Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Crime of Silence

It’s been a month since the attempted assassination of my Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, in Tucson. Six people were murdered in the massacre, including a nine-year-old girl, and twelve others were wounded.

I have felt the desire to write at length about this many times in the past month, but the pain, sorrow, and anger made it impossible. I was actually surprised by how deeply it affected me. Giffords is a centrist Democrat, not even very liberal by my standards, and I’ve been critical of her in the past. Nevertheless, I voted for her last November. Her opponent was a “tea party” fanatic, a loud-mouth nobody, representing the ugliest and most reactionary aspects of Arizona politics. She barely squeaked by to a victory, which in itself is a cause for disgust if not despair. In any case, she is my representative in Washington, and by all accounts a very nice person. Somebody saw fit to shoot her in the head, and it felt like a ripping apart of the veneer of civilization in Tucson. If someone this moderate is at risk, then we are a lot closer to fascism than I thought.

Of course the rightists have spent a lot of time protesting that they had nothing to do with this. The shooter at least appears to be nuttier than a fruitcake, and in any case there is rarely a provable, direct cause and effect link from rhetoric to crime in cases like this. Even in incidents where a shooter was clearly influenced by right-wing rhetoric, such as with the guy who killed two people at a church in Tennessee in 2008, the rightists always deny any responsibility. After all, they say, who can tell what will set off a crazy person?

The crime is really an occasion to question the entire thrust of right-wing rhetoric, and to decry its effect on the atmosphere. Because, you see, a constant barrage of high-decibel lying and hate talk does have an effect on the atmosphere of public discourse. Fox News, for instance, works 24 hours a day spreading lies and fomenting anger and hatred about a multitude of mostly phony issues that they dream up for just that purpose. AM talk radio features one bellicose demagogue after another, always doing one thing—attacking liberals as dangerous enemies of America.

The rightists would have you believe that this has no effect on the atmosphere of the country. If that were true, it’s hard to imagine why they do it. There is no discussion involved, no exchange of ideas, no openness of any kind. Slogans, talking points, and fabrications are simply lobbed out into the airwaves in order to dominate and distort gullible minds.

There is a long list of despicable human beings who make a living dividing us into warring camps. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Michael Savage, Mark Levin, Tammy Bruce, Erick Erickson, Megyn Kelly, Bernard Goldberg, Dick Morris, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and quite a few others comprise this shameless bunch of liars. They are not patriots. Their aim is not to disagree, but to destroy. They have no morals, no standards, no credibility. Yes, the Constitution protects their right to free speech. I also have the right to not buy products from companies that pay for these unscrupulous hucksters. I have the right to let other people know who sponsors them, and to let the companies know what they’re paying for as well.

Don’t tell me it’s not political. It’s all political. Rush Limbaugh would shoot you in the head himself if he knew he could get away with it. We saw what right-wing hatred could do in the 20th century when it had total power and was unrestrained by law. And that’s what these people represent. Through the power of their media, their fascist rhetoric irradiates the land. The mentally unstable are especially prone to seduction by the paranoid fantasies, the sociopathic projections of fear, the unthinking xenophobia, misogyny, and racism. So when some nut starts believing all this crap like it was the word of God, he snaps and ends up shooting people. And scum like Hannity or Beck shrug and say, “Who me? I didn’t do anything.”

But I reserve my greatest contempt for those who should know better, the media establishment figures outside of the Fox News-AM radio nexus, who turn a blind eye to the destruction of our sociopolitical life, buying into the lies and the talking points, helping to push the phony narrative. People like George Stephanopoulos, David Gregory, Diane Sawyer, Tom Brokaw, Chuck Todd, Wolf Blitzer, Jake Tapper, Brian Williams, and all the mainstream pundits on TV and in the newspapers who think that this is normal, that this kind of thing is business as usual and to be expected, and who always frame every issue through the right-wing prism provided them by the extremists. They abandoned journalism and took on an “objectivity” that doesn’t exist, in which one side gets to lie with impunity without any consequences, and the tenets of reactionary Republican doctrine are never seriously questioned. These are the cowards that watched the third estate die, and yawned over their martinis.

When you don’t speak out against evil, you assent to it. You allow it. The most shameful appeasement of our time is the media’s surrender of responsibility, its groveling before the rightists and the imperial state. They are the hollow men, the hollow women, the empty husks from which nothing can be hoped for and nothing can be believed.

When people of decency marched in the millions against the invasion of Iraq, let the record show that the American press and media ignored them, and marginalized their views. And let the record show that when a bogus “movement” of white resentment, paid for by right-wing operatives, staged a display of thuggery calling itself a “tea party,” the same press and media rolled over like little dogs.

So to you reporters, pundits, anchors, experts, and analysts I say: I will no longer listen to you. You have failed, and the answers to our problems will not come from you, but only from those people of conscience left unseduced by your lies. You will keep talking on and on into the empty air, but your time is over.