Church shooting is a warning to the extreme right hate-mongers. Will they heed it?

I want to say a word about the more extreme conservative American broadcasters and writers like Rush LimbaughAnn Coulter, Michael SavageBill 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.

12 Responses

  1. A large number of these “Liberals” are not just un-American, they’re anti-American and ARE traitors to the nation that they live within – at least traitors to it’s spirit, if not actually traitors by the legal definition. Coulter, O’Reilly and Hannity are doing nothing but speaking truth.

    Does that mean that a true American should exterminate these enemies of America? No, it doesn’t – and the poor man you write about in this post completely missed one of the basics of America.

    In order to maintain everyone’s freedom America is forced to carry the seeds of its own destruction within it. Americans have to defend their nation against its domestic enemies without denying the freedoms and rights that are guaranteed to us all.

    It’s a hard road to follow.

  2. Jonalan, thanks for your comment. I see what you’re saying about free speech being one of the basics of America, and I welcome that.

    Could you elaborate a little on your view that liberals are “un-American…anti-American, and…traitors”? It seems to me that you’re endorsing the kind of statement Coulter, Hannity, Limbaugh and so on make regularly in their shows, books and so on, and as you’re commenting here it would be productive to hear why you say that. Which particular liberal views do you have in mind?

  3. A friend who maintains a couple of websites for US service people based in the UK sometimes forwards emails he gets from god-loving, anti-liberal Americans. They’re not only full of hatred, they demonstrate an appalling level of ignorance. When did “liberal” get to be a dirty word in the US? Maybe they use a different dictionary over there.

    http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/liberal?view=uk

  4. Tony,

    Because I’d like to keep my response to a reasonable length, I’ll only list the “fundamental” problems or evils of Liberals. this will unfortunately result in a certain amount of vagueness and generalization, but to address the individual specific policy issues would be far too long a comment.

    1) Positive rights v. Negative Rights. Liberals’ views of human rights is based on entitlements instead of protections. They hold the very un-American belief that people are entitled by their rights to the fruits of the labor of others.

    2) Racism = Power + Prejudice. The Liberal view that racism has Power has a dependency is solely – IMHO – designed to make it a White failing so as to effect Social Engineering.

    3) The Collective v. the Individual. I have large problems with the liberals’ view of subjugating the efforts of the individual in favor of the aims of the collective or State.

    4) Government Involvement, Power, and Scope. The Liberals’ desire to inflate the power of the federal government is in direct contravention of the core precept of America and our founding fathers.

    5) Sovereignty – The Liberals’ desire to bind the US to the UN – and seemingly any other extra-national body they can find – is bluntly treasonous. America is a sovereign nation and bound to no other law but our own, though international treaties should be abided by or formally ended.

    6) I detest the Liberals hatred of religion. Their desire to eliminate religion from the public sphere and removal of any law based on a code of morality found in religion is repugnant to me and very un-American, since America has – or had – a strong history of religion and morality.

    7) The hatred that Liberals hold for America is shown in their repeated attempts to vilify our own country and its history. From revisions of history to blaming the US for 9/11, they seem to do their best to paint America in a negative light. If they so hate America and are so ashamed of it, how can they be other than its – and our – enemies?

    There you go. Each major point could be broken down into dozens – sometimes hundred – specific cases, but that seems a needless effort.

    …And yes, I’m essentially “endorsing the kind of statement Coulter, Hannity, Limbaugh and so on make regularly in their shows, books and so on” because I think they’re right, though I agree that their delivery of the truth is not done in a manner that serves any significant positive purpose.

  5. Thank you.

    You seem to be expressing ideological differences between your own view and that of liberals.

    In what way does disagreeing with you make someone a traitor?

    I’m not sure I follow the matter of the UN. Don’t all nations make treaties that create obligations? Is there a specific ideological difference over the role of the UN, here, or just the UN in general?

  6. That’s more than a bit of a Straw man argument, Tony, and I’m guessing that you know that.

    As you well know, there are principles that this country was founded upon. Those who live within America who want to abrogate or contravene those principles are traitorous to the very ideals of America.

    As I said though, Americans have to – to a limited extent – tolerate this cancer within our society lest we – in curing it by currettement – destroy that which we strive to preserve.

  7. Jonolan, it seems like your notion of “liberal” is a caricature with certain actual aspects of the extreme left more than any actual description of what liberalism stands for. Let’s briefly examine your points:

    1) Is it so wrong to say that people have some positive rights? I’m perplexed by your claiming otherwise at the same time you accuse liberals of being anti-religious. The Bible (both the Old and the New Testaments) are quite explicit about people having basic positive rights to food, clothing and shelter. If believing that we as a society have an obligation to make sure people don’t starve and that the don’t freeze to death in the winter is treasonous liberalism, then I’m proud to be a treasonous liberal.

    2) Certain elements of the extreme left do have views such as this. However, the vast majority do not. I doubt that Tony or I would be at all inclined to defend such claims. There is however, a tiny but important connection to a more or less true statement: Prejudice by groups in power is far more damaging than prejudice by those not in power. And still in the United States the white population is in general far more powerful than the black population.

    3) The balance between the needs of the whole and the needs of the individual is complicated. I doubt that even you think the government should not (for example) have taxes to support the army or that local governments should not have taxes to support police and fire department protection. The issue here then becomes how much government control does one want. This is a continuum. Different people can reasonably disagree with how much control. There’s nothing anti-American about that. Moreover, if you talk to most people on the left, when it comes down to it they aren’t going to be increasing the level of government intervention much beyond that most on the right favor. They aren’t for example talking about nationalizing industry, and many on the left are unhappy with even the small amounts of nationalization that have happened in the last few months.
    4) This is essentially related to 3 and suffers from the same flaws. It suffers from additional flaws as well. The Founding Fathers were not saints. Their words did not come down from Mount Sinai. There is nothing wrong with government changing overtime to grow or shrink as the time demands. If the Founders wanted strict limits on the size of the federal government they could have done so. They did not. Moreover, some of the largest increases in federal spending occurred under Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, hardly liberals.
    5) Now, who isn’t following the Founders? The Constitution explicitly provides treaty making power to the government. If the Founders had no wish for treaties they would have said so. Furthermore, the Constitution is very explicit about what is treason, and making treaties to the mutual benefit of all isn’t treasonous. Again, rational people can disagree on the details, but that’s then a matter of degree, not a matter of difference. I for example, am generally not in favor of the US ratifying the Law of the Sea, but I don’t think that people who are in favor of such ratification are traitors.
    6) Again, who is reading the Constitution? The First Amendment pretty narrowly limits what religion can occur in the public sphere. There is nothing disallowed by religious activity in public. The problem becomes when the government becomes involved. You will find very few “liberals” indeed who are in favor of anything like the French system. Most simply want the government to not have interfere with peoples religion or decisions to have one form of religion or another. In that regard, since you seem so worried about the individual being subjugated to the state, you should support them in that endeavor. And again, disagreeing with you, even if it something that makes you feel “repugnant” isn’t treason.
    7) Disagreeing with some of the US’s prior actions or saying sometimes “You know, this problem might not be here if we hadn’t done this other thing” isn’t being ashamed of America at all. People are completely able to say that they disagree with one thing that their country has done or is doing and still wholeheartedly support it. To use an analogy, I don’t need to agree with every action a friend has taken to be friends with the person, and even if they did something really dumb that has got them into a mess, I’ll help get them out of it. Support for the United States does not mean we should be blind to history. And criticism of the United States does not make one an enemy.

    Overall, most of your points seem to draw from caricatures or from extreme positions not taken by the vast majority of liberals. You also seem to have trouble understanding that reasonable people can disagree. This last point is worth repeating: Two people can start with the same evidence and reach different conclusions. One might be wrong and the other might be right, but it doesn’t make the wrong one dangerous or evil. And it is possible that neither of them is right and that reasoned dialogue between them will result in an even better approach. This is one of the founding ideas of democracy, any democracy: the idea that different rational people can disagree in good faith and that we should listen to them. Those who undermine this principle are doing far more damage to the health of the American than anyone who disagrees over how large the government should be or the proper place of religion in government. It takes a certain degree of maturity to say “I might be wrong. You might be right.” But it is essential to to the functioning of our democracy. Limbaugh, Coulter and the others don’t have that maturity. And they actively encourage others to lack it. Please don’t be like them.

  8. Well put, Joshua.

  9. I don’t agree with you that it’s a straw man argument, Jonolan. There have been disagreements on principle since the country was founded. I think the notion that, for instance, distrust of modern capitalism, and support for collectivism (which is as much part of the United States as any other modern state) is treasonous is weak, and in the long run is bound to lead its proposer to a politically marginal position.

    As it happens, the battles against collectivism or socialism were fought and lost by the right over welfare and medicare, federal taxation, spending on education and science, and many other issues. Even if the argument had been won by the “small government” supporters, disagreeing with them would not be treasonous. Being on the losing side of a political debate is not treason (else the Republicans would be in considerable trouble now).

  10. hmm… It appears Jonolan wanted us to read his tirade, but he couldn’t stick around to return the favor. Typical. Anyway, back on topic, excellent post. This kind of senseless violence is on the rise, so I am going to give away free martial arts training to any secular progressives in my area (East Chicago/Gary). Click on my name for more info. I realize this is a bit spammy of me, but it’s for a good cause.

  11. To be fair to Jonolan, he was responding to my request that he explain why he called liberals “un-American…anti-American, and…traitors”.

  12. Hello!
    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language ;)
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

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