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Gabrielle Giffords Shooting: The Missed Warning Signs
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by Chet, San Ramon,
on Jan 10, 2011
A 2009 Homeland Security study warned that the rise of right-wing extremism could spur violent attacks. But the report was attacked by Republicans, including now-Speaker John Boehner, blunting its impact.
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Posted by Jane
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 15, 2011 at 11:26 pm
What has become increasingly saddening to me is the vigilante mentality that pervades so much of the right. There is virtually no difference between the vitriole spewed forth by the likes of Limbaugh, Beck, Savage, Coulter and others I've named and the rhetoric used to justify America's neo-Nazis, white supremacists, Christer gay bashers, and the 'lock and load' anti-immigrant militias that roam the borderlands with loaded guns in search of their prey.
A disappointing but predictable example of this is Jimfo1, who professes to be against those who dehumanize others, but who when he is invited repeatedly to denounce vigilante hate groups on the right remains doggedly and conspicuously silent. For example, instead of condemning murderous anti-immigrant militia groups, he shifts to the false proposition that persons have a right to defend their property from trespass using armed violence if necessary. (I do need to remember that, though; I wouldn't want one of my kids to cut across ol' Jimfo1's front yard.) Oh, and then there's his suggestion that the vigilante militias are merely assisting law enforcement. But, of course, and consistent with the failed moral view that's driving his discussion, Jimfo1 overlooks that law enforcement has stated repeatedly that it categorically does NOT want armed and untrained vigilante zealots taking the law into their own hands. This is what vigilantes do. They think individuals are better able to protect the nation from 'impure' others than is the government; and so they take law into their own hands. They try to soft-pedal their domestic terrorist views and practices with comments like 'we're simply resorting to second amendment remedies', 'we're locked and loaded and taking back our country', and other tea baggerisms. So, invited to condemn a pernicious network of violent, terrorizing, right-wing thugs, Jimfo1 instead likens them to American patriots in armed defense of their property. Like I've stated previously: this constitutes a moral deficiency on Jimfo1's part and the many other screamers on this post who apparently share similar viewpoints.
To the best of my knowledge neither the Animal Liberation Front nor the Earth Liberation Front have an easily categorizable political persuasion. Contrary to Jimfo1's claim (surprise, surprise!), they are not radical leftist outfits. Clearly, they are anarchist groups, and, as is true with most anarchists, they share more with the right-wing than with the left. Both ALF and ELF appear to be equal opportunity bashers of private and state-owned facilities. Close cousins with vigilante groups on the right, they express an extreme hatred of govt; and they attempt to take law into their own hands on the belief that the govt is ill-equipped to save animals or save the earth. My understanding is that they seek to wreak havoc in ways that destroy property without destroying human life. This is an indefensible position, and I strongly condemn it, no less strongly than I condemn Limbaugh's call to kill all liberals (except a few), Beck's flirtatious fantasy to poison Congresswoman Pelosi or his frothy-mouthed wish to kill or have someone kill for him Michael Moore. But the right-wing posters here, after repeated invitation, refuse to join in like condemnation. It is difficult to refrain from judging the right-wing posters here as anything but vigilante sympathizers.
The Southern Poverty Law Center is a highly respected, nonpartisan organization. The link provided by Jimfo1 is that of one member of the Center speculating on the possible motives for Tucson's massacre. Given the increasingly hostile environment created by the right wing -- threats against politicians (including Gabrielle Gifford), vandalism of their offices (including that of Gabrielle Gifford), attempts to assassinate members of organizations that are given prominence in Glenn Beck's paranoid fantasies -- it was perfectly reasonable for the author to speculate on the possibility that the shooter was driven by a right-wing vigilante fantasy. The speculative piece struck me as being flawed, but fairly well measured.
Sheriff Dupnik's initial statements emphasized the rise of an increased climate of prejudice, bigotry and violence. He did not point his finger at any individual or agency, nor did he mention left- or right-wing sources; rather, he mentioned, very generally, t.v. and radio talk and movies as contributors to the hostile climate. It was the right-wing echo machine (Fox) that immediately got defensive and started jumping all over the sheriff, which, again, is no small wonder. Again, Jimfo1 has his facts wrong. Being called a liar by a confirmed liar like Jimfo1 does not bother me, as the charge is patently false.
Once again, the right-wing posters here fall back on the apparent fact that the shooter was not a crazed right-winger. Apparently, that is the right-wing vigilantists and vigilante sympathizers' only refrain. They appear to have learned nothing from this tragic event. At the same time, they refuse to acknowledge multiple instances over the past year when right-wing zealots, acting upon the vile violent rhetoric which is now the mainstay of right-wing airwaves, have acted in violent ways. These real, documented instances, apparently don't count for anything. When professed right-wingers kill three cops, this doesn't count for anything. When a heavily armed guy (Byron Williams), frothing at the mouth after listening to Glenn Beck's paranoid rants about the Tides Foundation, acts with the intent to 'start a revolution' by assassinating Tides Foundation members and wounds two police officers by so doing, this doesn't count for anything. I guess to Jimfo1 and other right-wingers on this post, that's small potatoes. Not worth mentioning, I guess; and certainly not worth condemning. I call this intellectually dishonest, deceitful, and indicative of moral deficit. About the only thing they can muster by way of fact is to quote Obama's ill-chosen quote 'if they bring knives, we'll bring guns'. I'm certain Obama regrets using that phrase, and I have no doubt that he would have the decency to admit it. Contrast that with the frenzied denial and dissemblage that we see on the Fox news cable. This said, the fact remains that law enforcement had no problems with lefties arming themselves at political rallies; the problems were all coming from the right-wing militia types.
The great classical conservative Hannah Arendt once referred to the vigilantism she witnessed first-hand in 1930's Germany as expression and harbinger of the 'banality of evil' that was to follow. It appears that here in America, we have the increasing onset of institutionalized vigilantism. The right-wing's see-no-evil position on this matter is indicative of a great deal. It's embrace of the rhetoric that fuels vigilantism and that is frequently used by vigilantists to justify their causes and actions gives ample indication that the Republican Party is being hijacked by vigilantists and their sympathizers. Here we have Jimfo1 sitting on his front porch, locked and loaded, ready to shoot those pesky trespasser immigrants; and if it's against the law, well I guess the (right-wing) individual knows how to enforce the law better than does that darned overreaching regulative state. Just listen to Glenn Beck. He tells it as it is, and he's beyond criticism.
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Posted by Jane
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 18, 2011 at 10:14 am
Yes, Walter, I think my arguments have clearly illuminated an ugly moral failing at the base of much that passes as right-wing ideology these days. Many who now stand on the right are vigilantes, vigilante supporters, vigilante apologists, or vigilantes-in-waiting. They support hate speech and the violence that it precipitates. Confronted with an opportunity to condemn the violence-condoning hate speech, which has increasingly become one and the same with conservativism or Republicanism, they pass. This includes a sizable stable of right-wing commentators, many members of which have found a home at Fox News. None of these commentators has acknowledged the hatred and the will to intimidate and terrorize the targets of their hate speech. Like so many of the contributors to this thread, their silence will have made them complicit the next time violence flares up. And with the non-diminishing hatred and invective being honked out by the right, there most certainly will be violence.
We have moved forward after a prolonged and ugly episode of slavery in this country. Those who supported slavery were defeated, and the nation attempted to move on. But every generation or so, a new variant of those who would seek to deny the humanness and human rights of others crawls out from under a rock and expresses itself as a new variant on 'freedom'. There are photos of the ugly crowds at the end of the 19th century that assembled up and down the West Coast, murdering and terrorizing Asian Americans to the point that most felt compelled to leave the country. Those vigilante crowds consisted of real people, hurt by a recession, consumed with hatred for a scapegoated newly arrived host of immigrants, and were convinced that the state was out to hurt them by extending to those immigrants basic rights. Those vigilante crowds beat, whipped, and hung Asian Americans in the name of 'freedom'.
That same mentality was evidenced with the Ku Klux Klan. The state, argued the Klan, was oppressing good white people when it attempted to ensure a basic slate of human rights for black folks. Their argument translated into widespread lynching. Photos still exist which show the ugly crowds smugly looking up at a human being dangling at the end of a rope they had strung over a tree limb and tightening around his neck. These so-called patriots, feeling oppressed by a state that sought to integrate public schools, fanned out through neighborhoods in their communities in an attempt to inflict terror on black people and their children. There are photos that still exist which show these so-called patriots forming human gauntlets, waving their fists, and spewing venom at young children on their way to school.
We saw the same ugliness from all those on the right who were against legislation of laws that were designed to extend civil rights to those who for centuries had been denied personhood, even in our enshrined constitution. Although the Civil Rights laws in the 60's have become a 'given' in this country, it is important to remind ourselves of the ignorant, hateful, bigoted, violent resistance those laws encountered. At the forefront of the resistance were such groups as the KKK and the John Birch Society. The state has gone too far, these groups bellowed. The state is oppressing us. But sane and rational people knew better, and many young college students, potential 'intellectual elitists', went into the south in order to provide solace to the terrorized, to help organize them against the ugly popular and institutional racism they faced.
The hatred and violence subsides, usually after strong state intervention is needed, but then, usually in rough economic times, it percolates to the surface once again. It has raised its ugly head recently with anti-immigrant sentiment, and even more recently with anti-muslim sentiment. The ugliness takes the form of words that incite to violence, such as church burnings and mosque prohibitions and synagogue defacings. When Michael Savage routinely refers to immigrants from the third world as being from the 'Turd World', he is suggesting to his lathered up audience that immigrants are less than human; that they deserve whatever hate-group-inflicted violence is directed at them because they are dirty and they stink. Today, Fox News watchers are awash in the hate speech of Beck and O'Reilly and their guests, and they boast of how the station of hate is watched by more viewers than any other cable news show. Beck knows that his audience will find it cute when he fantasizes killing Michael Moore or having one of his watchers do the job for him. Claiming to be proud, high-I.Q.'d boob-tube watchers, they suffer no embarrassment whatsoever in repeating to anyone who will listen that Fox News has more boob-tube watchers than any other cable network. (Somewhere they perhaps realize that those liberal 'intellectual elitists' are not glued in front of the t.v. but are reading, and are raising kids without a television set in every (or any) room of the house.)
Vigilante violence, and the thought and speech that sustains it, is still with us today. Since President Obama's election, threats against the President have arisen over 300%. The ugliness is still out there. John McCain, after some initial stumbling, finally stepped forward during his campaign in an effort to stave off the ugliness. The photos and videos did not lie; the throngs of haters at his rallies, and especially those of his running mate, were sizable and ugly. He disappointed many of them when he claimed he did not think Obama was a Muslim. His running mate consistently failed to acknowledge that Obama was anything but a Muslim terrorist. She drew the ugliness to her rallies; she pandered to it; her words incited it. The right-wing propaganda network happily conveyed the hatred and incitations to its morally stunted viewers.
On this post, not a single right-wing contributor has acknowledged their dismay that their President is being threatened. Not a single right-wing contributor has acknowledged or expressed their dismay at the profusion of vigilante hate groups that have been springing up since Obama's election. Not a single right-wing poster has registered any condemnation of the hate speech that is routinely being produced on the right-wing radio and television networks. Others on this post as well as I have all but pleaded for them to do so. But, no, there has only been denial, deflection, and rationalization. Why? Because the right-wing posters here are one and the same with Southern lynchers and health clinic bombers and minority bashers. They are awash in a sea of violent, hateful invective that is intertwined with talk of gun rights and patriotism and taking the country back. Hold up the mirror to yourselves, and you'll see an unmistakable resemblance to the photographed vigilantes of old. Despite liberal America's best efforts, the hatred still crawls out from under any given rock. Morally denounced as KKK, its members and sympathizers simply change their name to patriot minutemen groups. They fill the Tea Party rallies that are advertised and incited (this is well documented) by Fox News. The hatred coils up and spews its venom until liberal America again asserts itself by condemning the ignorance and bigotry that attempts to pass itself off as 'taking back this country'. Jimfo1, after my denunciation of his moral deficit, was sent slithering back under his rock; no doubt he'll again reappear under some other 'patriot' pretense.
The great classical liberal thinker, and intellectual father of libertarianism, John Stuart Mill, argued passionately for free speech. Even when the hateful and ignorant are honking out their ugly noises on the public square to the point that they embarrass us before our children, we must continue to let them honk. But it is the duty of good citizens to step forward and morally denounce the ignorance and hatred in hopes that the violence in all its ugliness will abate, if only somewhat. Martin Luther King, after Frederick Douglass perhaps the nation's greatest American, took Mill's words to heart. He passionately criticized segregationist policies and the hatred and bigotry that was at its base. But he was no less critical of those on the left whose words promoted or condoned or gave a free pass to violence. He realized his words had to have a sound moral foundation if they were to find genuine traction within the American public, and within his own conscience. He realized that hatred and calls to violence can have no sound moral foundation. And so he courageously stepped forward and clearly denounced those even among his own brotherhood and sisterhood who were unwilling themselves to separate themselves from the verbal flame-throwers in their midst. The vigilante sympathizers on this thread might learn a good deal from Martin Luther King. But alas, they will not learn it glued to the boob tube immersed in the loughner-like thought streams running from the mouth of a Glenn Beck. 'Ah', you rightists say, 'but that's where the ugliness is, and I feed upon it.'
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