underestimate the lack of class or the pure ghoulishness of the right wing. In
the wake of the race-based domestic terrorism attack at the historic Emanuel
African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina that left nine
dead, right wing media and politicians rushed to use this terrible tragedy for
partisan political gain. There are some common threads to these efforts.
Nowhere is a motive mentioned. There’s no mention of race. The word “terrorism”
is never used. Even the phrase “hate crime” is carefully avoided. Instead, the
attack is blamed on gun free zones, not enough religion, mental illness and
even speculation about psychiatric drugs. And this isn't just the fringe.
hours after the attack assumed presidential candidate Rand Paul tried to pander to a group of Evangelicals by
blaming it on, "...people not understanding where salvation comesfrom."
had a shooting this morning in South Carolina,” Paul said (the shooting
happened last night). “What kind of person goes into church and shoots nine
people? There’s a sickness in our country, there’s something terribly wrong,
but it isn’t going to be fixed by your government. It’s people straying away,
it’s people not understanding where salvation comes from. And I think that if
we understand that, we’ll understand and have better expectations of what we
get from our government.”
|Rand Paul, opportunist jackass|
Paul’s unabashed opportunism was both clumsy and tasteless, but it also was also far removed from reality. The vast majority of white supremacist terrorists like Dylann Roof are devout evangelical Christians.
Kerry Picket, a reporter for Tucker Carlson’s ‘Daily Caller,’ was quick to try to link the attack to Sandy Hook and the Aurora movie theater shooting by chanting the gun nut mantra that the attack occurred in a gun free zone.
only thing the Charleston attack has in common with Sandy Hook or Aurora is the
use of a gun, but gun nuts blame anything and everything but America’s gun
fetish. Conservatives talk about mental health and lone wolves, even when it’s obviously not the case. This attack wasn’t the work of some random nut going
on a rampage. Dylann Roof is a white supremacist who had a clear motive to
terrorize the African-American community. The attack was well planned. The
target was carefully chosen. Even the pastor,
Clementa Pinckney, who was also a state senator and a rising star in
South Carolina Democratic politics, was specifically targeted.
The Charleston, S.C., church massacre is already drawing
comparisons to the tragedies at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn., and at
a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. because it happened in a gun-free zone.
This isn’t the first
race based attack on this church. The iconic Mother Emmanuel, as the church is
known locally, was founded in 1816. It’s the oldest AME church in the South,
with a long history of racial struggle. In 1822, one of the church’s founders,
Denmark Vessey, helped plan what would have been the largest slave revolt in US
history, had it not been discovered beforehand. Vessey and five co-conspirators
were hanged and the church was burned to the ground by an angry mob of whites.
Charleston later passed a law banning black churches, because they were hotbeds
of abolitionist activism. Members of Mother Emmanuel met in secret until the
church could be rebuilt after the Civil War. Booker T. Washington spoke at
Mother Emmanuel, as did Martin Luther King. The church was at the forefront of
the fight against slavery and later the struggle for civil rights, and is still
a focal point for the African-American community in Charleston and beyond. But to hear conservative politicians and the
right wing media machine tell it, this was anything but a well planned
terrorist attack by a white supremacist.
Breitbart chose to quote current GOP Rep. and former
South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, claiming that this attack is just an“outlier,” and out of character for Charleston and South Carolina.
in the real world this is completely in character for Charleston and South
Carolina, but Sanford is infamous for having only a loose connection to the
real world. He’s best known for disappearing from office for five days without
a word, then lying about “hiking the
Appalachian trail” when he was actually holed up in South America with a woman
not his wife.
"This is out of character for Charleston, for South
Carolina. It does not make sense. It is an outlier."
|Dylann Roof posing with his "Confederate States" license plate|
Charleston is a city with a long and troubled history of racial
strife in a state that has always been a flash point for virulent racism. Specifically
citing protection for the institution of slavery as the primary motive, South
Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union. The first shots of the
Civil War were fired by Confederate troops on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.
The Confederate battle flag, the same symbol of racial hate emblazoned on
Dylann Roof’s “Confederate States” license plates), which still flies today at the
Confederate Soldier Monument, directly in front of the South Carolina
Statehouse in Columbia. South Carolina
today is at the very heart of the white supremacist movement in the United
|The Confederate battle flag and Soldier Monument at the South Carolina Capitol|
a poignant irony that the Confederate battle flag, alongside the seven star
flag of the Confederacy still flies from very near to Mother Emmanuel at Castle
Pickney, a Civil War era fort in Charleston Harbor close to Fort Sumpter.
Castle Pickney was named for Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, a slave holder and
signer of the Declaration of Independence. Clementa Pinckney was a descendant of those slaves.
|Confederate flags flying alongside the American flag at Castle Pickney|
For its part, leader of the right wing media machine Fox
News has avoided any mention of domestic terrorism and has struggled mightily
to avoid “hate crime” and “racism” as much as is possible, only briefly
mentioning that the Justice Department has opened a hate crime investigation. Fox
and Friends set the spin machine in motion the morning after the shooting by
claiming it wasn’t a hate crime (no mention of terrorism), but an attack on
Christianity. Co-host Steve Doocy stated, “It's extraordinary that Charlestonchurch shooting is being called a hate crime.”
What’s extraordinary is that a
man this stupid can anchor a show on a supposed leading news network.
Strangely, on his radio show Rush Limbaugh was one of the
few voices on the right to clearly label the attack as terrorism. On his radio
show he said, "Keep in mind, there are more people dead, this church in
Charleston, South Carolina, than in the Boston bombing. I'm just trying to draw a comparison here. It's real terrorism, if you want to look at
Rush’s moment of clarity didn’t last long. He quickly
pivoted to blaming Barack Obama for supposedly politicizing the tragedy by
pointing out the fact that these kinds of mass killing killings don’t happen in
other advanced nations, where not any nut can walk into a store at any time and
buy as many guns as he wants. In the Wingnutosphere, mentioning gun violence
after yet another incidence of gun violence is unseemly and inappropriate,
because, as Saint Ronald of Reagan said, “Facts are stupid things.”
Out of all of the opportunistic attempts in the
Wingnutosphere to use a tragedy to try to score political points, perhaps the
most tasteless, most tone deaf effort comes from the National Review, the publication
once considered to be the intellectual foundation of conservatism. Mona Charen attacks Democrats for
politicizing this tragedy by pre-emptively politicizing this tragedy. She only
briefly mentions the facts of the case before spending the bulk of her column
attacking Democrats, Al Gore, the NAACP, the daughter of James Byrd, who wasdragged to death in Jasper, Texas, and, of course, Hillary Clinton.
she simply forgot to include the ACLU, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Martin
sheer scope of the irony here is truly stunning. What, if not deploying the
lowest kind of divisive politics, is Charen doing with this post? She’s not
responding to anything anyone has actually said about this tragedy. She’s just
trotting some favorite conservative shibboleths to attack liberals for
something no one has done. This post perfectly sums up the very heart of modern
conservatism. It’s no longer about ideology. The defining characteristic of
American conservatism is paranoia. Fear, real or imagined, has become the
driving force. Fear of Muslims. Fear of Hispanics. Fear of African-Americans,
and especially young African-American males. Fear of gays. Fear of Ebola. Fear that “their”
country is changing and there’s nothing they can do about it. Invading Iraq, a
country that had neither attacked the United States in the past nor had the
capability to attack us, is the multi-trillion dollar proof of this fear made
manifest. Bush and the neo-cons chose to believe the lies fed to them by a
single source with no credibility because those lies fit their fears. This
justified in their own minds telling even larger lies to the American people,
who they needed to be as afraid as they were.
Democrats have often used attacks on African Americans not
just as opportunities to express their horror at racism or violence, but also
to imply that Republicans secretly approve of racism. Al Gore did this in 2000.
But in 2000, to support Al Gore’s campaign, the NAACP ran ads featuring the
voice of Renee Mullins, James Byrd’s daughter.
The point of the ad was not to argue the merits or demerits of hate crime laws,
it was to reach down into voters’ psyches and squeeze the chords of resentment
Hillary Clinton has already dealt this card with her
announcement speech urging that Republicans are trying to prevent African
Americans from voting. I very much fear that in short order, last night’s
horrible massacre in Charleston will be deployed for the lowest kind of
is this underlying fear that causes conservatives to so often lash out in ways
that are breathtakingly inappropriate, even in the face of a terrible tragedy
like what happened at the Mother Emmanuel church. The people who were inside
that church when Dylann Roof opened fire know the real meaning of fear. Even in
the face of that fear, the kind of sheer terror most of us will never know, Clementa
Pinckney, the church’s pastor, a state senator carrying the name of a man who
signed the Declaration of Independence, a forty-one year old married man with
two children, tried to calmly talk Roof out of it right up to the moment he was
shot dead. Conservatives could learn a thing or two about true fear, and true
courage in the face of fear from Clementa Pinckney. We all could.
|Irrational conservative fear on display|
|Rev. Clementa Pickney|
|The nine killed inside Mother Emmanuel|