The anti-choice zealots on the right, supposedly guided by their faith and belief in god, proved again today why their preferred label of pro-life is anything but accurate when Dr. George Tiller, a controversial abortion provider in Kansas, was gunned down as he entered the lobby of the Lutheran Church her regularly attended in Wichita, KS. He was on his way in for Sunday services.
Tiller gained national notoriety thanks in large part to several individuals in conservative talk radio and television, namely Bill O'Reilly. As one of the few doctors in America who performed legal late-term abortions, Tiller became the target of anti-choice, patriarchal prophets in the media who somehow have a direct line to god and are perfectly clear as to what god believes. They are so certain that they know beyond a doubt what is divinely mandated that they seem to act on earth as the servants of this mandate by doing all they can to control individual women’s' reproductive rights. And this includes taking the life of a physician who disagrees with them and their beliefs; and they are merely that, beliefs - not truths, facts, or any else remotely related.
These people's convictions are so strong, and their grasp of their god's position on this matter so clear, that they have emboldened themselves to go far beyond simply controlling the legal options available to pregnant women. You know, because having your beliefs controlling other people's ability to make a decision about their own bodies wouldn't be quite enough. These modern-day crusaders go even further and believe they have a responsibility to create a climate so intolerant, threatening, and just plain violent, that those seeking an abortion, or those seeking to perform the legal procedure, will shudder and hide in fear. If their tactics aren’t enough, and an individual like Tiller continues to march on in the face of these acts of terror, they’ll just take it upon themselves to end another human being’s life. Tragic irony.
This Alternet piece provides an excellent overview of the conditions under which Dr. Tiller had to live and practice medicine for the past 25 years. The anything but pro-life list of incidents he has been involved in includes being shot in both arms, and his clinic being bombed. Dr. Tiller also had to live under federal protection after the FBI discovered he was the top target on an anti-abortion group’s assassination list.
This moment is tragic for the friends and family of Dr. Tiller. It is also tragic for the fate of our culture. We must, at this moment, speak up, out, and against those who have helped to create and stoke a climate of hate and intolerance towards those who believe in a woman’s right to choose, seek an abortion or counseling on such matters, or are involved in the medically and legally sanctioned practice. We must name those who contribute to the creation of an atmosphere that results in a man losing his life for performing his job. And when we call these people out we must cast a wide net that includes those wastes of humanity in the media like Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Michelle Malkin, Glenn Beck, and Laura Ingraham; but first and foremost must be Bill O’Reilly.
For years Bill O’Reilly has taken his causes, including the advancement of anti-choice policies, to AM radio (this, thankfully, is now a thing of the past) and TV’s top-rated program on any news network. We all know O’Reilly provides anything but news, and except for a few minutes a day neither does anyone else on that RNC propaganda vehicle; but if you call yourself something for long enough, apparently it sticks. The same goes for how some people actually think this network masquerading as a news outlet is fair and balanced. If they say they are, they must be; right? Clearly you can pee on some people’s leg and tell them it’s raining.
O’Reilly has used his lofty platform to call Tiller a murderer, barbarian, and disgrace to the medical profession. Bill O also coined the nickname "Tiller the baby killer" and made false accusations that he performed illegal procedures.
To be clear, I am not suggesting that Bill O and the rest of these folks are individually or collectively directly responsible for Dr. Tiller’s death. But, were I one of them (I just threw up a little in my mouth), or if I subscribed to the logic these folks use in situations that suit their causes, I would blame them directly.
Accoridng to Bill and company, when it comes to young people committing acts of violence, the list of factors that cause such behaviors always includes hip-hop, video games, music videos, music lyrics, and the interwebs. It’s amazing that these forms of media directly and indisputably cause, or at least greatly contribute to, acts of violence. This is particularly true when we speak of young people, and even more so when these young people are poor and Black or Brown. Amazing how that works.
Unfortunately for Bill, his popularity acts as a disservice to him in this instance. You see, when you host the most watched television show on cable five nights a week, and, until recently, also host a multi-hour radio program that is consistently among the top ratings-earners, you do have an impact. Your voice influences the public debate, discourse, and climate, no matter how poorly thought out your ideas are. The intellectual merit of your ideas doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have a venue that a large number of people turn to. When you use this venue, this platform, to articulate a hateful message, and when you do so in a violent manner, you must be held accountable for contributing to a climate that facilitates the perpetration of violent acts by imbalanced, angry, and god-delusional people.
But to dismiss today's actions as those of a fringe, marginalized individual whose sentiments do not accurately represent those of others would be a dangerous move. And if we needed proof of the number of people who in agreement with Dr. Tiller's murder, or at least sympathetic to the killer and her/his motive, check out this discussion on Free Republic. Unfortunately, these are the acts of one, who feels like many.
Finally, I wonder if when Bill and the rest of the rightwing hatemongers and blowhards take to the airwaves tomorrow to spew their daily dose of dumbed-down and vile rhetoric, they will even talk about this, let alone call it what it is – a terrorist act. Actually, that was a lie. I don’t wonder; unfortunately, I already know the answer.