The Terrorist Threat: Right-Wing Radicals and the Eliminationist Mindset
Continued from previous page
Now, were they criminally culpable or even legally culpable in a civil suit? Probably not. But are they ethically and morally culpable? Absolutely. This is the same thing with Bill O'Reilly and Dr. George Tiller. He didn't pull the trigger. He didn't do anything to this guy, but he helped fill some other guy's head with all kinds of hateful beliefs about Dr. Tiller, and filled his head with the idea that we needed to act to stop him -- to stop him from murdering all these babies.
Inevitably, somebody is going to act on that. What a guy like O'Reilly does is he gives permission for guys like Scott Roeder to act.
JH: Inevitably, when we criticize the right for this kind of rhetoric -- and we do so with some frequency at AlterNet -- a response that we hear is: "are you advocating censorship?" So let me ask you if you are in fact saying these people should be censored?
DN: No. Simply no. What we are advocating -- what I'm advocating -- is standing up, using our own free speech. Hate speech is protected speech in this country, and it should be. I wouldn't have it any other way. But it's grossly irresponsible speech.
We, as citizens, have an obligation: If we are going to enjoy freedom of speech, we need to live up to the responsibility that comes with it. This is of course a common theme on the right -- that with your freedoms come responsibility. We say yes. With your freedom of speech comes a responsibility to speak responsibly, not in a way that harms other people, particularly when you have these huge media megaphones that give individuals the power to propagandize to millions of people.
It's incredibly irresponsible to start demonizing and dehumanizing other people, because that opens all of those people up to hate crimes and various acts of vicious retaliation that disturbed individuals have gotten permission for from eliminationist rhetoric.
Remember, censorship is government action against individuals. What we want to talk about is ... nobody wants to take Bill O'Reilly's free speech away, but we need to question whether he deserves to have that big megaphone. So I always advocate going to their advertisers and doing whatever you need to do to stand up.
One of the things that I learned while studying hate crimes is that the vast majority of hate crimes are committed by ordinary people, not by members of hate groups. Yet it's also the case that the vast majority of hate crimes are accompanied by hate-group rhetoric. So in a lot of ways hate crimes are a manifestation of the way right-wing extremism has permeated the broader culture. But more than that, these ordinary people also believe -- and I might add this includes the white supremacists -- that what they are doing reflects the secret desires, the unspoken wishes of the community that they believe they are defending.
When you stand up to them, when you engage in the act of standing up to them, that knocks that plank right out from under them, because when the community stands up and says, "No, these are not our values, this is not what we believe in, what you are doing is wrong," that takes that belief away.
JH: The silent majority ...
DN: Right. It's really important that the "silent majority" stop being silent and let them know that this is not acceptable. There are various ways of letting them know that. A guy like O'Reilly is never going to stop. So eventually what you have to do is go after his advertisers, get him off the air, because he is not going to change his ways.