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Earlier this week, Byron Williams headed out with his private arsenal. (See the San Francisco Chronicle article) Stopped by police for speeding, a gunbattle ensued.

Now, as initial police reports reveal, “His intention was to start a revolution by traveling to San Francisco and killing people of importance at the Tides Foundation and the ACLU.”

Why? His mother told reporters that her son was upset by “the way Congress was railroading through all these left-wing agenda items.”

OK, there’s no accounting for the actions of deranged wackos who put on body armor and head out to “start a revolution.” But it seems pretty clear that this unbalanced man was whipped up into a frenzy by shrill denounciations of Obama and the Democratic Party as embarking on a communist takeover of America—denunciations widely available in the media today. has an article by Jillian Rayfield on the ways in which Glenn Beck may have inflamed Byron Williams’ unbalanced mind.

Rayfield has no direct evidence, but she astutely notices the fact that Williams targeted the relatively obscure Tides Foundation—and the fact that Glenn Beck has also targeted the Tides Foundation in his fulminations against the vast Left Wing conspiracy. Good journalism.

In any event, it seems to me very likely that Williams, a wannabe Right Wing revolutionary, was drinking deeply from the fever swamp rhetoric of denunciation that was once on the margins of conservative media but has recently become mainstream.

Ugly. Very ugly. To my mind, the mindless denuciations of various Democratic politicians as “socialists” who want to “take over our country” are akin to the tendency of the Left to demonize with labels such as “racist” and “homophobic.” And not just mindless, but destructive.

As we think about our society, we must give attention to the effect of our culture on the marginal, the unstable, the vulnerable.

I am a conservative in large part because I can see how the Bohemian revolt of the Elites since the 1960s has condemned the poor—even the middle class—to live in a culture without a soul, a culture without norms of personal restraint. The sexual revolution has been pain for by millions of poor women for whom the possibility of a stable household to raise their children has become an impossible dream.

But the same holds for people such as Byron Williams, who will spend many years in jail. Shrill conservative denuciations and the fear-mongering rhetoric of the right creates fantasies of oppression, as well as a false urgency that feeds fantasies of rebellion and revolution.

Anybody who imagines that we are on the brink of a government take-over of the economy, or society, or anything else needs to get out more. I suggest a trip to Venezula.

Yes, there are important political issues that have emerged in recent years, issues that will define the direction of American economic and social life, as well as our foreign policy. And yes, we need to enter the fray and work for what we think best for our country. But enough of fantasy, especially the convenient, simplistic, and self-complimenting fantasy that one’s political opponents are somehow perversely wicked rather than just wrong and misguided.

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