Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Sticks and Stones

Remember just a few weeks ago when Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano was pooh-poohed for a memo in which she cited intelligence reports that there was a growing threat of violence from the far right, especially violent opponents of abortion?

As Sunday's events tragically showed however, her memo was accurate.

In a sort of a pre-emptive move, Bill O'Reilly, who often singled out Dr. George Tiller as a 'mass murderer,' made a defensive statement yesterday in which he attempted to turn the blame back on anyone who would dare accuse the right for the actions of a lone nut.

And if this was the only lone nut that had ever done something like this he might have a point.

However, here is a list of 'lone nuts' from the far right who have committed politically or ideologically motivated murder over the past couple of decades:

1. Michael Griffin
2. Paul Hill
3. John Salvi
4. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols
5. Eric Robert Rudolph
6. James Kopp
7. Jim David Adkisson
8. Thomas Destories
9. Scott Roeder

Maybe they acted alone (or in a small group in the case of the OKC bombers) but this list is starting to grow too long to explain away as 'isolated incidents' (and note I'm not even getting into racially, homophobic, anti-semitic, anti-muslim or otherwise motivated hate crimes here, nor the many crimes like this that did not result in homicide-- if I did that this list would scroll down several pages).

What about from the far left? You'd have to go back to the 1970's (SLA/Weathermen era) to find any examples. Even the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, who wasn't caught until 1996, got his start during the 1970's.)

What is more troubling is that Adkisson, Destories and now Roeder have acted just within this past year.

What is more troubling is the ease with which some on the right seem to have murderous fantasies just roll blithely off their tongues. For example, if we begin with O'Reilly let's not forget that he is on record as saying, that we should allow Al-Qaeda to bomb San Francisco and that George Soros should be hanged. But that is mild compared to what others on the right have said, up to and including advocating the death of all liberals. here is a pretty good site that catalogues a lot of it, including people who have publically advocated the killing of elected leaders, others on the left and anyone who speaks out against the policies of the (then-Bush) administration.

Now, do I support banning anyone's first amendment right to say whatever they want to say?

No, I don't. Even if it is national talk show hosts like O'Reilly that can cause a mentally unstable person like Scott Roeder to go off the edge and murder someone, or local Phoenix talk show hosts that can do the same for a local problem like Destories, I don't suggest that we take away anyone's right to say what they want.

But just as Sheikh Omar-Abdul Rahman was put on trial after his anti-American diatribes (delivered in a mosque, no less) were cited as inciting the bombers in the First World Trade Center bombing to act, and just as Oliver Wendell Holmes argued more than a century ago that if someone yells, "fire" in a crowded theater the First Amendment offers no recusal from responsibility for any deaths that may be the result of such speech, we should make it clear that whoever may have incited Roeder (and Destories, and the rest of them) to act, bears responsibility for whatever the consequences of their inflammatory rhetoric may have been.

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