It didn't take the fringe elements of the right long to blame the shooting of U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise on liberals.
"It seems there are now two ideologies that advocate the killing of opponents: Radical Islam and American leftism," wrote Gina Loudon in a World Net Daily column published Sunday.
"The explosion of violence against conservatives across the country is being intentionally ginned up by Democrats, reporters, TV hosts, late-night comedians and celebrities, who compete with one another to come up with the most vile epithets for Trump and his supporters," commented Ann Coulter in a piece posted last week on Breitbart.
"James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois, who aspired to end his life as a mass murderer of Republican Congressmen, was a Donald Trump hater and a Bernie Sanders backer," wrote Pat Buchanan, former presidential aspirant and longtime syndicated columnist, in a commentary carried on WND, Townhall, and elsewhere.
These comments were typical of what we ran across in our reading of the far right (so you don't have to) in the past week. There was also the usual dose of homophobia and an assertion that Donald Trump was chosen by God to lead the U.S. -- and Alex Jones claiming mistreatment by Megyn Kelly.
Scalise was shot last Wednesday when Hodgkinson opened fire in a park in Alexandria, Va., where Republican members of Congress were practicing for the annual congressional baseball game between Republicans and Democrats, set for the following day. Scalise remains hospitalized in serious condition; several others were wounded, including a congressional staffer and two Capitol Police officers who had accompanied Scalise, the House majority whip, as part of the security detail assigned to all members of the congressional leadership. Hodgkinson died in a shootout with the officers, who are being hailed as heroes for preventing further carnage.
Members of the far-right media were quick to latch on to the fact that Hodgkinson was a supporter of Sanders, the Vermont senator and self-described socialist who sought the Democratic presidential nomination last year. They were also quick to blame liberal ideology for his action; never mind that no one else who favored Sanders, or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton, is going around shooting people.
"Hodgkinson was a malevolent man of the hating and hard left," Buchanan wrote. Coulter described him as "one of the left's foot soldiers." Loudon decried "decades of dehumanization of conservatives" (oh, the right has never dehumanized liberals?) and added, "The blood of Steve Scalise and the others wounded at the GOP baseball practice is on the hands of the Democratic Party leadership and the mainstream media."
WND contributor Mason Weaver blamed liberals for not only the shooting but for all division in the nation. "Why must 'We' come together?" he wrote. "It is not 'We' that is dividing America. It is radical liberalism dividing America. A radical liberal shot up the Congressional baseball practice. Why are 'We' to lower our rhetoric? It's not 'We' rioting in the streets, pepper spraying, canceling speakers and destroying private property. It is not 'We' whose members of Congress curse out our President. It is not 'We' whose women dress up as vaginas and brag about blowing up the White House." Oh, yeah, throwing in a bit of "women as property" rhetoric -- nice touch!
Rush Limbaugh made this statement on his nationally syndicated radio show Monday: "You can say all you want that Bernie Sanders is not responsible, and I understand people wanting to do that, but this guy Hodgkinson? Bernie Sanders was his writer. And so was Elizabeth Warren, and so was [Nancy] Pelosi and all of these other media types and Democrats. They were writing the script for this guy. You can see it in his letters to the editor and so forth. He went to that baseball game, the practice, with a list of names, Republican lawmakers' names. These were potential victims."
Well, maybe Hodgkinson was in reality a deeply troubled man with a violent streak. No reasonable person guns down political rivals, and no reasonable person embraces violence because of a Kathy Griffin social media post or a play that portrays Julius Caesar as a Trump look-alike (two things some of the right-wingers invoked as possible motivations for Hodgkinson's action). Blaming an entire party or the entire media industry for violence, whether it comes from the right or the left, only fuels more hatred -- but that's what extremists of any political stripe thrive on, and it's the red meat their audiences crave.
Then there's the special case of Erick Erickson, who used to run the RedState blog and now opines at The Resurgent. He opened Monday with a pair of columns likening certain elements of the left to the Islamic State, a.k.a. ISIS. "ISIS takes the 'convert or die' position," he wrote. "This growing strain of the American left takes the 'convert or be destroyed' position. The former will cut off your head. The latter will destroy your livelihood, take away your business, drive you from the public square, and use the government to drive you to bankruptcy. It'll also gun you down on a baseball field."
Erickson did say he wasn't talking about all lefties (actually, there are very few who fit his description). In the other column, he suggested that each state should be free to set its own policies to maintain the peace: "Those who want gay marriage and kid killing [as he calls abortion] should be allowed to do it in their state and those who want to live in [a] state that does not allow gay marriage or the murder of children should be allowed to." If that doesn't work out, he said, it's worth it for states to consider secession. Well, there's been a movement for that in my home state of California since Trump became president -- but we all know how well secession worked out the last time a few states tried it. And of course that's hardly the only thing that's wrong about having your rights depend on the state where you live.
Oh, Erickson also blamed divisiveness across the political spectrum on leftist activist Saul Alinsky, who's been dead since 1972. "Both the left and parts of the right are now all using the Alinsky playbook, which itself was dedicated to Satan," he wrote. "It's all going according to his plan as we slip and slide toward armageddon."
Later in the day, he posted a mea culpa of sorts. "My piece this morning on secession was written more provocatively than I would have preferred, but it was for a reason that shows me again how much is wrong with our clickbait internet culture," he wrote. The article got more attention than it would have had it been less provocative, he said, going on to accuse The New York Times and The Washington Post of similar actions.
"I do not consider the American left to be akin to ISIS," he continued. "But I absolutely do think there is a virulent, radical strain of American leftism that is akin to it and I do stand by that remark." He did add, however, "There are some on the right who are behaving that way too. Members of the alt-right need to be shunned and denounced as much as these virulent radicals on the left."
There's a lot to write about this week, but we can't let it go by without mentioning a couple examples of big-time anti-LGBT rhetoric on far-right sites. Michael Brown, who's carried at WND and Townhall, among others, called out growing acceptance of LGBT people by Christian churches as "apostasy," that is, rejection or abandonment of their faith. "Some professing Christians have departed from God's unchanging truth because of personal relationships and cultural decline," he wrote.
He's entitled to that opinion, but let us not forget that Christianity and other religions have been used to justify slavery, the oppression of women, and other evils -- and those beliefs were viewed as "God's unchanging truth" as well.
And BarbWire offered audio of a conversation between site founder Matt Barber and Holly Meade, director of communications for Liberty Counsel, the right-wing legal group that's represented Kim Davis and other anti-LGBT types. They were both upset that Northland Community Church in Orlando hosted a presentation by the Reformation Project, which advocates for LGBT acceptance by churches. That Northland's pastor "invited in a very radical LGBT group ... is very, very disturbing to us," Meade said.
Actually, what's disturbing is that Liberty Counsel claims to be an advocate for religious freedom, but it worries about a church practicing anything but fundamentalist Christianity. That tells us whose religious freedom the organization really cares about.
But never fear, fundamentalists: Donald Trump will save you from the apostates! Now, Trump is not famed for his religiosity, and he seems to be pretty much theologically illiterate, although he catered to the religious right to get elected. But WNDran an article on a new book, The Trump Prophecies, by a man named Mark Taylor, who says he received messages from God that he had chosen Trump to run the country.
"The Spirit of God says, I have chosen this man, Donald Trump, for such a time as this," went one message, according to Taylor. "For as Benjamin Netanyahu is to Israel, so shall this man be to the United States of America! For I will use this man to bring honor, respect and restoration to America. America will be respected once again as the most powerful and prosperous nation on Earth, (other than Israel). The dollar will be the strongest it has ever been in the history of the United States, and will once again be the currency by which all others are judged."
"The Spirit of God says, I will protect America and Israel, for this next president will be a man of his word, when he speaks the world will listen and know that there is something greater in him than all the others before him," the message continued. "This man's word is his bond and the world and America will know this and the enemy will fear this, for this man will be fearless."
Taylor said he began receiving the messages in 2011. Trump didn't run for president in 2012, but Taylor's explanation for that is that God allowed Barack Obama to remain in office for another term to let "righteous anger" build to assure a Trump victory in 2016.
We swear we aren't making this up.
One who does make stuff up is Alex Jones. Sunday night, NBC aired Megyn Kelly's interview of the notorious proprietor of Infowars, despite calls not to give him a platform because of his assertions that the 2012 mass shooting of children and staff at Newtown, Conn.'s Sandy Hook Elementary School was "a giant hoax." That's probably the most reprehensible claim Jones has ever made, but he's promoted a lot of other bizarre theories, like that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex-trafficking ring out of a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor (he had to back off that after a believer in the theory fired shots in the restaurant, and the pizzeria's owner sued Jones).
In the Kelly interview, Jones backed off his Sandy Hook claims the tiniest bit, contending he was making them as a "devil's advocate" and telling Kelly, "I tend to believe that children probably did die there. But then you look at all the other evidence on the other side."
Even before the interview aired, Jones denounced it, claiming it was edited so as to make him look bad (something he doesn't need any help with), and he and his colleagues have now stepped that up. "The entire spectacle was a hit piece from the very beginning," wrote Infowars contributor Paul Joseph Watson. "After Kelly received heat merely for interviewing Jones, NBC vowed to edit the interview to show Jones in an unfair light -- and it showed. At numerous points, the interview was deliberately edited to make it look as though Jones was giving incoherent answers." (Listen to Jones's broadcasts, and you'll see he needs no editing to appear incoherent.)
And Jones himself posted a video in which he accused NBC of misrepresenting his statements about Sandy Hook. Actually, it's well documented that he's called it a hoax set up by proponents of gun control. Maybe he was just doing "art performance," which is how he explained his homophobic rant against Congressman Adam Schiff, a rant that also carried threats of violence. But in any case, his Sandy Hook conspiracy theories have exacerbated the suffering of those who lost children and other loved ones in the massacre.
He also contended that airing the show on Father's Day was evidence of a conspiracy against fatherhood. Yes, that makes as much sense as anything else Jones says.
We'll be back next week with more of what we've gleaned from reading the unhinged right -- so you don't have to.