Former President Bill Clinton was on ABC’s This Week this morning, where he took on the right wing media for its role in spreading threats and violence. Clinton said, “We can disagree with them. We can harshly criticize them. But when we turn them into an object of demonization, you know, you — you increase the number of threats.”
Here is the video from ABC News:
Clinton started out by dismissing Rush Limbaugh’s claim that he is responsible for any future violence, but then he said, And in the right wing media, and with Oath Keepers, the 3 percenters, the — all these people, you know, who are saying things like, “If Idaho wants to succeed from the union,” the militia group out there says, you know, “We’ll back them.” One leader of one of these groups said that all politics was just a prelude to civil war. And then the politicians of course have not been that serious, but a lot of the things that have been said, they — they create a climate in which people who are vulnerable to violence because they are disoriented like Timothy McVeigh was are more likely to act.”
The former president continued, “And the only point I tried to make was that we ought to have a lot of political dissent — a lot of political argument. Nobody is right all the time. But we also have to take responsibility for the possible consequences of what we say. And we shouldn’t demonize the government or its public employees or its elected officials. We can disagree with them. We can harshly criticize them. But when we turn them into an object of demonization, you know, you — you increase the number of threats.”
The right wing media is fueling hate and identity politics for two reasons. First, they mistakenly believe that this is the Republican Party’s path back to power. Secondly, there is a lot of money to be made by exploiting and playing on the fears of the right, and that is what this is really about. Right wing media has seen their profits go through the roof as they echoed the extremism of the Tea Party.
President Clinton is correct that this kind of rhetoric when taken the wrong way by the wrong person will lead to more threats and violence, but you can be certain that the wingers will be screaming for days that Clinton is trying to silence their right to free speech, when he said exactly the opposite in the interview. He is warning them that they are playing with fire, by courting the political fringe extreme, but they won’t listen, as they will certainly continue to whip up fear, anger, and hate with possibly deadly consequences.