point of this post seems not to be trying to characterize the right in general, but to point out what seems a frighteningly large and vocal minority of its members. To the extent that they tell you something about the contemporary culture of the right, I think it is fair to draw a degree of characterization.

  6. The best thing to do is defeat them and keep defeating them until they are marginalized and their “movement” is a shadow of its former self. Eventually they’ll just die of old age, they’re all pretty old anyway.

  7. WTF is “weasel zipper”? Seriously, I never heard of the site before tonight. Nutpicking much? I mean, ya I know that some on the right have a tendency to be uh, uncouth (I clearly remember a thread on LGF about the woman who got herself run over by a bulldozer in the occupied territories repeatedly referred to as “St. Pancake”), but does this really represent what the so-called “red team” is really saying? What’s going on at redstate tonight?

    To be clear, I certainly wouldn’t assume an excess of empathy from the right-wingers of today, but I’m also not basing my judgment on the movement on whatever some douchebags on some website called “weasel zipper” might have to say.

    1. It seems to be a popular blog on the right, judging by how often it shows up on Memeorandum. It appears to specialize in hating Muslims, along with sites like Jawa Report and Gateway Pundit. Also, they have their own bizarre inside jokes, like calling Michelle Obama “mooch.” Yeah, I don’t get it either. Unfortunately, I think the kinds of sentiments in the comments are widespread on the Right, but I can’t say for sure since I don’t visit those sites anymore.

    2. Weasel Zippers is a hateful sewer that Memeorandum links to constantly. If you don’t want to make any judgements based on that site, visit the comments at The Hill, Fox News, Breitbart or any other right wing site. They’re all the same.

      A real sickness has descended on right wingers. Hell, read the right wing comments on Yahoo’s story about this young man’s death. They’re sick.

  8. “This is what we’re up against, folks.” Indeed. Just as it was on January 20, 2009, and we all knew it except for the one who should have appreciated it the most. BTW, did he every find that bipartisanship unicorn?

  9. I tend to believe that the left has a very clear eyed picture of the right–and what we’re up against on the right. I don’t see a lot of exaggeration.

    But when I read the portrayals of the left on right-wing websites, it’s a cartoonishly evil exaggeration or fabrication. I simply cannot recognize the objects of their hatred. I think the right persistently creates false pictures of the left to fuel hatred. I mean, equating supporters of a relatively centrist, democratically elected president with Al Qaeda, the Taliban and Nazis is delusional.

  10. If you’re not aware of anything equivalent from your side, it’s because you live in an echo chamber where nothing of the sort would be called to your attention.

    >And no, this is not at all like rehearsing Andrew Breitbart’s wrongdoing in the aftermath of his death. That might not have been polite, but it was about the actual conduct of an actual human being. Alex Okrent, to the Weasel Zipper crowd, is just a symbol. He’d done nothing wrong save be on our side.

    First, I don’t think things like “@AlmightyBob: @AndrewBreitbart haha youre dead and in hell being a gay with hitler” could be properly described by “rehearsing Andrew Breitbart’s wrongdoing in the aftermath of his death.” Second, the most important difference between Breitbart and Okrent is that Breitbart was famous and Okrent was small fry. They were both actively working to advance their respective side’s agendas. Are you saying that it’s ok to gloat over the death of your opponents (or “rehearse their wrongdoings” if you prefer) if and only if they’re sufficiently important in their movement?

    1. the most important difference between Breitbart and Okrent is that Breitbart was famous and Okrent was small fry. They were both actively working to advance their respective side’s agendas. Are you saying that it’s ok to gloat over the death of your opponents (or “rehearse their wrongdoings” if you prefer) if and only if they’re sufficiently important in their movement?

      No. The difference is that Breitbart was a liar and a con man who propagated falsehood on top of falsehood and whose objective was to stir up anger against the other side any way he could.

      You have no reason to think that Okrent was doing the same, and lacking such reason putting him in Breitbart’s category is not just wrong but malicious.

    2. Yes, drag Andrew Bartreit out one more time. He must still be useful in some way, right?

      “He’d done nothing wrong except be on our side”. Sure. Using edited video to change the meanIng of somone’s words, getting them fired and unleashing a torrent of right wing hate on a low level bureaucrat. Nothing wrong with that.

      1. That would be Saint Andrew Breitbart who used edited videos to falsely accuse Shirley Sherrod of racism? Andrew Breitbart whose contribution to democracy was to scream “You are animals” at peaceful protestors? Andrew Breitbart whose little buddy the rapist wannabe James O’Keefe attacked ACORN for helping Americans to vote? Show us where Alex Okrent did any such thing, or retract your claims.

  11. You can judge for yourself whether these reactions on Democratic Underground to Andrew Breitbart’s death are equivalent. I swear that this took me about 15 secs. for the thinking and googling:

    MrMickeysMom (9,030 posts) 400. He died of natural HATE…

    I guess he should have….


    ButterflyBlood (11,598 posts)
    403. So it ain’t true after all that only the good die young


    Horse with no Name (29,290 posts)
    406. I specifically dropped in tonight to piss on this fucker’s grave

    Was really happy to see a thread started.

    Marie Marie (1,151 posts)
    409. Nothing to add to this maniac’s demise – just wanted to hang out here with all the cool people.

    Seems like enough of us here for one hell of a party.

    Yukari Yakumo (2,918 posts)
    416. My condol… ah fuck it.

    Good riddence to that walking pile of shit.

    ErikJ (1,081 posts)
    427. Speaking on behalf of America’s …..

    Speaking on behalf of America’s poor, children, homeless, minorities, workers, women, gays, seniors, unemployed, sick, the middle and lower class and the Earth-GOOD RIDDANCE BREITBART!

    1. This is all unkind and perhaps unseemly – although I’ve always rejected the hypocrisy that we mustn’t speak ill of the dead – but it ignores the crucial difference: the people making hateful comments in response to the passing of Andrew Breitbart knew who Breitbart was. They had formed a specific and highly negative opinion of Mr. Breitbart, and held him personally responsible for actions he, himself had performed. By contrast, the people reveling in the passing of Mr. Okrent are doing so simply for his affiliations. I’d be fairly confident they had no idea he’d existed until they heard of his youthful demise. This is not a trivial difference.

      I also suspect (though I really do not care to research this question) that the conspiracy theories immediately blossoming on the Right in response to Mr. Okrent’s death were not paralleled in the fringes of the Left in response to Mr. Breitbart’s death – though they were, in fact, paralleled on the Right in response to Mr. Breitbart’s death.

      1. You’re correct and I would’ve done better to read Prof. Kleiman’s post more carefully.

        However, I wonder if this isn’t a case of McArdle’s law (paraphrased): the party in power is arrogant, smug, and self-assured; the part out-of-power is just plain crazy.

        1. Arguably an important part of the Republican’s formula for electoral success is ressentiment: the idea among the base that they are always out of power, always struggling against the overwhelming might of apocalyptic forces beyond their control: Communism, Hollywood, Islam, etcetera. Even as the Republicans do the bidding of the wealthiest and most powerful people in the world, they keep their base in a constant state of dread and panic. This enterprise is the entire being of Fox News. The base – the mass of people most susceptible to the aphorism you quote – are therefore quite likely to be crazy even in their party’s good years, and to be balls-to-the-wall nutzoid when their star is not in the ascendant.

  12. What constitutes a comparable case for the other side of the political spectrum? Well, it is only approximate, but when Ron Paul’s campaign staffer Kent Snyder died suddenly of pneumonia in Sept. 2011, the opprobrium from the left fell on Ron Paul for the staffer’s lack of health insurance; there was very little, if any, sense of “serves him right for working for Ron Paul” or “good riddance, one less conservative moron” in the comments made on liberal blogs. gives an example of one thread of comments.

    Kent Snyder is a closer approximation to Alex Okrent than is Andrew Breitbart. An unknown man who worked for a political opponent, and the sympathies were with the deceased, while the political attacks fell on the man who had employed him.

    The parallel proposed by swilson and by Maybe fails on this account.

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