Christian terrorist murders immigrants in Florida, US media yawn
Accused Christian terrorist Dannie Baker, and Chilean murder victims Racín Balbontín Argondoña and Nicolás Pablo Corp Torres
In Spain, when the ETA Basque separatist groups murders someone or sets off a bomb or one of their terrorist strikes gets thwarted, it makes national news. People don't seem to fall down on the ground foaming at the mouth in fear and demanding that their democratic constitution be shredded as the Republicans did during the Cheney-Bush years.
There are indications that the suspect, Dannie Baker, has suffered for several years from mental health issues. And as Dave writes:
However, it's a cop-out to simply ascribe this to his illness and let it go at that. Because there is a pattern of "isolated incidents" in which mentally ill people select their victims based on eliminationist scapegoating rhetoric from right-wing ideologues.
Dave's post also discusses an important and difficult issue: the connection between hate rhetoric and actual violence. His Orcinus blogger partner Sara Robinson addressed this subject as well in "Know This If Nothing Else: This Was A Hate Crime" 02/10/09, about the in this case anti-Christian terrorist James Adkisson, who was convicted of opening fire in a Unitarian church in Knoxville TN last year, also killing two people. (This reminds me, I haven't been quoting Sara nearly enough here lately.)
There is a relationship between hate-mongers on TV and radio and actions by rightwing terrorists like Baker and Adkisson. But it's not direct and immediate.
After another rightwing terrorist, then-San Francisco Supervisor Dan White, murdered Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone in 1978 and then got off with a mild sentence by a far-fetched psychiatric defense that became known as the "Twinkie defense", then-Governor Jerry Brown got the California Legislature to tighten the laws on the insanity defense. Then after Ronald Reagan got shot in 1981, the federal government and most state governments followed suit.
I certainly wouldn't want terrorist like Baker and Adkisson to be able to get off easy with a new "Twinkie defense". If people are capable of distinguishing right from wrong, they should have to take legal responsibility for their actions. And as an ethical matter, rightwing killers shouldn't be able to blame their actions on Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck.
But having said that, looking at the hate mongers themselves, Sara is also right:
Nicely done, Messrs. Hannity, Goldberg, Limbaugh, Savage and O'Reilly -- and all your lesser brethren who keep the hate speech spewing 24/7/365 across every field and into every shop in the country. There is no more debate to be had, no more doubt about it: What you did in the name of "entertainment," and for the sake of the almighty ratings, raised and animated a monster like Jim Adkisson, gave him a list of targets ("the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg's book"), and was directly responsible for the deaths of two brave and decent people. Adkisson was clearly angry and crazy -- but his "manifesto" draws the clearest, brightest line possible between the media he consumed and his actions that terrible Sunday morning.
There's clearly an intermediary social process that goes on, though. Limbaugh and the rest create a frenzied attitude among their followers, who then incorporate their extremist attitudes into their personal exchanges.
And, for guys like Baker and Adkisson, they look and listen and read these mutually-reinforcing opinions and realize - often with some considerable basis in reality - that people will admire them for their actions. And that kind of reinforcement can also coexist with suicidal tendencies or other psychiatric problems.
The media stars like Rush and Michael Savage, or in the case of anti-immigration fanaticism, Lou Dobbs, who do so much to create that social context are not legally culpable for the killings of Baker and Adkisson. But they are responsible for creating a political and social environment in which individuals of that inclination feel themselves encouraged to take action against liberals, or immigrants, or the various other targets of this poisonous outlook.