Thursday, March 25, 2010

And so it begins

Three days ago, in the final hours before the US House of Representatives passed the historic healthcare reform bill, I warned of the inevitable violence that would come from the far right teabaggers. It’s started.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate group activity in the US, reported in “Hatewatch” that on Monday (US time), a Virginia Tea Party leader posted the address of the older brother of US Representative Tom Perriello (D), who voted for the health care bill. The teabagger urged people to “drop by” and “express their thanks.” He also wrote, “I ain’t holding back no more.”

When he realised his mistake, he wrote, “Do you mean I posted his brother’s address on my Facebook? Oh well, collateral damage.” Someone cut the line that connected a propane tank on the brother’s screened-in porch (propane is known as LPG in New Zealand). The FBI is investigating.

Neo-nazi groups have long used the tactic of posting home addresses of “enemies” and suggesting that folks “drop by”. A few days before the teabagger’s post, a former leader of an Alabama militia (which is an armed and militant hate group) urged “all modern Sons of Liberty” to smash the windows of Democratic Party headquarters around the country. After the healthcare vote, Democratic Party offices in three states had bricks or stones thrown through their windows, and the offices of a Democratic US Representative in Arizona was also attacked (the offices of a Democrat in New York State were attacked, but apparently before the post).

A brick tossed at a New York party headquarters had a note attached: “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.” One in Kansas City had anti-Obama and anti-healthcare slogans.

So far, these have been crimes against property, though the Virginia incident could’ve killed someone. Clearly property isn’t all these radicals want to destroy. Said the Alabama nut: Democrats “certainly do not hear the soft ‘snik-snik’ of cleaning rods being used on millions of rifle barrels in this country by people who have decided their backs are to the wall.” He added in an interview: “If it takes a few bricks and broken windows for people to understand how close we are to widespread violence in this country then the bricks in the windows will have been worth it.”

There are some who dismiss these acts as “minor”, but just as petty crimes in a neighbourhood often leads to bigger crimes, these “minor” incidents can easily lead to serious violent crime as the extremists become emboldened. Others dismiss such crimes as the act of “lone wolves”. There’s no such thing in the Internet age: Extremists meet and feed off each other’s hate online in the same way they used to meet in secret in the old days. Then, such meetings were usually local or at best regional; through the Internet, they’re national. And one nut with guns or bombs can do a lot of damage, as we’ve seen in recent months alone.

It doesn’t help calm things when the Republican Party launches campaign fundraising with images of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi surrounded in flames (notice the subtle sexism, too?). It doesn’t help when they use fiery rhetoric, like the Republican Congressman who accused Democrats of using “totalitarian tactics” as a way of blaming Democrats for being victims of the racist and homophobic slurs from teabaggers over the weekend. And the 24/7 drumbeat of hate and aggression coming from Fox “news” adds to the incitement.

For this to end, responsible people in the Republican Party and among the teabaggers must denounce violence unequivocally. They can’t say, as several have, “this is bad, but it’s the Democrats’ own fault.” Violence is wrong, violent intimidation is wrong, and violent rhetoric is wrong. If there are any rational, responsible people left in the right wing, they must speak up now, before it’s too late, before, with blood on their hands, they pretend they don’t understand how their rhetoric led to violence. They must do something to stop it now.


epilonious said...

Tree Party: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lunchbreath/4476046522/

Wee little animals!

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

Hahaha, I LOVE that! Thanks!!