Right-Wing Terrorism

The news over the past few days has demonstrated that elements of the Tea Party and others on the far right have resorted to blatant bigotry and threats of violence in the run up to and in the aftermath of Sunday’s House vote on the landmark heath care reform bill. As some Democratic lawmakers were making their way up to Capital Hill on Sunday, Tea Party protesters hurled racial and other epithets, like ni***r and fa***t to a few black congressman and one gay congressman. One black congressman was even spat upon.

After the bill passed, several Democrats received death threats and Democratic congressional offices were vandalized. The campaign office of Rep. Louise Slaughter from Niagara Falls, New York received a call that threatened a sniper attack. And the district congressional offices of Rep. Slaughter and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona were vandalized. Pro-life Michigan Democrat Rep. Bart Stupack received death threats after voting for the bill. A Tea Party activist posted on his blog what he thought was the home address of Virgina Democrat Rep. Tom Perriello and encouraged fellow activists to “drop by” Rep. Perriello’s home for a “face to face” chat. It turns out that it was actually the address of Perriello’s brother. The Tea Party nut who posted the wrong address refuses to take it down. Now the FBI is investigating a line to a propane tank on a gas grill that was cut at Perriello’s brother’s house. Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the House’s highest-ranking African-American received a fax with an image of a noose. At least 10 House Democrats have raised concerns about their security since Sunday’s vote.

If that isn’t enough, the GOP is using provocative imagery in its opposition. For example, Sarah Palin, on her Facebook page, used gun sights to highlight the Democrats her lobbying group is targeting in the next elections. This is the same Palin that incited virulence and threats at her campaign rallies in 2008. The official GOP website has an image of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the midst of flames.

A look at actual acts of right-wing violence over the past couple of years shows that there is a body count to all of this. These latest incidents are mostly just words, but extremist movements are capitalizing on anger and despair over a difficult economic situation. Here are a few of the most well-known cases:

* July 27, 2008- Motivated by desire to “kill liberals and Democrats,” gunman Jim David Adkisson fired a shotgun at members of the congregation during a youth performance of a musical, killing two people and wounding seven others.
* Two white supremacists planned a murder spree of 88 African Americans in Tennessee, as well as planned to assassinate candidate Obama in October 2008. The Secret Service has investigated a large number of threats against Obama both during and after the campaign.
* January 21, 2009- White supremacist Keith Luke killed 2 people, raped and attempted to kill a 3rd, and planned to continue on a killing spree targeting Jews and non-whites but was thwarted from doing so after he was arrested.
* April 4, 2009- Richard Poplawski, a white supremacist with strong anti-government ideology ambushed and killed 3 Pittsburgh police officers. Poplawski had reportedly posted a link to his website of a YouTube video of Republican Congressman Ron Paul discussing with Fox News host Glenn Beck the rumored existence of FEMA-managed concentration camps.
* May 31, 2009- Scott Roeder murdered an abortion doctor while he was in church in Kansas. Fox News’ right-wing commentator Bill O’Reilly helped to incite anger and violence against Dr. George Tiller.
* June 10, 2009- James Von Brunn, an anti-government ideologue, attacked the Holocaust museum in DC, killing a guard before he was wounded.
* February 18, 2010, Joseph Stack III, angry at the IRS, crashed a small airplane into the Austin, Texas IRS building, killing 1 IRS employee. And how is this different from one of the 9/11 hijackers?

The DHS report on the threat of right-wing violence was spot-on correct, despite it being viciously attacked by many conservatives as a political move. Extremists on the right are taking advantage of a severe recession and the election of the nation’s first black president to incite hatred and violence.

I hope that in the future, cooler heads will prevail. The GOP leadership and conservative talk show hosts have a moral responsibility to keep the dialogue civil. While they are not necessarily responsible for every lone wolf nut job out there that goes on a killing rampage, GOP leaders and conservative pundits must know that their words are heeded, and when they use the rhetoric of fear, violence, and hatred, those at the fringe of their following will use their words to justify almost anything. Scaring their voting base by claiming that Stalin and Hitler have been resurrected in the form of Obama and his health care bill is simply unethical and untruthful. As I pointed out on my last post regarding conservative pundit David Frum’s analysis of the GOP’s health care defeat, conservative talkers had “whipped the Republican voting base” into a “frenzy” where calm and rational dialogue was impossible.

Of course there are extremists at both ends of the political spectrum. But we did not see this kind of violence and virulent rhetoric from the far left during the Bush years.

7 Replies to “Right-Wing Terrorism”

  1. You are fooling yourself if you believe the threats and violence are coming only from the right. If you want to be level headed and add credibility to your blog – take an unbiased point of view and explore the blatant problems on both sides.

    I personally am sick of partisan politics. Both sides think we are a bunch of mindless sheep (unfortunately, it appears that may be true).

  2. Of course, in the history of our country, we've had violent extremists on the left. In the 1960s, there were groups like Weather Underground and the Black Panthers. In Europe, the leftist groups, like 17 November and the Red Army Faction, were responsible for many murders. But in the past couple of decades in the U.S., can you name any significant incidents of leftist violence? I can think of plenty of right-wing violence examples. How about Oklahoma City? The Atlanta Olympics bombing? The last time Dems and liberals were out of power, the big issue that they were unhappy about was the Iraq war. Did the Iraq war protesters in the U.S. threaten violence against lawmakers who voted for the Iraq war resolution? Not that I am aware of. If you have some specific examples of left-wing violence in the past 20 years in the U.S., please provide some links.

  3. Are you serious? Since this is a "Mormon" progressive site, do you not remember the threats of violence and intimidation directed (and still directed) at members of the LDS Church on proposition 8?

    C'mon, there are nutjobs everywhere! Just because they say they affiliate with one group or another does not mean you can judge the whole group by their actions! I wouldn't say those crazy wackos on the left that you mentioned are any more associated with the true democratic values as those wackos on the right.

    Let's look at the core values of both sides and go from there. Taken from that standpoint… where do you stand?

  4. Yes, I am serious. And comments like "since this is a "Mormon" progressive site" are exactly why we need more websites like this. The insinuation that being LDS and progressive is incompatible is frankly immoral. Church leaders have gone to great lengths to show the Church's political neutrality and there have been prominent general authorities in both parties.

    If you'll kindly refer to the 2nd to last paragraph of the post, which was my main point:

    "The GOP leadership and conservative talk show hosts have a moral responsibility to keep the dialogue civil. While they are not necessarily responsible for every lone wolf nut job out there that goes on a killing rampage, GOP leaders and conservative pundits must know that their words are heeded, and when they use the rhetoric of fear, violence, and hatred, those at the fringe of their following will use their words to justify almost anything."

    I did not say that GOP core values are represented by threats and violence, but it is very clear from current events over the past couple of years that many national GOP leaders and nationally-prominent conservative pundits are abetting the hatred, threats, and violence. The same is absolutely not true of the national Democratic party in the case of Prop 8. Though some leaders in the party may have opposed prop 8, they weren't using violent rhetoric or fear-mongering in their opposition. Obviously I do not condone any of the threats and unethical conduct done by some of the anti-prop 8 protesters.

    When you have people like Glenn Beck and GOP Rep. Ron Paul going on national TV and starting rumors that Democrats are creating FEMA concentration camps for conservatives, you are inciting violence. When on FOX news, you regularly compare Obama to Stalin and Hitler, you are inciting hatred. When you have prominent conservative Christian preachers pray for Obama's death and then have one of their congregants show up at an Obama rally with an assault rifle, you are inciting violence. When the core leadership of your grass roots organization (the Tea Party) is comprised of "birthers" and individuals who believe that Obama is the Muslim anti-Christ, you are inciting fear and hatred. When you have the House Minority leader warned that a Democratic Rep "may be a dead man" if he voted for the bill, he is using violent rhetoric, even if he was only speaking metaphorically.

    When Michelle Bachmen, GOP Rep from MN says she wants her constituents "armed and dangerous," in their opposition to the health care bill, she is encouraging violence, regardless of her true intent, which was likely metaphorical.

    When GOP Rep. George Peterson, in quoting a fellow activist, states that their movement is calling for a "complete and forceable overthrow" of Congress, during a anti-health care bill rally, he is inciting violence. The examples go on and on.

    My point is that Republican leaders need to be responsible for keeping their part of the dialogue civil. The same goes for national conservative media leaders. They claim to only speaking in metaphors, but the fringe members of their following will take those words literally. Like Elder Robert S. Wood stated, we need to "beware of those who stir us up to such anger that calm reflection and charitable feelings are suppressed."

    Even some conservative leaders recognize the problem with the right's rhetoric during the year-long health care debate. David Frum, Bush's former speechwriter and a conservative blogger, stated that "conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into… a frenzy."

    Now about the parties' core value on a variety of issues, I will be posting more. Thank you for reading the blog and for commenting.

  5. Let me make it clear that I wasn't saying "Mormon" progressive as if being sarcastic, but since your are Mormon and writing this, Prop 8 is more applicable. I wouldn't put anyone down for their opinions, so please don't take it that way. I believe in having an open, honest and respective discussion. Once emotion and disrespect enter the arena, the discussion becomes pointless (unless someone is mindless and wants to vent, which is the majority of political discussions these days).

    I am surprised at how many people consider Glenn Beck to be some kind of representative of the republican party. He is a talk show host, an entertainer. He is trying to excite people into action and cut through the senseless debate. I don't hold the left accountable for Keith Olbermann for having Elder Dallin H. Oaks on the worst people of the world list… of course, they guy is an idiot and most people realize that. But still…

    The real point I am making is that your blog is SO heavily weighted one way that it removes a degree of credibility. If you want real readers of your blog (instead of just supporters) you need to make it balanced, state the facts, and have people decide for themselves. Currently it is missing that important piece.

  6. In regards to this particular post, I strongly believe that the current violent and hateful rhetoric from national Republican leaders and from conservative talk show pundits is fomenting violence. I think I've given plenty of clear examples to demonstrate that point. Though both politicians and pundits from both parties are clearly guilty of using straw-man arguments, red herrings, and endless cliches, even at the trough of the national Democrats' power during Bush II's first term, they were not inciting this kind of violence and were not using violent rhetoric (and how could they as the big issue at the time was the Iraq war, so using violent rhetoric against Republicans would be self-defeating).

    My blog is my response to hundreds of conversations I've had with conservative church members during the past 13 or so years. I realize that Beck is not an official representative of the GOP; however, he is an LDS Church member and I know of many active LDS members who are devout followers of his programs. Thus I feel it is important to highlight the kind of hateful and blatantly false rhetoric he is using. Furthermore, the news over the past year has made it clear that characters like Limbaugh, Hannity, and Beck carry an incredible amount of weight within the GOP. I recall last summer numerous prominent GOP politicians apologizing to Limbaugh after they publicly disagreed with something he said. Even during the 2008 presidential campaign and the first months of Obama's presidency where his approval ratings were significantly higher, the TV ratings of FOX's programs with O'Reilly, Beck, and Hannity totally blew Olberman, Maddow, & co out of the water. The point being that conservatives are much more avid followers of these talk show programs on TV and radio than liberals are of liberal talk show hosts. Clearly, you cannot divorce Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, and O'Reilly from the GOP.

    Furthermore, I do not know of a single Mormon who regularly follows Keith Olberman's programs, so I haven't spent time examining him on this blog. (Though there is a hilarious Jon Stewart clip where he tears Olberman apart that I plan on posting if I can find it again.) I mentioned in a comment elsewhere on this blog that I am no fan of his and do not like his program.

    I haven't been posting for very long, but I think some of my issue-specific posts such as the 2nd amendment and abortion are especially honest explorations of those issues.

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