The explosive devices mailed to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Robert De Niro, Cory Booker, James Clapper and other public figures, as well as CNN, are indisputably a false-flag attack. It’s indisputable because the packages are labeled as coming from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democratic congresswoman from Florida and former DNC chairwoman. She can safely be ruled out as a suspect.
Beyond that, little can responsibly be said about the would-be bomber’s identity or motives. But that hasn’t stopped irresponsible speculation. The bomber must be a Trump supporter because the devices were sent to Trump critics or targets of Trump’s criticisms. No, the bomber must be a liberal because the timing suggests an effort to embarrass Republicans ahead of the midterms and the packages probably wouldn’t have exploded anyway. Or yet again: Trump is responsible because he’s created a hostile environment—a national “unsafe zone”—for the media and his political enemies. Evidence for any of these theories is nonexistent, yet they have all been aired by supposedly seriously people. Why not wait for the facts?
When those come in, blame will no doubt still wind up being laid at Donald Trump’s feet. After all, if the president is responsible for the slaughter of Jamal Khashoggi by a team of killers acting on behalf of the Saudi crown prince, then surely attempted violence in this country can be pinned on him, too, no matter who has made the attempt. Trump did not compel Mohammed bin Salman to kill anyone, and he did not enable the murder, either, any more than Barack Obama enabled the bloodshed committed by Bashar al-Assad during his presidency. Authoritarian thugs kill people because they are authoritarian thugs, not because the United States has failed to provide incentives for them to behave like nice liberal democrats. Likewise, the kind of kook who puts explosive devices in the mail doesn’t need President Trump or anyone else to provide an excuse for kooky behavior. The idea that some nut in Florida or wherever is right on the edge of attempting a wave of assassinations but holds off because the president calls for Americans to be civil is just preposterous.
Leaders can incite violence, especially from mobs. They can order assassinations. But the sporadic bursts of violence that have punctuated the American political scene in recent years are not the result of politicians either deliberately or inadvertently authorizing mayhem or murder, like Henry II of England wondering aloud who will rid him of that turbulent priest. The violence in American politics today comes almost entirely from disturbed people who have been primed to blow by the fuses inside their own heads.
Was there anything Democrats could have done to prevent James Hodgkinson from trying to murder Republicans at a baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, last year? If CNN had been a little kinder in its reporting about Donald Trump, then would Hodkinson not have shot House minority whip Steve Scalise and three other people? Should all political talk be as anodyne as possible to mollify the most potentially violent people among us? It’s absurd.
Society is not meant to be a safe space for kooks. It’s meant to be a safe space from kooks—to police them, not political expression. Nobody, not the president and not CNN, should stifle themselves lest some maniac commit or threaten violence. American campuses already have a problem with the heckler’s veto. A shooter’s or bomber’s veto in politics—civility enforced from fear of violent imbeciles—would be a good deal worse.
The identity of the false-flag bomber may still be a mystery, but we can say with reasonable confidence that whoever mailed these explosive devices (which may or may not have been capable of exploding) was not a good and sane person who happened to catch an earful of tough talk about politics. The individual, or individuals, was already an extremist or a madman, as surely as any Middle Eastern despot is already a killer.
Daniel McCarthy is the editor of Modern Age: A Conservative Review.