Thursday, June 11, 2009

Not alone

By Mustang Bobby

The smoke had barely cleared from the scene at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. yesterday before we found out that the man, James von Brunn, who is accused of opening fire with a shotgun and killing security guard Stephen Tyrone Johns, is a white supremacist with a long history of hatred towards anything that didn't fit the Nazi definition of the Master Race. He has a lot of writings and web postings that blame every minority he can lay his hands on for his troubles, he subscribes to the belief that President Obama is not a citizen of the United States, and he saw such things as the Holocaust memorial as "the enemy".

As far as we know now, Mr. Von Brunn acted alone; it appears that he spent a lot of time stewing in his own hatred, seeing the conspiracies piling up against him until something set him off on his solo mission from his home in Annapolis to the museum in downtown Washington. This fits the pattern of the "lone wolf," as described in the memo released by the Department of Homeland Security -- and immediately attacked by conservatives who, for some odd reason, thought that they were being singled out as being perpetrators of extremist violence. The howls of protest, including a speech on the floor of Congress by Rep. Michele Bachman (R-MN) against the Obama administration and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano neglected to take into account two details: the report was initiated by the Bush administration, and there was a similar report released at the same time that also warned about attacks from left-wing extremists.

The smoke had barely cleared before the cable shows were wall-to-wall with commentators and reporters making the connection between the ravings of Mr. Von Brunn and the heated rhetoric that has been coming out of a certain corner of the commentariat for the last year or so against Barack Obama and that has only intensified and gotten granular since his inauguration. And while no one is directly accusing the loudest right wingers of being behind Mr. Von Brunn's attack or supporting his views -- no matter what you may think of Rush Limbaugh's self-obsessed blather or Pat Buchanan's nostalgia for Joe McCarthy, they're far too liberal for the likes of the hard-core haters like Mr. Von Brunn -- the response so far from some on the right, including Debbie Schlussel and Michelle Malkin has been an over-reaction of defensive denial that they had anything to do with it even though no one has said they did, leading me to remember the quote from Queen Gertrude in Hamlet; "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." (Ms. Schlussel, in what could only be described as pretzel-logic, blames the shooting on tolerance of Islam in America. And President Obama.)

But this stuff doesn't happen in a vacuum, and the folks who caution against lumping the likes of Mr. Von Brunn in with their points of view would do well to remember that jumping to conclusions works both ways. After all, they are forever warning us about "Hollywood liberals" and the Radical Homosexual Agenda; a brief glimpse of Janet Jackson's nipple or two men kissing on TV inevitably lead to the decline of the western world into sin and debauchery. If Glenn Beck carrying on about socialism and fascism doesn't have any impact on the actions of viewers, than neither does mindless sex and violence on TV. And while people like Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh will warn the liberals not to use the "isolated incidents" as an excuse to crack down on free speech (which begs the question as to why they think anyone is talking about them) or institute more gun control (nobody was, but thanks for reminding us), the fact is that these aren't isolated incidents. We have these acts of terror on a regular basis, and it doesn't matter what adjective -- "Muslim" or "domestic" or "right-wing" -- we put in front of the word. If it's not the incitement of the words that gin up the paranoia of the disturbed that does it, what is it?

Certainly we can't monitor every website or shut down every nutball that rants about Jews and Negros controlling their life. But Mr. Von Brunn's beliefs were well-known and documented over decades; he first acted out against the Federal Reserve in 1981. And yet people stood by and basically let him carry on until he blew his cork. I'm not suggesting that he should have been arrested before he committed a crime (like in Minority Report) and I sincerely doubt that even had someone tried to get him to climb down would have had any impact, but perhaps it might do well to remember that just standing by and letting this kind of madness percolate isn't an exercise in democracy or freedom of speech; it's enabling the madness.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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  • Well said.

    I'm not the first to be mention how radio hate shouters in Rwanda brought on their own holocaust.

    No, Limbaugh and his legion haven't directly told anyone to shoot up a museum, although Coulter has suggested similar things; but they're not entirely innocent of incitement either, nor is the party that turned to the dark side during the Clinton years and has never looked back; investing so heavily in provoking irrational rage and a culture of bellicose anti-government, anti-minority, anti-Liberal scapegoating.

    Making hate speech a crime may come disturbingly close to censorship, but it seems to be a vain hope that the right wing hate industry will tone it down from a sense of responsibility. There will be talk about yelling "Fire" in the theater and the limits of free speech, of course, but I'm cynical enough to think they'll use this as an opportunity to start screaming about censorship and the "Liberal Agenda."

    It will, of course be stressed that "the liberals" are just as guilty of hate speech for criticizing the war, torture, economic incompetence, etc.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 9:59 AM  

  • hate speech coming from individuals -- even pajama-clad bloggers -- isn't the problem. it's the routine hate speech on television news programs like glenn beck and o'reilly.

    every single day, in a multitude of venues, the public hears that "the left" hates america, seeks to destroy america.

    as far as i am concerned, beck, o'reilly, limbaugh, savage, et al are just as responsible for the shootings as the gunmen.

    By Anonymous karen marie, at 3:30 PM  

  • Agreed -- they are as culpable as anyone who incites a riot or a panic, but they are very good at distancing themselves from the actions they inspire and nearly impossible to prosecute under current law.

    They need to be stood up to by an angry public, but so far, it's mostly those PJ clad bloggers because there's not much money in talking sense compared to hate mongering.

    Of course I'm wearing khaki shorts and a Hawaiian shirt so that's a big step up!

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 5:19 PM  

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