As a group, they are the pop culture equivalent of necrotic carrion beetles, crawling with insectile determination from one infected open wound in the American psyche to another. The wounds include fear of race, fear of foreigners, fear of sexuality, fear of difference, hysterical religious fundamentalism, violent nationalism, and paranoia. They lay their eggs in the infected abrasion, then scuttle away. When the eggs hatch, disgorging rage and discontent, they start counting money.
Michael Rowe on the Pop Culture hate mongers, "Death at the Museum and the Degradation of the American Dialogue", Huffington Post, June 11, 2009
There have been mutterings for years about the insidious effects the constant barrage of hate talk has on the unhinged fringe. One day's look at the internet, one day's listen to the radio, a few hours of Fox News prime time is all one needs in order to get the full picture. Hate sells. That's the bottom line.
Never mind that it corrodes our National psyche and sends the loonies to near-orgasm. . .it's fun! The people who are out there on the front lines selling hate--Limbaugh, Beck, O'Reilly, Savage, Coulter, Hannity, et al--are enjoying the hell out of the impact their carefully choreographed and mostly disingenuous rantings have on an increasing number of followers.
And their followers slurp up every spurting syllable, as if from God's lips. . .
Janet Napolitano tried to warn us in a Homeland Security memo entitled "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment", but was so severely shot down she ended up having to apologize for it!
I wish she wouldn't have done that. I wish the White House had backed her up and let it ride. We cave to extremists at our own peril--which is exactly what her own memo warned us about.
Eugene Robinson writes about it today:
For days, some conservative commentators tried mightily to paint the memo as an underhanded attempt by the Obama administration to smear its honorable critics by equating "right-wing" with "terrorism." It made no difference to these loudmouths that the number of hate groups around the country has increased by more than 50 percent since 2000, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. It didn't matter that the memo was backed up by solid intelligence and analysis. For these infotainers, the point isn't to illuminate a subject with light but to blast it with heat.
And it wasn't just the Sean Hannitys, Rush Limbaughs and Glenn Becks of the world who pretended to be outraged. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele accused the administration of trying "to segment out Americans who dissent from this administration, to segment out conservatives in this country who have a different philosophy or view from this administration, and labeling them as terrorists." Steele seems to have decided that telling the truth isn't nearly as important as the high-temperature exercise known as "firing up the base."
The thing is, though, that words have consequences.There's profit for the pundits, and perhaps personal advantage for some politicians, in calling President Obama a "socialist" and calling Judge Sonia Sotomayor a "racist Latina" and claiming that Democrats want to "take away your guns" -- in creating and nurturing a sense of grievance among those inclined to be aggrieved. But what about those who might not understand that it's all just political theater?
Paul Krugman writes about it today, as well:
This set the crew at "Morning Joe" off on such a tangent, they were practically foaming at the mouth (and it wasn't Starbuck's froth). Suddenly Krugman, that past Morning Joe guest, that great American hero, that deserved Nobel Prize winner, was nothing more than a Left Wing toadie. The gushing is over.Now, for the most part, the likes of Fox News and the R.N.C. haven’t directly incited violence, despite Bill O’Reilly’s declarations that “some” called Dr. Tiller “Tiller the Baby Killer,” that he had “blood on his hands,” and that he was a “guy operating a death mill.” But they have gone out of their way to provide a platform for conspiracy theories and apocalyptic rhetoric, just as they did the last time a Democrat held the White House.And at this point, whatever dividing line there was between mainstream conservatism and the black-helicopter crowd seems to have been virtually erased.
It's an odd state we're in when supposedly reasonable, responsible, intelligent adults defend extremism from any quarter. And yet we see it all the time. We declare the First Amendment as our arbiter. Free speech, as long as nobody dies. Free speech, above all else.
Adam Liptak wrote a piece in Wednesday's NYT called "Hate Speech or Free Speech? What Much of West bans is Protected in U.S." In it, he talks about how much stricter Hate Speech laws are in Canada and other civilized countries:
A couple of years ago, a Canadian magazine published an article arguing that the rise of Islam threatened Western values. The article's tone was mocking and biting, but it said nothing that conservative magazines and blogs in the United States did not say every day without fear of legal reprisal.
Things are different here. The magazine is on trial.
Under Canadian law, there is a serious argument that the article contained hate speech and that its publisher, Maclean's magazine, the nation's leading newsweekly, should be forbidden from saying similar things, forced to publish a rebuttal and made to compensate Muslims for injuring their "dignity, feelings and self respect."
Oh. My. God. Can you imagine the battle royal in this country if we came up with something similar? Wouldn't those hideously hateful entertainers have a field day with that one?? Here's more:
Canada, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, Australia and India all have laws or have signed international conventions banning hate speech. Israel and France forbid the sale of Nazi items like swastikas and flags. It is a crime to deny the Holocaust in Canada, Germany and France.
Well, who cares? We hate all those countries, anyway. What do they know? They're not the Greatest Country in the World.
So which one of us is going to be the first to admit that it's time to cast a new look at our First Amendment rights? What does it really mean? Are there absolutely no limits? The fomentors have gone way beyond "sticks and stones". They not only revel in the attention it brings, they're addicted to it.
There are millions of people who take to heart every seriously off-base utterance from the Right Wing extremist "entertainers", and the number of incidents caused by their acting-out is only going to increase--unless we as a society stop allowing hate speech to masquerade as amusement.
Even little children understand how hurtful words can be. We teach them not to lie or to slander. We would never condone in children the kind of language we protect in adults.
And the irony to me is this: Those adults we're in the business of protecting? They're not worth it.