Stanley Fish had an excellent post in the NYT yesterday about the hypocritical double standard that the right applies to Muslim terrorists vs. Christian ones. In a (lone) nutshell:
The formula is simple and foolproof (although those who deploy it so facilely seem to think we are all fools): If the bad act is committed by a member of a group you wish to demonize, attribute it to a community or a religion and not to the individual. But if the bad act is committed by someone whose profile, interests and agendas are uncomfortably close to your own, detach the malefactor from everything that is going on or is in the air (he came from nowhere) and characterize him as a one-off, non-generalizable, sui generis phenomenon.
For examples, Fish harkens back to the the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing and the right’s whiplash-fast pivot from talking about Islam’s “culture of violence” to “Oh, it was just some guy acting completely on his own with no connection to anything” when it turned out the bomber was a Christian white guy, and to the irony of holding the entire religion of Islam responsible for 9/11 while disavowing any connection with the guy who tried to kill a cab driver just for being Muslim.
What’s most remarkable is not so much that the right does this, but that they get away with it so many times. Consider:
Eric Rudolph: Four bombs, two dead, 110 wounded. Motivated by hatred of abortion and homosexuality. Conservative response (Cliff Kincaid): He’s not a “Christian terrorist,” he’s a “doper.” Marijuana bad!
Scott Roeder: Shoots abortion doctor George Tiller in the head in front of his church. Motivated by hatred of abortion, subscribed to magazine which called killing abortion practitioners “justifiable homicide,” received operational support from senior Operation Rescue staffer. Conservative response (Randall Terry): He’s a lone wolf, not my fault, but Tiller totally had it coming.
James Von Brunn: Shoots Holocaust Museum guard to death. White supremacist and Holocaust denier. Conservative response (Holocaust denier Mark Weber): Don’t blame me for the actions of crazy people! The Holocaust Museum is a historically inaccurate “expression of the enormous power of the Jewish community,” but I would never condone violence against it!
Byron Williams: Taken down in shootout with cops on his way to “start a revolution by… killing people of importance” at the ACLU and the Tides Foundation, the latter of which is featured prominently in Glenn Beck’s abundant conspiracy diagrams. Conservative response (Beck and his producer): “Liberal blogs” are unfairly blaming us, we can’t be responsible for every crazy person who watches the show, and the Tides Foundation is still the Antichrist.
Hutaree Militia: Arrested for plotting to murder a cop and then blow up his funeral. Self-described “Christian warriors,” “Preparing for the end time battles to keep the testimony of Jesus Christ alive.” Conservative response (Robert Spencer, Jihad Watch): This is a dream come true for the Islam-coddling Left! And why don’t we ever see quotes from Christian leaders protesting that Christianity is a religion of peace after Christian terrorists are caught or go off? If the Hutaree even are Christians…
Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman: White supremacist skinheads arrested for bizarre plot to kill 88 black people and get themselves killed while trying to drive-by President Obama while wearing white tuxedos.
Richard Poplawski: Ambushes and kills three cops, apparently out of fear that Obama would take his guns away. He’s a big fan of conspiracy nut Alex Jones, as is Fox News, apparently. Conservative response (Noel Sheppard, Newsbusters): He was just an angry crazy person, the liberals want to pin this on the courageous conservative truthtellers so they can silence us! Fight the power!
Jim Adkisson: Kills two and wounds six in a killing spree in a Unitarian church during performance of a children’s musical, “because of its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country… had tied his country’s hands in the war on terror and… had ruined every institution in America with the aid of media outlets” – oh, and it was liberals’ fault that he couldn’t find a job. Police find books by Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage in his house. Conservative response (Free Republic): Too bad the liberal secular humanist hippies didn’t have guns, now they’re going to Hell because they’re not real Christians.
Jerry and Joseph Kane: Father and teenage son shoot two Arkansas cops to death. Members of right-wing “sovereign citizen” movement who refuse to recognize any government authority.
Sure, you can argue that all of these people are batshit insane, and maybe they are. But there’s a scary awful lot of them, and they’re all being aimed at progressive, or minority, or government targets by irresponsible hatemongers who demonize their enemies and routinely use violent, eliminationist rhetoric about revolution, secession, watering the tree of liberty, and Second Amendment remedies.
At what point is it fair to say that the right has created a culture of anger and hate that urges its followers to violence again and again and again? Wherever it is, I think we’re several hundred miles past it.
Oh, and one other question: How many left-wing militias are there?