TOMBSTONE BLUES: The End Of Palinism?

NEW YORKER: For the past two years, many conservative leaders, activists, and media figures have made a habit of trying to delegitimize their political opponents. Not just arguing against their opponents, but doing everything possible to turn them into enemies of the country and cast them out beyond the pale. Instead of “soft on defense,” one routinely hears the words “treason” and “traitor.” The President isn’t a big-government liberal—he’s a socialist who wants to impose tyranny. He’s also, according to a minority of Republicans, including elected officials, an impostor. Even the reading of the Constitution on the first day of the 112th Congress was conceived as an assault on the legitimacy of the Democratic Administration and Congress. This relentlessly hostile rhetoric has become standard issue on the right. (On the left it appears in anonymous comment threads, not congressional speeches and national T.V. programs.) And it has gone almost entirely uncriticized by Republican leaders. Partisan media encourages it, while the mainstream media finds it titillating and airs it, often without comment, so that the gradual effect is to desensitize even people to whom the rhetoric is repellent. We’ve all grown so used to it over the past couple of years that it took the shock of an assassination attempt to show us the ugliness to which our politics has sunk. The massacre in Tucson is, in a sense, irrelevant to the important point. Whatever drove Jared Lee Loughner, America’s political frequencies are full of violent static. MORE

RELATED: To regain seats, Sarah Palin launched the “Take Back the 20” campaign. The campaign targeted a number of, including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was up for re-election. “Take Back the 20”’s page has been taken down since the shooting, which took place on Saturday. Palin’s campaign specifically targeted Democrats who had voted for health care reform, calling on Americans to vote them out of office. On the site, the Democratic targets had been marked with crosshairs. However, SarahPAC staffer Rebecca Mansour said that these crosshairs were never meant to be gun sights. Mansour has been tweeting in defense of Palin, who has come under criticism for the site. On March 23, Palin had tweeted, “Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: ‘Don’t Retreat, Instead-RELOAD!’” MORE

THE ATLANTIC: One of the constants in Sarah Palin’s worldview is violence. You see it in her reality show where most wildlife is immediately identified as a threat to be guarded against or killed. You see it in her inflammatory language, and the ways in which she corrals supporters to sometimes shockingly violent threats. You see it even in completely innocuous Facebook postings on sports. Just check out this Palin stream-of-consciousness on, yes, March Madness…MORE

THE GUARDIAN: The FBI director, Robert Mueller, who travelled to Tucson to take charge of the investigation, said that one focus of the inquiry is whether far-right organisations and websites played a role. ” Investigators are exploring suspected links between Jared Lee Loughner and an online publication known for its strongly anti-immigrant stance, American Renaissance. It has denied any links to the accused killer. MORE

AMERICAN RENAISSANCE: This is so hopelessly wrong that it is hard to believe it is a genuine government document. No one by the name of Loughner has ever been a subscriber to American Renaissance or has ever registered for an American Renaissance conference. We have no evidence that he has even visited the AR website. American Renaissance condemns violence in the strongest possible terms, and nothing that has ever appeared in it pages could be interpreted as countenancing it. MORE

WIKIPEDIA: The American Renaissance magazine and foundation were founded by Jared Taylor, and the first issue was published in November 1990. A main theme of the magazine is a claim that non-white minorities pose a demographic threat to the United States and other Western nations. The magazine argues that the United States’ major social problems are due to racial diversity and a weakening of the country’s white racial heritage by increased non-white immigration.

NEW YORK TIMES: In my home state Washington, federal officials recently put away a 64-year-old man who threatened, in the most vile language, to kill Senator Patty Murray because she voted for health care reform. Imagine: kill her because she wanted to give fellow Americans a chance to get well. Why would a public policy change prompt a murder threat? Prosecutors here in Washington State told me that the man convicted of making the threats was using language that, in some cases, came word-for-word from Glenn Beck, the Fox demagogue. Every afternoon Charles A. Wilson would sit in his living room and stuff his head with Beck, a man who spouts scary nonsense to millions. Of course, Beck didn’t make the threats or urge his followers to do so.

But it was Beck who said “the war is just beginning,” after the health care bill was passed. And it was Beck who re-introduced the paranoid and racist rants of a 1950s-era John Birch Society supporter, W. Cleon Skousen, who said a one-world government cabal plotting a takeover. It’s also worth one more mention of Sharron Angle, the Republican who was nearly elected Senator from Nevada. She agreed with a talk-radio host who suggested that “domestic enemies” — a code for treasonous agents, deserving of death — were working within the walls of Congress. And it was Angle who speculated on whether people frustrated with politicians would turn to “Second Amendment remedies,” which is not even code for assassination. It can only mean one thing. MORE

THE GUARDIAN: The Southern Poverty Law Centre, one of the US’s leading trackers of hate crimes, said there are signs in some of Loughner’s writings of far-right influence. Mark Potok, the director of research on hate groups at the centre, drew attention to Loughner’s online ramblings that reject the US currency. “At one point, Loughner refers disparagingly to ‘currency that’s not backed by gold or silver’. The idea that silver and gold are the only ‘constitutional’ money is widespread in the anti-government ‘Patriot’ movement that produced so much violence in the 1990s,” he said. Potok said the Patriot movement believes that paper money issued by the government is not legal tender. He said there were also clues to Loughner’s thinking in his rambling internet postings accusing the government of “mind control on the people by controlling grammar”. Potok says that fits with the theory of a Patriot conspiracy theorist who claims that the government uses grammar to “enslave” Americans. MORE

SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: Loughner makes extraordinarily obscure comments about language and grammar, suggesting that the government engages in “mind control on the people by controlling grammar.” That’s not the kind of idea that’s very common out there, even on the Internet. In fact, I think it’s pretty clear that Loughner is taking ideas from Patriot conspiracy theorist David Wynn Miller of Milwaukee. Miller claims that the government uses grammar to “enslave” Americans and offers up his truly weird “Truth-language” as an antidote. For example, he says that if you add colons and hyphens to your name in a certain way, you are no longer taxable. MORE

WIKIPEDIA: David Wynn Miller (born 1949)[1], also styled :David-Wynn: Miller, is former tool and die welder[2] and American activist in a tax protest group affiliated with the Sovereign Citizen Movement.[3] His political views have been described as “far-right.”[4] Defendants in court cases have attempted to use Miller’s language or ideas in courts of the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Reports appearing after the 2011 Tucson shooting noted similarities between the writing of suspected gunman Jared Lee Loughner and Miller’s views. Miller stated that he did not know Loughner, but agreed with his writings on government mind control and grammar.[2] Miller is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and he describes himself as a “Plenipotentiary-Judge”, an ambassador, banker, postmaster,[5] King of Hawaii, and a genius.[6] [7][8] On April 6, 1988, Miller invented what he calls the Mathematical Interface for Language or Quantum-Math-Communications and Language[9] or Correct-Language.[10] According to Miller, his language is “for the stopping-claims of the Theft, Cheating, Fraud, Slavery and War.”[9]

BOSTON GLOBE: Representative John Lewis, a Democrat of Georgia who was brutally beaten during a civil rights march in 1965, similarly believes that “the rhetoric and the words are much more outlandish and unreal and unbelievable.’’ “I think it has devolved to a much higher pitch and is much more intense,’’ he said in an interview. “When I heard what happened [to Giffords], I said it is not a question of who but what. What kind of climate have we created? It doesn’t take much to set individuals or groups off.’’ Lewis said he was struck by the thought that the last time he saw Giffords was last Thursday, when she took to the House floor and read the First Amendment to the Constitution, which safeguards freedom of speech and peaceable assembly. MORE

WASHINGTON POST: In an interview last March, the Arizona Democrat anticipated almost everything being said now and explained why what happened on Saturday is a violation of our national self-image as “a beacon.” Our pride, she said, is that “we effect change at the ballot box” and not through “outbursts of violence.” She spoke on MSNBC after the front door of her Tucson office was destroyed. Giffords had strongly supported health-care reform, which made some of her constituents very unhappy. Asked if leaders of the Republican Party should speak out more forcefully against violence, she replied that this task fell as well to Democrats and “community leaders.” “Look, we can’t stand for this.” There were problems with certain ways of “firing people up,” she said, and then offered an example close to home. “We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list,” she said, “but the thing is that the way she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize there’s consequences to that action.” MORE

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