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The Politics of Hate--and Hate Speech

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by Walter Brasch

          Just about anything that could be said about the murders in Tucson have been said.

            We know that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was holding a "Congress on the Corner" meeting outside a Safeway grocery store.

            We know that a 22-year-old named Jared Lee Loughner is in FBI custody, and has been charged with one count of attempted assassination of a member of Congress, two counts of killing an employee of the United States and two counts of intent to kill employees of the United States. We know that six people are dead, that 14 were wounded, several of whom were in grave or critical condition. We know there will be additional state charges filed against Loughner.

            We know that among the dead are John Roll, a Republican and the senior federal judge in Arizona, who had come by the rally to support his friend, the Democratic representative; and Christina-Taylor Green, a nine-year-old who was born on 9/11, and died on another day of violence. We have heard the names of George Morris, one of those shot, who tried to protect his wife, Dorothy, who didn't survive; of Dorwin Stoddard, 76, who was killed while trying to protect his wife, Mary; of Phyllis Schneck, a 79-year-old widow who lived in   Tucson eight months a year to avoid the snows of her native New Jersey; and of Gabe Zimmerman, 30, Giffords' outreach director.

             We know that Loughner was rejected by the Army, withdrew from a community college prior to being suspended, became more abusive the past year, and that many, even before the shootings, have called him mentally unstable.

            We know the shooter used a Glock 19 9-mm. semi-automatic weapon, with a 33-bullet magazine, which he purchased legally. We know that Congress did not renew the assault weapons ban, which allowed civilians to own pistols but with only a 10-bullet magazine capacity. And, we also know that sales of Glock pistols following the murders, in a nation steeped in a gun culture, increased by 60 percent in Arizona and 5 percent nationally.

            We know that Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, a conservative in his 30th year in office, called Arizona a "mecca of prejudice and bigotry," and condemned the "the kind of rhetoric that flows from people like Rush Limbaugh," whom he called "irresponsible" and who bases his talk show upon partial and wrong information to inflame his listeners. Three months earlier, the sheriff, possibly the most respected law enforcement officer in Arizona, said the Tea Party "brings out the worst in America," and implied that the atmosphere of hate was partially responsible for the resulting murders.

            While most Tea Partiers are White, middle-aged or senior citizens who are angry but not violent, whenever there is violence, whenever there is racism, discrimination, or homophobia, there are Tea Party sympathizers present.

            We know that armed citizens, some carrying signs that advocate violence, attend Tea Party rallies, and speak of the overthrow of government.

           We know that numerous members of Congress, including Rep. Giffords, had received death threats after they voted for health care reform. We know that some Tea Party leaders openly urged their followers to throw bricks through the windows of those who supported health care reform, and that several offices were vandalized.

            We know that during the 2010 mid-term elections, Sarah Palin had targeted 20 Democratic representatives, including Rep, Giffords, by placing cross-hairs targets on their districts on a map of the United States. "When people do that," said Giffords at the time, "they have to realize that there are consequences to that action," We know Palin frequently uses gun analogies and has called for her supporters to "take up arms," exhorting them not to retreat but to rearm. After the murders, Palin claimed the cross-hairs weren't really targets but surveyors' marks.

            We know that Eric Fuller, a 63-year-old disabled veteran who was one of those shot in Tucson, lashed out against hate speech. " If you are going to scream hatred and preach hatred, you're going to sow it after a while if you've got a soap box like they've got," said Fuller.

            We also know there are liberals who have threatened others, and that the rhetoric of the Radicals of the 1960s, with limited media, may have been close to the rhetoric of the Reactionaries of the 21st century. But, the instances of liberal threats pale in comparison to those launched by the extreme right-wing, which is adept at full use of the newer social media, as well as near-monopolies on radio and television talk shows.

             We also know the extreme right-wing, usually without facts or bending facts to their own purposes, fired back at Sheriff Dupnik and others.

            Rush Limbaugh, with absolutely no evidence, not only claimed the sheriff is a "fool," but that the Democratic party "seeks to profit" from the shootings, but that Loughner knows he has "the full support" of the Democrats.

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www.walterbrasch.com

Walter Brasch is an award-winning journalist and professor of journalism emeritus. His current books are Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution , America's Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government's Violation of Constitutional (more...)
 
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During Viet Nam strife the Guard's killing of Kent... by Margaret Bassett on Sunday, Jan 16, 2011 at 8:25:43 AM
this article to be the least bit balanced. You sta... by sommers on Sunday, Jan 16, 2011 at 10:28:22 AM
Maybe you didn't read the article? I don't count A... by Jim Arnold on Monday, Jan 17, 2011 at 6:31:27 AM
No, the writer stated many things as facts, as "we... by sommers on Monday, Jan 17, 2011 at 9:49:41 AM
I base ALL columns upon facts--verifiable facts. T... by Walter Brasch on Monday, Jan 17, 2011 at 11:01:20 AM