Monday, January 17, 2011


[I wrote this right after the shooting. The argument has become even more polarized since, but I still believe political climate affects public action. I never specifically blamed Sarah Palin for the guy's actions (if you read only right wingers, you'd think that was the only and exact content of all liberal reaction); but it's common sense that creating a climate of fear and hate, mainly by the screamers who claim Obama and all liberals are deliberately moving toward tyranny, bent on destroying America, and who overtly call for taking up arms if the right doesn't get its way is not without ill consequence for the process of democracy. If anyone can effectively argue otherwise -- and I'm not talking about disagreement and dissent, but about hypervitriol and calls for revolution -- I'd welcome the debate.]


From a self-described far lefty website, a collection of tweets on the shooting:
If a Detroit Muslim put a map on the web with crosshairs on 20 pols, then 1 of them got shot, where would he be sitting right now? Just asking. - Michael Moore

A physician cannot treat an illness s/he willfully refuses to diagnose. Violent political rhetoric is not fault of "both sides." - Tom Tomorrow

Inspiring that our media pundits are so quick to reach for "everyone's to blame" when no conservative events have been terrorized by gunmen. - Jeffrey Feldman

Weird: rightwingers say movies, video games affect behavior -- but real world violent rhetoric from leaders & radio talkers have NO impact! - Tom Tomorrow

Jared Lougnner: drug arrests, too crazy for Army or for college or anythign else, but getting a legal gun? No problem. - Tom Tomorrow

I find it abhorrent that Sarah Palin would stoke the coals of extremism with dangerous messaging, then delete it when something bad happens. - Jason Pollock

Sarah Palin rummages online frantically erasing her rabble-rousing Tweets like a Stalinist trimming non-persons out of photos. - Roger Ebert

I'll say this, if your first instinct after hearing about a tragedy is to scrub yr websites, you have a problem as a political movement. - digby56

CNN's Dana Bash says "this could be a wake-up call." THIS ... ? The whole Tea Party, carrying guns to rallies WASN'T?? - hololio2

I think the first is the best: Could anyone seriously claim that if it had been the case, every currently and highly offended RWS™ and their righteous advocates would not be screaming bloody murder? (Literally.) Think, instead, they'd be defending the poster?

Ebert, too, is right on, given Palin's activity after the shooting. Pretty telling.

I deleted a couple that were over the top.

The ones I left aren't over the top, you ask? Not the way I see it. The right wingers (and commenters here) can scramble up the "both parties" tree all they want, but there's simply no equivalency. Find a loose-lipped lefty, an offensive sign here and there? Yep. Couple of D politicos, too? Sure. And the two I can think of have been unelected. Boo-hoos from Michelle Malkin, one of the very worst in a really bad crowd? Laughable as it is pathetic. Some people called Bush Hitler? Yeah, they did. (And they were wrong: he wasn't Hitler, he was Politburo all the way.) Some lefties have said even worse.

But no, sorry: saying "both sides do it" is like saying there are two sides to global climate change, to the age of the earth "controversy." Sure there are people on both sides saying bad stuff. But calling for violence as political strategy? Politicians saying the other side must be "eliminated," "beaten and bloodied?" Calling for revolution if they don't get everything they want? Actual elected leaders? Just because they disagree?

There've always been crazies out there. But an entire nationwide political movement, teabaggerism, toward which a major party is bending over to kiss its collective ass, based on the idea that if you don't get your way in this democracy -- this democracy -- the remedy is to take up guns? Nope. Unprecedented. (How many teabagger rallies didn't include the sign: "we came unarmed -- this time." For that matter, at how many were attendees actually armed?)

Nor is there equivalence in having an entire media network in bed with, proudly promoting the policies of, hiring the potential candidates of one party, lined with talking heads who deliberately distort and dissemble, claiming our president hates white people, is setting up reeducation camps, is a terrorist sympathizer bent on destroying our very way of life, that he must be stopped by any necessary means. One of whom is either literally crazy or the most dishonest manipulator in the history of television? Talk radio filled with racist blowhards who consider no statement too inflammatory and produce them every hour of every day, blanketing the country? Hasn't happened before; not like this.

All of that compares, in amount and effect, to the occasional comment on some liberal website, a placard, a person of rhetorical excess, who stands out exactly because he's so out of place? Gimme a friggin' break.

Example one. Example two.

On one hand: the occasional flamer, not supported by any apparatus; on the other: concerted and coördinated effort to demonize, dehumanize, delegitimize. To call for uprising. To cry out that liberals are an existential enemy, haters of everything good, entitled to no respect, deserving of destruction. Mainlining it. Because we disagree.

Every instance of violence: just an individual occurrence, no relation to claims of tyranny. One, two, three, four... no relation, never.

Gosh, there I go being divisive.

Know what? If it weren't for the hate-spewing, lie-telling RWS™; if it weren't for the existence of a so-called news network acting as a propaganda arm of the craziest faction of the Republican party (and not even pretending otherwise); if it weren't for politicians like Palin and Bachmann and King and about a hundred others, who deliberately fan the flames of hatred for personal gain, hate and division as policy; if not for that, I wouldn't have this blog at all, or, maybe, like my other one before I left it, I'd be posting a couple of times a week. About policy, about issues that we face. Thoughtfully, even.

Instead, I read, I fume, I despair, I point to commentary like this, with which I find it impossible to disagree:

Dangerous outcomes from a culture of paranoia

Last October, Glenn Beck was musing on his radio show about the prospect of the government seizing his children if he didn't give them flu vaccines. "You want to take my kids because of that?" he said. "Meet Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson."

Last April, Erick Erickson, the managing editor of the right-wing RedState blog and a CNN commentator, was questioning the legality of the Census Bureau's American Community Survey on a radio show. "We have become, or are becoming, enslaved by the government. . . . I dare 'em to try to come to throw me in jail. I dare 'em to. [I'll] pull out my wife's shotgun and see how that little ACS twerp likes being scared at the door."

Do right-wing talk show commentators incite violence against the government? Feel free to draw your own conclusions - but to dwell on the rise of violent rhetoric on the right is to miss an even bigger, though connected, problem. Let's focus, rather, on the first part of Beck's and Erickson's observations: The government wants to take away Glenn Beck's (and by extension, your) kids. The government wants to take a census and will throw Erick Erickson (and by extension, you) in jail if he, and you, don't comply...

... The primary problem with the political discourse of the right in today's America isn't that it incites violence per se. It's that it implants and reinforces paranoid fears about the government and conservatism's domestic adversaries...

... A fabricated specter of impending governmental totalitarianism haunts the right's dreams. One month after Barack Obama was inaugurated as president, Beck hosted a show that gamed out how militias in Southern and Western states might rise up against an oppressive government...

... As much of the right sees it, the government is planning to incarcerate its enemies (see Beck and Erickson, above), socialize the economy and take away everyone's guns. At the fringe, we have figures like Larry Pratt, executive director of the Gun Owners of America, who told a rally in Washington last April that, "We're in a war. The other side knows they are at war, because they started it. They are coming for our freedom, for our money, for our kids, for our property. They are coming for everything because they are a bunch of socialists."

... Consider the plight of poor Fred Upton, the Republican congressman just installed as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, over considerable right-wing opposition. According to Beck, Upton is "all socialist," while Rush Limbaugh calls him the personification of "nannyism" and "statism." Upton's crime is that he supports more energy-efficient light bulbs. How that puts him in a league with Marx, Engels and Nanny McPhee, I will leave to subtler minds.

American politics and culture have a rich history of paranoia, as historian Richard Hofstadter and many others have documented. Many of the incidents of anti-government violence over the past couple of years - flying a plane into an IRS building in Texas, shooting police officers in Pittsburgh and carrying out last weekend's savagery in Tucson - came from people who, however individually loony they may have been, also harbored paranoid visions of the government that resembled, though by no means entirely, those put forth by the Becks and the Ericksons.

That doesn't make Beck, Erickson, Rupert Murdoch and their ilk responsible for Tucson. It does make them responsible for promoting a paranoid culture that makes America a more divided and dangerous land.

But here I am, like people more thoughtful than me, divisively pointing out the damage being done, while knowing full well -- as proved every time a troll drops by -- that I'm pissing into a strong cold headwind.


  1. Umm Sid, your repeating yourself.
    And on the first Holiday of the new Decade(OK, 2d) no mention of Martin Luther King Jr.?
    None, Zippy, Nada, Nichts.
    Well I guess if I lived in a State only minimally more culturally diverse than Vermont I'd forget MLK day to(I know you have Asians in Washington, they don't count)
    Its cool, my Dad's your age and I know its just a reflex to ask a Black Man to shine your shoes good thing his Urologist has a sense of Humor..
    Anyway, MY Pulizer Prize winning Blog will do what you won't, Honor only the 2d Greatest Man of the last 2000 years.


  2. A point well take, Frank. I'm sure you'll do him justice.

  3. Here's a point -- perhaps an obvious one -- made by Andrew Sullivan that has been haunting me:

    "If you read 'Hitler's Willing Executioners' by Daniel Goldhagen, or a unforgettable book like 'We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families,' by Philip Gourevitch, on the Rwanda genocide, you will learn that eliminationist rhetoric is, in fact, a necessary condition for pogroms or genocides to occur."

    (Yes, I know -- Godwin's law!)


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