Blogs > Steve Hochstadt > The Problem Is Not Civility

Oct 30, 2018

The Problem Is Not Civility

tags: assassination,Trump,Limbaugh,pipe bomb,Coulter,FOX

A man tried to assassinate the former President, the former Vice President, the former Attorney General, the most recent candidate for the Presidency, a Congresswoman and a Senator. Even a partial success would have been the worst political assassination plot in American history. Alert law enforcement agents and postal workers prevented anyone from being hurt.


Before the mad bomber was identified, prominent conservatives asserted without the slightest evidence that the bombs were fakes, planted by Democrats to tarnish Republicans. This “false flag” theory first surfaced at the fringes of right-wing media. That’s not surprising, but soon well-known conservative opinion leaders jumped on this nasty bandwagon. Ann Coulter tweeted, “bombs are a liberal tactic.” Rush Limbaugh said on his program, “What sense does it make for a conservative Republican to gum up the works here by sending a bunch of bombs that are not gonna go off and that are gonna be discovered? It doesn’t make any sense in any way, shape, manner, or form.” Fox TV host Lou Dobbs wrote, “Fake News – Fake Bombs. Who could possibly benefit by so much fakery?” FOX guest “experts” on three different shows echoed this idea. Donald Trump Jr. liked a tweet that asserted “FAKE BOMBS MADE TO SCARE AND PICK UP BLUE SYMPATHY VOTE.”


What did our President do? He never mentioned the names of the victims of this attack or expressed any sympathy with them. He complained about how media coverage of this potential tragedy interfered with coverage of his campaigning, in which he encouraged his supporters to hate the people targeted by the assassin. “We have seen an effort by the media in recent hours to use the sinister actions of one individual to score political points against me and the Republican Party,”


Countless writers have identified a lack of civility as one of our country’s worst problems. They complain about the nasty tone adopted by politicians and pundits of the left and right. They assert that the problem is a national one.


No. The problem is that a few prominent conservative opinion leaders, headed by our President, have gone way beyond incivility to hatred. When the lives of the most prominent Democrats are threatened, they blame the victims. They express no satisfaction that the plot was foiled nor sympathy for the intended victims. They don’t care that lives can be disrupted, even if bombs don’t go off. Days later, none of these commentators has admitted that they were wrong to blame Democrats.


And then they go right back to shouting that liberals are terrorists and encourage terrorists. That liberals are a “mob” which endangers the country. That the very people targeted by the bomber are a danger to the country and must be stopped.


No wonder the gullible Trump supporters echo these stupid ideas, and believe the arrest of a Trump supporter is part of the hoax. They have been bombarded by Republican attacks on the morality and the patriotism of liberals for decades. Their fears have been stoked by conservative lies about liberals since the days of Sen. McCarthy. A FOX producer called it “riling up the crazies”. Now a pathetic march of frightened Central Americans has been turned into an invasion of disease-carrying terrorists.


Let’s put the responsibility where it belongs – the supposedly serious, well known people who propagate these ideas and then take no responsibility for them when they are shown to be lies.


Incivility means rudeness or bad manners. Trump and his prominent acolytes are engaged in hate speech, incitement to violence. On the midterm campaign trail, Trump’s regular speech labels Democrats as a danger to America. They are “arsonists” who “have become too extreme and too dangerous to govern.” They want to “tear down our laws, tear down our institutions in pursuit of power.” They “want to unleash violent predators and ruthless killers.” “The Democrat party has become an angry, ruthless, unhinged mob determined to get power by any means necessary.” “The Democrats are willing to do anything, to hurt anyone, to get the power they so desperately crave. They want to destroy.”


When some Americans believe their President and believe the people who appear on television news, it becomes a reasonable choice to fear and hate all liberals.


Cesar Sayoc may have made his bombs alone. But prominent conservatives from the President on down urged him to believe his targets were enemies of the people. Trump and Coulter and Limbaugh and FOX are unindicted co-conspirators in the biggest political assassination plot in modern American history.


Lock them up.


Steve Hochstadt


October 30, 2018

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