Let’s put blame where it belongs: right-wing extremism

In the wake of the senseless shooting in Tucson, Ariz., people and politicians of various political inclinations have appealed for goodwill, civil discourse and national unity.

It is said, we have to turn down the rhetorical temperature. I support these sentiments, as do most Americans. Who wouldn’t in the wake of the blood spilled and lives lost so tragically this past weekend?

But matters can’t be left here. Some others things must be said, and if it ruffles civil discourse, so be it.

Not everyone is equally to blame for ratcheting up of hate speech, racist, anti-immigrant, anti-government rhetoric, and homophobia.

Not everyone urged citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights to settle differences.

Not everyone joined in the relentless attack – now two years old – against the first African American president in our nation’s history; an attack that is racist in its content and unprecedented in its intensity.

Not everyone uses, to borrow from New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, “eliminationist rhetoric.”

Not every congressperson tells their constituents to be “armed and dangerous,” as Republican and tea party leader Rep. Michelle Bachman did.

Not everyone placed Rep. Giffords’ district in the crosshairs on their website’s election map as Sarah Palin did. (She hurriedly removed the image the day of the shooting.)

And, not every American had a hand in creating the atmosphere of intolerance and vitriol that currently exists, and resulted in the attempted political assassination of the congresswoman and the senseless deaths of six innocent people, including one young child.

Most Americans of various political persuasions believe in, and live out a moral code of tolerance and decency. They don’t harbor hatred, nor do they incite others to hate. They never advocate vigilante politics or settling differences with a smoking gun.

This contrasts with the modern-day fire eaters on right-wing talk radio and television shows – not to mention their counterparts in elective office – who trade on and get rich from volumes of hateful, divisive and abusive rhetoric. (Fire eaters were the group of extremist pro-slavery politicians from the South who urged the separation of southern states by any means necessary)

Civil discourse is a dirty word to them. Hate is what makes them tick. It is what turns them on. It is their fix and they shoot it up and out daily and hourly. Propagandizing hate is what pays them big salaries, and inflates their egos. It gives them a sense of power over other people. And it incites people – sane and deranged – to do harmful things, including political assassinations.

Rush Limbaugh and the like aren’t talk show hosts; they’re conveyers of everything that is bad in our culture. Their redeeming characteristics are zero, zilch. They have none!

If I were asked to paint a portrait of a purveyor of hate it would be Limbaugh’s face and his gang of like-minded talk show hosts on radio and Fox News in the near background.

Take the hate and lies out of their talk and they have nothing to say.

But some will assert, “Wait a minute. They didn’t pull the trigger, nor are they responsible for a young man who is obviously deranged.”

No quarrel here, but that isn’t the issue. The issue is who created the climate of hate and venom? Not the American left, not Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow, not progressive Democrats! Can you imagine Congressman John Lewis suggesting to his constituents that they “arm themselves?” It would never happen! Never!

The trail of evidence leads in one direction and to only one source: right-wing extremism.

And people should not be shy in saying this. We should pin the “tale” on the real donkey! We should name names. Nothing is to be gained by evenhandedness. In fact, in obscuring the truth, it is a disservice to the American people.

Truth is: it is misguided when someone on the progressive side does this, for it clarifies nothing in the minds of millions, who are looking for an explanation for this dastardly act.

In this instance, and in every instance where people are feeling pain, insecurity and uncertainty about which way to turn, the ideological stock and trade of right wing extremism (the water boy of the most reactionary sections of the ruling class and transnational capital) is to mislead, to confuse, to mystify and to bamboozle the American people.

In the wake of this horrible episode of Arizona violence, we can expect more of the same, but democratic-minded people should roll back the fog, attach blame to those who are responsible for the politics of hate and lies, and name names.

Photo: Tea party rally sign threatening a Browning gun solution. (JoelnSouthernCA/CC)



Sam Webb
Sam Webb

Sam Webb is a long-time socialist and activist living in New York. He served as the national chairperson of the Communist Party from 2000 to 2014. Previously, he was the state organizer of the Communist Party in Michigan. Earlier, he was active in the labor movement in his home state of Maine. He blogs at SamWebb.org.