January 24, 2011

Let’s Get This Straight: There Is No Progressive Equivalent to the Right’s Violent Rhetoric

I already covered this in The Responsibility of the Right for Arizona, but because it still seems to be a rallying point for idiots who are happier making death threats and then hiding from the consequences of their actions like the cowards they are instead of facing the responsibility they have for the statements they make, it bears repeating, and Melissa McEwan, writing for Alternet, outlines this fact perfectly.

She points out that – something else I’ve said several times – while there are nuts and loons on any side of a political debate, there are simply no progressive voices that can adequately mirror the hatred and violence that’s so normal on the right side of the political spectrum in the United States. There are no progressive politicians or pundits calling for anyone to “shoot anyone in the head,” (Glenn Beck) or “reload.” (Sarah Palin) It’s just not the case – and even those people who do get a bit radical are almost immediately disenfranchised by all sides. On the right, for some reason, there’s an intolerance for anything unlike them….except violence and their own radical beliefs.

Talk about home-grown terrorism.

From the piece:

Both sides are, in fact, not “just as bad,” when it comes to institutionally sanctioned violent and eliminationist rhetoric.

An anonymous commenter at Daily Kos and the last Republican vice presidential nominee are not equivalent, no matter how many ridiculously irresponsible members of the media would have us believe otherwise.

There is, demonstrably, no leftist equivalent to Sarah Palin, former veep candidate and presumed future presidential candidate, who uses gun imagery (rifle sights) and language (“Don’t Retreat, RELOAD”) to exhort her followers to action.

There is no leftist equivalent to the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a group which was created from the mailing list of the old white supremacist White Citizens Councils and has been noted as becoming increasingly “radical and racist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which classifies the CCC as a hate group—and is nonetheless considered an acceptable association by prominent members of the Republican Party, including a a former senator and the last Republican presidential nominee.

McEwan goes on to sekwer each major polticial pundit and official on the right that’s been guilty of the kind of rhetoric leading up to the Arizona shootings, one by one – including Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, and more, bringing their own words to light and pointing out that the right wing in America is so brutishly angry that they refuse to even denounce the open calls for assassination and murder in their own midst. It’s sad – probably one of the saddest chapters in American political discourse, but what’s even worse is that so many people on the right are eager to defend themselves, as opposed to change their tone and re-engage the rest of civil society.

She then wraps that section with this gem:

This is not an argument there is no hatred, no inappropriate and even violent rhetoric, among US leftists. There is.

This is evidence that, although violent rhetoric exists among US leftists, it is not remotely on the same scale, and, more importantly, not an institutionally endorsed tactic, as it is among US rightwingers.

This is a fact. It is not debatable.

And there is observably precious little integrity among conservatives in addressing this fact, in the wake of the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

She couldn’t be more correct – as though she needs me to point it out: she actually goes on to point out how Sarah Palin and other members of the Tea Party can barely get through a single sentence in a public appearance addressing the matter before trying to turn the blame on progressives somehow for letting this happen and then trying to claim the mantle of the victim for their own. It’s disgusting.

This conclusion though, is the most brilliant thing I’ve read in a while:

Faced with the overwhelming evidence of the violent rhetoric absolutely permeating the discourse emanating from their side of the aisle, conservatives adopt the approach of a petulant child—deny, obfuscate, and lash out defensively.

And engage in the most breathtaking disingenuous hypocrisy: Conservatives, who vociferously argue against the language and legislation of social justice, on the basis that it all “normalizes” marginalized people and their lives and cultures (it does!), are suddenly nothing but blinking, wide-eyed naïveté when it comes to their own violent rhetoric.

They have a great grasp of cultural anthropology when they want to complain about progressive ideas, inclusion, diversity, and equality. But when it comes to being accountable for their own ideas, their anthropological prowess magically disappears.

Only progressives “infect” the culture, but conservative hate speech exists in a void.

That’s what we’re meant to believe, anyway. But we know it is not true. This culture, this habit, of eliminationist rhetoric is not happening in a vacuum. It’s happening in a culture of widely-available guns (thanks to conservative policies), of underfunded and unavailable medical care, especially mental health care (thanks to conservative policies), of a widespread belief that government is the enemy of the people (thanks to conservative rhetoric), and of millions of increasingly desperate people (thanks to an economy totally fucked by conservative governance).

The shooting in Tucson was not an anomaly. It was an inevitability.

And as long as we continue to play this foolish game of “both sides are just as bad,” and rely on trusty old ablism to dismiss Jared Lee Loughner as a crackpot—dutifully ignoring that people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators; carefully pretending that the existence of people with mental illness who are potentially dangerous somehow absolves us of responsibility for violent rhetoric, as opposed to serving to underline precisely why it’s irresponsible—it will be inevitable again.

Let’s get this straight: This shit doesn’t happen in a void. It happens in a culture rife with violent political rhetoric, and it’s time for conservatives to pull up their goddamn bootstraps and get to work doing the hard business of self-reflection.

This is one problem the invisible hand of the market can’t fix for them—unless, perhaps, it’s holding a mirror.

[ Let’s Get This Straight: There Is No Progressive Equivalent to the Right’s Violent Rhetoric ]

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