It's not enough for conservatives to repudiate violence, as some are belatedly beginning to do. We have to tone down the militant and accusatory rhetoric. If Barack Obama really were a fascist, really were a Nazi, really did plan death panels to kill the old and infirm, really did contemplate overthrowing the American constitutional republic—if he were those things, somebody should shoot him.
But he is not. He is an ambitious, liberal president who is spending too much money and emitting too much debt. His health-care ideas are too over-reaching and his climate plans are too interventionist. The president can be met and bested on the field of reason—but only by people who are themselves reasonable.
Agree with his political viewpoints or not, but the man is no imbecile. If there were more like him making their presence felt there could be a coherent, sensible, rational debate on the issues. Instead we have, as Frum himself lists...
The Nazi comparisons from Rush Limbaugh; broadcaster Mark Levin asserting that President Obama is "literally at war with the American people"; former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin claiming that the president was planning "death panels" to extirpate the aged and disabled; the charges that the president is a fascist, a socialist, a Marxist, an illegitimate Kenyan fraud, that he "harbors a deep resentment of America," that he feels a "deep-seated hatred of white people," that his government is preparing concentration camps, that it is operating snitch lines, that it is planning to wipe away American liberties": All this hysterical and provocative talk invites, incites, and prepares a prefabricated justification for violence.
And indeed some conservative broadcasters are lovingly anticipating just such an outcome.
Here's Fox News' Glenn Beck clucking sympathetically that white males are being driven into murderous rage by "political correctness."
Here again is Beck chuckling as he play-acts the poisoning of Nancy Pelosi.
Just yesterday, the radio host Sean Hannity openly contemplated violence—and primly tut-tutted that if it occurs, the president will have only himself to blame.
So, is this inflammatory talk politically or financially motivated? Funny you should ask.
Hyperbolic accusation and fantasy murder may well serve a talk-radio industry facing a collapse in advertising revenues—down 30–40 percent over the past two years, reports NewMajority.com's Tim Mak.
As revenues dwindle, hosts feel compelled to intensify the talk-radio experience, hoping to win larger audience share with more extreme talk. It's like the early days of the pornography industry: At first a naked woman is thrilling enough, but soon a jaded audience is demanding more and more, wilder and wilder.
For the radio hosts, it's all mostly a cynical marketing exercise. But the audience? Not all of them know better.
No, they don't. And therein lies the danger. God help us.