Political Rhetoric You Disagree With Isn’t Responsible For Someone Else’s Criminal Acts
Blaming political opponents for criminal acts they clearly didn't commit or advocate isn't a political argument, it's demagoguery.
Perhaps not surprisingly, and as the comment thread to my post yesterday about the latest developments in last Friday’s shootings outside a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood office demonstrates quite clearly, the question has arisen yet again about the extent to which, if at all, heated political rhetoric should be held responsible for acts of violence. This isn’t the first time we’ve discussed this issue, of course. In the immediate aftermath of the January 2011 shooting of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords that resulted in the death of six and injuries to fifteen, including the Congresswoman, there was an immediate effort to pin blame for the attack on heated political rhetoric in general and a campaign that was associated with Sarah Palin among others that had identified Giffords’ district as a “target district,” a commonly used term in politics, and distributed a map that included a target over Tucson, the site of the attack itself. As I noted at the time, the fact that politics stirs up strong emotions among people is not a legitimate reason to blame activists who use strong political language for the actions of people who may have serious mental health issues. There were even those who tried to make a comparison between the Gifford shooting and the 1995 bombing of a Federal Building in Oklahoma City, a comparison which was particularly inappropriate when you actually looked at the facts involved in the two events. As it turns, out polling after the Giffords shooting indicated that the American public largely rejected the effort to tie the Giffords shooting to the national political discussion, and the fact that Jared Lee Loughner, the shooter in Tucson, turned out to be a deeply disturbed individual who for a time was not even considered sane enough to assist in his own defense, seemed to temper down the arguments that were made in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
The efforts to associate the Giffords shooting with heated political rhetoric nearly five years ago was largely, of course, a product of the political left and its criticism of people such as Palin, this effort to blame political opponents for violent crime committed by others is definitely a bipartisan sport. Most recently, for example, many people on the political right have tried to blame the Black Lives Matter movement, which arose largely in response to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the death of Eric Garner in New York City at the hands of police, and an number of other incidents, to the death of police officers over the past year. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, for example, said just over a month ago that the Black Lives Matter Movement is “calling for the murder of police,” even though that is demonstrably not true. That theme is one that has been repeated multiple times on Fox News Channel as well as by prominent conservatives, including, without any sense of irony, many of the conservatives who have been pushing back against the effort to tag the pro-life/anti-abortion movement with some kind of responsibility for Robert Dear’s actions in Colorado Springs on Friday. These arguments are as specious as the efforts to blame Sarah Palin and others for the actions of Jared Loughner. In the end, the people responsible for the murders of police officers, such as the two members of the New York City Police Department gunned down in their patrol car last December, are the people who commit the crimes, just as Loughner is the person responsible for the deaths in Tucson. Using the actions of those violent, often deranged, people to discredit one’s political opponents strikes me as particularly illegitimate.
This time around, even though it still isn’t entirely clear whether politics was a motivator or just an excuse for Dear’s action’s on Friday, we’re seeing it happen all over again. In the wake of the shootings, Planned Parenthood released a statement tying the events in Colorado Springs to things Republicans have said about abortion in general and Planned Parenthood in particular and what it called “hateful rhetoric” from anti-abortion groups. As the editorial board of the The Denver Post notes, though, that the blame for the violence on Friday does not lie with anyone other than the perpetrator, and that heated political rhetoric is a long American tradition:
[I]t is no stretch to call the incident a version of domestic terrorism, assuming the assailant’s motives were in fact what every sign seems to indicate. NARAL Pro-Choice America is right to suggest that a violent attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic sends an intimidating message to employees at every other such facility in Colorado and the nation. And that’s true even if the perpetrator was acting alone and without counsel or coordination with other extremists. People capable of such vile deeds may be few in number, but the last thing they need is the example of a killer in Colorado Springs.
Some commentators are blaming the harsh rhetoric of anti-abortion activists and right-wing media in the wake of undercover videos released this year by the Center for Medical Progress for inflaming the unstable. And while some rhetoric has indeed been vitriolic, the fact remains that vehement political language is a reality in a society that always has had, and always will have, deep and passionate disagreements over issues of conscience. Strong rhetoric is a far cry from threats or attempted coercion, let alone violence with a gun.
This isn’t to say that heated political rhetoric is always a good thing, of course. As I have noted many times before — see here, here, here, here here, here, here, here, and here for just a handful of pieces on the topic — the fact that we now seem to live a political culture where the deeply committed people on both sides of nearly any given political issue seem more intent of scoring rhetorical points against their opponents than accomplishing much of anything. To a large degree, this is an attitude that is encouraged by the spread of a 365/24/7 news and information cycle and the fact that, thanks to the Internet and the rise of news networks such as MSNBC and Fox News Channel that are designed to consciously appeal to ideology more than straight news. Additionally, the decline in the influence of political parties in the election process, while advocacy groups have become more important, means that politicians have an incentive to appeal to extremes rather than to the middle, because those are the people most likely to show up to vote in primaries and General Elections. The results of all of this are well-known. Congress is is often little more than a monument to gridlock that has found it difficult to perform even its most basic functions such as passing a budget, meaning that there’s little incentive for anyone to tackle larger problems such as immigration, tax reform, or entitlement reform. Public confidence in government has been at or near all-time lows for years. And, even though the economy has improved over the past seven years, the vast majority of Americans believe the nation is on the wrong track and they don’t seem to believe that is going to change any time soon.
The fact that political rhetoric sometimes has a negative impact on our political culture, though, isn’t a reason to blame it for violence when there clearly isn’t any rational basis for doing so. If there are truly cases where people are using political causes to encourage people to commit violence, then that, of course, is a different story, and there are methods for dealing with such people. That’s not what the people trying to tar the Black Lives Matter movement with the deaths of policemen, or the pro-life movement with the actions of Robert Dear seem to be saying. They are arguing that the mere existence of the rhetoric itself, and the fact that some deranged, independent actor may be inspired by it in some way is itself an argument against the political arguments themselves. Not only does this deny the independent moral agency of the people who actually commit violent acts, it contributes itself to the very virulent political culture we are living in today. Blaming your political opponents for criminal acts that they clearly aren’t responsible for isn’t a political argument, it’s sheer demagoguery, and while it may make you feel good it accomplishes nothing useful and certainly isn’t going to change hearts and minds.
It would do all Americans well to remember this, both in connection with the Black Lives Matter movement and the Colorado Springs murders, but for whatever events may happen in the future.
Sorry…no…it even has a name…it’s called stochastic terrorism
A little blood libel never hurt anyone, amirite?
You’re going to get a lot of heat for this since “pro lifers are evil” is de rigueur. But I think this is more or less right. I remember about twenty years ago Neal Boortz putting quotes from Algore and quotes from the Unabomber side by side and asking his readers to distinguish between them as a way of pinning ecoterrorism on environmentalists. The quotes *were* hard to distinguish. But it was still BS. You can think the environment is in horrifying shape but still oppose murder as a way to fix it.
The pro-life people think abortion is killing hundreds of thousands a year. They think PP is profited off this. I think they’re wrong. But I’m not sure how they would be able to sugar-coat that view.
@Hal_10000: Do you remember the huge, spontaneous protests when Roe v Wade was announced? You don’t. There weren’t any. Protestants, for the most part, held that life begins at birth and weren’t particularly bothered. Catholics were upset. Catholics demonstrated. And raised lots of money. When they saw the potential profits, the Jerry Falwells of the world suddenly decided to change their theology and get in on the con. Hence the famous quote that last year Jerry Falwell couldn’t even spell abortion. Now there is a large industry raising money off abortion. Another cog in the conservative grift machine. The fraudulent PP video was a product of the grift machine.
It’s not necessary to sugar coat anything. It would suffice for weasels like Falwell to stop inflaming the situation. It’s been 40+ years. Could they maybe get over it.
Failing that, maybe the supposedly liberal MSM could report honestly that this was RW terrorism, that Falwell et al are making money off the rubes, that they’re not talking about banning abortion, just safe, legal abortion, that the video was BS, that Fiorina lied, etc. The MSM report honestly? Some days I just crack myself up.
You know, deep down, I’m not so sure they really, genuinely believe this. Because if they did, wouldn’t they have to do everything in their power to stop this, in a manner far beyond what they’ve been doing? If you genuinely, in your heart of hearts, thought that there was an organization in the US that was murdering hundreds of thousands of babies a year, every year, wouldn’t you basically charge that place in a mass human suicide wave to make it stop, even at the cost of your own life?
Or, at the very least, wouldn’t you demand the death penalty or life imprisonment for those women who murdered their own babies?
And yet none of this really happens. We see pro-lifers picketing, but not laying down their lives. We see them voting for clinic restrictions, but not to put women who’ve had an abortion in jail. If they really believed it was mass murder — the mass murder of babies, for god’s sake — how could they be so complacent?
@C. Clavin: “Stochastic terrorism”. Good to have a name for the concept. Thank you. I’ve seen numerous articles discuss this phenomenon wrt/ white supremacist violence. The leaders carefully refrain from inciting any specific act. But they constantly push the idea of lone wolf action on impressionable young men.
I have conservative friends who will argue that cigarette companies aren’t to blame for cancer, that coal fired plants aren’t to blame from emphysema, that AGW isn’t to blame for bad weather events. If you can’t prove this specific act, by this named individual, directly caused this specific tumor, well then there is no blame. This view flows from innumeracy and an inability to recognize statistical causation. I think it also partially flows from an overly legalistic view of the world.
And yet those same people will blame Black Lives Matter for an explosion in crime (which hasn’t actually occurred) because they hurt police officers’ feelings and thus the cops have stopped doing their jobs.
@Rafer Janders: There are only two sub groups of anti-choice protesters that I will listen to objectively: women who chose to give children up for adoption rather than go the abortion route, and people who have adopted out of the US foster care / child welfare system.
I have yet to be convinced by their arguments that abortion should be made illegal, and I remain in the pro-choice camp. However I believe that those folks are arguing in good faith, and should be treated with as much respect as possible.
Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?
There is also a very large overlap between opposition to abortion and opposition to freely available contraception.
The only straight line that connects these two data points has not one thing to do with being pro-life.
It’s the real-world tactics. Pro-life protesters target places where abortion is performed. They go after individuals who work there, they go after women entering there. They take pictures of license plates; they follow doctors, they publish names and addresses. They threaten actual humans. And it’s all considered fine. It’s harassment and intimidation, all justified because abortion is considered to be the Holocaust and or slavery.
Also, the clinic in Colorado Springs was built with safety in mind, because an attack like this was a possibility. By Doug’s logic, this is unfair, because free speech is harmless and no one should disagree enough with protesters outside one’s walls to think that an attack might come.
You heard it here first, folks — incitement to hate crimes is merely “rhetoric [we] disagree with”, entirely divorced from any notion of whether there are legitimate grounds to not merely disagree with but actively condemn such speech.
Doug needs to spend some time with a history of the witch-hunting craze in Europe during the early modern period. If he can stand by this article with a straight face after that, we know it’s clinical.
In other words, you want to be part of the problem, not part of the solution.
@gVOR08: This is why the libertarians are totally cuckoo when claiming that everything can be handled under tort law. Atomic particles and molecules don’t come with little ownership tags on them.
I think we could skip the craven “just because you don’t agree” nonsense.
The video at the heart of this is a complete fake. So it’s not a disagreement…the anti-choices are lying. Fiorina is lying. Cruz is lying. Trump is lying. They are all lying.
That’s not some semantic disagreement.
You can draw a straight line between o’reilly and tillers death. Of course he’s culpable. Maybe not in court. But morally. If you have moral standards of any sort you know he is guilty of that mans death.
Today’s republicans have zero sense of accountibility. The base enjoys being lied to…so there is no downside to it.
@Rafer Janders: The other piece of evidence that shows so-called “pro-lifers” don’t really believe that zygote == human is their attitude towards miscarriages.
If zygote/embryo/fetus == human AND a pregnant woman has a duty to provide a life-support system for said human until said human is able to survive on its own and is born, then why aren’t miscarriages treated as accidental manslaughters? Why aren’t the pro-lifers yowling how women who have miscarriages should be thrown in jail? We’re certainly willing to claim neglect on the part of the parents if a toddler falls into a swimming pool and drowns–so why don’t we claim this same duty of care is mandatory from the fertilized egg stage?
One’s agency is one’s own – no one can make your choices or actions for you. You can choose to ignore the insidious voices whispering in your ear.
But to say that fiery rhetoric such as we see now, especially when criminals quote near verbatim talking points clearly associated with specific speakers, isn’t partly responsible is disingenuous at best and utterly deceitful at worst. These people have jobs because of their charisma and ability to persuade others to their point of view. You cannot discount their influence when it clearly manifests in one instance (violence against a stated “enemy”) while respecting it in another (voting patterns or polls).
Words have meaning, Doug, words have power. I believe in free speech with all my heart and soul but with that great power comes great responsibility. We should not aid and abet those who shamelessly wipe their hands of that responsibility by excusing their actions.
Oh, I don’t know. I saw all the vitriol on global warming, so naturally I went out and tried to run down some car and oil executives……in my Prius, natch…..stochastically, of course.
Being disingenuous in defense of extremism is no vice, right Doug?
How bad does the climate have to get before you will admit that Global Warming exists?
And then what will you do?
(Sheesh, it’s as if all you idiots think we have another planet to move to after we’ve trashed this one sufficiently.)
Doug needs to spend time near an abortion clinic or review modern American history.
Of course he won’t, just like every mass shooting by a white terrorist is sui generis and completely divorced from his politics, culture, history, and gun ownership.
Also, a feminist said “f8ck” once, so Both Sides Do It.
@Guarneri: apparently you failed…as per usual.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone fail at snark like Guarneri/Drew…there’s something touching in it–like with his billions of dollars he decided in his golden years to learn how to be funny. It was that or dancing. So after years of coaching about the rule of three and how to be ironical, he goes out in the low-pressure world of the internet and tries and tries, but just can’t quite get it.
He’s a business guy that, according to his comments, doesn’t understand the economy.
So the chances of him understanding complex science are nil.
@grumpy realist: “WALL – E ” ?
Part and parcel of the big dumb down. The big slide. The politics of arrested development. The politics of Asperger’s. The politics of the sort of people who work for the government, or who thump their Bibles all day, or who spend their lives on college campuses, or who hate Brown Catholics, or who are in journalism, truly a cadre of inexperienced waste cases. The politics of those who inherit money, who don’t work for a living in the private sector, who don’t get out much, who do a lot of illegal drugs, or who’re overmedicated OTC.
The politics of spoiled brats. Of government clerical workers. Of wealthy crackers in gated communities. Of extreme Protestants. Of dopey college and university professors. Of the new-age politico classes.
This started in earnest in the 1990’s. Accelerated in the 2000’s. Coinciding first with the advent and acceleration of conservative talk radio, the Clinton administration, full tenure for the ex-Hippie demographic on campuses, the end results of the drug culture, women’s lib, the sexual revolution and other societal breakdowns, finally then with the final nail in the coffin: the instant feedback of the Internet. All of the negative demographics began to coalesce into a real time orgy of pure idiocy. Simply put, the nuts found each other. On both sides of the aisle.
Death by Twitter.
And who got rid of the Fairness Doctrine?
More calorie free word salad.
At least you’re comments are so f’ed up we know they are not copied from anywhere…unless it’s the Facebook page of the institution in which you are commited.
You say this like it’s uncommon and weird to blame your political opponents for criminal acts they clearly aren’t responsible for.
Some unfortunate time in assertions, Doug, given the arrest of the U of Chicago student, Jabari Dean, who announce he was going to kill 16 white male students or staff and as many white police officer as possible due to the year old killing of Laquan McDonald by Chicago police.
Hmmm, I wonder where he got the idea?
@Rafer Janders: It’s possible that the cognitive dissonance between the belief that “babies are being murdered” and the belief that the concept of agency (as in the absolute right to act in the least restricted manner allowed by natural law) must shape actions by questioning the rights of abortion protesters to actively interfere. Such a dissonance can even explain the periodic pushes for “human rights amendments” and other legislated restrictions. Still in all, your comment and the argument it propels are compelling.
@Gromitt Gunn: I think that the fact that the two groups that you have mentioned have “bought a stake in the game” helps their credibility and I commend you for recognizing their acts as a person who both opposes abortion and offered to drive a young woman of my acquaintance to a clinic when she decided that abortion was the “least bad choice.”
@Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:
I think that if any of us were on the street, and a woman walked by carrying a six-month old baby in her arms and announced her intention to take the baby into a house and chop it up with a knife, we’d do anything in our power to wrest that baby away from her, including killing her or sacrificing our own lives in the process.
Abortion opponents often claim that to them there’s no difference between a fetus and a six-month old baby, that the abortion of the former is the same as the murder of the latter. And yet, let a pregnant woman walk by them and announce her intention to walk into an a clinic and abort the baby, will they attack her the same way we’d attack the woman in the example above? 99.99% of the time, no. They’ll yell at her, they’ll shake pictures in her face, they’ll sing hymns…but they won’t do the things you’d expect of a normal human being who believes he’s witnessing the imminent murder of a baby in front of his eyes.
Some times citizens do not need political rhetoric to encourage them to commit a crime.
Domestic Terrorism or High School HiJinks?
From the NRA.
Still waiting for your explaination of Obamas oppressive socialist agenda.
So, a Sheik who issues a fatwa against non-specific Americans is entirely reasonable, and well within the bounds of moral innocence?
Perhaps if they stop short of saying precisely what should be done about those non-specific Americans, merely stating that they are judged to be murderers and must not be tolerated in any way?
Even if they know that there are people who would act on such a fatwa?
I’m having a hard time distinguishing between the hypothetical sheik’s fatwa, and the claims coming out of the right about Planned Parenthood. They may skirt legal responsibility, but they’re pretty damned well morally responsible.
Arguments like these are why people want to punch Libertarians in the face.
And, by the standards set forth in the original post, my statement is entirely in the clear. I did not tell C. Clavin to punch Mr. Mataconis in the face, and were C. Clavin somewhat mentally deranged, and in a position to act on such a desire, and he were to do so, well that would just be life. Clearly, C. Clavin would just be acting on his own, and it would be irresponsible to suggest that I had anything to do with it.
Just like Bill O’Reilly bears no responsibility for Tiller The Baby Killer getting shot. And the current crop of Republicans who have been lying about Planned Parenthood have no responsibility for the recent shooting.
Well, we might try getting worse than the normal climate fluctuations existent since the beginning of evidence as a start.
You did get one word correct. Anyone who doesn’t understand this is just a wealth redistribution scheme is, well, an idiot.
A business guy with a Masters in Chemical Engineering. You, dumbass?
Have any of the leftist losers here bothered to note that the vitriolic rhetoric “pigs in a blanket etc” would, under their “logic,” be the cause of cop murders?
No need to answer.
Look at the first one here. It would be true that cigarette companies aren’t to blame for cancer if they hadn’t done everything in their power to hide that fact.
Similarly, pro-lifers in general aren’t responsible for the PP shooting. But the scammers who spliced together the PP video that appears to show something that isn’t remotely true *are* responsible. And so is anybody who has aired that video, for that matter.
Yes, I well remember how Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders urged the audience at the last Democratic presidential debate to put the “pigs in a blanket”…..
Oh, wait, that never happened. Unlike, say, Carly Sneed Fiorina’s well-documented lies about Planned Parenthood.
That’s very lovely pop psychology/conspiracy theory. But by this logic, people who claim that experimentation on animals is murder and use holocaust imagery for it are responsible for animal rights terrorism. I once worked at a teaching hospital and the animal lab was behind metal doors and required an ID given to an armed guard to get in. My wife worked at an institution that did research into ebola. They almost had their funding yanked because the Feds decided the lab wasn’t secure enough in case an eco-terrorist drove a truck into it. A few years ago, they tried to firebomb the home of a researcher. So can we blame animal rights activists for this? Or can we differentiate between people who denounce something they see as wrong and people … you know, instigate violence. Because from where I’m standing, this is looking increasingly like an effort to use a tragedy to delegitimize someone’s political opinion.
In other news, The Protocals of the Elders of Zion is just a book. Books are harmless.
Political rhetoric is one thing, outright lies are another.
This is a valid point. Your average I-disagree or You’re-wrong individual is not at fault. One can disagree vehemently with a point and be within reason – see any debate club or comment thread that hasn’t descended into chaos.
What one cannot do and remain blameless is foment an air of hostility and anger and pretend to be shocked when it boils over. Lies for the “greater good” are still lies, damnit. I had a friend that lived down the block from PP back in our poor post-college days. I keenly remember the nutcases stalking me as I got out of my car and shrieking at me, snapping pics and once throwing red paint. It got to the point she had to move – something she couldn’t afford but the stress of being hassled every damn time she came home made her sick. That’s not disagreement – that’s outright harassment. The strategies behind it are not disagreement or denouncement – they are creepy, rights-violating, actively dangerous threats. It’s not being denounced by leadership; I’ve never seen Trump et all tell pro-birthers to be kind to the workers or woman walking in. I’ve never heard them say “Don’t scream like banshees and knock the illegal surveillance off”.
Agree to disgree is fine. I think you are morally wrong and am going to work to promote my position is fine. You’re #$&$^& evil and I’m going to do something about it is the mentality we’re seeing promoted, however.
Animal rights activists get thrown in jail for so much as recording an act of cruelty. The religious right routinely call for violence and suffer not a slap on the wrist.
Because contrary to the content of this post, “blaming your political opponents for criminal acts that they clearly aren’t responsible for” is rather common. It’s nearly universal.
On a global scale. From the dawn of history until now. Every culture included.
Not only is it a political argument, it’s one of the oldest. Did Menelaus not invade Troy for the crimes of Paris??????
@grumpy realist: There definitely are people who want to hold mothers responsible for having a miscarriage. A woman in Indiana is serving a 20-year prison sentence for feticide. She was accused of inducing an abortion but no abortificants were found in her system and she seems to have simply miscarried her baby. Actually she was sentenced to 20 years for feticide and 20 years for child neglect (!) but the nice judge is letting her serve the sentences concurrently.
Coincidentally, she has a funny foreign name and dark skin.
I didn’t know what was bothering me about Doug’s cute little graphic, but it just came to me.
The red guy should be shooting the blue guy in the face.
There. See? Both sides do it, if you mean one side excuses and supports religious terrorists and religious violence against women, and the other makes a pretty libertarian position that a woman’s body is her own, as well as anything inside of it squatting on her territory.
But libertarian values don’t apply to women, that’s right, I forgot.
I’m reminded of the comedy lesson scene in Borat.
@Rafer Janders: Two of the best analogies/arguments I’ve heard:
1) The first, by a Christian who described a late night bull session with a couple of guys at his Christian college. They asked each other if it were a choice between allowing your wife to continue a high risk pregnancy that might kill her, or abortion. To a man, they choice their wife.
2) The second: a fire breaks out in an IVF clinic. You only have enough time to run into the room to your left and save a 6-year-old girl, or run into the room to your right and save dozens of frozen embryos. Which do you save?
There might be a few pro-lifers who would choose the baby over the spouse, or the dozens of embryos over the single child, but I would wager that it’s very few. (Even the Santorums had a late term abortion procedure to save Karen Santorum’s life, although they didn’t call it that.)
Come on, Hal, you’re smarter than that. You realize full well that “responsible for” is a continuum, not a yes-or-no question. Are parents responsible for the actions of their children? Yes… and no.
Are you willing to state bluntly that people’s behavior is wholly independent of their upbringing? No? Then why would you be willing to assert that the public’s behavior is wholly independent of the propaganda they’re exposed to?
Spreading lies which are likely to incite violence is grossly irresponsible. If pointing that out is to be labeled sheer demagoguery, it raises the question of a politically correct way to point it out without “blaming” them for the crime.
There are mentally unstable people in the world, people unable to differentiate FOX News et al from real news. If I believed there were people in a building hacking babies apart I would attack it myself if the police refused to do so, and the people who told me that would IMO share some of the blame. Sometimes crimes have more than one and only one thing to blame. Yes, motive should be considered. Did the liars do so with the intent of getting me to attack the building or did they lie to get themselves money from individuals or some group? Perhaps to motivate people to vote? Obviously the later two should not be considered a crime automatically but the first one certainly is. Is the first one the only thing that qualifies as blame?
I’m not sure. “Blame” had a legal definition and a general one, it appears.
I wouldn’t blame a pro-life online rant or video for the actions of an individual who chooses to murder. But even the jihadists aren’t so hypocritical that they would feign surprise when their efforts to encourage radicalism are successful.
Question for the lawyers of OTB:
Think someone would be able to file a wrongful death suit against Fiorina and the video creators a la Beulah Mae Donald? There’s a very specific and traceable meme (“body parts”) that originates from them – from what I understand of the case, the KKK leaders incitement and rhetoric were used as evidence of co-conspiracy. Since my Legalese is weak, can someone explain if this is a viable road for the victim’s families and a possible way to get this sort of poison out of our media sphere?
Yes! Particularly the ones who advocate violence or making their point by whatever means are necessary and call animal researchers immoral murders. Your point?
@ElizaJane: I’m positive that her name and skin tone are merely coincidental. Honest! I’ll bet that even the judge will assure you of that.
So according to Doug, the Nazi film Der Juden which characterized the Jews as vermin had nothing to do with Kristallnacht and the Holocaust, and the Rwandan Presidents rhetoric condemning the Tutsis as ” cockroaches” had nothing to do with the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis that followed? Wow. It must be nice to live in some fantasy world in which words have no power. In the real world, the inflammatory and dishonest rhetoric of prolife movement speakers and Republican presidential candidates amounted to a call for action, which Dear heard and acted upon. If Planned Parenthood is truly a criminal enterprise engaged in the slaughter of babies for profit, then violent action to stop them seems to be a defensible moral choice. Frankly, I’m surprised even more people aren’t taking up arms and following Dear’s example.
The ” taking up arms” part is important here. Once again, a person of the questionable mental stability was able to acquire a gun and commit an act of domestic terrorism. Again, Doug wants to skirt that issue, but if you live in a society where you have inflammatory political rhetoric and easy access to firearms, these kind of events are going to happen as surely as night follows day. Handwringing about the ” moral agency of the individual ” is merely a way of avoiding responsibility for the natural and probable consequences of your voting choices. You might want to think about that, Doug, in considering moral responsibility for this incident.
Cruz and Huckabee and Jindal are pander to people who advocate killing abortionists and gays.
But you cannot see a link?
Florida gets into a foaming rage about a phony video and baby parts…then Dear says something about baby parts…and you can’t see a link?
We don’t agree on much…but I think you are smarter than that.
Doesn’t show. Must not have stuck.
Did you go to the same school as that guy, James p., who claims to have an MBA?
How heated does rhetoric have to get before it can be called terrorism? For decades Middle Eastern leaders declared America the great Satan, an evil empire, the one true enemy, but stopped short of demanding that America be attacked. So, rhetoric, not terrorism. But, and yet… The constant hatred blared out from minaret to minaret on a daily basis had the desired effect, certainly for the extremists, in that it convinced the put upon masses that the true evil was not inside, was not their leaders, but outside, in the ‘other’, the evil forces out to destroy their way of life. Sound familiar?
Fox news declaring Planned Parenthood a baby murdering machine, an organisation build to kill babies and sell their body parts, and doing this day in and day out, is, I suggest, not rhetoric. Of course they don’t want people going out and killing, they simply want to distract and weaken the opposition. Thing is, the crazies, the extremists are always listening, and the unintended consequences that result from such ‘rhetoric’ is terrorism.
Incidentally, this has become holy writ by the pro-choice side, but I’m not seeing a lot of evidence of it. Granted, I was only a year old. But I dug up Time’s article on it which describes vehement opposition from numerous state and national pro-Life groups. There were protest marches, state legislation and, within three years, the Hyde Amendment. The intensity level might have taken a while to build up but the idea that “no one cared” until agitated by mysterious pro-Life forces is a bit of a myth.
That was supposed to be Fiorina…damn auto-correct
“Responsible” carries a lot of weight in that headline. Are Falwell, Dobson, the Center for Medical Progress (sic), Fiorina, Huckabee, Cruz, Jindal, Carson, etc., etc., etc. legally culpable? No. Are they blameless? No. It’s a continuum, not a dichotomy.
If they were telling the truth, I’d cut them a little more slack. But they aren’t. For the most part they’re lying to further their own advancement.
A homework assignment: The doctors, nurses, office staff, security personnel, volunteer escorts, etc. at PP facilities don’t have to work there, but they do, accepting real risks. Why do you think they do it? Are many of them perhaps better people than the protesters?
Planned Parenthood v. American Coalition of Life Activists
Legal precedent, you terrorist supporting asshole.
Were those groups fundamentalist Protestants or Catholics? How big were they? Why the hell weren’t there riots in the streets if they essentially saw murder being legalized? I’m fairly sure there were TV cameras back then so where’s the footage of these protests?
The assertion being made is not that “no one cared” but rather the current crop of jerks didn’t care until it became a cash cow and votes mine. That there was a significant theology shift on the church level – not the individual one as there are always dissenters to every opinion – that occurred not at the time of judgment but years and years later. They are johnny-come-latelys to this party.
Think of it this way: once contraception became legal and widely available, the Catholic Church still officially disapproves of it no matter how many of its congregation are vocally supporting it and marching for that to change. That has not changed to this day and the theology is still fundamentally the same as it was decades ago. FCs cannot say the same about their reactions to abortion – their rather rapid shift in beliefs (“intensity level might have taken a while” as you noted) is documented in their own words, papers and sermons. They are opportunists and it shows in their increasingly vehement rhetoric since its not like charge of murder has inherently gotten any eviler since the 70s.
@Hal_10000: I was of voting age at the time. And I didn’t say anything like
. I said there were protests, largely Catholic, and subsequently money and power grubbing weasels like Falwell jumped on board the bandwagon, updating their theology to fit.
Cruz…in a discussion with a right wing nut job:
But Cruz has been touting the endorsement of an activist who has called for the “execution” of abortion providers. Troy Newman has said the country was “blood-guilty” for failing to kill “abortionists.”
The folks screaming the loudest that there is no connection…are knee deep in connection.
If that doesn’t tell you that there is a direct link…then you are incapable of critical thought.
O’Reilly proved my point last night saying that Conservative rhetoric no more responsible for Planned Parenthood shooting than he is for George Tiller’s murder.
O’Reilly is clearly complicit in the murder of Tiller.
The ones crying the loudest have the most direct connection to this radical Christian terrorism.
There is a fairly obvious statistic that would prove or disprove the proposition that external influences can and do incite crime or do not. Ask “is the idea of copycat crimes and copycat suicides real?”
Answer is yes. Copycat suicides and crimes are a proven fact. It has been proven that aggression in children can be learned. There are records of people stopped in the act of driving with an arsenal firearms and clippings in their pockets of previous mass shootings who admit that they were on their way to shoot up this or that.
The question Mr Mataconis asks is the degree of responsibility the inciting influence bears. He says they have no responsibility.
This proves his understanding of the moral universe is childish.
@JohnMcC: I wonder if Doug would have a different view of the situation if he were a member of a group that is being targeted by the rhetoric.
It’s really easy to talk about freedom of speech if you’re never the person terrorized by it.
Libertarianism includes a strong utopian streak. It’s naive, not malicious.
That being said, I tend to err on the side of free speech absolutism myself, and get very nervous with those who would have us criminalize the expression of bad ideas. People are free to think however they want, but perhaps we should do more to emphasize that this doesn’t mean that they are free to do whatever they want.
It’s pure denial. A powerful group of pro-life activists is okay with harassment and making abortion providers feel threatened, and they do it under the cover of free speech. But it’s basically entitlement and tied deeply with–let’s be honest–masculinity.It has nothing to do with Christianity or even abortion. Reading accounts of what it’s like to work at a PP clinic is like reading accounts of what it’s like to be a woman walking down the street. There are men who feel entitled to harass women, and the rest of the culture sweeps it away and cleans it up.
I used to, until I started reading conservatives like Rod Dreher on the internet. Because I live in a very liberal area I’d like to think that Dreher is just a nut and not normative. But watching Trump and Cruz and the rest of these guys, I’m not so sure.
Anyway, Dreher to me is a nasty little man who really enjoys lashing out. (I think I’m banned from commenting there because I pointed out that he was basically mocking a women’s studies grad student who ended up needing a security guard because of death threats against her.) What he writes should never be criminalized. But the libertarian utopia is not about criminalized speech–it’s about saying it’s wrong for me to think that malice and sadism might drive somebody to have political opinions.
That’s all this debate is about. Libertarians are tied way too close to people who have clenched fists and instead of behaving with honor they want us to pretend that it’s all political and reasonable. No thanks.
I’m not seeing that here. What I do see is a problem with false equivalency. Mainstream left-of-center politics in the US do not exhibit any of the sheer nuttiness that is coming from the GOP, which is allegedly a mainstream political party.
We should call a spade a spade: The Republican Party now includes a substantial contingent of nutjobs, and they currently have enough power to influence the party platform. This madness is not equally distributed, and the failure to acknowledge that profound imbalance within the political system is naive at best.
Yeah…so that’s a valid point. Freedom of Speech is sacrosanct.
So let’s be clear in our speech, and call this exactly what it is; radical christian terrorism. Republicans seem to have a hard-on for Obama to call the acts of a few nut-jobs “radical islamic terrorism”. Lets first see them live up to the standard they demand. They also want to put all muslims under a watch-list, and deny them immigration. So let’s put all christians on exactly such a list and deny them immigration.
The problem with stochastic terrorism is that it has been around forever and, like all terrorism, it cannot be fought. You can’t destroy a tactic. Bill O’Reilly is never going to court for the death of George Tiller, no matter how culpable he is. Neither are Ted Cruz or Mike Huckabee or Carly Fiorina going to jail for this incident.
But, counter to Doug’s post, we can and should point out that they are morally culpable for the results of their hysterical rhetoric.
@Pch101: Legally, I think most of us tend toward free speech absolutism, in the legal sphere. But conservatives seem to have difficulty recognizing the difference between what one is legally able to say and what one ought to say. The best example was Limbaugh being forced out of buying into an NFL team. Conservatives almost universally objected that his free speech rights were being violated when in fact no one had tried to stop him from saying a single one of the stupid, racist things that got him in trouble.
The Center for Medical Progress (sic) has every legal right to make a lying video supporting their political agenda. It would be better had they been more ethical and honest and refrained from making it. And when some weak-minded individual acts on it, am I to say, “Oh well, so it goes.”? Up to a point I’m good with “I disagree with what you say, but I’ll fight for your right to say it.” But I ain’t dying for these peoples right to produce a tissue of lies.
Except if the toddler kills himself or another person with an unsecured, loaded gun lying around his house or car. Then it’s just a “tragedy” and no one gets blamed.
But the legal responsibility goes to the copycat, not to the role model. You don’t send a guy to trial or tack extra years onto a guy’s sentence because his biography allegedly inspired someone else.
It cuts both ways. If Mark Zuckerberg’s business success inspires an entrepreneur to build a successful business of his or her own, that doesn’t entitle Zuckerberg to claim credit for that enterprise or to take a share of the profits.
Those who inspire the copycat may be assigned with an ethical responsibility, but that is outside the scope of the law.
That’s obviously a matter of opinion. And Limbaugh has a pretty solid lock on the moronic politics market, so I will give him credit for knowing his audience.
In any case, we should return to the distinction between thought and action. Arguments over ideas turn this into a culture war that the extreme right desperately wants because it blurs the lines between their beliefs and their right to impose those beliefs upon others.
Take the Kim Davis problem. We should be indifferent to her personal views about homosexuals; homophobia is perfectly legal and she can practice it privately if she wants. The problem arises when she brings that homophobia into the workplace and imposes it onto taxpayers who are denied services to which they are entitled. That isn’t “religious liberty,” that’s just illegal. We should not endeavor to convince homophobes to love everyone; we just want them to do their jobs.
I wasn’t talking about criminalization; I was talking about moral responsibility. There are all kinds of things that are morally repugnant but not illegal. Doug was denying that those who demonize a vulnerable subgroup have any responsibility at all when violence against that subgroup happens.
Of course, his position is understandable as a symptom of libertarianism. He is wholly (and emotionally) committed to a model of individual humans as purely free agents. If he admits that propaganda can be effective, he is implicitly conceding that humans are not purely free agents whose judgments and preferences are all sui generis.
The existence of a Cult of Ayn Rand is one of the most ironic events in the history of political science. It’s almost exactly a real-world instance of the scene in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” in which the sheeplike crowd of followers chants “We are all individuals!” in perfect unison…
@Doug: The fact that political rhetoric sometimes has a negative impact on our political culture, though, isn’t a reason to blame it for violence when there clearly isn’t any rational basis for doing so
800,000 Tutsi corpses argue otherwise
Julius Streicher may have simply done propaganda for the Third Reich, but they still axed him for crimes against humanity at Nuremberg.
At what point do your broadcasts stop being Freedom of Speech and start being the incitement of murder?
Well this puts to rest the nonsense that this had nothing to do with abortion, or that it isn’t radical christian terrorism.
When do we put white christians on a watch list, Mr. Trump? When do we put them in internment camps, Jenos?
I don’t think we can say this often enough. They talk about “holocausts” and “murder” and “slaughter” and “nazis” but they don’t want to do anything about it.
I brought up an analogy to my wife a while back. I talked about what would happen if, in Virginia, where we live, some drug company found a loophole in state law that would let them kill five year old children to do drug research, and set up a lab in our town.
If it happened that there was no way to lawfully shut the place down, and the politicians wouldn’t change the law, I wondered if I would be willing to shoot the workers to keep them from doing their work. I tend toward pacifism, but I think that if somebody stuck a gun in my hand when I was standing outside the lab as the workers went in, well, my guess is that I would be willing to shoot them, if that would keep them from killing actual, living, breathing, sentient five year old children.
And I’d be willing to take my lumps for it. Sometimes you do something against the law because you feel like you have no moral way not to, and you own up to it and take your punishment.
If you look at the “pro-life” people, what do you see from my analogy that’s missing from what they do? Well, all of it. They don’t behave in a way that would lead anybody looking in from the outside to believe that they truly believe that they believe that abortion is a holocaust.
They aren’t willing to do anything to stop this supposed holocaust other than shoot their mouths off about it and raise shitloads of money off the issue. What can anybody conclude, other than that they look at this as a way to make some good money?
The irony isn’t that Doug makes this argument but that Fox does. I mean how often have you heard from them that teen violence, esp. among blacks, is due to influence of rap music?
@Pch101: You are of course correct that exemplars work both to inspire good conduct and bad. I tend to wordiness and confused rhetoric and so struck from my comment the paragraph that challenged the Original Post on the grounds that great literature and inspiring spiritual stories have undeniable power to move people to good behavior. Which seems to be implicitly denied by the lack of moral responsibility Our Gracious Host claims accompanies every utterance of everyone always.
It was clearer in the original that I am as much of an absolutist concerning free speech as a reasonable person can be, I suppose. In the real world there are justifiable restrictions on some speech; I haven’t had enough coffee yet this AM to get into the weeds with that thought. Please forgive me. And recall I cut and edit to keep the “TL;DR” bug away.
@Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (formerly Mumphrey, et al.):
May I call you Mr/Ms et al? It seems to me that it is not so clever an argument to bruit about widely from the pro-choice side that ‘nah, you don’t REALLY believe that PP is conducting a vast holocaust because if you did, you’d be out there with guns and bombs.’
It seems to me that Mr Dear came to that same conclusion. And did what a truly serious believer would do. If I had planted the idea in his sick mind that action is the only appropriate response I would feel the need to accept some moral responsibility for his subsequent action.
Over at Balloon Juice John Cole presents some of Robert Deer’s emerging history and statements (“Turn to JESUS or burn in hell, …WAKE UP SINNERS U CANT SAVE YOURSELF U WILL DIE AN WORMS SHALL EAT YOUR FLESH, NOW YOUR SOUL IS GOING SOMEWHERE”) and raises a good question:
What is your threshold, Doug? Is there anything short of finding a note in his gun bag, “Dear Robert, please shoot up Planned Parenthood for me, love Carly”, that would get you to assign some modicum of blame to her or the Center for Medical Progress (sic)?
According to this there was a 9-fold increase in threats against abortion providers after the phony video came out and Republicans began their swamp fever rage against planned parenthood.
There is more reporting out there that says the same thing. The FBI itslef reported an uptick in threats.
So tell me again, Doug, why exactly incendiary rhetoric can’t be blamed for the violence in Colorado Springs?
Anyone with any self-respect would admit they were wrong.
Legally, at the “true threat” level. Now, the definition of “true threat” and what is included depends on the Circuit you live in. There was hope/fear that sCOTUS would clarify this past year in Elonis but they held on narrower grounds.
A summary of Elonis:
Ruth Marcus at the Washington Post has this to say:
@Mikey: The press are usually so deep into both-sides-do-it and refusing to take any responsibility for addressing the truth of political statements. OK, Marcus writes an opinion column, but still, kudos to her for getting past the usual moral and factual relativism and saying that the attack on PP is a made up issue based on BS.
To be clear, Doug, no one is arguing that lying in politics should be criminalized. But decent people should call it out when they see it, as Marcus did.
I take it the shooter isn’t as enigmatic as Doug previously thought.