Free Speech in the Crosshairs

This can't be happening again.  A terrible tragedy, followed by vile recrimination and politically motivated accusations.  Were no lessons learned after the slander of conservatives following the Oklahoma City bombing?  Aside from the terrible specter of psychotic gunmen legislating with bullets, we now have to deal with the inanities of shameless members of the nattering class in a redux of the Clinton blame-game.

In a "Special Comment" segment aired the day of the Giffords shooting, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann began his segment by laying the blame for this shooting at the feet of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and others.  Olbermann apologized for using harsh rhetoric himself in the past, and then he proceeded to posit that the shooter fell "victim to a thousand little temptations to violence" proffered by "only slightly less crazy" right-wingers on talk radio and television. 

Democrat Senator Dick Durbin spouted on CNN that it is the language of the right and the imagery used by Sarah Palin and Tea Partiers that are catalysts for this sort of incident.  Steny Hoyer, appearing on "Face the Nation," had apparently read the same talking points, as his remarks were uncannily similar to Senator Durbin's.  Pennsylvania Representative Robert Brady (D) has already proposed legislation that would make it a "crime for anyone to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or violent against a federal official."

Sarah Palin used a very effective image during the last election targeting members of Congress who she felt needed to be defeated for election or reelection.  The image placed a "crosshairs," such as would be seen through a gun-scope, on the map locations of their congressional districts.  This is the "dangerous right-wing imagery" the left is claiming as incitement to assassination.

Even before the identity of the shooter was known, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman had already blamed Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and anyone else to the right of himself for creating a political climate not seen since the days preceding the Oklahoma City bombing. 

When media partisans are not openly claiming that conservatives in general and Tea Party supporters in particular are the real perpetrators of this atrocity, they are insinuating it.  Following the shopworn liberal script, the blame for the crime is swiftly being shifted from the criminal to the bystander.

Admirably, former political advisor and current CNN news analyst David Gergen called out his colleagues for their irresponsible furthering of this libelous narrative.  Of course, many in the media won't let facts get in the way of a good story.  It appears to be evident from what is known thus far about the shooter, Jared Loughner, that he is most definitively not a Tea Partier.  His choice of literature has been cited in news reports as being indicative of his politics.  He listed Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto among his favorite books, seemingly indicating a leftist worldview. 

To get a better handle on this, however, it is necessary to look at some of the other books listed: Animal Farm, Brave New World, To Kill a Mockingbird, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.  This reading list would seem more suited to an anarchic personality -- someone with real problems in accepting or perhaps wielding authority.  The common thread running through all these books is institutional control and the role of individuals in succumbing to or rising above the collective.

Regardless, we conservatives are being backed into a media-developed trap, forcing us to defend our rights to speak and gather while partisans in the government and media try to cast those activities as the functional equivalent of a hundred Safeway massacres.  Bill Clinton used this tactic to great effect after Oklahoma City.  It nearly led to a revival of the Fairness Doctrine and proved to be a pivot-point for federal and state regulation of extremist groups, paramilitary militias, and law-abiding gun owners. 

These groups were already targets of the left, but Clinton, using the bully-pulpit of the presidency, drafted many liberal and moderate Republicans to provide bipartisan cover for what would essentially become a "pogrom" against legitimate gun-owners, peaceful militia groups, and ordinary folks who just wanted to be left alone by their government.  

Does anyone really believe that a similar effort by Obama and his supporters would not be pressed much farther, last far longer, and result in much greater loss of freedoms for the American people?  I shudder at the eventual answer to that question.

Leading conservatives in the media should now be preparing their defense, both figuratively and literally.  The trial in the media is already underway on MSNBC.  This narrative has even jumped the "pond," showing up as the lead story in a major British newspaper.

Senator Lamar Alexander made a good first effort at defense during the previously mentioned exchange on CNN with Senator Durbin.  Responding to the host, Candy Crowley, Alexander rightfully suggested that one very good way to diminish any potential negative impact that talk radio rhetoric and images like the "crosshairs"  might have on politics would be to "quit bringing it up...stop trying to tie it into every story."  Good advice, to be sure, but not likely to be taken by a controversy obsessed media that is in the business of "creating" news. 

It would be foolish to think that this reprehensible incident of violence will not be used to political effect by some in the Democratic Party.  There will, of course, be endless hearings and largely useless "blue-ribbon panel-izing" for the next several months, perhaps even into the next presidential election cycle, as Democrats use their wounded colleague as a trump card against any speech or activities that are effective against their agenda.  "Apparently, my opponent wishes to engage in the sort of speech that has spurred violence in the past.  When will they ever learn that words hurt, and even kill?" will be the mantra, intoned at every opportunity and aped by a supine media anxious to appear grave and consequential.

It is always wise to be aware of how our exhortations might be used to lethal purpose, and in large part, this is a dictum faithfully followed by major opinion-makers without the heavy hand of government involvement.  For example, Rush Limbaugh is an artist at illustrating the idiocy of his opponents' policies without demonizing them as people.  His imitations of Bill Clinton are the stuff of legend, never failing to bring a laugh and make a point, while leaving the listener with no hint of dislike for the former president as a man.  In contrast, Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz of MSNBC behave as if conservatives are not merely incorrect in their opinions, but are downright evil for having them -- a distinction with a world's worth of difference.

The bitter, pinched personality of the hardcore progressive is the seedbed of political violence in our nation today.  I've written previously about the revolutionary intentions of the left in this country, and just a few days ago, the high priestess of leftist agitation, Francis Fox Piven, called for "violent...bloody revolution."  Republicans need to get ahead of the coming slander.  Let your congressperson know that you won't tolerate your freedom of speech being limited because of the actions of a madman, or by the design of media/political charlatans.

The author writes from Omaha, NE and can be reached at
If you experience technical problems, please write to