Recently, Mike Lux posed a question to GOP leadership: What
Glenn Beck has said Barack Obama hates white people, and jokes about assassinating the Speaker of the House. Rush Limbaugh makes repeated and extended comparisons between Obama and Hitler. Mobs hang a congressman in effigy and physically attack people at a town hall meeting.
Members of Congress have death threats issued against them, while other Members make jokes about lynching their colleagues.
With all of this hateful and violent rhetoric going on, I haven’t seen one Republican leader asking for people to cool their rhetoric, or heard them condemn any of these tactics. My question for Republican party, and their allies at conservative media companies that employ the kind of people making these remarks: what exactly would have to be said for you to distance yourself from these people? How far would someone have to go before you got uncomfortable with it? What would have to said before Fox News considered firing someone?
It’s clear now. There will be blood. It will take someone being seriously injured or killed before GOP leadership speaks up, if then. There will be blood.
It doesn’t take a psychic to predict this. It just takes a look at the escalating rhetoric. To anyone familiar with the tactics of terror, is clear where this is going. First there is the threat of violence. It may be spoken, or it may not. It may be as simple as a hanging noose. The intended effect is the same: to put the target on notice to shut up, stay in his or place, and don’t dare challenge the status quo.
It is delivered, often, with a smile that implies not merely a willingness to do harm, but perhaps even a desire to do so — “I will hurt you, and I will enjoy doing it.”
I glimpsed that familiar smile this week, in a photograph of a congressman in my own state being cheerfully hung in effigy, because of his support for health care reform.
If this is the face of anti-health care reform protest, the GOP has a serious problem.
This unidentified man decided he was doing the Tea Party-anti-reform effort a real solid by hanging freshman Maryland Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil in effigy [note the creepily expert knotted noose] with a placard “Congress Traitors The American [and a word that looks like “idol”].
The event — a rally in Salisbury, Md. on the Eastern Shore — was attended by members of the business-funded Americans for Prosperity, a group that includes James Miller, a Federal Trade Commission chairman and budget director during the Reagan administration.
UPDATE: The rally wasn’t officially sanctioned by AFP — but the group’s members attended the protest, which coincided with an AFP health care meeting, says a spokeswoman for the group.
Officially sanctioned or not, this is the face of health reform opposition. But the GOP doesn’t think it has a problem. In fact, GOP appears to be vaguely amused. At least, they’re amused enough to chuckle over lynching (basically, a variation on the familiar smile mentioned above).
Rep. Todd Akin, a conservative Republican from Missouri, held a town-hall event this week in his district, and reflected on right-wing mobs who are fighting against health care reform.
“This particular meeting, in a way is a little bit unique,” Akin said. “Different people from Washington, D.C., have come back to their districts and have town hall meetings, and they almost got lynched.”
The conservative crowd thought this was great. “I would assume you’re not approving lynchings, because we don’t want to do that,” Akin said, generating more laughs as he put his hand to his neck.
Look, I realize Akin wasn’t encouraging “lynchings” and he was probably trying to be funny. But Akin and other conservative leaders have whipped up the right-wing base with a combination of lies and rage, and the results have bordered on dangerous. One Democratic lawmaker has received death threats because he supports health care reform. Another Democratic lawmaker was “physically assaulted.” Far-right activists have registered their misguided, uninformed fury with everything from nooses to tombstones to signs with Nazi “SS” lettering.
The history of lynching in America is well documented.
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Well known enough for Akin to know both that a referencing it would get a rise out of his audience, and that he had to admonish his audience for its response, at the very least, before extending the joke himself. The crowds at townhalls across the country resemble nothing so much as lynch mobs, and the trend is moving towards that model rather than away from it.
The model is one of fear and intimidation employed to keep people from upsetting the status quo. In the South, decades ago, it was an effective terrorist tactic employed against African Americans even suspected of transgressing a status quo in which their “place” was strictly defined, by asserting their personhood and demanding recognition of their civil rights.
It was the tactic, fueled by anger and entitlement, employed when the escalation of fear failed to stop the momentum of movement toward justice. What those who employed it could not stop through persuasion or the democratic process, they sought to stop through violence and terror. What they could not defeat with reasoned argument, they sought to silence.
The violence of those mobs was acknowledged with a wink, a nod and a chuckle by those in power, and sometimes excused outright — as in the first trial of the men accused of murdering civil rights workers James Cheney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. The presiding judge, who sentenced some of the men involved, was heard to say “They killed a nigger, one Jew, and one white man. I gave them all what I thought they deserved.” (Ronald Reagan would later launch his presidential campaign in the same town where the three young men were killed.)
It was effective, serving its purpose well. So it was tolerated, accepted, even encouraged by those in authority, rather than condemned. It remains to be seen if the thundering storm of fear, anger and violence will be enough to hold back progress. But no one from among Republican leadership has stepped forward to clearly and forcefully condemn the increasing venom now veering into threats and violence.
In Tampa, a townhall meeting degenerated into “cat calls, jeering and shoving,” amid shouted slogans (of no more than three or four words) that have taken the place of honest debate.
A protest outside a St. Louis townhall meeting resulted in arrests.
One congressman, Brad Miller (D, NC), has received death threats.
At least one freshman Democrat has been physically assaulted. Another, Tim Bishop (D,NY), needed a police escort to his car.
The Secret Service may investigate a fax sent to a Democratic lawmaker that depicts President Barack Obama as the Joker and warns of “death to all Marxists.”
The black-and-white fax portrays Obama in makeup similar to that worn by actor Heath Ledger in his portrayal of the Joker in last summer’s “The Dark Knight.”
On Obama’s forehead is a communist hammer-and-sickle insignia, and beneath the image is the text: “Death to All Marxists! Foreign and Domestic!”
Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) received the fax and passed it along to U.S. Capitol Police.
The Secret Service investigates threats made against the president. Ed Donovan, of Secret Service Public Affairs, said that the fax was “potentially an investigative intelligence matter.”
Rep. David Scott (D,GA) had his district office vandalized with a spray-painted swastika.
The debate over health care took an ugly turn Tuesday morning after a swastika was found painted outside of Congressman David Scott’s Smyrna office.
The incident follows national coverage of Scott’s encounter with a citizen opposed to heath care reform at a recent town hall in Douglasville. That forum’s topic was not health care, but reconstruction of Ga. 92.
Since then the 13th district representative’s two local offices have been flooded with angry phone calls, faxes and e-mails.
“We’ve received a lot of ugly and threatening phone calls,” said Scott aide Isaac Dodoo.
Scott also received a version of the fax sent to Rep. Baird.
One health reform opponent has encouraged physical violence and the use of firearms. (Note the full embrace of the “mob” meme.)
Based on the news that health care events are edging into violence, an anti-health care reform protester in New Mexico named Scott Oskay is calling on his hundreds of online followers to bring firearms to town halls, and to ‘badly hurt’ SEIU and ACORN counter protesters.
Popularized in part by conservative blogger Michelle Malkin, the hashtag symbol he’s using, #iamthemob, has gone viral on twitter, appearing several times a minute according to a recent search.
And health reform opponents have brought guns to townhalls.
One, near the president’s townhall meeting, brought a gun with him.
There is a man with a gun near an Obama rally. Here is the video. This is insane!
Did you see his sign? “It Is Time to Water the Tree of Liberty.” That is from this Jefferson quote:
And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.
This is the same exact quote Tim McVeigh was referencing in a shirt he wore… before bombing the Oklahoma City federal building.
And instead of urging people to tone down the hateful rhetoric and cease the violence, no less than Republican Sen. Charles Grassley attempted instead to reignite one of the most absurd and soundly debunked lies about health care reform.
One of the three Republican senators working on a bipartisan health care bill perpetuated a particularly outrageous untruth about the legislation on Wednesday.
Appearing at a town hall in his home state of Iowa, Sen. Chuck Grassley told a crowd of more than 300 that they were correct to fear that the government would “pull the plug on grandma.”
“There is some fear because in the House bill, there is counseling for end-of-life,” Grassley said. “And from that standpoint, you have every right to fear. You shouldn’t have counseling at the end of life. You ought to have counseling 20 years before you’re going to die. You ought to plan these things out. And I don’t have any problem with things like living wills. But they ought to be done within the family. We should not have a government program that determines if you’re going to pull the plug on grandma.”
There will be blood. Turning up the heat and stirring the pot already brimming with fear, lies, anger and violence will all but ensure that.
If Republicans continue to either stand silent or cheer on the mob we can assume one of three things: (a) they don’t know what fire they’re playing with, (b) it’s what they want, (c) or — for the sake of ideology — they’re willing to risk it.