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Rhetorical 'Hissy Fits' and Labor's Violent Legacy

12:21 PM, Sep 7, 2011 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
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Yesterday, over at the Washington Post, Greg Sargent accused "Tea Party conservatives" of having a "ridiculous hissy fit over Jimmy Hoffa:"

As you may have heard, Tea Party conservatives and right-wing bloggers are having a grand old time faking outrage over James Hoffa’s Labor Day speech, in which he said of Tea Partyers: “Let’s take these son of bitches out.”

The full context of the quote clearly shows that Hoffa was referring to his desire to see Tea Party Republicans voted out of office, not physically rubbed out by mafia goons or labor thugs or what have you. But that hasn’t stopped the conservative outrage machine from chugging along at full throttle — some conservatives are comically obvious about their unending hunt for anything that they can portray as “union thuggery” — and many critics are relying on dishonestly cropped footage that removes Hoffa’s phrase from its electoral context.

If you're worried about dishonesty over what Hoffa said, here's the full quotation: "Everybody here's got to vote. If we go back and keep the eye on the prize, let's take these son of a bitches out and give America back to America where we belong! Thank you very much!"

The full context of this changes absolutely nothing. Just for giggles, let's revisit what Sargent himself wrote about the alleged connection Sarah Palin's infamous "crosshairs" map and the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords by the mentally deranged Jared Loughner: 

Unfortunately for Palin, Giffords herself was one of those who objected to the crosshairs map. "The way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gunsight over our district," Giffords said last March. "When people do that, they've gotta realize there's consequences to that action."

In other words, Palin's phony framing of the issue -- that by raising concerns about her word-choice and imagery, critics are trying to deprive Palin of her First Amendment freedoms, rather than simply asking her to be more mindful of the potential consequences of incendiary rhetoric -- is one that Giffords herself rejects.

Emphasis added. So eight months ago, Sargent was eagerly suggesting that concerns about violent imagery and word choice in political rhetoric are perfectly valid -- even when it was obvious to everyone that Sarah Palin's map was clearly about her desire to see Democrats "voted out of office," not "physically rubbed out by mafia goons" or what have you. After all, there's no real reason to think Sarah Palin or her admirers might be prone to actual violence, right?

But! Speaking of mafia goons, isn't it noteworthy that the violent imagery and regrettable word choices this time around are coming from labor leader James Hoffa, who is the son of a more famous labor James "Jimmy" Hoffa? After all, James the elder was a criminal who did time in prison for bribing a jury and his ties to organized crime are likely responsible for his mysterious disappearance. The fact that unions and Democrats haven't exactly turned their back on a legacy of organized crime and corruption might contribute unfortunate import to Hoffa's -- rest assured! -- metaphorical statements. (Speaking of metaphorical statements from America's top union leaders, who could forget Richard Trumka's classic "you’re likely to get burned" line. Color me needlessly suspicious, but I think the AFL-CIO might actually have been shrugging off murder by labor thugs.)

But I'm all about the new tone, so let's not draw unwarranted attention to labor's well-established history of criminality and violence. If that were to become a topic of public discussion, Democrats might have to stop accepting so many checks from the likes of Hoffa and Trumka.

Instead, let's get back to talking about these Tea Party wingnuts. How much credit does Sargent think they deserve? Isn't it possible that a great many of these Tea Partiers actually remember what Sargent and others said in the wake of the Giffords shooting? Perhaps these reactionaries know full well that Sargent and others rather opportunistically tried to establish an impossible to enforce double standard on violent rhetoric in the wake of the Giffords shooting. And now they take great delight in throwing that same double standard back in their faces?

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