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The Pennsylvania Progressive

Tolerance Takes a Holiday

by: John Morgan

Sat Jun 20, 2009 at 22:36:33 PM EDT


I'm not alone being on holiday.  Tolerance and peace have also disappeared.  The frightening increase in hate speech seen last year's election and fueled by John McCain and, especially, Sarah Palin, has grown out of control.  It has been fueled by extremists on television and radio by Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity and online in right wing blogs.  They have labeled the President as a Muslim terrorist, someone leading the country to socialism, someone ready and willing to come seize everyone's guns, someone unqualified to be president and countless other false rumors and accusations.

This has led to an explosion of violence.  A man in Pittsburgh killed three policemen because of this hate speech.  A guard at the Holocaust Museum was murdered, Dr. George Tiller was assassinated inside his church and now a little girl has been murdered in a home invasion meant to fund an extremist anti immigration movement.

Attacks upon minorities, gays and lesbians and other people targeted by these hate mongers is steadily increasing.  A Mexican immigrant was killed in Shenandoah last year by six high school football players incensed by anti immigration rhetoric from the likes of Dobbs and Lou Barletta, got off scott free by a white jury.

Yes, tolerance has taken a holiday.  It is no surprise to anyone who watched the videos Mike Morrill and I shot at McCain/Palin events last fall.  The hatred, vitriol and misinformation being spouted by these people was truly frightening.  Much of it wasn't possible to film as the people at the events discovered the effect their hate speech was having.  Pennsylvania was getting a bad black eye but that wasn't fair.  These bigots are everywhere and are now unashamed to spout their hate speech.

This week's murder of nine year old Brisenia Flores is truly tragic and should awaken every American to the hate and violence taking control of our country.  The home invasion was planned by anti immigration leader and spokeswoman Shawna Forde.  A veteran of the Minuteman extremist movement heralded by Republican Congressmen and Lou Dobbs, Forde has been a frequent talking head for a group called FAIR.  FAIR stands for Federation for American Immigration Reform and she is also affiliated with Minutemen American Defense.  She recently called for a series of robberies to fund their extremist activities and this crime was meant to do just that.  The girl and her father were brutally murdered.





Sarah Palin is willing to make a fool out of herself (again) to divert attention to her personal responsibility for fostering this hatred.  She stood up at rally after rally and fueled this hatred and spread this intolerance in her quest for power.  If Republicans still believe in personal responsibility Gov. Palin must stand up and accept her role in this epidemic of violence and forget the bad Letterman joke.

The idea of committing crimes to fund white supremacist movements isn't new.  A Pennsylvania man is serving a long sentence in federal prison for planning and executing a series of bank robberies to fund his Aryan white supremacist movement from Berks County, Pennsylvania.  Forde is simply adopting the same tactic but with more violence.

Tolerance cannot afford to take a holiday.  We have to begin forgetting our petty differences and begin loving one another as human beings.  The white power structure in America has run things for hundreds of years and sees threats from anyone who is not white, male, straight and rich.  History has proven them corrupt, incompetent, hateful and intolerant (apologies to liberal, tolerant straight white men).  Just as my holiday comes to an end next week it is time for tolerance to get back to work.

John Morgan :: Tolerance Takes a Holiday
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I generally agree with you here, but... (0.00 / 0)
...I must make a point about the problem of trying to legislate or constrain such "hate speech" as you note, via codified and legally enforced means.  

Given the very nature of what derives hate-filled emotions and characteristics and the development of those feelings over time within a given group, person, I feel strongly that outlawing the ability to even speak such things or express such feelings will only serve to further give rise to the credence of those who are harboring those feelings and sentiments.  

This is NOT to say they are right for feeling the way they do, as an honest evaluation of the situations and issues that bring about the hate filled feelings and sentiments would more than likely produce a truth or facts that would refute their views, or that they are simply alright with being hateful or mean towards others, for whatever reasons they name.  

Yes, I agree most ardently that tolerance and understanding and eventually peace need to be pursued and sought and that they've taken far too long a leave of absence from our collective culture and world, but to simply try to snap things back into place with the crack of a whip will only serve to give more fuel to the fire of those who are already enraged.  One thing you learn about working with troubled people or people in crisis is do not bring to the situation anymore pressure than is necessary.  While it is certainly acceptable to confront the imminent threats of harm to one's self or another, altering the views and atmosphere must take place in a way that still allows for people to express themselves fully, articulately, and be provided as full an account and as open an awareness of the whole perspective on a given issue or situation, as possible.  We need to come to see and understand truth in a better way that most all points of view have some truth to them and that only through understanding each of them in an integral way can we overcome the need to feel such enmity, hate, or wide polarity.  

When it comes to those who have acted, let them be turned out for the things they've done and held to proper account.  However, when it comes to those who have uttered words, the incitement element needs to be reasonably scrutinized because it could become very easy to simply start forbidding nearly anything that some person, group, or whole culture deems to be incitement to hateful acts.  To reach that point, would be worse than to let free-roaming hatred simply have its voice.  I know that you might disagree with me, but history has rarely, if ever, looked favorably upon any group or nation/kingdom that tamped down the expression of others at the expense of making sure they only heard what they'd like to or didn't hear what they disliked.  


Inciting hatred which leads to violence (0.00 / 0)
is a disgrace and should be criminal.  If any link can be proven between someone's hate speech and direct action based on such words the perpetrator must be prosecuted.  If you yell fire in a theatre and people die in a stampede you have violated the limits of free speech.  Therefore when someone like Bill O'Reilly calls 28 times for the murder of Dr. Tiller he is as guilty as the man who fired the gun.

Follow me on Twitter:  JohnPMorgan

[ Parent ]
In the O'Reilly example... (0.00 / 0)
...I'd agree, though a lot of attorneys and courts might want to examine how proximate and tenuous the link between the actual act and the timing of those instances was.  

True enough, if you knowingly and purposefully threaten someone with bodily harm or death with the intent to do it or to terrorize someone you've committed a crime that a number of people have been charged with in this county alone.  

So, what should make Bill O'Reilly much different.  Even if he says someone else should have done it and not per se himself.  Clearly, it would have seemed to indicate that he'd be happier if Dr. Tiller was dead.  Unfortunately, it is not unreasonable to believe that those who really wanted to kill Dr. Tiller or others like him already have plenty of requisite mens rea or fervor to put thought and word to action.  Had the individual no ties whatsoever to any other organized group or affiliations to the movement to take aggressive action against all abortion providers, then I would say the case for O'Reilly becomes much more legally tangible, other verifiable predispositions notwithstanding.   Are we going to hold broadcasters or people like O'Reilly accountable, if the person who commits the crime has a substantiated mental illness.  There's lots of people John, who are afflicted with serious mental illness, who might act on a person's words because they don't really have the mental filter or ability to realize it would be wrong before doing it.   What do we do then?  Alas, it is not so cut and dried as we might sometimes want it to be.  O'Reilly should be ashamed, but I ain't waitin' around for any apology.  

It is the ugly line between having the freedom to say whatever comes to mind and the inability to really prevent that, to then the consequential implication, intent, or impact those words have on others, who may hear them or read them.  


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