Terrance Heath

From Both Sides Now?

Filed By Terrance Heath | January 30, 2011 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Media, Politics
Tags: liberal vs conservative, violent rhetoric

After getting some concerns off my rest re: the shooting in Tucson, I’ve been reading what everyone else is saying, and I’m kind of amazed at the conservatives attempt at the “Both sides do it,” argument. To be sure, people on both sides do go to extremes, but beyond that it’s a false equivalency. Of course, I’m not the first to point this out.

The point is that there’s room in a democracy for people who ridicule and denounce those who disagree with them; there isn’t any place for eliminationist rhetoric, for suggestions that those on the other side of a debate must be removed from that debate by whatever means necessary.

And it’s the saturation of our political discourse – and especially our airwaves – with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence.

Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

And there’s a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you’ll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won’t hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, and you will.

So, rather than repeat what everyone else has said, I thought I’d do a video timeline.

Have I done this before? Probably. I don’t remember. But here’s what I got.

Why a timeline? I’ve seen bulleted lists, but to me a timeline illustrates things in a way mere words can’t. I realized that when I was nearly finished with this one. I was amazed at the number and frequency of the incidents.

Besides, even though I only started this a week ago, I had trouble keeping up. I as was adding past events, and I had to turn around and add things that were happening at the moment. The death threats against a Palin critic and Glenn Beck’s favorite target -- Frances Piven -- were hastily added before publishing this post.

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It’s not that violence doesn’t happen on both sides. In the course of our history, of course it has. It’s not that there haven’t been extremes on both sides. But let’s be real. The Weather Underground went out of business a long time ago, and its remaining members are drawing retirement, along with the rest.

However, I challenge anyone to find the equivalent of the above on the left over the last couple of year. I challenge anyone to find it with the same frequency and intensity on the left. I challenge anyone to find the same thing coming from media figures, elected officials, and candidates for office on the left.

It just isn’t there. It isn’t happening with the same frequency, intensity, or with the open endorsement or tacit approval of elected officials and leadership.

If nothing else, it’s a record of sorts. And yes, now that I’ve made a decent start on this project, I’ll keep it up. I may even post updates as events warrant. I’m sure there are events I forgot or never knew about in the first place. Drop me a comment or email, and I’ll include them.

(Crossposted at Republic of T)

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Those signs are chilling.

In addition to violent rhetoric, the right uses divisive language and tries to "other" the left. My parents listen to conservative talk radio all the time, and callers will be told by Sean Hannity that they're "Great Americans." You're great, if you're on my side. You're great, if you're eating this up and spewing it to your friends and family. Liberal is a bad word to them. Hell, last night I heard them bitching on the radio about "psycho liberals" wanting to be the "food police." "Environmentalist whackos" anybody? They're fighting a war, but it's one they started and one they carry on with themselves. They demonize the left and claim themselves martyrs. It's disgusting.

Thanks, Terrance, for a post making a good point in a succinct manner. I particularly appreciate you bringing to my attention Krugman's phrase "eliminationist rhetoric" which is bound to become a handy term to describe criticisms that cross the line of civility.

I fear the the "lefty liberals" are being blamed for changes on the American scene that are really just a function of passing time. The WHASP's (that "H" I added stands for heterosexual) think that "their" America is being taken over by blacks, homos, tattooed teenagers with tan skin whose racial mixtures defy tracking, Muslims, Wiccans, and hoards of people of all ages who do things with cell phones and "online" (whatever that is) that they can hardly connect the dots to understand. They cry "We're Gonna Take Back America" but they can't identify who it is they are taking it back from.

The truth is, I fear, that the aging traditionalists want to take America back from up-and-coming generations. That will never work. Every generation reaches a time when they have to surrender the world to the generations behind them. Do the tattooed olive-skinned teenagers have to be so rude as to point out, "Hey, you're gonna die some day (and probably sooner than me)"?

To go on, I fear that America is now where Germany was between the World Wars -- and the biggest political dangers have their seeds in the extreme right. Our members of "The Greatest Generation" do not like being reminded that German Nazism was a right-wing, Christianist movement, and that there are indeed ways to take one's conservatism and religion too far. Today's prejudices against Muslims echo eerily the hatred of Jews from yesteryear -- yet even so, the Jews, Muslims and Christians of today have not learned how not to fear each other, because they each are addicted to the notion that world domination must be the name of their religion game.

My current pet peeve is that Obama encouraged green energy development, and now the term "solar panels" is becoming popular shorthand for green-tinted pie-in-the-sky, which in turn is the Right's excuse for continuing to guzzle oil until none can be found at any price, including war. It only shows that self-destruction can be writ small or writ large.

Sorry, Terrance, I didn't mean to rant -- but I think as you make the tick marks on your timeline you might see what I'm talking about.

My, my, now that I have already posted this rant, and I see that Michael Hamar had already written it, and did a more convincing job at it.