Thursday, June 18, 2009

Right-Wing Violence Will Continue, And Fox News Will Have to Answer For It


By Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America. Posted June 10, 2009.

Agitators like O'Reilly and Beck traffic in incendiary rhetoric and it's pretty obvious where it's leading to.

If Fox News is going to continue to traffic in hateful, vigilante-style rhetoric, then folks at Fox News, as well as their apologists in the GOP Noise Machine, are going to have to come up with better talking points to spin away the consequences of the right-wing madness they're so eager to incite.

They need a better line of defense because the one they trotted out in the wake of the right-wing assassination of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was wholly unconvincing.

It was just as feeble as the defense Fox News' Glenn Beck tried to employ in May to distance himself from the accused right-wing cop killer in Pittsburgh who seemed to mimic Beck's language about how President Obama was coming to take away everyone's guns.

The Fox News crew is going to need better talking points because I fear the violence -- the bouts of right-wing domestic terrorism -- are likely to continue. As long as Fox News and the Noise Machine refuse to back off the incendiary language that they're actively mainstreaming, the political violence, visible just months into Obama's historic first term, may have only begun.

Note that during a jailhouse interview, Tiller's suspected killer claimed that similar assassination plots against abortion providers are already being planned.

And please note what you did not hear from virtually anyone on the far right who addressed the Tiller story last week. Yes, they tried furiously to distance Bill O'Reilly from the controversy or suggest there was nothing problematic with the "baby killer" rhetoric he used. But what you did not hear was anyone condemn, or even take issue with, O'Reilly's on-air crusade.

Why the silence? Because militia-style vigilante rhetoric has become a cornerstone of the conservative media movement in America, and it's now proudly championed by Fox News on a nearly hourly basis.

The fact is, I couldn't find a single prominent voice within the GOP Noise Machine who even hinted that O'Reilly's relentless attacks on Tiller were in any way off the mark or, in light of the vigilante Kansas church killing, needed to be reconsidered, that they should have been dialed down. And that's why the ugliness has only begun.

The unconvincing right-wing defense in the wake of the Tiller assassination last week was twofold, with the second layer even thinner than the first. The first was that when conservatives were hounding and demonizing Tiller for years, they were merely debating the issue of abortion. And surely nobody in America opposes a healthy debate, right? Nobody opposes "sharp political disagreement," as Michelle Malkin sugarcoated the Tiller attack, right?

Second, Noise Machine leaders claimed that liberal commentators do exactly what O'Reilly and Beck have been accused of: using violent political hate language that puts people's lives in danger. That claim has been made over and over, yet conservatives can't actually produce any proof -- can't find any hateful liberal quotes -- to buttress the claim.

That's because both talking points are complete fabrications.

First, the idea that O'Reilly and company simply debated Tiller's work is laughable. O'Reilly's never been interested in any kind of back-and-forth about the abortion issue. He just rants and demonizes the other side. And in the case of Tiller, O'Reilly portrayed him as a lawless executioner. As Mary Alice Carr, vice president of communications for NARAL Pro-Choice New York, wrote in a recent op-ed for The Washington Post, "O'Reilly knew that people wanted Tiller dead, and he knew full well that many of those people were avid viewers of his show. Still, he fanned the flames."

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