The Beast Slouches In From Stage-Left
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
-- W. B. Yeats
A year-and-a-day ago, Tuesday, November 19, 2002, there was murder in Red Bluff, California. You probably don't remember it; in fact, you may never have heard about it. Dave Mobilio was gunned down in a service station as he filled up a car.
The next day, Wednesday, November 20, 2002, in a completely unrelated incident, Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD), the Senate Minority Leader, railed about talk radio (emphasis added):
WOODRUFF: (OFF-MIKE)...I understand Tom Daschle had some memorable comments on the Senate floor... (OFF-MIKE)
KARL: Yes. Fascinating. Daschle really took to task talk radio show host, conservative talk radio, blamed them for their shrill tone, a tone he acknowledged as being entertaining and making it harder for Democrats to get their message out.
But he also said that talk radio show hosts and the attacks that they have made on him and on other Democrats have increased personal attacks and threats of physical violence against him and against his family. This is what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: What happens when Rush Limbaugh attacks those of us in public life is that people aren't satisfied just to listen. They want to act, because they get emotionally invested. And so, you know, the threats to those of us in public life go up dramatically and on our families and on us. In a way that's very disconcerting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Other sources, including WorldNetDaily
, Making You Mad
, and more CNN (1
) present fuller renditions of Daschle's remarks; they also show that the flap carried over into the following week.
From the WorldNetDaily article, plus some of the actual questions and slight differences in the transcript from Making You Mad added in brackets (emphasis added):
"I think we're in a different place because of the way politics has become such entertainment. We were just talking with some experts a couple of days ago about how if we're going to try to break through as Democrats, we have to have the same edge that Republicans do," said Daschle in a press availability this morning.
"You know, Rush Limbaugh and all of the Rush Limbaugh wannabes have a very shrill edge, and that's entertainment. We were told that even people who don't agree with them listen because they – because they're entertaining. And, you know, but what happens when Rush Limbaugh attacks those of us in public life is that people aren't satisfied just to listen, they want to act because they get emotionally invested. And so, you know, the threats to those of us in public life go up dramatically and – on our families and on us in a way that's very disconcerting. I don't think it's appropriate for me to dwell on that or to even go beyond that. But I will say that it has created a far different dimension. When I was accused of being an obstructionist, there was a corresponding and very significant increase in the number of issues that my family and I had to deal with. And I worry about that. If entertainment becomes so much a part of politics, and if that entertainment drives an emotional movement in this country among some people who don't know the difference between entertainment and politics and who are then so energized to go out and hurt somebody, that troubles me about where politics in America is going."
[Q: Do you think there's a link between these presentations and the threats?
"I do oh absolutely."]
Asked if he thought there was a direct link between the talk radio criticism and the threats to his personal security, he answered: "I do. Oh, absolutely."
[Q: The Rush Limbaugh show, for instance?
"I'm not going to I don't want to single anybody out. I'm troubled by that we see it in foreign countries and we think how can this religious fundamentalism become so violent? Well it's that same shrill rhetoric it's that same shrill power that that that that motivates they you know they somebody says something and uh then it becomes a little more shrill the next time and then more shrill the next time and pretty soon it foments it becomes physical in addition to just verbal and that's happening in this country and I worry about where in the course of the next decade this is going to go."]
"You know, we see it in foreign countries, and we think, 'Well, my God, how can this religious fundamentalism become so violent?'" Daschle said. "Well, it's that same shrill rhetoric, it's that same shrill power that motivates. You know, somebody says something, and then it becomes a little more shrill the next time, and then more shrill the next time, and pretty soon it's a foment that becomes physical in addition to just verbal. And that's happening in this country. And I worry about where, over the course of the next decade, this is all going to go."
Asked again if he believed there was a direct tie between the critics and increased physical violence, Daschle responded: "Right. Well, fortunately – and let's just pray, and I mean pray, that it doesn't get to that point. But certainly in terms of threats, I think that there's no question – I don't know what they were in the '60s. All I know is that in the course of my time in public life, it has gone up exponentially."
Is the media causing this problem?
"No, I'm saying that the media plays a role in creating this foment, in creating this – this extraordinary emotional fervor that is sometimes not – not contained and, therefore, then leads to other – other actions that are outside the control of anybody in the media or anybody in politics," explained Daschle.
Who exactly in the media is responsible?
"The talk shows." said Daschle.
Like Rush Limbaugh?
"Right," said Daschle.
Daschle's complaints were nothing new, and such sentiments have been routine fodder in the national media. Every time there is an Eric Rudolph, Timothy McVeigh, or Paul Hill, they are automatically considered the creation of right-wing talk radio and/or the religious right. Before Muhammad and Malvo were captured, the Beltway sniper was almost invariably cast as an angry white male
, which is generally a synonym for right-wing extremist. Daschle's November spiel can be seen as way to get the media focus back where they wanted it following their disappointment when the DC snipers, captured at the end of October, turned out to be black and Muslim converts.
What about the murder of Dave Mobilio? Was his killer an angry white male? Yes. Was he a right-wing extremist? Not hardly.
On Monday, November 25, 2002, six days after the murder and five days after Daschle's complaints about right-wing talk radio, and while those complaints were still sucking up plenty of the news cycle, the murderer posted two screeds cum manifestos on SF Indymedia (via soundbitten). The second opened with the following:
Hello Everyone, my name's Andy. I killed a Police Officer in Red Bluff, California in a motion to bring attention to, and halt, the police-state tactics that have come to be used throughout our country.
Now I'm coming forward, to explain that this killing was also an action against corporate irresponsibility.
Dave Mobilio's only offense was that he was a cop. Officer Mobilio, 31, normally worked days, but took the graveyard shift that night to cover for a sick officer
. He was killed while refueling his cruiser at an unattended self-serve station. "The murderer shot Mobilio twice in the side, where his protective vest did not reach, and once in the back of the head as he lay on the ground."
His body was discovered by a fellow officer
Mobilio notified dispatchers at 1:27 a.m. Tuesday that he was stopping to put gas in his patrol car. After a short period, dispatch called the officer, but did not get a response.
At 1:40 a.m. officer John Waelty was sent to the scene. Waelty found Mobilio dead beside the left front tire of his patrol car. Mobilio's gun, with the safety off, was located about three feet away from where he lay face down.
Andrew Hampton Mickel, aka Andrew Hampton McCrae, drove his "maroon 1992 Ford Mustang hatchback with tinted windows" from Olympia, Washington, to California with one immediate goal in mind: to kill a cop, any cop. He didn't want to kill one in Washington, that wouldn't bring him enough notice according to a jailhouse interview with Red Bluff Daily News reporter C. Jerome Crow: "I picked California specifically. I didn't want to do this someplace I lived in because it would just be viewed as a local act; what I'm fighting for is a national problem."
McCrae drove north from California after the murder, rolled his car in Oregon, lost or dumped his Sig Sauer P-229 .40 caliber semi-auto in the same area, apparently took a bus the rest of the way to Seattle, where he flew out of SeaTac to New Hampshire.
McCrae went to New Hampshire for the same reasons the libertarians chose it as their free state, according to one report of his telephone interview with Concord Monitor reporter Sarah Vos, who was in the lobby of the motel where McCrae surrendered, "On the Web site, the writer said he was attracted to New Hampshire because its constitution ensures a right of revolution. Vos said McCrae repeated that in their brief conversation." McCrae had filed papers in Concord, New Hampshire, on November 7, 2002, to incorporate himself as Proud and Insolent Youth Incorporated—a tactic he thought would give him immunity from prosecution.
So what was the 23-year-old McCrae doing in Olympia, Washington? It should come as no surprise to anyone that McCrae was (or had been) a student at Evergreen State College. "McCrae believes he has a message for the world that he developed while attending Evergreen. The school is known for its liberal policy of not having majors, but allowing students to develop their own courses of study." What's not mentioned in that jailhouse interview is that Evergreen students seem to have an affinity for cop-killers — the 1999 Commencement Address was delivered on an audiotape recorded in his death-row prison cell by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
The June 10, 1999, New York Times carried a major story on the Evergreen event that was run on the wire services and published in papers around the country. The Times reported that a dozen students protested Mumia's speech by wearing yellow armbands and turning their backs on the podium. An additional three walked out.
The Times neglected to report that the remaining 800 students rose to give Mumia a standing ovation, an action that registers without doubt the fact that growing millions have come to challenge the fundamental injustice involved in Mumia's conviction.
With McCrae's Army background
, even though his screeds were anti-corporate, anti-globalization, anti-US-government, soi
-Marxist rhetoric that combines the worst of leftism with the worst of libertarianism, it was to be expected that somebody would try to connect him to a perceived right-wing extremist, as in this part of the jailhouse interview
When asked why he changed his last name from Mickel to McCrae, he said it was to protect his parents from repercussions after the publicity of his actions.
"You know they would be in a video store and the attendant would look at their card and think Mickel, 'Oh yeah, as in Mickel the cop killer,'" he said. "But in the end it really doesn't matter; they turned me in."
Since then McCrae said he hasn't been in contact with them. Although McCrae rhymes with McVeigh, the last name of the man responsible for the Oklahoma City bombings, he said there is no connection.
"No, that's just a coincidence. McVeigh used bombs; bombs are indiscriminate," he said.
McCrae probably didn't bring up McVeigh on his own, the "No" indicates it is likely he was responding to Crow's question.
Andrew Orlowski pushed the right-wing angle earlier in The Register:
Is McCrae a tasteless, publicity-seeking prankster who's trying to use an unsolved murder to promote his cause? Or is he an instrument of a psyops operation to discredit the burgeoning anti-globalization movement - which, when you take away the richly-funded thinktanks and institutes and warblogs of the conservative right, is the only political movement in America with any momentum right now?
A feeble campaign saw the Democrats deservedly trounced in the recent elections, and the party quite seems to have forgotten what it is, and what it was ever supposed to do. Drawing from, and taming, the wellspring of ideas from the anti-globalization movement - which ranges from libertarian copyright-querying file-swappers to die-hard constitutionalists, and right across to the decidedly insecure middle-classes (who have been shafted hardest by the "boom") would seem to provide an alternative. Unless, that is, this "alternative" is tainted with such murderous connotations as a nutball cop-killer.
We don't know - because McCrae hasn't even been indicted yet. But either way, Amerca[sic]
has its new Unabomber, which is fascination enough.
It couldn't possibly be that McCrae was of the Left; no, the Indymedia postings must have been done by a "prankster" or the murder committed by a right-wing plant. It just couldn't be possible that the academic programs
at Evergreen State College, such as The Political Economy of Noam Chomsky
, a course for and about
Chomsky is a world-renowned linguist, but the main focus of this class will be his political economy work -- his devastating critiques of US foreign policy in areas such as Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Central America. He has written serious works about the role of intellectuals as criminals justifying genocide, and as resisters of those policies.
This is a serious class for serious people who desire an intellectual foundation for social change. This is an advanced reading class with lectures, films, seminars and a written journal, that will chronicle our emerging understanding of this important intellectual.
…taught by Larry Mosqueda, Ph.D., who on September 15, 2001, responded to the terrorist attack of four days before with a litany of America's crimes
, might have had anything to do with producing McCrae, the cop-killer.
However, Orlowski's equating McCrae to the Unabomber was prescient, but for the wrong reason, "…McCrae figures as a major topic of conversation over the holiday season turkey this week." McCrae never received the national exposure of Theodore Kaczynski, and even though the prosecution is going for the death penalty, he probably never will. He didn't get the Washington Post and New York Times to publish his manifestos. Only in his dreams are "Free Mumia" placards replaced by "Free McCrae" signs waved by adoring fans. In fact, Orlowski's piece is the only mention of McCrae in The Register. As for the major national media, the Los Angeles Times archives return only three articles on the case, the latest from February 2003 when McCrae entered a not guilty plea, and this a murder that occurred in California; the New York Times archives return zero articles on the case, as do the Washington Post archives; and CNN's archives return one Associated Press story from when McCrae was captured in Concord, New Hampshire. It's only a local story, with the Red Bluff Daily News archives returning over 100 articles related to the murder of Officer Dave Mobilio.
McCrae does have some commonalities with the Unabomber. First, McCrae, like Kaczynski, decided he could only get attention for his message by committing murder. Second, he was turned in by family members. Third, like the Unabomber and many other losers with a message, he's attempted to turn the court into his own personal soapbox. Lastly, and most importantly, McCrae's philosophy and actions can probably be traced to indoctrination in the academic setting. As Alston Chase wrote in "Harvard and the Making of the Unabomber" for The June 2000 issue of The Atlantic Monthly:
I HAD a special interest in Kaczynski. For many years he and I had lived parallel lives to some degree. Both of us had attended public high schools and had then gone on to Harvard, from which I graduated in 1957, he in 1962. At Harvard we took many of the same courses from the same professors. We were both graduate students and assistant professors in the 1960s. I studied at Oxford and received a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton before joining the faculty at Ohio State and later serving as chairman of the Department of Philosophy at Macalester College, in Minnesota. Kaczynski earned a Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Michigan in 1967 and then joined the Berkeley Department of Mathematics as an instructor. In the early 1970s, at roughly the same time, we separately fled civilization to the Montana wilderness.
It was at Harvard that Kaczynski first encountered the ideas about the evils of society that would provide a justification for and a focus to an anger he had felt since junior high school. It was at Harvard that he began to develop these ideas into his anti-technology ideology of revolution. It was at Harvard that Kaczynski began to have fantasies of revenge, began to dream of escaping into wilderness. And it was at Harvard, as far as can be determined, that he fixed on dualistic ideas of good and evil, and on a mathematical cognitive style that led him to think he could find absolute truth through the application of his own reason. Was the Unabomber -- "the most intellectual serial killer the nation has ever produced," as one criminologist has called him -- born at Harvard?
Gen Ed had created at Harvard a culture of despair. This culture of despair was not, of course, confined to Harvard -- it was part of a more generalized phenomenon among intellectuals all over the Western world. But it existed at Harvard in a particularly concentrated form, and Harvard was the place where Kaczynski and I found ourselves.
Although I cannot say exactly what Kaczynski read, he must have absorbed a good measure of the Gen Ed readings that infused the intellectual and emotional climate on campus. Gen Ed courses in social science and philosophy quickly introduced us to the relativity of morals and the irrationality of religion. To establish that ethical standards were merely expressions of Western cultural mores, we were assigned to read works by anthropologists such as Margaret Mead (Coming of Age in Samoa) and Ruth Benedict (Patterns of Culture). In Humanities 5, or "Ideas of Man and the World in Western Thought," we read Sigmund Freud's polemic against religious faith, The Future of an Illusion, which dismisses the belief that life has purpose as a mere expression of infantile desires and as confirming that "man is a creature of weak intelligence who is governed by his instinctual wishes."
In expository writing we encountered Thorstein Veblen's prediction that "so long as the machine process continues to hold its dominant place as a disciplinary factor in modern culture, so long must the spiritual and intellectual life of this cultural era maintain the character which the machine process gives it." We read Norbert Wiener, who warned that unless human nature changes, the "new industrial revolution ... [makes it] practically certain that we shall have to face a decade or more of ruin and despair."
And Lewis Mumford told us,
In "German R" ("Intermediate German With Review of Fundamentals"), which both Kaczynski and I took, we encountered a whole corpus of pessimistic writers, from Friedrich Nietzsche ("God is dead," "Morality is the herd instinct of the individual," "The thought of suicide is a great source of comfort") to Oswald Spengler ("This machine-technics will end with the Faustian civilization and one day will lie in fragments, forgotten -- our railways and steamships as dead as the Roman roads and the Chinese wall, our giant cities and skyscrapers in ruins like old Memphis and Babylon").
Western man has exhausted the dream of mechanical power which so long dominated his imagination.... he can no longer let himself remain spellbound in that dream: he must attach himself to more humane purposes than those he has given to the machine. We can no longer live, with the illusions of success, in a world given over to devitalized mechanisms, desocialized organisms, and depersonalized societies: a world that had lost its sense of the ultimate dignity of the person.
In several courses we studied Joseph Conrad, who would later become one of Kaczynski's favorite writers, and whose description of the villain in Heart of Darkness could have been applied to Kaczynski himself: "All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz.... " He was "a gifted creature.... He was a universal genius." Conrad's The Secret Agent, a satire about bomb-wielding anarchists who declare war on science (and whose intentional irony Kaczynski may have missed), presages the Unabomber manifesto. "Science," one of the plotters suggests, "is the sacrosanct fetish."
WHAT impact did this reading have on us? Speaking as a former college professor, I can say that most curricula have absolutely no effect on most students. But readings can have profound effects on some students, especially the brightest, most conscientious, and least mature. Certainly the intellectual climate generated by Gen Ed informed Kaczynski's developing views. The Unabomber philosophy bears a striking resemblance to many parts of Harvard's Gen Ed syllabus. Its anti-technology message and its despairing depiction of the sinister forces that lie beneath the surface of civilization, its emphasis on the alienation of the individual and on the threat that science poses to human values -- all these were in the readings. And these kinds of ideas did not affect Kaczynski alone -- they reached an entire generation, and beyond
All the damned professors are radicals at heart. Let them know that their great panjandrum has got to go, too.... The demonstration must be against learning -- science.... The attack must have all the shocking senselessness of gratuitous blasphemy.... I have always dreamed of a band of men absolute in their resolve to discard all scruples in the choice of means, strong enough to give themselves frankly the name of destroyers, and free from the taint of that resigned pessimism which rots the world. No pity for anything on earth, including themselves, and death enlisted for good and all in the service of humanity -- that's what I would have liked to see.
Likewise, McCrae's manifestos read like Chomsky and Mosqueda tracts combined with the conspiracy ravings of Justin Raimondo and Ted Rall; the two former would probably engage in circuitous apologetics to excuse McCrae's actions, the two latter would probably just applaud because Officer Mobilio was known as DAREman Dave
Andrew Hampton Mickel, aka Andrew Hampton McCrae, will never be an icon. He will never have a funeral…
Representatives from Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and almost every county and most cities in California were in attendance. The Tehama District Fairground teemed with different shades of blue and green as more than 3,000 officers paid their respects to Officer Mobilio and his family.
…like Officer Dave Mobilio's, nor a candlelight vigil
attended by hundreds on the anniversary of his death, nor will he have a memorial at an elementary school
A boulder has been inlaid with a star, Mobilio's badge number with the Red Bluff Police Department and his name. Benches have been placed in a semi-circle around the stone.
"This memorial is Jackson Heights Elementary School's tribute to the Mobilio family and our pledge to follow the high road of life that Dave is directing us down," said Steve Meagher, secretary for Jackson Heights PTA.
Meagher told of his amazement at the depth of compassion and sorrow the children conveyed. The children wanted to do something, anything, but what could they do?
"They didn't have dollars, but they did have pennies. So they decided to have a penny drive," Meagher said. "They called this fund-raiser 'Pennies for Dave'."
They brought pennies, nickels and dimes. A discussion between students and teachers resulted in the thought of a plaque placed in a prominent position on campus. The plaque eventually became a stone with plaque and a bench (which became benches) in an area where a teacher can take his or her class for a special day to enjoy teaching outside under the watchful eye of DAREman Dave, or just a place for reflection.
Besides that of his family and closest friends, the only sympathy McCrae will get is on the pages of Indymedia and its ilk; the only candlelight vigil he is likely to receive will be from the anti-death penalty protesters if he is sentenced to death and his execution draws near — protesters who would turn out regardless of his crimes and with no real interest in his motive or message.
His crime was not of the magnitude of Timothy McVeigh's, nor did it last as long as Theodore Kaczynski's attacks over the years. Both of those may be reasons for the lack of national attention. But maybe it's more than that. Maybe McCrae isn't national news because he can't be cast as a right-wing extremist, fired-up by "shrill" talk radio hosts and "energized to go out and hurt somebody." Gunning down a small town police officer he'd never met or even heard of, an officer with a wife and 19-month-old son, just because he wanted to make a statement to protest the system, isn't really startling or politically incorrect enough to be national news. Besides, if they hyped the story, they'd have to look for those "root causes" they're so fond of, and they probably wouldn't like what they would find.
I can't answer Yeats question, "…what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?" I can say, however, that sometimes the beast enters from stage-left.
UPDATE - April 9, 2005: Trial coverage here.
A Great Day for Polygamists
Eugene Volokh is all over today's gay marriage decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (PDF
) as a demonstration of the slippery slope — here
and scroll down to here
By the way, concerns that the Massachusetts homosexual marriage decision may lead to legalization of adult incestuous marriages and even polygamous marriages seem to me quite plausible. The court says that the parties "do not attack the binary nature of marriage" or "the consanguinity provisions." (See also footnote 34, "Nothing in our opinion today should be construed as relaxing or abrogating the consanguinity or polygamous prohibitions of our marriage laws.") But the court's reasoning seems to apply equally to those, too.
I agree with the analysis he presents. I think the core of the court's reasoning is in this passage of the opinion, repeated in the CNN story
for those who don't want to read the whole opinion, that Prof Volokh doesn't directly discuss (emphasis added):
Barred access to the protections, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage, a person who enters into an intimate, exclusive union with another of the same sex is arbitrarily deprived of membership in one of our community's most rewarding and cherished institutions. That exclusion is incompatible with the constitutional principles of respect for individual autonomy and equality under law.
A finding that a limitation is arbitrary
means that the court rejects any and all reasoning presented in support of the limitation; in this case, the limitation of marriage to partners of opposite sexes. But, the limitations of one
can easily be found to be just as arbitrary.
One is the arbitrary limit to the number of marriages an individual may simultaneously enter. We've all probably read of incidents of the travelling salesman variety, where (typically) a man has a wife and children in one state and another family with wife and children somewhere else. That is currently illegal, but no other forms of partnership carry that same arbitrary limit. A person can be a partner in a Real Estate Investment Trust with one group in one state and simultaneously be a partner in a different REIT in another, as well as being a partner in a law firm, or any number of other partnerships.
Two is the arbitrary limit to the number of partners in a marriage. Polygamy has a long history, though it is currently illegal in every state in the US. Yet, there are no other forms of partnership similarly limited; a law firm, REIT, or any other partnership may have any number of partners. (As far as rearing children is concerned, courts have already pretty much eliminated the two person cap on the number of people with parental rights and responsibilities.)
[Additionally, those who hew to a distinction between business law and family law might consider that such a distinction itself can be ruled arbitrary by the court, and may already have been in some cases.]
The court's ruling did not touch upon those two limitations because they were not part of the plaintiffs' argument. As Prof Volokh goes on to say:
I doubt the court would uphold a constitutional right to polygamous or incestuous marriages within the next year or two. But over time, if, for instance, a polygamists' rights movement arises -- not implausible, given that some religions practice polygamy -- a court might well do this, citing the Massachusetts decision as an eminently logically applicable precedent.
I would add that there doesn't even need to be much of a "polygamists' rights movement" at all; it may just take one triple
to file suit in the right court at the right time.
The advocates of gay marriage can be taken at their word that they are not trying to destroy the institution of marriage. After all, it is an institution whose benefits they wish to share. However, when the court uses their arguments to make a crack in one of the cornerstones of the institution, that crack becomes available to anyone who later comes along with a larger wedge to hammer into it; and so on until the entire foundation of the institution has been undermined, possibly to the point of collapse. Different people may or may not consider that to be a good thing, but, the gay marriage advocates' insistence that their actions pose no threat to the institution of marriage is fairly ludicrous.
UPDATE - November 21, 2003: While I'm more interested in the underlying structure of the current civil institution [just two pillers: 1) only one marriage at one time to one other person, and 2) said person being of the opposite sex] rather than the religious institution, Dennis Prager's 1993 "Judaism’s Sexual Revolution: Why Judaism (and then Christianity) Rejected Homosexuality" is an interesting read on the sea change Judaism wrought that underpins the Western cultural view of sexuality and marriage. (Via Noel.)