Movement conservatives seem to believe that they've won the narrative after the tragic shootings in Tucson -- namely, that Jared Lee Loughner was just a nutcase and there was nothing political about his attack on a Democratic
January 24, 2011

Movement conservatives seem to believe that they've won the narrative after the tragic shootings in Tucson -- namely, that Jared Lee Loughner was just a nutcase and there was nothing political about his attack on a Democratic congresswoman.

Indeed, they seem to believe that it's now conventional wisdom that whenever an angry right-wing nut violently attacks an oft-demonized liberal target, it has nothing, nothing whatsoever to do with the demonizing rhetoric that preceded it. Just another "isolated incident." Even if we ARE up to 20 and counting.

The problem with this "wisdom"? Reality has a nasty way of intruding, as David at VC noted yesterday, from a New York Times report about how Beck's obsession with Frances Fox Piven has now produced death threats against her :

Never mind that Ms. Piven’s radical plan to help poor people was published 45 years ago, when Mr. Beck was a toddler. Anonymous visitors to his Web site have called for her death, and some, she said, have contacted her directly via e-mail.

In response, a liberal nonprofit group, the Center for Constitutional Rights, wrote to the chairman of Fox News, Roger Ailes, on Thursday to ask him to put a stop to Mr. Beck’s “false accusations” about Ms. Piven.

“Mr. Beck is putting Professor Piven in actual physical danger of a violent response,” the group wrote.

Fox News disagrees. Joel Cheatwood, a senior vice president, said Friday that Mr. Beck would not be ordered to stop talking about Ms. Piven on television. He said Mr. Beck had quoted her accurately and had never threatened her.

“ ‘The Glenn Beck Program,’ probably above and beyond any on television, has denounced violence repeatedly,” Mr. Cheatwood said.

Not as often, however, as it has denounced Frances Fox Piven. We've given some ripe examples in the video above, but really, it pales in comparison to a more complete list, such as this account from Media Matters.

We've already seen what happens when Fox hosts hold individual people up for extreme demonization. When Bill O'Reilly called Dr. George Tiller a "Baby Killer" some 28 times, it was no surprise when a kook already worked up by an environment of hateful rhetoric walked into a church and shot Tiller in the head. And when O'Reilly more recently attacked Rep. Jim McDermott, a right-wing nutcase from California called McDermott up and issued a long string of obscene death threats.

Glenn Beck is a particular case. When a Beck fan named Charles Wilson was inspired to call and threaten Sen. Patty Murray, we heard nothing from Fox News. Likewise, when it became clear that would-be Tides Foundation terrorist Byron Williams was directly inspired by Beck as well, not a word was heard.

Now, having been directly confronted over the threats to Piven, this supposed news network is actually trying to stonewall its way past reality.

So far, we've been lucky that no one outside of two injured Oakland police officers has been physically injured by the nutcases Beck inspires. But death threats are a real injury too.

Which raises the question: Is Fox waiting until someone actually physically attacks Frances Fox Piven before convincing Beck to reel it in?

Indeed, judging from the vociferous insistence that its ugly rhetoric and that of other right-wingers had nothing, nothing to do with the Giffords shooting, I think it's safe to predict that if someone in fact does harm Ms. Piven, they'll adamantly deny they had anything to do with it.

They won't be able to run and hide as they have from the Williams case. Especially considering the reality of the extraordinary level of threats being leveled in Pivens' direction -- including at Beck's own website.

As we reported last week, these threats remained up at Beck's site for the better part of two weeks:




Some have since been removed. Some remain, as do some others with threatening overtones.

Frances Fox Piven herself was on with Amy Goodman the other night, and had to express her own bewilderment at the bizarre way that Beck is depicting and smearing her, as well as her work:

As I explained at The Investigative Fund, this kind of extreme demonization is profoundly irresponsible -- especially when it reaches the level where actual death threats are being drummed up and the news organization associated with them is refusing to accept any accountability for it:

The critical components that distinguish irresponsible speech from responsible speech are interworking and interdependent, but they involve standards that are universally recognized by journalists as fundamental to their profession: truthfulness, accuracy, and fairness. Thus irresponsible speech usually has five features:

* It is factually false, or so grossly distorted and misleading as to constitute functional falsity.

* It holds certain targeted individuals or groups of people up for vilification and demonization.

* It smears them with false or misleading information that depicts them in a degraded light.

* It depicts them as either emblematic, or the actual source, of a significant problem or a major threat.

* It leads its audience to conclude that the solution to the problem manifested by these people is their elimination.

In the Goldmark case, the Duck Club members not only demonized the Goldmarks, but they told Rice things that were simply not true — though the tellers wished ardently that they were true, they were purely concoctions of their fevered imaginations. This is the case with so much far-right wingnuttery — the "Birther" conspiracy theories, the FEMA-camp claims, the "constitutionalist" theories about taxation and the Federal Reserve, the belief that President Obama is out to take away their guns, to list just a few examples — and yet people believe them anyway. Mainly because major-media figures and leading right-wing politicians have assured them that they are true.

This rhetoric acts as a kind of wedge between the people who absorb it and the real world. A cognitive dissonance arises from believing things that are provably untrue, and people who fanatically cling to beliefs that do not comport with reality find themselves increasingly willing to buy into other similarly unhinged beliefs. For those who are already unhinged, the effects are particularly toxic.

All of these paranoid theories, you'll observe, serve the explicit purpose of creating scapegoats. A number of them have taken hold in the mainstream public discourse because they have been presented seriously for discussion by various right-wing talking heads, most notably Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs, with full-throated support from Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, Michelle Malkin, and Sarah Palin.

You have to wonder how long the rest of the journalism profession is going to let them get away with it. Enough is enough.

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