Friday, August 15, 2008

Searching for Hate in the Blogosphere

Even before Arkansas Democratic Chairman Bill Gwatney succumbed to his gunshot wounds on Wednesday, the left-wing blogosphere lit-up with allegations that a right-wing extremist had shot another liberal.

For example,
leftist bloggers were quick to allege, without the release of any details on the assailant's background or motive, that conservative "wingnuts" like Sean Hannity and Michelle Malkin encouraged a "climate of hate" that provoked the extermination of liberals (recall just two weeks ago a gunman killed two at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, in Knoxville, Tennessee).

In an essay this week, Jonathan Bellman of the University of Northern Colorado, argued that the right has essentially declared open-season on the word "liberal" and anyone associated with it:

It has become what “Jew” was in Nazi Germany and “Communist” was during the Red Scare: something so threatening that it needn’t be explained or questioned. Right-wing high priests like Sean Hannity, Michelle Malkin, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter have for a long time implied that “liberal” equals something like “seditious terrorist.” It is so ingrained now that we barely notice, or quietly agree.
As I've noted before, the left's propensity to see evil designs on liberals reflects their own ideological foundations in hatred, a secular demonology protective of the perceived purity of the liberal sensibilities.

It's thus interesting to note the dust-up online today over
the discovery of death threats against "liberal traitors" on some conservative websites:

On Wednesday night, Fox "News'" Bill O'Reilly continued his dishonest and deceptive attacks on websites, such as Huffington Post and Daily Kos, which he misleadingly describes as "hate sites" featuring "vicious far-left attacks" as based on selective reader comments he's discovered posted on those sites.

In the latest of his continuing segments with "Internet Cop" Amanda Carpenter, of the rightwing website, O'Reilly pointed to a number of objectionable comments at the two sites, from "far-left kooks," before tepidly lauding both HuffPo and Daily Kos for having removed some of them, presumably after they were brought to the attention of site moderators.

"Where is that rocket propelled grenade launcher when you need one," O'Reilly displayed on a chyron, and then "Let's hope the dissidents aim is good!" Both of the quotes are purported to be from a "Blog Posting" at HuffPo, according to the Fox "News" graphic, posted in regard to a group of Iraq War Veterans who support the war effort....

But O'Reilly and Carpenter clearly have been protesting a bit too much, as it turns out Carpenter's own website is guilty of the same --- and even far worse --- "vicious" attacks, and potentially even illegal ones, including death threats issued against Barack Obama and "traitorous liberals."

Despite the mock outrage of the Fox rightwingers,
The BRAD BLOG has been pointed, by a reader, to a number of out-and-out (and repeated) death threats issued by "bloggers" at Carpenter's own Townhall site.

The multiple threatening comments are posted on the Townhall blog of rightwing radio host and blogger Hugh Hewitt, and include death threats against the presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee, Barack Obama. They were posted on July 10th of this year at Townhall and, as of this posting on August 14th, still remain on the popular rightwing website which requires registration before commenters are allowed to post...
Picking up on this, Dave Neiwart, the leftosphere's premiere crusader against "pseudo-fascism," has denounced conservative hatred:
Two days ago, a gunman walked into the offices of the Democratic Party in Little Rock, Arkansas, and shot the state's chairman to death. The motives are still unclear, but it is starting increasingly to look like yet another case in which an unhinged wingnut decided to "take out" more liberals.

Two weeks ago, another gunman walked into a liberal Unitarian Universalist church in Knoxville, Tennessee, and began shooting, killing one man and wounding several others before he was tackled. He had written a manifesto before the rampage indicating his belief that "all liberals should be killed." At his home, investigators found books attacking liberals by the likes of Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, and ... Bill O'Reilly.

These issues have, of course, never been discussed on Bill O'Reilly's Fox News program. O'Reilly has never even mentioned the fact that the Knoxville shooter read his books and evidently watched his show. Indeed, his show not only constantly demonizes liberals, O'Reilly frequently does so by accusing liberals of being the source of vicious hatemongering -- as he did Wednesday, in the segment above, in which he informs us that "the real haters in America are on the far left" -- even though the majority of the quotes they cite are from anonymous commenters and diarists, and in every case the host site has removed them.

But as BradBlog noticed, one need only go to the site that hosts of Amanda Carpenter, his guest in this segment, to find prime examples of right-wing hate directed at liberals -- and no apparent attempt made to remove them. A sample, from Hugh Hewitt's blog:

A day of reckoning approaches... (Why is it liberal traitors like Brob feel they have to resort to profanity to make points? Because they equate emotionalism with reality - "If I scream loud enough and make enough of a scene, I'll get my way". Ten-year-old potty-mouthed brats, all of them.)

And I said traitors intentionally. I know more than one military man and woman stationed overseas who cannot wait to rotate back once the job over there is done and complete the work of fighting all enemies foreign AND domestic, Posse Comitatus be damned, and hunt down the Copperheads in our midst.

Traitors, be afraid. Be very afraid.

There's plenty more, of course, where this came from. And you can always find similar sentiments at O'Reilly's site, where again no effort is ever made to remove such commentary.

But, I suppose, we "Nazis" on the left are responsible for this. Probably because we just always inspire these sentiments, so therefore it's our fault.

Let me be the first to put out the call, once again, for a complete cessation to the competitive demonization we see across the blogosphere. I'm not as naïve to think that we won't have mutual allegations of hatred, and certainly folks on both sides of the political spectrum engage in incitement to violence in the comment threads at untold numbers of blogs, but these attacks shouldn't be a part of our political dialogue.

I'll note, though, that Neiwart confuses those alleged as "Nazis" by some commentators with
contemporary Marxist demonologists who have shunned divine grace to launch steady attacks against dead conservatives, most recently Jesse Helms and Tony Snow.

Moreover, whereas some right-wing blogs are polluted by the odd instances of extremism, like that cited at
Townhall, it is not the explicit policy of conservatives to welcome hated-filled comments as original "content" at the website, as is the case with leftist blogs such as Daily Kos (see here and here).

Perhaps the left's permissive attitudes toward aggressive hatred on their blogs relates to the much higher propensity for leftist bloggers to pepper their attacks on "wingnuts" with vile obscenities (a recent Google content analysis found liberal bloggers to be
more that 12 times as likely to use profanity in blogging than conservatives).

So, while we should all condemn attempts to inflict evil on the other, it's simply hypocritical and inaccurate for members of the left to mount unsubstantiated attacks on alleged conservative hate-filled killers while at the same time encouraging artistic license of such content demonology in the leftosphere.