The Hate Rhetoric

Ken AshfordRight Wing and Inept MediaLeave a Comment

At some point, the right wing media has to be called out.

Oh sure.  As Slate's Gabriel Winant points out, Bill O'Reilly will be on television tonight tut-tutting the murder of Dr. George Tiller.  But this come about after O'Reilly has made Tiller the subject of 28 "Factor" news stories, starting in 2005.

Almost invariably, Tiller is described as "Tiller the Baby Killer."

Tiller, O'Reilly likes to say, "destroys fetuses for just about any reason right up until the birth date for $5,000." He's guilty of "Nazi stuff," said O'Reilly on June 8, 2005; a moral equivalent to NAMBLA and al-Qaida, he suggested on March 15, 2006. "This is the kind of stuff happened in Mao's China, Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Soviet Union," said O'Reilly on Nov. 9, 2006.

O'Reilly has also frequently linked Tiller to his longtime obsession, child molestation and rape. Because a young teenager who received an abortion from Tiller could, by definition, have been a victim of statutory rape, O'Reilly frequently suggested that the clinic was covering up for child rapists (rather than teenage boyfriends) by refusing to release records on the abortions performed.

Here's a compilation:

Over the past few years, Bill O’Reilly has made the following comments about Dr. Tiller:

– He “destroys fetuses for just about any reason right up until the birth date for $5,000.”

– He’s guilty of “Nazi stuff,”

– a moral equivalent to NAMBLA and al-Qaida

– “This is the kind of stuff that happened in Mao’s China, Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union”

– “operating a death mill”

– “has blood on his hands”

– “executing babies about to be born"….

Asked to comment on O'Reilly's characterizations, CNN's Tucker Carlson says this:

"Every one of those descriptions of Tiller is objectively true. I sincerely think it’s appalling that he was murdered. But Tiller was a monster, no doubt."

No, Tucker.  Every one of those description is not "objectively true".  It's over-the-top rhetoric.  And if you don't know the difference, you have no business in journalism.  Just because you agree with the rhetoric doesn't make it objectively true.

No, O'Reilly didn't put the gun in anyone's hands.  And yes, the First Amendment gives O'Reilly the right to say whatever he wants, no matter how inaccurate or incindiary it might be.

But O'Reilly and his ilk have been on notice: there exists in America a small violent paranoid fringe element that actually takes what is projected on their screens, and goes into action.  We saw this last year with the deadly Unitarian Church shooting in Knoxville (Headline: "Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity on accused shooter's reading list: 4-page letter outlines frustration, hatred of 'liberal movement'")

So I'm beginning to tire of the use of The First Amendment as some sort of excuse.  The First Amendment gives O'Reilly the right to say whatever he wants, but it is silent on what is the right thing to do.  Going over the top, as O'Reilly, Coulter, Savage, and others do, is what leads to events like yesterday.

O'Reilly didn't tell anyone to do anything violent, but he did put Tiller in the public eye, and help make him the focus of a movement with a history of violence against exactly these kinds of targets (including Tiller himself, who had already been shot). In those circumstances, flinging around words like "blood on their hands," "pardon," "country club" and "judgment day" was sensationally irresponsible.

Irresponsible, yes.

Somehow, I think this will all be lost on O'Reilly, who is always the victim.  Here he is only last week complaining about how his civil rights were violated because he was the object of criticism.

One wonders whether O'Reilly thinks Tilller's civil rights were violated when he was shot down in a church yesterday morning.

UPDATE:  Blaming the victim has begun.  Guess who was responsible for the Tiller murder.  Answer: Tiller, because he couldn't "take a hint".