From Pine View Farm

Ducking the Whirlwind 0

The rightwing is quite happy to sow the wind with its rhetoric of violence, hate, and paranoia. But as for reaping the whirlwind?

Not so much.

Facing South* looks at history for indications whether vile and violence-laden rhetoric can lead to political violence. Here’s the excerpt; read the entire post for context and supporting arguments:

As of last year, the FBI was still investigating over 100 unsolved murders that happened during the Southern civil rights struggle. That doesn’t include the dozens of killings that have been successfully prosecuted, including the shooting of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis in 1968, whose life will be memorialized this coming weekend.

Many civil rights activists, scholars and reporters maintain there was a direct line between this blood-stained chapter in U.S. history and the violent rhetoric of politicians like George Wallace, the Alabama governor and presidential hopeful..

Indeed, a veteran of the civil rights years, Congressman James Clyburn, speaks from personal experience (follow the link to hear the full exchange):

When I see and hear things today that are reminiscent of that period of time, I am very, very concerned about it, because I know what it led to back then, and I know what it can lead to again.

Again, the issue is not Sarah Palin’s bellicose graphics (though it appears that she may reap that particular whirlwind), it is the right’s paranoid tactic of painting other patriotic Americans as the enemy, as unpatriotic and traitorous; it is their fantasizing about and making light of murder and death; it is their demonizing those who have different opinions; it is their glorifying bloodshed; all of which are as common among the loudest voices of the right as it is rare** on the left.

Joanna Weiss addresses this well in the Boston Globe:

But if people are going to take this opportunity to soul-search, they might as well talk about the real problem with today’s political discourse: not the language of violence, but the language of insurrection. The notion, perpetrated by certain talk-show hosts, that we’re teetering on the edge of a coup. That our president wasn’t born in America. That an incremental change in the way health care is delivered — the wisdom of which is open to legitimate debate — is a plot to deprive Americans of their freedom.

“To prepare soldiers to go to war, you’ve got to dehumanize the enemy, because that’s the only way to kill people,’’ notes Leonard Steinhorn, a communications professor at American University. “What we’re in the process of is either dehumanizing or de-Americanizing one’s opponents.’’

Rhetoric that cheapens life becomes a rationalization for behavior that cheapens life, even for the irrational.


*I mentioned the Facing South link in a comment yesterday. I was planning to post about it, but had to let the treatment simmer in my brain pan.

**I said, “rare,” not absent; I don’t want to hear any “I saw something nasty on a car with an Obama bumper sticker” whining.


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