When Hate Speech Finds Willing Participants
I wrote last July about the shooting at the Unitarian Universalist church in Knoxville, Tennessee by Jim Adkisson, which appeared to be a domestic terrorist incident motivated by "hatred of the liberal movement." Sara Robinson at Orcinus points us to Adkisson's "manifesto":
"Know this if nothing else: This was a hate crime. I hate the damn left-wing liberals. There is a vast left-wing conspiracy in this country & these liberals are working together to attack every decent & honorable institution in the nation, trying to turn this country into a communist state. Shame on them....
"This was a symbolic killing. Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the Senate & House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg's book. I'd like to kill everyone in the mainstream media. But I know those people were inaccessible to me. I couldn't get to the generals & high ranking officers of the Marxist movement so I went after the foot soldiers, the chickenshit liberals that vote in these traitorous people. Someone had to get the ball rolling. I volunteered. I hope others do the same. It's the only way we can rid America of this cancerous pestilence."
"I thought I'd do something good for this Country Kill Democrats til the cops kill me....Liberals are a pest like termites. Millions of them Each little bite contributes to the downfall of this great nation. The only way we can rid ourselves of this evil is to kill them in the streets. Kill them where they gather. I'd like to encourage other like minded people to do what I've done. If life aint worth living anymore don't just kill yourself. do something for your Country before you go. Go Kill Liberals.
As Robinson notes, this is the fruit of a conservative movement which wraps its attacks on Democrats and liberals all too frequently in the language of eliminationism, preying on resentment ("Liberals are taking your hard-earned money for nothing") and fear of the other to cast the opposition party as an enemy to be fought, physically if necessary. With the economy sure to be on the skids for a while, it won't be long until the anger from the right builds, and seeks blame in their opponents. And obviously, this can lead to the kind of incidents we see with Jim Adkisson, who specifically cited conservative media for giving him a road map to channel his anger. Robinson closes:
A significant part of this country's media infrastructure is thoroughly devoted to inciting people to commit horrific acts of violence against us -- and now, we know for a fact that people are acting on those incitements. It's time to start taking this far more seriously. What goes out across our airwaves these days isn't all that different from what went out over Radio Rwanda a decade ago, spurring that country to genocide. At this point, it's only a difference of degree [...]
Adkisson's "manifesto" should end any doubts we ever had about how virulent and dangerous hate talk is, or whether or not that talk will eventually translate into action.
Politically, it's probably a good thing for Democrats if Rush Limbaugh becomes the voice of the opposition. But there are other consequences to that.