Stoking the fires of hate

The revelation that the man who shot up the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado killing three and wounding nine made comments about ‘no more baby parts’ has added support to the idea that he was motivated by the furor created by the false allegation that the organization illegally trafficked and profited from the sale of organs from aborted fetuses.

This falsehood was based on a heavily and deceptively edited video produced by an anti-abortion activist that purported to show employees of Planned Parenthood discussing somewhat casually the mechanics by which fetal tissues were to be transferred to medical facilities that use them in all manner of research to cure diseases.

Tbogg writes that this tactic is common for the anti-abortion extremists.

Of all the phony attacks and accusations made against Planned Parenthood by a new generation of anti-choice activists like James O’ Keefe and Lila Grace Rose, the videos created by former O’Keefe confederate David Daleiden raised the bar — or lowered it depending on how you view them — on over the top accusations intended to fire up Christian conservatives and embolden lawmakers to do all they can to destroy Planned Parenthood.

Images of fetal tissue being sorted by technicians became a bloody flag to be waved by people who seem to believe that medical procedures are magically free of the kind of things most people are unfamiliar with because they’re not medical professionals who are undeterred by the sight of body fluids, viscera and bones. Those who view abortions as a repellent medical procedure became even more appalled by seeing people who deal with such matters on a daily basis act like … people who deal with such matters on a daily basis.

Where Daleiden really hit one out of the park for the anti-choice crowd was when he accused Planned Parenthood of selling fetal tissue — used by researchers looking for cures for Alzheimer’s, among other things — and making a profit off of it.

Which turned out to be a lie.

First of all, we should be clear that people who deal on a daily basis with death tend to develop a manner of speaking that outsiders might see as callous. Coroners and morticians are likely to speak amongst each other of the dead in ways that might seem to us, who rarely encounter it except when we have a personal connection to the deceased, to be less than respectful. But that is because for us that person was real while for them it is just another dead body in an unending stream. Of course, one would hope that coroners and morticians would have the sense and tact not to speak that way when dealing with people who know the deceased, but it is a bit much to expect them to be in a permanent state of respectful reverence.

But Republican politicians and anti-abortion extremists seized upon that video to make wildly exaggerated claims about what Planed Parenthood did, with Carly Fiorina being the most shameless in her claims, her incendiary remarks invoking images and words that were not even present in the video. Other anti-abortion politicians piled on, creating a frenzy of hate against Planned Parenthood, The words of the killer in the Colorado attack are very similar to Fiorina’s, suggesting that he was influenced by her and the media blitz she generated though we will have to see to what extent.

Now we see the dreary spectacle of all of these extremists acting shocked, just shocked, that anyone would accuse them that their incendiary rhetoric might have triggered this kind of thing, though it is by no means the first time that killers have acted in the wake of spikes in anti-abortion rhetoric. As this news report says, “At least eight workers at clinics providing abortions have been killed since 1977, according to the National Abortion Federation. The most recent was in 2009 when physician George Tiller was shot to death at a church in Wichita, Kansas.” And this does not includes the harassment and death threats that patients and workers at the clinics face on a daily basis.

In their attempts to deflect blame away from themselves, they are flailing away using the well-worn ‘squirrel!’ tactic, trying to get the media to follow random red herrings. Fiorina denies that her words had anything to do with the killings and said that suggestions to that effect were “typical left-wing tactics.” Perhaps she is hoping that this renewed interest in her by the media will give her moribund campaign, that has been steadily sinking in the polls since her inflammatory remarks on abortion in the second debate, a boost.

Ted Cruz seems to have secret sources of information unavailable to the rest of us and made the accusation that the killer was “registered as an independent and a woman and transgendered leftist activist”. Mike ‘Huckster’ Huckabee as always rushed to the nearest TV camera to deny any link between the anti-abortion rhetoric and the murders and Ben Carson does his usual “Why can’t we all get along?” shtick and asserts that everyone is to blame, except for him of course. No doubt he will respond to calls for toning down the violent rhetoric by saying that doing so would be to cave in to ‘political correctness’.

As I said in an earlier post, the violent and ugly rhetoric that we hear from the Republicans against all manner of people and groups, coupled with the easy access to powerful weaponry, creates an explosive mixture.

Planned Parenthood said on Sunday, “We now know the man responsible for the tragic shooting at PP’s health center in Colorado was motivated by opposition to safe and legal abortion.”

“It’s not enough to denounce the tragedy without also denouncing the poisonous rhetoric that fueled it,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Instead, some politicians are continuing to stoke it, which is unconscionable.”

We may not be able to do much in the short term about the access to guns. But we can do something about the rhetoric. The purveyors of such rhetoric should not be allowed to get away with their falsehoods and evasions.


  1. Nick Gotts says

    Mano, what Cruz said is a bit more complicated, and sneaky, than you suggest. Here’s part of a report from The Texas Tribune:

    “The media promptly wants to blame him on the pro-life movement when at this point there’s very little evidence to indicate that,” Cruz said.

    When a reporter reminded Cruz it has been reported Dear made a comment about “baby parts” while being apprehended, Cruz retorted, “It’s also been reported that he was registered as an independent and a woman and a transgendered leftist activist. If that’s what he is, I don’t think it’s fair to blame on the rhetoric on the left. This is a murderer.”

    Cruz’s claim appeared to be based on a voter registration form that lists Dear’s gender as female. “We know that he was a man who was registered to vote as a woman,” Cruz said.

    So the overt point that Cruz is making is that it’s equally unjustified either to blame this on the rhetoric of the religious right concerning abortion and Planned Parenthood, or to blame it on “the left”. This is, of course, an absurd claim, given who Dear attacked, and the reports of witnesses -- although Dear does not seem to have been an active member of any forced-birther group. But Cruz also gets to publicse the ridiculous claim that Dear is a “transgendered leftist activist” (which is being repeated by numerous far-right liars), while giving himself plausible deniability. What’s more, when people complain about him spreading this lie, he, or his supporters, get to whine about him being misrepresented by the librul media: it’s a three-for-one deal! Trump, in my opinion, did exactly the same when he called for a database of Syrian refugees, using language that could be interpreted as meaning he wanted a database of all Muslims in the USA.

  2. AndrewD says

    One serious problem the Republicans have overlooked is that someone may apply the retoric to a Republican candidate, decide nthey are not “republican” enough and commit a political murder.

  3. Reginald Selkirk says

    “We know that he was a man who was registered to vote as a woman,” Cruz said.

    The horror! A man in the lady’s voting booth.

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    Which turned out to be a lie.

    Anti-choicers have an even worse relationship with truth than do creationists. Were it any worse, casual encounters with a fact, any fact, might cause terminal anaphylactic shock.

  5. says

    Well, to be fair to Carly, those suggestions were “typical left-wing tactics.” They were the left-wing tactic of telling the truth, something she is unfamiliar with.

  6. laurentweppe says

    First of all, we should be clear that people who deal on a daily basis with death tend to develop a manner of speaking that outsiders might see as callous

    They also develop a rather bizarre sense of humor: three weeks ago I witnessed this conversation between my father and the neurosurgical resident taking care of him:

    Resident: Good news sir! The thing that gave you symptoms similar to a stroke isn’t an actual cerebrovascular accident but a mere subdural hematoma causing pressure over your motor centers. Therefore, we only have to trepan you and install a drain in your head to get rid of the excessive blood: we won’t have to saw your skull and take out what’s inside.
    My father and me: WHAT!?
    Resident: Oh but don’t worry, we always put all the stuff back inside the skull once we’re done

  7. brucegee1962 says

    So the overt point that Cruz is making is that it’s equally unjustified either to blame this on the rhetoric of the religious right concerning abortion and Planned Parenthood, or to blame it on “the left”.

    Ooh, and he gets to take a swipe at the #1 right-wing target these days, the media, at the same time. “It’s also been reported…” You know how it is with reports. One side says one thing, the other side says the opposite. Even if you’re interested in obtaining the truth, it isn’t really possible to obtain it. Rather than understanding the issues with any degree of nuance or understanding, it’s clearly better to go with your gut feelings and snap judgments. Anyway, you know how it is with those so-called “experts” anyway — they’re just a bunch of pinheads, and you probably know better than they do about every single issue. Don’t listen to them, listen to me.

    I’ve had a distressing number of students with the “truth is impossible to discover” attitudes recently. It’s pretty clear where they’ve been getting it.

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