Inflammatory Rhetoric as the Context of Assassination
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jun 01, 2009 at 05:38:15 PM EST
In the wake of the assassination of Dr. George Tiller, we have already seen a great deal of attention given to the role of inflammatory anti-abortion rhetoric. There will be a continuing debate about this. I don't believe that dedicated people react to sound bites and then go out and kill. But the rhetoric is a reflection of profound beliefs that are ultimately more important than the words used to express them. To many, abortion is murder, and that its practitioners are committing mass murder. This is an important element of the context of our time. Nevertheless, words do matter.
Kelli Conlin, President of NARAL Pro-Choice New York, stated for example:

"...it is cold-blooded, vicious actions like today's assassination that make it hard for those of us in the pro-choice community to find common ground with those on the other side. It is lawless, violent behavior like this that makes us fear for our lives and our families. When they sit down across from us, they have no reason to believe that we come to the table with violent intentions.  Today is a brutal reminder that we are not privileged to have the same sense of security.

We therefore call upon the leaders of the anti-abortion movement to go beyond condemning today's action to actually committing to control and measure their own irresponsible and incendiary rhetoric and actions.

When these anti-abortions leaders stalk us, harass us and label physicians "murderers," they fan the flames to create a setting where abhorrent acts such as today's can transpire.

Makes sense to me. So let's take a quick look at the rhetoric of two-well known prolife leaders:  Randall Terry, best known for his strident militancy as the former leader of Operation Rescue, and Rick Warren, presented in the media as an avuncular moderate evangelical who gave the invocation at Obama's presidential inauguration ceremony.

The Associated Press reports:

While many anti-abortion leaders swiftly issued statements condemning the shooting, their expressions of dismay were not echoed by Randall Terry, a veteran anti-abortion activist whose protests have often targeted Tiller.

"George Tiller was a mass murderer and we cannot stop saying that," Terry said. "He was an evil man -- his hands were covered with blood."

Terry said he was now concerned that the Obama administration "will use Tiller's killing to intimidate pro-lifers into surrendering our most effective rhetoric and actions."

Rick Warren has not had so high a profile on the issue as Randall Terry, however he is no less extreme in his rhetoric and in the substance of his views, although he inexplicably gets a pass from major political leaders in both parties and the mainstream media.

In 2004, Warren issued a letter declaring what he thought voters should consider when voting for president. (I later wrote about it.) Here is part of what turned out to be an ostentatiously pro-Bush and anti-Kerry letter:

But for those of us who accept the Bible as God's Word and know that God has a unique, sovereign purpose for every life, I believe there are 5 issues that are non-negotiable. To me, they're not even debatable because God's Word is clear on these issues.[emphasis added] In order to live a purpose-driven life - to affirm what God has clearly stated about his purpose for every person he creates - we must take a stand by finding out what the candidates believe about these five issues, and then vote accordingly.

Here are five questions to ask when considering who to vote for in this election:

What does each candidate believe about abortion and protecting the lives of unborn children?

What does each candidate believe about using unborn babies for stem-cell harvesting?

What does each candidate believe about homosexual marriage?

What does each candidate believe about human cloning?

What does each candidate believe about euthanasia - the killing of elderly and invalids?  

OK. Protecting the unborn child -- God's word, non-debatable, non-negotiable.

Not too strident, you say? Perhaps, but let's fast forward to the next presidential election when he was suddenly in fashion as one of the new, allegedly moderate evangelicals courted by the Democratic Party. He was so important that he was allowed to host a presidential candidate's forum in the sanctuary of his church, broadcast to a national television audience.

He was supposed to ask McCain and Obama the same questions. He questioned  Obama closely on abortion, but when it was McCain's turn, Warren compared abortion to "the Holocaust" and in answer, McCain simply said "I'm prolife." Warren later called on his audience not to "demonize" people with whom they may disagree -- having just compared people who have a different view on abortion to the Nazis.

The next day, he told reporter Dan Gilgoff:

If they (Evangelicals, among whom Warren counts himself) think that life begins at conception, then that means that there are 40 million Americans who are not here [because they were aborted] that could have voted. They would call that a holocaust, and for them it would like if I'm Jewish and a Holocaust denier is running for office. I don't care how right he is on everything else, it's a deal breaker for me. I'm not going to vote for a Holocaust denier....

This is worth mentioning because inflammatory antiabortion rhetoric that contributes to the threat and climate of violence is not limited to professional sound bite provocateurs like Randall Terry. Such rhetoric and the underlying ideology it expresses is so ingrained in the culture of the antiabortion movement, that someone like Rick Warren busily  packaging himself as a moderate thinks nothing of calling abortion a Holocaust and prochoice pols as holocaust deniers. And hardly a media ripple results.

When Randall Terry led Operation Rescue in the late 1980s, their slogan was, "If you believe abortion is murder, then act like it is murder."

How do we suppose Terry thinks people should act if an abortion provider is a mass murderer? And what does Rick Warren think people should do if God's non-debatable, non-negotiable word is defied in the form of a holocaust and those who support it are holocaust deniers?




Display:
that Rick Warren was regurgitating that "5 Non-Negotiable Issues" crap. I would have been a LOT more pissed about him giving the invocation at the Inauguration since that who le thing was about providing cover to use faith to endorse Republicans.

What I have been hearing in the last 24 hours, as this inflammatory rhetoric has been spotlighted, is a bunch of rage- and hate-filled men who seething with anger and loathing  toward women. To me, it's the subtext of all of this talk. Real passion for "unborn" children would be expressed in entirerly differrent ways, but this is all about punishing and controlling women.

by anastasia p on Mon Jun 01, 2009 at 08:11:53 PM EST


Anastasia your comment is appreciated by another woman. The whole abortion debate mysteriously leaves out the other contributor to the creation of a 'full human person', for them they contribute sperm to a process called pregnancy. Many of them pay for the process to end the pregnancy. It's way cheaper than child support.

by colkoch on Mon Jun 01, 2009 at 10:24:52 PM EST


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