Wednesday June 10, 2009
Can right-wing hate talk lead to murder?
(The above link includes a video.)
I was on "Hardball" today talking about the climate of extreme right-wing rhetoric today, and whether it had anything to do with Wednesday's tragic shooting at Washington's Holocaust Museum, or the May 31 murder of Dr. George Tiller by an antiabortion crackpot.
I tried to choose my words carefully. Unless it's shown that either man had accomplices, we have to be clear that the men responsible for those murders are the ones who pulled the trigger. Still, it's hard not to think about the extreme right-wing rhetoric, especially about Barack Obama, and whether it could conceivably lead to more right-wing violence.
The range of crazy ideas about Obama is broad and wide: He's a secret Muslim, he's going to take our guns, he's even the anti-Christ! James von Brunn just happened to be a "birther," one of the nuts who believe that Obama wasn't born here, his birth certificate is fake, and he thus isn't eligible to be president. I thought it was strange and maybe a little ominous last summer when suddenly Obama was labeled a "socialist" and a "Marxist"; Hillary Clinton and John Kerry are arguably more liberal than Obama; why did he get tagged with that sinister, subversive, alien ideology? It seemed linked to the fact that he's just so … different from other politicians, so easy to marginalize and, frankly, demonize.
Then came Rush Limbaugh with his sexual fears about having to "bend over and grab the ankles" for a black president. Soon Limbaugh was saying he hoped Obama fails; last week he said Obama was more dangerous to our country than al-Qaida, our terrorist enemy who has killed thousands of Americans. Could that conceivably inflame someone marginal and isolated to act against a president who's more dangerous than terrorists?
If there's a through-line between any of these acts of terrorism and the right-wing rhetoric that abets it, of course, it's the one linking Bill O'Reilly to Scott Roeder, the man who murdered Tiller. O'Reilly more than demonized Tiller; night after night he called him a baby killer, compared him to the Nazis, and suggested that he must be stopped. Roeder stopped him, all right. If I were O'Reilly I'd feel terrible for putting a private figure in my public sights night after night, simply for doing his lawful job. But O'Reilly has no conscience, so he's proud of it...