With all the chaos and rioting in the streets of London, it’s proven quite difficult for the media to parse out exactly who is participating in the unrest and what sort of grievances or agenda they might possess. Some have located the cause in the police shooting of Londoner Mark Duggan on Tuesday, August 4. Others have taken a more sociological approach, pointing to issues of race, class, and social alienation in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. But now, thanks to rightwing pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Stanley Kurtz, we have a new, intriguing theory that’s gaining popularity: The rioters are Obama supporters, of course, or, at least, they’re just the sort of people who would support Obama, or, perhaps, they’re being egged on by liberals, or something. Whatever it is, Obama’s to blame:

Rush Limbaugh, “The Rush Limbaugh Show,” August 9, 2011:

Most people have no clue whatsoever what the London riots are really about, and it's not hooliganism. Hooliganism is the result. Hooliganism is what's happening, but it isn't why. I'm gonna play for you why, and what you're about to listen to is the equivalent of Obama voters in this country and we're not far from this. This is last night on the BBC. During the riots, the BBC's Leana Hosea interviewed two unidentified women protesters, and this is how it sounded.

[…]

Conservatives. Rich people. The riots in London. They want you to believe that this is about some out-of-control police action, that the cops did something. It's the corporate jet owners. It's the corporate jet owners and those people not paying their fair share. Specifically, it's rich people, “the people that got businesses.” If you got a business, you are a rich person. Now, this, folks, is what we have in store. We're on this path. We're on this track. I'm glad you're laughing in there, Snerdley. We're on this track. We already have near race riots at the Wisconsin State Fair in a state where that kind of thing is not known for. I'm telling you. These are the equivalent of Obama voters in the United States, people you just heard here on the BBC.

[…]

Clearly the women are funny. They're drunk and they don't know at what they're talking about. It's not a laughing matter. This is, in my estimation, precisely what we're headed for -- and I think if this were to happen, Obama would not be upset. Obama wants it.

Stanley Kurtz, National Review Online, August 9, 2011:

The London riots have already kicked off the latest version of the seemingly never-ending debate over whether such events should be seen primarily as political protests by the powerless, or as out-and-out lawbreaking and vandalism. Back in 1992, Obama clearly leaned toward the former.

I found the press release Obama issued to get Project Vote rolling, in the ACORN archives at the Wisconsin Historical Society. (Obama worked closely with ACORN on this campaign, his later denials notwithstanding.) The release quotes Obama explaining the need for Project Vote by pointing to the rioting in Los Angeles. Said Obama in 1992: “The Los Angeles riots reflect a deep distrust and disaffection with the existing power pattern in our society.” That’s Alinsky-speak for “We’ve got to use the power of the angry underclass to put capitalism in check.”

Naturally, we’ll continue to disagree about whether Obama’s leftist past was a convenient pose, or something that guides his policies to this day. I certainly don’t think President Obama would openly speak about events in London the way he spoke about the L.A. riots nineteen years ago. What he thinks to himself is another matter. Of course, a quick statement like this is much less important than the context provided by a systematic look at Obama’s overall political development. Nonetheless, direct quotes from Obama’s early political past are few and far between. This one is particularly intriguing.

Ann Coulter, Human Events, August 10, 2011:

Inciting violent mobs is the essence of the left's agenda: Promote class warfare, illegitimate children and an utterly debased citizenry. Like the British riot girls interviewed by the BBC, the Democrats tell us “all of this happened because of the rich people.” We're beginning to see the final result of that idea in Britain. The welfare state creates a society of beasts. Meanwhile, nonjudgmental elites don't dare condemn the animals their programs have created.

Glenn Beck, “The Glenn Beck Program,” August 8, 2011:

They put a supercommittee together. The Republicans and the Democrats have to come together with the supercommittee who has the -- who have the Democrats put on the supercommittee? John Kerry, who's warning the media that you'd better not tell both sides of the story. Max Baucus from Montana. And of course, what's-her-name Murray -- Patty Murray from Washington. All three, huge, huge on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid.

Let me go back again to Jan Schakowsky. If we're not going to cut taxes, they're laying the groundwork now. If we're not going to raise taxes on the millionaires and create these jobs and instead go after Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, if we do that and that doesn't get people out on the streets, I don't know what will. They are intentionally going for this to make this the case, to get the American people out on the streets, and I'm telling you now: It will be London, it will be Greece, it is coming. They've sown all the seeds they need to. It's a matter of time.”

Nile Gardiner of the Heritage Foundation, “Your World,” August 9, 2011:

[L]et's face it, the left is continually trying to find excuses for violent criminal behavior. We're seeing that today in the United Kingdom, we’ve seen it across Europe, we’re even seeing it in the United States as well, where the left has justified acts of sheer anarchy in the past.

Sean Hannity, “The Sean Hannity Show,” August 10, 2011:

Here's the problem. Now, I'm looking at what is going on in London right now. And the rioting that's taking place here. The rioting is taking place in large part because austerity measures -- because their country is going bankrupt, we should be learning from their mistakes, but we are not. And people are out there, they're blaming conservatives, they're blaming the government. They are blaming, quote, "rich people" that it is their fault. They got 16,000 police officers in London to try and handle this more than they've ever had. And I'm thinking this sounds a lot like, you know America 10, 12, 15, 20 years down the road. Because once those promises can never be fulfilled, is this coming to America? [sic]


Matthew Zeitlin is an intern at
The New Republic.