OK. This is truly getting tiresome. I know the media is making an attempt to be "fair and balanced" in writing about the threats of violence against Democratic lawmakers after the passage of health care reform. Plenty of people have already addressed this, but the media’s absurd, desperate reaching to find the equivalent of the extreme, violent, eliminationist rhetoric on the right is more than I can stand.
Case in point, even a reputable news organization like the Christian Science Monitor is susceptible to fear of being labeled part of the "liberal media." It’s bad enough to start out framing an article with a title like, "Healthcare reform: America, the violent? How the political parties are complicit."
Well, given that Thomas Jefferson was called the Antichrist by members of the Federalist Party, the pitched emotions at a major political crossroads perhaps aren’t so surprising — nor are threats against lawmakers.
Instead, this moment is a part of what the American political process is, say some political analysts: Every major shift in policy or political direction is a revolution in miniature, with both sides retreating toward the radical to rhetorically demonize the other.
The Republicans ratchet up the anger over the country’s changing direction. The Democrats play to fears by painting large swaths of Americans as radicals, racists, and rabble-rousers.
And then, there’s this in another article titled "Hutaree: Why is the Midwest a hotbed of militia activity?".
Several high-profile murders have occurred since then, including those of Kansas abortion doctor George Tiller and a Holocaust Museum guard in Washington.
"This is really getting out of hand," Berlet says. "It’s a serious problem when people decide the solution to political problems lies in arming themselves and going underground."
There is concern that this current wave of militia activity is more potent than it was during the Clinton era. The Internet allows conspiracy ideology to travel faster and marginalized individuals to connect with one another across greater distances. Meanwhile, there is increased political polarization.
"While you can look at the Republicans and right wing and say, ‘you let things go too far,’ the Democrats use very demonizing language and aren’t interested in a policy debate, either," says Berlet. "They’ve been interested in bashing the Republicans and right wing as crazy and ignorant. So it’s a mess."
As Eugene Robinson said, there was a time when political violence originated on the left. But that was more than 30 years ago. Outside of some anarchists and the extremes of the environmental and animal rights movements. But it wasn’t embraced by the Democrats of the liberal establishment then, and it isn’t remotely in the mainstream on the left.
On the other hand, the right’s extreme rhetoric — including suggestions of violence and eliminating the opposition — flows conservative media, GOP leadership, and the party grassroots. It’s becoming the mainstream of conservatism.
Take any of the rhetoric from last years’s health care debate, for instance, like this sampling gathered by Robert J. Ellsberg.
Here is what I wrote long before the GOP-stirred up "anger" at fake Death Panels and fake fears of socialized medicine, on August 25 of last year. Seven months ago —
"I would be for an exemplary hanging or two. Have it in Times Square…If that’s what it takes to maintain popular support, let’s do it."
– Charles Krauthammer, on killing AIG executives
"I was going to recommend boiling in oil in Times Square,"
– Mort Kondracke, on killing AIG executives
"I’d use American snipers on some of these guys — what do you call them? — coyotes."
– Pat Buchanan, on how he’d handle Mexican border security by killing, if he was U.S. Ambassador.
"I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back.
– Rep. Michele Bachman (R-MN), on killing those who support reducing carbon emissions.
"Totally ironically, Zeke Emanuel is on my death list. Hold the applause. I’m going to be on the death panel."
– Ann Coulter, on killing the senior health care advisor to President Obama
"You gonna drink your wine?…Drink it. Drink it. Drink it…By the way, I put poison in your….(laughs) Nooo."
– Glenn Beck joking about poisoning Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
"We have the chance to fight this battle at the ballot box before we have to resort to the bullet box."
-Catherine Crabill, Republican nominee for Virginia’s House of Delegates, on killing people who are against the Tea Party movement
"The first thing that would make me feel a little bit better towards them if they’d follow the Japanese model and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say, ‘I’m sorry,’ and then either do one of two things — resign, or go commit suicide."
– Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), on suggesting AIG executives kill themselves
"John Murtha. The reason soldiers invented fragging."
– Ann Coulter, quipping about killing Rep. John Murtha (D-PA)
"…if you gave any U.S. soldier a gun with two bullets in it, and he found himself in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Osama bin Laden, there’s a good chance that Nancy Pelosi would get shot twice, and Harry Reid and bin Laden would be strangled to death.
– David Feherty, CBS golf commentator, on killing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)
"Different people from Washington, DC, have come back to their districts and have town hall meetings, and they almost got lynched." (The audience breaks into applause.) "I would assume you’re not approving lynchings, because we don’t want to do that" (Then makes a choking gesture that provokes further laughter.)
– Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) joking with a laughing crowd, on killing Democrats in Congress
"We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens’s creme brulee. That’s just a joke, for you in the media."
– Ann Coulter, joking about killing Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens
And this only just touches the surface of right-wing efforts to make violence seem a valid part of the political process.
Or take this sampling from my own collection. (Which probably duplicates some of those above)
A while back, I bought book called Take them at Their Words: Startling, Amusing and Baffling quotations from the GOP and Their Friends, 1994-2004. I thought of that book when I heard about the shooting, and about this quote from Ann Coulter.
"When contemplating college liberals, you really regret once again that John Walker is not getting the death penalty. We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed, too. Otherwise, they will turn out to be outright traitors." 2
That really is the message in acts like this one, as any group subjected to hate-inspired violence knows – whether its a lynching, a gay-bashing, of a little target practice with liberals: You can be killed, too. You are not safe. Don’t forget it, and don’t get too far out of line.
There’s more where that one came from of course.
"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building."
Vester: You say you’d rather not talk to liberals at all?
Coulter: I think a baseball bat is the most effective way these days.
So for those of you who haven’t read any of my five best-selling books: Liberals are driven by Satan and lie constantly.
"I’d say something about John Edwards, but if you use the word ‘faggot’, you have to go to rehab."
"We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens’ creme brulee. … That’s just a joke, for you in the media."
"Patriotic Americans don’t have to become dangerous psychotics like liberals, but they could at least act like men. "
"I don’t know if he’s [Bill Clinton] gay. But [former Vice President] Al Gore – total fag."
"Governor, why wouldn’t anyone want to say the Pledge of Allegiance, unless they detested their own country or were ignorant of its greatness? "
"Is it you hate this president or that you hate America?
"’I hate America.’ This is the extreme left. There is a portion of the left – not everybody who’s left – that does hate this country and blame this country for the ills of the world…"
"So I’m saying, for the sake of the nation, I think you Democrats should stay home. For you there’s no reason to vote."
"I’ll tell you who should be tortured and killed at Guantanamo: every filthy Democrat in the U.S. Congress. "
"[Liberals] teach our children multiculturalism rather than American culture, revisionist history rather than American history, the thinly disguised religion of secular humanism and extreme environmentalism rather than capitalism. They train our young to criticize America, not celebrate it. They welcome condoms into the classroom but ban God and the Ten Commandments. They encourage tolerance for the teachings of the Koran but not for the teachings of Jesus Christ. They oppose the Pledge of Allegiance, tell us that ‘God is dead,’ that ‘Christianity is for losers,’ and that evangelical and Catholic conservatives are more dangerous than radical Islamic militants. They tell us that fuel-burning SUVs are bad for America, but flag-burning SOBs aren’t. But they are wrong. And it is time to ask: Why, particularly in time of war, should we entrust the education of our children to people who loathe and ravage so many of out core values and traditions?"
"[T]hey can have the Gay Scouts if they want, if they don’t like the values of the Boy Scouts."
"This is the moment to say that there are things in life worth fighting and dying for and one of ’em is making sure Nancy Pelosi doesn’t become the [House] speaker."
"The Clintons have a cat, but their nanny has a dog."
"They are 12 percent of the population. Who the hell cares?" [To a caller who said black people need to be heard.]
"…If you want to know what America used to be – and a lot of people wish it still were – then you listen to Strom Thurmond."
"The NAACCP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies."
"I tell people don’t kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we can have two on every campus – living fossils – so we will never forget what these people stood for."
"In order for me to believe that God was sending America a message, I would need to be shown that the people who died Tuesday were all members of the NOW gang, or abortionists, civil libertarians, et cetera." [9-18-2001]
"Because we are sympathetic, we are compassionate people, we have responded by letting our government literally feed these people to the point of obesity. At least here in America, didn’t teach them how to fish, we gave them the fish. Didn’t teach them how to butcher a – slaughter a cow to get the butter, we gave them the butter. The real bloat here, as we know, is in – is in government."
"[I]t sounds just like the DNC (Democratic National Committee) is writing his scripts now." [On a videotape released by then Al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqwi.]
"And if Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we’re not going to do anything about it. We’re going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead."
"Everybody got it? Dissent, fine; undermining, you’re a traitor. Got it? So, all those clowns over at the liberal radio network, we could incarcerate them immediately. Will you have that done, please? Send over the FBI and just put them in chains, because they, you know, they’re undermining everything and they don’t care, couldn’t care less."
"I just wish Katrina had only hit the United Nations building, nothing else, just had flooded them out, and I wouldn’t have rescued them."
"Americans will respect your beliefs if you just keep them private. "
"I’ve been to Africa three times. All right? You can’t bring Western reasoning into the culture. The same way you can’t bring it into fundamental Islam."
"That’s my advice to all homosexuals, whether they’re in the Boy Scouts, or in the Army or in high school: Shut up, don’t tell anybody what you do, your life will be a lot easier."
"You want to have two guys making out in front of your 4-year-old? It’s OK with them. A guy smoking a joint, blowing the smoke into your little kid’s face? OK with them. And I’m not exaggerating here. This is exactly what the secular movement stands for."
"Evil cannot be "treated" – nor should it be. Evil has to [be] confronted and destroyed and it matters not why the evil is in play. Society has no obligation to try to rehabilitate evil."
"Conservative people tend to see the world in black and white terms, good and evil. Liberals see grays. In any talk format, you have to pound home a strong point of view. If you’re not providing controversy and excitement, people won’t listen, or watch."
"Many parents are worried in America about the gay agenda and indoctrination of their children to see homosexuality in a certain way."
"I don’t want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there’s evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels."
"If anyone understood what Hindus really believe, there would be no doubt that they have no business administering government policies."
"How can there be peace when drunkards, drug dealers, communists, atheists, New Age worshippers of Satan, secular humanists, oppressive dictators, greedy money changers, revolutionary assassins, adulterers, and homosexuals are on top?"
"When lawlessness is abroad in the land, the same thing will happen here that happened in Nazi Germany. Many of those people involved with Adolph Hitler were Satanists, many of them were homosexuals-the two things seem to go together."
"Feminism encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians."
"Maybe we need a very small nuke thrown off on Foggy Bottom to shake things up." [Speaking about bombing the State Department]
"Oh, you’re one of the sodomites…You should get AIDS and die, you pig. How’s that? Why don’t you see if you can sue me, you pig? You’ve got nothing better to do today, go eat a sausage and choke on it."
"I am a White Male. You see, liberals had destroyed my future to make a future for less qualified people. My babies were crying…"
"And I say also, No. 2, to the politicians, I warn you personally. You will not be re-elected. If you take to the streets with the vermin who are trying to dictate to us how we should run America, even though they’re not even entitled to vote or be here, you’re going to be thrown out of office. The people will throw you out of office. There are not enough of them to re-elect you. You will be out of a job. You will not have a living. You will be hunting for a job. Maybe, you’ll be picking the vegetables."
"You know something; I’m voting for Bush, I just made up my mind. There’s nothing in this for me. I’m a white male, I’m a white, male, married heterosexual – I don’t want the Democrats. Everywhere I turn, there’s another hot coal in my eye. For example, today’s DNC calendar of public events included lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender meeting, the disability meeting, the ethnic meeting, the American Indian meeting, the Asian/Pacific Islander meeting, the Hispanic meeting, and the African American meeting – God bless ’em, they’re entitled to their meeting, I’m entitled to my vote, they’re not my party, end of story. And that’s it. I’m not voting for a party of ethnic minorities and women and immigrants. I will not do it. And if I thought for a moment that they had changed their direction, if I thought for a moment there was a new Democrat Party that was more centrist and more focused on the real issues of today, I would have considered, well, maybe sitting the election out, or voting for Kerry – no, I’m not. "
"I can guarantee you [liberals], you wouldn’t be in business too long. I can guarantee you you’d be arrested for sedition within six months of my taking power. I’d have you people licking lead paint, what you did to this country."
"To fight only the al-Qaeda scum is to miss the terrorist network operating within our own borders… Who are these traitors? Every rotten radical left-winger in this country, that’s who."
"But the question is what’s good enough for you? You wanna live in a country like this? Where a gang of liberal judges hijack any law they don’t like? And hold you hostage to it? They make homosexual wedding the law of the land, when 90 percent of the American people find it repugnant! And sickening! And disgusting! And don’t wanna accept it! And don’t wanna live in a degenerate nation!"
"Carl Levin and Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton, The New Yorker, CBS have destroyed the war effort against terror. And if, God forbid, a suitcase bomb goes off you’ll know who to blame. I’m – hey I’m not going to mince words, there’s no grey zone here. It’s black and white, it’s them versus us and the enemy within on their side."
"I don’t know why we don’t use a bunker-buster bomb when he comes to the U.N. and just take [Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] out with everyone in there."
"My fear is that if the Democrats win [in the November midterm elections], and I’m afraid that they might, you’re going to see America melt down faster that you could ever imagine. It will happen overnight, and it could lead to the breakup of the United States of America, the way the Soviet Union broke up."
"I want you to let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good."
"America should function as a Christian nation."
"The world will not know how to live or which direction to go without the Church’s Biblical influence on its theories, laws, actions, and institutions."
"Overnight you’ll have the court saying…homosexual marriage is a protected right. I would callit a bliztkrieg of the homosexual juggernaut. It’s not an erosion. It’s a frontal assault on decency and morality."
"If the militant homosexuals succeed in their campaign"
(I’ll update later with referring links, but these are pretty much all easy to find via online sources.)
It’s said that the shooter initially tried to enter the church through a back entrance to a room where the children were preparing for their performance. He was stopped and told that he’d have to come in through the public entrance. No children were killed, but the article above quotes one parent on how the incident has touched their children.
Jamie Parkey thought the blast that ripped through the sanctuary of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church was part of the play his daughter and other children were putting on. Then he saw blood on another parishioner behind him and saw a man with a 12-gauge shotgun calmly firing away at the congregation.
"He had the gun leveled in our direction," Parkey told TODAY’s Matt Lauer on Monday, one day after the gunman killed two church members and wounded six others before being wrestled to the ground by parishioners. "That’s when I pushed my mother and daughter to the floor and got under the pew. When I saw the men rushing him was when I got up to join them."
Parkey was one of the people who tackled 58-year-old Jim D. Adkisson, kicking the shotgun away and holding the gunman on the floor with an arm-bar hold. Parkey’s 16-year-old daughter was in the play, and he had been sitting in the front of the church with his mother and his 6-year-old daughter when the attack began.
…Parkey’s wife, Amy Broyles, was in the church’s glass-enclosed quiet room with their 2-year-old daughter when Adkisson walked into the Knoxville sanctuary, pulled the shotgun out of a guitar case and opened fire.
"I was there with our 2-year-old and heard the first shot," Broyles told Lauer from Knoxville. "Our daughter had come out on the stage. Then another shot, and I saw Jamie pushing people down to the floor. I looked right outside the window of the room and the man was standing right there with a rifle, shooting. I grabbed the baby and dropped to the floor against the door so that he couldn’t see or be able to come in if he tried to."
Broyles said she could hear the men tackling Adkisson right outside the door she was sitting against. When she heard her husband’s voice, she knew that he and her family were safe. "He wouldn’t have left them if they were injured. I was very thankful that my family was safe, but my heart is breaking for the families that were not," she said.
Although none of her children was hit by shotgun pellets, Broyles said, "Our 6-year-old was very, very upset; lots of crying, and she had blood all over her dress and her arms and legs."
Who told Adkisson who to hate? He loaded and pointed his weapon, but who loaded and pointed him? And do their hearts break for the families now experiencing loss and heartache and trauma because one man was taught to hate "liberals" and to blame them for all that went wrong in his life?
That list, by the way, is one I compiled after the shooting at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist, and the Holocaust Museum shooting, and the murder of Dr. George Tiller, or the right-wing’s own "Summer of Love".
Now, I challenge anyone to find the equivalent on the left. Not merely the quality of rhetoric, but the quantity of it — and coming not just from the fringe or the grassroots, but from the mouths of elected officials too.
I, along with Eugene Robinson, bet you won’t.
But for the most part, far-left violence in this country has gone the way of the leisure suit and the AMC Gremlin. An anti-globalization movement, including a few window-smashing anarchists, was gaining traction at one point, but it quickly diminished after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. An environmental group and an animal-rights group have been linked with incidents of arson. Beyond those particulars, it is hard to identify any kind of leftist threat.
By contrast, there has been explosive growth among far-right, militia-type groups that identify themselves as white supremacists, "constitutionalists," tax protesters and religious soldiers determined to kill people to uphold "Christian" values. Most of the groups that posed a real danger, as the Hutaree allegedly did, have been infiltrated and dismantled by authorities before they could do any damage. But we should never forget that the worst act of domestic terrorism ever committed in this country was authored by a member of the government-hating right wing: Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.
It is dishonest for right-wing commentators to insist on an equivalence that does not exist. The danger of political violence in this country comes overwhelmingly from one direction-the right, not the left. The vitriolic, anti-government hate speech that is spewed on talk radio every day-and, quite regularly, at tea party rallies-is calibrated not to inform but to incite.
Demagogues scream at people that their government is illegitimate, that their country has been "taken away," that their elected officials are "traitors" and that their freedom is at risk. They have a right to free speech, which I will always defend. But they shouldn’t be surprised if some listeners take them literally.
Nonetheless, happy hunting.