Far-right extremists are enjoying quite a twisted Renaissance during the Obama administration.
Last month, a Wichita physician who performed legal abortions, Dr. George Tiller, was murdered while serving as an usher at his church. The shooter, Scott Roeder, made his anti-choice preferences well-known in a series of disturbing forum posts.
This past Wednesday saw another entry into the saga of right-wing extremists committing acts of domestic terrorism with the shooting of a security guard at the National Holocaust Museum in Washington.
Holding the murder weapon was 88-year-old James von Brunn, a white supremacist with a lifelong resume of anti-Semitism, racism and memberships in neo-Nazi groups. Apparently Stephen T. Johns, a black man, made the wrong choice in opening the door for an elderly man.
When the Department of Homeland Security released a report in January outlining the threat posed by right-wing extremists, Republicans on Capitol Hill and their proxies in the right-wing media expressed outrage, twisting the report’s meaning.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele incorrectly denounced the report as an attempt to label all conservatives as terrorists. While the report noted that some members of extremist groups have military backgrounds (Von Brunn served in World War II) and that a few returning war veterans might be susceptible to hate-group rhetoric, Republicans insisted it somehow impugned and cast suspicion upon all military veterans.
In reality, the report was on to something. Exhibit A: the shootings.
The common thread between these stories is that the right-wing media, including the pundits at Fox News, and Rush Limbaugh’s radio program, is at least somewhat to blame for this proliferation of violence.
Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, who helps fire up America’s paranoid far right, assailed Dr. Tiller 29 times over the years on his show, throwing in plenty of name-calling (“Tiller the Baby Killer”) and incendiary assertions such as “for just $3,000, he’ll kill your baby” or “I’m sure there’s a special place reserved in hell for him.” This fuels nutcases like Roeder.
Members of the right-wing media have made paranoid criticisms about President Obama’s policies saying, “He’s going to take your guns away! He’s going to kill babies by the thousands! He’s going to take away your hard-earned cash and give it to people in need” – and so on – yet deflected any blame for the results of their rhetoric.
While most pro-lifers condemned Dr. Tiller’s murder, O’Reilly has continued his attacks on Tiller, even implying that the doctor had reaped what he had sowed, all while denying his anti-choice rhetoric may have had any negative impact.
The museum shooting was certainly no cause for Boss Limbaugh to reflect on the impact his words might have on his army of loyal dittoheads. Instead, he just kept his big drug-addicted mouth running, calling the killer “more of a leftist than anything else,” citing false evidence that he hated the Bush administration and other conservatives and their policies.
The fear mongers at Fox News and the rest of the fringe right-wing media that have fueled the paranoia of many of their followers are like bad parents influencing their children. By incessantly speaking uninformed, hateful paranoia to millions that are already intellectual weaklings, it’s going to stick with many and push a few over the edge.
Shepherd Smith, seemingly the one sane person on Fox News these days, said on air after the museum shooting what no one else on the right would –“enough.”
He has debunked attacks on the Homeland Security report, and called attention to a rise in paranoid hatred from the far right, as evidenced by angry e-mails and blog posts to the network, as well as startling statistics; for example, 11 percent of Americans still believe that Obama is a Muslim. Too bad Smith will be out of a job soon for failing to follow RNC talking points.
Kevin Hollinshead is a junior political science major. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.