Monday morning, Senator Marco Rubio sent out a tweet with the horrifying news that “one of our canvassers wearing my T-shirt and a Desantis hat was brutally attacked by 4 animals who told him Republicans weren’t allowed in their neighborhood.” Rubio’s account was quickly repeated by conservative organs like the New York Post (“Rubio campaign canvasser ‘brutally’ beaten by man who told him GOPers not allowed in his neighborhood”), National Review (“Rubio Supporter Savagely Beaten While Canvassing in Florida”), Washington Free Beacon (“Marco Rubio Canvasser Violently Attacked in Dem Neighborhood”), and Washington Examiner (“Rubio canvasser brutally assaulted in Florida, senator says”).
Rubio and his supporters held up the attack as evidence of his opponents’ predilection for violence. (“Since the Supreme Court’s summer ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, conservative people and organizations across the country have been repeatedly targeted for vandalism, harassment, and outright assault,” noted National Review by way of context.) What it actually revealed was something different than, and close to the opposite of, Rubio’s intended point.
There is no question the canvasser, Christopher Monzon, was the victim of a ghastly assault. But mainstream media reporting on the episode quickly cast doubt on Rubio’s central claim: that the assailant told the canvasser Republicans weren’t welcome there. The initial police report noted no political motivation for the attack, which took place in a high-crime neighborhood. The assailant had been charged with two prior felonies and, according to his mother, has never voted and has no interest in politics.
The true significance of this episode is a detail that emerged shortly after Rubio’s tweet: Monzon turns out to be close with the Proud Boys, a right-wing paramilitary organization. The Proud Boys, a sort of hybrid social club and political gang with racist and violent tendencies, played a central role in organizing the January 6 assault.
Last June, the New York Times reported on how the Proud Boys has begun to take over the powerful Miami-Dade Republican Party organization. It is one of the more alarming signposts of the Republican Party’s evolution into authoritarianism — I would say “most,” except that there are so many — because it signals violent and explicitly racist organizations are being formally welcomed into the party structure. [Continue reading…]