Sunday, June 7, 2009

Use Civil Action to Curb Those Who Incite Violence

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, 6/7/09

I am sick of reading statements like this: “There is no defense, no excuse that justifies the murder [last] Sunday of George Tiller, the Wichita, Kan., doctor who was one of the few physicians left in American who specialized in late-term abortions.” Yes there are excuses, far too many of them. All one has to do is read the many blogs, community forums, and talkback features on news sites. There is no shortage of excuses for the assassination of Dr. Tiller.

Those who make their living in the mainstream of US media still bend to social convention where it is “wrong” to endorse obvious murder. Outside the mainstream there are those who endorse his murder.

There is no shortage of opportunists jumping on this in order to advance their own agendas. Some are calling for curbs on incendiary and hate filled speech. I have no doubt that the incendiary and hate filled rhetoric creates a climate and is a contributing factor in Dr Tiller’s murder. It is the same rhetoric that Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, refers to in his response to the assassination: “the pro-life movement must not be browbeaten by Obama or the child-killers into surrendering our best rhetoric, actions and images“. Mr. Terry is making excuses. The assassin, Mr. Roeder, appears to be linked to Operation Rescue.

How can talking heads, bloggers, and pundits condemn the incendiary speech of Islamic clerics as contributing to terrorism, such as:

“Terrorise [sic] your enemies as we cannot remain silent at their violations.
Otherwise, we will reach a stage when the consequences will be serious... I
am concerned about you because demonstrations are useless... Your enemy
loves terrorism and scorns nations and all Arabs. It seeks to silence the opinions of
others. I appeal to you not to resort to demonstrations because they
have become useless. You should resort to other methods. Moqtada al Sadr,
5 April 2004.

but not see the link between the rhetoric of leaders like Mr. Terry, or the statement by Dan Holman of Missionaries to the Preborn Iowa that he was “cheered” to hear about Dr. Tiller’s assassination. His response to whether he supported the killing: “I don’t advocate it, I don’t support it. But I don’t condemn it, and I believe that what he did was justifiable.” If it was justifiable then why would he not support the act? Mr. Holman continues that he supports the death of all abortionists and others including “George Bush, Barack Obama. Any politician that gives our tax money to Planned Parenthood and organizations that kill babies are participating in the killing of innocent children deserve the same penalty.” If that isn’t a clarion call for political assassination, then what is it?

There are those who deny that the rhetoric is any way connected to the actions. If so, then neither are motivational speeches related to actions. That is what this incendiary rhetoric is, motivational speech, and motivational speech should never be curbed or its content regulated. That’s why I disagree with calls by some on the left for laws to curb the incendiary speech of some in the pro-life movement. I do support, however, working within the current system. Just as the Klan was eventually defunded and rendered virtually inert (the organization but not white supremacist ideology), organizations like Mr. Holman’s, Operation Rescue, and other extremist organizations that suggest the political assassination of people they disagree with, should be carefully watched, though not necessarily by the government. I think a strategy like the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Klanwatch is what is needed to counter those who incite political violence against anyone who supports abortion rights. Bring suits to the civil courts with evidence that the extreme pro-life groups incite violence and conspire to commit violence and hit them in their pocket books. Those who motivate others to assassinate political opponents should be held accountable and the civil courts are a good place to do that.

Lynching was not “simple justice.” It was political violence. The political violence directed toward women, physicians, politicians, and those who support the right to choose is wrong. The civil and oft times heated debate about abortion, however, is welcomed. There is nothing wrong with trying to change people’s minds. Resorting to violence or motivating violence in the face of failure to convince one’s opponents is wrong and those who do so must be held accountable in our courts of law.

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