Michael Tomasky Egregious Double-Standard Watch

Back in November 2009, after Malik Hasan murdered 13 U.S. soldiers at Ft. Hood in cold blood, while shouting “Allahu Akbar”, CiF’s America correspondent Michael Tomasky was quite careful when mediating upon Hasan’s motives.

He said:

…We have much more to learn about Hasan before we can jump to any conclusions.

…average Americans pretty much know Palestinians only as suicide bombers. Sadly, for some Americans this event will reinforce an image of a people who resort first to mindless violence.…We should assume until it’s proven otherwise that Hasan was an American and a loyal one, who just snapped, as Americans of all ethnicities and backgrounds and political persuasions do.

In Sunday’s column, however, on Jared Lee Loughner – the man arrested for the brutal shooting spree in Arizona on Saturday which killed six and severely injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords – Tomasky wasn’t quite as circumspect.

Tomasky said:

… You don’t have to believe that alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, is a card-carrying Tea Party member…to see some kind of connection between that violent rhetoric and what happened in Arizona on Saturday.

…He went to considerable expense and trouble to shoot a high-profile Democrat, at point-blank range right through the brain. What else does one need to know?

….to insist that the violent rhetoric so regularly heard in this country had no likely effect on this young man is to enshroud oneself in dishonesty and denial.

…This kind of rhetoric will go into hibernation now, but only for a bit. Because not only is it too central to rightwing mythology; it is central to Republican electoral strategy. This is one of those things that no one says, because it can’t really and truly be proved forensically, but everyone knows.  Fear gets people to the ballot box.

However, as blogger William A. Jacobson noted about Loughner:

Evidence in the form of farewell videos, internet postings, and the recollections of people who knew him reveal a profoundly disturbed person who had veered far into a paranoid world.  Loughner’s complaints about government mind control and other rants were not “anti-government” in any political sense.

Jacobson concluded:

The facts will come out about the shooting and murder by Loughner.  Until then, we’ll be subjected to the sickness of people who seek to use the crime to their political advantage and who will worry about the facts later on, if ever.

Beyond Tomasky’s desire to exploit this hideous crime for his own political advantage, it’s especially interesting to note how he fails to see the hypocrisy of railing against politically-inspired vitriol in the very column where he expresses a loathing, which can only be described as palpable, towards the opposition party he’s condemning – a party which represents the views of nearly 40% of Americans.

Most importantly, it seems to have eluded Tomasky that, in the context of accusing others of inciting violence (which he acknowledges he has no empirical evidence to support) that his publication, Comment is Free, has been identified by The Community Security Trust as one of the main purveyors of antisemitic hate in the British mainstream media in both its 2007 and 2008 reports.

Nor, does it seem, that Tomasky is aware of the dramatic increase in anti-Semitic attacks in the Europe in recent years, with the UK representing, by far, the most egregious case.

According to the report, by the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary anti-Semitism, cited above:

The dramatic increase in [violent] antisemitic manifestations in west European countries was influenced considerably by the virulently [anti-Semitic and] anti-Israel discourse and propaganda.

So, the next time Tomasky moralizes about the dangers of political hyperbole and hate speech, and vilifies his political opponents based on the flimsiest of causalities, he may want consider that such condemnations would possess a bit more credibility if he wasn’t employed by a publication which routinely permits, and engages in, dangerous Judeophobic invectives.

Tomasky has made the somewhat accurate, if banal, observation that “fear” brings voters to the ballot box.  He may want to also acknowledge that, as CiF proves daily, it also brings people to your blog.

17 replies »

  1. The point is that ALL of this violent hate speech, from whichever quarter, ultimately results in violence – for example, the murder of Yitzhak Rabin was certainly facilitated by the extreme rhetoric directed at him, including calling the man who orchestrated the 6 Day War victory a traitor. The vicious language used to describe Israel and Israelis by the so-called “left” – what an abasement of that term it has become! – has the same effect.

    The Guardian and others who permit this language and the politicians from whichever quarter who use it create an environment in which violoncello is more accepted and likely, and, in the US in particular, deadly, due to the ridiculous gun laws that allow a maniac like Loughner to by a Glock pistol with a specially made long magazine so he can hold more bullets.

    In the USA the bulk of this hate speech comes from Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Islamic fundamentalists and the endless number of ultra-right-wing websites that feed on the feeling that they are permitted to use deadly violence to achieve their goals.

  2. The point is that ALL of this violent hate speech, from whichever quarter, ultimately results in violence

    I concur with AKUS.

    Whether Mr. Loughner is simply a madman with a gun or a madman with a gun who consumed too much violent political rhetoric, please do not dismiss that there has been a notable escalation of violent rhetoric from American right-wing politicians and commentators over the last three years.

    Yes, in Britain most of the violent rhetoric that seeps into mainstream discourse seems to either come from or is excused by a weird alliance of the left and radical Islamists. However, in the United States, most (not all, by any means) calls for violence or suggestions that violence might be a good idea is coming from the right.

  3. Hi Akus, I agree with much of what you say, but I do need to challenge one thing: When has Palin, Hannity, Limbaugh or Beck ever stated that violence is justified to achieve their domestic political goals? You don’t need to be a fan of any of these characters to acknowledge that – though all four do engage in hyperbole – their politics are in no way similar to narratives consistently advanced by radical Islam.

  4. Ben Moishe – the point, which I am surprised that Melanie Phillips, who is usually so on target, has missed, is that the language used by the extreme right in America – by which I do mean Sarah Palin and the Tea party, let alone the even more extreme crowd like Sean Hannity et al – legitimizes the use of violence even when they do not explicitly say “take out your gun and go and shoot so and so”. I have no doubt that a lunatic like Loughner at some point might have done what he did anyway – but he and others find support from reading between the lines. Its like the Arab doublespeak – worsds for public consumption, but not for the “base” – where it is obvious to anyone with a working brain cell what is meant.

    In the USA the problem is specially acute since guns are so available. I see no reason at all why anyone in the USA needs a gun, specially a hand gun, for any reasons, and I cannot recall a single case of “self-defence” which is the usual NRA claim.

  5. A Pox upon both houses. This incident appears to me to demonstrate how morally bankrupt and opportunistic both sides are….they’re having a field day, their stock is up. Frankly, I am hard pressed to believe this young mans actions were the result of talk show vitriol. And the behaviour by the right and left in this matter, is continuing to perpetrate more garbage talk, I thought the goal was to de escalate? All that has been accomplished is to allow partisan hacks to have even a greater sense of self importance than they already have, which is too much to begin with. More Americans are identifying as Independent than ever before, and it is because of just this type of cr*p.

  6. “… an environment in which violoncello is more accepted and likely, ” says AKUS at 9.59.

    Duvidl’s nephew, aged 8, plays the violoncello rather well and would be grateful to know that his playing is becoming more accepted. However, he is not fond of violence. Duvidl plays the banjo and also hates violence but loves the violoncello, especially when played by the late Paul Tortelier and Pablo Casals.

  7. AKUS: “In the USA the bulk of this hate speech comes from Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Islamic fundamentalists and the endless number of ultra-right-wing websites that feed on the feeling that they are permitted to use deadly violence to achieve their goals.”

    Are you even American? This is a ridiculous assertion. Can you give any specific examples of Palin, Limbaugh, etc giving their supporters “the feeling that they are permitted to use deadly violence to achieve their goals”? Try it. Be specific.

    You are correct about the Islamic fundamentalists and “ultra-right-wing websites” (I assume you mean kkk, aryan nation types). Those guys are scum and they want violence because it is the only thing that helps them.

    But you are totally wrong about Palin and the conservative media. They want to win elections, not hurt people. Have they said or produced anything like this stuff?

  8. More and more of us live in emotionally-charged environments in which few of us feel safe in these times if we are tuned in to what is going on around us. These set the scene for emotional overreaction, rather than mindfulness-based reaction to political speeches and other incidents of this nature, but I would say this: It is known that language influences thought and vice versa and that both influence behaviour (Sapir-Whorf hypothesis).

    However, no single utterance can predispose the listener to commit murder and there have to be multiple factors in play, other than what the perpetrator heard, before the deed is done. What is said is not necessarily what the listener heard, either. If I understand AKUS, I agree with him that one should examine the discourse as a whole before passing judgement

  9. Duvid Crockett — violincello … a good example of how easily words can be misunderstood, even by a spellchecker ..

  10. jane schlitz- You’re definitely on to something. The level of civility in political discussions in the U.S. must be at an all-time low. People like Beck & Limbaugh spout their crap, and then places like Daily Kos & Huffington Post are fertile ground for hate-filled rejoinders from the left. And it keeps escalating, and on and on it goes. Feh!

  11. AKUS

    Please refrain from terms like “hate speech” when mentioning Beck or Palin.

    I know Beck can be goofy at times but we know what hate speech is.

    He does not preach hate.

    Palin not even close.

    If anybody was victim of hate speech it was her.

    As more evidence emerges, the more we see that the left has again overshot (can I say overshot?) and will see its pimping of tragedy backfire (can I say backfire)
    A poll by CBS just showed that 57% of Americans disagree with this libel and liberal icons have also emerged basically arguing that speech had nothing to do with this act.

    Jon Stewart, Bob Beckel, Gov Rendel and John Kerry all expressed the view that this was not the result of any rhetoric but the disintegration of the mind of a disturbed person.

    It is a cheap attempt to use the tragedy to incite anger against republicans and the right in general.

    Exhibit A

    Sarah Palin receives death threats on Twitter. More than likely from the 3 day long ginning up of hate against the Lefts favorite Witch by the media.

    Be warned, she will use this to her advantage. So for those of you who hate her……you just made it more likely for her to gain sympathy and support.

  12. Dem Congressman who called for GOP Gov. to be put against a wall and shot now pleads for civility

    Read more at the Washington Examiner:

    “”That Scott down there that’s running for governor of Florida,” Mr. Kanjorski said. “Instead of running for governor of Florida, they ought to have him and shoot him. Put him against the wall and shoot him. He stole billions of dollars from the United States government and he’s running for governor of Florida. He’s a millionaire and a billionaire. He’s no hero. He’s a damn crook. It’s just we don’t prosecute big crooks.”

  13. Perhaps Tomasky is one of those cognitive nihilists (read sous-realist as opposed to surrealist? ) identified by Gellner in his work Postmodernism, Religion and Reason.

    And that ultimately his thought style, one shared by most writers at the Guardian, leads to the grotesque spectacle of a double standards-induced cognitive blindness.

  14. I’m not sure that the level of discourse in the US is any more awful than it has ever been, it’s just that it is magnified louder via modern communications and the 24 hour news cycle badgering the listener. Some of the political cartoons/editorials of an earlier time were as equally offensive, but a print editorial via text or cartoon produced on a printing press, that cannot be circulated other than by handbill or word of mouth without the benefit of modern technology just doesn’t have the same impact or a least it takes alot longer to build to crescendo…..I remember watching a PBS special about US founding fathers and early elections, the rhetoric was as equally offensive, but the volume was lower and less people overall got to hear it. Just google American Political Cartoons images, you will see political figures characterized as witches,devils, monkeys(Lincoln, no less), traitors, etc….