Friday, August 27, 2010

Missing the Point

Here's a question for those who think that everybody who opposes the Ground Zero mosque is a right-wing hate-monger and bigot:
Do you believe opponents of the war in Afghanistan have a constitutionally guaranteed freedom to exercise their opposition by demonstrating against the war at funerals of fallen soldiers?
If you answer yes, then do you also think that they should conduct their demonstrations at those sites? No matter how you answered, do you think that those who believe they should not, who think it's insensitive and insulting, who believe they should take their demonstrations to other venues, do you think those people are cowardly right-wingers filled with hatred and bigotry and animated by the basest of political motives?

Frank Rich of the New York Times does. Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post does. So do some of the prime time hosts on MSNBC. They don't say exactly this, of course, but it's the logic of their position.

These pundits have made it clear that they consider everyone who opposes the GZ mosque to be disreputable people, either hate-filled demagogues themselves or useful idiots easily manipulated by the right-wing extremist media. It doesn't matter to them that opponents of this mosque do not deny that its backers have a legal right to build their cultural center near the site of the 9/11 attack - one of the most horrific crimes ever committed in the name of Allah. It doesn't matter that their opposition, in the main, stems from their belief that it's just insensitive and offensive for them to do so.

Members of Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist church flaunt signs at the funerals of fallen servicemen and women saying things like "God Hates Fags" because they believe that the deaths of these soldiers and Marines are God's judgment on a military and country that tolerates homosexuality. Should they have the right to express these views? Yes. Do the families of the dead have the right to be offended and to demand that they be kept at a distance from the place where they grieve for their loved ones?

The logic of the position held by Robinson, Rich and the MSNBC hosts, leads to the conclusion that to object to Mr. Phelps' presence, as the families of the deceased loved ones invariably do, is a symptom of an underlying ugliness in the character of those family members and their sympathizers. It is an expression of appalling ignorance, intolerance and prejudice. It manifests a disdain for the first amendment.

But of course this is all nonsense. What opposition to Mr. Phelp's protests manifests is a contempt for his boorish insensitivity. It may also manifest a contempt for his beliefs, but it doesn't signify anything at all about the attitude toward the first amendment held by those who want Mr. Phelps nowhere near the site of their grieving.

This is, however, a distinction apparently too complex for columnists like Robinson and Rich, and commentators like Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann to grasp. Or maybe they grasp it but ignore it because they think there's some political advantage to be gained by smearing as "right-wing Republicans" the almost 70% of Americans who oppose the mosque.

Liberal Hate Speech

Quick quiz: When you think of nasty, cruel, hate-filled political rhetoric who do you think of, liberals or conservatives? If you answered "conservatives" I challenge you to come up with an example of anything said by any conservative that's even remotely as contemptible as some of what Media Research Center has documented from the Left:
Since late 2007, the Media Research Center has collected numerous examples of the outrageousness of left-wing radio hosts. And, unlike the Left — which attempted to smear Rush Limbaugh with phony quotes — readers can find an audio or video of every one of these quotes posted at our Web site:

This report includes examples of over-the-top rhetoric from left-wing hosts Mike Malloy, Stephanie Miller, Randi Rhodes, Ron Reagan, Jr., Ed Schultz and Montel Williams, all of whom currently or at one time broadcast to a national audience on either the Air America network or via XM and/or Sirius satellite radio. Among the lowlights:

Conservatives Want to Kill Barack Obama: “I really think there are conservative broadcasters in this country who would love to see Obama taken out.” (Ed Schultz)

Conservatives Are Terrorists: “Do you not understand that the people you hold up as heroes bombed your goddamn country? Do you not understand that Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly are as complicit of the September 11, 2001 terror attack as any one of the dumbass 15 who came from Saudi Arabia?” (Mike Malloy)

Conservatives Want You to Die: “If, in fact, the GOP doesn’t like any form of health care reform, what do we do with those 40 to 60 million uninsured?...When they show up in the emergency room, just shoot ’em! Kill them!...Do we have enough body bags? I don’t know.” (Montel Williams)

Conservative Congresswoman Would Have Liked the Holocaust: “[Representative Michele Bachmann is] a hatemonger. She’s the type of person that would have gladly rounded up the Jews in Germany and shipped them off to death camps....This is an evil bitch from Hell.” (Mike Malloy)

Dick Cheney Eats Babies: “Cheney, by the way, looks very ruddy. I couldn’t get over that. Like, he must have feasted on a Jewish baby, or a Muslim baby. He must have sent his people out to get one and bring it back so he could drink its blood.”(Mike Malloy)

Dick Cheney Should Die: “He is an enemy of the country, in my opinion. Dick Cheney is an enemy of the country....Lord, take him to the Promised Land, will you? See, I don’t even wish the guy goes to Hell, I just want to get him the hell out of here.” (Ed Schultz)

Rush Limbaugh Should Die: “I’m waiting for the day when I pick up the newspaper or click on the Internet and find that he’s choked to death on his own throat fat, or a great big wad of saliva or something, whatever. Go away, Limbaugh, you make me sick.” (Mike Malloy)

Michele Bachmann Should Die: “So, Michele, slit your wrist! Go ahead! I mean, you know, why not? I mean, if you want to — or, you know, do us all a better thing. Move that knife up about two feet. I mean, start right at the collarbone.” (Montel Williams)
From a somewhat different corner of the same putrid cesspool, there's a story out today about threats to tea party activists:
One of Washington's principal supporters of the Tea Party movement, former GOP Majority Leader Dick Armey's FreedomWorks, has been receiving death threats and profanity-laced phone calls as it gets involved in the fall elections. The number and intensity have reached such heights that the organization is leaving its downtown location near the FBI and moving to a high-security building near the U.S. Capitol.

FreedomWorks provided some of the recordings of the threatening calls to Whispers and they include physical threats and profanity aimed at the group, Tea Party spokesmen and even conservative talkers. "You guys better watch it," says one caller. "Now, we are going to destroy and obliterate Rush [Limbaugh] and Sean Hannity," said another. "Those two guys are dead."
This sort of thing might be considered just an unpleasant aberration were it not so common on the Left. Vicious, violent, hateful rhetoric has been a hallmark of those who call themselves progressives ever since the early Marxists (including Marx himself). It reflects not only upon their character, but upon the reliability of their opinions, discrediting both. If civil discourse and disagreement dies out in this country it will be largely because the progressive Left decided long ago that their arguments cannot stand on their merits and that they can prevail only by destroying not their opponents' arguments but their opponents themselves.