Hate speech, like Rep. Paul Broun's, is dangerous - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Hate speech, like Rep. Paul Broun's, is dangerous

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Posted: Friday, March 4, 2011 6:30 pm

Soon after the massacre in Tucson that left six dead and 12 wounded, among them Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., a public discussion began as to whether incendiary, provocative speech incites violence.

The horrendous assault at the Tucson public assembly has receded to the back pages. Daniel Hernandez, the student intern who rendered her aid, possibly saving her life, became a national hero. Giffords is recovering, as are other wounded victims.

At the time of the shooting, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said he was not convinced that Jared Lee Loughner acted alone.

But the accessory to the crime seems to have been the same ugly elements that rear their heads like cobras coming from inside a woven basket when they are lured by a snake charmer's flute.

Rep. Paul Broun, a doctor and conservative third-term congressman from Athens, Ga., who had said after Obama's election in 2008 that he feared the president would impose a Marxist dictatorship and establish a Gestapo-like security force, has confirmed that at an Oglethorpe County town hall event on Tuesday, Feb. 22, a constituent asked, "Who's going to shoot Obama?"

Broun acknowledged he didn't immediately condemn the man, alleging he was stunned by the question, and his intention was to avoid dignifying it with a response. His office has refused to say whether it had audio or video footage of what happened.

Does Broun's response prove the case about inside provocateurs? The snake charmers who incite others hardly ever face up to the consequences of their acts. It took him from Tuesday until Friday to issue a statement calling the incident "abhorrent." After the exchange was reported by the Athens Banner-Herald, his "I-deeply-regret-this-incident" statement didn't criticize the man who asked the question but said he had told the crowd he understood its frustration with Obama.

Broun's office later said the congressman had alerted the Secret Service, which questioned the elderly man who made the comment. The Secret Service now says it is "a closed matter."

But is it? Does Broun resemble a flutist heading for cover. The over-the-top rhetoric and behavior is made out to seem like political theater and bottom-fishing for votes. Or is it something else?

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that for the second consecutive year, radical-right groups exploded in 2010. The Law Center says the groups are driven by resentment over the changing racial demographics of the country, frustration over the government's handling of the economy, and the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories and other demonizing propaganda aimed at various non-white groups. The anger focuses on President Barack Obama, who is seen as embodying everything they don't like.

Currently. there are three main carriers of hate: hate mongers, nativists and antigovernment zealots. They have increased 22 percent, from 1,753 groups in 2009 to 2,145 in 2010. That's after a 40 percent increase from 2008 to 2009.

According to the analysis, after Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed last April the harshest anti-immigrant law since the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, a tsunami of similar proposals spread across the country. Instead of assuaging the fever with its legislative success, the far right took the appeasement as comfort that radical pursuits are correct. The Republicans' recapture of the U.S. House fortified its beliefs, energizing the radical right through mainstream political-right strengthening.

In 11 days in January, a neo-Nazi was apprehended heading for the Arizona border with a dozen homemade grenades, police averted a terrorist bomb attack with sophisticated anti-personnel weapons on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Spokane, Wash., and a man with a long history of antigovernment activities was arrested and charged with possessing explosives with unlawful intent outside a packed mosque in Dearborn, Mich.

All that happened in the same month as the Tucson massacre.

Now tell me hate speech and acts haven't gone viral.

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