Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I keep thinking about the murders, and the reactions to them.

To me, it's undeniable that there's far more hateful and eliminationist rhetoric pouring from the right than the left. The examples of left-wing excesses are, nearly exclusively, the utterances of some individual in a blog comment, or the occasional hateful sign or shout at a rally. And it's exceptional. From the right, it's a constant, both in the halls of Congress and in their admitted and self-described propaganda wing known as Fox "news." It's the game plan.

People who call for killings -- Ann Coulter, for example -- are regularly seen and lionized on Fox "news." And their own commentators -- Sean Hannity for example -- announce we'd be better off if all liberals were eliminated. Rush Limbaugh makes millions and has millions of listeners because he rants endlessly about the evil of the other side; vomits up unapologetically racist bile. When Keith Olbermann goes over the top, he gets called out. And apologizes. Changes his show. Bill O'Reilly gets pissed. (Not to mention defensive.) Pretends he's mild as milk. Glenn Beck goes into denial mode.

People claim such rhetoric is behind the killings, others deny it. Democrats propose civility, Republicans say no.

But let's let all of that go for a minute. Most likely, that direction leads nowhere. Let's just ask a basic question: whether or not it had anything to do with this particular horror, is it a good thing or a bad thing for a democracy when parties (I'll say it in the plural, but you know where I stand) literally demonize their opponents? If democracy is founded on -- depends on -- thoughtful discourse, careful deliberation and, yes, compromise, is it better or worse for the process if people are made to hate those with whom they disagree; to be told those people literally want to destroy them?

Are issues better addressed factually, honestly, recognizing differences of opinion as valid and worthy of consideration; or is it better to demand no compromise, to believe that the giving of an inch is a step toward destruction by literally evil forces? Is one more consistent with democracy, the other with totalitarianism?

In short: whether or not Sarah Palin's gunsights, Sharon Angle's "second amendment remedies," Michelle Bachman's "armed and dangerous," Glenn Beck's concentration camps and "deep seated hatred of white people," Sean Hannity's "eliminated," Ms Gifford's opponent's M-16 rally, had anything to do with this particular shooter's motivations: is such talk a good thing or a bad thing for the future of the American democracy?

In microcosm, I ask again: is a crazy person more likely to do harm if he's constantly being told there are enemies all around, or if he's told we're all on the same team? In the larger sense, I ask: if democracy is a valid form of government in a pluralistic society, is it better served by honest and level-headed debate of its most difficult problems, or will its survival be more assured by propagandizing, lying, and demonization of opposing views?

It's a simple question; forget about Arizona: Are the screamers helping, or hurting?

To me, the answer is obvious.

But then, I actually believe in democracy.

Added: datum to help in the discussion.


Anonymous said...

A bit off-topic, Sid, but this morning Sarah Palin released a video in which she says "Especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible."

"Blood libel"? If one ever needed more proof that Ms Palin simply spews emotionally laden phrases without comprehending their meaning, that should put the icing on the cake.

Some time ago, a friend on Salon's Table Talk put forth the thesis that politics has become a professional sport, in which what's important is not what's good for the country; the only thing that matters is your "team" winning.

You and I believe we're all on the same team. I don't think Frank and his ilk agree.

Sid Schwab said...

Right. Palin's immediate response was to up the ante. She could have said something like, while I absolutely reject the idea that my graphic had anything to do with the tragedy, I do agree with those who say the political rhetoric in this country has gotten too heated, and I, for one, will try to do my part to cool it down. We are, after all, all Americans with the same hopes for our country.

That'll be the day.

She's the perfect RWS™: paranoid, self-absorbed, vengeful, deceitful. I'd say her response to this -- thankfully, so let's give her credit -- has taken any presidential ambitions off the table.

SeaSpray said...

Bravo Mr President! Well done!

They all did a beautiful job. The memorial was as healing as it could be to those that lost loved ones and for a country often divided... in need of healing. Inspirational and healing.

I never heard the words "blood libel" before I read this comment section earlier. Then I heard it discussed on the news. And the following is what I read about it:

"In an exclusive statement, famed attorney and Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz defended Sarah Palin’s use of the term “blood libel” from multiple detractors:

The term “blood libel” has taken on a broad metaphorical meaning in public discourse. Although its historical origins were in theologically based false accusations against the Jews and the Jewish People,its current usage is far broader. I myself have used it to describe false accusations against the State of Israel by the Goldstone Report. There is nothing improper and certainly nothing anti-Semitic in Sarah Palin using the term to characterize what she reasonably believes are false accusations that her words or images may have caused a mentally disturbed individual to kill and maim. The fact that two of the victims are Jewish is utterly irrelevant to the propriety of using this widely used term."

Sid Schwab said...

Seaspray, Seaspray, Seaspray...

So you're still okay with Sarah.

I bet that's the first time you've relied on Alan Dershowitz for your views... Want some others, from other Jews, who feel differently? There are plenty. Even conservatives. (As interested and informed as you are, I'm sure you'll agree that, coming from Jonah Goldberg, who calls liberals "fascists," that's pretty strong stuff.)

And, of course, the real point of the above two comments (and NOT the point of my post) is the extent to which Sarah Palin 1) missed the opportunity to appear (god help us) presidential, but rather, made it about her boo-hoo self and 2) said two entirely contradictory things. Namely, when people commit violence you can't blame it on others, followed by saying people who blame the hot rhetoric were encouraging violence.

Contrast her self-serving drek with Obama's tone of community and comity.

And while you're at it, answer (or don't) the central question of the post.

SeaSpray said...

"Contrast her self-serving drek with Obama's tone of community and comity. "

He was speaking at the memorial. He was not attacked and wrongfully accused. She HAS to stand up for herself. She never should've been put in the position in the 1st place.

You said "Namely, when people commit violence you can't blame it on others," (In this instance ..that is true.)

"followed by saying people who blame the hot rhetoric were encouraging violence." (I don't know if I agree it would encourage violence ...but it sure was causing a lot of bad feelings. Last I knew 57% of the population did not agree the hot rhetoric had anything to do with this heinous crime. It seems the president's opinion is included in that 57% stat.)

Her star is still rising.

Sid Schwab said...

He was speaking at the memorial.

She was given a golden opportunity to rise up and show her ability to address a nation. Instead, she made it about herself, as usual, and did so in a way calculated to garner her attention. Presidential? Maybe of the student body of Wasilla High.

(In this instance ..that is true.)

Okay. So in what instance what it not be true?

Sid Schwab said...

He was not attacked and wrongfully accused.

That might be the best one of all, Seaspray.

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