The Politics of Personal Intimidation

A disturbing new element has crept into our political life: organized efforts to intimidate private citizens who choose to support certain political causes or otherwise participate in civic affairs. This, as far as I know, is unprecedented in our modern history. Our democracy depends on citizen involvement, and until now, Americans have felt free to participate in public life and to support whatever causes, political and otherwise, they choose. But if the Left has its way, that may be about to change.
We wrote here about a disgraceful episode in which approximately 500 union members were bused to the home of a lawyer who works for Bank of America, where they “demonstrated” on his lawn, thereby terrifying his teenage son, who was home alone. The event was supposed to have something to do with foreclosures. Nina Easton, who lives nearby and witnessed the attack first-hand, wrote at the time:

Now this event would accurately be called a “protest” if it were taking place at, say, a bank or the U.S. Capitol. But when hundreds of loud and angry strangers are descending on your family, your children, and your home, a more apt description of this assemblage would be “mob.” Intimidation was the whole point of this exercise, and it worked-even on the police. A trio of officers who belatedly answered our calls confessed a fear that arrests might “incite” these trespassers.

We wrote last week about another attempt at such personal intimidation. Left-wing filmmaker Robert Greenwald (who, like most far-left activists, is funded by wealthy benefactors) set out to violate the privacy of the Koch brothers, Charles and David, by filming their houses, sending minions to ring their doorbells and demand to see them, and so on.
Greenwald made a very silly seven-minute video which talks mainly about the Koch brothers’ seven homes and features three senior citizens–who, as the law averages would dictate, are nowhere near as well off as the Kochs–picnicking outside one of their homes and speculating about how many families could better be housed in it. (Their conversation was eerily reminiscent of a scene in Dr. Zhivago; Greenwald apparently yearns for an American Lenin to make things “just.”) Greenwald’s efforts supplement those of ThinkProgress, the Obama administration-affiliated web site whose employees stalk the Koch brothers with video cameras. And Greenwald also operates a web site called “Koch Brothers Exposed,” where vicious, anonymous leftists can indulge their murderous fantasies.
This is, as I said, a brand-new phenomenon. We are not talking about public officials; put aside for a moment whether it would ever be appropriate for a mob to congregate on an office-holder’s front yard. These are private citizens who are being targeted by the Left simply because they work for an unpopular company (the BOA lawyer) or support conservative rather than liberal causes (the Koch brothers). The purpose of these efforts is obvious: the Left wants to intimidate anyone who might consider opposing its legislative and cultural agenda.
Of course, this could be a two-way street. The Left has plenty of wealthy backers who could be intimidated by the same tactics. Indeed, most rich people who are active in politics are liberals, not conservatives. If owning multiple homes is somehow an offense, then let’s be bipartisan. Robert Greenwald, how many houses do you own?
A simple Westlaw search indicates that one Robert Greenwald owns at least six residences, worth millions of dollars, in Los Angeles County alone, in addition to commercial properties. Is this our Robert Greenwald, the same hypocritical film director who excoriates the Kochs for owning too many houses? Someone should ask him. How many families whose houses have been foreclosed upon could be living in the properties owned by the left-wing filmmaker? Has Greenwald done anything to ease the plight of the homeless? Someone should ask him.
Greenwald lives on the largesse of wealthy donors, as we noted in the post linked above. How would those donors like to have their doorbells rung, and to be followed around by political enemies with cameras? According to its 2010 Annual Report, the Board of Directors of Greenwald’s front group, Brave New Foundation, includes Wendy Abrams, whose family business does $2 billion in annual sales. How many houses does she own? Should we send someone around to ask her? Another board member is Katrina vanden Heuvel, whose far-left activities long been financed by her inherited wealth. Should she be stalked by conservatives with video cameras?
These are, of course, only rhetorical questions. Conservatives are decent people and don’t engage in such repugnant tactics. The Left threatens to disrupt a basic equilibrium that has long prevailed in America’s civic culture. Private citizens have traditionally been free to participate in public affairs and to support whatever causes they choose, without fear of harassment or intimidation. The Left now wants to destroy that consensus by harassing private citizens who happen to work for unpopular companies (unpopular on the left, anyway) or support conservative causes. This is a dangerous trend that all Americans of good will, conservatives and liberals alike, should oppose.

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