The secret history of Trump's hellish campaign rallies: How the right paved the way for the chaos we now see

Right-wing media are accusing "liberal fascists" of descending Trump rallies into chaos. That's rich, and wrong

By Heather Digby Parton


Published March 18, 2016 12:00PM (EDT)

 (AP/Charles Rex Arbogast)
(AP/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The right-wing media is reluctantly coming to terms with Donald Trump. It's been difficult for them, since he has no respect for their power and has treated them with the same contempt that conservatives usually treat the so-called liberal media. But they're finally adapting to the inevitable. For instance, Bill O'Reilly had been something of a Trump skeptic but he's made his peace with the candidate, explaining to his audience that one of Trump's most important crowd-pleasing agenda items is not actually fascist:

(Note: It may not be a mark of fascism, but you will certainly recall the argument that other countries treating Germany unfairly was central to Adolph Hitler's appeal. That didn't end well.)

In fact, many conservatives are starting to make the transition to their usual "I know you are but what am I" brand of argument in defense of Trump. The following defense, leveled by Newt Gingrich earlier this week on "Hannity," is a perfect example:

The actions Friday night clearly were left-wing fascism, I'm really saddened by Republicans who want to blame Trump. Donald Trump wasn't the reason, as you point out -- Condi Rice got cancelled, Ayan Hirsi Ali was canceled on campus. You have this entire movement of fascism which is saying, if you don't agree with me I'm going to shut up your right to speak, I'm going to intimidate you, bully you. And they are terrified of Donald Trump because he seems to be strong enough and dynamic enough to take them head on.

But it is worse than that in the news media. You have on MSNBC for example, Rachel Maddow saying that for Donald Trump to go to Chicago, St. Louis, Cleveland, is provocative because of racial incidents that have occurred in those cities.

Imagine an American television person saying that a presidential candidate shouldn't go to Chicago, Cleveland, or St. Louis. This is madness.

We have some obligation to say to the news media, you need to get off this Trump-bashing and report honestly. Not just in the presidential race, but on the campuses what is happening...

The sources of confusion and chaos are left-wing fascists who want to impose their way of life on us, they want to impose their values on us. Remember, the first really big test case was Scott Walker as Governor of Wisconsin, who had a key moment when he had thousands of people in the capitol... occupying the state capitol. They had lost the election fair and square, for governor, for state reps, for the senate, and their reaction was to take it to the streets and try to browbeat the governor.

I think if you see Trump win or Cruz win, if either one goes to Washington and brings real reform, you're going to see these kinds of militants go out and do everything they can in the streets to try to stop what they're losing at the ballot box.

Setting aside the obvious fact that the right  is working overtime all over the country to literally keep people from voting, conservative provocateurs like Gingrich jumping on a high horse is rich considering the mass primal scream that emanated from the Republicans upon the election of Barack Obama. As Salon's Brendan Gautheir noted earlier this week, the stench of hypocrisy is overwhelming. These are the same people, after all, who applauded this directive to disrupt town halls nationwide back in 2009:

— Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: “Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.”

— Be Disruptive Early And Often: “You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep’s presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early.”

— Try To “Rattle Him,” Not Have An Intelligent Debate: “The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.”

Imagine that. Thousands of conservatives converged on town hall meetings to shut down speech and deny their representatives the ability to "have an intelligent debate." And if you've forgotten how all those people got their instructions and information, there were many industry groups coordinating them, one of which was called "Conservatives for Patients Rights", run by Rick Scott, at the time a disgraced hospital executive and now the governor of Florida.

This is not to say that Republicans were not genuinely upset that people might get affordable health care. The mere idea of it turned them into ravening beasts. For instance this famous exchange outside of a town hall in Columbus, Ohio, in which "protesters" harass and humiliate a man with Parkinson's disease, screaming "no more handouts!"

Inside the halls, they shouted down their senators and representatives, laughed at people whose children had died for lack of health care and otherwise behaved like animals.

And they engaged in tactics far more intimidating than anything the Black Lives Matter protesters have done: some of them showed up to the town halls armed, at least one carrying a placard saying "it is time to water the tree of liberty!" (a reference to the Thomas Jefferson quote "the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants").

That practice has become much more common in recent years, being used against gun regulation groups like Moms Demand Action and at various Muslim gatherings and well as the armed "protests" like the Bundy standoff and the recent events in Oregon.

And there is that small matter of decades of right-wing harassment and violence at abortion clinics. Just three months ago a right wing anti-abortion terrorist killed three people in Colorado Springs.

Here's how the perpetrator of that attack recently described his work:

“[They] were in a war zone.  They were there where the babies were being killed.  You go to a war zone.  That’s what happens,” said Dear. “In a war there’s gonna be casualties. Are you gonna name the hundred million babies that were killed, that nobody talks about, nobody represents them, they have no voice, but yet our Constitution says we have the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness?”

When asked about the children of Swasey, Markovsky, and Stewart – parents to two children, each – Dear said he would not say anything to them.

When asked if he had any guilt, Dear replied, “No! I don’t have any guilt! I am in a war!”

The right has a hell of nerve calling protesters at Donald Trump's rallies "militants" when actual killers confidently spout conservative propaganda to justify their depraved acts.

Considering all that history, this right-wing meme that "left wing fascists" are shutting down free speech and causing violence is absurd. But unfortunately for those who have been peddling this ridiculous story, it was completely refuted by Donald Trump himself this week, when he said this to CNN:

“I think we will win before getting to the convention. But I can tell you, if we didn’t and if we’re 20 votes short or if we’re 100 short and we’re at 1,100 and somebody else is at 500 or 400 because we’re way ahead of everybody, I don’t think you can say that we don’t get it automatically, I think you would have riots. I think you would have riots.”

It's highly doubtful that anyone but Republicans will be roaming the floor of the GOP convention, so if any riots break out even Newt Gingrich won't be able to rationalize it as a liberal plot.

It should be obvious to anyone that "left wing fascists" really don't care if the Republicans treat Donald Trump unfairly. If it happens will be led by the same right-wingers who are cheering wildly for Trump's violent authoritarianism at his rallies. And they'll have no one to blame but themselves.

By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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Bill O'reilly Donald Trump Elections 2016 Gop Primary Newt Gingrich