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October 4, 2004

One reason our political culture is verkakte. Here’s David C. Rapoport, professor emeritus at UCLA, founder and editor of the Journal of Terrorism and Political Violence, writing about the history of American electoral violence, in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times.
Our most recent violent presidential year was 1968. Two presidential aspirants were victims of assassination: Robert F. Kennedy was killed, and George C. Wallace seriously wounded. Anti-Vietnam War demonstrators tried to disrupt the Democratic National Convention. And after Richard M. Nixon was elected, the Weather Underground, a terrorist organization, was formed because the election did not provide the group’s solution for the Vietnam War.
What’s wrong with this paragraph is that George C. Wallace wasn’t shot and wounded while running for President in 1968; he was shot and wounded during the next Presidential campaign, in Laurel, Maryland on May 15, 1972.

If we can’t even remember when something this big happened, and can’t rely on as eminent a paper as the LA Times to get it right to within four whole years, it’s hardly surprising that we never learn any lessons whatsoever from our own damn history. (Meanwhile, of course, the LA Times building is no doubt full of people tut-tutting about those unedited, unaccountable bloggers.) [01:21 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on One reason our political culture is verkakte.:

Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 01:36 PM:

And not only that, but they didn't even proofread the byline:

By David C. Rapoport, David C. Rapoport, professor

I am grateful to Mr. Rapoport and his editors for once again making me feel like both my memory and my proofreading skills are not comparatively pathetic after all.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 02:10 PM:

Obviously remembering the King assassination and getting mixed up. Their fact-checking department should be spanked.

Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 02:42 PM:

I'm amazed that this even got to, let alone through, a fact-checking department. This guy is supposedly an expert on political violence?

Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 04:30 PM:

Wow! I don't think I've ever seen verkakte written down. I probably I would have spelled it fekakte or even fakakta.

And to think that my childhood babysitter spoke to me exclusively in Yiddish.

You learn something new every day.

Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 04:38 PM:

Seeing as how I can just barely remember Wallace getting shot, I was going to have been impressed with my memory. (To say nothing of my perspicacity.) —Ah, well.

Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 05:11 PM:

Maybe they don't fact-check "commentary" as closely as they do their own reporters?

If I'd read it at allI hope I'd have noticed that; the Wallace shooting was nearly the only event large enough to outweigh my own Navy boot camp issues in the spring of 72.

Steve ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 05:18 PM:

Seeing as how I can just barely remember Wallace getting shot, I was going to have been impressed with my memory. (To say nothing of my perspicacity.) —Ah, well.

The Laurel Shopping Center is still there. You, too, can visit the parking lot where George Wallace was shot! Bring the kids!

Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 05:19 PM:

Oh, and for the record, if asked when Wallace--or even, when Kennedy--was shot, I'd need to look it up. I think I could guess Kennedy, actually, but I wouldn't stake my life or reputation on it.

Of course, I was born in 1984, so weigh that against the fact that I recognized the name George C. Wallace at all...

neil ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 06:33 PM:

It gets worse than that. On Saturday I found an article by the AP's own Nedra Pickler, containing the rather strange assertion that Bush lost New Hampshire in 2000. I was hoping that the article would have been corrected now, but apparently many uncorrected copies are still floating around, including one on ABC News:

http://abcnews.go.com/wire/Politics/ap20041001_1530.html

Randy Paul ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2004, 08:10 PM:

Well, I e-mailed thme and this is how they responded:

Your letter was forwarded to the readers' representative office.

Thanks for writing about the assassination attempt on George Wallace. I believe you are right and I'm sending your observation to editors for possible correction of the record.

Kent Zelas
Asst. Readers' Representative

This took about 1 hour. I consider that to be pretty good except that they haven't corrected it yet.

Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 12:59 PM:

I'd've called Robert Kennedy a presidential aspirant, myself. Maybe not for '68, but that assassination was certainly part of the violence of that electoral season, in a way that Wallace was not. And as long as we're looking at violent politics, the assassination of MLK, Jr. in April of '68 has a lot to do with the politics of terrorism, even if MLK was not a possible presidential candidate.

As for the Weather Underground, what to say? They weren't even formed until June, 1969. One of their battle cries was "Smash the State." They lasted a little more than a year, really, with their last underground communique in September of 1970. They were certainly part of the whole paranoid scene, but they were never a significant political force. Their ghost may have made Nixon's law and order stance more attractive, he had ample material to work with.

1968 did yield my favorite quote from the 20th century. "The police are not here to prevent disorder, the police are here to create disorder." Hard to beat that as a summation of the way power politics was being played at the time.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 01:52 PM:

I'm sure you know, Lydy, that Daley actually said "this order" in the second clause, and it was his accent that made it sound the same as "disorder."

Sure did sound stupid though. Especially when people mistranscribed it to support the story.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 02:37 PM:

Um, just wanted to make sure no one thought I was accusing LYDY of deliberately misrepresenting the story.

Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 02:38 PM:

Xopher said: I'm sure you know, Lydy, that Daley actually said "this order" in the second clause, and it was his accent that made it sound the same as "disorder."

I really shouldn't post from work. I get too sloppy.

From Nationmaster.com (chosen at random because Google pulled it up) "One of Daley's most memorable malapropisms was uttered in 1968 in the wake of King's assassination: 'Gentlemen, get the thing straight, once and for all: the policeman isn't there to 'create' disorder; the policeman is there to 'preserve' disorder.' Daley was known for his tangled tongue. He often said he was exhilarating a program, rather than accelerating it, and called a bicycle built for two a tantrum bicycle, for instance. Reporters gathered after his press conferences to work out just what it was that he had said. "

As for whether it was dis or this, it doesn't really matter for me. What charms me about the statement, malapropism or no, is that it captures a truth in perfect, crystaline freeze-frame. There are many things in the world like that, things that are unintentionally perfect, statements or events which perfectly frame a time and place and event. Ronald Reagan explaining that trees cause air pollution is another one that I cherish. It's almost as if the truth will out, and if nothing else, the universe itself will give it voice.

Look, I never said I was sane, ok?

Mr Bill ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 03:09 PM:

A couple of weeks back, when Hurricane Ivan flooded the nearby town of Ellijay, GA, the Washington Post reported "Most of northern Georgia's Gilmer County is under water."
I emailed them to say this was wild hypebole, only the floodplains along three rivers and a couple of creeks flooded, destroying some 30 odd homes and several businesses. I continued "A quick check of a topographic map would show that Gilmer County, at the end of the Blue Ridge and the terminus of the Appalachian Trail, has elevations from under 120-0 feet to over 4000 ft. If most of this is under water, my neighboring Fannin Co. has some serious problems."
No response, and certainly no correction. I know this is minor, but reporting was supposed to be about reality, right?

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 06:02 PM:

It's almost as if the truth will out, and if nothing else, the universe itself will give it voice.

"If every tongue were still,
The noise would still continue;
The rocks and stones themselves
Would start to sing..."

With regard to the spelling of 'verkakte', I think PNH used a German spelling for the Yiddish there. No big deal. Compare 'enttaüscht' and 'entoisht' for a slightly bigger deal. But I think it should be (preserving Patrick's chosen spelling) 'verkakt' rather than 'verkakte'; it's used predicatively, rather than attributively, and shouldn't get the ending.

I think. Someone who actually speaks Yiddish out there please correct. It definitely would be that way in German.

Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 06:30 PM:

neil writes: "It gets worse than that. On Saturday I found an article by the AP's own Nedra Pickler, containing the rather strange assertion that Bush lost New Hampshire in 2000."

Nedra was probably thinking of Bush's loss in the 2000 New Hampshire primary, to John McCain.

Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2004, 11:20 PM:

Lydy said: "Look, I never said I was sane, ok?"

Nothing wrong with that.

Except that usually the problems start when you can't find anyone else to say you're sane ;)

(And 1968, my first year in High School & just after the start of puberty, was one of the most traumatic & memorable ones of my childhood, in some part because of those big changes, but also because of the assassinations and riots and revolution-crushings happening around the world. I wouldn't get Martin & Robert mixed up with George. OTOH I can't remember where I was when I heard John Lennon was killed, but I can for JFK tho' I was just 8 years old.)

Michael ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2004, 12:01 AM:

I know this is kinda OT, but that Rude Pundit posting had me laughing today, and when I read it out loud to my wife (making sure the kids were well out of earshot, my God, was it ever ... rude) I doubled over a couple of times and she laughed her head off. That's choice writing, that is.

And then, watching the actual debate, I kept snickering, thinking, oh man, I hope Edwards read that before facing the man whose heart is so small it requires a machine to make it beat. BWAHAHAHAHA!

So anyway, I was happy to see that you'd also linked to it. That kind of writing must be rewarded.

rea ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2004, 10:26 AM:

"Obviously remembering the King assassination and getting mixed up"

Wow, a professor, no less, who can't remember the difference between Martin Luther King and George Wallace? Well, I suppose you could say they were both involved with the cvil rights movement . . .

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2004, 10:51 AM:

rea, I choke helplessly in response. (Of course I meant "thinking Wallace was another casualty in that year of blood," not "King, Wallace, what's the diff" but it's still damn funny.)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2004, 08:45 PM:

Lydy wrote: "I'd've called Robert Kennedy a presidential aspirant, myself. Maybe not for '68" [...]

Er. 1968 was the year in which Robert F. Kennedy ran for President.

Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2004, 11:55 PM:

Well, *sort* of on the subject of sending corrections to the media...

Kaplan had a thing on "Slate" about CNN and MSNBC being taken in by the Bush Campaign today. Bush announced a "Major Policy Speech" and then gave a revamped (and Even *More* Vile) stump speech. In effect, CNN and MSNBC were tricked into broadcasting an hour long campaign commercial for the bahstahds.

So, I just wrote to CNN and MSNBC and suggested they ought to make the Bush people pay for duping them so. I suggested they contact the Kerry campaign and offer them an hour for a "Major Policy Speech" of their own.

I mentioned that even though the Fairness Doctrine may have passed into history, I think the Get Back At The A**holes Who Punked You In Public Doctrine is still in full force.

So, who knows? Maybe they still have some dignity left they feel like preserving. Maybe they will feel like making Bush pay.

The Kaplan piece is here.

Kevin Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2004, 04:18 PM:

There was far more violence in 1968 than that. Such a minimalist view... and as you note, they got even that wrong.

Consider: this timeline or parts of
this one. Or even this one.

Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2004, 04:46 PM:

Lydy already corrected the dates for the Weather Underground, but what struck me about that part of the quoted material isn't the timing. The claim that Weather Underground was founded after the 1968 election "because the election did not provide the group?s solution for the Vietnam War" requires the writer to believe that Weather Underground was founded by supporters of Hubert Humphrey.

It doesn't say what Rapoport is Professor Emeritus of, but that title strongly suggests that he's old enough to have lived through those years.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2004, 11:57 PM:

"The claim that Weather Underground was founded after the 1968 election "because the election did not provide the group?s solution for the Vietnam War" requires the writer to believe that Weather Underground was founded by supporters of Hubert Humphrey."

*snrch*

The Weathermen were first and foremost a revolutionary movement. They believed in violence at any cost. They didn't want to stop the violence in Viet Nam, they wanted to use it as leverage to "bring the revolution home." One of the more unjust conflations is that of the peace movement with the revolutionaries -- especially the Maoists.

Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 02:41 AM:

One of the more unjust conflations is that of the peace movement with the revolutionaries -- especially the Maoists.

The political environment over the past few years has given me a better understanding of the Maoists. I have occasional fantasies about rounding up whole swaths of American society and sending them off to re-education camps. Then the rational part of me kicks in and points out that, in addition to being inhumane and just plain wrong, the Maoist approach hurts far more than it could ever help.

Doesn't stop me from imagining the first family harvesting wheat by hand, though.

fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 09:17 AM:

Doesn't stop me from imagining the first family harvesting wheat by hand, though.

I prefer to imagine them clutching Section 8 vouchers, and trying to figure out how to get from one minimum-wage job to the other, on the opposite side of town, by bus, with a side excursion to the local grocery store (the only one either on the bus line or in walking distance) before it closes at 9PM. Waiting three hours to see the nurse practitioner at the local clinic (needless to say, these hours aren't compensated by sick leave) figures in there, too. So does lying in bed, wondering if the cops will even bother to come if they call to report the gunfight in the street outside.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 01:57 PM:

fidelio, I love the way you think. But actually, of course, the Resident really belongs in a maximum-security prison for the rest of his life. His spoiled-rotten daughters might learn a thing or three that way, too.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 02:30 PM:

Tut. His spoiled-rotten daughters haven't done anything to deserve being locked up.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 03:02 PM:

No, they haven't. I meant they'd learn a thing or two about compassion from having their DAD locked up.

Lynn Calvin ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2004, 10:24 PM:

I can remember the year easily because my high school Civics teacher had expressed some strong anti-Wallace sentiments including a sentence about shooting him about an hour before Wallace was shot. And we were only a couple of miles from Laurel.

The teacher was *very* chastened the next day and spent a good chunk of class time discussing that while he still despised Wallace, he shouldn't have said what he said. (And talking about assassination and assassination attempts in America.)

Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 01:31 AM:

Gaaah! 1968!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Two examples:

I graduated from high school the day Bobby Kennedy was shot.

Freshman orientation at my university was the same week as the Democratic Convention in Chicago -- the TV lounge in the student union was overflowing in the evenings to watch the events there. One day I found the local McCarthy headquarters (Gene, for those young enough to be confused) and picked up a pin, which I still have, though I was still too young to vote, the voting age still being 21 then (and my 18th birthday being two weeks after the election anyway).

The TV lounge on our floor at the dorm was also full election night. Some of us stayed up 'til the bitter end -- I think it was 3 or 4 a.m.-- when they finally declared Nixon the winner.

But Wallace wasn't shot until 1972. And he didn't die, which strictly speaking only made it an assassination *attempt*.

In fact (she notes, somewhat embarrased), my dad voted for Wallace in 1968. Not so much because he agreed with everything the man was for, but just because Dad had grown to dislike both of the major parties, though he remained a registered Democrat -- it was very much a protest vote. In fact, he voted for a third-party candidate in every Presidential election since, I think, until 1992. (Which was his last; Dad died in 1995.) "I couldn't stand the thought of voting for a billionaire," he told me on the phone the night after the election, explaining why he'd voted for Clinton rather than Perot.


Simon ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 04:24 PM:

"Obviously remembering the King assassination and getting mixed up."

More likely, I'd think, forgetting that Wallace ran for President at least twice. (Actually I think more than that.) His most famous run was '68, but he was shot in '72 - it's an understandable off-the-top-of-one's-head mistake to get those confused. But before it got into a formal column like that, someone should have caught it, absolutely.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 11:36 AM:

Hmm, Simon, you're probably right. Wallace's campaign in 1968 was a politicizing factor for millions; his campaign in '72 was an afterthought and almost a joke (like Nader's this year) - it was notable chiefly for the assassination attempt. Easy to forget there was a second one at all, now that Wallace's political career is occupying a well-deserved place on the ash-heap of history -- where I hope Nader's will shortly join it.

But the fact-checkers! Were they downsized or something?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 12:26 PM:

"his campaign in '72 was an afterthought and almost a joke"

Not even remotely correct. Wallace was doing very well indeed when his campaign was cut short by his shooting; not only had he won caucuses and primaries in Southern states like Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Florida, but he'd come within a hair of beating McGovern in Wisconsin, thus establishing his appeal well outside the South. The day after his shooting, he won in both Maryland and Michigan.

By the time of the convention, Wallace was neck-and-neck with Humphrey and McGovern for total popular votes cast; it was caucus states, and the fact that McGovern's support was more national in scope, that guaranteed the South Dakota senator the first-ballot nomination.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 12:30 PM:

Now it's my memory that's verkackt. Or maybe just verblunget. Fortunately I have better fact-checkers to catch me! Thanks, Patrick.

Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2004, 11:40 AM:

Tara Calishain at Research Buzz recently mentioned a new "Automated Historical Fact-Checker" called H-Bot.

With this thread in mind, I asked H-Bot, "When was George Wallace shot?"

It replied, "George Wallace was shot in 1972."

So H-Bot would appear to be smarter than the LA Times.

However, I then asked another question: "Who started World War I?" and it replied, "Nobody you know." Which is technically true, but not terribly helpful.

Julia Jones finds spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2004, 11:54 AM:

Have we got *two* spammers this morning? The style's different on this one.