Media Militias: Is the Media Stoking Far-Right Anger?
Tea Partiers, Three Percenters, Truthers, Minutemen, Oath Keepers, and now Hutaree: the list of extreme right groups seems to get longer every day, and the media could be helping to build their ranks.
As Dan Kennedy wrote in the Guardian last week, far-right groups are enjoying a surprising level of acceptability in the Washington political establishment: "rightwing hate, aided and abetted by leading Republicans, has gone mainstream." Kennedy argues that while figures on the left must stay far, far away from controversial politics or associates (see Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, Van Jones), the right consistently brings radical elements into the fold and stands up for them in the public arena. Republicans allow the rhetoric of hate that drives these groups to filter into the mainstream political discourse in the hope that the adherents of these groups will help them come election time. Republicans are serving as voices for all kinds of conspiracy theories and lies--such as questions about Obama's citizenship or whether a government plot was behind 9/11--and in the process they're giving legitimacy to this kind of misinformation. As Kennedy says, "It's a sick and cynical game, and we can only hope it doesn't end in tragedy."
Of course, it already has: this past year's rise in rightwing extremism has already resulted in loss of life, from last summer's attack on the Holocaust Memorial Museum to the murder of Dr. George Tiller to the man who flew his plane into a Texas IRS facility. And even in this last instance--a clear-cut politically-motivated killing--at least one Republican felt the need to make excuses. Representative Steve King of Iowa called the death of one person and the wounding of fifteen others at the IRS facility "sad," but he also defended the attack by saying that he can "understand the deep frustration with the IRS" and that to see it abolished would mean "a happy day for America."
It's not just the politicians, however, who are working hard to spread radical-right thought. Consider the case of the Hutaree, the Midwestern militia group that were allegedly planning to kill police officers this month to set off a larger war against the government. Eric Boehlert of Media Matters has an interesting analysis of the ways in which such militia groups have received support and ideological ammo from the media in the form of conservative outlets and pundits such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. According to Boehlert, after the arrest of Hutaree members, voices in conservative media "immediately telegraphed their support from the persecuted militiamen and clearly suggested they were being used as pawns in an Obama government abuse of power." Glenn Beck's radio guest host Chris Baker went so far as to say that the government's investigation of the group was "nothing more than attack on faith and free speech." Such politicized misrepresentations of the facts only fuel the flames of what is already a deadly conflagration. And as the Southern Poverty Law Center's Mark Potok makes clear, while the media outlets behind this rhetoric may not have a legal responsibility for these deaths and the increasing radicalization of mainstream politics they help drive, they certainly do have a "moral responsibility."
Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.
- Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
- At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
- Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?
- Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
- The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
- If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
They didn't know it, but the rituals of Iron Age Scandinavians turned their iron into steel.
- Iron Age Scandinavians only had access to poor quality iron, which put them at a tactical disadvantage against their neighbors.
- To strengthen their swords, smiths used the bones of their dead ancestors and animals, hoping to transfer the spirit into their blades.
- They couldn't have known that in so doing, they actually were forging a rudimentary form of steel.
Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.
- The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
- Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
- As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.