The Politics of Hate--and Hate Speech

           Just about anything that could be said about the murders in Tucson have been said.

            We know that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was holding a "Congress on the Corner" meeting outside a Safeway grocery store.

            We know that a 22-year-old named Jared Lee Loughner is in FBI custody, and has been charged with one count of attempted assassination of a member of Congress, two counts of killing an employee of the United States and two counts of intent to kill employees of the United States. We know that six people are dead, that 14 were wounded, several of whom were in grave or critical condition. We know there will be additional state charges filed against Loughner.

            We know that among the dead are John Roll, a Republican and the senior federal judge in Arizona, who had come by the rally to support his friend, the Democratic representative; and Christina-Taylor Green, a nine-year-old who was born on 9/11, and died on another day of violence. We have heard the names of George Morris, one of those shot, who tried to protect his wife, Dorothy, who didn't survive; of Dorwin Stoddard, 76, who was killed while trying to protect his wife, Mary; of Phyllis Schneck, a 79-year-old widow who lived in  Tucson eight months a year to avoid the snows of her native New Jersey; and of Gabe Zimmerman, 30, Giffords' outreach director.

            We know that Loughner was rejected by the Army, withdrew from a community college prior to being suspended, became more abusive the past year, and that many, even before the shootings, have called him mentally unstable.

            We know the shooter used a Glock 19 9-mm. semi-automatic weapon, with a 33-bullet magazine, which he purchased legally. We know that Congress did not renew the assault weapons ban, which allowed civilians to own pistols but with only a 10-bullet magazine capacity. And, we also know that sales of Glock pistols following the murders, in a nation steeped in a gun culture, increased by 60 percent in Arizona and 5 percent nationally.

            We know that Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, a conservative in his 30th year in office, called Arizona a "mecca of prejudice and bigotry," and condemned the "the kind of rhetoric that flows from people like Rush Limbaugh," whom he called "irresponsible" and who bases his talk show upon partial and wrong information to inflame his listeners. Three months earlier, the sheriff, possibly the most respected law enforcement officer in Arizona, said the Tea Party "brings out the worst in America," and implied that the atmosphere of hate was partially responsible for the resulting murders.

            While most Tea Partiers are White, middle-aged or senior citizens who are angry but not violent, whenever there is violence, whenever there is racism, discrimination, or homophobia, there are Tea Party sympathizers present.

            We know that armed citizens, some carrying signs that advocate violence, attend Tea Party rallies, and speak of the overthrow of government, while apparently not understanding that their actions border on sedition.

            We know that numerous members of Congress, including Rep. Giffords, had received death threats after they voted for health care reform. We know that some Tea Party leaders openly urged their followers to throw bricks through the windows of those who supported health care reform, and that several offices were vandalized.

            We know that during the 2010 mid-term elections, Sarah Palin had targeted 20 Democratic representatives, including Rep, Giffords, by placing cross-hairs targets on their districts on a map of the United States. "When people do that," said Giffords at the time, "they have to realize that there are consequences to that action,” We know Palin frequently uses gun analogies and has called for her supporters to "take up arms," exhorting them not to retreat but to rearm. After the murders, Palin claimed the cross-hairs weren't really targets but surveyors' marks.

            We know that Eric Fuller, a 63-year-old disabled veteran who was one of those shot in Tucson, lashed out against hate speech. "If you are going to scream hatred and preach hatred, you're going to sow it after a while if you've got a soap box like they've got," said Fuller.

            We also know there are liberals who have threatened others, and that the rhetoric of the Radicals of the 1960s, with limited media, may have been close to the rhetoric of the Reactionaries of the 21st century. But, the instances of liberal threats pale in comparison to those launched by the extreme right-wing, which is adept at full use of the newer social media, as well as near-monopolies on radio and television talk shows.

            We also know the extreme right-wing, usually without facts or bending facts to their own purposes, fired back at Sheriff Dupnik and others.

            Rush Limbaugh, with absolutely no evidence, not only claimed the sheriff is a "fool," but that the Democratic party "seeks to profit" from the shootings, but that Loughner knows he has "the full support" of the Democrats.

            We know that Glenn Beck, two days after the murders, finally spoke out, extending sympathies—and condemning those who argued that a climate of hate was partially responsible for the tragedy. This is the same Glenn Beck who in June erroneously claimed that the media and those in Washington "believe and have called for a revolution. You’re going to have to shoot them in the head." This is the same Glenn Beck who, on his website, posted a picture of him holding a pistol. And, we also know he defended Sarah Palin, stupidly charging that attacks on her following the tragedy could somehow destroy the republic.

            We know that four days after the murders in Tucson, four volunteer officials of the Arizona Republican party resigned, citing the threat of violence by the Tea Party faction. Anthony Miller, chairman of Legislative District 20, a heavy Republican area near Phoenix, told the Arizona Republic that during his re-election campaign, Tea Party members threatened him, some making hand gestures imitating a gun. Many resorted to racial hatred, calling Miller "McCain's boy." Miller, an Afro-American, was on John McCain's paid campaign staff in 2010. McCain's opponent for Senate was a Tea Party sympathizer, with heavy support of controversial and racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Phoenix.

            We know that 27,000 people of almost every American demographic and political belief attended a memorial service at the University of Arizona. We know that President Obama told that audience and the nation that Americans, in honor of those who gave their lives, need to be civil, that we should "use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together."

            We know that the day of the memorial service, Palin, on her Facebook page, launched an eight-minute video, defensive and accusatory, in which she claimed she and the extreme right-wing, not the 20 hit by gunfire, were true victims. She refused to acknowledge that a climate of hate could have been a part of what surrounded the killer. In that video, Palin called media criticism of extreme right-wing rhetoric and hate speech "blood libel," a phrase associated with extreme anti-Semitism. The term refers to accusations that Jews use the blood of Christian children in the making of matzos for Passover and other rituals. Giffords is a Jew. Gabriel Zimmerman was a Jew.

            Two days after President Obama's speech and Sarah Palin's whining defense, in a daily newspaper in northeastern Pennsylvania appeared a letter to the editor, written by one of the leaders of an organization allied with the Tea Party movement. In that letter, the writer incredulously, and with no knowledge, blamed the Pima County sheriff for "his official inactions/failures" and college professors. She wrote that Loughner was a "left-wing philosophy professor's PERFECT STUDENT. . . . [who was] subjected to listening to liberal ideology." Although she never attended college, she blamed "the politics of our liberal universities where our young people are being taunted and challenged to be violent in the name of 'social justice.'"

            We know that it isn't liberals, most of whom fully understand not just the words but the meaning of the First Amendment, who are the ones who try to shout down opposing views. And, while incensed at the violence that often comes from hate speech, liberals don't demand that the government shut down free expression, only that persons recognize there may be a correlation.

            Yes, we know a lot. But, one thing we don't know is why these "super patriots" of the Reactionary Right who believe they and no one else has truth or knowledge of how to improve the nation, can advocate violence and, thus, destroy the principles of reasoned discussion advocated by our Founding Fathers.

 

[Dr. Brasch is an award-winning syndicated columnist, and author of 17 books, most of which can be found on amazon.com and other sites.]

 

 

 

 

 

A Lot of Sorry But(t)s

Joe Wilson may have catcalled the President, but he wasn't alone, and America has become engulfed with the shock waves of intolerance and uncivil behavior.

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Devastating! An 88-Year-Old Anti-Semite Attacks the Holocaust Museum.

I've spent the better part of the afternoon flipping the television channels to hear more report about this 88 year old monster who killed a guard in his attempt to kill even more people at the Holocaust Museum in D.C.

This was a guy that the authorities KNEW ABOUT. He ran a web site which attacked Jews, Blacks and Catholics. He self-published a book that he gave the first six chapters of away for free on line (then advertising the last six chapters for money).

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Sonia Sotomayor, George Tiller, and Republican Responsibility

Republican Party elected officials, former elected officials, and other leaders, from James Inhofe to Tom Tancredo to Newt Gingrich to Rush Limbaugh, have accused Judge Sonia Sotomayor, be it implicitly or quite explicitly, of being a "racist." When CNN's John King asked Senate Republican "Leader" Mitch McConnell, now the most powerful elected Republican in America, whether he thought aggressive rhetoric like Gingrich's and Limbaugh's went too far, he responded:

I've got better things to do than to be the speech police over people who are going to have their views about a very important appointment.

Speech police, huh?  Well, I'll come back to that in a moment.

In July 2008, a psychopath went on a shooting rampage at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.  Following the tragedy, the shooter wrote a four-page note explaining why, according to his demented thought process, he did what he did:

Know this if nothing else: This was a hate crime. I hate the damn left-wing liberals. There is a vast left-wing conspiracy in this country & these liberals are working together to attack every decent & honorable institution in the nation, trying to turn this country into a communist state. Shame on them....

This was a symbolic killing. Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the Senate & House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg's book. I'd like to kill everyone in the mainstream media. But I know those people were inaccessible to me. I couldn't get to the generals & high ranking officers of the Marxist movement so I went after the foot soldiers, the chickenshit liberals that vote in these traitorous people. Someone had to get the ball rolling. I volunteered. I hope others do the same. It's the only way we can rid America of this cancerous pestilence.

Conservative blowhard Bernard Golberg's book, "100 People Who Are Screwing Up America," was part of this madman's perverted inspiration.  This person hated liberals and Democrats and "volunteered" to do what was necessary to "rid America of this cancerous pestilence," using Goldberg's book as a motivating force.

At rallies for the 2008 Republican ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin, supporters used increasingly violent rhetoric aimed at then-Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama.  McCain and Palin were criticized for not doing more to rebuke such troublingly violent language from their supporters.

Throughout 2009 so far, Fox News' Sean Hannity has used rhetoric which has included imagery of varying degrees of violence, from hangings to armed rebellion, to provoke response in his right-wing viewership.

By now, you most likely have already read about Dr. George Tiller's assassination yesterday.  Dr. Tiller was the subject of assassination attempts, violence, and, by definition, terrorism in the past.  Even in the wake of his assassination, some on the far right wing gleefully extolled the murder.  In the years leading up to Dr. Tiller's assassination, Bill O'Reilly's rhetoric likening Dr. Tiller to Adolf Hitler was not subtle.

Those on the far right wing fringe use dangerously violent rhetoric to get a point across - a point that sometimes tragically comes with violent action.  This fringe is a key element of the listenership, viewership and readership of right wing media personalities like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and Bernard Goldberg.  To increase their ratings and their book sales, they look to provoke their followers in a variety of ways.  Occasionally and, again, tragically, this leads to violence, even to domestic terrorism.  Certainly, this rhetoric condones and even encourages utter hatred, something disturbingly and violently on display at those Fox News-hyped Tea Parties.

So, back to our nation's most powerful elected Republican, Mitch McConnell, and the "speech police" sentiment in response to increasingly aggressive rhetoric against Judge and Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, the latest example of the far right rhetorically igniting a situation as far as it will go, good sense and intelligent discourse be damned.  Mitch, you don't need to wear a badge and call out every conservative who says something not nice about a liberal.  But we have seen a marked increase on the far right of hatefully aggressive and even violent rhetoric.  This very rhetoric is employed by leading right wing media personalities and Republican Party leaders.  And this very rhetoric has directly led to acts of violence and domestic terrorism.

So, Mitch, do you have anything better to do than to serve as a role model and a standard bearer for your Party, calling out the seeds of violence when you see and hear it in the rhetoric of your Party's most visible spokespeople, protecting America and preventing acts of terrorism?  No, Mitch, I would suggest that you most definitely do not have anything better to do than that.  I'd further suggest that the more aggressive and more violent the rhetoric of the far right wing becomes, the greater the responsibility of elected Republican leaders becomes to publicly and forcefully rebuke such language, rather than passively condone it.  Mitch, I think you can make the time.  And if you and your fellow elected Republicans don't make the time to rebuke such violent rhetoric, you will get lumped together with those espousing the rhetoric, and you will be voted out of office.

Update [2009-6-1 18:49:00 by Senate Guru]: Greg Sargent reminds us of how Republicans and right wingers kicked up controversy when a Department of Homeland Security report made reference to the potential threat of "right wing extremists." Too bad that Republicans tried to distract America with a bogus political argument instead of addressing the substance of the matter.

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Come Out, Stand By Hillary Clinton (updated)

I support Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Party nominee and as the next President of the United States for reasons which I've expressed over the last 6 months. So, most of you here on MyDD know that I'm an ardent supporter of Hillary Clinton. But, you don't know that I'm like 1 in 10 Americans who many still refer to as a sinner, a sexual deviant, or as an abomination. So, today, in honor of Gay Pride month, I'm coming out of the closet on MyDD to share my very personal story why I will continue to support and stand by Hillary Clinton.

I grew up in a small town in central Virginia in the 1980's. Luckily, I passed. Passed? Passed as a heterosexual. It helped that I was popular and my quirkiness wasn't questioned. I wasn't subjected to the harassment, bullying, and teasing of which other tomboys or sissies became targets. But what happened to me was just as harmful. I hid. I hid from my family, my friends, and my community. In my last two years of high school, I was confused, alone, and becoming increasingly more depressed to the point of suicidal. By sheer will (and maybe a touch of grace), I made it to college. I started meeting people who were different, men and women who weren't afraid to express themselves outside of the norm, outside of social expectation, outside of heterosexuality. They didn't conform.

[continue over the fold]

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