October 14, 2009
Liberals' Violence Warning Comes a Year LateBy Edward Olshaker
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman recently attracted major attention when he dramatically warned, as Rep. Nancy Pelosi had done earlier, that malicious words can lead to life-threatening violence. Yet both were silent about the wave of political violence that reached its peak a year ago this month in a series of crimes that were not deemed especially newsworthy, because they were committed by supporters of presidential candidate Barack Obama.
How many of us remember the McCain-Palin campaign bus coming under gunfire in New Mexico last October? Through sheer luck, neither McCain, Palin, nor anyone else was harmed by the bullet that shattered a window of the McCain/Palin Straight Talk Express. (For anyone who might argue that this was an insignificant crime, it's worth noting that the recent shooting of a moving bus with a BB or pellet-not an actual bullet-is being treated as attempted murder.)
Who remembers that the home of a Republican headquarters manager in central Florida was shot up that same week? Or the Molotov cocktail throwing, the cutting of McCain supporters' cars' brake lines, and other acts of vicious vandalism?
The recent beating of an African-American conservative by union thugs echoed violent incidents from 2008, when a middle-aged woman on a Manhattan street was beaten in the face with the stick from her McCain campaign sign, and pro-McCain women in Orlando were shoved and threatened, a continuation of the sexism and intimidation endured by Clinton supporters earlier in the year. Feminists remained silent, as did the media, and did not seem to mind when vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was hanged in effigy in California.
The vilification of Palin, based largely on bigotry against her religion, reached its chilling logical conclusion when someone set fire to her church with women and children inside.
Although virtually no one in the media highlighted this crime's significance as attempted murder, it's no accident that anti-Palin vitriol-typified by former Air America radio-show host/actress Janeane Garofalo's comment that Palin "represents that lesser segment of the country" -- is reminiscent of white supremacists' characterizations of African-Americans as loathsome inferior beings. Such hate speech indeed breeds violence, as Pelosi and Friedman belatedly warn us. The Wasilla church arson of 2008 was a terrorist act as predictable, and as evil in intent, as the Birmingham church bombing of 1963.
Speaking of inflammatory rhetoric, it was candidate Obama who urged followers in June 2008, "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun" (and he wasn't describing his policy toward Iran). Even though Obama's rallying cry was metaphorical, it nevertheless had the potential to incite a few unstable supporters, and it is difficult to imagine any other presidential candidate not being excoriated for the violent imagery (as Obama said during the campaign, "Don't tell me words don't matter"). Had McCain, Palin, or even Hillary Clinton, a Democrat not preferred by the media, made the same remark, it would have marked the first day of the Gun-gate controversy, which would have included demands to withdraw from the race. And if "bring a gun" were followed by actual shootings by supporters, as in Obama's case in New Mexico and Florida, such a candidate's chances would have been doomed.
While incitement and violence from right and left are equally evil, the latter has been rewarded with mainstream acceptance, an apparent result of two years of the media shrugging off Obama's extremist ties. One revealing recent example was the Baltimore Book Festival's promotion of terrorist Bill Ayers and genocide-espousing poet Amiri Baraka as two of their biggest celebrity authors, along with writers including astronaut Buzz Aldrin and actress Maureen McCormick (Marcia Brady), in a series of full-page newspaper ads.
Because Obama was not de-legitimized by his political alliance with Ayers (it did not fit the media's desired storyline), the opposite has happened: the remorseless Weather Underground bomber has been legitimized and even glamorized by Obama, as well as rewarded for his series of bombings (why else was he chosen to headline the event, when so many other professors are authors?).
Amiri Baraka, a similar figure, is the former New Jersey poet laureate whose poem about the 9/11 attacks claimed that 4,000 Israeli workers stayed home from their jobs at the World Trade Center, while mocking the US government for blaming "some barbaric A-Rab" for the attacks. In earlier poems, Baraka took delight in the image of "cracking steel knuckles in a jewlady's mouth," urged that African-Americans "must eliminate the white man before we can draw a free breath on this planet," and wrote, "Rape the white girls. Rape their fathers. Cut the mothers' throats." Another poem promotes anti-gay violence: "Roywilkins is an eternal faggot. His spirit is a faggot ... if i ever see roywilkins on the sidewalks imonna stick half my sandal up his ass."
What is remarkable is that the promotion of Ayers and Baraka as two of the biggest draws did not generate controversy. Imagine how all hell would have broken loose if two of the book festival's stars were a right-wing bomber of government buildings and a white supremacist advocating genocide of blacks. One wonders if they would have enjoyed the same corporate sponsorship: Verizon, Amtrak, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, and Bank of America, among others.
This is not simply a weird anomaly. It is part of a larger, fairly recent pattern of extremist leftist hate grabbing control of the mainstream. It shows up most dramatically in what has happened to Pelosi's (and my own) Democratic Party.
When Jimmy Carter is given a standing ovation at the 2008 Democratic Convention, after having said in 2007 that rocket attacks on Israeli schoolchildren are not terrorism, the Democratic Party is sending a message condoning deadly terrorist violence.
When Obama, Clinton, and other presidential candidates attend the convention of a notoriously bigoted website in search of support, they send a message that the party of FDR and JFK has ceased to be (even if this historic moment goes virtually unnoticed).
When Obama playfully greets pro-terror dictator Hugo Chavez and bows down to the Saudi king, while taking a hard line against America's democratic allies; when he awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who never tires of demonizing Jews and likening Israel to Nazi Germany, he confirms the concerns of everyone who warned about his alliances with extremists and terrorists last year. When his Justice Department blocks the case against New Black Panther Party thugs who violently intimidated voters on Election Day 2008, a green light is given to future criminal, racist violations of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which heroic Americans sacrificed their lives to create.
Pelosi, Friedman, and others are correct to have deep concern-concern that is shared across virtually the entire political spectrum-at gun-brandishing, Nazi and communist imagery, and racism by the rare lunatics who tarnish town hall meetings and tea party protests. But their outrage, and media coverage, is selective and breathtakingly biased. They did not voice similar complaints last year about Obama having spent nearly half his life (including most of his presidential run) as a devoted member of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's bizarre hate cult, his comparison of the US to Nazi Germany and his followers' acts of violence and intimidation. And while the behavior of gun-carrying anti-Obama protestors is reprehensible because of the implied message, what's the difference between them and pro-Obama gunmen, other than the latter actually having fired shots?
Edward Olshaker is a longtime freelance journalist whose work has appeared in History News Network, The Jewish Press, FrontPage Magazine, and other publications.