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Between Hate Speech and Adoration

Monday, November 02, 2009

By David Swanson

Statements of undisputed facts about President Barack Obama's actions can generate declarations on progressive websites that one has "gone too far" or said something that "should not be said." Honesty has been replaced by loyalty.

The most common place to find accurate statements on presidential abuses of power is buried in a sea of lunacy on rightwing websites that conclude their analyses with encouragement of violence, gun purchasing, and assassination.

Denunciations of rightwing incitement of violence and hatred come most often from groups and individuals eager to change the topic from the abysmal failures of Democrats who have been given large majorities in the House and Senate, plus the White House, and chosen to do nothing.

Tough talk about the failures of Democrats is most often heard from racist, xenophobic believers in fantastical fairy tales with very little connection to reality.

Room needs to be created for other types of speech. We must be able to criticize and even legally prevent incitement of political violence, while at the same time examining what has made some people susceptible to that kind of talk, and while simultaneously speaking honestly about the failings of the people being targeted.

To do this, we have to be clear about what is unacceptable speech, what is acceptable but misguided speech, what we honestly believe, and what amounts to adoration rather than advocacy. Comparing someone's actions to those of Adolph Hitler is not, by itself, speech that should be suppressed. The phrase "enemies, foreign and domestic" is not verboten. If dictatorial power or fascistic tendencies could not be discussed, huge chunks of what has been said about Bush and Cheney would have to be eliminated along with hours of rightwing radio Obama-bashing. We cannot resist what we cannot mention.

What we should not have on our airwaves are calls for violent "revolution", for persuading our elected officials of their errors by increasing the statistics on gun sales, for hating people's religions or nations or races or sexual groups, and for assassination. We can most effectively resist abuses of power through nonviolence. Blocking the encouragement of violence does not deprive us of any rights. So, the question is not whether the violence is driven by accurate facts and agreeable theories. The question is simply whether violence is being encouraged. Theories that depict groups of people as evil and in need of elimination tend to encourage violence.

What we should have openly reported and discussed are people's fantasies and the possible resentments producing them. These include claims that Obama was born in Africa and claims that Bush shot a missile from an invisible plane into the Pentagon, as well as claims that Jesus will come back if we can start enough wars in the Middle East. We should see the people of Afghanistan burning Obama in effigy and hear honest analysis of why they might be doing that. We should see anti-abortion activists burning Congressional Democrats in effigy, and hear honest analysis of why they might be doing that. The analysis can include the possibility that people are badly misinformed and hurting their own interests, but it must be open, honest, and accurate....(Remainder.)



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