Wednesday, June 3, 2009

When words kill

When people get riled up about something to the point of obsession, common sense and responsibility are often two of the early casualties. And when the level of their rhetoric escalates, the effects can be deadly. We've seen evidence of that in several recent cases. For years, protesters labeled abortion provider George Tiller as a murderer, despite the fact that his actions were lawful. A clearly mentally ill man who heard that message over and over and over again took matters into his own hands last weekend and allegedly gunned down Tiller in the doctor's church. Just this week, a Muslim convert named Abdulhakim Muhammed opened fire in Little Rock, killing a military recruiter. Authorities say he targeted soldiers "because of what they had done to Muslims in the past." A few weeks back, Richard Poplawski, who apparently believed the lunatics who claim the government is coming to take Americans' guns, killed three Pittsburgh police officers. Who bears the blame for these actions? Responsible abortion opponents didn't want Tiller murdered. The average Muslim would not support the random killing of innocent American soldiers. Reasonable gun-rights advocates don't support militia movements or the slayings of police officers. And yet, they are all to blame, in some measure. Why do we not hear the responsible abortion foes loudly denouncing the psychos at the fringes of their movement? Don't peace-loving Muslims have a duty to point out the hypocrisy and hatred of their brethren who believe in death to America and call for the murders of anyone guilty of the slightest insult against Islam? And why doesn't the NRA say, strongly and clearly, to the gun nuts, "Listen, we're going to fight to preserve your gun-ownership rights, but nobody is coming to take your rifles, shotguns and handguns"? Abortion opponents might claim that harsh rhetoric is justified because they're trying to save babies from being murdered, and gun-rights proponents might truly believe that they are fighting for the very survival of the Second Amendment, but would these groups also accept that radical Muslims might have some legitimacy when they say their people are dying because of U.S. actions in the Middle East? Probably not. But what they must realize is that words are powerful. And everyone, no matter their beliefs, bears responsibility when their words cause the most unhinged among their flocks to see murder as an acceptable, or even mandatory, course of action.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...


June 3, 2009 at 1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When, if ever, does the end justify the means? How many lives will the murder of one doctor who performs abortions save? And if we murder abortionists, why not murder every man and woman who has used contraception, and every man who masturbates, thereby killing off millions of sperm that had the potential to become babies?

Those who use religion or a misplaced sense of morality to justify discrimination, murder or torture are flat out wrong. God may talk to people on all sides of an issue, but god apparently isn't real clear on who should believe him.

June 3, 2009 at 1:51 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

Well, thank you, anonymous. Not exactly on topic, but I'd be glad to converse with you. For those not up to speed on this topic, Britnee Moore is the Greene County girl who is currently being tried on charges including homicide by vehicle in connection with a head-on car crash in March 2007 that killed Hope Maley, a 16-year-old Waynesburg girl. According to authorities, Moore was driving 70 mph on a winding road after dark and was reaching for a cell phone when her car, on the wrong side of the road, struck Maley's vehicle, killing her. As for you, anonymous, I'm not sure what particular comment of mine you didn't like, but it's my position that people have to take responsibility for their actions. I don't know what your objection is to Moore being held accountable. If what police say is true, her driving extremely recklessly, and with blatant disregard for her own safety and that of others, was a deliberate action on her part. And since I've never killed anyone with my car, I have nothing comparable to answer for. And I don't own a cell phone.

June 3, 2009 at 2:01 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

I'm gonna attempt to connect a couple of dots that are pretty much in different galaxies...

You hear a lot about the desensitization of society... You look at music and art from the 50's, 60's and 70's... stuff that was controversial and, to an extent "obscene."
And you realize how tame it all was...

Remember when Eminem was the hot new envelope pusher? Spin that first cd (the one with the pill on it)... it's like freakin' sesame street.

The same phenomenon occurs in non-artistic performances... In order to remain relevant, mouthpieces have to elevate their rhetoric so that their monologues continue to cause a little sting... a little "oh no he didn't"... a little controversy.

The problem is, the whole of the audience doesn't evolve at the same rate as the media. There are still people out there who think that Classic Rock is devil music...

Combine the increasingly confrontational, eschatological, hyper-urgent tone of the rhetoric with a growing cadre of people who are, for lack of a better phrase, getting left behind by the world... and some of them are inevitably going to raise the level of their physical response to match that of the rhetoric.

Let's use poplawski as an example...

"Obama will take your guns. The 2nd amendment is history. There will be a brownshirt army that will institute a forced socialist takeover of the United States. America as we know it is finished. This is the most anti-gun administration in history. Every gun law is unconstitutional. Obama is going to enslave the population. From my cold dead hands."

You don't see how maybe kinda sorta that could be construed by someone just enough off kilter that perhaps committing an act considered evil by 99.9% of society could be interpreted as the right thing to do?

Beyond the whole "well, what the hell do you EXPECT people to do when you say that shit" issue... there is the added culpability in the fact that this is MEDIA we are talking about... one of the most heavily researched and cross-segmented industries ever to exist. Anyone on TV or radio knows EXACTLY who their audience is...
The General Sales Manager at WTAE said this about me, a co-worker, and my CEO at a meeting with a retailer early this year:

"These guys can tell you what you ate for breakfast this morning and what color underwear you have on."

To know SO MUCH about your audience... but to ignore the dangerous consequences of your words is borderline criminal.

Jim Quinn (sorry Brant) has said repeatedly on his program:

"Businesses know that when they advertise on this program that they are reaching a MOTIVATED GROUP of people who will TAKE ACTION. They will go to your store and tell you why they are there. Because they heard your ad on this show."

Well jeezy chreezy! Your audience is motivated? Your audience will consistently take action? To do what? Go to Dean Diamond Importers? Or to maybe react to the fact that you are preaching doom and despair every day... that God hates america because we allow abortion... that the administration will forcefully take all the guns and turn the US into a third world dictatorship...

Oh, no... our audience will be motivated to buy a sammich from your store... but they would NEVER take any of what we say seriously... Please.

June 3, 2009 at 2:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a pro-life person and think that Mr. Tiller finally reaped just what he had sown I won't be crying any big tears over him.
However, his assassination was a crime and the peron guilty should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. You can't just murder a person because you don't like what his views are or because of what he does. God will handle evil doers in his own way and in his own time.
If everybody that masturbated was murdered there would not be anybody left on the face of Earth, except for a few liars!
Ron Wilson

June 3, 2009 at 2:38 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 3, 2009 at 3:07 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 3, 2009 at 3:08 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

For the person interested in the Moore case, she was just found guilty of all charges.

June 3, 2009 at 3:08 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 3, 2009 at 3:10 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

First, you can't get the computer to post something once. Then it posts it three times. Grrrrr.

June 3, 2009 at 3:13 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

"Comment deleted

This post has been removed by the author."

Having a few of those in the comments makes it look like someone said a naughty thing :-)

Kinda like that unnecessary censorship thing that Jimmy Kimmel used to do on his show... bleep out perfectly fine words to make it look like someone was saying something bad :-)

June 3, 2009 at 3:16 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

The piece he did on Mister Rogers was one of the funniest things I've ever seen.

June 3, 2009 at 3:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brant, why were all the examples from the right? Why not the wacky enviromentalists that even Obama put on the Domestic terrorism list?
Second, the NRA or the pro-life movement is not at fault for their words. The leaders of the pro life movement issued condemnation of the murder immediately, which is grossly dissimilar to the actions of the Muslim mullahs after terrorist acts.
Typically left wing inspired rant without balance. Your arguments would be much stronger if both sides were taken on, it seemed no different that the crap that Limbaugh and his gang do from the right.

June 3, 2009 at 3:58 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

Don't worry, there's no anti-right conspiracy at work here. I was just focusing on three recent items that have been major news stories. The title of the blog is "View on the News." I try to be somewhat topical. I have the exact same feelings about the violent fringe environmentalists who think it's OK to kill a person to protect a marmoset. While the anti-abortion group leaders might apologize after the fact, I'm sure that's little comfort to Tiller's grieving family members. And not all of the anti-abortion protesters were so sorry about his murder. Regina Dinwiddie, who had picketed along with Tiller's alleged killer, said she was "glad" the doctor was dead and added, "I wouldn't cry for him no more than I would if somebody dropped a rat and killed it." Dave Leach, who publishes Prayer and Action News, said that while Tiller's alleged killer was not his personal hero, "He will be the hero to thousands of babies who will not be slain because Scott (Roeder) sacrificed everything for them." These are the kinds of looneybins I'm talking about. Abortion will be legally performed in this country long after every person on the globe right now is long dead. Most people who favor a woman's right to choose also are not opposed to some restrictions on abortion. The people who think any abortion is murder and will settle for nothing less than a complete ban would do better to talk with moderate people on the other side and work together to limit abortions. The same can be said about the NRA. Just be reasonable.

June 3, 2009 at 4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

[Don't worry, there's no anti-right conspiracy at work here.]

Nah, tell me it isn't so.

June 3, 2009 at 5:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If only we could remove posts we make with our mouths in real life ...

June 3, 2009 at 9:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


June 3, 2009 at 11:02 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

The point is, I have never killed anyone with my car. If I do, I should receive the appropriate punishment. A simple accident caused by a distraction is one thing. But when you're driving 70 mph, in the dark, on a curvy road, and you think that's an appropriate time to answer a cell phone call, you are being criminally negligent and should be punished if you take another person's life. And the argument that sending the Moore girl to jail won't bring the other girl back is the height of stupidity. Should we release Jeffrey Martin from death row on grounds that executing him won't bring back Gabrielle Bechen? Maybe he could go to schools and talk about the the dangers of being a murderous child predator.

June 4, 2009 at 8:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Try losing a child to a drunk or wreckless driver, then see how forgiving you feel. You accuse Brant and others of casting stones, yet you fail to see that you're casting stones against the deceased girl's mother by telling her how she should react.

Yes, we all do stupid things. But the law is the law, and a jury of Britnee's peers found her guilty of breaking the law. In this world, there should be such a thing as consequences for actions, even stupid ones. I'm sure Britnee feels remorse. That's as it should be. Maybe this tragic event will cause more of us to drive carefully and eschew cellphones while driving.

June 4, 2009 at 9:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The anti abortion groups are just as responsible for the killing of that doctor as the man who pulled the trigger. They provided the motivation, the emotional spark with their protests and the anger by their constant portrayal of these doctors as murderers.

This is like saying the Nazi commanders were not responsible for the atrocities of WWII because they never shot anyone or pushed someone into a gas shower.

To distance themselves from this killer is ludicrous. To say they are not in favor of killing abortion doctors makes them liars. In some cases, they have posted home addresses of these people. Why? Because this is what they want.

They might not have pulled the trigger but they set the table. And secretly, most are happy this doctor is no longer among the living.

If you are going to stand up for a cause, then have the brass to at least take responsibility for it. This killer simply did what most of them wish they had the nerve to do.

June 4, 2009 at 9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brant asked: "Why do we not hear the responsible abortion foes loudly denouncing the psychos at the fringes of their movement?"

We do hear it, over and over and over again. We're just not listening, probably because we don't want to. Pull up the website of any major pro-life organization in the country, and you'll find it dominated by repudiations of Tiller's murder. The simple fact is that they don't have much of a media outlet. What's the National Right to Life Committee supposed to do? Buy ad space on a blimp? Hold Anderson Cooper at gunpoint and force him to read a statement? (Come to think of it, that would seem to undermine the message...)

There's a kind of guilt by association at work in at least two of the three examples offered here. Yes, murder is wrong. Terrorism is wrong. But isn't there something deeply twisted in the expectation that every Muslim in the U.S., simply by virtue of being a Muslim, engage in daily ritual denunciations of Osama bin Laden?

I suspect that the rationale for such demands (which come equally from the right and the left) isn't nearly as high-minded as it's often portrayed. Deep down, those who continually demand that Muslims prostrate themselves in public on a daily basis object not so much to the actions of the fringe, as to the existence of Muslims. Likewise, the "all pro-lifers pulled the trigger" crowd aren't really hoping that abortion opponents will moderate their rhetoric. They're hoping they'll go away.

-Andy Scott

June 4, 2009 at 4:18 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

Andy, I do think we need a reasonable dialogue on the abortion issue, and I think the anti-abortion forces deserve to have their voices heard and their concerns considered. Some on the fringes of the anti-abortion and pro-choice crowds operate from an all-or-nothing stance, and it's totally unrealistic. There will always be abortions, and there will always be some restrictions on abortions, at least in our lifetimes. What we, as a country, should do is work toward reducing the number of abortions. I don't think anybody, or at least anybody sane, is actually in favor of increasing the number of abortions. But then we get into other issues. Some consider IUDs to be the equivalent of abortion. The same with the morning-after pill. Heck, some people even think condoms are evil. It's a complicated issue that won't be resolved by people carrying "Abortion is murder" or "My body, my decision" posters. I also agree with you about the blanket hatred some people have for Muslims, but I don't think the voices of Muslim religious leaders have been loud enough in condemning the nuts in their religion. It could be that they're afraid of being murdered by the zealots, and it's somewhat hard to blame them for that. Good to hear from you again.

June 4, 2009 at 4:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


How much "middle ground" there is on the subject of abortion really depends on what you think abortion is. If it's a morally problematic, socially undesirable activity (which seems to be your position), there may be a lot of room to compromise. Less so if you see it as the bedrock of women's freedom. And if it's murder, well...

At a minimum, pro-lifers (I include myself) regard abortion as the taking of an innocent human life. Though the word "murder" is often tossed around, it's neither helpful (for reasons stated above) nor is it strictly accurate, even from the pro-life perspective. (Not every killing of an innocent is a murder. The law, for example, distinguishes between vehicular homicide, negligent homicide, accidental manslaughter, an so on. But every killing is a grave moral failing, and all (with the exception of abortion) fall under some kind of legal censure.)

That does tend to limit the room for compromise. But I do think there's still room. As you mentioned, most people support aid for single mothers, certain kinds of contraception, education, etc. Unfortunately, the "average" abortion isn't going to be touched by those things. Most abortions in America today are performed on women in their 20s and early 30s, a large number of whom are married or in a stable relationship. In other words, it's birth control. Would people be open to limiting those abortions? Actually, I think they would.

Polls suggest that a vast majority of Americans believe that abortion should be legal only in cases of rape, incest, and a physical threat to the life of the mother. Do I agree with all of those exceptions? No. But would I trade them for an end to the current abortion-as-birth-control regime? Heck yeah. So would a lot of people.

One of the glories of western democracy is that we have a terrific venue for that kind of conversation and compromise: the legislature. Unfortunately, thirty-six years ago the Supreme Court issued a legally incoherent decision that shut debate off completely, handing the whole pie, so to speak, to the group on one extreme of the spectrum. Until that changes, I don't see much hope.

-Andy Scott

June 4, 2009 at 6:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

[Andy, I do think we need a reasonable dialogue on the abortion issue, and I think the anti-abortion forces deserve to have their voices heard and their concerns considered.]

Let's see where have we heard this recently? Oh yes, it was at Notre Dame, the commencement address, I do believe.

The message: Let's talk about talking about the issue.

Hogwash! The talking has been happening for years, decades, centuries, millenniums. What else could there be to discuss? The President's address at Notre Dame was nothing but an attempt at placating the masses who were there, and those protesting. It said nothing, just as the quote above. Yea sure, lets talk about talking about abortion. No thanks to more talking. There is nothing new to bring to the table, or wait for more research, or wait for XXXXXXX.

June 4, 2009 at 7:17 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

You're making my point. If we're not willing to discuss the issue and come up with a strategy to at least minimize the number of abortions performed, then what is the answer? Just go around murdering doctors? Even if Roe v. Wade is overturned, the issue is going to be left to the states, and a significant number of states are going to continue allowing abortions. There's still a need to address the issue.

June 5, 2009 at 6:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, your point wasn't made. Your tactic is typical when backed into a corner - take the other side and pretend your side is supported with another viewpoint.

I see you didn't answer the questions posed in the post.

Just more blah, blah, blah, let's talk about talking about the topic. Maybe you are presidential material, or at least political material.

June 6, 2009 at 6:20 AM  

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