The Blurred Line Between Mainstream Conservatism and Far Right Wing Extremism

Some in the media are trying to minimize the significance of right wing hate speech, either by denying its significance or claiming both sides do it.  Andrew Sullivan has pointed out the key difference between left and right:

The right and the left both have intemperate voices. But here’s the key: only the conservative movement counts the most vile blowhards as leading lights, embraced by the leadership. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Sarah Palin: these are among the most popular conservatives in America. Who are the folks on the left with equivalent popularity and influence?

Steven Benen had a similar response to the claim that both sides do it:

In Democratic circles, liberal extremists can’t get any establishment attention at all. Members of Congress won’t return their phone calls or even be seen in public with them. On the right, however, there’s practically nothing a right-wing extremist can say or do to be exiled from polite company.

There’s a clear and impermeable line between the progressive mainstream and the left fringe. The line between the Republican Party/conservative movement and the far-right fringe barely exists. Whereas Dems kept the fringe at arm’s length, Republicans embrace the fringe with both arms.

Both sides have nutjobs; only one side thinks their nutjobs are sane.

Conservatives try to equate old graphics with targets to Sarah Palin’s graphic of crosshairs but there is a huge difference here. Targets do not suggest the shooting of an individual they way that crosshairs do. Palin’s crosshairs were made even worse when accompanied by her calls to “reload” and her constant hate speech. The significance of Palin’s crosshairs were demonstrated when Giffords herself expressed fear of the consequences of Palin’s actions:

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.

Conservatives have even tried to draw false equivalencies between the statements from Republican leaders such as Palin and Beck and mere blog comments made by liberals. They have been making a big fuss about a diary at Daily Kos in which an individual stated that Giffords was dead to him in expressing disapproval over a vote she made. These are hardly equivalent. Nor is it equivalent to quote Barack Obama for saying, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” especially when Obama’s career has generally been based upon attempts at reconciliation with his political opponents as compared to conservatives who thrive on creating hatred.

As Steve pointed out, if someone on the left were to engage in the type of hate speech common on the right it is likely they would be repudiated by most of the left. When possible connections were drawn between right wing hate speech and the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, conservatives had two possible strategies to dissociate themselves. They could have done what liberals would have done and condemned the hate speech. Most have chosen a different path and put themselves in a position of defending the hate speech. It is so bad that when one Republican, Tim Pawlenty, stated he would not have used Sarah (Reload) Palin’s graphic of politicians in the crosshairs of a rifle, a prominent conservative blogger responded by arguing  he’s not man enough to be president.

Related Posts:

Right Wingers Defend Hate Speech While Tea Party Takes Advantage of Arizona Shooting To Raise Money

Sarah (Reload) Palin and Rush Limbaugh Condemned For Their Hate Speech; Beck Takes Stand Against Violence By Holding Gun

John Kerry on Civility

Palin, Like Most Conservatives, Fails To Understand The Controversy

John Kerry on Civility

While the facts are still not entirely clear, the recent shooting of Gabrielle Giffords appears to have  been motivated by delusional and extremist views which transcend the political spectrum. Jared Loughner echoed the anti-government sentiment common on the right mixed with far left wing extremism, including Marxism. The idea that all government is evil, accompanied by the frequent calls for revolution, calls for “Second Amendment remedies” by Sharon Angle, and calls to “reload” accompanied by a graphical representation of a rifle’s crosshairs by Sarah Palin, can inspire the deranged to commit acts of violence. This is true regardless of whether such specific hate speech inspired this particular murderer.

John Kerry gave an excellent speech at the Center for American Progress countering the extreme anti-government philosophy of the far right.Kerry spoke of the danger of a government which is too limited:

Do they want a government too limited to have invented the Internet, now a vital part of our commerce and communications?  A government too small to give America’s auto industry and all its workers a second chance to fight for their survival?  Taxes too low to invest in the research that creates jobs and industries and fills the Treasury with the revenue that educates our children, cures disease, and defends our country?  We have to get past slogans and soundbites, reason together, and talk in real terms about how America can do its best.

Kerry spoke of the dangers of failing to spend the money necessary to restore our infrastructure and of how this places us at risk of a lower standard of living and of falling behind countries such as China. He pointed out how many of the ideas now proposed by Democrats and opposed by Republicans were previously supported by Republicans.  He discussed the unwillingness of Republicans to work on bipartisan solutions to problems as Ronald Reagan had:

Folks, you won’t find a Republican today who would dare criticize Ronald Reagan. Last week, when the candidates for chairman of the Republican National Committee had their debate, Grover Norquist asked each of them to name their favorite Republican other than Ronald Reagan. He said he had to add that caveat so everyone didn’t give the same answer. But we’d all be better off if some of these Republicans remembered that Ronald Reagan worked across the aisle to solve big problems. And we’d all be better off if Grover Norquist thought of THAT Ronald Reagan before he announced that “bipartisanship is just another word for date rape.”

That’s the difference today. Ideology isn’t new to the American political arena and ideology isn’t unhealthy. The biggest breakthroughs in American politics have been brokered not by a mushy middle or by splitting the difference but by people who had a pretty healthy sense of ideology. Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch were a powerful team precisely because they didn’t agree on that much and they spent a lot of time fighting each other –and  so the Senate leaned in and listened on those occasions when somehow this ultimate odd couple found things they were willing to fight for together.

The entire speech is well worth reading and is posted under the fold.


Correction: Reports of Jared Loughner’s Ties To White Supremacist Group Appear False

In an earlier post I had repeated reports from Fox that the Department of Homeland Security had linked American Renaissance, a white supremacist organization. Initial reports had also described this group as anti-Semitic. From more recent reports it does not appear that the initial reports were correct.

Right Wingers Defend Hate Speech While Tea Party Takes Advantage of Arizona Shooting To Raise Money

While Jared Loughner’s extremist views differ from those of the Tea Party, many have raised concerns that the anti-government and hate-filled rhetoric coming from the Tea Party movement, along with leaders such as Sarah (Reload) Palin and Glenn Beck, contribute to an atmosphere of hate which promotes violence among disturbed individuals such as Loughner. There is a fine line between extremists on both ends of the political spectrum, and I was not at all surprised to see that Loughner’s views include ideas from both extremes.

Many on the right, rather than showing concern for such hate speech, have actually lowered themselves to defend the hate speech from people such as Sarah Palin. Their arguments typically are characterized by creating false equivalencies between statements from people or blogs on the left with far more extreme statements from the right. The right wing defense is also often based upon straw men attacks, falsely claiming that those of us who are criticizing right wing hate speech are placing the blame for the shooting on the right, when this is totally different from the argument most of us are making.

Another rather perverse argument coming from defenders of right wing hate speech is the claim that those of us who are pointing out its dangers are trying to win political points from the shooting of  Gabrielle Giffords. It is actually the Tea Party Express which is trying to capitalize on the shooting by sending out email which utilizes these bogus arguments and attempt to raise money:

We ask you to please stand with the Tea Party Express and show your support for our efforts.

You can make a contribution online right now to the Tea Party Express – CLICK HERE TO CONTRIBUTE.

Full text of the email is under the fold.

Ironically, while I was working on this post I received an email full of insults, profanity, and repetition of some of the bogus arguments from the right noted above. The writer states he has now donated to the Tea Party. This episode certainly has presented an opportunity for the Tea Party to find similar-minded hate-filled individuals. Hopefully this example will also provide further opportunities for those of us who prefer civil discourse to strengthen our democracy by helping to reduce the acceptability of the hate mongering which has become so common on the far right.