Saturday, January 22, 2011

Political Violence Should Be Scary

Sign:  If Brown can't do the job, a Browning can...

[Creative Commons photo by cjbrenchly]

Nelson Benton, editor of the Salem News, is scared of the Second Amendment advocates of violence:

One of the more disturbing aspects of all the back-and-forth about the tragedy in Tucson is that there exists an element | and it may be growing | that views the right to bear arms as an essential adjunct to their right to overthrow the government by violent means.

Nelson, you’re right to be scared.  The attempted assassination of Congresswoman Giffords of Arizona, and the deaths of a federal judge, and a nine-year old girl, is intended to scare us all.  It was an act of terrorism no less in its emotional impact than Oklahoma City or 9/11.

You’d be wrong to assume that this has happened out of nowhere.  And you’d be wrong to assume your own paper didn’t have at least a small role in the violent rhetoric.

This goes back at least 30 years. 

When I was in college in the early 1980’s, Massachusetts government was in bad shape.  We had, and still have, a legacy of corruption, patronage and just plain incompetence.  Our state buildings were constructed, and fell down, on the take, while numerous connected contractors had their hands out.

It was, and is, shameful.  The anti-tax activist Barbara Anderson made her bones during that era. 

So too did talk radio.  I, and numerous other Salemmites and Bostonians, listened to the triumvirate:  Jerry Williams, Gene Burns and David Brudnoy.  They were all libertarians.

And they all preached that government was bad, private sector was good and the best government was the least government.  That philosophy influenced me almost to this day.

We’ve heard the narrative against public employees, politicians and government for so long we take it for granted, and take it as truth.  We’ve taken these beliefs as faith for 30 years.

Second Amendment advocates have been promoting the right to bear arms for just as long;  indeed, libertarians have often been natural allies in their fight.

Now, Nelson, you’re surprised and alarmed by the violence? 

In recent years, your newspaper has been an unpleasant one to read.  Barbara Anderson has written op-eds for the News for years, and they are not of the mild-mannered housewife I often heard with Jerry Williams, but of a harder, almost insane tenor.  She started going off the rails with her 9/11 column, but her most recent column on the Tucson shooting is just nuts.

Another of your op-ed writers, Taylor Armerding, was once a fiscal conservative, though a hard one.  Nowadays I’m afraid that he has a carry permit and will make headlines like Jared Loughner did.

And that says nothing of the cesspool that is the comments section of the Salem News web site. 

I fear, Nelson, that your paper has done its part to further today’s political violence and that your paper’s owners are OK with this just as Roger Ailes and Fox News are fine with Glenn Beck.

Nelson, don’t look to Tucson for the Second Amendment Brigade.  Look to Arlington, and perhaps, even Salem.