Fox News Cannot Separate Itself from the Giffords Shootings

Fox News president Roger Ailes, in an interview with Russell Simmons, said that any attempts to connect his network or the tea party to the Gabrielle Giffords shootings are “bullshit.” He thinks that “both sides” are responsible for the hate rhetoric that has pervaded the country since 2000.  Nice try, Ailes, but it’s not going to work.  Anyone with an objective mind knows that Fox News has been responsible for the heated rhetoric.  (Granted, anyone who watches Fox News would not normally be associated with an “objective mind.”)

And how does Ailes explain why Fox News, not that long after the shootings, had an interview with a tea party “leader” who said, erroneously, that Loughner was “obviously a left wing anarchist” and that the “left” is “revolting” and “disgusting” if it tries to associate the tea party with the Giffords shootings.

Certainly, Fox News is more responsible than other other media for the hate rhetoric.  I won’t deny that what Ailes refers to as the “other side” has also contributed to the rhetoric, but there is no possible way that Ailes can deny that Fox News has been, by far, the major offender.  And, as for the “other side,” one way of looking at it is that the “other side” would never had used any hate rhetoric at all but for the fact that they had to (finally) respond to the bile coming from Fox News.

In fact, Ailes, himself, in the interview with Russell Simmons, acknowledges that Fox News has been responsible for the heated rhetoric since he says that “I told all of our guys, shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually.  You don’t have to do it with bombast. I hope the other side does that.”  Fox News cannot now try to disassociate itself from the shootings.






Update on the Militia-like Tea Party Movement

Last week, I wondered if there was any real difference in the “Tea Party” movement and the far-right-wing of the Republican Party.  And, for that matter, whether there is any real difference from the  militia movement.

Two days ago, the Huffington Post had an article about a Tea Party gathering in Washington state  organized by the Lewis and Clark Tea Party Patriots.  About 500 people attended.  A featured speaker actually called for the hanging of Washington Senator Patty Murray, the fourth ranking Democrat in the Senate and considered vulnerable in her re-election campaign.

I ended my last post with the question: “But, especially given the cheering for “Patriot” Tom Tancredo’s racist comments, would it surprise anyone to see the so-far non-violent Tea Party movement become more like the violent militia movement?  Would anyone say that this past summer’s health care “town hall meetings” were not violent?”  This call to hang a U.S. Senator fits right into my concerns.  It’s just a matter of time until these “Patriots” get even more militia-like and completely out of control.

The Tea Party Movement: Is It Any Different than the Far-Right-Wing Republicans and the Militia Movement?

The recent Tea Pary Conference seems to have gone over well with many people.  After all, it had former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo adding to his already famous rants against illegal immigration by showing that he is also a racist.  The Tea Party attendees cheered when Tancredo said that “people who could not even spell the word ‘vote’ or say it in English put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House. His name is Barack Hussein Obama.”  In other words, Tancredo was telling the cheering Tea Party’ers that the reason “Barack Hussein Obama” was elected was “mostly because I think that we do not have a civics literacy test before people can vote in this country.”  Of course, literacy tests were one of the basic forms of discrimination for a long, long time.

With “orators” like Tancredo and Sarah (“Energy. Budget Tax cuts. Lift American spirits.”) Palin, the Tea Party is doing well.  In a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 41 percent said they had a positive opinion of the Tea Party movement.  That is higher than the 35% in the same poll who said they had a positive opinion of Democrats and the 28% who said they had a positive opinion of Republicans.

However, I imagine that few of the people who have a positive opinion of the Tea Party’ers have anything other than a vague idea of what the movement is actually about.  The broad idea is probably summed up by a statement made by “Tea Party Patriots” national board member Mark Meckler that “[b]oth parties need to re-dedicate themselves to the principles of our founding fathers and remember that this should be the government of ‘We the People’ and not of special interest groups or pork-laden politics.”  But Meckler’s statement that “[a]lthough we are conservative in political philosophy, we are nonpartisan in approach” is laughable.  Given the low-poll numbers for Republicans, it is certainly in the Tea Party’s interest to try to separate itself from the Republican Party.  But, the Tea Party Patriots are no different, in most respects, than the far right-wing of the Republican Party.  As the editorial in the Nation says, “we should not fool ourselves into seeing this as anything but a right-wing reactionary movement, one whose themes (jingoism, militarism and a cult of victimhood at the hands of sundry nefarious betrayers) are as old as the John Birch Society.”  How is the Tea Party movement any different than the Republicans who want to shut down the federal government by their constant shout of “less taxes,” (while simultaneously during the Bush years increasing spending so the government would be placed in budgetary jeopardy), by their opposition to anything proposed by Obama or Democrats (even if they previously were on record as supporting it), and by their unprecedented use of the filibuster in the Senate.  Those “shut down the federal government” actions are the same as the basic (vague) goals of the Tea Party movement.

The movement claims to be grounded in “distrust of and disgust with America’s main institutions, particularly Wall Street and Washington.”  It probably is.  But so is the militia movement.  The Southern Poverty Law Center is the most-respected source for documenting “hate” groups in the United States.  In an August 2009 publication titled “The Second Wave: Return of the Militias,” the SPLC wrote:

The 1990s saw the rise and fall of the virulently antigovernment “Patriot” movement, made up of paramilitary militias, tax defiers and so-called “sovereign citizens.” Sparked by a combination of anger at the federal government and the deaths of political dissenters at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas, the movement took off in the middle of the decade and continued to grow even after 168 people were left dead by the 1995 bombing of Oklahoma City’s federal building — an attack, the deadliest ever by domestic U.S. terrorists, carried out by men steeped in the rhetoric and conspiracy theories of the militias. In the years that followed, a truly remarkable number of criminal plots came out of the movement. But by early this century, the Patriots had largely faded, weakened by systematic prosecutions, aversion to growing violence, and a new, highly conservative president.

They’re back. Almost a decade after largely disappearing from public view, right-wing militias, ideologically driven tax defiers and sovereign citizens are appearing in large numbers around the country. “Paper terrorism” — the use of property liens and citizens’ “courts” to harass enemies — is on the rise. And once-popular militia conspiracy theories are making the rounds again, this time accompanied by nativist theories about secret Mexican plans to “reconquer” the American Southwest. One law enforcement agency has found 50 new militia training groups — one of them made up of present and former police officers and soldiers. Authorities around the country are reporting a worrying uptick in Patriot activities and propaganda. “This is the most significant growth we’ve seen in 10 to 12 years,” says one. “All it’s lacking is a spark. I think it’s only a matter of time before you see threats and violence.”

A key difference this time is that the federal government — the entity that almost the entire radical right views as its primary enemy — is headed by a black man. That, coupled with high levels of non-white immigration and a decline in the percentage of whites overall in America, has helped to racialize the Patriot movement, which in the past was not primarily motivated by race hate. One result has been a remarkable rash of domestic terror incidents since the presidential campaign, most of them related to anger over the election of Barack Obama. At the same time, ostensibly mainstream politicians and media pundits have helped to spread Patriot and related propaganda, from conspiracy theories about a secret network of U.S. concentration camps to wholly unsubstantiated claims about the president’s country of birth.

Don’t let anyone tell you they support the Tea Party movement without getting them to tell you what—exactly—the party stands for.  And, if they have any idea of what it stands for, ask them how that is any different than the far-right-wing of the Republican Party.  And you might even ask them to tell you how it is different than the militia movement.  Of course, they will tell you that the Tea Party is not calling for violence.  But, especially given the cheering for “Patriot” Tom Tancredo’s racist comments, would it surprise anyone to see the so-far non-violent Tea Party movement become more like the violent militia movement?  Would anyone say that this past summer’s health care “town hall meetings” were not violent?