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.


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

While we don’t know for certain what  Jared Loughner’s motivation was in the attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords, there is an increasing consensus among reasonable people that the hate-speech which has been common on the right is dangerous to civil discourse and our democracy. This has become a turning point in the career of Sarah Palin, who prefers to pander to the far right than to speak to the concerns of mainstream Americans. Most likely this week will mark the end of any possibility of Sarah (Reload) Palin becoming a politician who is acceptable to decent people.

We might also see the end of any possibility for respectability for those in the right wing noise machine who incite hatred and increase the risk of violent behavior. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, who himself is becoming the target of right wing hatred, noted the negative influence of Rush Limbaugh:

“The kind of rhetoric that flows from people like Rush Limbaugh, in my judgment he is irresponsible, uses partial information, sometimes wrong information,” Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said today. “[Limbaugh] attacks people, angers them against government, angers them against elected officials and that kind of behavior in my opinion is not without consequences.”

Then there’s Glenn Beck, who has previously been accused of inciting violence. The right wing has long used hate speech to fire up their supporters. The insincerity of statements of concern about violence from many on the far right can be seen in this screen grab from Beck’s web site where he takes a stand against violence while holding a gun:

Further Questions of Anti-Semitic Motives In Gifford Shooting

Yesterday I questioned whether anti-Semitism was a possible motive in the shooting of Gabrielle Gifford. From what we know so far, the shooter had far right wing ties and there is now a possible tie to an anti-Semitic group:

An internal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memo quoted by FOX News Channel revealed the gunman – named by the media as Jared Loughner, 22 – is “possibly linked” to American Renaissance.

The group subscribes to an ideology that is “anti-government, anti-immigration, anti -ZOG (Zionist Occupational Government), anti-Semitic,” according to the DHS memo.

Giffords “is the first Jewish female elected to such a high position in the US government. She was also opposite this group’s ideology when it came to immigration debate,” the note said.

Update: More at Politico.

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

Sarah Palin’s Television And Political Careers Suffer Serious Blows In Same Week

Sarah Palin never really had much of a chance of being elected to political office again, but her chances are now even far less. Coincidentally the news which will ensure that Sarah Palin remains popular only among the extremists of the radical right came the same week that her television career also suffered a blow.

It was recently announced that Sarah Palin’s Alaska has not been renewed for a second season and Sunday’s two-hour season finale will be the final episode. Palin will continue to make money at Fox, but she is unlikely to break out beyond their audience. Fox even helped to protect Palin against the unfavorable news following the shooting.

The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords will hang over Palin for the remainder of her career for placing Giffords on her target list. (See examples of how conservatives such have Palin are responsible for creating an atmosphere of hatred which can incite violence in the previous post). Now, not only does Palin have to contend with the problem of being ignorant of the issues and having off-the-wall ideas. In addition, like conservatives such as Glenn Beck and Sharon Angle, she will now be seen by a growing number of people as a dangerous extremist whose rhetoric  can contribute to violence.

Some conservative blogs are already taking up the usual right wing stance of playing the victim, denying the connection between right wing extremist views and violence. The right wing echo chamber will no doubt continue to proclaim their innocence. The rest of the world will see their denials here as being no more meaningful than the denials of racism which in recent months have become popular in the right wing media.

Extremism of Current Conservative Movement Contributes To Acts Of Violence

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.