How will they be judged, the instigators, the hate vendors, the cynical purveyors of divisiveness and tribalism? I’m talking about you, Bill O’Reilly. And you Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter… And I certainly would not forget you, Rush Limbaugh.
I don’t have space to list all of the hatemongers contaminating the press and the airwaves. And I don’t have to explain who they are. The media are so willing to give these monsters exposure that they have become household names in America – and probably in the rest of the English-speaking world. Clearly, outrageous remarks attract attention, and the media value attention above all else. The more attention they attract the more money they make from advertising.
Why would anyone take the ravings of these “commentators” seriously? Because broadcast and cable-news networks present them not as the “entertainers” they themselves claim to be but as serious thinkers whose words are worthy of the public’s consideration. But even if they are just trying to be “entertaining,” their over-the-top rhetoric is indefensible. In Jamaica, there is a saying: “What is joke to you is death to me.”
It was death to Dr. George Tiller, who was gunned down while attending church in Wichita, Kansas on Sunday. Tiller was a long-time target for right-wing extremists because he performed abortions – especially “late-term” abortions. And one of the media personalities who instigated the murder was Bill O’Reilly of Fox News (photo at right). Time after time, O’Reilly whipped up hatred against Dr. Tiller, demonizing him as “Tiller the baby killer.”
Dr. Tiller is just the most recent in a list of murder victims targeted by followers of right-wing hatemongers. You will recall how a man named Jim David Adkisson killed two people and wounded six others during the presentation of a children’s musical at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. According to police, Adkisson targeted the church “because of its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country.” Adkisson reportedly told police that because he could not get to the leaders of the liberal movement, he would “target those that had voted them in to office.” Among the items found in Adkisson’s house were three books: “The O’Reilly Factor,” by television commentator Bill O’Reilly; “Liberalism is a Mental Disorder,” by radio personality Michael Savage; and “Let Freedom Ring,” by political pundit Sean Hannity.
You may also recall how a young man named Richard Poplawski fatally shot three Pittsburgh police officers because he was afraid the Obama Administration was going to “take away his guns.” And where did he get that notion? From right-wing commentators, that’s who.
The list of recent hate crimes is a long one, and the victims range from doctors who perform abortions to homosexuals (like Matthew Shepard) to people attending a “liberal” church. And it is the outrageous rhetoric of right-wing commentators that make such crimes seem justifiable to their unstable disciples. If you doubt me, take a look at the blizzard of messages on the internet right now praising Tiller’s murderer.
Extremist commentators must realize by now how dangerous their rhetoric can be, yet they show no remorse, choosing instead to turn up the temperature in a cynical quest for larger audiences and more money. I suppose they regard the hapless victims of their incendiary tirades as mere collateral damage.
Rightly or wrongly, this kind of speech is protected by the U.S. Constitution. But, I wonder… Since most right-wing hatemongers claim to be religious, don’t they believe they will have to answer to a higher court some day?