When the Department of Homeland Security released a report about the danger of right wing violence in 2009, many conservatives saw this as an attack on them as opposed to showing concern for the violence which is a real problem on the extreme right–as we may have seen once again today with the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and several others today. By supporting many of the wild views of the extreme right, even mainstream Republicans are creating an atmosphere which feeds hate groups. Regardless of whether this rhetoric ultimately turns out to be responsible for the latest act of violence, right wing hate talk creates a dangerous situation.
We’ve even seen examples of the conservative movement taking actions which can promote violence. This includes the rhetoric of Glenn Beck, Sharon Angle advocating “second amendment remedies,” and Sarah Palin making a target of Giffords:
The effect of the crosshairs is considerably magnified by the inflammatory and hate-filled public speech or right wing politicians such as Palin and Angle which treat Democratic public officials as the enemy. It was easy to predict that the rhetoric and hate-filled views of the right could lead to more violence, regardless of the beliefs of the shooter in this specific case. Giffords had even pointed out this risk:
I mean, this is a situation where — I mean, people don’t — 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, they’ve gotta realize there’s consequences to that action.
Reports about the shooter show that, as is common with such disturbed people, they share some characteristics of both the far right and left, but his views primarily echo the outrageous views and conspiracy theories common on the right and in the tea party movement. The shooter’s favorite books include Mein Kampf, The Communist Manifesto, and Ayn Rand’s We The Living. The first raises the question of whether Giffords being the first Jewish woman elected to Congress from her state was a motivating factor.