Who, really, is inciting Americans to violence today? Hint: Even Fox News anchor Shepard Smith is worried about them.

NYT columnist Frank Rich has a terrific column on the hate-mongering being pushed by the some of the right-wing media these days, “The Obama Haters’ Silent Enablers“:

WHEN a Fox News anchor, reacting to his own network’s surging e-mail traffic, warns urgently on-camera of a rise in hate-filled, “amped up” Americans who are “taking the extra step and getting the gun out,” maybe we should listen. He has better sources in that underground than most.

You might think this is an off-topic post — but in fact a favorite strategy of the right wing’s many professional climate science deniers is to claim that climate science activists are threatening them with violence.  ClimateProgress was the victim of a recent such bullying effort, as detailed in this recent post.

The point, of course, is to try to shout down those of us who are warning about the dire nature of the problem and to attempt to paint us as out of the mainstream extremists who advocate violence, when, in fact, historically, progressives have strongly embraced nonviolence as a means of promoting our causes. The tragic irony, of course, is that inaction on climate change will ultimately lead to far more violence worldwide, as the U.S. intelligence community and others have warned (see “Memorial Day, 2029“).

Another reason for this classic bullying tactic is to deflect attention from those who are actually most responsible for inciting hatred and violence in America today — the right wing.  That was the point of Rich’s piece, which I reprint below:

The anchor was Shepard Smith, speaking after Wednesday’s mayhem at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Unlike the bloviators at his network and elsewhere on cable, Smith is famous for his highly caffeinated news-reading, not any political agenda. But very occasionally “” notably during Hurricane Katrina “” he hits the Howard Beale mad-as-hell wall. Joining those at Fox who routinely disregard the network’s “We report, you decide” mantra, he both reported and decided, loudly.

What he reported was this: his e-mail from viewers had “become more and more frightening” in recent months, dating back to the election season. From Wednesday alone, he “could read a hundred” messages spewing “hate that’s not based in fact,” much of it about Barack Obama and some of it sharing the museum gunman’s canard that the president was not a naturally born citizen. These are Americans “out there in a scary place,” Smith said.

Then he brought up another recent gunman: “If you’re one who believes that abortion is murder, at what point do you go out and kill someone who’s performing abortions?” An answer, he said, was provided by Dr. George Tiller’s killer. He went on: “If you are one who believes these sorts of things about the president of the United States …” He left the rest of that chilling sentence unsaid.

These are extraordinary words to hear on Fox. The network’s highest-rated star, Bill O’Reilly, had assailed Tiller, calling him “Tiller the baby killer” and likening him to the Nazis, on 29 of his shows before the doctor was murdered at his church in Kansas. O’Reilly was unrepentant, stating that only “pro-abortion zealots and Fox News haters” would link him to the crime. But now another Fox star, while stopping short of blaming O’Reilly, was breaching his network’s brand of political correctness: he tied the far-right loners who had gotten their guns out in Wichita and Washington to the mounting fury of Obama haters.

What is this fury about? In his scant 145 days in office, the new president has not remotely matched the Bush record in deficit creation. Nor has he repealed the right to bear arms or exacerbated the wars he inherited. He has tried more than his predecessor ever did to reach across the aisle. But none of that seems to matter. A sizable minority of Americans is irrationally fearful of the fast-moving generational, cultural and racial turnover Obama embodies “” indeed, of the 21st century itself. That minority is now getting angrier in inverse relationship to his popularity with the vast majority of the country. Change can be frightening and traumatic, especially if it’s not change you can believe in.

We don’t know whether the tiny subset of domestic terrorists in this crowd is egged on by political or media demagogues “” though we do tend to assume that foreign jihadists respond like Pavlov’s dogs to the words of their most fanatical leaders and polemicists. But well before the latest murderers struck “” well before another “antigovernment” Obama hater went on a cop-killing rampage in Pittsburgh in April “” there have been indications that this rage could spiral out of control.

This was evident during the campaign, when hotheads greeted Obama’s name with “Treason!” and “Terrorist!” at G.O.P. rallies. At first the McCain-Palin campaign fed the anger with accusations that Obama was “palling around with terrorists.” But later John McCain thought better of it and defended his opponent’s honor to a town-hall participant who vented her fears of the Democrats’ “Arab” candidate. Although two neo-Nazi skinheads were arrested in an assassination plot against Obama two weeks before Election Day, the fever broke after McCain exercised leadership.

That honeymoon, if it was one, is over. Conservatives have legitimate ideological beefs with Obama, rightly expressed in sharp language. But the invective in some quarters has unmistakably amped up. The writer Camille Paglia, a political independent and confessed talk-radio fan, detected a shift toward paranoia in the air waves by mid-May. When “the tone darkens toward a rhetoric of purgation and annihilation,” she observed in Salon, “there is reason for alarm.” She cited a “joke” repeated by a Rush Limbaugh fill-in host, a talk-radio jock from Dallas of all places, about how “any U.S. soldier” who found himself with only two bullets in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Osama bin Laden would use both shots to assassinate Pelosi and then strangle Reid and bin Laden.

This homicide-saturated vituperation is endemic among mini-Limbaughs. Glenn Beck has dipped into O’Reilly’s Holocaust analogies to liken Obama’s policy on stem-cell research to the eugenics that led to “the final solution” and the quest for “a master race.” After James von Brunn’s rampage at the Holocaust museum, Beck rushed onto Fox News to describe the Obama-hating killer as a “lone gunman nutjob.” Yet in the same show Beck also said von Brunn was a symptom that “the pot in America is boiling,” as if Beck himself were not the boiling pot cheering the kettle on.

But hyperbole from the usual suspects in the entertainment arena of TV and radio is not the whole story. What’s startling is the spillover of this poison into the conservative political establishment. Saul Anuzis, a former Michigan G.O.P. chairman who ran for the party’s national chairmanship this year, seriously suggested in April that Republicans should stop calling Obama a socialist because “it no longer has the negative connotation it had 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago.” Anuzis pushed “fascism” instead, because “everybody still thinks that’s a bad thing.” He didn’t seem to grasp that “fascism” is nonsensical as a description of the Obama administration or that there might be a risk in slurring a president with a word that most find “bad” because it evokes a mass-murderer like Hitler.

The Anuzis “fascism” solution to the Obama problem has caught fire. The president’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and his speech in Cairo have only exacerbated the ugliness. The venomous personal attacks on Sotomayor have little to do with the 3,000-plus cases she’s adjudicated in nearly 17 years on the bench or her thoughts about the judgment of “a wise Latina woman.” She has been tarred as a member of “the Latino KKK” (by the former Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo), as well as a racist and a David Duke (by Limbaugh), and portrayed, in a bizarre two-for-one ethnic caricature, as a slant-eyed Asian on the cover of National Review. Uniting all these insults is an aggrieved note of white victimization only a shade less explicit than that in von Brunn’s white supremacist screeds.

Obama’s Cairo address, meanwhile, prompted over-the-top accusations reminiscent of those campaign rally cries of “Treason!” It was a prominent former Reagan defense official, Frank Gaffney, not some fringe crackpot, who accused Obama in The Washington Times of engaging “in the most consequential bait-and-switch since Adolf Hitler duped Neville Chamberlain.” He claimed that the president “” a lifelong Christian “” “may still be” a Muslim and is aligned with “the dangerous global movement known as the Muslim Brotherhood.” Gaffney linked Obama by innuendo with Islamic “charities” that “have been convicted of providing material support for terrorism.”

If this isn’t a handy rationalization for another lone nutjob to take the law into his own hands against a supposed terrorism supporter, what is? Any such nutjob can easily grab a weapon. Gun enthusiasts have been on a shopping spree since the election, with some areas of our country reporting percentage sales increases in the mid-to-high double digits, recession be damned.

The question, Shepard Smith said on Fox last week, is “if there is really a way to put a hold on” those who might run amok. We’re not about to repeal the First or Second Amendments. Hard-core haters resolutely dismiss any “mainstream media” debunking of their conspiracy theories. The only voices that might penetrate their alternative reality “” I emphasize might “” belong to conservative leaders with the guts and clout to step up as McCain did last fall. Where are they? The genteel public debate in right-leaning intellectual circles about the conservative movement’s future will be buried by history if these insistent alarms are met with silence.

It’s typical of this dereliction of responsibility that when the Department of Homeland Security released a plausible (and, tragically, prescient) report about far-right domestic terrorism two months ago, the conservative response was to trash it as “the height of insult,” in the words of the G.O.P. chairman Michael Steele. But as Smith also said last week, Homeland Security was “warning us for a reason.”

No matter. Last week it was business as usual, as Republican leaders nattered ad infinitum over the juvenile rivalry of Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich at the party’s big Washington fund-raiser. Few if any mentioned, let alone questioned, the ominous script delivered by the actor Jon Voight with the G.O.P. imprimatur at that same event. Voight’s devout wish was to “bring an end to this false prophet Obama.”

This kind of rhetoric, with its pseudo-Scriptural call to action, is toxic. It is getting louder each day of the Obama presidency. No one, not even Fox News viewers, can say they weren’t warned.

Comments welcome.

8 Responses to Who, really, is inciting Americans to violence today? Hint: Even Fox News anchor Shepard Smith is worried about them.

  1. Jim Beacon says:

    A little late for second thoughts on this. After 12 years of broadcasting demagoguery, agenda-driven lies, blatant propaganda and pure hate masquerading as “opinion”, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, The National Review and others — not to mention thousands of websites — have created a permanent, self-perpetuating under class of nutballs who believe anything is acceptable if it furthers their own self-defined Greater Cause. For the people who have encouraged this kind of thinking for over 10 years to suddenly now start worrying about it now is kind of like the captain of the Titantic standing on the deck as the bow is going down and saying to his first mate, “Maybe we should have been a little more careful.”

  2. SamB says:

    This isn’t new. Who was the activist in the “weathermen”? How ironic. We are told he wrote Obama’s bibliography.

    I don’t care about Mr. Ayers who, on Sept. 11, 2001, said he wished he’d have bombed more,” McCain said, while explaining that what really matters is that Obama hasn’t been forthcoming about his association with Ayers.

    Ayers admits to having bombed a number of government buildings during his days with the radical Weather Underground. The quote McCain referred to was Ayers teling a newspaper reporter, “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.”

    I am pro life and find these terrorists are appaling. Michelle Obama Reported to B Dohrn.

  3. Gail says:

    oh the bitterz, a source of endless comic relief (unless you happen to be a doctor performing legal abortions, or a Holocaust Museum security guard):

  4. Mark Shapiro says:

    There is one man with complete responsibility for the tone and content at Fox News. That man is the owner, Rupert Murdoch.

    Rupert Murdoch is fomenting hatred of Americans for other Americans. Rupert Murdoch is encouraging his viewers to hate, and to kill.

    His advertisers should pause. And he should stop what he is doing to us.

  5. Rick Covert says:


    Do you seriously believe we’re going to fall for this BS. This is a swift boat free zone. McCain has already said that he doesn’t care about a washed-up terrorist and his wife.

    Here’s what said about charges by McCain that Obama had lied about relations with Ayers, “We find McCain’s accusation that Obama “lied” to be groundless. It is true that recently released records show half a dozen or so more meetings between the two men than were previously known, but Obama never denied working with Ayers.”

    As for ‘Palin’ around with terrorists’ (no pun intended) you could also draw that conclusion with Walter Annenberg, a Republican, who funded the education initiative, Chicago Annenberg Challenge, that Bill Ayers served on.

    Oh, one more thing. John McCain had a private meeting in 1985 with Chile’s dictator Augusto Pinochet writes John Dinges at the Huffington Post. Now General Pinochet ran a terrorist campaign back in the 70’s called Operation Condor and his terrorist hit squad assassinated the former Chilean Defense Minister and ambassador to the US Orlando Lettelier and his assistant Ronnie Moffit, an American, on embassy row in 1976. Now whose trying to conceal his associations with sponsors of terror.

  6. barbiplease says:

    I find it unusual that the very same topic posted here today was one that I also happened to blog about today:


    It was inspired by a recent experience of making a valid comparison between two forms of deniers–Holocaust deniers and climate change deniers (having never done that before but simply making an observation)–after which I was accused of being an “eco-fascist” by a commentator for mentioning Holocaust deniers and climate change deniers in the same sentence.

    Is it fascist to state what is true? I think not.

    Denial is not merely a “rejection”: it is a rejection of truth.

    I reject the notion that a green monkey is currently clinging to the back of my shirt. But this rejection would not justify others to accuse me of being in “denial” of it because they know that my rejection is a rejection of falsehood: not a rejection of truth. That is why climate change deniers and Holocaust deniers are a valid comparison to make but differ from those who are being-in-truth–for they are “being-in-falsehood.”

  7. buberfah says:

    Maybe it is time for a campaign to boycott the corporations who advertise on these networks. It the hate-mongers start losing money for the networks they might find themselves off the air.

  8. Is there a connection between climate change and violence already? Violence is expected when civilization collapses. Maybe this is a precursor to that violence. Nature abhors infinite derivatives. Therefore, the violence can’t start suddenly at the moment of collapse? Things are going badly, but most people are unaware of the cause [global warming], so they look for scapegoats? Joe, can you make the connection?