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Of course, that should not be surprising.  He is often a must read.

His column in today's Washington Post is entitled Feeding the Lone Wolves and begins like this:

We are blessed to live at a time when violent acts of hatred based on race, ethnicity or religion have become rare, at least in this country. As the act of terrorism committed Wednesday at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum should remind us, though, rare doesn't mean nonexistent.

rare doesn't mean non existent I found myself discussing precisely that idea with some of my students yesterday.

You really should read the whole column.  I will, below the fold, examine it a bit, then offer some additional thoughts of my own.

Robinson explores much of what is known about von Brunn, that he is

a known figure in the domestic hate industry, a venom-spewing polemicist whose Web site offered readers the chance to download the opening chapters of his racist, anti-Semitic tome for free -- and to buy the rest of the book for the bargain price of 10 bucks.

 Apparently there were not enough buyers, because von Brunn was broke, said his Social Security had been cut off, and blamed Jews.  As Robinson notes, he may have hit a Jewish target but would also have gained satisfaction at the death of the African-American guard, since he equally hated blacks.

Robinson, as have many, reminds us of the DHS memo that warned about right-wing extremism, noting in particular that

the memo warned of an increase in anti-Semitic activity by extremists who buy into the whole Jewish-banker-secret-cabal paranoid fantasy -- and would blame "the Jews" for engineering the global financial crisis, just as they blame "the Jews" for everything.

He explores the over-the-top response from rightwing mouthpieces, noting in particular Hannity,  Beck, Limbaugh, and adds Michael Steele to that pantheon of shame.  Then he reminds us in one simple sentence:

The thing is, though, that words have consequences.

This is the idea I explored with some students yesterday.  I thought back to my own days in high school, when someone with whom I ran Cross Country was arrested, along with another student in our school, for apparent plans of violence -  when arrested to our shock, in a community with Holocaust survivors, where about 1/3 of the students were Jewish, the two teenagers were ardent Nazis, with the usual paraphernalia of swastikas and the like, as well as weapons and the makings of explosives.

I am a strong supporter of free speech, including backing the ACLU when it went to court on behalf of Nazis who wanted to march in Skokie IL when it had perhaps the highest concentration of Holocaust survivors outside of Israel.  

But we cannot pretend that our words do not have consequences, that they cannot have an impact upon the minds - and actions - of others.  After all, is not part of the reason we express ourselves the hope that we can get others to agree, to reinforce by their words and actions what we express and for which we advocate?

In his review of the DHS memo, Robinson reminds us of its reference to the April violence in the Pittsburgh area where three law enforcement officers were shot to death by a paranoid follower of some of the right-wing rhetoric.  He also notes that von Brunn was a firm believer in the paranoid fantasies of Jewish one-world government, of confiscation of weapons and the like, well before the election of Obama, and speculates that perhaps it was his personal financial situation that now pushed him to this overt violence, although we should not forget his previous raid on the Federal Reserve which led to his incarceration.  

Robinson ends with a short paragraph that should give us all pause:  

What we don't know is whether all the blast-furnace rhetoric coming from the right is giving validation and encouragement to some confused, angry man or woman with a rifle or a truck full of fertilizer -- the next "lone wolf," preparing to howl.

We have seen too much violence in this country from supposedly lone wolves.  We have too great a history of terrorism.  We can recount the political assassinations, which have included presidents Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy with additional well known attempts on Truman, Ford and Reagan, on candidates Teddy Roosevelt and George Wallace and on President-elect Franklin Roosevelt (in which Mayor Tony Cermak of Chicago died).  Our political violence is so much greater -  think only of the names of Huey Long, George Moscone, Harvey Milk, Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers; the many martyrs of the Civil Rights movement; the thousands brutalized by lynchings, church and home burnings, synaghogues bombed, black men castrated, black women raped.  Think of attacks on college buildings and military buildings, on the US Capitol by both idealogues of the left in the 1960s and Puerto Rican nationalists during the Truman administration. . .   the list goes on far too long.  It has included the warped logic that in the name of "life" one willingly kills others -  Eric Rudolph bombed an abortion clininc before he bombed the Atlanta Olympics, and before Dr. Tiller there was the assassination of Dr. Slepian and others who provided legal abortions to women.

We have a horrifying history of domestic terrorism.  We grabbed land by terrorism against those already on it, the Native Americans.  Some of those massacres, such as Sand Creek, were official actions of our own government.  Then there is the cultural genocide we imposed on the Native Americans, forcing them onto reservations believed to be of little value, yet when gold (South Dakota) or oil (Oklahoma) was discovered the willingness of our governments to look the other way when they were forced out, robbed, or worse of even the little we had allowed them to keep before.

Yesterday I told my students I did not ever want to hear of them shouting down someone with whom they disagreed.  That is the tactic of the Limbaughs of the world -  unwilling to allow expression of opposing points of view, a willingness to demonize opponents, in an attempt to destroy not just an opposing ideology, but in practice the lives of those who would dare hold such viewpoints.

I lived through this before.  My earliest political memories are of the fear of the McCarthy era.  We have seen too many, on both the left (during the 1960s on some college campuses) and the right, far too willing to attempt to silence those who disagree with them, and if shouting them down does not work, to justify resorting to violence.  I am unwilling to remain silent.  

If Republicans and right-wing pundits can demand disavowal of mildly intemperate words of on David Petraeus, what then of right-wing expressions such as the untrue and hateful bloviations of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Jay Severin, and the myriads of others who spew their words into the minds of those already unbalanced and fearful, will they equally denounce these?  If not, why are we not demanding it, not by shouting down, but by seeing our Senators and Congressmen pointing out the hypocrisy?  Why not note that the refusal to disavow is to acquiesce, to validate as it were.

Why are we not notifying every company whose advertising dollars support such hate that we will have nothing to do with them so long as they continue to sponsor the kinds of ravings that feed into the paranoia that results in deaths.

In the past day I have read Greg Mitchell's diary on his daughter's experience at the Holocaust Museum.  Living as I do in the DC area, and having in the early days of the Museum attended an Orthodox synagogue, I was aware of those threats.  I have listened to an FBI agent who had encountered von Brunn while himself undercover in rightwing organizations - why did it remind me of the tales of FBI agents who went undercover in organized crime?   Why do we not see the direct connection?  

The Rush Limbaughs of the world should not be dismissed as comedians and performers - insofar as they continue to advocate or acquiesce in violence, so long as they lie on things like the President's citizenship, knowing as they must how their words will be taken by some whose elevators do not go all the way to the top, we should shame them, and we should make clear that those members of the Republican party who refuse to stand up to Rush Limbaugh are demonstrating that they are too weak, too mealymouthed to protect America from terrorists, foreign or domestic, and therefore should NOT be entrusted with the reigns of power.

If, for political purposes, Republicans will not denounce the bloviations of those that feed into this violence, then they legitimize their being called to account politically.  They are cowards.  And we should be willing to so identify them.

By all means, where there are organized groups, DHS is right, and law enforcement must go after them.  

But too much of the violence is by individuals who are not part of organized groups, even if one can compelling argue that von Brunn should not, given his history, be described as a lone wolf.  

Robinson is right on this" What we don't know is whether all the blast-furnace rhetoric coming from the right is giving validation and encouragement to some confused, angry man or woman with a rifle or a truck full of fertilizer -- the next "lone wolf," preparing to howl.

Only that is unfair to wolves, who serve a valued purpose in nature, and who are not as destructive either as those who do the violence, such as Eric Rudolph, or James von Brunn, or any of the others, pawns in the game of those truly responsible, the haters like Willis Carto and William Pierce and those like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Jay Severin and Michael Savage who continue to spew hatred and foment violence.

Enough. If we do not demand that those in a position to control this, those who profit from it, the broadcast companies and the sponsor who continue to fund this fomenting of hatred, then we too become complicit.

No more.  Again, as Dylan told us, how many deaths will it take til we know that too many people have died?

As always, my hope is the same.


Originally posted to teacherken on Fri Jun 12, 2009 at 02:12 AM PDT.

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