Setting the Stage for a Political Murder

AssasinationSomeone’s going to get killed.

More specifically, it is all but certain that someone prominent, probably a member of Congress or a family member or aid of a member of Congress, will be physically attacked and quite possibly murdered soon by a fanatical right-wing knuckle dragger.

It’s entirely possible that several people, or even many people, as in Oklahoma City in 1995, will be slaughtered by one or some of the cretins who feed their rage on right wing radio and television and the speeches of Republican hate mongers in and out of Congress.

President Barack Obama and his family certainly are not safe, despite the heightened efforts of the Secret Service.

In truth, the hysterical right wing militia movement that inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and his helper, Terry Nichols, was infinitely weaker than today’s extremist movement in terms of numbers of people, money, media support and complicity at high levels of political life.

If there were a handful (certainly no more) Republican nuts in Congress egging on the militia madmen in the 1980s and early 1990s, they didn’t begin to reach the numbers of unscrupulous Republicans who now encourage the “tea partiers” and their like to ever more irrational and more violent rhetoric and, as the shouting escalates, to action.

The nearest thing we’ve seen to this out-of-control mob since the Civil War was the racist backlash to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Then, too, there were hundreds of thousands of enraged haters looking for a chance to maim and kill, or at least hoping that torturers and killers would come forth to attack black activist Americans and their white allies.

Inevitably, some of the sickest of that lot did step forward, seeking to be heroes to the other crazies.

Sometimes, we must remember, they succeeded in murder –- the murder of children, the murder of people who just happened to be where the haters struck, sometimes the murder of good people who believed in and worked toward racial equality. The child-killers were just as proud of themselves as were those who tortured and killed civil rights activists, and they received just as much support within the “community” of racists.

Most Americans have seen reports of the actions of demonstrators against the Democrats’ health care bills over the past week or three, and the actions taken by right wing creeps since the main bill passed and was signed into law by the president. But a quick refresher on just a few of the actions:

  • The “tea party” boobs chanted “Kill the bill, nigger, Kill the bill, nigger” at several black members of Congress. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, a genuine hero of the civil rights movement, was spat upon as well as called nigger by the self-styled “patriots.”
  • Some of the “good Americans” screamed “faggot” at Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, on at least two occasions.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and more than a dozen other Congressional Democrats have received apparently serious threats against their lives to the degree that security around them has been greatly increased.
  • Pelosi and several other Democrats were called “communists” and “socialists” and other nonsensical names by wild-eyed screamers. They had to be protected from the mob when entering the Capitol of the United States to do their jobs.
  • A right wing blog gave out the home address of Rep. Tom Perriello in Charlottesville, Va., only it wasn’t the congressman’s home. It was the home of his brother Bo. The dimwitted blogger invited people to drop by the house and “express their thanks” to the congressman for voting for the health care bill. Someone deliberately cut a gas line to the house, an act that might easily have led to an explosion, destruction of the home and even death for its inhabitants. (In Minnesota, we know the danger; two houses here have blown up in the past three weeks as a result of accidentally cut gas lines.) Fortunately, nobody was injured and the house itself wasn’t damaged.
  • Even Bart Stupak, the rabid antiabortionist from Michigan, has received many apparently serious death threats since voting for the health bill –- something he did only after he got triple assurances that no federal money will be used to pay for abortions (a stipulation that already was in the law).
  • Rep. Randy Neugebauer, a Republican from Louisiana, shouted “baby killer” at Stupak in the House chamber after Stupak said he would vote for the health bill. Neugebauer soon claimed he meant the bill, not Stupak, but no one bought that. Then the Louisiana boob sort of apologized for his egregious breach of House decorum –- and turned around within 24 hours and made that breach into a fund-raising TV commerical for himself. That’s a nasty little trick that seems to be becoming a standard Republican money-maker, in fact. Joe Wilson, the “You lie” guy did the same thing.
  • A brick was thrown through the glass door of New York Rep. Louise Slaughter’s Niagara Falls office, and since then a reportedly large number of other Democrats have been threatened with bricks through home and office windows.
  • Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York, an outspoken proponent of a single-payer health care system, got a letter the FBI said “could be interpreted as threatening.” The letter contained a quantity of an unidentified white powder.
  • Here in Minnesota, Reps. Betty McCollum of the 4th district and Keith Ellison of the 5th district have received specifically threatening letters. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar also have been threatened. (Doesn’t take much to set off the vicious right wing nuts, obviously; Klobuchar voted for the health bill, but she was a belated and apparently reluctant supporter of the legislation.)

Republican politicians have almost openly encouraged such behavior. They continue the incitement, and, with an eye on this fall’s elections, have gone even farther with their crowd-stirring lies and overheated rhetoric than before.

As reported by the Washington Post, Republican members of Congress made outrageous statements to protesters and on the floor of the House during the run-up to health bill passage. (Some other outlets also reported some of the same and other statements and actions, but in general the corporate media treated the offending and offensive Republicans with a gentleness one would not see were the miscreants Democrats.)

Republicans put photographs of former Democratic members of the House on the chairs of present Democrats. The photos were of people who lost their seats in 1994 -– the obvious implication being that because of the health bill, the Democrats are on their way out this year. Most high school students would have more dignity and a greater sense of decorum.

Republican Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee said that with the health bill “freedom dies.” Texas Republican Ted Poe of Texas brayed that the Democrats are “on the path of tyranny.” Mike Rogers of Michigan yelled that the Democrats were pulling “dirty deal after dirty deal.” Devin Nunes of California claimed Democrats are just like Soviets and shouted that the House should “Say no to totalitarianism.”

And let’s not forget the Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives applauding right wing protesters in the galleries as they shouted similar things to disrupt House proceedings.

And then a bunch of Republicans went out onto the House balcony to play to the protesters outside. Buck McKeon of California, Rob Bishop of Utah and Mike Turner of Ohio waved signs saying “Kill the Bill,” the Post noted. (Much of this was shown on television.) Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Geoff David of Kentucky and Bill Bosey of Florida held up a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag and then six or seven other Republicans went out onto the balcony waving “Kill the Bill” signs.

Fallin was quoted afterwards as saying “that’s kind of fun.”

When asked about their supporters shouting racist and homophobic slurs at their fellow members of Congress, some Republicans pulled almost comically long faces -– some looked like they were barely succeeding in holding back laughs — and said such behavior was naughty, with about that much vehemence.

A couple of Republicans in leadership jobs actually said that using the vilest of racist and homophobic slurs is “reprehensible.”

Since the weekend, even as Republicans went into a calculated pout in the Senate, preventing both routine and some very important committee hearings from going forward, they and their totally unrestrained mouthpieces in radio and television -– their real leaders, actually — have been escalating the rhetoric in an unmistakably deliberate effort to incite their ignorant followers to even greater hysteria.

All you have to do to hear what’s going on is to turn on Fox (I can’t say Fox “News”) when Limbaugh or Beck or one of the network’s Extremist Babes is on.

One example from my neck of the woods: Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who seems never to have made contact with truth or reality, said in 2008 that she was very concerned that Barack Obama “may have anti-American views.” She also once asked that someone investigate members of Congress to find out “whether they’re pro-American or anti-American.”

Wednesday (March 25, 2010), Bachmann spoke at an event closed to the press –a device increasingly used by Republicans to prevent the general public from hearing the nuttier things they say to the true believers. It nevertheless came out that Bachmann said “I had very serious concerns that Barack Obama had anti-American views, and now I look like Nostradamus.”

That’s the pitch, and Republicans keep hammering it without qualm or any reference to truth or ethics. Their story, increasingly vehement, increasingly false, is that Democrats are anti-American, anti-patriotic, out to destroy our country, to turn it into a communist totalitarian gulag, etc., etc.

The Republican act is playing very well to the tea partiers and their sympathizers, by the way. Newspapers in the South and places such as Missouri and Kansas reported honestly on the racial and homophobic spewings of the health bill protesters. But look up the stories on their Web sites, and then look at reader responses – and be ready to gag or weep.

Those I looked at drew very large numbers of notes from people who, along with echoing the slurs, dismissed the reports of the vile behavior by claiming that those who objected to the racism and homophobia were smearing the protesters.

The Republican Party and its office holders are encouraging the racist, homophobic, anti-feminist passions that are at the very heart of and essential to this ugly, distorted “patriotic” movement of the ignorant, the fearful and the misled.

Somewhere, some mentally lame believer in Limbaugh/Beck/Palin/Bachmann et al almost surely will make a bid to become a hero of “the movement” by murdering one or more of its perceived enemies. In their view Democrats and liberals are, after all, an enemy out to destroy their America.

And those who have incited the mobs and are inciting them still will cluck their tongues and say the killer or killers were acting on their own and nobody could condone such an act. Oh, indeed no. Some of them will also mention, in the next breath, that one can nevertheless understand why the killers are so angry given the anti-American thrust of the Democrats.

In fact, some Republicans already are saying just that, smoothing the way for the crimes to come.

If they come, when they come, we must not lose track of who is responsible, nor let them skate free of that responsibility.

Jim Fuller

James Clay Fuller, principal (and principle) author of this site, is a sort-of retired journalist who has worked in newspapers and magazines for more than 45 years. His day job for 30 years was at the Minneapolis StarTribune, where he was a business and economics reporter, features writer, and sometime music critic, as well as an editor in charge of several specialized sections of the newspaper and a number of investigative projects. He was nominated for Pulitzer Prizes in 1977 and 1992, and was the instigator and senior editor on a project that was nominated for a Pultizer in 1997. He has written for many national publications.

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Comments

  1. Ted says

    I won’t bother to point out the mindless vitriol you put forth in your polemic rant, but I would like to point out some misinformation (I’ll stop short of calling them “lies” — despite the countless times so-called progressives have incorrectly used the term — because you may simply be ignorant of the facts, and in order to qualify as a “lie,” one must be aware that what they are saying is false. In other words, I will give you the benefit of the doubt) displayed in your bullet points, without resorting to name-calling:

    Bullet #1: No one called any of these Congressman a “nigger,” nor did anyone spit on them. If they had, there would be video footage to support it, and there is none, despite numerous cameras filming (up close) the alleged event.

    Bullet #2: Also untrue, or there would be some sort of proof. Alternately, Frank would make an issue of it, which he has not.

    Bullet #3: Republicans have also received death and violence threats in regards to this issue; furthermore, Democrats have received such threats from members of their own party, prior to changing their votes to support the Health Care Bill. No coverage in the press, and no recognition of this from so-called “progressives.”

    Bullet #4: These names, while possibly inappropriate, are not “nonsensical” by any stretch of the definition. They also were not “entering the Capitol of the United States to do their jobs;” their jobs are to do the will of the American people, and they did exactly the opposite. There was no debate on the issue, and when they found they did not have the support of the majority, they resorted to back-room negotiations and bribery to reach their ends, deliberately skirting the system of checks and balances set forth in the Constitution to prevent such tyranny.

    Bullet #5: This was indeed the act of dimwits. Crazy and careless people can be found in virtually any large group, and this episode represents the actions of such individuals. The vast majority of people on either side of the aisle would never resort to violence or destruction of property, nor would they disregard someone’s privacy (e.g. give out an opponent’s address) in the cowardly hope that someone else would inflict violence upon them. In other words, I agree with this point.

    Bullet #6: The same Bart Stupak received similar threats from his own party before changing his vote, but that would not support your thesis, so it’s understandable that you left that out. As for your implication that no federal funds will be used for abortions, surely you know by now that the passed bill (now law) indeed provides for such, containing provisions that bypass the Hyde Amendment, and that the Executive Order given to placate Mr. Stupak cannot override federal law, and therefore is a useless gesture.

    Bullet #7: Neugebauer is a Congressman from Texas, not from Louisiana. It is disappointing that he attempted to backtrack from his “baby killer” comment with a lame equivocation (if in fact that actually happened, which I have not been able to confirm).

    Bullet #8: Eric Cantor (R-VA) not only received death threats from a major Obama supporter (and monetary contributor, video of which is available on YouTube), but a bullet was fired through the window of his office (I have heard some attempt to argue that the bullet was fired into the air, and just happened to come down through a vertical window; I hope I don’t have to explain the impossibility of this…try throwing a baseball straight up into the air, and see if you can break a window with it by doing so).

    Bullet #9: An act by a random nut. No self-respecting person would condone such an action, but by deliberately circumventing the democratic process, those who rammed this law through should not be the least bit surprised that they have invited unwanted attention from angry voters.

    Bullet #10: It also takes very little to incite vicious left-wing nuts. See Code Pink, MoveOn.org, those who hate anyone who dares to be Republican, etc.

    When I was younger, I identified myself as a progressive, until I realized that the hatred and intolerance we railed against was only a mirror of the same hatred and intolerance that we displayed. It is dangerous to demonize someone with whom you disagree. When we demonize an opponent, we dehumanize them. When we dehumanize them, all sorts of atrocities become possible (because to us, they are no longer human): the Holocaust, Japanese Interment camps, slavery. These are extreme examples, but they all begin with the de-humanization of a group of people. Until such time as opposing sides can see what the vast majority of us in the middle already know — that intelligent, well-meaning people can disagree fundamentally on how to solve a given issue — this country will continue to disintegrate into a polarized cauldron of hatred. You are certainly doing your part to stir the pot.

  2. harry says

    Let us review some facts, few of which are in this post. Had the GOP withheld votes from the 1964 and 1965 laws the dems are so proud of, the two laws would not have passed; dems voted 60% and repub voted 80% for the bills. Next of all the circumstances you wrote about, not one of the members who received that vile treatment has appeared on a major TV show to tell the tale. Somthing must havehappened, but I am doubting it was as bad as you write. Third, so far the most active threat was from a Obama supporter (even gave money) who was gong to kill a repub congressman. Nothing that vile yet for the dems. Have not seen any kill BO posters in the crowds but use to see kill Bush all the time. Do you understand what the term double standard means? Probably not and I have doubts about any investigative skills you may have had. You should present all the facts from all angles, you do not.

  3. Tom says

    So, what’s the message here, that progressives should be as careless about facts as Republicans or Teabaggers?

    Rany Neugebauer, “Republican from Louisiana” and “the Louisiana boob”, is actually a congressman from WEST Texas, not even a part of Texas close to Louisiana.

    Bart Stupak “rabid”? Really? Rabid is a medical condition. When was he diagnosed? Or is it that progressives should sink to the namecalling level of Republicans?

    Republicans and Teabaggers scream out racist epithets and catchcalls like “socialist nazi totalitarian” because thy have nothing of substance to say. They can’t defend their positions with fact based or logically constructed arguments, so their leadership whips them into frenzies of name calling.

    Is it really progressive to mimic their approach, abandon facts and wallow in the same sort of name calling and misinformation?

    I agree that there are going to be injuries and deaths caused by hysterical anti-…. (fill in the blank). But I am less sanguine that the actors will only be fringe people. I think that the Republican leadership is trying to justify making anti-Democrat violence acceptable far beyond “fringe” actors.

    I think as well that there is a lot of racist sentiment being voiced (and defended by Republican leaders). This touches a deep vein in U.S. history. But it is emotionally similar to the anti-gay campaigns of the past two decades and the anti-women’s equality campaign that defeated the ERA a few years ago. And it is related to the history of immigrant bashing that goes back before the anti-Irish discrimination of the mid-19th century.

    Today’s news story revealing the Koch conglomerates expansive funding of anti-environmental misinformation reveals how much commercial interests invest in, and benefit from, creating disruptive, hysteria-based and anti-progress movements. As progressives, we would serve our causes far better by focusing attention on the facts rather than crawling into the mud with those whose emotions are exploited for the benefit of a few profiteers at the top.

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