Sunday, January 9, 2011

How many must die before the ugly truth is faced?

While Fox News and CNN have predictably covered their eyes and ears to the ugly truth, several people—such as Michael Daly of the New York Daily-News—are making this “startling” claim: Sarah Palin has the blood of Arizona Democratic congressperson Gabrielle Giffords on her hands, along with six other persons killed at a routine constituency get-together in Tucson. He might as well have added the publishers of the white supremacist screed American Renaissance and several of the irresponsible paladins of hate on Fox News. Hell, why not throw in Arizona politician Russell Pearce, Sheriff Joe and the anti-immigrant hate group FAIR in there as well? What about the right-wing extremists in the Tea Party movement? I’m not being facetious; all these people have played their part in creating the poisonous atmosphere of incivility in Arizona and in much of the country.

The right will claim that Jared Loughner was merely another “lone nut” listening to voices in his head--voices that told him to go to a Democratic lawmaker’s function in a state shot-through with right-wing extremism in its governing bodies and local media, shoot Giffords in the head point-blank, and murder a half-dozen innocent people to make his "point" more clear. But even a “lone nut” can’t formulate homicidal notions within a political and social framework without influence from “respected” sources. Few people in Arizona didn't know that Giffords was one of Palin’s “targets” in her “Don’t retreat! RELOAD” campaign last year; the Palin Facebook page targeting Democrats included a photo of Giffords in a rifle cross hair. Giffords apparently didn’t appreciate the possibility of violence even after a gun incident in a similar setting over a year ago; both Republican and Democratic politicians in Arizona bend over like licorice sticks to appease the gun-nut crowd even though there is nothing to hunt in Arizona—save people. Palin, as we may recall, also inspired people to shout “kill him”—as in Barack Obama—during campaign rallies in 2008, and she often uses terms that suggest violence when attacking Democrats and the left. Metaphors? Maybe, but Palin has shown little aptitude or patience for such intellectual exercises, let alone dignified speech, tolerance, moderation or self-control. Did I mention responsibility, let alone personal? If nothing else, this incident should end any serious consideration that Palin might entertain for the presidency. That is, of course, if so-called “news” networks report the truth instead of treating her like a rock star; experience tells us that this is unlikely—given how Dick Cheney was given lots of airtime on CNN to snarl at Obama despite “accidentally” pumping a hunting companion full of lead, and refusing to publicly apologize for it. His victim, Harry Whittington, recently declined to say if Cheney even apologized to him privately.

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security has taken a break from manufacturing “terrorists” and is reporting that Loughner apparently had more than passing interest in the racist propaganda of the American Renaissance, a white supremacist and anti-Semitic publication founded and edited by Jared Taylor, who is what the Southern Poverty Law Center calls one of the "faculty" of academic racists. Although the publication has the look of academic legitimacy, in fact it is a clearinghouse for anti-Jew, anti-black and anti-immigrant paranoia that wouldn’t be taken seriously by legitimate scholarly journals. Naturally, Taylor and the American Renaissance functionaries deny any “connection” to Loughner, but that doesn’t excuse them of the racist content of what he read in their publications either in print or on their website.

Right-wing extremists are a dime-a-dozen in states like Arizona, where the illegal immigration issue is just a useful excuse for whites fearful that their “heritage” is “under siege” to “legitimatize” anti-Latino bigotry; this kind of thing has been expressed frequently by Pat Buchanan, who once shocked his McLaughlin Group colleagues into uncomfortable silence when he fulminated that “Hispanics are out to destroy this country.” The fact that none of them took him to task for the comment is also indicative of the way the media has allowed for the mainstreaming of hate and bigotry. In Arizona, state senator Russell Pearce has the dubious distinction of cavorting in public with neo-Nazi types like J.T. Ready, and once exhorted supporters against “tales” of equality of the races, the Holocaust, and the “flood of nonwhite aliens.” People like this are not interested in addressing issues in a logical and coherent manner that examines how we arrived at a problem and how to solve it; reforming the work visa program so that it adequately addresses the needs of employers in difficult-to-fill sectors like agriculture must be part of any solution. But the fact that bigots like Pearce, the Buchanan brother and sister combo, and Tom Tancredo refuse to countenance any scenario that includes the legal immigration of Latinos reveals their true motivations.

As pointed out before, the right will deny all responsibility for the Tucson shooting, which doctors now confess may leave Rep. Giffords in a barely-functioning state even if she survives. Republicans say that this isn’t a “partisan” issue; it is a partisan issue, because they made anti-immigrant, anti-government paranoia a partisan issue. CNN commentators, meanwhile, have the audacity to deny Palin’s part in fomenting an atmosphere of hate, while communicating her self-serving "condolences." It doesn’t matter if there is no direct evidence that Loughner was a “fan” of hers—she still helped poison the atmosphere that “inspired” him. Arizonans will have to do some soul-searching to explain why they allowed an atmosphere of hate and violence to permeate their state. While Republicans, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, Lou Dobbs, Palin, Taylor, Pearce and their Tea Party ilk will remain in denial, one thing cannot be denied: killers like Loughner did hear “voices” alright—their voices. How many deaths will it take before the “mainstream” media decides that the purveyors of hate must face their responsibility and be taken to account? When will the “mainstream” media confess its own guilt for giving racists and anti-government extremists mainstream “credibility?” When will the media finally do its duty to the public? When will it analyze and expose the irresponsible speech of the right, and how it inspires hate, intolerance and fanaticism? Fox News is just a part of the problem, while CNN’s lily-livered hypocrisy on the matter is palpable.

For thinking people, one “lone nut” followed by another eventually adds-up, as well as the death toll. It should have only taken the first one to face reality.

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