November 5, 2009

Left Wing Hate Speech

Alan Grayson high resCourtesy of Fox "News" and a plethora of right-wing talk radio personalities, the airwaves are filled with right-wing hate. The influence of these pervasive messages is undeniable. But what about left-wing hate speech? Few would deny that the left harbors its fair share of idiocy, but I have trouble finding much that could be considered left-wing hate speech. So many voices on the right complain about it regularly, but where is it?

We should examine some recent high-profile left-wing flubs, focusing on those that seem to elicit the most outrage from the right. Take Rep. Alan Grayson's (D-FL) use of the word "holocaust" when pointing out how many Americans die simply because they do not have health insurance. You've heard the outrage from the right, and you've seen how Rep. Grayson has been accused of trivializing the Holocaust. I agree with those on the right that this was a poor choice of words, just as I agree with those on the left that Christian extremists' recurrent use of the holocaust label when discussing abortion is a poor choice of words. But while I might disagree with Rep. Grayson's word choice, I don't see this as anywhere close to hate speech.

Unlike those issuing death threats against atheist bloggers or President Obama, Rep. Grayson was not calling for anyone to be killed. Unlike those hoping for military coups against Obama, Grayson was not calling for the Constitution to be abolished. Distasteful? Perhaps. Hate speech? Not even close.

What else? Surely the left is guilty of disparaging Republicans. Rep. Grayson did so recently on Maddow, and Olbermann makes a nightly practice of it on his show. They often sound angry, resort to name calling, and could fairly be accused of lacking in civility in the tradition of GOP hero, Rep. Joe Wilson. I get all that. But hate speech? Maybe Olbermann regularly calls for the death of those with whom he disagrees - maybe he even prays for it, but if so, why is it that I always seem to miss those episodes?

Maybe these aren't fair comparisons because the extreme right is currently out of power. Maybe I need to focus on the left-wing rage directed at Bush and Cheney. I remember hearing (and writing) all sorts of negative stuff about them. I continue to believe that the Bush regime committed war crimes and should be tried as war criminals. But this isn't hate speech anymore than Republican calls for the impeachment and criminal trial of President Clinton were hate speech.

When right-wing extremists call President Obama a fascist or a Communist, it simply indicates that they do not know what those terms mean. But when they call for his death or not-so-subtly suggest that he should be overthrown, we're witnessing something else entirely. And it is something that I don't recall seeing from the left.

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