I almost never write about non-China issues anymore. During the Bush years I blogged constantly about the Iraq War and the Bush administration’s crimes and misdemeanors (mostly crimes). In the months leading up to the 2004 and 2008 elections I wrote more about US politics than China.
My blogging on the US ground to a halt in 2009 because I’ve been overwhelmed and sickened by the insane shift in US politics since Obama was sworn in. Politics is always nasty, and there are plenty of examples of dirty tricks on both sides over the decades (or centuries). But although I detested the Republican Party in the early 2000s, some seismic shift occurred over the past three years. Suddenly, voices of relative reason like Arlen Specter or Bob Dole, so called “moderate Republicans,” were drowned out in a cacophony of bile and hatred the likes of which I’d never seen before. Suddenly it was mainstream to question whether the president was born in America, and to actually imply that he is on the side of Muslim terrorists. It became okay to pass idiotic bills banning Sharia law, to demand creationism be taught in schools, to erase women’s reproductive rights, even making it illegal for a woman to have an abortion in the case of rape or incest. (One GOP senator actually referred to such abortions as “sour grapes based on buyer’s remorse.”) What can I say when these positions are adopted by many Republicans and actually appear in proposed legislation? Oklahoma recently passed a bill banning Sharia law. The new laws against abortion in several states like Kansas and Virginia are real: these once radical positions are becoming institutionalized. Being a liberal in America today is a ticket to depression and endless frustration, despite bright spots like New York legalizing gay marriage.
One of the most disturbing trends in the US political scene is the “mainstreamization” of far-right radicals like Pamela Geller, a certified bigot and hater. Her insanities, including putting up a post about Obama being the love child of Malcolm X and outrageously slanderous columns in Wingnut Daily about Obama, deserve nothing more than ridicule. Voices like hers, that previously would have been deemed unworthy of media attention, as deranged and hysterical, have been made mainstream. I have watched Geller interviewed on television several times in regard to the “911 mosque” protests (which Geller engineered) and other Islam-related issues when in more normal times she’d have been considered, correctly, too much of a fringe lunatic to hand the microphone to. Networks call her for comment as if she’s a normal, sane human being.
If you are unfamiliar with Geller and her hate site, you can find a chronicle here.
The first sign of radical ideology going mainstream was Rush Limbaugh in the early 1990s. Suddenly, ideas that would be unthinkable for media to talk about, like the president being a traitor or even connected to murder, were given a huge microphone. G. Gordon Liddy and Michael Savage and other right-wing talk radio loons soon followed suit. Michael Savage was even given a slot on MSNBC for a few months.
Don’t know who Michael Savage is? Not convinced that the threat of home-grown terrorism stems from right-wing hate rhetoric? Please watch this amazing clip from beginning to end. (Savage makes his entrance about 5 minutes in and you’ll be horrified, I promise.) If you want to argue with me that “both sides do it,” that the left is breeding violence the same way the right is, I won’t interact until you’ve watched that clip. Then, produce a link to left-of-center demagogues who have been legitimized by the mainstream media inciting listeners to similar acts of violence and hatred. My premise is simple: right-wing radicalism poses a threat with no equivalent on the left. Again, be sure to watch that clip.
Of course, those on the right are always trying to prove the left is equally as guilty of violent rhetoric and actions. During the Wisconsin demonstrations against Gov. Scott Walker, for example, a union member pushed a wingnut who was holding an iPhone in his face and videotaping him. The right went wild. See? Leftists are thugs. I’m not making this up. Note how similar this tactic is to our trolls who, whenever you present a sin of the CCP, reflexively seek to prove the US has done even worse. (Extermination of the Native Americans, anyone?) The right’s protests are as valid as the fenqing’s. This is the best they can do, because eliminationist rhetoric is a product of today’s right, not the left.
Look at the language Michael Savage employs in the video clip above:
The police, attacked for the last 50 straight years by the ACLU viruses. And the military, attacked for the last 50 years by the Barbara Boxer viruses on our planet.
Note the reference to liberalism as a “virus.” Let me quote a man who used similar language:
Don’t be misled into thinking you can fight a disease without killing the carrier, without destroying the bacillus. Don’t think you can fight racial tuberculosis without taking care to rid the nation of the carrier of that racial tuberculosis. This Jewish contamination will not subside, this poisoning of the nation will not end, until the carrier himself, the Jew, has been banished from our midst.
I think we all know who said this. When you compare people to a virus, to a bacillus, you are dehumanizing them and legitimizing attempts to wipe them out. This is how low the far-right has sunk. Just read the comments at blogs like Free Republic or Weasel Zippers to see what I mean (you can look them up; I won’t link.)
Again, there is no equivalent to this kind of rhetoric from the left. If you think there is, show me. Show me a mainstream to-the-left pundit who you feel is as guilty as Michael Savage or Ann Coulter of licensing hatred.
Fox News was the final step in this evolution from fringe to mainstream. Let’s look at what Bill O’Reilly had to say about abortion provider Dr. George Tiller (before he was gunned down by a far-right Christianist lunatic, after which O’Reilly never used such language again. Mission Accomplished.) You absolutely must watch that brief clip to see what I mean. When you constantly refer to someone as “an executioner of babies” and a “baby killer” in the mass media,you are inviting those with disturbed minds to seek justice. You are encouraging violence. And this call to action can result in tragedy. Again, show me the equivalent on the left. Don’t tell me, show me. Michael Moore? Show me what he did/said that can be compared to O’Reilly’s message of hate. And the Tiller murder is only one example in a long string of right-wing violence in this country.
This post, I know, is rambling because there’s a lot I want to say, so please bear with me.
And so we come at last to Friday, July 22nd, when a far-right Christianist and self-described Muslim-hater slaughtered nearly 70 young people and children at a camp for politically active youth in Norway. Anders Behring Breivik, after blowing up a government building in Oslo, spent 90 minutes shooting the young people one by one, pumping bullets into those who had fallen to make sure there were no fakers. As they ran into the ocean, he stood calmly at the shore and kept shooting them one by one. In his now famous 1,500-page manifesto, Breivik cites the hate sites Jihad Watch and Atlas Shrugs and Gates of Vienna (one of the worst) multiple times. Whether these sites can be directly blamed for Friday’s catastrophe is still not clear, but what is clear is that they contributed to his derangement. Words matter.
More than enough has been written about how Jihad Watch and Atlas Shrugs influenced the manifesto. What I find most interesting is how these sites have reacted. Gates of Vienna, a site I track, quietly took down its sidebar graphic proclaiming itself to be “Proudly Islamaphobic.” Pamela Geller went ballistic, crying out how unfair it was for the media to associate her with the murders — it was guilt by association.
That’s important. The entire premise of Gates of Vienna, Jihad Watch, Atlas Shrugs and the like is guilt by association: some radical Muslims committed acts of terrorism so all Muslims are terrorists, or at the very least potential terrorists. This is the best article I’ve seen on this incredible irony, of Geller being the victim of her own tactic:
Scan Geller’s blog and her friends’ sites, and you’ll see how thickly these ideas pervaded Breivik’s online world. Jihad Watch says “Islam is intrinsically violent.” Islam Watch asserts that “terrorism … is the real Islam,” that “Islam is beyond alteration,” and that “it needs to be emasculated, marginalized or eliminated altogether.” Geller has published Fjordman’s [another blogger Breikiv emulates] views—”I do not believe that there is such a thing as a moderate Islam”—with her own proud note that “I have long derided the ‘moderate Islam’ meme as a theory with no basis in reality or history.” Four days before Breivik opened fire, she posted an item headlined, “Moderates vs. Radicals—What’s the Difference?” She joked that “one straps one on, and the other covers for jihad.” She concluded that “there really is no difference between muslims and radical muslims.”
Geller has pursued this line of attack most aggressively against Faisal Abdul Rauf, the imam who wants to build an Islamic community center two blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks. Abdul Rauf, accused of radicalism by Geller and Republican politicians, has done everything possible to refute the charge. He has denounced al-Qaida as un-Islamic. He has said, “I condemn everyone and anyone who commits acts of terrorism. And Hamas has committed acts of terrorism.” He has invited the U.S. government to vet potential funders of his center. He has rejected the idea that Sharia overrides civil laws. And when U.S. forces killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, the imam declared: “I applaud President Obama for his resolute efforts in the war against terror, including bringing Bin Laden to justice.”
Despite these statements, Geller continues to depict Abdul Rauf as a terrorist sympathizer. Her evidence is a series of secondhand, thirdhand, and nonexistent connections. “Rauf is an open proponent of Islamic law, Sharia, with its oppression of women, stonings, and amputations,” she asserts, falsely….One of his books was supported by the International Institute of Islamic Thought and the Islamic Society of North America, which are “Muslim Brotherhood fronts,” and ISNA “was named an unindicted co-conspirator” in a “Hamas terror funding case….”
You can use this guilt-by-association tactic against anybody. To take the simplest case: President George W. Bush sent Abdul Rauf to the Muslim world as an informal ambassador. That makes Bush a supporter of a supporter of terrorism. But the new poster child for guilt by association is Geller herself. She has been implicated in the Norwegian massacre.
Brilliant. Hoisted on her own petard, and exposed to all the world. There is no way out for Geller. Either she is implicated, or the very foundation of her blog comes crashing down, built on a falsehood.
Another of Breikiv’s influences, cited frequently in his manifesto, is the English Defence League; go here to learn more about this motley crew of neo-Nazis, enraged Muslim-haters and societal misfits who will resort to violence at the drop of a hat. Geller and Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch have stood up and defended and praised the EDL. And despite her association with neo-Nazi thugs Geller is profiled in mainstream media, like The NY Times and the UK Guardian. Really; she has been validated and her cause trumpeted, even if the articles hint at her insanity.
On Friday I watched the Norway tragedy unfold, and I felt, and feel, endless sympathy for the innocent victims. The ripple effects from the slaughter will reach out to touch their friends and family and cause them terrible pain, possibly forever. The only “positive” component of the tragedy is that evil sites like Jihad Watch, Atlas Shrugs and Gates of Vienna have been exposed, their proprietors shown to all the world as the provocateurs and inciters of hatred and violence that they are. Do “both sides do it”? Show me a left-wing site with bloggers who have been legitimized by the mainstream media that come anywhere near these hate sites. Just one.
Criticism of these haters doesn’t mean Islamist extremism isn’t a threat. It’s a huge threat. But that doesn’t make Islam as a whole a threat. And most fundamentalist Christians are peaceful, law-abiding citizens, not terrorists. Breivik’s sins in no way taint all of Christianity. But by Geller’s twisted logic, she and Spencer and other hatred-spewing bloggers are now linked to terrorism and deserve endless condemnation and outrage.
I can go on and point out many more of Geller’s atrocities and brain failures, but I think I’ve made my point. The argument that “both sides do it” is pure rubbish. Virtually all of the toxic messages given legitimacy by the mainstream media emanate from the right, not the left. You can criticize the left for other things, like incompetence and bumbling and being corporate lapdogs, but you can’t put any in the same category as Geller and Spencer. They are wholly in a class by themselves and must be seen as the right-wing monsters they are.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.