Sunday, October 30, 2022


When real-world events threaten to expose the GOP as a threat to American civilization, the party uses kettle logic -- multiple arguments, many of them incompatible with one another -- to rally both rabid and moderate party supporters, and to reassure fence-sitters that all evil lies elsewhere. Look at January 6: To the rabid base, the party's propagandists argued that the violence was justified, or was the work of Antifa or the FBI (or both), or that it was encouraged by Nancy Pelosi, who (they falsely claim) was personally and solely in charge of the Capitol Police. To voters in the middle, the response has been whataboutism: Remember when Antifa and Black Lives Matter burned down entire American cities? (Which didn't happen.) Why isn't there a select committee about that?

The Republican responses to the attack on Paul Pelosi have begun to multiply, and while they're not truly incompatible yet, they're being doled out for different niche markets. As I noted yesterday, for the conspiracy-minded, the message is that Paul Pelosi's assailant was his gay lover. Republican Elon Musk is now rebroadcasting that disinformation. But that's aimed at the rabid right. There was still a need for a message reassuring to right-leaning moderates. How do you persuade them that this attack had nothing to do with conservative politics? You do what the NRA has been doing successfully for a decade to persuade Americans that horrible gun crimes have nothing to do with guns: You blame mental illness.

And so we have Michael Shellenberger setting the terms of the debate in the New York Post with a piece titled "Pelosi Attack Suspect David DePape Was a Psychotic Homeless Addict Estranged from His Pedophile Lover & Their Children." Now, what Shellenberger tells us is ... not wrong. DePape does appear to be a mentally ill person who lived on the margins. (The "pedophile lover" was not a man. It was the mother of his two sons, who's been convicted of stalking a 14-year-old boy.)

But most mentally ill people don't attack other people with weapons. And the fact that DePape is mentally ill doesn't mean that we should ignore the specific ideas coursing through his disordered mind.

But ignoring them is precisely what the right wants normal people to do. He's mentally ill and that's all that matters.

DePape was a Green Party leftist and is now a Jew-bashing, commie-baiting, Q-believing rightist; if he'd retained his original political beliefs, the right would find them extremely relevant and would never stop talking about them.

But the right knows that playing the mental illness card works -- it's been a highly effective deflection through the last decade of mass shootings. It works because everyone wishes we could help the mentally ill, or at least intervene before the few who are inclined to violence act on their worst impulses. It's not clear that it will work in this case, but if it persuades a few undecided voters to vote GOP, particularly in tandem with "Democrats don't care about crazy people attacking ordinary Americans with hammers in liberal cities," then it was worth it.

On that subject, here's Fox's Jesse Watters:

Watters says:
I want this alleged perpetrator to be treated the exact same way if he had treated-- if he had attacked anybody else. Because a lot of people get hit with hammers. A lot of people get attacked. And a lot of the times, they're out on bail the next day and it's a simple assault charge.
Here's a hammer attacker in New York City who's been charged with attempted murder. Here's a hammer attacker in Phoenix charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, theft, and criminal damage. Here's a hammer attacker in Detroit charged with first-degree murder, felony murder, two counts of assault with intent to murder, and three counts of unlawful imprisonment. Here's a hammer attacker in Chicago sentenced to four to six years in prison on a felonious assault charge. So Jesse, don't worry -- David DePape, who's charged with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, battery, burglary, and other felonies, is being treated very much like other hammer attackers.

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