Jane Hamsher of HuffPo and FireDogLake posted this Mar 2010 timeline to show the connection between certain types of inflammatory Tea Party-inspired rhetoric and actual violence.
People are arguing about whether Palin influenced the Arizona shooter or not, but my point is that her actions are indefensible completely aside from that.
Consider what was happening in March of last year:
- Friday, March 19: Mike Vanderboegh of Pinson, Alabama, the former leader of the Alabama Constitutional Militia, puts out a call for modern “Sons of Liberty” to break the windows of Democratic Party offices nationwide in opposition to health care bill.
- Friday morning: Brick thrown through the Niagra Falls office of Rep. Louise Slaughter, who was also receiving threatening voice mail messages referring to a sniper.
- Friday night or Saturday morning: Brick thrown through the Democratic Party headquarters window in Wichita, Kansas with anti-Obama rhetoric written on it.
- Saturday, March 20: Brick thrown through the window of the Rochester, NY Democratic headquarters. Attached is a note with a Barry Goldwater quote: “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.”
- Sunday, March 21: A fist sized rock thrown through the window of the Hamilton County Democratic Party headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio after the health care bill passes.
- Sunday, March 21: Front door of Gabby Giffords office smashed out, presumably by a brick or a pellet gun.
- Monday, March 22: Propane gas line severed at the house of Tom Periello’s brother by a self-identified Tea Party activist who believed Periello lived there.
- Following the health care vote: Bart Stupak receives a fax with with a drawing of a noose and an anonymous voice mail saying: “You’re dead. We know where you live. We’ll get you.” Betsy Markey receives telephone threats of violence. A man threatens to burn down John Boccieri’s house.
At the time, John Boehner, responsible Republican adult, appealed for calm and restraint saying:
I know many Americans are angry over this health-care bill, and that Washington Democrats just aren’t listening. But, as I’ve said, violence and threats are unacceptable. That’s not the American way. We need to take that anger and channel it into positive change. Call your congressman, go out and register people to vote, go volunteer on a political campaign, make your voice heard — but let’s do it the right way.
But Sarah Palin chose a different route, doubling down on the scary threat-y language, tweeting on Mar 23 all about reloading in crazy ALL CAPs and then launching a campaign with the now-infamous image of Dem congressional districts and their reps in the crosshairs of a gun.
One of the people in her “bullseye” target list was Gabrielle Giffords, now fighting for her life. Thank god her assailant was prevented from RELOADing per Palin’s suggestion.
Howz that hate speech-y, racebait-y, reload-y thing workin’ out for ya?
There are those who are concerned that people calling for civil discourse are actually calling for censorship on both the right and the left. Over at Slate, some dude named Jack Shafer posted this complete clap-trap:
For as long as I’ve been alive, crosshairs and bull’s-eyes have been an accepted part of the graphical lexicon when it comes to political debates. Such “inflammatory” words as targeting, attacking, destroying, blasting, crushing, burying, knee-capping, and others have similarly guided political thought and action.
WHUT? We’re not talking about the kind of language you might use to describe a football game e.g. “The Seahawks slaughtered their opponents last night.”
This is not a game, son…
No, we’re talking about time and time again when right wing extremists with megaphones have advocated for the overthrow of the U.S. government, recommended violent actions or in some way questioned seriously the legitimacy of government officials.
So, here’s the kind of talk I’d for one would like off the table, as in — if you use language like this in the public sphere again, our society casts you down as someone unworthy of our nation’s airtime and someone worthy of a call from the FBI. I think there’s free speech and then there’s incitement to violence and then — there’s treason. Here’s stuff I just don’t think we should see anymore.
We can all stand to check ourselves on both sides and strive towards a national debate free of threats. I appeal to both sides’ patriotism. This is a time to come together and stand for peaceful dialogue. I’m cool with someone disagreeing with me on which policy will be of the most benefit to the most Americans. I’m not down with speech that is accompanied with veiled or overt threats to my government or to me. I hope Roger Ailes of Fox News is sincere and will enforce his own network when he said to Russell Simmons (of all people):
I told all of our guys, shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually. You don’t have to do it with bombast.
With that – I can agree. Yet Ailes’ framing is that both sides are guilty of incendiary language and while I’m sure examples might be found on both sides, the preponderance of the crazy anti-government talk has been coming from the right wing since the ascension of America’s first black president. (Here’s a helpful timeline going back to 2008). And I think it’s lazy of the mainstream media in the extreme to fail to show the pattern and hold certain public figures accountable for the words they’ve chosen.
We’ll see…we either turn the tide of hateful, violence-tinged speech or certain forces will look to double down.
Cheryl Contee aka "Jill Tubman", Baratunde Thurston aka "Jack Turner", rikyrah, Leutisha Stills aka "The Christian Progressive Liberal", B-Serious, Casey Gane-McCalla, Jonathan Pitts-Wiley aka "Marcus Toussaint," Fredric Mitchell
Special Contributors: James Rucker, Rinku Sen, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Adam Luna, Kamala Harris
Technical Contributor: Brandon Sheats