Thursday, August 07, 2008

Ann Coulter and the TVUUC

Part of me loves and appreciates posts like these.

At the same time, I worry about the anger toward the right wing. I'm no fan of Ann Coulter, but frankly, everything I've ever heard about this guy has had me thinking about that I don't like Mondays woman. I really doubt that the shooter's ex-wife's church became the focus of his anger by much more than chance. Yes, we're liberal, but this guy certainly sounds like he could have just as easily started fixating on her bowling alley.

Or to put it another way, if he was going to shoot up a symbol of liberalism, the local offices of the Obama campaign would have made more sense. My guess is he wanted to shoot up someplace where his ex-wife had been happy and found support, and scrawled some concerns about politics to give his actions greater meaning.

Yeah, he liked Sean Hannity. But there are a hell of a lot of people who like Sean Hannity who don't shoot up our churches and I don't think this incident should be used to paint them all with the same brush, much as I disagree with them.

I know, most people are making some distinctions here, but I'm still worried about what I'm reading. People of all faiths and all political perspectives have been reaching out to us. I don't want our worries about what's on their bookshelves to keep us from reaching back.

CC

17 comments:

Matt said...

I agree with you entirely, CC.

Regardless of his alleged political motives, he clearly had deep emotional and psychological issues. The "Conservative vs Liberal" narrative to this story is dangerous.

PG said...

Hmm -- do you think that people who commit crimes that they at least claim are motivated by their hatred toward specific races, religions or sexual orientations similarly are inherently disturbed and that they focused on the first target they could find?

I have heard the argument that most of the people deemed racists are "just plain mean," and that such people use racism to hurt people of other races, but use anything else they can find to hurt people of their own race. By such an argument, there is no reason to be particularly troubled by the folks who push racist (or religiously or sexually bigoted) ideas, because they don't create the motive force behind the crimes.

For myself, I think that people who promote the idea of hatred or violence toward some Other -- whether it's an Other of race, religion, politics, sexual orientation, geography, etc. -- should take some moral responsibility when people take them seriously. I apply this just as much to a radical imam who says in his sermons that the faithful must kill the infidels, to the radical Marxist who hands out pamphlets saying the bourgeois pigs should be lined up and shot, to the radical conservative who declares that liberals are a threat to your children and must be stopped before they destroy the virtuous. All of this is First Amendment protected speech, but so is burning the flag, and I despise people who do that as well.

fausto said...

Yeah, Adkisson was a head case. No, "normal" people don't do that. Nevertheless, Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity routinely say things about "liberals" today that differ not a whit from what the National Socialists were saying about "the Jews" just before the fall of the Weimar Republic. It sets a tone.

I think it's time to dust off the wisdom of Famous UU Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., and the limits he drew on the freedom of speech in Schenck v. United States, 249 US 47 (1919). Coulter, Hannity, Savage and their ilk are shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre, and even a free democratic society should not grant them that right.

The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins.
--O. W. Holmes, Jr.

They came first for the Communists,
And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists,
And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then ... they came for me ...
And by that time there was no one left to speak up.

--Martin Niemöller

ogre said...

I'm with fausto. Much of what hate-radio does isn't far removed from Radio Rwanda... except that they know they need to say "that's a joke." But "humor" like that isn't humor--just as viciously bigoted "jokes" aren't "just" jokes.

The truth is that hate speech fuels violence and targets it.

Joel Monka said...

Several of the news stories said that he hated religion, too, and Christianity. Should we blame Dawkins for saying "Molesting the children wasn't as harmful as raising them Catholic in the first place" and worse? Or should we ban Eric Von Hoffer and Aldous Huxley, as they were major influences on the Unabomber?

Comrade Kevin said...

And if this can be used as a rallying point, then one can take something horrible out of this and transform it to a way to expand the message.

The whole liberal versus conservative death match is an example of the media overplaying its hand and bolstering the sensationalist aspects of a controversy. I've always been critical of ain't it awful-style stories like this because they accomplish absolutely nothing in the end.

Art said...

Joel,interestingly,the Unabomber manifesto did include many rants against liberals.

Here isa thought experiment -- what would the reaction be if a Southern Baptist megachurch were shot upby someone who hated the "conservative movement." Would O'Rielly, Coulter and company issue reasoned statements saying that liberal politicians and writers were not to blame for his actions?

h sofia said...

I don't blame any media for Adkisson's actions. And I'm in agreement with what PG and Fausto have commented here about this.

At the same time, I think people need to be responsible about the inflammatory things they say in the public sphere. If you want to talk about how this or that people are "destroying America" or whatever, think about what you are REALLY saying.

I was very critical of a woman who posted to one of the boards I frequent after she posted some stupid chain mail about Obama being the anti-Christ. People just let it slide, but I tried to hold her accountable: what are you saying? what does this mean? why are you posting this? She seemed shocked that anyone was even holding her responsible for this hateful stuff she was posting, and started saying things like, "I didn't write this myself," and "Well, I'm not saying it's true, just that it's a theory," and so on. And then of course, "I'm not a bad person." I never said she was a bad person, but I called her little post "hateful" because it was, and it STILL shocks me that no one acknowledged it as such, when it talked about a man being the antiChrist because his name wasn't American, and Hillary was the "whore of Babylon."

Sometimes I wonder if we just see so many words and receive so much stimuli that our minds just gloss over the violence of things.

h sofia said...

Oh, and for what it's worth, I haven't listened to nor read a word from Ann Coulter, ever since her insane "Terrorist Deportation Act" proposal. DH says she doesn't believe half the vicious things she says, but I think that just makes her a worse person.

Matt said...

I don't come from the US, so admit am not fully aware of the media figures you mention - or the political climate (although my impression is that under Bush and post 9/11, US politics is becoming far more entrenched and polarised).

All I would say is that from what I have read about the individual who attacked people at the Knoxville church, is that he was having problems in his personal life - that he was emotionally and psychologically unable to deal with, which in turn resulted in him expressing it through violence.

Clearly, there is a link between his actions and his alleged political leanings - but these are secondary factors and shouldn't be overplayed.

Of course the 'shock jocks' / journalists pushing hatred of other people should be rationally challenged and held responsible for the hatred they promote.

But I do think a degree of distance needs to be kept between their actions and the actions of this individual.

One further point is that I've noticed some comparisons made between the victims of this attack, and the victims of anti-semitism and racism. Again, I would argue that this is overplaying certain narratives to what was ultimately, an individual exacting some form of personal revenge against his wife and wider community.

kim said...

Matt -- You don't really know what his motivations were. None of us do. He did write a four-page letter about hating liberals and saying that was why he did it -- at least that's what they said was in it, we haven't seen the real contents. No one has ever said his ex-wife was mentioned in the letter, as far as I know.

Joel -- Speech that recommends violence is different than speech that just inspires it. Did Eric Von Hoffer and Aldous Huxley recommend violence? I don't know, but I would be surprised if Huxley did.
As for what Dawkins said, I suspect that was for shock value. Does it sound as bad in context as it does out of context?

Louise said...

I think one of the worst things we can do is pay undue attention to people who do despicable things in the name of (God, Allah, George Bush, Jodie Foster...). This reinforces this kind of behavior -- a lot of those wackos just want a podium to spout their hatred from.

Not that we shouldn't celebrate the lives of or mourn for those who died. But I really believe that if we treat Ann Coulter like what she has to say is worthless trash, her 15 minutes in the sun will be over.

Bill Baar said...

A few days after the Knoxville shooting there was the savage beheading in Canada, and a shooter in Northern Michigan. Right now the case that there are just plenty of deranged people out there makes the most sense.

I think this is more a case of the failure of our mental health system.. I think the Knoxville shooter was under care recently, then a systemic case of incitment with hateful language.. and it would be nice to see some links to this hate language from Hanity people always refer too..

Matt said...

"You don't really know what his motivations were. None of us do. He did write a four-page letter about hating liberals and saying that was why he did it -- at least that's what they said was in it, we haven't seen the real contents. No one has ever said his ex-wife was mentioned in the letter, as far as I know."

Which goes back to my original point that framing it within a set narrative is dangerous.

Bill has a point when he highlights the lack of mental health services in place - this is also the case in the UK.

fausto said...

Bill Barr asks for specific examples, but Hannity spouts venom and condescension toward liberals all the time. Just turn on his show any day and listen for an hour. Coulter and Savage are even worse.

Hat tip to Steve Caldwell for pointing out this letter to Hannity from a lesbian UCC minister who used to anchor a local news show in Atlanta when Hannity was a cub reporter there.

Joel Monka said...

Kim- actually, in context, it sounded even worse. He said it in the course of an interview that was captured on youtube- I don't know if it's still there. To be fair, however, in a later interview he was asked about that line and partially retracted it, saying that while true in essence, it was wrong to state it in that inflamatory a manner and giving a longer explanation. The original quote- without the later extension- is still out there, though, to be read by unstable sorts.

Fausto- While Hannity is a piece of work- I have been the target of his contempt- he is not Michael Savage. To be as fair to Hannity as I was to Dawkins, a call to violence seems out of characted for him; I'd want to see examples.

PG said...

Hannity probably is too savvy to have made an explicit call to violence against liberals. However, consider a book title: "Deliver Us from Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism." Liberalism in this framing isn't just a misguided way of thinking; it's Evil, on par with terrorism and despotism (both of which evils most Americans do believe are rightfully combated with violence). The book description says Hannity "brings his plainspoken, take-no-prisoners style to the continuing War on Terror abroad -- and liberalism at home."

While I think much of American conservative political ideology is wrongheaded, I never would describe it as comparable to the ideology behind terrorism, as something on which we should make war. (Unlike Coulter, I don't think people change their way of thinking at the point of a sword or gun.) Even if Hannity doesn't say flat out, "Your liberal neighbors are just as much your enemy as terrorists are," it certainly is a reasonable inference to draw from what he does say.