I want to say a word about the more extreme conservative American broadcasters and writers like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. I think they have done their country a disservice.
It’s easy to laigh at them. Beyond their small, intensely loyal followings, their opinions tend to be very unpopular indeed, and their way of expressing their opinions is widely regarded as offensive and counter-productive.
I find it difficult to believe, for instance, that Ann Coulter, O’Reilly and Hannity really think that the liberal point of view is tantamount to anti-americanism, or that Rush Limbaugh really believes that “what’s good for al-Qaeda is good for the Democratic Party.” Does Michael Savage really believe, as rthe title of his book says, that Liberalism is a Mental Disorder?
These are, above all, professional writers and entertainers. They know that they won’t sell so many books if they don’t present their ideas in a bold and attention-getting way that satisfies the needs of their conservative readers, and they act accordingly. They are, I assume, more intelligent than their chosen form of expression makes them appear. They adopt the manner of the saloon bar bore because of the prevailing anti-intellectualism of American conservative culture.
But some of their readers, viewers and listeners take their hate-tinged, violent form of expression to a place where, I’m sure, none of these well educated, intelligent, professional writers and broadcasters would want to go.
58-year-old Jim David Adkisson’s life sucked. The Air Force veteran, who had worked as a trucker, was unemployed, His food stamps were being cut. He was a drinker and a loner, his five marriages all having ended in divorce.
Jim blamed liberals for his problems. In his house he kept a small library of anti-liberal books, including books by Hannity, O’Reilly and Savage. They told him unequivocally that liberals were to blame for much that was wrong with America. Jim agreed with that, and he intended to do something about it.
Jim’s fifth wife had been, by the very strict, staid standards of Knoxville, Tennessee, a liberal, and had once attended Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, in Knoxville. “I loved this woman, but she was just … I’d never been around somebody that liberal in my life”, he said. In 2000 after he told her that he was considering killing her as an option to be taken in the marriage, she left him, and later obtained a protection order.
To Jim, the church was “An ultra-liberal church that never met a pervert they just didn’t embrace.” And on July 27, 2008, Jim wrote a four page suicide note and headed out there with a sawn-off shotgun in a guitar case, intending to shoot parishioners until the police arrived and killed him.
This was an intentionally political act, and Jim said in his suicide note that he hoped that others would copy it.
“I regret that I have but one life to give for my country,” he wrote, consciously echoing words often attributed to Revolutionary War hero Nathan Hale. “I hope,” Jim added, “I start a movement.”
Jim wrote that he would like to kill every major Democrat in Congress, but as they were inaccessible he was going after “the foot soldiers, the fucking liberals that vote in these traitorous people.”
The concluding words: “I’d like to encourage other like-minded people to do what I’ve done. If life ain’t worth living anymore don’t just kill yourself. Do something for your country before you go. Go kill liberals.” He later told police that he intended to kill every adult in the church.
As it happens the people in the church overpowered him and he was arrested, although not before he had killed or injured several of the congregation.
Now one thing is plain: this fellow had a screw loose and Hannity didn’t put it there. He hated liberals but not because the likes Coulter told him liberals were unamerican.
But was it ncessary for them to express their opinions about liberal views in such a bizarre and sensationalist way? How does it advance political discussion to make ridiculous accusations about one’s political opponents? Is it worth the risk of encouraging the already unhinged in their beliefs?
Hannity and company should consider this case, carefully. They have spent many years trying to paint the political opposition as traitors, turncoats, and evil. This is not necessary, and it has costs that no civilized society should be forced to pay. They could oppose liberalism more effectively, indeed, if they did not use language that appeals only to the most violent and hate-filled people in society.
- Tenn. church shooter hoped attack would spur more (Associated Press)
- Knoxville Unitarian Universalist church shooting (Wikipedia)