If you think there are no consequences to hysterical, anti-corporate grandstanding in Washington, pay attention to what's happening across the pond: "This is just the beginning."
So warned a public letter signed this week by a vigilante group called "Bank Bosses are Criminals." The thugs claimed responsibility for vandalizing a former financial executive's home and car in Edinburgh, Scotland. The bank official, Sir Fred Goodwin, was excoriated by U.K. politicians for refusing to give up company pension benefits dubbed "obscene," "grotesque," "unjustifiable and unacceptable." The vigilantes were stoked by a former newspaper editor, one Max Hastings, who wrote a diatribe exhorting citizens to violence:
"The time has come to address the entire robber banker culture. Investment banks have been run not for the benefit of society, customers or even shareholders, but exclusively for the advantage of the bankers themselves. … This is why we must stand outside their homes throwing rocks through the windows until they do."
This is no marginal movement. Some 3,000 protesters from around the world are expected to wreak havoc on the G20 summit next week in London. What happened at Sir Fred's house is a mere dress rehearsal. Bankers are being told to dress down to disguise themselves and avoid becoming riot targets.
Demonstrators are threatening to hang effigies. Protest organizer and university professor Chris Knight vowed worse: "We are going to be hanging a lot of people like Fred the Shred from lampposts on April Fools' Day, and I can only say let's hope they are just effigies. To be honest, if he winds us up any more, I'm afraid there will be real bankers hanging from lampposts, and let's hope that that doesn't actually have to happen."
How soon before we see this same kind of anarchic domestic terrorism on this side of the Atlantic? It's already here.
Animal-rights terrorists have firebombed researchers' homes, Molotov cocktail-bombed their cars, and been convicted of inciting threats, harassment and vandalism against employees of a private company engaged in animal research. Environmental terrorists have set private real estate developments on fire. Self-proclaimed "bank terrorist" Bruce Marks of the government-supported Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, whom I reported on last March, has been threatening bank employees in their homes and harassing their children for years. And last weekend, of course, the radical ACORN mob and its corporate shakedown allies chartered a bus -- with twice as many outrage-stoking mainstream media photographers in tow -- to menace AIG executives at their homes.
Democratic Rep. Barney Frank shrugged off testimony from AIG CEO Edward Liddy concerning death threats leveled against the company's employees. GOP Sen. Charles Grassley recklessly called on executives who accepted retention bonuses to commit hara-kiri. Left-wing billionaire George Soros' ground troops in the ANSWER coalition waved signs decrying, "CAPITALISM IS ORGANIZED CRIME! STOP AIG!" And 85 House Republicans, led by Minority Whip Eric Cantor, abetted the demagoguery by voting for the retroactive 90 percent bonus tax.
Pundits on both sides of the aisle demonized the business people whose sin was continuing to work for a company that accepted taxpayer funding from Chicken Littles in Washington who forked it over in a blind frenzy. Washington scribe Mort Kondracke joked about boiling the execs in oil. But the families who received the following threats through AIG's website can't afford to be so glib. Among the vile messages disclosed this week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by Hearst Newspapers:
-- All you motherf***ers should be shot. Thanks for f***ing up our economy then taking our money.
-- I don't hope that bad things happen to the recipients of those bonuses. I really hope that bad things happen to the children and grandchildren of them! Whatever hurts them the most!!
-- If the bonuses don't stop, it will be very likely that every CEO @ AIG will have a bull's-eye on their back.
-- We will hunt you down. Every last penny. We will hunt your children and we will hunt your conscience. We will do whatever we can to get those people getting the bonuses. Give back the money or kill yourselves.
-- All the executives and their families should be executed with piano wire around their necks -- my greatest hope.
-- Watch your backs because someone will come to get you, you can be sure.
Federal authorities are investigating and will take action against warped vigilantes. But when will the enablers on the Hill, in newsrooms and on TV sets be held to account?