Three questions for you.
- Do you think of Republicans and the Tea Party as dangerous, violent extremists?
- Do you think the Wisconsin protests over GOP Governor Scott Walker's move to strip public sector employees of collective bargaining were peaceful?
- Do you scoff at the right wing notion that mainstream media like the New York Times, the TV networks and NPR have a liberal media bias against the conservatives?
If you answered 'yes' to all three of those questions, then let me ask you one more...
Why isn't the mainstream media talking about the death threats against Republican politicians in Wisconsin?
Try to set aside whatever biases or preconceptions you might have for a moment and ask yourself why death threats against politicians aren't considered national news, especially in the wake of the all too fresh shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and other bystanders. And there hasn't just been one death threat, but a number of them.
Here's an example and it's real. According to Wisconsin State Department of Justice, authorities have found a suspect who admitted to sending the following email:
I want to make this perfectly clear. Because of your actions today and in the past couple of weeks I and the group of people that are working with me have decided that we've had enough. We feel that you and your republican dictators have to die. This is how it's going to happen: I as well as many others know where you and your family live, it's a matter of public records. We have all planned to assult you by arriving at your house and putting a nice little bullet in your head. However, this isn't enough. We also have decided that this may not be enough to send the message. So we have built several bombs that we have placed in various locations around the areas in which we know that you frequent. This includes, your house, your car, the state capitol, and well I won't tell you all of them because that's just no fun. Since we know that you are not smart enough to figure out why this is happening to you we have decided to make it perfectly clear to you. If you and your goonies feel that it's necessary to strip the rights of 300,000 people and ruin their lives, making them unable to feed, clothe, and provide the necessities to their families and themselves then We will "get rid of" (in which I mean kill) the 8 of you. Please understand that this does not include the heroic Senator that risked everything to go aganist what you and your goonies wanted him to do. The 8 includes the 7 senators and the dictator. We feel that it's worth our lives becasue we would be saving the lives of 300,000 people. Please make your peace with God as soon as possible and say goodbye to your loved ones we will not wait any longer. Goodbye ASSHOLE!!!!
After the Giffords shooting, authorities have to take this sort of threat seriously. The media should too, even if the disturbed person who sent that email was motivated by exactly the kind of rhetoric that's been used by many liberals against GOP officials over and over again during the Madison protests. And there are more threats floating around the internet, in varying degrees of scary and credible.
If you read liberal blogs, you might have heard of some of these threats. Indirectly, anyway. Sarah Palin said the rhetoric should be toned down. The threats themselves were ignored and Palin was mocked.
On the other hand, if you read conservative blogs or listen to conservative media, you know all about these threats because people like Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh and websites like Newsbusters and BigJournalism have not only been talking about the death threats for days now but they've been talking about the mainstream and liberal media ignoring the threats for days.
Ignoring the story of these threats is deeply, fundamentally wrong. It's bad, biased journalism that will lead to no possible good outcome and progressives should be leading the charge against it.
Just before writing this article, I did a Google search and it's stunning to find out that the right wing media really isn't exaggerating -- proven death threats against politicians are being ignored by the supposedly honest media. If you've never agreed with a single thing that Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly et al have said about anything, you can't in any good conscience say that they don't have a point here. Death threats are wrong and if a story like Wisconsin is national news for days, then so are death threats.
I'm in an odd position. In the last few months, I've had one foot in the left wing news stream and one foot in the right. My media duality began when conservative publisher Andrew Breitbart hired me to work with him on the Pigford 'black farmers' settlement story. I'm a pro-choice, pro-single payer, anti-war, pro-gay rights independent liberal with years of work in print and film backing those positions. Breitbart hired me to bring a different perspective to the non-partisan issue of corruption in Pigford.
Since then, I've written both here for the left-leaning Huffington Post and at Breitbart's right leaning BigGovernment.com. I've ended up reading a lot more conservative sites and dealing firsthand with a lot more conservatives than any time since I attended a high school dedicated to the principles of Ayn Rand about 30 years ago.
Unlike many on the left, I didn't view the Wisconsin battle as the end of days. I wasn't convinced that I had a dog in that hunt, in part because I think there's a strong case to be made those public employees shouldn't have the same collective bargaining rights as private sector workers -- a case made well by Franklin D. Roosevelt, who said...
"All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress."
Roosevelt's statement makes sense to me; it does seem that public employees are different than private. I'm not at all anti-union. (I've publicly supported unionizing the visual effects industry, for example.) I'm open to a good rational argument against the case FDR made but in discussions on Twitter and elsewhere, all I got in response from people on the left was anger and insults. I saw little light and felt much heat.
That tone of extreme hostility I experienced brings me back to the death threats in Wisconsin. Frankly, the bile and invective in that threat reminded me of the tone I saw directed at me from many so-called liberals because I committed the heresy of taking a different position from them on the issue of collective bargaining for public sector employees... based on something FDR said.
Is this really what liberalism has come to in 2011?
Since working with Breitbart, my position on political issues hasn't changed but I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm deeply disappointed by the virulent, lockstep attitude I see on the left. My experience in the last few months tells me what I would not have believed possible; on any number of issues (including Pigford, by the way) I've seen liberals act much nastier and with less factual honesty than the conservatives... and this includes on issues where I disagree with conservatives.
Burying the death threat story is a clear example of intellectual dishonesty and journalistic bias.
Don't take my word for it, though. Look into the story of death threats in Wisconsin yourself and see who has been covering the story and who hasn't. Try for a moment to see this story from the perspective of those who you may disagree with on policy and ask yourself how this looks to them. Can you blame them for feeling that way? Then take a few seconds and read those questions I asked you at the beginning of this article.
And then ask why progressives shouldn't expect more from our media -- and ourselves -- than we expect from our political adversaries.
Follow Lee Stranahan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Stranahan