22 October 2017 — 0218 mdt
Karen “I would have shot him” Marshall’s Facebook page
Karen Marshall, the Bozeman Republican leader who called into a radio program to assert — in my opinion figuratively but foolishly — she would have shot Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs if he had tried to interview her in the way he tried to interview Greg Gianforte, does not waffle or wobble when expressing her political opinions, especially on Facebook. She’s not, as I’ve learned from my Twitter traffic over the last 18 hours, popular among progressives in Bozeman and Gallatin County.
A look at her timeline explains why. She shares numerous stories from websites on the political right, and some would say, the lunatic fringe right. Examine her timeline and draw your own conclusions, but I suspect you’ll agree she may be too far right to be considered a mainstream teabagger.
Although I’m certain her “would have shot him” comment was meant figuratively — it’s a fairly common phrase that’s used to express profound displeasure and exasperation — using it on a radio call-in program was foolish. It was not a true threat. Had it been, she would have been arrested. But it’s a phrase best reserved for discussions with close friends. Strangers find that kind of language disquieting. And liberals, especially highly educated liberals uncomfortable with the white working class vernacular, consider it hate speech. I suspect Marshall used the phrase almost reflexively, but it’s possible she used it as a deliberate provocation, which would have been mean-spirited.
Greg Gianforte disavowed Marshall’s comment. Unless her colleagues in the Republican Party consider her incorrigible, she’s probably received some unsolicited advice to tone down her rhetoric.
Democrats, of course, in righteous and gleeful indignation, and always, as are all political parties, ready to play Gotcha!, have seized on it as proof that Republicans are threatening to shoot journalists. The outcry has gone nationwide. A molehill has been converted to Mount Everest in less than a day. The uproar invites one to conclude that some really believe her comment will result in right wing crazies loosing fusillades of real bullets at journalists.
The uproar also raised Marshall’s profile. She’s now, at least briefly, a national figure; in some quarters a notorious hater, and in others, a martyr to free speech. She could become as well known as John Heenan.
The most important message from Marshall’s remarks is that plenty of Republicans still believe that Gianforte’s assault of Jacobs was a noble deed, a just takedown of a lowlife journalist whose impudence justified Gianforte’s behavior. That attitude won’t disappear. Invoking the assault on Jacobs, and Marshall’s impolitic defense thereof, may inspirit Democrats, but it won’t change the votes of Republicans who voted for Gianforte.
Had I been Heenan, I would have responded to Marshall’s comment by saying “I understand what you’re saying, but that’s probably an expression best used privately among friends, and not in public where it might be interpreted as a threat.” And then move on to important issues such as health care.