There is a straight line between comments like University of Calgary Professor Tom Flanagan's assertion that Wikileaks editor Julian Assange should be assassinated and the attempted assassination of Arizona Democratic Party Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on Saturday.
In the United States, and sadly in Canada too, evocations of the value and utility of political violence have become a routine part of right-wing discourse.
Examples of this debased form of commentary on the right are myriad -- from bloviators like Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck to the political rhetoric of the American Teabaggers and their Republican beneficiaries to "manly" academic commentators like Flanagan to the on-line screeching of the Tory Rage Machine in the comments section of the Toronto Star.
Sharron Angle, Tea Party favourite and unsuccessful Nevada candidate for the U.S. Senate, talked about the potential need for "Second Amendment Remedies." The notorious Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution -- which judging from the Conservative Party's talk last year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper would like to import into Canada -- gives Americans the right to "keep and bear Arms."
When caught, of course, some right-wingers who have advocated violence will apologize, as Flanagan did, passing off his comment as merely "glib." The authorities have apparently accepted this explanation since we have heard of no charges resulting from the supposed investigations of Flanagan's remarks by the Calgary and Vancouver police.
If some nut acts out the cruel fantasies of the far-right political, academic and media leadership, of course, we can expect expressions of shock and horror of the sort we are hearing today from the Republican leadership in the United States.
But there can be no doubt that there is a connection between the North American right's increasing invocation of the language of violence and the actual use of violence.
There are many tragic stories of just this type, from the shooting of Giffords and the murder of six people with her, including a nine-year old girl, on Saturday, to the conspiracy nut who crashed his plane into an Internal Revenue Service Building in Washington, to the anti-government fruitcake who shot two Pentagon police officers, to the Tennessee gunman who murderously shot up a Unitarian church because he thought its congregants voted for liberal politicians, to the anti-abortion fanatic who gunned down a physician in a Kansas church, to the right-wing militia creeps in Arizona who murdered a man and his nine-year-old daughter because of their Hispanic origin. And on and on and on…
Some right-wing spokespeople run and hide, of course. The New York Times reported Sunday that inflammatory commentary was disappearing from right-wing web sites as quickly as the people who put it there could pull it down. For example, the website of Tea Party passionara Sarah Palin swiftly removed a graphic that that showed the electoral districts of Democratic politicians targeted in the crosshairs of a gun sight.
Among the politicians in Palin's missing crosshairs? Gabrielle Giffords.
Others deny everything. The Times also reported that "Tea Party activists" in Arizona had reviewed their membership lists and were relieved to find that the alleged shooter was not among their members. Stand by for a chorus from Canadian rightists about how no one has "proved" the Arizona shooter was one of theirs, although U.S. prosecutors are now describing the Arizona attack as an assassination plot, planned in advance.
One would think that in Canada we would want to seal our borders to this pernicious influence. Yet the opposite appears to be true under the Harper Conservatives. While we refuse entry to foreign advocates of peace, our doors are open to Ann Coulter, another offensive hate-mongering American proponent of the murder of her political opponents.
When some Canadians chose to protest against Coulter's outrageous views, as is their right, our domestic right-wing media echo chamber portrayed this as an assault on free speech, rather than an expression of it!
It was one of Flanagan’s fellow members of the so-called "Calgary School," the taxpayer-supported group of right-wing ideologues and propagandists at the University of Calgary, who booked the room for Coulter's appearance in that city.
Do not expect any of this to be changed by the tragedy in Arizona.
Indeed, as the relative economic position in the world of the United States declines, right-wing political extremism and violence in that country is likely to get worse. And as the economic hardship caused by neo-liberal policy nostrums becomes more apparent, the fury of their proponents' rhetoric can be expected to intensify.
Unfortunately, we should brace ourselves for the same thing in Canada, as our own right-wing derives all its political ideas, strategy and style from the United States. Don't imagine for a moment, should we manage to elect a more moderate federal government in this country, that the shrillness of the right's violent rhetoric will not increase exponentially.
We can rest assured that the increasingly radical Canadian political right will steadfastly refuse to connect the dots between its violent rhetoric and actual violence.
This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.
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