On Murder and a Culture of Hate

On February 23rd this year, commenting on a Glenn Beck show segment which discussed armed civil conflict due to Obama’s election victory, I asked: “One wonders how far they’ll tank political discourse before somebody gets f—–g killed.”

In a comment to this post, Macswain corrected me, reminding me that wingnut political rhetorical has already caused the deaths of many people:

Already has happened with that nutter (a Bernie Goldberg fan) in Tennessee who shot up the Unitarian Church killing 2 and wounding others. This kinda rightwing terrorism barely elicited a yawn from the media.

Also … Eric Rudolph … Timothy McVeigh … Anthrax killer …. who’ll be next? The biggest terrorism danger we face is from rightwing nutters.

A church shooting, hmm..  Funny, that.

Less than two months later, on April 5th, Richard Poplawski shot up some Pittsburgh cops.  Beyond his connections to the white supermacist website “Stormfront” that were uncovered by the mainstream media, yours truly revealed Poplawski’s connections to more general rightwing commentary.  In a post entitled “Clean.  Up.  Your.  Side.,” after quoting Poplawski’s inflammatory diatribes I said:

To anyone on the right reading this, look, I’m not going to stand here and say you’re all bad.  That’s certainly not the case.  But I will say that you partially own the ideology of men like Poplawski.  Everything [of Poplawski’s that I published] … is ripped from rightwing talking points. […]

If you don’t want tragedies like the Pittsburgh shootings being used against you politically when it’s revealed that the shooter is a GOP voting gun rights zealot, then clean up your side.  Period.

Of course, all of this relates to my statement from a month and a half earlier, “One wonders how far they’ll tank political discourse before somebody gets fucking killed.”

Today, George Tiller, a doctor who performed abortions, was shot to death while going into his church in Kansas.  This killing was not random, since Tiller has been the target of rightwing harassment for decades — and even shot before:

Tiller has been among the few U.S. physicians performing late-term abortion, making him a favored target of anti-abortion protesters. He testified that he and his family have suffered years of harassment and threats. His clinic was the site of the 1991 “Summer of Mercy” protests marked by mass demonstrations and arrests. His clinic was bombed in 1985, and an abortion opponent shot him in both arms in 1993.

Tiller has also long been the target of Bill O’Reilly; O’Reilly most recently had a segment on Tiller at the end of March.

The ironically titled “Operation Rescue,” who had long harassed Tiller, has this to say:

The anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, which runs a “Tiller Watch” feature on its website, released a statement condemning the shooting. “We are shocked at this morning’s disturbing news that Mr. Tiller was gunned down. Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see him brought to justice. We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning. We pray for Mr. Tiller’s family that they will find comfort and healing that can only be found in Jesus Christ.”

I’m sure this comforts nobody at all.  Some of the wingnut blogosphere reaction is less comforting, like when La Shawn Barber says “Child Killer George Tiller Killed”; or when Macsmind adds “This man was a monster.”  There is actual condemnation coming from their side, too.

Which is good.  Which is necessary.

I don’t take any pleasure in writing posts like this, where murder is connected to politics.  I can easily be accused of trying to score partisan political points before while a murdered man’s body is still warm.  I assure you this isn’t my goal, this doesn’t mean that I still don’t have an aversion to writing this post.  But there’s something which needs to be said to conservatives — something I’ve said before:

Clean up your side.

With each body we find murdered, we find more evidence of a rightwing culture of hate.  More extremism.  More violence.  More fear.  More terrorism.  I’m too furious to put my feelings about this into words…

“One wonders how far they’ll tank political discourse before somebody gets fucking killed.” Now I have to wonder how far they’ll tank political discourse after people die. Are there any limits?

The Constitution guarantees all citizens a right to speak freely.  Even though I see culpability in rightwing rhetoric for these murders, there is nobody that can throw you in jail for speaking your mind.  You have a right to believe whatever you want.  The only thing I can ask is that, if you have any sense of shame or decency at all, promote civility instead of hate.  Learn to live with us.  We haven’t done anything to you.  We don’t try closing your churches or censoring your ideologies.  We’re civil, and I think we owed the same respect in turn — not this bullshit.

[All troll comments made to this post will be deleted.]

17 Responses to “On Murder and a Culture of Hate”

  1. Heather Grimshaw says:

    Aloha,
    I read your article published today on the tragic shooting death of Dr. Tillman. No doubt this man lived in constant anxiety of what the next right wing freak would inflict on himself or his family. How ironc that they chose his CHURCH to shoot him. In my humble opinion, that speaks volumes for their perverse sense of respect of the sanctity of a church. Thank you for caring enough to be the voice of reason!

  2. Chance says:

    There is another group of people who have been killed too, though they aren’t mentioned here. The babys that were killed by Tillman. I don’t endorse the shooting of Dr. Tillman. Let’s knock off the offended attitude about calling him a monster though. Abortion is one thing, what he was doing is murder. You can argue over whether a “baby” is a “fetus” during the early stages of a pregnancy when the “fetus” is not viable on its own. There is no such argument for late term abortion. The man was essentially a serial killer. His death is still a tragedy because all human life has value, even that of someone who doesn’t believe in that value himself. Let’s not pretend though that he was not a monster. Where is your concern for the many who were already killed by this man?

  3. Kathy says:

    If it weren’t for Dr. TILLER, Chance (not TILLMAN), hundreds if not thousands of women would have had their health or even lives destroyed. Women’s lives are human lives.

  4. Chance says:

    For some reason I had the name Tillman in my mind. In a case where a pregnancy threatens the life of the mother, that is one thing. In a case where her life will be destoyed because she does not wish to have a baby at this point, there are options other than having a Doctor kill it. Calling it a “late term abortion” doesn’t change what is going on.

  5. gcotharn says:

    Everyone, of any political persuasion, ought clean up their side and eliminate hatred as much as possible.

    I disagree with tas’ assertion that the right is filled with an especial amount of hatred. Hatred is a human condition, and is not a special feature of the right. When the radical eco people create mayhem, I don’t blame the entire left for creating a culture of hatred. Same with the radical animal rights people. The radical eco and animal rights mayhem people are individuals who have acted immorally. When all the Bill Ayers terrorism discussion occurred last year, I did not blame the entire left for spawning a culture of hatred which produced the Weathermen. Ayers is an individual who acted immorally. I don’t blame the left for Stalin, or for Che, or for any amongst the murderous Communist dictators.

    However, we are, tas and I, possibly wrapped in competing hypocrisies re 9/11 hijackers. tas says:
    Islam does not create a climate of hatred which spawned the 9/11 hijackers, and therefore Islam does not need reforming; the right does create a climate of hatred which spawned Tiller’s killer, and therefore the right does need reforming.

    I say the opposite: Islam is vastly in need of a reformation, as it does create a climate of hatred which spawns murderers at an alarming rate. Conversely, while we on the right can always benefit from upholding our values with greater consistency: overall, the right promotes a climate of love and understanding, not of hatred. Persons of the right believe their philosophies are the best antidotes to human misery and suffering.

  6. tas says:

    Everyone, of any political persuasion, ought clean up their side and eliminate hatred as much as possible.

    No. You always make this argument — it’s not true, nor can it be used as justification. Not when people are dying.

    As far as that paragraph about Islam goes, please do not put words in my mouth. I would never say that. And as far as reform in Islam goes, go read about Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd and get back to me.

    Conversely, while we on the right can always benefit from upholding our values with greater consistency: overall, the right promotes a climate of love and understanding, not of hatred.

    Yes, but there is an extremist element to the right. The two most recent, and unfortunate, examples of this are Tiller and the Pittsburgh cops murdered by Poplawski. Whenever I or somebody else brings up this Culture of Hate stewing on the right that breeds extremism, we’re fed these arguments about how the left does it too, or how we shouldn’t take people like Glenn Beck or Michael Savage seriously, and yadda yadda. No, this is not good enough. People are dying, and it’s about time you took it seriously.

  7. Macswain says:

    Let’s not forget the rightwinger who shot up a Unitarian Church in Tennessee last summer. He killed two and injured seven and the media just yawned (or purposefully ignored terrorism coming from the right).

    Indeed, isn’t it also likely that the Anthrax killer was really a rightwing terrorist?

    A greater threat of violence exists to Progressives from American rightwingers than from any Middle East extremist.

  8. gcotharn says:

    I apologize for mischaracterizing your opinion of Islamists. Such was not my intention.

    Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd looks like a version of a modern day Martin Luther: he is attempting, in his own way, to spur a badly needed reformation, and is resultingly being persecuted by the elements which most need reforming.

    I could not disagree with you guys more re the Right spawning an especially abominable and insidious Culture of Hate, and (from Macswain) re Christians being a bigger threat than Islamists. The world will never be done with hatred and murder. I see neither the same epidemic nor causation you guys see. I appreciate you graciously sharing your thoughts. I did not previously understand your opinions as well as I now do.

  9. gcotharn says:

    maybe it’s more accurate to say: extremists will always arise, and I disagree that the right is especially responsible for their growth.

  10. tas says:

    Gcotharn, this goes back to your “both sides have extremists argument,” which I just don’t see. We don’t hear about Democrats shooting preachers or figures like Newt Gingrich. Yet just these past yet, we have seen members of the right murdering cops and a doctor who provides abortion. There is a huge, huge difference here.

    The connections between rightwing rhetoric and tangble extremism are there. For example, have a look at Frank Schaeffer’s HuffPo column today:

    In the early 80s my father followed up with a book that sold over a million copies called A Christian Manifesto. In certain passages he advocated force if all other methods for rolling back the abortion ruling of Roe v. Wade failed. He compared America and its legalized abortion to Hitler’s Germany and said that whatever tactics would have been morally justified in removing Hitler would be justified in trying to stop abortion. I said the same thing in a book I wrote (A Time For Anger) that right wing evangelicals made into a best seller. For instance Dr. James Dobson (of the Focus On the Family radio show) gave away over 100,000 copies.

    Now let’s have a look at Tiller’s murder suspect, Scott Roeder’s, own words:

    It seems as though what is happening in Kansas could be compared to the “lawlessness” which is spoken of in the Bible. Tiller is the concentration camp “Mengele” of our day and needs to be stopped before he and those who protect him bring judgement upon our nation.’

    Looks familiar, doesn’t it? Christian dogma — like that of James Dobson, who gave out over 100,000 of Schaeffer’s books — intertwined with comparisons of Tiller to Hitler and concentration camps — which is what authors like Schaeffer wrote about, and preachers like Dobson proffered.

    Roeder’s comments were made on September 03, 2007, on a petition at a website called “chargetiller.com”. Since Tiller’s murder happened and Roeder was revealed as the suspect, Charge Tiller has take all the comments offline. I haven’t contacted Charge Tiller to ask them directly about this, but I imagine it’s not a coincidence (and I’m of the opinion that they’re trying to cover their asses).

    But the connections are there. I don’t know how much more blunt it can be.

    The echelons of the right that its extremism has reached is scary — this isn’t a fringe movement. Earlier today, a newsx report came out about former Congressman and GOP presidential candidate Tom Tancredo’s speechwriter. Turns out his speechwriter plead guilty to shouting “nigger” at a black woman while assaulting her. This is a close associate of a former GOP presidential candidate (who was known for racist views anyway) — this is not a fringe extremist with no connection to party leaders. This is a servant of a party leader, writing the words that came out of this party leader’s mouth.

    The right’s extremism is real, is dangerous, has connections to the mainstream right, and people are dying. I don’t know what else I can do to make it clear enough so people on the right stop ignoring the growing cancer inside their movement (by writing critics like me off as politically motivated or what have you) and start taking steps to remove the tumor and recover.

  11. Macswain says:

    gcotharn,

    I didn’t say Christians … so I think you owe yet another apology.

    Boogie-Mann says: “Tillman wasn’t murdered, he just had a late term Abortion performed on him.” Anyone else who wants to join his side in this debate, please raise your hand?

    gcotharn? Does that statement qualify as extremism to you?

  12. tas says:

    Boogie-Mann says…

    My note about trolls at the end of my posts is mostly due to Boogie-Mann’s constant, abhorrent trolling. So if you quote one of his comments under a post of mine and his comment suddenly disappears, that’s why.

  13. gcotharn says:

    Macswain:
    You said a greater threat of violence exists from the right than from any Middle Eastern extremist. I sloppily quoted you as saying a greater threat exists from Christians. I ought have been more careful and accurate. I apologize.

    tas:
    You make a good case that persons on the right engage in what I consider irresponsible, immoral speech. I fully agree this happens, and certainly do not condone what I believe to be irresponsible and immoral speech.

    All Americans can redouble our efforts to stand up for ethical and moral behavior and speech, as you are doing here in this post, as I also believe in doing.

    Beyond that: what do you recommend?

    As best I can figure, you recommend the right call attention to a crisis of dangerously irresponsible language which includes a dangerous meme: abortion providers = Hitler, and therefore abortion providers ought be taken out via vigilante justice. And maybe this is the source of your frustration: the right doesn’t see what you see, i.e. a crisis of irresponsible language, and an all too frequent vigilante justice meme.

    And I don’t know what to say, b/c I have dealings with a tremendous number (many hundreds) of Evangelical Christians, am frequently in Evangelical churches, and don’t see a crisis or a dangerously large vigilante meme. I have certainly met Evangelical Christians who scare me. They are in the vast minority, as persons in the general population who scare me are also in the vast minority.

    If Frank Schaeffer is correct, and if Dobson distributed a book which promoted vigilante justice, then Dobson certainly made a mistake. OTOH, Dobson also preached love and understanding. The 100,000 who received Schaeffer’s book are arguably responsible for being community leaders who helped prevent more violence from occurring between 1973 and 2009. In that 36 years, there have been 4 abortion doctors assassinated, and 4 associated persons also murdered. That’s one doctor every 9 years, one person (Dr. or associate) every 4 1/2 years. It could have been much worse, and Evangelical Christians – as one demographic amongst MANY wonderful Americans who helped – are arguably responsible for helping to prevent worse from occurring.

    It strikes me that our seeing things differently likely revolves around two areas about which we are unlikely to ever agree:

    1] the degree of good vs bad (i.e. danger) amongst the population of Evangelical Christians (I focus on Evangelicals, instead of “the right”, b/c Evangelicals are invariably the persons who murder abortion doctors).

    2] the degree of unavoidable evil which is inherent in the human condition.

    If we can’t generally, loosely agree in these areas, we just can’t agree. So, I respect you, I just do not agree with your opinions in these areas.

  14. Kathy says:

    You were probably thinking of Pat Tillman, Chance.

    And late-term abortions are never done for frivolous reasons. There is always a serious health concern, by definition — 3rd trimester abortions are illegal for any other reason.

  15. tas says:

    All Americans can redouble our efforts to stand up for ethical and moral behavior and speech, as you are doing here in this post, as I also believe in doing.

    Beyond that: what do you recommend?

    Answering that takes a lot of thought… Because I don’t want to answer with something that leads to “people on the right should shift to the left” because that decreases individuality. It’s the wrong answer anyways because not one side is correct all the time, hence why their must be opposition.

    I do think an attitude of civility needs to be instilled, though. On social issues championed by the right, I’ve noticed that they are based off a “You must live like us” attitude which, as I just mentioned, is the argument I’m trying to avoid. For example, take gay marriage. The right makes it an issue because they don’t want to see gays get married, they think it will ruin society, yadda yadda. But at its core, we’re discussing two grown adults who want to get married. Now if Bob and Jack from Idaho love each other and want to get married, I don’t see where this effects me or any evangelicals. And if Bob and Ed in California love each other and want to get married, I still don’t see where this effects me or any evangelicals. Of course, the religious right as a whole never wants to see the latter situation made legal — despite the fact that it doesn’t really effect them. Why? Why this intrusion into people’s lives? Because of their society argument, and how if gay marriage is allowed then it’s a detriment to society. If we follow this argument to its logical conclusion, gay marriage harms society because if its supposed anti-christian values — therefore anything that isn’t christian-approved harms society.

    This causes people like me to think, “First they come for gay marriage…” Not to be paranoid or nothing, but I do “What’s next?”

    Recently, I read Matt Taibbi’s “The Great Derangement”. One thing Taibbi does in this book is he goes undercover and joins Pastor Hagee’s megachurch in Texas — the same evangelical superstar Pastor Hagee whose endorsement John McCain courted during the 2008 election. Taibbi reports the kind of …brainwashing… I really don’t know how else to term it, that new church members go through at a mass rally, where the demons of “philosophy,” “intelliect,” “handwriting analysis,” (not kidding) and “anal fissures” (still not kidding) were cast out. All while being pummeled with the same rightwing talking points we hear all the time, Taibbi says that at the end of his three day initiation process into the church:

    …I realized how quaint was the mere suggestion that Christians of this type should learn to “be rational” or “set aside your religion” about such things as the Iraq war or other policy matters. Once you’ve made a journey like this — once you’ve gone this far — you are beyond suggestible. It’s not merely informational indoctrination, the constant belittling of homosexuals and atheists and Muslims and pacifists, etc., that’s the issue. It’s that once you’ve gotten to this place, you’ve left behind the mental process that a person would need to form an independent opinion about such things.

    My fear is that, in the right, a notion is being bred that it’s not OK for society to have atheists and others who are not tied to religion since, in the evangelical view, that makes society worse and less morally stable. Whereas the vast majority of liberals are content to let evangelicals we as religious as they want within the walls of their church and home, with the businesses they open, with billboards and advertisements they wish to purchase and display their message, with generally anything short of their religion being advertised for free on public property … The religious right is not content to let people like me live the way I want because I’m not like them. They are not content to let me be “pro-choice,” instead they label me as somebody who enables murderer. Were I gay, they would not be content to let me marry a person of my choosing.

    In short, this comes down to members of the right needing to act in a civil way with everybody else. Stop trying to convert us. Stop trying to force religion down our throats via the law. Stop calling me a “leftist” or “socialist” or “fascist,” implying that I don’t love my country and society because I don’t follow them lock step.

    The religious right’s constant belittlement of anyone on the left has also feed into a “persecution complex,” where people are the right use any situation to express how much they are losing. Despite the fact that Bush was near the height of his presidency in 2005, before Katrina, and the Republicans commanded the executive and legislative branches of federal government, there were still these constant attacks on “liberals” who were going to ruin society by being back the estate tax, which they renamed to the “death tax” because when you start being melodramatic, why stop? No matter how much they may be winning, the right always thinks their losing.

    What it comes down to is an unnecessary intrusion into people’s lives. If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t marry a gay person. If you don’t like abortions, don’t get one. Period.

    Instead, we’re treated to entities like the evil, ominous “gay agenda”, or in the case of abortions, being called murderers. Instead of living with us, the right — from the mainstream party downwards — continue to insist that we’re the worst of the worst scumfucks in the world.

    And some people take it too far. This is why when the right tries disowning these crimes, I find it incredibly disingenuous.

    So to start solving the problem, I would suggest instilling a culture of civility and living with other people who have different views of the world rather than the constant persecution of them.

  16. gcotharn says:

    Well, I had to Google “anal fissure”, and believe me I will be praying for protection. And for protection from handwriting analysts – those people drive me crazy. And mimes. Which is how I know Pastor Hagee suffers from lapse of good judgment: he forgot to pray for protection from those mime bastards.

  17. tas says:

    Come to think of it, I wouldn’t want anal fissures, either. But one wonders if anal fusion could help the energy industry.

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