But, Searls' take is also very different from those who throw in totally with the free will position, or the idea that this was the action of a lone loon.
Bloggers like Jill Filipovic are quite wrong to make an analogy between O’Reilly’s rhetoric and the shouting of ‘Fire!’ in a croweded theatre. The point about the overused ‘Fire!’ example is that in a crowded theatre there is no time to think: if someone shouts, everyone runs, as there’s no time for debate or reasoned inquiry into the nature of the fire or the truth of the claim. The link between words and actions becomes blurred in this one, exceptionally rare instance.
In contrast, when O’Reilly says stuff on his show, there is every opportunity to question and challenge his claims. TV is not a panicked atmosphere but a media outlet, where the audience hears things, weighs them up, and decides whether to agree or disagree. Far from calling for anti-abortion activists to ‘mind their language’, their often crass remarks should be seen as an opportunity to meet fire with fire, to counter their claims with more compelling arguments and opinions. Far from needing less talk about abortion, we need more. Things might have turned out differently if O’Reilly’s arguments had provoked a robust public debate about why women need people like Dr Tiller and access to late-term abortions
Much to chew on here. It is certainly true that Pro Choice advocacy in the United States has grown increasingly timid, and in some ways has altogether disappeared (occasional soundbites in favor of the principles of privacy and choice notwithstanding) from the rhetoric of leaders within the Democratic Party. This unwillingness to meet the anti-abortion arguments directly, on the rhetorical battlefield in the public square, very much extends to President Obama, as Searls notes:
But sadly, for too long the question of late-term abortion has been treated as a highly sensitive, even embarrassing issue by many pro-choice activists. And pro-choice politicians do not consider late-term abortion a good subject for public discussion. As President Barack Obama’s speech at Notre Dame University demonstrated, pro-choice politicians are keen to avoid the substantive issues in the abortion debate whenever possible.
But if the pro-choice lobby stays quiet on this issue, it will effectively vacate the public arena and allow people like O’Reilly to barge in and take the alleged moral highground; shamefacedness about late-term abortion allows anti-abortion campaigners to see it and treat it as, well, something shameful. In such a climate, it is little wonder that individuals like Dr Tiller were so effectively demonised. Late-term abortion should not be a dirty little secret never raised in polite society. It should be openly discussed and rationally understood. There are many very sound reasons why women need to have access to late-term abortion services, and there should be no shame in defending them.
It is a tragedy that it has taken the brutal murder of a decent and compassionate man to remind us why so many women turn to people like Dr Tiller for help. O’Reilly has been banging on about Tiller for years, but it is only now that we are beginning to hear the other side of Tiller’s story - a story about a brave doctor who believed passionately in defending women’s reproductive rights. This was the real Dr Tiller, who was seen by many of his patients as something like a knight in shining armour.
In the wake of the Bush Administration, many of us have been gladdened and relieved at Obama's central strategy of seeking to "tone down" the culture wars. We do not want things to escalate to violence, after all, and there are pressing matters such as health care and North Korea and Harrogate's student loan debt to worry about. But at the same time, if one side refuses to tone down the culture war, then does the other essentially cede all the important Rhetorical Ground, by confining engagement to asking everyone to get along?
Questions of responsibility for Tiller's murder aside, In Harrogate's view, Searls is dead-on right in her premise that our wish to avoid vociferously defending abortion rights in the public square has been exposed as a totally ineffective approach.
How do you fight inflammatory speech? Not by shutting it down, not by asking the speakers to chill, and also not by ignoring it. Fight it with reasonable, but vociferous and bold speech of your own. We all need to realize that the Culture Wars have not gone away, have not been toned down in the United States---nor will they anytime soon.