Left and right, the consensus on Brian Ross seems to be that the ABC anchor was far, far out of line when he confused the alleged Aurora, Colorado shooter with a Tea Party activist with a similar name. The Tea Party was certainly quick to play the victim card, with the right-leaning media running interference, and the remainder sheepishly apologizing. We should all be familiar with this dance by now:
- Violence occurs;
- Someone manages to link it, with a degree of plausibility that varies by incident, to a right-leaning organization;
- The right leaning organization cries foul, whimpering about “politicization,” and;
- Center and left promptly apologize.
I’ve had enough of this dialogue — especially its tendency to drag down legitimate discussions, like gun control, as equally “politicized.” It’s time to acknowledge why we ever get to step 2: because the Tea Party brings it on themselves.
The Tea Party is a violent group. Maybe not in deeds, but certainly in words. Remember, this is a group whose members quote Thomas Jefferson’s famous line about the “blood of patriots” as if it somehow justifies armed revolt against a representative government (it doesn’t), tote assault rifle at presidential speeches, and whose leading supporter in Congress treats all Islamic public officers like terrorists, with the predictable result that one such official, the wife of an ex-congressman, now receives death threats and requires ’round-the-clock security. These aren’t isolated incidents: they define the movement. For context, consider the Arizona Tea Party leader who threatened to give Senator McCain his “final dirt nap,” just because the Senator choose to speak against this particular witch-hunt.
Further, this is a group that treats every mundane incident of government regulation as something slightly worse than the Boston Massacre:
This is the greatest destruction of individual liberty since Dred Scott. This is the end of America as we know it. No exaggeration.—
(@benshapiro) June 28, 2012
And whose rhetoric, in the run-up to the passage of Obamacare, led to physical threats and vandalism against elected officials. The Tea Party has specifically rejected any notion of proportionality in politics: nothing is up for debate. Either you’re with them, or you’re a communist fascist (??) bent on destroying the nation.
Historically, words motivate deeds. The 1990s saw an upswing in extremist right-wing rhetoric, culminating in actual acts of violence and foiled plots (pdf), and the past decade four years have seen their share of actual, politically-motivated violence. Though we’ve been spared the worst, it’s reasonable to as for how long that peace will remain.
The Tea Party wasn’t to blame for this particular killing, and Brian Ross was irresponsible to suggest that they were. But for more than two years now, Tea Party “patriots” have walked a dangerous path, striving to create a climate where the threat of violence is a legitimate expression of political belief. Ross, and the rest of us, can be forgiven for taking them at their word; especially because that road all too often ends in blood.