Erick Erickson is a deeply conservative commentator who was CEO of the deeply conservative blog Red State. I don't agree with 98% of what he says, and am galled by some of it. But unlike so many pundits on the fringes of the far right, I find that he at least puts his own thought into topics and doesn't just parrot others around him who have their hair on fire. And sometimes, on rare occasion, I actually agree with him. in fact, a couple of years ago in a New Yorker profile, he commented, "I have said some things I regret," a few of which he lists. And that's quite admirable. Mind you, it hasn't stopped him from continuing to say them. Ideally, when someone says things they regret it causes deeper self-reflection until you stop saying them. I don't mean things where you slap your head and immediately think, "Well, that was stupid." We all do that regularly. I mean things that you know are meant to offend and rile a base.
This isn't about one of those. In fact, by comparison it's rather benign. But I just wanted to give a certain perspective on the fellow. Because he's a high profile figure on the far right, and yesterday I saw one of his comments about the Laura Ingraham controversy on her ridiculing 17-year-old David Hogg about the colleges he didn't get into. This has caused a lot of consternation and frantic response on the far right, since the general public reaction has put Ms. Ingraham back on her heels and at risk of losing her TV show on "Fox News." In a desperate attempt to keep her ship from sinking, she put out a tweet that had the word "apology" buried somewhere in it, to which Hogg replied with what he said it would take for him to accept it.
That brought about Erickson's comment, not different from others on the far right, but more prominent and carrying more weight. He wrote, "Having someone apologize to you then refusing to accept it unless conditions are met is what bullies do."
That sounds thoughtful and meaningful, but only until you reach the period at the end, and stop and look at it. When one doesn't remotely believe the sincerity of a forced "apology," which itself was made with conditions (as in this case, with her saying she was only making it because this was "Holy Week") and done purely out of personal desperation to placate sponsors from leaving -- and then goes on to get in some self-promotion for her show not just once, but twice -- I don't think anyone is required to accept it. An "apology" without meaning, understanding and correction is just a group of random words strung together. If you take a metal pipe to someone's head and bloody the person, and then when you see the police and lawyers closing in, you say a day later, "Oh, okay, out of the good spirit of my religious heart, sorry about that, but remember I once said I liked jacket you had just bought," you should not expect a hug back.
But there's something else that's head-shaking here. It's whimsical to see someone, anyone, though most especially a 17-year-old shooting victim being described as a "bully" against the National Rifle Association, the gun manufacturer corporate-owned terrorist organization. A group which has defined bullying in American politics by using terror tactics to frighten both the public and politicians to getting their way. Not just raising the specter of minorities rising in the streets to kill and destroy society, but spending many tens of millions of dollars over the years in threats to politicians to support them or they will set out to ruin you. (And raising money, we are now finding out, that appears to have come from Russia to illegally influence the U.S. elections.) To see anyone chastised for being a "bully" against the NRA and those supporting it is the height of disingenuous pathetic whining.
(Not to mention, indeed, seeing a 17-year-old shooting victim being described as a "bully" as he goes up against the career-long bullying tactics of Donald J. Trump, who threatens lawsuits to push opponents into submission, lives by the philosophy that if you hit him he'll hit back 10 times as hard, regularly expresses his admiration for dictators, and uses the power of his present position as the most power man on earth to bully not just organizations but individuals who dare criticize him -- as Trump himself acquiesces to defending the NRA on anything and near-everything, assuring the public that he knows the NRA leaders are all Good Americans who will do the right thing, something which has never been in their manifesto.)
Not accepting a meaningless "apology" does not register on the Bully Scale. Laura Ingraham is not being forced to apologize by David Hogg. The only people she might realistically see as forcing her to apologize are the sponsors leaving her show. And her employer, "Fox News" wanting her to stop the bleeding. They're the ones who want her to apologize. I wouldn't be surprised if David Hogg couldn't care less if she "apologizes." Though he might appreciate it if she actually, seriously did it. And meant it. And lived by it.
But even, for the sake of argument, if there are ever "bullying" tactics by any of the leaders of the "March for Our Lives" movement, when you have chosen to bring AR-15s to a snowball fight, don't feign angst if people being attacked realize what is required in order to fight back. Because sometimes understanding the battle you're in and responding appropriately is necessary to rid yourselves of the pack of 800-pound gorillas bullying and terrorizing a community. Because Visigoths tend to accept only the kind of response they understand, and will dismiss any other as merely the actions of a "snowflake."
And so, to such marauders, a 17-year-old shooting victim is a "bully" because he didn't accept the fake apology of a thug and explained what it would take.
The avalanche may be coming.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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