The hysterical media reaction to the murder of a guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington leaves me bewildered. On one hand, the “liberal left” declares that it was the result of a resurgence of “right-wing extremism” in America. Those observers blame hatemongers at Fox News and other conservative media outlets for the tragedy. On the other hand, “far-right” radio personalities Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck claim it is the fault of “liberal influences” and the Obama administration’s “socialist policies.”
What happened was that an 88-year-old monster named James von Brunn (photo at right) took a .22 rifle into the Holocaust Musem, and when a guard opened the door for him, he shot the guard dead. Another guard shot von Brunn, critically wounding him. It turns out that von Brunn is a longtime white supremacist who hates Jews, and it is quite reasonably assumed he was planning to slaughter museum visitors as an anti-Semitic gesture.The atrocity is even more shocking because it came so soon after another fanatic, an anti-abortion extremist named Scott Roeder, was arrested for the murder of an obstetrician who performed late-term abortions. The victim, Dr. George Tiller, had been a perennial target of “pro-life” protests (see photo below).
To illustrate the hysteria that has ensued, here’s a passage from a Huffington Post blog by Michell Kraus:
Hate is out of control in the post Bush years. First we have Mr. Looney Tunes shooting and assassinating abortion doctor, George Tiller two weeks ago and continuing to sound his message of hate over the television airwaves. Now, we get notice of a shooting at the Holocaust Museum in DC, but what do we think he was there to do? It sure wasn’t to go the exhibits…. The point is these atrocious actions are the result of the politics of hate. Words spoken in the world of 24/7 news do have an impact. They result in deliberate actions as is evidenced by the recent atrocities.
In another Huffington Post piece, writer Michael Rowe linked Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and far-right gadfly Ann Coulter to the attacks. I don’t know whether Roeder listens to O’Reilly, who repeatedly demonized Dr. Tiller as a “baby killer.” I don’t know whether von Brunn is a fan of Ann Coulter, who makes a practice of sniping at Jews.
As I’ve made clear in previous blogs, I deeply deplore the kind of vitriol that’s spewing from “conservative” commentators these days. I am troubled by their shrill extremism, and I fear they could ignite the racial embers that smolder beneath the surface of American society – with tragic consequences. But in countering the polemics of these irrational demagogues, the rest of us do our credibility no good if we resort to theatrical accusations that might turn out to be unfounded.
I agree with Kraus and Rowe that there is grave danger in “the politics of hate” promoted by commentators like O’Reilly and Coulter. But I think we should find out more about the Holocaust Museum atrocity before blaming either of them for it. From what I’ve learned so far, it seems that James von Brunn became a dangerous anti-Semite before Ann Coulter was born. And racial hatred is certainly not a new phenomenon in America (although there is evidence that the election of the country’s first black President has added fuel to those flames).
Meanwhile, in a stupefying display of sophistry, Beck blames President Obama’s “socialistic” policies for driving crazies like von Brunn over the edge. And Limbaugh argues that the Holocaust Museum murderer was motivated by “liberal influences.”
I am sure I don’t need to point out how ludicrous these arguments are. A note found in the killer’s car leaves no doubt about von Brunn’s political sympathies. It describes President Obama as a “creation of the Jews,” and laments the fall of the Aryan society in America.
Nobody but Rush Limbaugh would identify that as being politically “leftist.” And I suspect the incessant incitement of violence by Beck, Limbaugh and their ilk is a lot more likely to set off the crazies among us than anything the Obama Administration is doing.