Archive for the ‘Right Wing Terrorism’ Category
Earlier today, late afternoon Norway time, a government office building in Norway was destroyed by an improvised explosive device (bomb). Reports on this event were quickly followed by news of a shooting at a Norwegian Labor Party youth camp. Reports this evening are that the death toll at the shooting is 80 and rising.
I learned of the bombing ans shooting as I learn of so many things by surfing the ‘net. I noted this afternoon, as I drifted around the inter tubes, that commenters at many sites were blaming Muslims, as is their custom. Their narrative is structures so that terrorism = Jihad.
It is still too early to speculate and there are a lot of details to be learned about these events. The Norwegian authorities have barely begun their investigation after all. But they do have a suspect in custody.
Norway’s TV2 reports:
The 32-year-old Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik set Friday night in a police interrogation after he was arrested after the shooting of vermin.
According to TV2’s sources, the arrested belong to the right-extremist groups in eastern Norway, and the man must have registered two weapons on their name – an automatic weapon and a pistol of the type of Glock.
Here is what the suspect looks like:
Huffington Post reports that Breivik had a Twitter account. He had over 100 followers, followed no one and tweeted only once, saying, “One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100 000 who have only interests.”
The people of Norway must be stunned and horrified. This will be a day remembered in grief for generations. The senseless loss of over 80 young people will no doubt be keenly felt by all of that small nation’s citizens, not just the families of the victims. All North Americans can do is sympathize and try to understand the pain Norway must be feeling.
The right in the U.S. and Canada will have difficulty trying to incorporate this incident into any war on global (meaning Muslim) terrorism
Let me tell you a story. In 1935, Sir Albert Lambert Ward was a Member of parliament serving the British House of Commons.
From the front Government bench soldierly Sir Lambert Ward had hoisted himself up to plead the Government’s case on a bill. In excitement he moved farther & farther out toward the centre of the hall. Suddenly came hoots of laughter and great cries of “Order! Order!” Sir Lambert looked around in bewilderment, hesitated, looked at his feet, jumped back.
Centuries ago British members of Parliament were occasionally given to the regrettable practice of pointing their arguments with their rapiers. To check the habit two red lines were drawn down the centre of the House of Commons about six feet, or two sword lengths, apart. When Sir Charles Barry’s present Victorian Parliament building was erected (1840-50), strips of red carpet before the Government and Opposition benches took the place of the original red lines, and to this day no member may step off the carpet while addressing the House.
Opposition and government members of Britain’s Parliament are still separated from each other by two sword lengths, a reminder that electoral politics, representative democracy, is a substitute for civil war. And vice versa. The U.S. Civil War began in 1861 because slave states did not accept the results of the Presidential election of 1860 in which a candidate opposed to slavery was elected President. The Civil War was, in fact, an early example of a “second amendment” solution.
Political rhetoric is full of martial imagery. Candidates and parties wage “campaigns”. Parties “target” districts and voting blocs, candidates promise to “fight” for their constituents. Volunteer canvassers are sometimes referred to as “foot soldiers”. Politicians and parties use military language and metaphors in an array of countries with differing political cultures, most of which do not have a recent history of political violence. But merely using military metaphors in political speech does not inspire political violence. England has had two civil wars in the last 600 years but the most recent was in the 17th century (never mind the several Celtic uprisings that have occurred from time to time). Canada’s closest brush with domestic political violence was the FLQ Crisis in 1970, the work of a handful of far left radicals never supported by the broader Quebec society.
The United States has suffered more than its share of political violence, even in recent years and up to the horrific event in Tuscon on January 8. Upon hearing of the shooting of Representative Gifford, I (and many others it turned out) could not help but think of the violent rhetoric deployed by the right (fringe and mainstream) in recent years. There remains no identified direct link between Sarah Palin’s notorious gun sight map and Loughner’s actions last Saturday. Nor is there any demonstrated link between the shooting and any other specific example of violent right wing rhetoric. Loughner’s motive remains unclear if not unknown or unknowable.
That does not mean that the right has not created a toxic political environment through the use of violent imagery. I am not sure I agree with every point made by Cenk Uygur but he makes a strong case that something bad has been going on for several years now:
Leaving aside any culpability the right might share for Loughner’s actions, I don’t think the existence of violent right wing rhetoric and imagery in today’s U.S. politics can be seriously denied. And to anyone who wants to argue that the “left” (meaning the centrist Democratic Party) is just as guilty of violent rhetoric, I say, show me. Show me the evidence, the examples of the left using hate filled and violent language for political purposes. I have an open mind. I can be convinced.
While we wait for such evidence, let us contemplate what the right’s motives are for using violent language. Is the use of violent, eliminationist rhetoric strategic and if so, what is its purpose and effect.
David Neiwert, author of The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right has been studying this problem for many years now. On Saturday he wrote in a post at Crooks and Liars:
We don’t yet know why the shooter — identified as a 22-year-old man named Jared Loughner — shot Giffords and a number of other people… But it’s impossible to survey the events so far and not come to the preliminary conclusion that this was yet another awful act inspired by right-wing hate rhetoric.
I warned against precisely this kind of outcome in my book, The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right. Events like this one, I explained then, reflect
a particular trend that has manifested itself with increasing intensity in the past decade: the positing of elimination as the solution to political disagreement. Rather than engaging in a dialogue over political and cultural issues, one side simply dehumanizes its opponents and suggests, and at times demands, their excision. This tendency is almost singularly peculiar to the American Right and manifests itself in many venues: on radio talk shows and in political speeches, in bestselling books and babbling blogs. Most of all, we can feel it on the ground: in our everyday lives, in our encounters, big and small, with each other.
When the conservative movement’s True Believers are fed a steady diet of extraordinary warnings intended to induce a paranoiac, panicked fear — They’re Destroying America! They Want to End Your Liberty! Health Care Reform is the End of America! — and simultaneously fed a diet of suggestions that the solution is simply to do away with them (see Sean Hannity’s recent bit of eliminationist “humor”), then what other outcome should you expect?
People are acting out in an eliminationist manner because they have been inundated with, and have naturally internalized, a broad range of eliminationist ideas and talking points. Such speech is being bandied about in every cultural bandwidth—from talk radio, to the local press and in letters to the editor, to blogs and national mainstream media.
I’ve also explained the dynamic at work here:
The critical components that distinguish irresponsible free speech from responsible are interworking pieces: whether it is intended to harm by scapegoating or demonizing, and whether or not it is provably false…
This is true of so much far-right wingnuttery — the “Birther” conspiracy theories, the FEMA-camp claims, the “constitutionalist” theories about taxation and the Federal Reserve, to list just a few examples — and yet people believe them anyway.
This rhetoric also acts as a kind of wedge between the people who absorb it and the real world. There is always a kind of cognitive dissonance that arises from believing things that are provably untrue, and people who begin to fanatically cling to beliefs that do not comport with reality find themselves increasingly willing to buy into other similarly unhinged beliefs. For those who are already unhinged, the effects are particularly toxic.
All of these theories, you’ll observe, serve the explicit purpose of supporting a scapegoating narrative. And a number of them have been featured in some shape, form, or fashion, in the mainstream public discourse because they have been presented seriously for discussion by various right-wing talking heads, most notably Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs.
But pointing out their ethical and moral culpability inevitably means that they immediately blame it on the “crazy” people, and who can take responsibility for “crazy” people?
Who indeed? Certainly not Beck, Palin, Limbaugh or O’Reilly, all of whom have denied any responsibility for last weekend’s shooting, despite the absence of any request for them to do so. Palin’s guilty conscience betrayed them all when she so quickly removed the infamous gun sight map from her website.
Assuming the validity of Neiwert’s theory of eliminationist rhetoric, why does the right employ such tactics? Brian Topp is a strategist and former official with Canada’s center left New Democratic Party. Writing in the Globe and Mail he comments on right-wing rhetoric in the U.S.:
Why do populist right-wingers need to play these games? Because they can’t defend their program on its merits.
Help for the poor through tax giveaways to the rich. Economic security by breaking people’s pensions. Fiscal responsibility by bankrupting the state. Jobs by promoting economic recklessness that has produced a global economic crisis. A better society by promoting gross income disparity. Double and triple the police and prison apparatus to deal with a crime rate that has long been in decline. Better health care by making it available only to those who can afford it. Getting the state out of people’s lives by imposing narrow religious views in the schools. Legislating responsibly by abdicating the legislative and budget process to corporate lobbyists. Peace by warmongering. None of the central goals of American populist right-wingers hold up in rational debate. So a smokescreen is required. Take our country back! Respect the constitution! And… lock and load!
It’s had a good run in the past two years, this latest manifestation of right-wing unreason in the United States. But perhaps this is the moment its real nature stands revealed. Like all right-wing populism, that is something it cannot survive.
It would be nice to see the end of “right-wing unreason” in U.S. politics, but I don’t see it happening any time soon. Such tactics will only be abandoned when they have been defeated – at the ballot box. In the meantime, the crazy talk will continue and there will be outbreaks of violence on some scale for the foreseeable future.
U.S. centrists and all three of its leftists need to consider how best to respond to such right-wing eliminationist rhetoric without stepping over the (rhetorical) two sword lengths line. Hate speech must be countered and violence confronted, but not in kind. The grown ups will have to lead by example and sadly, there aren’t too many grown ups these days in the Republican Party or the broader conservative movement.
Bill Lucey has a Huffpo essay about why the U.S. seems so divided these days. This is an important question, if one assumes that division does in fact exist among Americans right now. Lucey’s attempt to answer this question is a worthy effort, but ultimately fails because the author feels compelled to hold everyone equally accountable, which is another way of saying no one is responsible.
He partially blames congressional district gerrymandering, which I regard as more of a symptom than a cause. He also appears to think that partisan media is partly to blame. Darn that Fox News and MSNBC anyway.
Maybe the nation has always been divided. When the U.S. was born it was part slave and part free. At one point it engaged in a great civil war and slavery was abolished, but for a century afterward the slave owners and white supremacists used violence to keep their power and status. Unfortunately, Lincoln may have lost the Civil War by winning it. Conquering the Confederacy meant that the Union would remain riddled with racist former slave owners and their overseers. The Confederacy stood for the noble proposition that some people are superior to others, modern American Conservatism in a nutshell.
After Lincoln, workers and bosses were divided and sometimes came to blows. The capitalists of the Gilded Age and those whose labor created their fortunes were often in conflict. Then the elites gave us the Great Depression and Roosevelt had to step in and save the wealthy from a fate like that of Marie Antoinette.
Through the Depression years, World War II and the Cold War, divisions were stifled. In the sixties, the pot boiled over, and conflict came with the civil rights and anti war movements, as well as other large, cultural changes.
In 1964, Barry Goldwater said that”Extremism in he defense of Liberty is no vice.” He lost, but sixteen years later the conservative reaction achieved its greatest victory by making Ronald Reagan President of the United States.
We are still suffering from the damage done by Reagan and the Bushes in massively transferring wealth from the middle class to the wealthy (which continues, mitigated only slightly by Obama’s policies). That was Reagan’s assignment from the powerful interests he represented: Bury the New Deal once and for all. Ensure that wealth and power remain where they belong, at the top. Of course, elected Republicans and too many Democrats also serve the rich and not their constituents.
Now, with the American economy in tatters, the Right (meaning the wealthy elite) fights back with everything it can muster. They have a lot of weapons too, one of them being Fox News and it connection to angry middle and lower middle class white people. They also have a lock on talk radio and make sure that 90% of the talkers are right wing hysterics.
Let us not forget the role of apocalyptic religion and its influence on many of the “patriot” militias now maneuvers in the woods of Michigan and other states. Also in Huffpo, here’s a well informed piece by Frank Schaeffer on that very topic. Scaeffer’s conclusion:
The truth is that the “crazies” in Michigan are just acting on what millions of evangelicals say they believe and I don’t only mean about the so called End Times. I also mean that these days the Tea Party movement is spouting a rhetoric of doom and extremism that holds that the American government and even the nation is no longer legitimate. Add in the theology and you have a self-fulfilling “prophecy” of Armageddon. Sadly we have not seen the last of such actions.
In short, if the U.S. is divided it is because the wealthy want it that way. Division is how they continue to rule and is the tool they use to advance toward the goal of absolute power over the economy and society.
You won’t hear talk like this on the radio or cable news channels – not even on MSNBC, still owned by GE. Maddow comes pretty close, though.
There they go again.
An armed right wing extremist goes on a rampage and the authorities insist terrorism is not involved (that’s what I heard on MSNBC).
A couple of commenters on Eschaton made me smile grimly. One said “i wouldnt want to associate deranged anti semitism with the right wing, god knows.” Another wrote, “My bet is that it’s someone who can’t decide who’s smarter- Beck or Limbaugh.”
There’s plenty of coverage and comment on this so I won’t clog the tubes much more except to point out that this guy was not a product of Rush, Glenn or Sean. He is too old for that. He is (or was, depending on whether he is alive as I write this) however, part of the audience to which many right wing talk shows pander with dog whistles and coded language. They (including Sean, Glenn and Rush) should be shunned. The should be out of business as of now.
I am not holding my breath.