In Defense of Political Anger

“Mad Man,” said the cover of Time magazine that featured Glenn Beck blowing a raspberry at the world. The story inside warned us to be wary of “the angry style of American politics” -- an obvious allusion to the liberal historian Richard Hofstadter’s 1964 anti-Barry Goldwater essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.”

We are all meant to tsk-tsk at the prominence of Beck and other supposedly out-there pundits.

But political anger can be a wonderful thing. Being against Candidate X is just as valid a reason to get involved in politics as being for Candidate Y.

Let’s be clear that anger need not have anything to do with violence. If Beck or Limbaugh or Mark Levin have been caught lobbing broken pavement at police, I have missed it. Their anger is simply a really engaged flavor of political philosophy. If anything, political violence is usually associated with the left in American life -- from communist Lee Harvey Oswald, to the killers of RFK and Malcolm X, up through the 1999 Seattle protests and on to last week in Pittsburgh.

At the G-20 summit held in Steel Town, Time reported, leftist protesters who refused to apply for an assembly permit pushed dumpsters into the street, pelted police with rocks and macadam, and smashed windows of banks and even a Boston Market and a Mini car dealership. (These guys even hate cute little fuel-efficient Euro-cars? Sheesh.) Dozens of arrests were made. Meanwhile the number of projectiles hurled at law enforcement figures by banned-in-the-UK radio talker Michael Savage remained stuck at zero. The 9/12 protests that drew tens of thousands of marchers to D.C. were consistently painted as threatening because of signs that said things like, “Joe Wilson was right.” But if there were any arrests for violent acts, they weren’t mentioned in the Washington Post’s coverage.