Archive for Arizona massacre

With Malice Toward None

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , on January 14, 2011 by playthell

Barack Binds Up The Nation’s Wounds

I have long believed in the power of oratory to calm the raging beast of malice, and lift the spirits of the down trodden.  President Obama demonstrated that power last night when he answered the nations call to eulogize the slain victims of the Arizona assassin.  The memorial also reminded me however: If the orator is an evil fiend that same power can drive men to commit atrocities. While Cicero argued that all true eloquence is to be found in the written word, Adolph Hitler concluded: “It is the spoken word not the written word that drives men to action!”  Der Fuehrer’s mastery of the art of oratory – which he studied and practiced in the mirror for many hours – plunged the entire world into war and cost the lives of 50 million human beings around the globe!

In the Arizona tragedy we are witness to the power of the spoken word to produce both good and evil.  In spite of the attempts to deny it, I continue to believe the toxic climate of hate created by verbal arsonists who spew hysterical rhetoric 24/7 over the airwaves is at the bottom of this atrocity. I think the argument that these rants played no part in the Arizona massacre is nothing more than a case of collective denial and self delusion. President Obama understands the power of words – written and spoken – that’s why he said  Americans must learn how to use words to heal rather than hurt each other.

The President’s speech on this occasion offered a poignant demonstration of what he was talking about; putting his manners where his mouth is.  Every thinking person who understands the potential for disaster in this volatile situation was waiting with bated breath to hear what the President had to say.  There is a swelling chorus among the American public calling for the President to show “more passion” in his public pronouncements.  It remains to be seen if the President’s performance will satisfy their lust for verbal combat.   Alas, in spite of his great productivity in getting landmark legislation passed that will enrich the lives on millions of Americans, a lot of Democrats and assorted leftist just want to see him get mad and go off on the Republican provocateurs.

The feeling on this issue grew so virulent that I even wrote a commentary titled: “Does Barack Need to Smack Somebody?”  My answer was that Barack was playing the “rope-a-dope” with the pugnacious Republicans.  Like Muhammad Ali, he was picking the exact moments to take the offensive, and his record of accomplishments demonstrates that his strategy is working.  He was true to his nomme de plume “No Drama Obama,” quiet but deadly.

The President’s choice of unifying themes and his dynamic delivery at the Tucson memorial won the audience, momentarily silenced his persistent critics, and initiated a national discussion on the question of maintaining civility in our political discourse.  Although the soaring increase in gun sales and long firing ammo clips suggest that a portion of the electorate didn’t get the message.

The big question in everyone’s mind was whether the President would use the occasion to denounce incendiary propaganda in right-wing media and call for tightened gun laws. He decided that this was not the proper moment for that kind of discussion.  Instead the President chose to speak to the pain the families were feeling, and brought a measure of satisfaction… even joy, as he recounted the lives of the fallen; which included many bright moments.  The high point of his speech was when he recounted the life of the marvelous little girl who had come out to witness our democratic political system in action and wound up dead.  Christina Taylor Green – whose body was interred today – was a superbly gifted, spunky, self assured nine year old who was happy with her life, supremely optimistic about the future, and had unlimited potential to contribute to our society.

The President’s decision to use the tragedy of her wanton murder as a focal point for his discussion of the need for Americans to turn to each other rather than on each other, was very effective.  It was a fathers plea for America’s grown ups to live up to the expectations our children have for us – to build a better world where they can fulfill their dreams.  Even Pat Buchanan – one of the right wing verbal arsonist in the GOP who has contributed mightily to the hateful political atmosphere that has engulfed the country – had to concede that it was a masterful speech.

While I seldom agree with Patty on anything, he has served as a presidential speech writer and knows an effective speech when he hears one.  He thought the effectiveness of the speech lay in the fact that the President  personalized the pain of the victims and their families and spoke from the heart.  That this was the right speech for this occasion is verified both by the gratitude of the families, who were buoyed by the president’s appearance and the healing words with which he anointed them and soothed their pain, and his precipitous rise in the opinion polls this morning.

Although this message of national unity echoed the spirit of Abraham Lincoln in his message to Americans after the disaster of Civil War – “with malice toward none and charity for all” – he must remember that the Confederates remained unrepentant, and that Lincoln’s failure to fully understand that cost him his life!  It is equally clear that the Republicans have only called a time out in order to try and shift the spotlight from their nefarious role in this tragedy.  Even now, they are trying to spin the story so that the left will be equally implicated, or just paint the guy as a nut whose actions are inexplicable.  And their self-serving praise for the President’s peace should fool no one.  They are running about looking for an alibi like blind dogs in a meat packing plant!

Hence the President must return to this conversation and speak frankly about the role of right-wing media in manufacturing the kind of fear and rage that is a common theme in every one of the right-wing assassins story.  The state of the union will be a great place to do it.  And this time he should forget the poetry and stick to the facts…like Sergeant Friday would say: “Just the facts please!”




Playthell Benjamin

Harlem New York

December 14, 2011

A Nation In Denial?

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , on January 12, 2011 by playthell

Confusing The Issues: The BS Began on Morning Joe


Even in the aftermath of the horrendous mass murders in Arizona virtually all the talking heads in mainstream mass media, the cultural apparatus that shapes public opinion in modern societies, are refusing to call a spade a spade and tell it like it really is.  It is as if everybody got together in some proverbial smoke filled room and agreed that whatever happened, nobody would tell the unvarnished truth about the causes of the massacre.  Early the morning after, as most Americans were trying to digest the news listening in a mild state of shock and plenty confused, all the media commentators talked as if they were oblivious to the history of the last two years.  And they vied with each other to declare the insignificance of what they do.

To listen to them tell it there is no possibility that this gun wielding mad man could have been driven to murder by the constant anti-government harangues emanating from the right-wing propaganda machine, with their gun fetishes and fear mongering. As evidence for their conclusion they are all desperately clinging to the argument that the gunman is just crazy!  They passionately argue out that the rancid rhetoric of the Republican / Tea Party zealots has had no affect on the executioner.  It is now Wednesday and the chorus of denial continues to swell.

Yet there is no way that they can know whether the constant vilification of the government by right-wing verbal arsonists had no affect on the decision of this guy to attempt to assassinate the congresswoman. He had not been systematically examined by psychiatrist, and if he has none of them has been privy to his record.  Therefore any conclusion about his motives must be regarded as speculation.  But reasonable speculations must be based on observable facts.  First of all the fact that he is mentally deranged does not rule out the possibility that his decision wasn’t made in a vacuum, unaffected by the hateful anti-government rhetoric emanating from the kind of rightwing media that pollutes the air with hateful rhetoric in Arizona, or the celebration of guns and placing one’s opponent’s in the cross hairs of a gun in political ads!

As I have written over and over again ad-nauseum, it is precisely the mentally unstable lost souls who are often driven to commit atrocities as a result of these right wing harangues.  This was true of Popolowski, Von Bruhn –who shot up the Holocaust Museum and killed the African American Guard.  The guy who ran his plane into an IRS building must have also been unbalanced.  Yet when we look at what these people had to say about why they did the things they did, the themes that emerge from their explanation are the same themes we hear in the diatribes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reiley and Glenn Beck!  These themes are also echoed in the rhetoric of the Republican Party – especially the Tea Party crowd who is mesmerized by Sarah Palin!  Yet we are expected to believe there is no connection? Why, because to conclude otherwise suggest that a leader of the Republican Party has blood on her hands,  that her reckless rhetoric has incited mass murder?

During the 1960’s Congress passed a federal law against inciting to riot.  Hubert “Rap” Brown, a leader of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee was actually convicted under this law after he made a speech in Cambridge Maryland and a riot later broke out!  The 24/7 anti-government diatribes emanating from the verbal arsonist on the right,  broadcast by FOX television and ABC radio is far more persuasive than a stump speech by Rap Brown.

For media people like Joe Scarboro to argue otherwise is the grossest hypocrisy.  This is because his job depends on the belief that he can influence the choices of his audience. The whole business model of commercial media is based on this assumption.  Commercial media does not exist for the edification or recreation of the audience.  That is only a means to their real ends: the selling of advertising time!   You cannot have it both ways – for instance you can’t have physics and meta-physics too – either these people can influence the choices of their listeners or not.

It is simply not believable that these media personalities can influence the choices of their listeners through intermittent 30 second commercials – for which companies spend millions to advertise their products – but the hours they spend indoctrinating their audience with impassioned diatribes about how the government – a body elected by the American people through a prescribed constitutional process mind you – is our enemy! These people routinely libel the President’s attempt to provide health care for those Americans who do not have access to medical care as the equivalent of Nazi death camps – which, along with making ignorance fashionable, has been the major contribution of Silly Sarah Palin to American political discourse.

Yet this disgraceful ditz has the unmitigated gall to appear on television as I write and accuse those of us who question her role in the Arizona massacre of “blood libel.”   Well Sarah, blood libel is your thing!  We are just pointing out the consequences of your amoral, racist, reckless approach to politics.  It is as much because of her rhetoric and fetish for guns and tough talk that whites have been going out buying guns in record numbers since the election of Barack Obama as anything I can think of.  But because she is both stupid and amoral, and a megalomaniac to boot, she actually has the chutzpa to try and cast herself as the victim.  In so doing she is counting on her followers to remain the mindless sycophants they have always been….even in the face of bloody murder!  As the Rastas would say: “Boobus Americanus to Ras!”

Silly Sarah

A Dangerous Megalomaniac and Unrepentant Moron!

Three days into the tragedy the outlines of the discourse as to its causes and ultimate meaning are emerging.  The conservatives have selected their talking points and they are repeating them in lockstep like ideological lemmings.  The party line is that there is absolutely no connection between this slaughter of innocents in Arizona and the rancorous rhetoric that has dominated Republican political speech since the election of President Obama.  They are sticking to their story with the same kind of iron discipline the Grand Obstructionist Party has displayed in their attempts to block every legislative proposal offered by President Obama. And the Liberals appear thus far to agree.

The most spurious argument in a field overrun with dubious polemics is the contention that because the Assassin was reading both Carl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” and Adolph Hitler’s “Mein Kempt” he could not possibly been motivated by the rancid rhetoric from the right that has so thoroughly polluted our political discourse and enraged many citizens to the point that some are using images of the President for target practice, and the Secret Service is receiving the highest volume of death threats in history.  When arrayed against the facts however, this argument is quickly exposed for the dangerous sophistry that it is.

The reference to the assassin’s reading material is intended to expose the fact that he does not know the difference between Communism and Fascism; hence he does not know that the two philosophies are diametrically opposed.   But that is the case with most of the people in the Tea Party movement, who routinely portrayed President Obama as a communist and as Adolph Hitler!  Thus he is a typical Tea Party type, a clueless white boy lost in the blues!

If you combine this fundamental confusion about political philosophy with his irrational hatred of the Federal Government you have a classic Tea Party candidate.  I defy any of the talking heads who have so confidently announced that the Arizona assassin was totally unaffected by the hate filled diatribes of the right, to present their evidence that me – and the much maligned Arizona Sheriff who agrees with my assessment – to present the evidence in support of their conclusions.  Thus far I am totally unimpressed with their transparent apologia – which so far as I can see, is prompted by opportunism, delusion, denial and fear!

This explains why, in spite of the lack of any convincing evidence, the emerging consensus is that these are the actions of a single lunatic,  there fore nothing useful can be learned about the danger to the stability of our society – i.e. our national security – from the manufacturing of anti-government hatred by the verbal arsonists in the Republican party and their shills in the media.  This attitude is reflected in the polls measuring public opinion on the question of whether the inflammatory, violence laden, anti-government rhetoric played any role in the Arizona slaughter.

Fifty Seven percent of Americans said they thought it played no role at all.  As strange as it seems to me, it’s not surprising in light of the recent election results, when millions of Americans voted against their Interests – read “On Our Dysfunctional  Democracy” and “Triumph Of The Untutored Mob!”  Predictably,  the Palin apologist on the right are emboldened in their approach, and liberals in the media are cowed into going along with this absurd conclusion because their decisions are market driven.

The suits who run these networks – for profit lest we forget – do not want to offend their market just to tell an unpopular truth – even if real lives are at stake. After all they are businessmen not moral leaders.  Thus it is profit not virtue that they are concerned with.  Their behavior brings to mind an observation made by that old German gadfly Karl Marx “The capitalist will sell the hangman the rope to hang them with if they think they can make a profit!”



Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

January 12, 2011