“MAGA maggots” and my fifteen minutes

One of the more disgusting aspects of contemporary political and media culture is the practice of forming on-line hit squads to go after innocent victims when they dare to complain in ways that discomfit right-wing politicians or discredit right-wing causes.

The latest example is the concerted attacks on the student survivors of the Parkland massacre who are organizing – with admirable skill and self-restraint – to demand more effective gun control laws. I’m on record as a skeptic about how much good politically practicable gun control can actually do under U.S. conditions, but there’s no doubt that making it harder for juveniles to access AR-15s and similar weapons could help moderate the carnage in schools. (That’s a small part of the total gun-violence problem, but still worth addressing.)

In any case, it does my heart good to see these young folks stepping in to the public arena with so much energy and such a sharp eye for political efficacy. You don’t have to entirely agree with them to unreservedly admire them. If it had been my friends who were killed, and if I’d spent hours hiding in a closet wondering whether I would survive, I doubt that I could master their self-possession.

So naturally they’re under attack: from various Twitter randos, but also from CNN contributor and former Congressman Jack Kingston, who tried to tag them as “leftist” and even “antifa.” (An interesting echo of the shooter himself, who identified “antifa” as one of the targets of his rage.) Equally naturally, Donald Trump, Jr. (aka Fredo) has joined the party, linking to various stories that try to make a scandal of the fact that one of the students is the son of an FBI agent. (Bet you didn’t know that was a disgrace.)

Trump fans seem to be concerned that the shooter’s right-wing political commitments (anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-black, liberal-hating, gun-loving, wearing a MAGA cap) might become part of the discussion. In that they have largely succeeded: the massacre is being talked about in terms of gun policy rather than in terms of controlling right-wing terrorism.

I reacted to an early Tweet in this genre by labeling the attackers “MAGA maggots, feeding on the corpses of the dead.” I wouldn’t call that label polite, but I would defend its accuracy. Decent people don’t mock, and tell lies about, survivors of a massacre, just because those survivors hold uncomfortable political opinions. And I think it’s fair to say that the problem is not symmetric: at least, I haven’t seen supporters of DACA, or of generous immigration policies in general, attacking the victims in the criminal cases the nativists have tried to use to stir up fear of immigrants.

Then the alt-right Daily Caller and the UK tabloid Daily Mail (no, I think I’ll pass on giving them links) weighed in, attacking me for having applied the label to “Trump supporters” or “conservatives” generally, rather than to those who earned it by smearing the Parkland students. At least the Daily Caller guy took the trouble to ask me for comment, though he cheated by reporting the shooter’s alt-right politics as merely my opinion rather than linking to the facts I’d supplied. The nameless, faceless scribe for the Daily Mail, which turns out in this case to be even a lower-quality outlet, didn’t even bother to ask for comment. And of course they managed to find an old, and quite ugly-looking, photo, though my current one is on the NYU website.

I’m happy to report that I’ve received only five pieces of hate email and one nasty phone call, none containing actual threats; I wasn’t even aware of the Daily Mail story until a friend clued me in. It’s annoying – but no worse than that – that so many people know what they think I said, and so few know what I said.  And of course I welcome any right-wing rage that gets deflected from the Parkway students to me. Still, the incident as a whole leaves rather a bad taste.



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: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

15 thoughts on ““MAGA maggots” and my fifteen minutes”

  1. The Daily Mail, while reliably right-wing, is not owned by Murdoch. Wikipedia has decided it is not a reliable source.

  2. I did see one example coming from the left actually. There was a JROTC kid at the school (who survived), IIRC the one who had the idea to cover students in Kevlar sheets. He was interviewed on Fox and friends or w/e it is called and seemed to borrow thoughts from both left and right, saying that more gun control was clearly necessary but also that the football coach (who apparently died moving students to safety) might have been able to shoot the shooter if he had had his weapon with him. Left activists then went to the JROTC kid's facebook page and took screenshots and spread them around; apparently the kid thinks the traitor's battle flag is really cool and something to be proud of. Of course, he is just a kid and has probably been brainwashed by fucking clowns into thinking the traitor's war was about state's rights or "the economics of slavery, rather than the morality of slavery (heard that one from some moronic edgelord recently). Anyway, fuck the traitor's flag but to go snooping around some minor's FB page who just lost friends in a massacre because he thought it would have been good for the coach to be armed is… kind of awful. Anyway, there is the one counter-example I have seen.

    1. Thanks for the information, though I really wish I didn't know that. Maggotry is bilateral, though not symmetric.

      1. Yeah sorry, it brings me no pleasure to depress liberals who give liberals a good name. I thought the post was excellent by the way, keep on swinging Prof.

    2. Not to claim that there aren’t plenty of obnoxious looneys on the left, I wrangle with many of them regularly, but this doesn’t smell right to me. This is exactly the sort thing Russian trolls or their alt-right pals would do.

        1. Of course it’s repulsive no matter who turned this kid into a political football and no matter what his views.

    3. What?!? Nobody doxxed him. They just made his self-declared identity plain.

      This is the hour of the naked lunch, after all, so it seems apt.

      That is rather different from loony anti-Semitic conspiracy theories blaming George Soros for planting students at the shooting.

      And no I don't want armed coaches in school. More guns as an answer to gun violence is a truly awful piece of thought.

  3. Given the nature of news coverage in this country, I'm not sure we'd know if the problem were symmetric.

    1. Unless the reason that the MSM has gone to war with the right is precisely because Trump is not an acceptable choice, and this is not normal. The coverage can be slanted for good reason, by which I mean that the right provoked the MSM with a massive act of maggotry. I admit, CNN is pretty much openly at war with the White House… but can I blame them? I can't bring myself to do it. I don't think Trump works for Putin or is going to blow up the world, but he has thoroughly beclowned the single most important nation on the planet. The damage he did simply by getting elected is incalculable. We look like a bunch of fucking idiots.

      1. I don't think Trump's existence would justify the MSM downplaying left-wing maggotry, if that is happening. My sense is that they would be much more sensitive to maggotry coming from the right. Of course, a lot of the maggotry on the left seems to be left-on-left maggotry.

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