...a blog by Richard Flowers

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Day 3660: A Culture of Violence


We're all the heroes of our own story; that's how it goes isn't it? Very few people, I should think, in spite of the very bad things that they do, think of themselves as "the baddies".

Hearing about the HORRIBLE shootings in Tucson, Arizona, it was very, very easy to get all scared and angry and say that the right-wing media and commentators and politicians whipping up a culture of HATE are to BLAME.

But I've thought long and hard about this and come to the conclusion that actually… the right-wing media and commentators and politicians ARE to blame!

Ms Sarah Palin, the moose-murdering QUITTER who walked out on governing Americaland's least-populous State, has labelled such blame a "BLOOD LIBEL".

This is pretty much EXACTLY the sort of thing that she is to blame for: using lurid and violent language to portray her political rivals as literally "evil", and yes obviously painting herself as a "persecuted victim" by referring to the scandalous accusation by the more rabid form of Christian people (ironically, people LIKE Ms Palin) that Jewish people murdered children.

This is actually pretty SICK when the situation for which she is denying ANY responsibility involves the murder of a CHILD.

Lady GoreGore argues cogently and wisely that we don't know and CANNOT know what was going through the head (um, bad metaphor) of the assassin.

We DO know that someone tried to murder a Democrat politician and DID murder a number of people who just happened to be standing near to her. We ALSO know that with the rise of Ms Palin and her Tea Party, and the radio and now Faux News "shock jocks" there has been a rise in angry and hateful language. We cannot know that the former was caused by the latter.

But we CAN know that the language of hate is WRONG in and of itself.

Quite simply, Americaland is the richest safest country anywhere on Earth, anywhere in history. They have money, resources, enormous amounts of space, an almost invincible defensive position with no hostile neighbours, and (short of that super-volcano under Yellowstone going off) virtually no threat from nature that they cannot overcome with care and preparation.

And yet, Americans have been wound up into a frenzy of terror and nervous exhaustion by years and years of being told to BE AFRAID. Be afraid of disease, be afraid of foreigners, be afraid of strangers, be afraid of the government, be afraid of each other. And why? To serve the political agenda of one particularly authoritarian and (ironically) centralising faction.

Barry O got elected on HOPE, but HOPE didn't LAST. FEAR, on the other fluffy foot, fear is not just for Christmas…

But to quote superannuated Fozzi-bear-alike, Yoda: Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering. And I'll come back to "Star Wars" in a bit.

The "War on Drugs", the "War on Terror", the "Culture Wars": the language of violence, and of violence as EXCITEMENT, has been used over and over to justify ever-more rightward policies.

And the language of differences over policy has been escalated first into tribal hostility and then into outright McCarthyite renunciations and THEN up into Nuremburg-level rallies tossing accusations of TREASON, denouceing denouncing political opponents – or even just useful victims: "the gays" "the atheists" "the left" yes or "the right" – as THE ENEMY, up to and including the suggestion that the President is not "really" an American. Or, in extremity, not even a HUMAN. (WARNING: may contain NUTS!)

(Like it MATTERS! For fluff's sake: the man got a popular mandate based on his POLICIES, supposedly, not his DNA. Though of course the fact that a lot of this is code for "not pink enough" should go without saying.)

Ms Palin may NOT have called for the assassination of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, but she certainly DID call for Wikileaks founder Mr Julian Assange to be "hunted down like the leaders of al Qaeda".

(And presumably by "hunted down like the leaders of al Qaeda" she DIDN'T mean "allowed to get away while we conduct an illegal invasion of entirely the wrong country".)

Setting to one side whatever may have happened in Sweden, Mr Assange's only "crime" against Americaland is to have caused ACUTE EMBARRASSMENT to some of their formerly-faceless bureaucrats.

When we've got to the level of threatening DEATH to people who EMBARRASS us we are WAAAAAAAY beyond NUTS. This isn't free speech; this is criminal incitement. And for the record, your right to free speech ENDS right at the point where you start threatening someone else's right to LIFE.

It's one of the things that APPALS me about the post-New Labour trajectory of Britain's most authoritarian, right-wing party: the Labour Party. Their use of "betrayal" and "treason" in their language; the use of intimidation, and violent intimidation on the streets by supporters and "fellow travellers" (can we say that?); the playing of the RACE card… the step from a socialist to a national socialist party ought to be UTTERLY RIDICULOUS… "unite against fascism" ought to be an ironic oxymoron, but somehow I don't think anyone gets it… and yet… and yet… there are people in or around Labour FLIRTING with this behaviour and too many people OVERLOOKING them flirting with this behaviour.

Not that there aren't GOOD people in the Labour Party who would be and are equally appalled by this sort of thing. Let us hope they reassert control over their Party.

So I DO put the blame on Ms Palin and her spokespeople and supporters.

I say to them: you are WRONG.

You are wrong in WHAT you say; and you are wrong in the WAY that you say it.

The language that you use is deliberately chosen to DIVIDE and INFLAME, to ALIENATE and to ANGER. And fundamentally you make the World a LESS HAPPY place by doing it. A less cooperative place, a less friendly place, a less – even – Christian place.

And that is just wrong.

1 comment:

Caron said...

Absolutely spot on. I find it deeply disturbing that Ed Miliband can stand by and watch people on his side of the argument hanging effigies of Nick Clegg and not condemning it.

I think we as liberals need to call them out for that sort of behaviour every time. It's just not acceptable.

BTW, I went and looked at the "Obama is a hybrid alien lizard" article and for a while I was sure it was some sort of joke, but I think the guy is actually serious. Unbelievable!

I always feel slightly satisfied when a liberal links to such a site, because you know that he's going to get a lot of hits from people who can see that he's talking complete nonsense.