Tag Archives: wingnuts

Inciting A Revolution

9 Jan

You might remember a 2009 Department of Homeland Security report (which was slammed by right wing pundits), titled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” and warned of a rise in violence spurred by the economic downturn and the election of the nation’s first African-American president.

In the report, which can be found here, the DHS defined “rightwing” in part as groups and individuals “that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely.”

On Saturday, January 8th, 2011, America received a wakeup call from the extreme fringe with the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D, AZ-8). The shooter also wounded seventeen people and murdered six others, including a federal judge and a 9 year old girl during his shooting spree.

Giffords warned of this kind of behavior after her office was vandalized during the healthcare debate of 2009/2010.

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They really need to realize that the rhetoric and firing people up, and, you know, even things for example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gunsight over our district. When people do that, you gotta realize there’s consequences to that action. – Rep. Giffords

The angry rhetoric from the right wing continued during the 2010 campaign season when her opponent, a Tea Party candidate and war veteran, Jesse Kelly hosted a “Get on Target for Victory in November” event at which supporters were offered the opportunity to shoot a fully automatic M-16 and celebrate removing Giffords from office.

In other parts of the country, similar stories surfaced.  Nevada Senate candidate and Tea Party fringe member, Sharron Angle reminded voters that there were “second amendment remedies” if Congress continued on its current path and that Senator Harry Reid needed to be “taken out”.

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Of course, Sarah Palin surfaced again with a plea to “commonsense conservatives” to “reload” rather than retreat.

Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R, MN) advised her constituents to be armed and dangerous while reminding them that “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with blood of patriots and tyrants” due to the imagined threat of healthcare death panels and political re-education camps.

Bachmann also claimed that the President is anti-American and members of Congress are also un-American.

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There are literally hundreds of other examples of violent rhetoric from right wing politicians and pundits that have turned the national political discourse into a daily war filled with violent language and imagery.  In a country where a nationally syndicated radio host compares President Obama to Pol Pot and the most watched cable news channel in the country routinely compares the President to Marx, Hitler and Stalin…what hope do we have of reasonable discourse?

It is in this environment that confused, lost or mentally ill people find validation of their fringe beliefs and thoughts. One of those people is the alleged shooter of Rep. Giffords, Jared Lee Loughner.

Loughner does not fit the profile of a standard Tea Party patriot, but he certainly seems influenced by the movement.  He appears to be someone with an assortment of various political influences and is evidently a believer in shards of multiple fringe conspiracy theories. Loughner is an ideological mix of libertarian anti-federal reserve sentiment, right wing anti-immigrant vitriol, David Wynn Miller ideologies, and various other Alex Jones-like conspiracy theories.

His YouTube channel is a jumbled mess of barely sane rants and paints the picture of someone who is both mentally ill and politically angry:

“The majority of the citizens of the United States of America have never read the United States of America’s Constitution. 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….In conclusion, reading the second United States Constitution, I can’t trust the current goverment because of the ratifications: The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar.

No! I won’t play debt with a currency that’s not backed by gold and silver! No! I won’t trust in God”

The point of laying all of this information out is not to draw a straight line from the rants of Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle or Michelle Bachmann and assign blame for the actions of this man. It is to point out that the political environment these people have helped create gives oxygen to the ideas of lunatics and paranoids.

In April of last year, President Clinton remarked that the current political climate reminded him of 1995 when the militia movement was gaining a foothold across the country and radical right wing ideologues were given the spotlight on the national stage after the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.  Clinton, who was in his first term at the time of the bombing, warned that attempts to incite opposition by demonizing the government can provoke responses beyond what political figures intend.

There can be real consequences when what you say animates people who do things you would never do,” Mr. Clinton said in an interview, saying that Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the Oklahoma City bombing, and those who assisted him, “were profoundly alienated, disconnected people who bought into this militant antigovernment line.”

The former president said the potential for stirring a violent response might be even greater now with the reach of the Internet and other common ways of communication that did not exist on April 19, 1995, when the building was struck.

“Because of the Internet, there is this vast echo chamber and our advocacy reaches into corners that never would have been possible before,” said Mr. Clinton, who said political messages are now able to reach those who are both “serious and seriously disturbed.”

At various periods in its history, this country has sat upon a teetering plank of existence. When the forces of the fringe begin to crack the fulcrum of freedom, it’s imperative that we remedy the situation before the whole thing collapses under the weight of our prejudices.

We find ourselves in just such a period now.

America is mired in a deep recession and embroiled in a seemingly endless multi-front war against an enemy which knows no boundaries. The “war” on illegal immigration, the rise of nationalism, deep cultural divides, unprecedented disparity in wealth distribution, corporate personhood, global macroeconomic shifts and dozens of other crises have sewn a sense of uncertainty and fear. In a time like this, we should take stock of our words and actions and wonder if the example we set is informing insanity and inciting revolution from the fringe.

I’ll return to President Clinton for inspiration on how we should go about effecting change.  In a seminal speech at Michigan State University Clinton said,

But there is no right to resort to violence when you don’t get your way. There is no right to kill people. There is no right to kill people who are doing their duty or minding their own business or children who are innocent in every way. Those are the people who perished in Oklahoma City. And those who claim such rights are wrong and un-American.

Whenever in our history people have believed that violence is a legitimate extension of politics, they have been wrong.

Freedom of political speech will never justify violence—never. Our Founding Fathers created a system of laws in which reason could prevail over fear. Without respect for this law, there is no freedom.

So I say this to the militias and all others who believe that the greatest threat to freedom comes from the Government instead of from those who would take away our freedom: If you say violence is an acceptable way to make change, you are wrong. If you say that Government is in a conspiracy to take your freedom away, you are just plain wrong. If you treat law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line for your safety every day like some kind of enemy army to be suspected, derided, and if they should enforce the law against you, to be shot, you are wrong. If you appropriate our sacred symbols for paranoid purposes and compare yourselves to colonial militias who fought for the democracy you now rail against, you are wrong. How dare you suggest that we in the freest nation on Earth live in tyranny! How dare you call yourselves patriots and heroes!

If you want to preserve your own freedom, you must stand up for the freedom of others with whom you disagree. But you also must stand up for the rule of law. You cannot have one without the other.

The American equation needs to be reset and this tragedy in Tucson offers us the opportunity to conduct some national soul searching.

You might not like Keith Olbermann, but his Special Comment about the Giffords shooting was a first step in the right direction.

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Let’s hope that President Obama can answer the bell in a national time of need and point a new way forward.  Because it’s time to incite a revolution of normalcy.