Paul Krugman thinks the recent murder of abortion doctor George Tiller and yesterday’s shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC are related to an upsurge in extremism caused by irresponsible, inflammatory, Obama-is-leading-us-into-fascism rhetoric from the right, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.
Let me make it clear: I despise the “fascism is coming!” scaremongering. That said, I think it’s ludicrous to suggest that 88-year-old neo-Nazi James von Brunn — who, as Jonah Goldberg puts it in his NRO column, was “considered a dangerous nut even within the dangerous-nut community” — was inspired by the likes of Limbaugh, O’Reilly, or Glenn Beck. Von Brunn no doubt regards the conservative establishment as controlled by the Jews (The Weekly Standard was reportedly on his hit list).
Trends in anti-Semitic hate crimes make it hard to speak of a pattern linked to overall political trends. However, it’s fair to say that a lot of anti-Semitism in recent years has been linked to, and fueled by, left-wing rhetoric against Israel and its supporters. I think Jonah goes too far in suggesting that swipes at “neocons” are usually code words for anti-Semitism, but the connection, in many cases, does exist. Discussions of “the Israel lobby” on the Internet certainly do draw the Jew-haters out of the woodwork.
That aside, Krugman’s a good one to talk about political hate- and panic-mongering, after eight years of hysterical warnings from the left about Republican fascism. Remember Naomi Wolf’s “Fascist America” screed, followed by a book called The End of America? Wolf was given a voice in such respectable venues as the Colbert report and National Public Radio, and her paranoid rants about Sarah Palin as “the muse of the coming Rovian police state” were hosted by The Huffington Post. And that’s just one example. Hate and hyperbole have become an endless cycle in American political discourse, and while there are stylistic differences between the left and the right, no one is innocent.
(Cross-posted to RealClearPolitics blogs.)