Frank Rich describes the Republican leadership and Tea Partiers as “goons” hurling “venomous slurs” — including racist epithets and even death threats — at Democratic congressmen who voted for ObamaCare. He takes particular exception to Sarah Palin’s call for a “reload” — as though she were summoning the Tea Party knuckle-walkers to take up firearms. Such verbal incitement, he warns, could quickly lead to actual assassination attempts.
I agree that there is no place in our politics for ugly threats; but I don’t agree with Rich that such murderous language is exclusive to Republicans or Tea Partiers. Quite the contrary: assassination threats against the opposition were first introduced into contemporary discourse by the many “progressive,” usually Democratic commentators, politicians, and bloggers caught up in the “Bush Derangement Syndrome.” There was no penalty for openly indulging such fancies, and so left-wing commentators and bloggers were liberated to indulge Orwellian “two-minute hates,” and to dream up innovative ways to impeach, jail, and even kill president Bush.
Below, a small sampling of the more lurid calls in the media and in street demos, during 2007-’08, to do away, both physically and politically, with George Bush:
This statement, by New York State Controller Alan Hevesi, was made in the summer of 2006 during his commencement address at Queens College in New York: “Senator Charles Schumer is a man to put a bullet between the president’s eyes.”
The following exchange in October 2006 took place on Bill Maher’s Real Time. It suggests that John Kerry is, at the very least, a sore loser.
MAHER: You could have went to New Hampshire and killed two birds with one stone.
KERRY: Or, I could have gone to 1600 Pennsylvania and killed the real bird with one stone.
Bush’s Assassination, a novella by Alien Cultist, was published in 2004 by Fiction Press and was listed as Fiction: Adventure/Parody:
I moved my aiming reticles back on Bush’s head. Ugly little bugger. Then there was one click of the flashlight slowly, then a second, and a third, from which I then pulled the trigger. The noise of the shot was completely muffled by the crowd’s applause for an idiot son of an asshole. Applause was quickly shifted to screams as the bullet rippled through his eye, and out the back of his head. He laid sprawled, and slightly twitching in his left leg, in his own pool of blood and brain tissue….”Pawn down,” I smiled.
Some comments on the above:
“hahah very sexy story eric i love the way bush is all twitchy.”
“Death to George Bush!”
“Glad to find another Bush Hater, and a story of his assignation (sic) is just plain delicious”
“heh this is good. i hate bush. BUSH SHOULD DIE”
In the novella Checkpoint by Nicholson Baker, published in 2004, a character fantasizes about killing Bush:
Bush is an unelected F–ing drunken OILMAN who is “squatting” in the White House and muttering over his prayer book every morning…. Bush is one dead armadillo…. I’m going to kill that bastard.
Charlie Brooker, a Brit columnist, wrote the following in an October 2004 op-ed in the Guardian newspaper:
Bush will probably win the Nov. 2 election despite the prayers of the entire civilized world, thus proving that God does not exist. The world will endure four more years of idiocy, arrogance and unwarranted bloodshed, with no benevolent deity to watch over and save us… John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr. — where are you now that we need you?
Lethal Bush-hatred soon metastasized beyond the print and electronic media, to be represented in the graphic arts: At Chicago’s Columbia College, a curated exhibit included a sheet of mock postage stamps bearing the words “Patriot Act” and depicting President Bush with a gun to his head.
Assassination chic has also taken cinematic form, as in Death of a President, a recent movie about the murder of George Bush. Written and directed by British filmmaker Gabriel Range, this pseudo-documentary, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, opens with images of Bush being picked off by a sniper in a Chicago hotel in October 2007. The film Photoshops the president’s face onto the head of the actor playing him, so that the mortally wounded target seems, quite convincingly, to be Bush himself. Noah Cowan, a festival co-director, has played down the film’s “harrowing” aspects, and instead describes Death of a President as “a classic cautionary tale.” The flick is really about “how the Patriot Act, especially, and Bush’s divisive partisanship and race-baiting has [sic] forever altered America.”
Finally, at the height of any vogue there is a buck to be made; hence, the predictable merchandising spin-offs, and Bush-Assassination fashion statements, such as the “KILL BUSH” T-shirts that were flogged by CafePress, an online retailer.
Many Bush death-wishers chose not to hide behind their blogging pseudonyms, but marched — presumably under the eyes of the police — carrying placards that openly declared their violent sentiments. The producer of “Zombie-Time,” who records left-wing marches around the country, has photographed a host of these provocative placards. Here are some of the most expressive examples of the genre:
“KILL TERRORISTS. BOMB THERE HOUSE (sic). KILL BUSH. BOMB HIS F—IN HOUSE”
“SAVE MOTHER EARTH. KILL BUSH”
“HANG BUSH FOR WAR CRIMES”
“BUSH IS THE DISEASE. DEATH IS THE CURE.”
“I’M HERE TO KILL BUSH. (SHOOT ME.)”
“BUSH IS THE ONLY DOPE WORTH SHOOTING.”
“DEATH TO EXTREMIST TERRORIST PIG-BUSH”
“THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PEOPLE LIKE YOU: KILL BUSH!”
A mobile guillotine was paraded with the sign, “BUSH WHACKER,” hung over a basket containing the president’s severed head.
There were at least five years of such open, public hate-speech. Reading through it, I was struck by two things: the evident lack of response from either the public or the Feds, and a perhaps related phenomenon — the “ordinariness” of such extreme rhetoric. Given the hectic climate of the times, such over-the-top babble, the voice of the lunatic fringe, was now just part of the crowd noise in the newly liberated, exhibitionistic America. The lunatic fringe had not changed, what had changed were the platforms from which its members could shout their paranoiac, homicidal messages. No more soapboxes in Union Square; now they performed in Carnegie hall. The cuckoo-bird Lunatic Fringe had moved into and replaced the cultural center.
And who had invited them into the Holy of Holies? Who had celebrated them, as the viceroys of The Age of Aquarius? Who had sneered at their detractors, calling them “Life-Hating” War Hawks, Male Chauvinists and Homophobes? Those who had de-toxified and legitimized the language of the fringe were the same radicals who now squeal indignantly when Sarah Palin uses the word “reload.”