Thursday, August 03, 2006

Bottom feeders

Michelle Malkin is a walking wonder of sorts -- capable of speaking out of both sides of her mouth simultaneously without imploding. The drooling hypocrisy, however, is quite the mess.

This week -- as part of her schtick decrying "unhinged" behavior from the left -- she decided to attack Jane Hamsher with a string of charming epithets, calling her, variously, a "nutball," a "Hollyweirdo", and most of all a "bottom-feeding blogger." So much for civilized discourse, eh?

Malkin makes much of Hamsher's pull-no-punches style, particularly her attacks on Kate O'Beirne, claiming: "She threatened O'Beirne on her blog: 'The bitch is dead meat'."

Threatened O'Beirne? Goodness, let's read the post ... oh, I see ... she threatened her with negative Amazon reviews! Oh my Lord in Heaven! What's next? Printing her home phone number?

Now, longtime readers of this blog know that cursing and profanity aren't really my style, though I do use them when the occasion warrants. And I have argued that obscene hate mail and vicious sexism have no place in the left's repertoire.

But there is a place for profanity. Even if it's not my style, I well understand that the outrageous behavior of the right inspires real and righteous outrage; people are being killed on behalf of their agenda, after all. After awhile, it's only natural to respond to constant abuse -- the threats, the charges of treason, the constant personal attacks, the outrageous abuse of power -- with a straight shot to the face: "Aw, fuck you, asshole."

I think bloggers like Atrios, Digby, Tbogg and Jane -- and scores of others -- do a good job of giving voice to that outrage, and it's needed. Reason and facts often are next to worthless when confronting these jerks, and though I do my best to provide them, I also applaud those who fight back -- especially when they do so with as much wit as you often find in left Blogtopia [yes, skippy invented that term].

That said, I'll admit I was disconcerted by the photoshopped image of Joe Lieberman in blackface that got Malkin's shorts in a bunch, originally accompanying Jane's post at Huffblog and since removed. It obviously was playing fast and loose with old racist stereotypes, which is always a dangerous business, if for no other reason that it can be easily misconstrued (just ask Steve Gilliard).

As with all such cases, it all boils down to intent. If this had been posted to derogatorily suggest that Lieberman was secretly a "black man" at heart (the kind of thing that is known to occur at certain far-right sites) then it would be a clear-cut case of race-baiting. If the intent, on the other hand, is to portray Lieberman as a pretend black sympathizer in the mold of a minstrel showman (as the artist responsible later made clear in the post's comments) then it's fairly harmless. Dumb, and not particularly effective, but harmless.

The upshot is that Malkin rushes to use the image to suggest that Hamsher is no friend of colored people. Can you say projection? I knew you could.

After all, this is a person who:

-- Writes for and openly promotes VDare, designated a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

-- Regurgitates and promotes in the mainstream racially charged conspiracy theories concocted and promoted for years by white supremacists.

-- Publishes fraudulent history as a way of justifying the mass incarceration of an entire ethnic group during wartime.

-- Has a long history of using bogus arguments and conspiracy theories to gin up hatred of Muslims.

In sum, the entire arc of Malkin's career has been predicated on one primary accomplishment: she can get away with publishing racially charged nonsense that, if written by a white person, would raise immediate questions of racism. Because Malkin is Asian American, she gets a pass. Talk about playing the race card. Malkin's only real talent, it seems, is providing bigots with prepackaged excuses for their bigotry.

A satirical photo made in questionable taste rather pales in comparison. The waters Malkin habitates are as foul and scum-laden as any on the planet, and she obviously not only swims rather readily in them, she positively feeds on them. That, folks, is the very definition of a bottom feeder.

UPDATE: TBogg has more, including an illustrative response from Malkin's defenders.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Nuke 'em all

Well, you can add yet another voice to the eliminationist chorus from the American right ...

Seems the staff of Rep. Richard Pombo has been overdosing on the kool-aid:
"Connecticut should have its statehood taken away from it. The foolishness of its pampered residents should be demonstrated to others by a government program to bulldoze the entire state, salt the land and construct a windfarm to supply NYC with electricity. And its residents should be relocated to Guantanamo Bay where they can take a number behind the 3 who hung themselves this weekend, since they seem so intent on suicide."

-- Daniel Kish, a senior adviser to Pombo, in an email

What inspired this outburst? No, it wasn't the looming likelihood that Connecticut voters are about to turn out Sean Hannity's favorite Democrat -- though Lord knows, that has plenty of Beltway types screaming about the blog apocalypse.

No, it was an editorial in a Connecticut newspaper opposing ANWR drilling.

I wonder what he wants to do with my state. I mean, if an editorialist becomes representative of an entire state -- and plenty of our editorialists have in fact weighed in strongly against ANWR drilling -- then what does that make an elected official? After all, our junior senator is the one primarily responsible for stopping the latest attempts at opening ANWR.

For some reason, I'm guessing nukes are involved.

[Via Atrios. For more on Pombo, see here.]

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Another 'random gallery of lone shooters'

I see that Michelle Malkin is continuing apace in her career focus -- namely, providing bigots with excuses for their bigotry -- by offering up, in the wake of Friday's gun rampage at the Jewish Federation in Seattle, a gallery of 'lone shooters' who all just happen to be Muslim.

It's all part, you see, of her campaign to prove that the notion of a lone Muslim gunman is just "a myth."

Well, folks in Seattle already know that Malkin really has no shame when it comes to exploiting human tragedy as a way to advance her political agenda.

And her old animus towards Seattle -- largely ascribable, I think, to the fact that her career ran into some rocky shoals here that were almost purely of her own making -- has come floating to the surface with the Haq incident. Funny how an entire article to which she links us can discuss "Seattle's culture of victimology and the shooting of Jews" without once mentioning either David Lewis Rice or Buford Furrow.

So, just as a handy reminder, here's another "random gallery of lone shooters":

This is Joseph Paul Franklin, a serial killer who not only murdered 20 people (a large number of them mixed-race couples) but also attempted the assassinations of both Larry Flynt and Vernon Jordan. Franklin was a longtime Klansman who subscribed to white-supremacist Christian Identity beliefs about race-mixing.

This is Paul Hill, a Florida anti-abortion zealot who gunned down an abortion provider and his bodyguard outside a Pensacola clinic. Hill, who was executed in 2003, expressed no remorse for the murders, and told reporters he expected "a great reward in Heaven."

Hill, incidentally, was only following in the footsteps of another "lone gunman" named Michael Griffin, who had gunned down Dr. David Gunn outside an abortion clinic two years earlier in Pensacola. [Couldn't locate his picture.]

Then there was John Salvi, who walked into a Brookline, Mass., clinic in December 1994 and opened fire, killing a receptionist and wounding three others. At trial, Salvi testified that he acted out of a belief in a conspiracy against the Catholic Church. He later committed suicide in prison.

Another abortion-doctor sniper was James Kopp, who was convicted of murdering Dr. Bernard Slepian at his home in 1998, but who also was responsible for a long string of anti-abortion sniper shootings. He was an active member of the anti-abortion group "Lamb of Christ." His trial is currently under way.

And let's not forget our bravest Aryan warrior, Buford O. Furrow, who walked into a Jewish day-care center in Los Angeles and began shooting at children and women -- that, after having gunned down an unarmed Filipino postman on his route. Furrow was a longtime Washington state resident and Christian Identity follower, active at the Aryan Nations in northern Idaho.

Of course, all these folks were considered "isolated incidents" at the time. Certainly, no one at the time connected them with mainstream Christianity.

This was, in fact, simple common sense. Most Christians reject murder in their names categorically -- it's hard to imagine a more un-Christian act. No one stooped to smearing all Christians with the acts of these fringe, often mentally unstable, figures whose "Christianity" is a perversion of the religion's core beliefs. In fact, not only did even the harshest critics steer clear of any such suggestion, but it became something of a faux pas to point out that these folks do, in fact, claim to be "Christians".

Too bad Michelle Malkin and her cohorts can't say the same when it comes to radical Muslims who go on "lone gunman" rampages. It is true that dismissing these cases as "isolated incidents" is nonsense -- as I've just said, the wellsprings of hate are many these days, and we can't be certain where Haq's arose, though radical Islam certainly is a prime candidate.

Neither can it be said, however, that these men any more reflect mainstream Islam than Buford Furrow represents mainstream Christianity. Saying so, in fact, is just another kind of hate.

Monday, July 31, 2006

When hate hits home

[Seattle Times photo by Ellen M. Banner]

Horrifying moments like Friday's shooting rampage at the Jewish Federation in downtown Seattle always leave communities stunned and shaken, and ours is no different right now.

But these moments also present special opportunities -- particularly the opportunity to transcend the virulent hatred that motivates killers like Naveed Afzal Haq. Consider what took place at the scene:
Haq, he said, had hidden behind plants in the foyer of the Jewish Federation. When a young teenager, aged 13 or 14, came into the building he said, Haq took her hostage and forced her to go inside.

There, Haq opened fire with two semi-automatic handguns, one a .40-caliber and the other a .45-caliber weapon.

"He said, 'I am a Muslim American, angry at Israel,' before opening fire on everyone," Marla Meislin-Dietrich, a database coordinator for the center, told reporters on Friday. "He was randomly shooting at everyone."

Kerlikowske said today that Haq ordered the employees not to call 911 while he continued shooting, wounding Dayna Klein, a pregnant woman, in the arm. He said Klein had protected her womb with her arm. She fell to the floor after she was shot, but managed to crawl back to her office and call police.

The Seattle police chief called her one of the heroes of the day.

Klein was still on the phone with the 911 operator when Haq came into her office, again demanding she stop calling police. Instead, she convinced Haq to talk to the 911 operator.

Dayna Klein, as Robert Jamieson adroitly points out, was a hero twice: first for shielding her unborn child from the bullet that shattered her arm, and next for ignoring the warnings from the gunman and calling 911.

Even more remarkably, her doing so managed to help defuse the situation, because it put the gunman in contact with dispatchers who talked him out of shooting any other people:
Their professionalism helped ease the gunman's rage after he told them he was holding a pregnant woman, and had a gun pointed at her head.

"I shot her once. I shot her in the arm," he tells the operators, according to a police statement in a court document.

An operator says Klein might need an ambulance. The gunman replies: "I don't care."

Eventually he says: "I'll give myself up ... I'll put my gun down."

He set down his weapon. He walked out of the building. Seattle police officers were waiting for him.

It was a remarkable moment, partly because it illustrated both the universal dynamic at play in scenes like this, as well as how we might best confront them. Enraged killers like Haq, as they're stalking their victims, are people who have managed to completely objectify and dehumanize their targets, so that they are no longer people but mere things -- and in the process, they become insanely inhuman themselves. What Dayna Klein and the two dispatchers managed, almost miraculously, was to touch some small remaining part of Haq that was still human.

Scenes like these always create long, abiding waves of sorrow that ripple through the community. The first is for the immediate victims:
Six women were shot, including 58-year-old Seattle resident Pamela Waechter, who died from her injuries. Other victims were:

• Klein, 37, of Seattle, who was in satisfactory condition early Saturday at Harborview Medical Center with a gunshot wound to her arm.

• Cheryl Stumbo, 43, of Seattle, who was in serious condition at Harborview.

• Carol Goldman, 35, of Seattle, who was shot in the knee. She was in satisfactory condition.

• Layla Bush, 23, of Seattle, who was in serious condition.

• Christina Rexroad, 29, of Everett, who was wounded in the abdomen. She was in serious condition.

The larger target of Haq's attack -- the Jewish community -- is the next focus of concern, especially because this is nothing new for them. Sadly, there is a long history of lethal maniacs making scapegoats out of Jewish people, globally, nationally, and locally.

Haq selected his victims specifically because they were Jews, and that makes this act clearly a hate crime. As I explained in Death on the Fourth of July:
Hate crimes attack not only the immediate victim, but the target community -- Jews, blacks, gays—to which the victim belongs. Their purpose today, just as it was in the lynching era, is to terrorize and politically oppress the target community.

In this sense, questions about whether this was an act of "terror" seem beside the point: as I've explained in more detail, hate crimes indeed are a kind of terrorism. Specifically, this terrorism is the kind inflicted by our fellow citizens in an attempt to intimidate and deprive others of their fundamental civil rights. (For more on hate crimes and the laws against them, see here and here.)

However, there are some special considerations that complicate the picture in this case. It was not a "reactive" hate crime (the most common kind) in which a member of the majority community lashes out violently -- rather, it was the rarest kind, a "mission" crime in which an unstable, usually psychopathic personality carries out a personal program to rid the world of a perceived evil.

This becomes clearer as details about Haq's past emerge -- especially the fact that he appears to have swung between Christianity and Islam in recent years:
Yet Haq was frustrated at his lack of friends and female companionship. He told friends he felt alienated from his own family, in part because his career had disappointed his father and also because he had disavowed Islam last year, converting to Christianity.

Haq had begun studying the Bible, attending weekly men's spiritual group meetings, only to stop coming a few months after his baptism.

He had told the group's leader that he seen too much anger in Islam and that he wanted to find a new beginning in Christianity.

Yet in the midst of his shooting spree in Seattle Friday, he declared himself an angry Muslim.

It seems that Haq has had a variety of mental-health issues in the past decade:
Montelongo said Haq seemed depressed by the tension that had grown between he and his family. And he said Haq talked about suffering from bi-polar disorder. But that he seemed to improve in how he coped with what Montelongo described as his own anger.

And then there was this:
In March, Haq was arrested for lewd conduct at a Tri-Cities mall. It was Ullah he called to bail him out of jail, because he was too embarrassed to call his own family, Ullah said.

Haq, it appears, had been receiving mental-health counseling afterwards, but then dropped out -- and then reappeared in Seattle.

Seattle has a history of dealing with tragedies like these -- especially in which the Jewish community is targeted by a mentally unstable person who has bought into the dogma of anti-Semitic hatemongers. The most notorious of these was the 1985 murders of the David Goldmark family by David Lewis Rice, who had decided he was going to singlehandedly eliminate the "top communist" and "top Jew" in Washington -- even though Goldmark was neither. (The Goldmark family had long been politically active progressives; Goldmark's brother Peter, incidentally, is currently running for Congress as a Democrat in eastern Washington's 2nd District.)

The Friday shootings also echoed the 2000 rampage of Buford Furrow at a Los Angeles Jewish day-care center. Furrow, you'll recall, was a white supremacist from Washington state who'd been undergoing mental-health treatment in the Seattle area for several years.

The city, in fact, is still reeling from the more recent killing rampage by a young man from Montana named Kyle Huff, who gunned down six ravers in the early-morning hours after a rave because he hated ravers and "this world of sex that they are striving to make," telling his brother in a letter that he wanted to "kill this hippie shit."

The Huff massacre was not a classic hate crime, because these typically involve prejudice against race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, while Huff's hostility was almost purely cultural. But if we see more of this trend, it may be time to rethink that.

What all of these incidents have in common is the mental instability of the actors; and I've explored previously how that affects the way society and the law must deal with the perpetrators. In the case of Buford Furrow, for instance, his mental illness became a mitigating factor in his eventual sentence, as prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty in large part because of it.

Marking off rampages like Furrow's, Huff's, and Haq's as "isolated events" caused by mental illness is a cop-out, however. Because, as the case of David Lewis Rice made all too clear, these mentally unstable types are almost always stirred up and driven to their insane acts by haters of various stripes, the kind whose voices seem each day to be growing louder in our public discourse. These cultural vampires have developed a real knack for inspiring mentally unstable people into horrific acts of violence.

Who did this in the case of Naveed Afzal Haq is still unknown. Certainly there is no shortage of anti-Semitism lurking among certain factions of Islam, and this may have been his inspiration. But it also lurks among certain corners of Christianity as well, and if these were among the "Christians" to whom Haq was exposed, then the source of his motivation may well have been some of the same far-right influences that were responsible for these previous cases.

Regardless of the source of the hate, there remains, in the face of it, only one appropriate response: the community must stand up and, contrary to the desires of the rampaging madmen and haters, build bridges where they hoped to burn them down.

As with all hate crimes, this kind of effort is absolutely essential for the healing process to begin:
Well, it's true that community responses against emanations of racial hate -- particularly hate crimes -- often take on the trappings of Liberal Chic and its attendant self-righteousness. But it's important to understand that in the case of hate crimes, these kinds of demonstrations play an essential role in curbing the crimes. They have real practical value, which is why you'll see them attract support not merely from civil-rights groups and liberal churches, but also from law enforcement and city officials.

The vast majority of hate-crime perpetrators, as I explain in Death on the Fourth of July, believe fully that they are committing these crimes with the unspoken approval of their respective community -- that they are merely acting on its real desires. This (combined with a high incidence of narcissistic/antisocial personality disorders) lends itself to another common trait of hate criminals: they rarely believe they've done anything wrong. And it's important to note that these perps consistently held these views well before they ever acted upon them.

Thus, high-profile and widely sanctioned expressions of community disapproval of these crimes play an essential role in discouraging further such acts. They inform any would-be hate criminals that, contrary to their preconceived notions, the community at large clearly does not approve of these kinds of acts, and rather than being community heroes, they will be pariahs.

In the case of Naveed Afzal Haq, it's clear that he believed he was acting particularly on the "unstated wishes" of the Muslim American community. And this weekend, the Seattle Muslim community stood up en masse and repudiated his horrific act. Muslim leaders were all over local television, mourning the victims and condemning the violence; local Muslims paid visits to Jewish centers to pay their condolences to reach out to them as human beings. The Muslim community also issued a statement:
We categorically condemn this and any similar acts of violence. We pray for the safety and health of those injured and offer our heartfelt condolences to the family of the victims of this attack. We also hope that the perpetrator of this crime is brought to justice.

There is no room for such acts of violence in our city and community. When one of us is attacked, none of us are safe. We refuse to see the violence in the Middle East spill over to our cities and neighborhoods.

We reject and categorically condemn any attacks against the Jewish community and stand in solidarity with the Jewish Federation in this tragedy.

This is an admirable start, and precisely the kind of bridge-building that incidents like this can inspire, amid the sorrow and pain. What's needed, as well, is for the entire community to stand up and repudiate this act, and all hate crimes, for exactly the same reason: The louder that voices of hate speak and inspire acts of hate, the more we will stand up and repudiate them, because they poison and destroy our human community.

When we do this, we not only blunt their hate, but there is also the chance that we can defuse it, as Dayna Klein managed to do last Friday. Because when we stand up for what is human in all of us, there is a chance, however small, that we can even touch the vestiges of humanity that lie buried beneath the layers of hate in people like Naveed Afzal Haq, before they ever act.