Keith Olbermann / ‘Countdown’ & CREDO Action – 2011-01-09 22:58:02
Violence and Threats Have No Place in Democracy
The political rhetoric of the country must be changed to prevent acts of domestic terrorism
WASHINGTON (January 9, 2011) — Finally tonight, as promised, a Special Comment on the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona. We need to put the guns down. Just as importantly we need to put the gun metaphors away and permanently.
Left, right, middle — politicians and citizens — sane and insane. This morning in Arizona, this age in which this country would accept “targeting” of political opponents and putting bullseyes over their faces and of the dangerous blurring between political rallies and gun shows, ended.
This morning in Arizona, this time of the ever-escalating, borderline-ecstatic invocation of violence in fact or in fantasy in our political discourse, closed. It is essential tonight not to demand revenge, but to demand justice; to insist not upon payback against those politicians and commentators who have so irresponsibly brought us to this time of domestic terrorism, but to work to change the minds of them and their supporters — or if those minds tonight are too closed, or if those minds tonight are too unmoved, or if those minds tonight are too triumphant, to make sure by peaceful means that those politicians and commentators and supporters have no further place in our system of government.
If Sarah Palin, whose website put and today scrubbed bullseye targets on 20 Representatives including Gabby Giffords, does not repudiate her own part in amplifying violence and violent imagery in politics, she must be dismissed from politics — she must be repudiated by the members of her own party, and if they fail to do so, each one of them must be judged to have silently defended this tactic that today proved so awfully foretelling, and they must in turn be dismissed by the responsible members of their own party.
If Jesse Kelly, whose campaign against Congresswoman Giffords included an event in which he encouraged his supporters to join him firing machine guns, does not repudiate this, and does not admit that even if it was solely indirectly, or solely coincidentally, it contributed to the black cloud of violence that has envellopped our politics, he must be repudiated by Arizona’s Republican Party.
If Congressman Allen West, who during his successful campaign told his supporters that they should make his opponent afraid to come out of his home, does not repudiate those remarks and all other suggestions of violence and forced fear, he should be repudiated by his constituents and the Republican Congressional Caucus.
If Sharron Angle, who spoke of “Second Amendment solutions,” does not repudiate that remark and urge her supporters to think anew of the terrible reality of what her words implied, she must be repudiated by her supporters in Nevada.
If the Tea Party leaders who took out of context a Jefferson quote about blood and tyranny and the tree of liberty do not understand — do not understand tonight, now what that really means, and these leaders do not tell their followers to abhor violence and all threat of violence, then those Tea Party leaders must be repudiated by the Republican Party.
If Glenn Beck, who obsesses nearly as strangely as Mr. Loughner did about gold and debt and who wistfully joked about killing Michael Moore, and Bill O’Reilly, who blithely repeated “Tiller the Killer” until the phrase was burned into the minds of his viewers, do not begin their next broadcasts with solemn apologies for ever turning to the death-fantasies and the dreams of bloodlust, for ever having provided just the oxygen to those deep in madness to whom violence is an acceptable solution, then those commentators and the others must be repudiated by their viewers, and by all politicians, and by sponsors, and by the networks that employ them.
And if those of us considered to be “on the left” do not re-dedicate ourselves to our vigilance to eliminate all our own suggestions of violence — how ever inadvertent they might have been then we too deserve the repudiation of the more sober and peaceful of our politicians and our viewers and our networks.
Here, once, in a clumsy metaphor, I made such an unintended statement about the candidacy of then-Senator Clinton. It sounded as if it was a call to physical violence. It was wrong, then. It is even more wrong tonight.
I apologize for it again, and I urge politicians and commentators and citizens of every political conviction to use my comment as a means to recognize the insidiousness of violent imagery, that if it can go so easily slip into the comments of one as opposed to violence as me, how easily, how pervasively, how disastrously can it slip into the already-violent or deranged mind?
For tonight we stand at one of the clichÃ©d crossroads of American history. Even if the alleged terrorist Jared Lee Loughner was merely shooting into a political crowd because he wanted to shoot into a political crowd, even if he somehow was unaware who was in the crowd, we have nevertheless for years been building up to a moment like this.
Assume the details are coincidence. The violence is not. The rhetoric has devolved and descended, past the ugly and past the threatening and past the fantastic and into the imminently murderous.
We will not return to the 1850s, when a pro-slavery Congressman nearly beat to death an anti-slavery Senator; when an anti-slavery madman cut to death with broadswords pro-slavery advocates.
We will not return to the 1960s, when with rationalizations of an insane desire for fame, or of hatred, or of political opposition, a President was assassinated and an ultra-Conservative would-be president was paralyzed, and a leader of peace was murdered on a balcony.
We will not.
Because tonight, what Mrs. Palin, and what Mr. Kelly, and what Congressman West, and what Ms. Angle, and what Mr. Beck, and what Mr. O’Reilly, and what you and I must understand, was that the man who fired today did not fire at a Democratic Congresswoman and her supporters.
He was not just a mad-man incited by a thousand daily temptations by slightly less-mad-men to do things they would not rationally condone.
He fired today into our liberty and our rights to live and to agree or disagree in safety and in freedom from fear that our support or opposition will cost us our lives or our health or our sense of safety. The bullseye might just as well have been on Mrs. Palin, or Mr. Kelly, or you, or me. The wrong, the horror, would have been – could still be just as real and just as unacceptable.
At a time of such urgency and impact, we as Americans — conservative or liberal — should pour our hearts and souls into politics. We should not — none of us, not Gabby Giffords and not any Conservative — ever have to pour our blood. And every politician and commentator who hints otherwise, or worse still stays silent now, should have no place in our political system, and should be denied that place, not by violence, but by being shunned and ignored.
It is a simple pledge, it is to the point, and it is essential that every American politician and commentator and activist and partisan take it and take it now, I say it first, and freely:
Violence, or the threat of violence, has no place in our Democracy, and I apologize for and repudiate any act or any thing in my past that may have even inadvertently encouraged violence. Because for whatever else each of us may be, we all are Americans.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
ACTION ALERT: Tell Sarah Palin:
Renounce Violent Political Rhetoric
Michael Kieshnick and Becky Bond / CREDO Action
Sarah Palin has a special responsibility and opportunity in the wake of the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. For it was Sarah Palin and Sarah Palin alone who earlier put the crosshairs of a gun on Rep. Giffords. And so far, Palin’s response has been Facebook prayers for the victims and an official denial that her widely distributed map involved gun sights at all. This is obscene duplicity at best.
Let us be clear. We do not know why the shooter targeted Rep. Giffords. Sarah Palin did not arm him or pull the trigger. We do not know if the shooter admired, loathed or ignored Sarah Palin. We will eventually know, and that will be a different accounting.
But only Sarah Palin put 20 Democratic members of Congress in her crosshairs, and only Sarah Palin bragged that 18 are now gone, leaving Rep. Giffords and Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia.
Someone has to say it. There has been an astonishing acceleration of violent right wing rhetoric. At the same time, the mainstream media has come to accept armed revolution (second amendment remedies) and violence as legitimate political discourse instead of calling it out as behavior that crosses a very dangerous line. In the past week alone, incendiary devices were received at the offices of the Democratic Secretary of Homeland Security and the Democratic Governor of Maryland.
This is what Sarah Palin and others like her have wrought with their violent and vitriolic rhetoric that literally places gun sights on people who don’t agree with their extreme views.
Apologists on the right are already saying that while tragic, this event was simply the result of an isolated act by a deranged individual. There have always been deranged individuals. But they have not always had easy access to guns nor have they always lived in a 24-hour-a-day media machine that promotes a toxic soup of violent attacks on political opponents.
We are heartbroken by these events and our hopes and prayers are with the victims and their families. But prayers and broken hearts are not enough.
How can anyone not be haunted by the prophetic words of Rep. Giffords herself in March 2010, after her office was vandalized, threats received, and her name and district identified by Sarah Palin in her infamous crosshairs:
“Sarah Palin has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district and when people do that, they’ve gotta realize there are consequences to that action.” (1)
Will there be consequences?
Imagine the consequences if Palin were to apologize for her use of targeting imagery, pledge never to demonize her opponents in such a way again, call on all of her passionate followers to pledge to do the same, and promise that she will call out those in the media who do not follow her lead.
Will Sarah do more than offer her condolences? She might sell fewer books and have fewer Facebook fans. But the consequences would be enormous.
Tell Sarah Palin: Renounce use of shooting images in political rhetoric immediately, and stop using your platform to promote and validate violent calls to action on the right. Click here to automatically sign the petition.
What happened in Arizona yesterday was not an isolated incident, but rather the culmination of a long stream of threats and attacks, most in response to the Congresswoman’s support for health care reform.
In November of 2009, a staffer fearing for Rep. Giffords’ safety called authorities after a visitor dropped a handgun during another “Congress on your Corner” event at a local Safeway in her district. (2)
And on March 22, 2010, just hours after Rep. Giffords cast her vote in favor of health care reform, a vandal jumped a gate and smashed the glass front door of her Arizona office. (3)
It was just days later that the now infamous map featuring Rep. Giffords’ district in the crosshairs was posted by Sarah Palin’s PAC. In announcing the map, Palin issued a chilling tweet urging her supporters “Don’t retreat. Instead â€” reload!” (4) Incredulously, through a spokesperson, Sarah Palin is denying that the crosshairs on her map targeting 20 Democrats who voted against health care reform represents gun sights. (5)
As if the crosshairs weren’t clear enough, Jesse Kelley, Rep. Giffords’ Republican opponent in a hard fought race for reelection held an event two months later that makes the stakes all too clear. He asked supporters to donate $50 in order to “shoot a fully automatic M16” to “get on target” and help “remove Gabrielle Giffords.” (6)
Sarah Palin subsequently praised Jesse Kelly on Fox Business News saying: “I don’t feel worthy to lace his combat boots.” (7)
Tell Sarah Palin: Threats of violence have no place in our democracy. End the use of shooting images in rightwing political rhetoric and stop validating political figures who use violent metaphors in their political calls to action.
We agree with Keith Olbermann who said last night that “Violence, or the threat of violence, has no place in our democracy.” (8)
Our hearts are heavy for the victims of this tragedy. We must put a stop to the escalating hate rhetoric of the right and its very specific calls to armed violent action. Lines of decency have been crossed.
1 YouTube video of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on MSNBC, March 25, 2010.
2 “Gabrielle Giffords Town Hall: Gun Left Behind,” Huffington Post, August 13, 2009.
3 “Rep. Giffords’ Tucson office vandalized after health care vote,” Arizona Daily Star, March 22, 2010.
4 Sarah Palin’s Twitter feed, March 23, 2010.
5 “Palin Aide: Crosshairs On Target List Not Actually Gun Sights,” Talking Points Memo, January 9, 2011.
6 “Giffords Opponent, Jesse Kelly, Held June Event to ‘Shoot a Fully Automatic M16’ to ‘Get on Target’ and ‘Remove Gabrielle Giffords,'”, FireDogLake, January 8, 2011
7 “Sarah Palin praises Jesse Kelly on Fox Business News,” Tuscon Citizen, August 26, 2010.
8 “Keith Olbermann Issues Special Comment On Arizona Shooting: ‘Violence Has No Place In Democracy,” Huffington Post, January 9, 2011