Friday, June 19, 2015

Right Wing Media Machine, GOP Politicians, Rush To Use Charleston Domestic Terrorism for Partisan Political Gain

Never 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.

Just 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."
“We 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.
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.
The 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.

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.
"This is out of character for Charleston, for South Carolina. It does not make sense. It is an outlier."
 Here 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.

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 States.

The Confederate battle flag and Soldier Monument at the South Carolina Capitol
It’s 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 it."

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. Presumably she simply forgot to include the ACLU, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Martin Luther King.
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 and rage.
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 divisive politics.

The 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.

Irrational conservative fear on display
It 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.

Rev. Clementa Pickney
The nine killed inside Mother Emmanuel

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