On Monday, radio show OnPoint hosted a discussion about the Tucson shooting that included the role of violent rhetoric and imagery in motivating dissatisfied citizens to become gunmen. The panel brought up and lamented the commercial demands of the information industry. Radio and cable television people say extreme things in loud voices because that’s what people want to watch and listen to. The business of media is to deliver an audience to advertisers.
But if the increase in hate speech is due to the chase for advertising dollars, explain why:
- Gun and violent rhetoric from elected politicians, political candidates, and other members of the political sphere has also increased. Extremism does not translate into votes or even contributions.
- Thanks to a genuine grassroots campaign, Glenn Beck has lost over 300 advertisers in the U.S. (and counting) and has no advertisers at all in the UK. Yet his show is still aired–subsidized–by Fox.
Something else is going on. The media is delivering an audience, but it isn’t to advertisers. This audience is going to the Republican Party and to militias and other anti-government patriot groups, which grew 244% in 2009. This article documents some of what they have done. Below are examples of the steady stream of motivation and encouragement they have received to do it.
Astroturf king Dick Armey, head of FreedomWorks, called Glenn Beck the education counterpart to FreedomWorks’ action. Considering that Fox viewers believe more untrue things than other groups, we have to read “education” in a nontraditional way. Beck is effective at convincing people of things. Indeed, Beck convinced people to embrace the Tea Party that Armey then turned into a political machine. That machine runs on fear.
“Though I’m not a veteran of politics, I’ve come to understand that arguments, and thus governments, move most often through fear. Those on my side of the aisle seek to move the argument through fear of deficits, inflation, terrorism, socialism and the loss of individual liberty; those on the left through fears of global warming, poverty, racism, depression. I don’t bemoan the politics of fear.” Rick Barber, Alabama Tea Party candidate for House of Representatives, in The Washington Post, July 10, 2010.
For the moment, put aside deficits, which Republicans have already shown they don’t care about, and inflation, which requires much different economic conditions than what we have now. Even put aside how Barber turned climate change, poverty, racism, and depression into fear mongering of the left. Consider only terrorism, socialism, and loss of individual liberty.
Since you are reading a liberal blog, you probably think of terrorism as a violent attack by a non-national militant group or individual, probably from outside the country but possibly internal. You associate socialism with the Soviet Union. Loss of individual liberty may make you think of people wrongly prevented from voting, speaking out, or practicing their religion.
In the extreme right subculture, these words have different meanings. In this world, the U.S. government, and especially President Obama, is the number one source of every problem we have. Terrorism is a police stop. Socialism is paying taxes. And loss of individual liberty starts with any threat to your right to keep in your American home enough guns and explosives to power a summer action movie. And “New World Order” is what they dream of, a world in which citizen militias have “taken back” the country by force.
We who are not part of this subculture don’t appreciate how the use of “colorful” gun-based language reinforces this anti-government message and motivates action. But they who create the messages know because felons quote the people below as the direct motivation for their actions. This is what the “useful idiots” are hearing:
National Rifle Association (NRA)
1. incitement of discontent or rebellion against a government.
2. any action, esp. in speech or writing, promoting such discontent or rebellion.
September 2008, The NRA launched a GunBanObama website, part of a $15 million campaign to discredit then-candidate Obama. In 2009, after Obama took office, an assortment of men committing gun felonies claimed they did so out of fear of a potential gun ban.
March 2009, Remember the ad campaign “Who is the NRA?” The CEO of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, announced that “Our Founding Fathers understood that the guys with the guns make the rules.” NRA celebrity spokesman Chuck Norris wrote, “How much more will Americans take? When will enough be enough? And, when that time comes, will our leaders finally listen or will history need to record a second American Revolution?” (WorldNetDaily)
July 2010, The NRA issued an “Action Alert” that claimed Exeter, PA was “consider[ing] a broad and overreaching attack on our Second Amendment freedoms,” namely restricting the use of air rifles. The proposal was withdrawn after the city received irate and threatening calls.
Fox News’ Glenn Beck
“[Becoming influential quickly is] much simpler than it appears…because you think in personalities…but dear me, the lifetimes of a hundred press agents wouldn’t be enough. It can be done much faster….if you want something to grow, you don’t nurture each seed separately. You just spread a certain fertilizer. Nature will do the rest.” Ayn Rand in The Fountainhead explaining, through the book’s villain, Ellsworth Toohey, how to control the mass of weak-minded people. Yes, the right misreads Rand, too.
February 2009, Glenn Beck poured it on thick after Obama took office. His first special in February, called “We Surround Them,” started out by asking “when did all of a sudden socialism become an ok thing in this country?”
His second special, called “The Bubba Effect,” describes a 2014 civil war scenario in which unemployment is 12%, the Dow is at 2800, banks have been nationalized, the U.S’s credit rating is downgraded, and citizen militias in the South and West take up arms against the U.S. government. Beck dutifully says he hopes this never happens, then spends an hour celebrating it. The Bubba Effect is explained by Retired CSM Tim Strong as good Americans who have turned themselves into an armed community of survivalists by 2014.
Both of these shows are still available on YouTube and get regular viewers. This week, the last person to comment on “The Bubba Effect” wrote, “Goddamn, I hope this shit really happens so I can shoot some fascists.”
March 2009, During an interview with NRA celebrity spokesman Chuck Norris, Beck says “Somebody asked me this morning, they said, ‘you really believe that there’s going to be trouble in the future?’ And I said, ‘if this country starts to spiral out of control and, you know, and Mexico melts down or whatever, if it really starts to spiral out of control, before America allows a country to become a totalitarian country … Americans will, they just, they won’t stand for it. There will be parts of the country that will rise up.’ And they said, ‘where’s that going to come from?’ And I said, ‘Texas, it’s going to come from Texas.’”
May 2010, Referring to a controversial new anti-immigration law in Arizona, Beck began, “Let’s talk a minute about a ‘well-regulated militia’ and why you might need one because the government isn’t doing their job.”
October 2010, Beck hypothesized meeting the government with “Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson” if they tried to remove his children because he refused to have them vaccinated.
November 2010, Beck fantasized about President Obama being decapitated during a trip to India, then said “God forbid” this should happen, as there would be a “New World Order” overnight in the United States.
June 2010, Beck compared American Progressives to Osama bin Laden and claimed “they want to overthrow our entire system of government Beck said, “Shoot me in the head if you try to change our government—I will stand against you. And so will millions of others.”
March 2010, Fox’s Bill O’Reilly equated the inability to own a handgun in Chicago to “tyranny,” then said, “In the past, Right-Wing extremists like Hitler and Mussolini were in the forefront of state control. But with the exception of Burma, today’s totalitarians are primarily on the Left.”
March 2010, On Fox, NRA Board Member Ted Nugent said “I’m the expert on the health care bill because I kill pigs and a just shot a monster big pig here in Texas and seeing as how this is a pig bill created by pig bureaucrats to help out American pigs … We gotta’ kill the pig.”
November 2010, Bill O’Reilly fantasized about killing a Washington Post reporter.
April 2010, CNN commentator Erick Erickson said: “We have become, or are becoming, enslaved by the government … I dare ‘em to try to come throw me in jail. I dare ‘em to. [I’ll] pull out my wife’s shotgun and see how that little ACS twerp likes being scared at the door. They’re not going on my property.” “ACS twerp” refers to a census taker.
September 2009, A Newsmax editorial called for a military overthrow of President Obama.
May 2010, A Washington Times editorial claimed that a United Nations treaty seeking to curb international, illegal smalls arms trade “would necessarily lead to confiscation of personal firearms” in the United States, then said “not all insurgencies are bad…. Governments are a bigger threat to most people than their neighbors.”
June 2009, Hal Turner, a white supremacist blogger/radio host, was arrested on charges of inciting injury after calling for the deaths of two Connecticut state legislators. He said, “Thankfully, the Founding Fathers gave us the tools necessary to resolve tyranny: The Second Amendment. [We] advocate Catholics in Connecticut take up arms and put down this tyranny by force.” Later the same month, Turner was arrested again for calling for the murder of three judges in Chicago. He provided photos and addresses of all three.
July 2009, Florida radio host Bob Haa told a caller not to waste ammunition on targets but to save it for the administration.
July 2010, Joyce Kaufman, a conservative radio in Florida, tells a crowd “I am convinced that the most important thing the Founding Fathers did to ensure me my First Amendments rights was they gave me a Second Amendment. And if ballots don’t work, bullets will. This is the standoff. When I say I’ll put my microphone down on November 2nd if we haven’t achieved substantial victory, I mean it. Because if at that point I’m going to up into the hills of Kentucky, I’m going to go out into the Midwest, I’m going to go up in the Vermont and New Hampshire outreaches and I’m going to gather together men and women who understand that some things are worth fighting for and some things are worth dying for.” This rousing speech inspired a man to threaten to open fire in a Florida school. He said so.
“They have no concern for facts, ideas, work…they don’t ask: “Is this true?” They ask: “Is this what others think is true?”….Their reality is not within them…but a relation–anchored to nothing…. Opinion without a rational process….Power without responsibility….you can’t reason with him. He’s not open to reason….a blind beast running amuck to crush you without sense or purpose.” Ayn Rand in The Fountainhead describing, through the book’s hero, the worst condition a man can sink to.
2008, Sarah Palin: Don’t retreat, reload.
March 2009, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) stated that she wanted residents of her state to be “armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us ‘having a revolution every now and then is a good thing,’ and the people—we the people—are going to have to fight back hard if we’re not going to lose our country.”
July 2009, Katherine Crabill, Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates said “We have a chance to fight this battle at the ballot box before we have to resort to the bullet box. But that’s the beauty of our Second Amendment right…make no mistake…Our Second Amendment right was to guard against tyranny.” Her site elaborated: “to keep the government on notice of an armed citizenry.”
August 2009, Rex Rammell, a candidate in the 2010 Idaho Republican Primary, joked about hunting President Obama.
August 2009, At a secessionist rally on the state capitol steps in Austin, Texas, gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina said, “We are aware that stepping off into secession may in fact be a bloody war. We are aware. We understand that the tree of freedom is occasionally watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots.”
September 2009, Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), the Chairman of the Second Amendment Task Force in the U.S. House of Representatives, called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a “domestic enemy of the Constitution” at a health care reform town hall meeting.
January 2010, Sharron Angle, Republican Senate candidate in Nevada: “You know, our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. And in fact Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years. I hope that’s not where we’re going, but, you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I’ll tell you the first thing we need to do is take [Senator] Harry Reid out.”
April 2010, Martha Dean, the Republican-endorsed candidate for Attorney General in Connecticut: “If government is legitimate and truly is the voice of the people, it need never fear the people themselves when they’re armed. Only a government that uses secrecy and force to impose improper laws [to] which the people do not consent need fear the wrath of its law-abiding citizens at the ballot box or, ultimately, with arms … I will oppose all efforts to create nonsensical distinctions that are nowhere supported by our constitutions between different types of firearms. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that the government gets the effective firearms and the people the ineffective ones. Nowhere in our Constitution does it say that the government gets the modern firearms and the citizens only get the antiquated ones.”
April 2010, Reports surfaced that state Sen. Randy Brogdon (R-OK) and Rep. Charles Key (R-OK) met with Oklahoma Tea Party groups to discuss the formation of a new “volunteer militia” to defend against what they see as improper federal infringements on state sovereignty. One Tea Party leader involved in these meetings, J.W. Berry of the Tulsa-based OKforTea group, called for the militia to “launch a thousand guerrilla attacks on the plans that these people have to ruin us and our country.”
May 2010, Dr. Christina Jeffrey, a Republican candidate in South Carolina’s 4th Congressional District, posts a YouTube video where she holds an AK-47 assault rifle and tells viewers, ” The Second Amendment was placed in the Constitution, plainly, to ensure that our limited government stayed limited and that we would be able to enforce those limitations if need be … We are a sovereign people. A sovereign people is an armed people.”
May 2010, Newt Gingrich: “The Second Amendment is not in defense of hunting. It is not in defense of target shooting. It is not in defense of collecting. The Second Amendment is in defense of freedom from the State.” He goes on to make the following reference to Thomas Jefferson’s “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants” quote: “Anybody who’s historically honest has to admit [the Founding Fathers] understood the right to bear arms because they routinely carried arms. These were tough people in a tough time in a tough country doing tough things and the idea that they would allow some D.C. city government or some Washington federal bureaucrat to get between them and their Constitutional rights, they would have said in Jefferson’s terms was the legitimate justification for a political revolution in every generation which was what Jefferson thought was inevitable to clean out the corruption, the arrogance, and the obsolescence that government would invariably have.”
May 2010, Sharron Angle, Republican Senate candidate in Nevada: a recent increase in gun sales nationwide “tells me that the nation is arming. What are they arming for if it isn’t that they are so distrustful of government? They’re afraid they’ll have to fight for their liberty in more Second Amendment kinds of ways.”
May 2010, Rex Nichols, Oath Keeper and candidate for sheriff in Montana’s Lincoln County, makes reference to federal agents’ standoffs at Ruby Ridge in 1992 and Waco in 1993 and promises to keep them out of the county if elected. “I am going to take my deputies and stand in the middle of the road and tell them to get the hell out,” says Nichols. “And if they want a war, they got it.”
June 2010, Rick Barber, Tea Party candidate for Alabama’s Second Congressional District, ran a campaign ad in which he discussed contemporary political issues with America’s Founding Fathers. The ad ended with a Founding Father saying, “Gather your armies.” Several Founding Fathers are depicted as being armed with pistols.
November 2010, U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, circulated a PowerPoint presentation to his colleagues in which he compares the Obama administration to the Nazi regime in Germany and likens himself to Gen. George Patton, bragging, “Put anything in my scope and I will shoot it.”
Don’t assume that all extremists on TV and radio are looking for ratings. Some are, but some are there to make sure that their army of useful idiots is ready to intimidate and bully the rest of us in support of Republican policies.
Data from Coalition to Stop Gun Violence