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Richard Larsen: Where the Hate Speech is Coming From

January 26th, 2011 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

Jared Lee Loughner, the Tucson killer and would-be assassin of a sitting congressman, was not a “right-wing extremist,” or motivated by conservative commentators, or a product of the “Tea Party” mentality. Yet within minutes of the attack outside a grocery store last week, political and media ideologues were alleging that he was. When those allegations proved false, they ramped up their diatribes by ascribing blame to the very groups they could not link him to, for creating a culture of violence through “hate speech.”
Still smarting and licking their wounds from the historic thumping they took in the polls in the November elections, there is obviously no limit to how low these ideologues will stoop to attempt to invalidate or demonize their political adversaries, or as President Obama has called them, their “enemies.” Without even a hint of evidence or credibility, their immediate knee-jerk reaction in blaming Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, or the Tea Party movement proves they have no shame, and need have no evidence, to blame their opponents in an attempt at self-validation after their ideology was rebuked and rejected last Fall.

Immediately after the attack, Markos Moulitsas, who runs the DailyKos tweeted, “Mission Accomplished, Sarah Palin.” To Moulitsas and many of his ilk, Palin had caused the tragedy by producing a map with “crosshairs” over targeted districts, including that of Giffords. Palin’s map, however, used surveyor symbols, not crosshairs or bullseyes. But the Democratic Leadership Conference and DailyKos created maps with bullseyes — in the latter’s case, against Congresswoman Giffords herself, and later ran a column in which the columnist called the shooting victim “dead to me.”

To the contrary, we learn that Loughner was, according to one of his classmates at Pima Community college, a “left wing wacko.” Another called him a “left-wing pothead.” And according to his YouTube profile, two of his favorite books are the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx, and Mein Kampf, by Adolf Hitler. The most likely causes of his violence were his mental derangement and drug abuse, and likely had little to do with his political leanings.

Regrettably, there are the gullible amongst us who blindly accept the punditry’s nefarious explications. Someone I consider a dear friend posted on my Facebook page this week, “give guns to the conservatives and will shoot liberals, just like in arizona. Stop the hate!!”

I couldn’t concur more that we need to “stop the hate!!” But we need to make a distinction between logical and historical arguments against the ideology that has ruled Washington for the past few years and real “hate speech.” I hear much of both, but it appears to me libelous level of “hate speech” is coming from the opposite end of the political spectrum from Governor Palin.

Here are just a few examples for you to consider. Twitter users quickly responded to allegations that Sarah Palin was somehow responsible for the attack with violent, hateful speech: “I hope Sarah Palin dies.” “So…will everyone be satisfied then when Palin is assassinated? You know she’s next.” “Palin is a murdering bi*** who deserves a crosshair on HER house so Al-Qaeda can come shoot HER family. See how that feels, republican trash.”

Chris Matthews of MSNBC has said of Rush Limbaugh, “Somebody’s going to jam a CO2 pellet into his head and he’s going to explode like a giant blimp.” While President George W. Bush was still in office, a movie depicting his assassination was released to the aplomb of media and entertainment critics. MSNBC’s Ed Schultz wished for the death of Vice President Cheney, declaring, “Vice President Cheney is, he is an enemy of the country….Lord, take him to the Promised Land, will you?” He later screamed on his program, “Vice President Cheney’s heart’s a political football. We ought to rip it out and kick it around and stuff it back in him!”

Air America Radio host Montel Williams in a vicious attack against Minnesota Congressman Michele Bachmann, literally yelled into his microphone, “Slit your wrist! Go ahead! I mean, you know, why not? I mean, if you want to — or, you know, do us all a better thing. Move that knife up about two feet. I mean, start right at the collarbone.”

All such vitriolic and virulent libel or ad hominem attacks should be condemned equally regardless of the source, and our standards of civility applied equally with equanimity. There is genuine disagreement over issues and the direction of the country and there is ample room for discussion over those issues. We collectively degenerate to an uncivilized and uninspired society when such ugliness becomes the face of our public discourse. If we are to elevate our level of colloquy to a substantive level, it must be done equally across the entire political spectrum.

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