Monday, June 01, 2009

To What Degree do Ideas Have Consequences : Questions of the Day

Yesterday, while in church, Dr. George Tiller was assassinated. At the time, he served as an usher for the congregation. From her position in the choir, Tiller's wife saw the assassination.

Tiller is a very controversial figure in American medicine as he was one of the few doctors in the country to provide late-term abortions for women. You can read some stories about those women here.

Tiller was the target of violent discourse by Bill O'Reilly [see here, here, and here]; by members of Operation Rescue, a pro-life organization [see here, here, and here (warning- graphic images)]; and, of course, profiled on the Nuremberg Files website [see here, and here].

Question One: If the legal standard for judging political discourse is imminent lawless action (Brandenburg v. Ohio), should the discourse from O'Reilly, Operation Rescue, or on the Nuremberg File's website be protected under the first amendment standard for political discourse or should it be classified under the fighting words classification, if that classification still exists from R.A.V. v. St. Paul, and receive less constitutional protection? Or, is a strategy of counter persuasion against O'Reilly and Operation Rescue a better strategy?

Question Two: Does O'Reilly have any moral obligation to apologize for his discourse about Tiller or does he have any moral responsibility to tone down his discourse? When discussion Tiller's profession, O'Reilly stated:
"No question Dr. Tiller has blood on his hands. But now so does Governor Sebelius. She is not fit to serve. Nor is any Kansas politician who supports Tiller's business of destruction. I wouldn't want to be these people if there is a Judgment Day."

Does O'Reilly, or Operation Rescue, have blood of their hands as well because of the death of Dr. George Tiller?


harrogate said...

Solon, thanks for posting on this.

O'Reilly certainly had been demonizing Tiller for a long time, as he has been demonizing judges throughout the country for rendering "soft on crime" sentences and verdicts.

O'Reilly is not alone, it's a stock in trade of these pundits to gin up hate.

Should O'Reilly apologize? Damned straight. Not just for his hate speech against Tiller but relatedly for his entire modus operendi, which tilts on inflammatory rhetoric of the worst kind. So too should Rush, Hannity, Mark Levin, Michelle Malkin, and a ost of other blights of skin be taking long looks at themselvs in the mirror today and asking themselves what do they really think about political violence *(TERRORISM)? If they truly do not favor terrorism, then they need to change their rhetorics of demonization.

But, Harrogate will be shocked to see any such apology.

As to your question, should they be held legally accountable for the use of "fighting words"? Harrogate's instinct is to say yes, but he is afraid that once you take that step, it leaves itself to oppen to interpretation, poses to much of a slippery slope, and threatens the free political discourse that we continue to enjoy.

But all that said. Last night and this morning, Harrogate's main thought has been, we as a country need to be very careful how we handle Tiller's tragic murder. We might well be headed to new, unprecendented levels of scariness with respect to right wing political violence in America.

harrogate said...

Appopriate to this post, Harrogate's ideological friends over at Balloon Juice have a brief, very interesting post on O'Reill'y as well as Tucker Carlson.

solon said...

I watched the beginning of O'Reilly. Billy the Arrogant doubled-down on his rhetoric.

And the war came.

harrogate said...

what a mess. nothing less than an act aimed at terrorizing women and the doctors on whom they depend.

It is time that the main media start doing big story after big story on the inciteful speech of radio talkers and on fox news. shrill screechers like o'reilly need to be called out as the shrill screechers that they are, again and again and again.