a jim jividen blog

Here's the thing. I'm watching one of these shows on the Cooking Channel featuring food trucks. There's a Scottish expat making fish and chips; in a thick brogue he somewhat wearily explains his irritation with Americans who habitually order a side of tartar sauce: "tartar sauce is basically gherkins." That's this blog. I claim no particular insight, no revelation. If you enjoy the flavor, great, but this blog is basically gherkins.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Body Count


A month and a half ago, I wrote this, arguing that the level of right wing rhetoric had reached critical mass, as they had begun framing Democrats as "evil" - the moral equivalent of terrorists and Nazis. 

Part of that lunacy focused on the Census (as if it were somehow a new occurrence)  which became the mechanism by which Obama would create his concentration camps. Michele Bachmann said the Census Bureau would get information about you from your neighbors if you refused to talk to them, saying "there is a point where you say enough is enough to government intrusion."  Bachmann said the level of government intrusion in our lives is making us "slaves" - said that we are reaching a point of "orderly revolution."  Neal Boortz referred to Census takers as "looters" saying that the Census gathers information "designed to help the government steal from you."

The Census is government intrusion that might justify rebellion.  But Bachmann voted for warrantless domestic wiretapping.  This mirrors conservative outcry against ACORN and simultaneous continued support of Blackwater. Conservative hypocrisy isn't hidden in plain sight; it screams out in bursts of neon. 

And in Kentucky, a Census worker was found naked, bound, gagged, hanged, with the word Fed written on his chest and his Census ID taped to his head.

Nothing will change.  Not a syllable.  In fact, as Bill O' Reilly did when his regular drumbeating reference to "Tiller the Baby Killer" was examined following the homicide of abortion provider George Tiller, the response will be that it's a fascist/socialist/Nazi attempt to silence the oppressed "real Americans".  The response will be, as Oklahoma Senator Coburn said when confronted on Meet the Press with the out of control anti-government rhetoric "we've earned it."

In July of 2008 it was the shootings in the Tennessee church, the murderer leaving behind a four page letter explaining how the church was too liberal in its teachings, that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country, that they had ruined every institution in America: 

"If decent patriotic Americans could vote three times in every election we couldn’t stem this tide of liberalism that’s destroying America. Liberals are a pest like termites. Millions of them. Each little bite contributes to the downfall of this great Nation. The only way we can rid ourselves of this evil is Kill them in the streets. Kill them where they gather"

Among the literature in his home, Michael Savage's Liberalism is a Mental Health Disorder.  From another Savage book, Savage Nation, came this:

"To fight only the al-Qaeda scum is to miss the terrorist network operating within our own borders… Who are these traitors? Every rotten radical left-winger in this country, that’s who.”

Savage isn't alone in this level of violent talk. 

Here's Sean Hannity:

I’ll tell you who should be tortured and killed at Guantanamo: every filthy Democrat in the U.S. Congress.

Here's Rush Limbaugh:

Liberalism is the greatest threat this country faces.

I tell people don't kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we can have two on every campus -- living fossils -- so we will never forget what these people stood for.

Here's Ann Coulter:

We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed, too.

And here's Simple Jack:

I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could.


Where are the similar quotes from the stars of the left?  These aren't random blog comments; these are highly compensated superstars of the right, highly advertised and supported through corporate dollars and outlets.  A 10 million dollar sexual harrassment lawsuit payoff here and a drug conviction there notwithstanding.

See, 'cause that's how this gets framed - that somehow "both sides" say extreme things, "both sides" have radical perspectives, that the hatred of Bush was expressed in ways similar to the hatred of Obama.

Where does Michael Moore threaten to kill Republicans?  There are lots of movies, plenty of interviews - where are the death threats?  Keith Olbermann did lots of passionate anti-Bush commentary, where's the clip where he said he should be assassinated?  Ann Coulter said "My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building." in which of his books did Al Franken express a wish that Fox News would be blown up, its employees killed in the explosion?

There's a term for this sort of rhetoric - Eliminationism, where a democratic exhange of ideas is replaced by violent rhetoric designed to close the discussion of those ideas.  Where an "enemy within" is framed as evil, as needing to be eliminated.  Perhaps you recognize this in the tactics from the town hall debates - designed not to foster discussion - but to end it.  Guns brought as shows of force, of intimidation - implicitly saying shut this debate down, my guns are more important than your ballot box.

Conversation is needed in democracy; one should feel able to freely exchange ideas - once those ideas are threats that speech is no longer geared toward flourishing ideas but ending them.  Conservatives take cover under the first amendment while their words are geared toward ending discussion. 

When Simple Jack talks about a return to how we felt the day after 9-11, I think I know what he means.

We didn't have political debates in the United States after 9-11.  Not any that were allowable.  Our national reaction - that the US was an innocent actor, hated for its freedoms, and that we needed to sacrifice some of those freedoms and adopt a militaristic response, both foreign and domestic, to defeat a nebulous enemy at any cost - was not one from which many could deviate in public life.  Big government, much more intrusive than the Census, in the form of the Patriot Act and suspicionless, warantless domestic telecommunications surveillance, was put in place with virtually no debate.  Big government, much more intrusive than a public health care option, in the form of the jailing and interrogation of terrorist suspects, held without charge, held without lawyers, tortured in violation of US law was put in place with virtually no debate. Big government, in the form of two endless foreign wars, wars which have added far, far, far more to the US debt than any Obama stimulus package, commenced with virtually no debate.  I was teaching US Government at the time, questioning the federal government was characterized as treason by the very same people who, in the wake of Obama's victory, say that if the federal government were to provide health insurance it would be the equivalent of Nazi Germany.

We got another dead body in Kentucky.  That's where we are in America in 2009. 

(Meanwhile, as correctly noted in Newsweek, the Big government right wing US Supreme Court continues to incrementally roll back a century of individual liberties.  And the silence is deafening.)