Whenever you visit a rightwing site, you are sure to see “those” tshirts. I saw an ad for them on the Washington Times the other day. Now, I know that wingnuts have great sense of humor as you can tell by the huge number of successful comedians and humorists on the right. (Dennis? PJ? Are you getting tired?)I assume that these t-shirts are what passes for humor in their lives.
They are big on gun stuff and death and violence but I just can’t help but notice that with only a few exceptions, these t-shirts aren’t about killing terrorists or fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here. This is what they’re all about:
I have said before that while the left has plenty of people who cannot be called angels, it’s the right that makes a profit at this violent, eliminationist discourse. As long as they are selling this shit on their sites I can see no reason why we should listen to their whining about leftist incivility.
Certainly, some of the t-shirts on the linked page (although, oddly, not the one above) strike me as over-the-top. I’ve had different t-shirt makers advertise on OTB, with both pro- and anti-Republican themes. The only time one that appeared on the ad itself struck me as distasteful (A Calvin urinating on some liberal/Democrat symbol of some sort) I suspended the ad and suggested to the advertiser that a more clever choice might be more appealing to my readers and it was changed.
Short of the KKK or al Qaeda, I’ll sell ads to anyone so long as the ad itself doesn’t bother me. I’ve sold BlogAds to MoveOn.org and George Soros. I’m not proud.
Regardless, though, I don’t see how a shirt with some slightly sophomoric humor is “violent, eliminationist discourse”? Surely, the number of College Republicans who have bought one of these shirts and then run a hybrid car off the road in gleeful spite could be counted on one hand with four fingers and a thumb left over. It is also unclear how the fact that some teenagers and college kids are buying some gear that makes fun of their political opponents obviates calls for civility among elected policymakers in middle age?
Further, let’s not pretend this is one-sided. Literally the first Google result for “Democrat t-shirts” produced this page. Here are some of the charming, non-insulting, uplifting, pro-Democratic agenda slogans I found:
The last of these, featured on the main page, is “European Travel White T-Shirt.”
Traveling to Europe this year? Ashamed of President Bush? This shirt apologizes for having an idiot as a president. “Sorry my president is an idiot” in French, German, Dutch, Italian & Spanish.
At least the IMAO shirt required formulation of a punch line.
Another site had this one:
Of course, there’s nothing “eliminationist” about this. It’s just good fun, right?
Now, it’s true that the Republican shirts are anti-liberal and the Democrat shirts are anti-Bush. But there’s not a specific Democrat for Republicans to focus on, other than maybe Hillary Clinton. During the 1990s, the GOP shirts were mostly anti-[Bill] Clinton.
So, to recap: They’re just t-shirts. Free speech. Worn almost entirely by immature people. Of both parties.
In the sage words of SFC Hulka, “Lighten up, Francis.”
Update: Much nastier ones are out there if one looks for “anti-Republican tshirt.” For example, this site sells lovely bumper stickers like these:
Some less family-friendly ones are available here.
Update 2: Barbara O’Brien has an interesting discussion on the topic. After some history, she asserts that, “Liberals laugh at righties, but as a rule, liberals don’t make jokes about righties being lynched or slapped or punched. Yet these acts of aggression are staples of rightie humor. That says something, IMO.”
She notes the examples I post here and says she does not find the stickers or the raunchier ones I link to funny but points out that,
Thanks to services like Cafe Press anybody with half a brain can create nasty T-shirts and stickers and try to sell them on the web. The “Know the Enemy” shirt, however, comes from IMAO, a long-established rightie “humor” site and member of Pajamas Media. I’d be very surprised to find a leftie blog with a comparable blogosphere ranking pushing “all conservatives are the enemy so let’s smack them” merchandise.
I’m not sure what a comparable leftie sight would be. Certainly, we have actual liberals pelting actual conservatives with foodstuffs and the like when they show up to speak, but I don’t know what kind of humor merchandise they advertise.
Still, as I note in Mahablog’s comments, I don’t disagree that IMAO is more mainstream than the sites pushing the bumper stickers, although I do disagree that Frank J is actually advocating violence. He’s a humorist in his early 20s. Certainly, it’s lighter in spirit than, say, Ted Rall or several hard left comics out there.
My view isn’t that one justifies the other, just that it’s all juvenile stuff. Yes, there has long been a “Democrats hate America” meme that arose in reaction to the Warren Court and the hippie culture. It came from a frustrated segment of society who thought their culture was being undermined by a powerful minority. Now, though, there’s a not-insignificant segment on the left who hates conservative America, especially the Religious Right, and is directing anger and vitriol at them.
Basically, these shirts and stickers are a way for people without better ways to express themselves to vent. I wouldn’t wear them, but I’m a grown man. I suspect I would have found some of them funnier 20 years ago.
Update 3: Commenter Shystee notes that I did not include the “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required.” slogan from the other side of the shirt. For whatever reason, it didn’t load when I first read Digby’s post. I’ve appended it now. As I note in the comments, though, I don’t find that any more objectionable than “Kill all the lawyers.” Both are humorous hyperbole, not incitement.
Update 4: Frank J informs in the comments that he’s now in his late 20s. Apparently, the t-shirt depicted above is out of print, however.
It occurs to me that, if we are taking these shirts literally, a lot of Democrats are having sexual fantasies about the president. And that, folks, is just wrong.