This is a nice start but what about the rest of us? What about all of the folks who are targeted by other kinds of hate speech — the Muslims, the gays, the Hispanics, the African Americans, etc. etc. etc.? Still, I’m encouraged that a Republican is at least thinking along these lines.
Adding …. The more I think about this idea, the more pissed off I get. It’s like how in Tennessee you can take a gun anywhere except the state house. If legislators and “government officials” don’t want guns near them, why are they so quick to make sure the rest of us have to come in constant contact with them. What makes you guys so special?
What the hell were you thinking, local edition.
Go read it … excellent reminder that “passion” on local issues can easily be turned into intimidation, too.
The Tucson shootings have prompted me to revisit this column by Rick Perlstein, which I linked to back in September.
Perlstein was responding to the Koran-burnings a couple of right-wing pastors were planning. He observed:
The problem is that elite media gatekeepers have abandoned their moral mandate to stigmatize uncivil discourse. Instead, too many outlets reward it. In fact, it is an ironic token of the ideological confusions of our age that they do so in the service of upholding what they understand to be a cornerstone of civility: the notion that every public question must be framed in terms of two equal and opposite positions, the “liberal” one and the “conservative” one, each to be afforded equal dignity, respect — and (the more crucial currency) equal space. This has made the most mainstream of media outlets comically easy marks for those actively working to push public discourse to extremes.
At the time I agreed with Perlstein, and noted just because people are going on about FEMA camps and Koran-burning pastors, that doesn’t mean the media has to cover it ad nauseum. But now I’m not so sure.
Perlstein, a historian, revealed that back in the early ‘60s there were anti-JFK rallies promoting fear and lies about Communist infiltration of America; some of these rivaled today’s Tea Party rallies in numbers. As Perlstein pointed out, the national media thought better of reporting on this “fringe” in the interest of “civil discourse.” But let’s remember what happened to JFK, shall we? It’s not as though not covering the anti-JFK fringe kept a lid on violent acts and prevented tragedy.
Conversely, today we have “pastor” Fred Phelps presiding over a group of about 90 people who are primarily members of his own extended family, spreading their hate all across the national news media. But Phelps is universally reviled. Both right and left find his protests of funerals repulsive and the Southern Baptist Convention has condemned Phelps and his “church.” Sunlight is the best disinfectant, or so the saying goes, and perhaps making the nation aware of the fringe factor is actually the first step to confronting it.
The second step, of course, is what Perlstein called “stigmatizing uncivil discourse.” Ed at Gin And Tacos wrote this morning:
[...] We need people in general, and Republicans in particular, to take a more active role in condemning this kind of rhetoric – before something terrible happens, not when the body count starts rising.
There is a very simple, useful question that we do not often enough ask in the United States, especially where politics are concerned. The GOP, in the last several years, has avoided it altogether. We need to make a concerted effort to stop excusing or encouraging insane behavior and ideas with one question: “What in the hell is wrong with you?”
No one asks that anymore, which is odd given how often the need to do so arises.
That’s precisely the type of question which has shoved Fred Phelps and his cult of merry hatemongers off to the fringe and completely deflated his anti-gay message. You’re going to protest a soldier’s funeral? What the hell is wrong with you! You’re going to protest Elizabeth Edwards’ funeral? What the hell is wrong with you!
As I stated yesterday, our problem is not violent rhetoric, it is our violent culture from which this rhetoric springs. But when violent rhetoric does enter the discourse, why does the Right always go on the defensive? The Left, after all, is the group that held a Rally To Restore Sanity two and a half months ago — which was derisively mocked (and misrepresented) by Righties like the folks at Fox & Friends. Ironically the mere concept of a “Million Moderate March” completely confused the mainstream media. So, you know, it’s not like anyone is listening to us on the Left. The Right needs to quit its reflexive wagon-circling and call out its own when they do things like bring an assault rifle to a presidential event.
At one time I had hoped my own Senator Lamar Alexander would be that person. He’s an elder statesmen of the Republican Party, a man who has served his country in a variety of capacities and has a long, distinguished career in public service. I begged him during the whole “death panels” brouhaha to come forward and tell everyone to calm down and quit the lies and misrepresentation so we could have a real conversation about healthcare. Sadly, I got crickets.
So yesterday Sen. Alexander told CNN’s Candy Crowley that we need to stop talking about Sarah Palin’s “cross-hairs” ad and remember that, unlike the Tea Party, Jared Loughner had “The Communist Manifesto” and “Mein Kampf” on his reading list. The implication being, of course, that such books are on liberals’ reading lists (and he ignored more benign books on Loughner’s reading list like “Aesop’s Fables” and “Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland.”).
So I’m calling out Sen. Lamar Alexander: what the hell is wrong with you? If you won’t step up and condemn this stuff, who will?