During the Bush years, people on the far right constantly suggested that liberals who were against the occupation of Iraq, illegal wiretapping of Americans, the torture of detainees or any other Bush policy were â€œwith the terrorists.â€ To them, our dissent â€œemboldenedâ€ terrorists and â€œput our troops in harmâ€™s way.â€ Apparently, we (gasp) hated America.
If only those people could see themselves today. They would see their beloved leaders inciting hatred, racism and threats of violence toward the current president, Democrats in Congress and pretty much every â€œenemyâ€ out there, and they would see themselves falling for it hook, line and sinker.
Influential conservatives like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and even some congressional leaders are using inflammatory language to stir up the far right. Unlike liberalsâ€™ policy-driven arguments made during Dubyaâ€™s reign, this language is directly emboldening right-wing extremism.
The same lunatics who claimed that liberals were in league with terrorists are now using the threat of violence to intimidate for political gain. This means they have become, yes, terrorists. Last weekâ€™s events show how theyâ€™ve lost their collective mind:
The right-wing media demonized Marcelas Owens, 11, whose mother died due to inadequate health insurance and who dared to stand next to President Obama when he signed the health care bill last Tuesday. Two days earlier, teabaggers who gathered on Capitol Hill saw their claim that theyâ€™re not bigots go up in smoke. They shouted racist epithets at a few African American Congressmen (even spitting on one), and you can guess what word they hurled at Rep. Barney Frank.
Once the reconciliation bill passed, House Minority Leader John Boehner described it as â€œArmageddon.â€ Palin reacted by urging her followers on Twitter and Facebook to â€œRELOADâ€ and to target specific politicians. She even included a helpful link to a map of the United States pinpointing specific districts using rifle cross hairs. Glenn â€œProgressivism is a Cancerâ€ Beck was, well, Beck.
All the fear mongering from conservatives in Congress and in the media has resulted in teabaggers using increasingly disturbing rhetoric. Some nutcases are ditching their silly â€œObama is a socialist / communist / Nazi / Muslim / Kenyanâ€ signs for ones implicitly advocating for armed insurrection to stop reform. One such sign read, â€œIf (Sen. Scott) Brown Canâ€™t Stop It, a Browning Can.â€ Browning, of course, is a company that makes guns.
Reports of vandalism at Democratic offices nationwide and death threats against pro-reform Democrats and their families are becoming increasingly prevalent. One particularly nutty far-right militia leader justified this by saying, â€œif we do a proper job … we might just wake up enough of them to make defending ourselves at the muzzle of a rifle unnecessary.â€ How can you not call people like him terrorists?
The far-right fringe is becoming increasingly violent because many of them believe theyâ€™re at war. They believe Obama and the Democrats are destroying America and replacing it with a government thatâ€™s somehow both socialist and totalitarian. Itâ€™s easy to understand how this ridiculous thinking has set into the minds of so many when their heroes are incessantly calling them to arms.
Conservative leaders were outraged when Homeland Security released a report about the threat of right-wing extremism last year. Yet, their rhetoric over the past year has helped to justify this concern. Safe to say, they owe Secretary Janet Napolitano an apology.
Prominent conservatives must build upon their weak condemnations of violence (or lack thereof) by ceasing to incite this extremism. The only way to quash it is to marginalize it, which is difficult with fear-mongers like Palin, Boehner and Beck throwing them paranoia-inducing bones. They have a responsibility to tell their followers the sky isnâ€™t falling; if they donâ€™t, should a right-wing terrorist actually deliver on violent rhetoric, the blood will be on their hands.
Kevin Hollinshead is a junior political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.