I heard about the shooting of Representative Giffords while sitting by my uncle’s hospital bed. He was sleeping and the television was turned down with the audio low. The newscaster, Alex Witt on MSNBC referred to her at first as Garbrielle and the chyron banner similarly misspelled her name. For the next hour I flipped back and forth between MSNBC and FoxNews hoping to get information the other network missed. My first reaction was that it was Arizona, she must have been a Republican and indeed FoxNews was immediately highlighting that Giffords was pro-life and fighting for a stronger immigration force at the borders. They identified her as a moderate Democrat but FoxNews was attempting to grab her for one of their own. The politicization of assassination had begun at first report.
It is possible for an assassination of a political figure to be non-political. Bremer and Hinkley come to mind (both failed assassins are now free men, by the way). This attack has led to countless internet and media attempts to place the shooter in one or the other political camp. The point here, I think, is not whether Jared Loughner is a ‘liberal’ or a ‘teabagger’. He was obviously disturbed and not a distinct representative of any cogent political ideology. Yet vititriolic right wing expression today is not cogent, it is inchoate anger. The important point is that extreme right wing hate speech creates an atmosphere that ignites such people to violence.
But speaking of inchoate expression, who warned us of government mind control BEFORE Jared Loughner?
“The government is gearing up to conduct one of the biggest scientific experiments ever and you get to be a part of it.It’s called H.R. 3247. It’s a bill proposed by Congressman Brian Baird. Oh, this is fantastic. Remember the book “1984”? Sure. It’s nothing like that. Really, this is completely different. There’ll also be a director of social and behavioral research. Oh man, I doubt if it will be, you know, like anybody with crazy beliefs, you know, like every other “czar.” This one is going to be totally just like you. They’re going to study us and find ways to essentially trick us into driving crappy hybrids and I bet that’s just the beginning. As Time magazine summarized on April 2: “The president — President Obama is still relying on behavioral science. But now, his administration is using it to try to transform the country” — they didn’t say this like it was a bad thing, either — “because when you know what makes people tick, it’s a lot easier to help them change.” Well, that doesn’t sound creepy at all. It doesn’t. And interestingly enough, it doesn’t sound very American, either. But what is that now that we’re in a global community? When has that ever stopped Barack Obama before? I mean, hey, if it’s for the betterment of the collective — you know what I’m saying?” …GLENN BECK
Does that sound any more attached to reality than Loughner’s complaints about mind control?
In 2008, a man walked into a ‘liberal’ church and began shooting, killing two and wounding others. He felt that the Democrats had tied his country’s hands in the war on terror and they had ruined every institution in America with the aid of major media outlets,” the affidavit said. “Because he could not get to the leaders of the liberal movement … he would then target those that had voted them into office.” He was an ardent fan of Savage, Hannity and O’Reilly who helped to shape his hatred and directly motivate his actions. He used Bernard Goldberg‘s book ‘The 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America’ featured repeatedly on O’Reilly as an original menu for his targets. When he couldn’t get to them he shot the liberals who supported them.
Yes, Laughner will probably not turn out to be a card carrying Teabagger. But that is not the point. The reckless politicians and right wing broadcasters who create the milieu that justifies spitting on Congressmen, threatening them with guns and requiring police protection for public officials and their families, also create the atmosphere where tragedies like this take place.
Representative Giffords was shot through the head yesterday.
–A rifle site was placed over her district by Sarah Palin a few months ago. Beneath it read the exhortation: “Don’t retreat! Instead: RE-LOAD!”
–Giffords pleaded for civility on national television: “We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the way she has it depicted she has the cross hairs of a gun site over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize there are consequences to that action.” …..Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords
–Giffords office was trashed the night after she voted for Health Insurance Reform.
–Giffords’ opponent held an M-16 shooting rally to vanquish her. The invitation read: “Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly”
— Her father when asked if she had enemies replied: ‘Yes. The entire Tea Party.’
–In August 2009 at another “Congress on Your Corner” event at a Douglas, AZ Safeway the police were called after an angry constituent dropped a gun and left it behind.
—Judge John Roll was murdered yesterday. He showed up unannounced as a friend and supporter of Giffords, so his murder was neither premeditated nor totally unrelated to politics. Death threats against him were directly related to the vitriol of right wing talkradio:
— In February 2009, when U.S. District Judge John Roll presided over a $32 million civil-rights lawsuit filed by illegal immigrants against an Arizona rancher, the Marshals Service was anticipating the fallout. When Roll ruled the case could go forward, U.S.David Marshal Gonzales said talk-radio shows cranked up the controversy and spurred audiences into making threats.In one afternoon, Roll logged more than 200 phone calls. Callers threatened the judge and his family. They posted personal information about Roll online. “They said, ‘We should kill him. He should be dead,’ ” Gonzales said. Roll, who is the chief federal judge in Arizona, said both he and his wife were given a protection detail for about a month.
–The Tucson Tea Party has announced it has no plans to tone down its rhetoric.
–The local Sheriff who is in the community and understands what has gone on has spoken out. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said: “I think people who are unbalanced are especially susceptible to vitriol… When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous.”
And what of the other national stories urging Americans to get their guns if they don’t get their way voting?
–In Nevada Teabagger candidate Sharon Angle said:
Angle:When you read that Constitution and the founding fathers, they intended this to stop tyranny. This is for us when our government becomes tyrannical…
Interviewer : If we needed it at any time in history, it might be right now.
Angle: Well it’s to defend ourselves. And you know, I’m hoping that we’re not getting to Second Amendment remedies. I hope the vote will be the cure for the Harry Reid problems.
…well, it wasn’t. So what is the ‘cure’ for Harry Reid now, Sharon? And since Representative Giffords beat a Teabagger in the last election what ‘cure’ is appropriate for her?
-In my district in Florida right wing host Joyce Kaufman told her followers:
“If ballots don’t work, bullets will. I’ve never in my life thought the day would come that I would tell individual citizens that you are responsible for being the militia the Founding Fathers designed. They were very specific: you need to be prepared to fight tyranny….I’ll put my microphone down on November 2nd and I mean it! Because at that point I’m going to go up in the hills of Kentucky, I’m going to go out into the mid-West, I’m going to go up in the New Hampshire outreaches and I’m gonna gather together men and women who understand some things are worth fighting for and some things are worth dying for.”
…..Joyce Kaufman, right wing radio host offered the position of chief of staff for Teabagger representative Alan West.
–“Let me tell you what you’ve got to do: You’ve got to make the fellow scared to come out of his house. That’s the only way that you’re going to win. That’s the only way you’re going to get these people’s attention.” Teabagger Representative Alan West
I spent years broadcasting talk radio. And during every one of those years, including the current one, I’ve heard right wing talkers dredge up the same story about Al Sharpton. In 1995 he told protesters angry about the eviction of a black store owner: “We will not stand by and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business.” One of the protesters later entered the store with a gun and flammable liquid, shot several customers and set the store on fire. For years right wingers have continuously blamed Sharpton for these murders and arson and Sharpton has expressed regret for his remarks. Sharpton’s words, though racist, did not explicitly call for violence but right wingers have blamed him for years for using provocative language in a volatile political atmosphere. It seems for them cause and effect only applies when it is politically expedient.
Many bloggers and the few left-leaning broadcasters that remain have warned Americans about the consequences of this hateful incendiary (and yes, even treasonous) rhetoric. You didn’t have to be Cassandra to see it coming.