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The Difference Between Criticism and Hate Speech


A number of friends and readers have called me to task in recent weeks claiming that I have been unfair to Republicans or that I have been giving the "crazies" way too much attention and actually helping their cause by getting so upset. Others have said that my strong level of disgust with the migration of the Right to hate, lies, and slander that I have become every bit as much a hater as those I have criticized.

But I got an email from my friend Ricky today that turned on a light bulb and brought the difference between criticism into clear focus.

It was a link to an article in Harper's by Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz entitled "The $10 Trillion Hangover". It explains -- using real facts, charts and figures -- just how badly the Bush administration's policies -- or lack thereof -- damaged our society, our economy, and exploded our national debt. I urge you to click on the link and read it.

It documents how during eight years of Bush, every aspect of government spending exploded, our national debt doubled from $5 trillion to $10 trillion, and how 95 percent of all income growth went to the richest 10 percent of Americans due to fiscal and tax policies designed to produce that result. Despite the huge government deficits and stimulus, at the end of Bush's eight years virtually every aspect of our economy had collapsed.

It was a critical piece but unlike most of what we read today, it dealt with established facts and used footnotes to back it's conclusions. There was nothing hateful about it. Bush wasn't called names or demonized. He was criticized for things he actually did.

It stands in sharp contrast to what is flowing more and more freely from the Right wing and the Republicans every day. I know I have written about this before, but it's getting worse and squeezing what's left of truth and logic out and replacing it with hatred, anger, and lies.

In a recent piece, "business columnist" (actually no more since he was just fired by the New York Times for being a shill for a credit reporting agency that exploits poor people) Ben Stein gave his most recent toxic assessment of our president, Barack Obama.

During one short piece, he referred to Obama as "cunning, anti-American, anti-white, ultra-left with a total zero academic record, completely lacking in scholarship, not a fan of this country, way too cozy with terrorists in the Middle East, someone who gave Iran a complete go-ahead to have nuclear weapons -- complete betrayer of our country, and a man dedicated to taking away all our freedoms."

The piece was long on frightening and demonizing adjectives and completely devoid of facts, links to source materials, and examples.

The same was true of popular Right wing Fox News personality Glenn Beck who recently called Obama "a racist -- a man who hates white people." while again failing to cite a single example or fact to back this slur.

The same was true of self-proclaimed super-Republican Rush Limbaugh who joined the chorus of those on the Right who have compared Obama to Adolf Hitler but, again, have provided all heat and no light.

The same is true of Congresswoman Virginia Foxx and others in Congress who have announced on the floor of the House that they are opposed to Obama's health care reform because they are "pro-life and refuse to support a plan that would put our senior citizens to death." Ms. Foxx then sat down without giving anyone a clue regarding what facts she had to support that claim. That's because there are none.

The same is true of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (recently critical the media for "makin' things up") who said she fears the "Obama death panels" that would have the power to kill her parents and son Trig (who has Down Syndrome) if the president's health care plan passes.

The same is true of the "grass roots protesters" who are really well-funded and organized Right Wing shock troops that announced weeks ago that they had a game plan to disrupt town hall meetings in Congressional districts to make sure nothing could be discussed and no questions could be asked or answered.

The same is true regarding the leaders of the "birther" movement who claim that Obama was born in Kenya and is therefore not qualified to be president. Buoyed by support from Republican members of Congress and CNN "newsman" Lou Dobbs, radio hatemonger Mark Levin, these liars now have a majority of Republicans nationwide doubting Obama's citizenship and a large majority of all Southern Whites saying they're either certain or doubtful that Obama was not born in this country.

If these racists, bigots, liars, and nut jobs were truly part of some lunatic fringe as some of my friends have suggested, I would probably comply with their requests that I just back off the whole subject of hatespeech and media irresponsibility and move on. But the problem is getting worse, not better, and it's becoming clear that these people are no longer on the fringe.

They are whack jobs or hard-wired haters, but their influence and numbers are growing among what's left of the Republican party, the news media, and the former Confederacy. More important, there is an increased reluctance among "good" Republicans to publicly distance themselves from these people -- to tell them that they bring discredit to and are killing the party with their hatred, bigotry, and lies.

Meanwhile, the GOP is cultivating the future by electing a Louisiana woman chairman of the Young Republicans after she supported a man who called Obama "a commie and a coon" on her webpage. After the incident, she won 60 percent of the vote on the first ballot and is now setting the tone and running the show for future Republican leaders.

It's the people who want to have a fact-based discussion regarding what's best for our country that are now on the fringe. And those who don't realize it are the true lunatics.