Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Did Hate Speech Kill Stephen Tyrone Johns?

In April of this year, the Department of Homeland Security produced a report, leaked to the media, that detailed home-grown, terrorist threat assessments of right-wing extremists. A report on threats coming from left-wing extremists had been released in January. It should be noted that these reports had been commissioned and data collected during the Bush Administration.

The report says that conditions similar to that leading to the militia movements of the 1990's - and the Oklahoma City bombing - are occurring now. Joan Walsh in Salon quotes Susan Page from an interview on MSNBC today, saying that, "... based on history: They include a prolonged economic downturn, the demonization of immigrants, the election of the first black president, fears about losing the right to own guns, a banking crisis inciting age-old paranoia about "Jewish cabals" and the return of many veterans to the States suffering from PTSD and other conditions while getting insufficient care."

When this report on potential threats by right-wing extremists was leaked, conservative talking heads immediately took offense, somehow believing that they were being personally attacked. I'm not sure how they felt linked to extremism, but hey, if the shoe fits ....

Rush Limbaugh insisted that right-wing groups had never done anything violent (!), while Michelle Malkin, who led the charge, called the report a "piece of crap" and said it was released at this time to smear those participating in the upcoming "tea parties." Columnist Bill Kristol called it "juvenile" and Rep. Michelle Bachman said, "To me, it looks like the extremists are those running the DHS." Continuing in this vein, Newt Gingrich demanded that the person who wrote this "outrageous" memo "smearing veterans" should be fired, and Rep. John Boehner said Napolitano herself had a lot of explaining to do. Rep. Peter Burgess said that Napolitano should step down.

I wonder how many of them regret those remarks today? I wonder, after the murder of Dr. George Tiller, and the murder of the guard at the Holocaust Museum today by a white-supremacist how many of them regret those remarks today?

Words have power. In our society, there is a price to be paid for free speech. We have a violent history and we know, based on our history, that there are people in our society who walk on the edge. People who are willing to pick up a gun, willing to make a bomb, and willing to die for a cause. When our talking heads are allowed to refer to legally practicing doctors as "baby killers," and say that our President should fail, that he is worse than al Qaeda. When torture is considered okay some of the time, and the law only applies to some of the people, then it's easy to see how someone can pick up a gun and shoot up a factory, or a church, or a museum.

Did this hate speech on our televisions cause von Brunn to murder Stephen Tyrone Johns today at the Holocaust Museum? I don't know. But it certainly didn't do anything to prevent it.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

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