Are Media Provocateurs Inciting Violence?


 Glenn Beck: Just your Friendly Demogogue!


 Some Reflections On the Ahmad Sharif Affair

 The attack on Ahmad Sharif, a Muslim American cab driver working Manhattan, by Michael Enright, a big blond boyish looking white college student wielding a knife, should come as no surprise.  Given all the anti-Muslim hysteria generated by right-wing media provocateurs, and the boisterous protests against the building of an Islamic cultural center in downtown Manhattan, this was predictable.  I’m waiting with baited breath for one of these enraged fanatics to take a shot at President Obama any day now. 

The  constant haranguing of frustrated Americans – who are mostly white, male, and imbued with a deep sense of entitlement by virtue of their race and gender – with hysterical propaganda about how everybody is out to get them, will inevitably drive some to violence.  Republican politicians who echo the extreme views of these media fear mongers must share equal responsibility for the crimes they inspire.

Nearly a year ago I  posted a commentary titled: “Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck Incite Mayhem and Murder.”  What occasioned that piece was my alarm over the rising number of dramatically violent incidents that were perpetrated by men who gave reasons for their actions that echoed the themes of daily rants by Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and their fellow verbal arsonists on the right. The three cases I  cited back then were Richard Popolowski, Steven Von Bruhn and Scott P. Roeder.

Popolowski ambushed and murdered three Pittsburg Policemen who were answering a routine domestic disturbance call placed by his mother.  Von Bruhn murdered an Afro-American guard at the National Holocaust Museum, and Scott Roeder murdered gynecologist Benjamin Tiller – whom that pompous windbag Bill O’Reily labeled “Tiller the Baby Killer” because he performed abortions.  And old crazy Billy Boy even gave out the Dr.’s address on the air.  Although he can never be sure of the role he played in causing the Doctor’s death O’Reiley, arrogant megalomaniac that he is, remains unrepentant.

What all of these crazed killers have in common is that they had been obsessing over issues that are the daily fare of the radio arsonists.  Popolowski thought Obama was going to take his guns away so the government could oppress white men; Von Bruhn – a white supremacist and eugenicist – is convinced that non-white aliens are taking over the USA, and whites must take their country back by force of arms. Scott Roeder thinks abortion is mass murder and felt compelled to stop it by murdering medical doctors who treat women seeking legal abortions.  The violent attack on Mr. Sharif by Michael Enright follows this same pattern of obsessive irrational behavior.   Their obsessions are the same issues the right-wing media provocateurs harp on everyday.  Hence I think the Attack on Ahmad Sharif is a harbinger of things to come…so long as Limbaugh, Beck and company remain in business.

Sharif says they were carrying on a civil conversation when Enright suddenly shouted the Muslim salutation “Ai Salaam Alinkum” and began stabbing him. Unless the greedy amoral corporations who profit from the ignorance and bigotry spewed by murderous windbags over the airwaves put the national interest above corporate profits, or those opposed to their destructive business find a way to effectively strike at their bottom line, this murderous monologue will go on. 

 Ahmad Sharif


 After His encounter with A Christian Avenger

 Until they are restrained either by their bosses or the forces of the marketplace, the verbal arsonists in right-wing media will continue to incite murder and mayhem.  Alia Lateef, speaking on behalf of the Taxi Drivers in New York, has no doubt that the attack was incited by the constant anti-Muslim diatribes in the media.  That’s why I intend to join my fellow citizens who are standing up for the rights on Muslims to build their Mosque wherever they wish.  In my view the issue is clear: To make any attempt to deny them this right is religious bigotry!   Any attempt to curtail or mediate that right – which is absolute under the US constitution – is unacceptable and illegal if it involves any act of government.




Let me be clear where I am coming from on this question.  I am not, as many mistakenly believe, pro-Islam.  Rather I agree with Franz Fanon, the black Psychiatrist from Martinique in the French Antilles who became the leading theoretician of the Algerian Revolution against France.  When the leadership of the FLN was debating about what a liberated Algeria would be like, the Islamicist wanted to establish Sharia law, but Fanon protested, arguing that establishing an Islamic theocracy would be “a return to primitive medievalism!” However I think that Christian fundamentalist control of the US government would also be a return to primitive Medievalism too.  

 I believe the molders of the US constitution got things just right!  The government shall have no role in promoting specific religious beliefs, and freedom of religion also means freedom from religion.  I am now, and have been for over half a century, an avowed atheist.  I refused to indoctrinate my children with any kind of religious dogma, and specifically warned by daughters against acceptance of religious philosophies that would deny them full equality on all planes of existence with their male counterparts.   So when it comes to religious fundamentalist of any stripe, I say a pox on all your houses!  But it is not my business what others choose to believe, and it’s certainly not the government’s business.

 Thus there is no alternative for those who love our Constitutional liberties but to support the Muslim’s right to build their mosque wherever they choose – even if it is directly on the site of “Ground Zero,” let alone five blocks away!  I take this position in spite of the fact that my first wife was a casualty of the 9/11 attack, and several friends also died there. This is because I don’t equate all Muslims with Al Qaeda any more than I would equate all Christians with Timothy McVey and the “Christian Identity movement. ”   Furthermore, if most Americans were not so abysmally ignorant about the rest of the world, they would know that fourth fifths of the world’s Muslims are not Arabs, and don’t live in the Middle East!  I am therefore compelled to oppose those who oppose the building of the Mosque downtown because I cannot stand idly by while ignorant and bigoted rabble turn my beloved city into a racial and ethnic battleground.  You see, I am a New Yorker who loves this city as much as anyone alive.   

I have often said publicly: “I would rather be a fire hydrant in New York City, and be pissed on by dogs all day long, than a king in a castle anywhere else!”  I witnessed the plane crash into the second tower, and experienced the terror of that moment; if I’m not mad about the Mosque’s location then I am unmoved by the vitriolic rhetoric of those out in the boonies.  I am suspicious of those talking heads in the media who have neither the best interests of this city, or the nation for that matter, at heart.  These bogus bloviators, who are stirring up all the trouble, only care about increasing their ratings so they can maintain their multi-million dollar salaries and princely lifestyles.   And they have told us so publicly!

Thus it is safe to conclude that the people who will journey to our nation’s capitol this weekend to attend Glenn Beck’s rally, will be disproportionably composed of emotional cripples and abysmal ignoramuses. It would behoove all of us to pay close attention to what happens there.  It is an obscene burlesque on the great March on Washington in 1963, which was a march against racism, war, poverty and avarice – all the things that Beck and his Tea Party cronies promote. 

This vulgar side show, hosted by an amoral clown who incites homicides for fun, featuring Sarah Palin as keynote speaker – a racist vulgar opportunist who has the values of a barbarian and the intellect of a Neanderthal –is both an insult to the memory of Doctor King and the great work he did.  And it is a dangerous diversion for the poor deluded white folks who sincerely believe that this scurrilous buffoon is offering wise counsel that will show them the way out of their misery.  Not so. 

Instead they will be provided and opportunity to engage in a collective venting of rage – not unlike the giant Nazi rallies at Nuremburg Germany in the 1930’s.  In those rallies the major issues were also rooted in economic dislocation and a growing feeling that the “true Germans” were having their country taken over by alien elements of their own population.   And as any historian of the period will verify, protestant fundamentalism and Catholic complicity played a major role in the rise of Fascism that led to the Holocaust.   There are many who throw the Nazi analogy around falsely, but I’m dropping some real science here. Check it out!!!   In any case I will have more to say on this subject in a forthcoming commentary.

Alas, Beck’s rally may prove cathartic for the moment, but no solutions to the problems of struggling white folks who despair that they may ever realize their American dreams will be provided by this shameless charlatan, verbose ignoramus and friendly fascist.  For when it is all said and done, they will still be in the same boat: the Darwinian struggle for bread that is the lot of the working class of all colors in an increasingly post industrial cybernetic American economy that no longer needs them. 

Who knows, if we use the past as a guide to understanding the present and predicting the future, this mass outpouring of white grievances – the great majority of which are imagined in the fevered mind of Beck and his ilk – could well push more clueless white saps into violent attacks on Muslims and people of color.  That’s what usually happens when white Americans descend into a state of racist rage popularly known as “white backlash.   There is a rush to convince us that the attack on Sharif was an aberration, the demented act of one deranged individual and we need not worry about a recurrence…We’ll see.

 The White Christian Avenger


 Just Another Poor Sap Pushed Over the Edge?




 Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

August 2010

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