We've been wondering for awhile about the unhinged rhetoric that's been coming steadily from the mainstream right since Obama's election, and the kinds of effects it will have on its audiences, especially over time.
Glenn Beck has become the most notable purveyor of this rhetoric in recent months, but its past master, Sean Hannity, is clearly intent on keeping his spot as the lead foam-flecked dog -- which was what last night's Fox News show was all about. It left Ellen at Newshounds wondering if Hannity was calling for armed revolt:
Hannity suspended his usual “Hannity Headline” to bring a “special first segment of the show” that was straight out of Glenn Beck's playbook. Is Hannity getting nervous as Beck gains on him in the ratings?
As patriotic music played in the background, Hannity, who just a few weeks ago vehemently supported Governor Rick Perry's threat of secession, quickly suggested that an uprising against the government might be in order. “In 1765, Parliament passed The Stamp Act, provoking outrage among the American colonists,” Hannity began. “Now, the leaders of the tax uprising were the sons of liberty.”
Citing the names of Paul Revere, Patrick Henry, John Hancock and John Adams, Hannity explained that they met under a tree to “air their grievances against the tyrannical King George. The sons of liberty would become an early voice for the rights of an oppressed citizenry.”
With awe in his voice, Hannity said that the colonists hung two tax collectors in effigy from a tree “and from that day forward, it became known as the 'Liberty Tree.'”
In case anyone didn't quite snap to what he was getting at, Hannity added that under the last liberty tree, which stood at St. John's College in Maryland, colonists “held a tea party and listened to the words of founding father Samuel Chase.”
..Hannity concluded by saying, “This administration has plucked the tree of liberty bare. It took more than 200 years but it now looks like we are headed back to where we started.” Meaning revolution? Hannity never said one way or the other.
When mainstream talk show hosts, addressing an audience that is politically stymied and increasingly angry and frustrated, start talking about "revolution," they have to be aware that some of the more unstable elements in that audience -- particularly the paranoia-prone folks who have just been told repeatedly by the Hannitys and other Fox pundits that the DHS considers them a terrorist threat -- are going to be acting that rhetoric out in violent ways.
[Y]ou can't tell me there's no relationship between this kind of rhetoric and the even crazier talk coming from the radical right. Because unlike the armchair right-wing pundits who indulge this stuff because it's a useful way to bestir the troops but couldn't act to save their asses, some of these other people, the radicals who hear this talk and then pump the irrationality even farther, to its illogical extreme, are perfectly capable of acting upon it.
Of course, when it happens, Sean Hannity will find a way to blame liberals for it.