Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My New Name for a Blog: What Gus Said

Pagan blogger, Gus diZerega has a post that you REALLY need to read. Gus responds to assertions that years of violent right-wing rhetoric had nothing to do with the murders and attempted murders this weekend in Arizona. As Gus points out:
For over a decade the radical right, beginning with Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh have initiated a complete reframing of political debate into only dehumanizing attacks on their opponents as evil traitors who hate America and are any combination of Communists, Nazis, Fascists, Muslims, Gays, and Haters. Against them reference is made to times of violent resistance against oppression. Always. In public debate actual policies are rarely if ever discussed, and when they are, they are discussed in misleading terms such as "death panels." This is a pattern, a syndrome, a deliberate attempt to change a culture by dehumanizing opponents and destroying the tolerance that makes democracy possible.

. . .

When violent rhetoric is continually employed dehumanizing the other, and it is shouted from the roof-tops, and blared out hourly on a major media station, and on radios country wide, that shifts the moral center of gravity around which most people gravitate, and weakens cultural barriers on violent behavior. Those weakest in self-control and mentally least capable of acting responsibly, in other words the people most dependent on external signals for deciding what to do, those people will be the first to be affected. Jared Loughner fits that observation perfectly.

. . .

It's not as if this has not happened before. Rwanda once had Tutsis and Hutus living together amicably and intermarrying. Tensions existed, but Hutus did not suddenly puck up machetes and start hacking away at their fellow Rwandans, including moderate Hutus. But in time they did. Politicians and media figures figured prominently in undermining traditional toleration and gradually pushing culture towards civil violence, just as the radical right is today. Here is a brief account of Rwandan hate media that might be a description of Fox today, except that it has followed the logic of Fox's lies more literally. Two short discussions are on Wikipedia and in this paper by Kristen Landreville. There is also a BBC report.

The former Yugoslavia did not suddenly see Serbs and Croats and Bosnians wake up one day and begin slaughtering one another. That was the outcome of a longer period of cultural destruction pursued by politicians and media allies, principally Serbian ones, but not entirely. Chris Hedges War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning is a eye opening and beautifully written account where while it is not the main issue discussed, the alert reader easily sees the role media played in what happened. Did I say it was beautifully written? Indeed it is.

Political assassination was a feature of the dying Weimar Republic. Assassinations were rarely the work of Nazis. They were often the work of the 1930s German equivalent of Loughlin, weakly autonomous people who reacted easily to the cultural atmosphere of growing violent rhetoric. The ideologues, right or left, were rarely the assassins. Often they were lone operators. Ultimately over 350 politicians were murdered in the Republic, so we have a way to go. But one depressing aspect of the linked discussion is how the good guys lose in these killings, even when everyone denounces the killers.

After the Nazi take over the Germans were not ready for the Nazis' true bestiality, and so German culture was continually softened up before and after through right wing use of the media in a way disturbingly similar to Fox News. If you think I am exaggerating, read Claudia Koonz, The Nazi Conscience. Then come back and discuss it. In this very important book for us today she documents a number of methods chillingly similar to those employed by the American right wing. The book is a real eye opener.

I have linked to another article depicting the striking similarities between the hate media in Germany, Rwanda, and Serbia.

(Gus's post has the mentioned links; head on over to check them out and to read the entire post.) I'll defend Gus against all cries of "Godwin!" Sometimes, the comparison is actually quite apt and, as Gus' post demonstrates, this is one of them. It's time to start being honest about what's been going on in America. I'll also note that the ever-brilliant Athenae is also correct: those who fund this sort of evil, mostly in order to keep the rubes distracted while they steal everything that's not pinned down, are every bit as much to blame as are the graspy little mouthpieces like Beck and Limbaugh and Coulter.

As Gus concludes, this issue is particularly important for Pagans, who not only get blamed for everything from 9/11 to Katrina, but who are also very likely targets of intolerant, Dominionist, right-wing violence. If you blog or twitter or post on Facebook, I urge you to link to Gus' post; I think it's that important.

Picture found here.

Update: Thanks to UNE in comments at Eschaton, here's a list of recent "incidents of insurrectionist violence (or the promotion of such violence) that have occurred since" June of 2008. In the last one-third of 2010, alone, we had the following:
September 16, 2010—Patricia Stoneking, the President of the Kansas State Rifle Association, tells Fox News, "People need to arm themselves, We have the right to put limits on our government, and that's what [the Second Amendment] does." Explaining why America's Founding Fathers drafted the amendment, she says, "They knew government could become tyrannical. We have the right to defend ourselves from a rogue government."

September 30, 2010—Kevin Terrell, a self-described "colonel" who founded a group of "freedom fighters" in Kentucky, predicts war with "the jackbooted thugs" of Washington within a year. Referring to the arrest of Hutaree militia members earlier in the year, Terrell says, "There was a lot of citizens out there in the bushes, locked and loaded. It's only due to miracles I do not understand that civil war did not break out right there."

September 30, 2010—Steve Kendley, a deputy sheriff running for sheriff in Lake County, Montana, threatens "a violent conflict" with federal agents if "they are doing something I believe is unconstitutional."

October 15, 2010—Conservative radio show host Glenn Beck lays out a hypothetical scenario on the air where the government is considering taking his children because he refused to have them receive a mandatory flu vaccine. Beck tells his audience that his response to the government would be "Meet Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson."

October 21, 2010—Pastor Stephen Broden, the Republican candidate for U.S. Representative in Texas' 30th Congressional District, tells WFAA-TV in Dallas that the violent overthrow of the government is an "option" that remains "on the table." "Our nation was founded on violence," states Broden. "I don't think that we should ever remove anything from the table as it relates to our liberties and our freedoms."

October 22, 2010—Texas Department of Corrections officers searching for a missing person, Gill Clements, 69, are confronted by a neighbor while on Clements' property in Henderson County. Howard Tod Granger, 46, points an AK-47 semiautomatic assault rifle at one of the officers, who recalls, "He told us to get off the property or he would kill us all." Later that afternoon, officers return to Granger's home with a search warrant and an armored vehicle filled with 13 SWAT members. Granger opens fire on the vehicle, discharging at least 30 rounds before authorities shoot and kill him. Police find guns and "many rounds of ammunition" in Granger's house. They also find the body of Clements, buried in a shallow grave on Granger's property.

November 3, 2010—James Patock, 66, of Pima County, Arizona, is arrested on the National Mall in the District of Columbia after law enforcement authorities find a .223 caliber rifle, a .243 caliber rifle barrel, a .22 caliber rifle, a .357 caliber pistol, several boxes of ammunition, and propane tanks wired to four car batteries in his truck and trailer. Patock former neighbor in Arizona reported that, "He hated the president. He hated everything. He said if he got a chance he would shoot the president." Patock tells authorities he is a member of the National Rifle Association.

November 4, 2010—On his radio show, conservative host Glenn Beck fantasizes about President Obama being decapitated during a trip to India, saying, "If anybody thinks he was a Muslim over here, well God forbid, they think he was a Muslim over there because he left his religion for Christianity, death sentence, behead him.” Beck then tells his listeners that "God forbid" this should happen, as there would be a "New World Order" overnight in the United States.

November 4, 2010—Fox News host Bill O'Reilly fantasizes about killing a Washington Post reporter while on the air, saying, "Does sharia law say we can behead Dana Milbank?" O'Reilly also tells co-host Megyn Kelly, "I think you and I should go and beat him up."

November 9, 2010—U.S. Representative-Elect Allen West of Florida's 22nd Congressional District hires conservative radio talk show host Joyce Kaufman as his Chief of Staff. On July 3, Kaufman told a crowd of Tea Party supporters, “I am convinced that the most important thing the Founding Fathers did to ensure me my First Amendments rights was they gave me a Second Amendment. And if ballots don’t work, bullets will."

November 9, 2010—Concealed handgun permit holder George Thomas Lee, 69, of Walhalla, South Carolina, is arrested on the town's main street for disseminating and promoting obscenity by bearing signs "laden with expletives and taking aim at U.S. foreign policy, President Barack Obama, blacks in general, Jews and the nation of Israel." Officers also seize literature from Lee that details "the most expedient means of killing law enforcement officers." The November 9 arrest follows an October 19 arrest for assault after Lee kicked and swung his signs at a group of girls between the ages of 12 and 14.

November 10, 2010—Public schools in Broward County, Florida, go into lockdown after an email threat is received by WFTL 850 AM. The email is sent to conservative radio host Joyce Kaufman in response to remarks she made at a Tea Party event in July ("If ballots don't work, bullets will"). The email expresses support for her view of the Second Amendment and says that to further "their cause...something big will happen at a government building in Broward County, maybe a post office maybe even a school." A phone call is then received at the station, allegedly from the emailer's wife, warning that he is preparing to go to a Pembroke Pines school and open fire.

November 23, 2010—Larry Pratt, the Executive Director of Gun Owners of America, writes an editorial in The Register Citizen in which he calls for state and county sheriffs to organize large, armed "posses" as "a check on the unconstitutional exercise of federal power."

November 29, 2010—U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, circulates a PowerPoint presentation to his colleagues in which he compares the Obama administration to the Nazi regime in Germany and likens himself to Gen. George Patton, bragging, "Put anything in my scope and I will shoot it."

December 3, 2010—At "Roe & Roeper's Miracle on Indianapolis Blvd. Holiday Extravaganza" promoting "Toys 4 Tots" in Chicago, Illinois, actor R. Lee Emery (famous for his depiction of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in "Full Metal Jacket") tells those in attendance, "The economy really sucks. Now I hate to point fingers at anybody, but the present administration probably has a lot to do with that. And the way I see it, they're not gonna quit doing it until they bring this country to its knees. So I think we should all rise up and we should stop this administration from what they're doing because they're destroying this country. They're driving us into bankruptcy so that they can impose socialism on us."

January 6, 2011—John Troy Davis, 44, is arrested after threatening to set fire to the office of Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and shoot members of his staff. The threat comes when Davis calls Bennet's office to complain about his Social Security benefits, telling a staffer that he is schizophrenic and "may go to terrorism." "I'm just going to come down there and shoot you all," he declares. Davis is charged with assault on a federal employee.

January 8, 2011—Jared Lee Loughner, 22, shoots U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and 19 others at a "Congress in Your Corner" event at a Safeway supermarket in Tucson, Arizona. He kills six, including federal judge John Roll, and wounds 14, including Giffords, who is shot in the head. Loughner has an extensive history of mental illness and substance abuse, yet is able to purchase two handguns and a high-capacity ammunition magazine legally at Sportsman's Warehouse on November 30, 2010. In a YouTube video posted in December 2010, Loughner states, "You don’t have to accept the federalist laws ... Nonetheless, read the United States of America’s Constitution to apprehend all of the current treasonous laws."


Anonymous said...

What Sheriff Dupnik said, too.


Makarios said...

As far as I (and my correspondents) can tell, the United States is now the only industrialized country in the world in which it is considered socially and morally acceptable for politicians, political candidates, and network journalists to suggest that their political opponents should be killed. Even those who stop short of directly calling for "second-amendment remedies" will demonize their opponents in the most extravagant terms and then smile and nod while their audience screams "kill them"--until one of them proceeds to act on this impulse, at which point they deny any responsibility.

From the outside, it appears as if the United States is set fair on a course toward becoming what Pakistan now is: a failed state with nuclear weapons, de facto governed by an unaccountable mob of religious and political fanatics. Perhaps I exaggerate for emphasis, but only to a degree.

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