Sharon "Second Amendment remedies" Angle, Michele "armed and dangerous" Bachmann, and Sarah "don't retreat, RELOAD" Palin may be the most obvious examples of mainstream conservative eliminationist rhetoric, but they are far from being the only ones.
If liberal protestors are shouting or breaking windows, then OMG the Lefties are out of control and it's the Sixties all over again--and we're still hearing about the same decades-old incidents. The corporate media will never point out the constant drumbeat of Right-wing violence (particularly when a Democrat is in the White House) despite the fact that it results in people being maimed and murdered.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence posted a long timeline of insurrectionism; it and Jon Perr's piece on Republican rhetoric and right-wing terror are both useful overviews. As a humble blogger, I mentioned but a handful of the recent terrorist incidents that they catalog: the Unitarian-Universalist Church in Tennessee (here, here, and here), the DHS report on right-wing extremism, and the murder of Dr Tiller. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, conservatives are claiming that liberals are the ones who are truly guilty of incendiary rhetoric, which (as FDL's Eli points out in my Quote of the Day) makes no sense at all:
I have some questions for you, if you're not too busy telling us all about how Jared Loughner is a pot-smoking hippie:
1) If all these acts of violence are committed by dangerously disturbed people who are completely apolitical and uninfluenced by your steady drumbeat of "DEMOCRATS ARE TYRANNICAL AND BAD! KILL DEMOCRATS!", then wouldn't they be attacking conservatives in roughly equal numbers?
2) If you deplore these violent acts of dangerously disturbed individuals acting completely on their own with no political agenda whatsoever, why do you insist on making it so easy for them to acquire guns? Especially when the law of averages suggests that the next twenty or so Totally Random Apolitical Attacks will be on conservatives?
3) Have you, at long last, no sense of decency? How can you continue to use such recklessly violent language after so much violence? If you had dinner with a family who lost a family member to gun violence, would you be cracking gun jokes all night long or talking about how much you'd like to see some liberal politician taken out and shot?
4) Seriously, what the hell is wrong with you people???
Melissa McEwan notes that when "Faced with the overwhelming evidence of the violent rhetoric absolutely permeating the discourse emanating from their side of the aisle, conservatives adopt the approach of a petulant child--deny, obfuscate, and lash out defensively:"
This culture, this habit, of eliminationist rhetoric is not happening in a vacuum. It's happening in a culture of widely-available guns (thanks to conservative policies), of underfunded and unavailable medical care, especially mental health care (thanks to conservative policies), of a widespread belief that government is the enemy of the people (thanks to conservative rhetoric), and of millions of increasingly desperate people (thanks to an economy totally fucked by conservative governance).
The shooting in Tucson was not an anomaly. It was an inevitability.
Amanda Marcotte comments on the inevitable right-wing deflection campaign and Meteor Blades talks about the Right's crocodile tears at Daily Kos, noting that "What we're going to be saturated with for the next week or so are the inevitable false equivalencies:"
We'll hear, for instance, how there are "nuts on both sides." Undeniably true. But there is no ubiquitous liberal - much less, left-wing - network of talk-radio stations spouting Two Minutes' Hate 24/7. The collective voice of the right wing on radio and the Internet ... simply has no visible counterpart on the left. When the right discusses the violent left, it must seek overseas examples or something from decades ago in America's past. [emphasis added]
John Judis observes at TNR that "if you look broadly at today's political discourse...what you find is that gun, warrior, murder, mayhem, and generally Armageddon-like, apocalyptic rhetoric is virtually monopolized by right-wing organizations, talk-show hosts, and politicians." Dana Bash flies the false-equivalence flag, but it is pointed out that:
...there's just one side that needs to get that message [about "spreading lies and whipping up the fear and anger"] and it's the Republicans and their enablers on Fox and right-wing hate radio. We don't have any Democratic members of Congress out there telling their constituents to "reload' or that we need investigations looking into whether they're anti-American or not.
Peter Daou writes about the rightwing hate machine and their bogus equivalency, noting that "one of the most dangerous myths promulgated by the media and political establishment is that there is a comparable level of extremism among conservatives and liberals:"
Even the most cursory perusal of rightwing radio, television, blogs and assorted punditry illustrates a profound distinction: in large measure, the right's overarching purpose is to stoke hatred of the left, of liberalism. The right's messaging infrastructure, meticulously constructed and refined over decades, promotes an image of liberals as traitors and America-haters, unworthy of their country and bent on destroying it. There is simply no comparable propaganda effort on the left.
The imbalance is stark: Democrats and liberals rail against the right's ideas; the right rails against the left's very existence.
The result is an atmosphere where bigotry thrives, where science and reason are under assault, where progress (associated with progressivism) is frowned upon. And it's an atmosphere where violence becomes more likely. Pretending this is not the case is to enable it.
James Fallows discusses the cloudy logic of evasionism, and David Neiwert debunks the Right's "just a nutcase" campaign:
Indeed, what we can say clearly is that Jared Loughner -- like a lot of people who buy into right-wing conspiracism -- believes a lot of things that are provably untrue. He's a classic demonstration of the unhinging effect that conspiracism and right-wing up-is-downism has on people: once people become unhinged from reality, they inevitably become unhinged in their behavior.
Chip Berlet discusses how Giffords got Becked, observing that "the shootings have created a new word floating across cyberspace: becking:"
To be "becked" is to be held up as such an evil and destructive person that someone, somewhere, will interpret it as a call to eliminate that problem through violence.
George Packer writes at the New Yorker that it doesn't matter why Loughton did it:
This relentlessly hostile rhetoric has become standard issue on the right. (On the left it appears in anonymous comment threads, not congressional speeches and national T.V. programs.) And it has gone almost entirely uncriticized by Republican leaders. Partisan media encourages it, while the mainstream media finds it titillating and airs it, often without comment, so that the gradual effect is to desensitize even people to whom the rhetoric is repellent. We've all grown so used to it over the past couple of years that it took the shock of an assassination attempt to show us the ugliness to which our politics has sunk.
Kris Broughton at Big Think observes that Republicans Own Political Hate Speech Like Bill Gates Owns Microsoft, and quotes Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik:
"I would just like to say that when you look at unbalanced people, how they are, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. [...] That may be free speech, but it's not without consequences."
Matt Osborne suggests that we should welcome the hate for its role in prompting "courageous, creative nonviolence," and Michael Stickings writes in political rhetoric and political violence that "this isn't just about speech but about ideology as well:"
It's not just that Palin put Giffords and others in the crosshairs, targeting them, or that military terminology is prevalent specifically on the right, but that conservatism today, as reflected in both the Tea Party and the Republican Party, is exceedingly violent. It isn't just about limited government, it's about conspiracy theories rooted in anti-government, and specifically anti-federal government paranoia. It isn't just about the right to bear arms, it's about owing guns en masse, carrying them in public (whether concealed or right out in the open), and flaunting them (and also using them) as political protest.
(Lest the gun-clingers get too haughty about incorrectly identifiying the crosshairs in question, Dennis G reminds us at Balloon Juice that Palin herself once referred to them as "bullseyes.") It's the threat implied by the presence of firearms in a place where they are not needed--the threat that, if things don't go their way those guns will be used and their deadly force embodied in a body count. Stickings continues, summarizing that "our fingers ought to be pointing at Palin and all those like her on the right, which is to say, at much of American conservatism today, including the Tea Party and the GOP:"
We must not allow them to get away with what they're doing. And they should not be allowed to get away with claiming that they had nothing to do with it.
Driftglass identifies Glenn Beck as a possible accomplice, noting "The sad truth is that Hate is the Right's Ring of Power:"
They're never going to give it up, because they know the minute they do -- the minute they're no longer allowed to pretend that Liberals are evil, freedom-hating fifth-columnist monsters who are dragging America into a Marxist abyss on the secret orders of our Kenyan Usurper Overlord -- their whole ideology would implode...
...they would never win another election...
...and tens of thousands of powerful, well-remunerated insiders from Rush Limbaugh to David Gregory who depend on that hate for their daily bread would suddenly have to go out and find honest work.
PZ Myers demolishes the "don't politicize this tragedy" argument:
What we have here is an attempted assassination of a politician by an insane crank at a political event, in a state where the political discourse has been an unrelenting howl of eliminationist rhetoric and characterization of anyone to the left of Genghis Khan as a traitor and enemy of the state...and now, when six (including a nine year old girl) lie dead and another fourteen are wounded, now suddenly we're concerned that it is rude and politicizing a tragedy to point out that the right wing has produced a toxic atmosphere that pollutes our politics with hatred and the rhetoric of violence?
Screw that. Now is the time to politicize the hell out of this situation. [...] Do not sit there cowering, trying to make excuses for teabaggers and violent morons. This is supposed to be the part where you stand up, look at the shouters on the other side, and tell them, "This is wrong, and this is the harm you bring to our country."
Tom Tomorrow's "Don't Go Blaming Guns" strip is, as usual, all-too-poignant: