Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bill Hennessy Says Going to Private Homes is "Terrorism," Forgetting That He Carried Coffin to Carnahan's House Two Months Ago

Bill Hennessy suggested yesterday on his blog that SEIU going to the private residences of bankers was "terrorism." SEIU had rallied outside of the home of Bank of America's Deputy Counsel Gregory Bauer to protest the bank's predatory lending policies that caused the financial meltdown in 2008 and BOA's current policies that are forcing thousands to lose their homes. Hennessy suggested that this was terrorism "as defined by the U.S. Patriot Act."

But apparently Hennessy assumes that the people who read his blog have the memory of goldfish, because a little more than two months ago he and other members of the St. Louis tea party carried a mock coffin to the personal residence of Congressman Russ Carnahan. In fact, the St. Louis tea party did this a day after they were kicking, punching, screaming at, and ultimately burning a photo of Congressman Carnahan, a day after Hennessy was openly calling for "revolt" on his Twitter account, a day after Jim Gateway Pundit Hoft wrote a blog post titled, "Hundreds Rally as Russ Carnahan is Booted and Torched," and the same week Hennessy was claiming that citizens no longer had any moral obligations to their government. Representative Carnahan was in D.C. at the time of the protest, and as far as I know Rep. Carnahan's family wasn't in the home at the time. But imagine if they were and they looked out the window to see a bunch of weirdos standing outside with candles and a coffin. Seems like a pretty clear attempt to intimidate to me, especially in light of the context of the tea party's rhetoric the previous week.

Of course, Hennessy's post also assumes that his readers are incapable of doing their own research. The reality is that a neccessary part of the legal definition of "domestic terrorism" is that it, "involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State." So pretty obviously neither the tea party's actions nor SEIU's are even remotely close to being defined as terrorism, despite what lazy researcher Hennessy had to say (I mean, seriously, quoting a random comment on Big Government as evidence? Wow!).

So Hennessy's post is clearly false and hypocritical. But of course folks like Dana Loesch have been claiming that this incident shows that "the left" who criticized the tea party coffin incident are hypocritical if they aren't speaking out against the SEIU action. I was definitely very critical of the tea party's coffin incident, although unlike Hennessy I criticized it on moral grounds rather than inventing a false claim that it was "domestic terrorism."

Unlike the tea party, I'm not going to pretend that this is a black and white issue. I'd guess that the way I feel about protesting at people's personal residences is the same way that most people feel about it. Namely, I have a very strong presumption that doing so is wrong in almost every situation, but I can at least imagine hypothetical situations in which it might be appropriate. For example, if we somehow knew that protesting at a certain person's home was the only way to prevent some policy that caused millions of people to suffer needlessly, then I'd probably support the action in that case (don't ask me how we would ever know such a thing: I'm just assuming it for the sake of argument).

It seems pretty clear to me that neither SEIU nor the tea party comes close to meeting the criteria for justifying their actions. The tea party certainly can't claim that going to Rep. Carnahan's home was the only way to make their point. They had just gotten media coverage at Carnahan's office, so traveling to his home was intended to send an additional message to Carnahan and his family: we know where you live. In fact, these self-proclaimed "champions of liberty" hadn't even bothered to try the Democratic process yet: they hadn't run an official tea party campaign against Carnahan until this year's run by Ed Martin. So they have no excuse for escalating to that level.

I also don't think SEIU should have gone to bankers' personal residences. I suppose they could argue that the democratic process is too poisoned by big money donations to enact the necessary changes, and so they had to try other means. However, it's not clear at all to me why they would need to go to personal residences. In fact, it seems to me, based on some of the actions at the People's Settlement, that companies are very uncomfortable with protests at their office locations. So why not continue to protest at Bank of America offices rather than going to someone's house?

So anyway, all of that is just to say that going to people's personal residences seems to me a very bad idea, especially if you just spent the previous days calling for "revolt" and attacking effigies of the person whose home you were visiting. If the St. Louis Tea Party leadership wants to even pretend that they have a shred of intellectual consistency, they should admit that taking the coffin to Carnahan's home was wrong. Oh, and Bill Hennessy should try actually reading the law rather than citing random comments he finds on the internet.


  1. "seriously, quoting a random comment on Big Government as evidence?" They do this often. Quoting and linking to each other proves that they're of a like mind and always right.

    They're like the holiday fruitcake - the gift that keeps on being regifted.

  2. My favourite is a certain writer who quotes and links to their own articles as proof they are right! I am amazed by that!