May 17, 2008

Who will rid me of this troublesome politician?

Here is an interesting clip of Mike Huckabee, ex-Presidential nominee for the Republican Party, 'joking' in front of the staunchly right-wing NRA crowd about the possibility of an Obama assassination.

Now, I should first of all point out, for any readers, that I am not especially against gun ownership per se, in the UK or America. Yes, I know I have a reputation as a subversive left wing liberal who hates freedom and loves terrorism etc etc but to a degree, I side more with the right-wing/libertarian view when it comes to firearms. Not to mention I did spend part of my misspent youth in the countryside and have been a member of my University rifle club and so actually enjoy shooting too.

But anyway, that's not the point, so I wanted to dismiss the strawman straight away. The point is noting the spread and even acceptance of the "Obama assassination meme" within mainstream political discourse, especially in circles like the above, where Obama is not seen in an especially friendly light.

Now I know you'll be saying "Oh Huckabee is just joking, I thought you Discordians knew about larking about", but to be honest, that's kind of the point. I'm very used to using humour to mask a point, to say something I wish to be known in an indirect and subtle manner. That's often the function of humour in politics, it gives a veneer of deniability to a statement.

Its also one that has been used to death by the American right, such as Ann "lets assassinate a US Judge, teehee I'm only joking" Coulter, Rush "lets not kill all the liberals, just most of them" Limbaugh and other such 'wits' of American politics, like Michael Savage.

So you'll excuse me a certain degree of scepticism when I see the tactic repeated by others.

We all believe Obama is probably the most likely candidate to be targeted, followed closely by McCain (the Middle Eastern groups tend to not operate much outside their own territory, but when they do they are usually very good at it). It's hardly news. He's a charismatic, black man who appeals to a wide constituency of people, comes from a cosmopolitian, is opposed to favourite ventures of the nutjob-right and has a good chance of becoming the next US President. And we know people like the Aryan Nations are still out there, still exist and have people motivated and trained well enough to attempt something like this.

But repititions of the idea that Obama will inevitably face an assassination attempt seem to be aimed more at the idea of spreading this idea of inevitability far and wide, hoping some far-right nut will decide to take one for the Aryan cause and have a go at killing him. Its one step off encouraging it, when repeated like this.

The entire point of modern day, non-state/terrorist assassination is this - that it takes place within an enabling environment and narrative, and is done in a public place to validate the killer themselves. Making continued references to this happening only increases the chances of someone trying to have a go.

Equally bad is the downplaying of the chances of someone killing him. All three US candidates are at risk, its the nature of the game of politics. Killing the potential next President has long been a route to fame for no-hoper's around the world. Suggesting that Obama is perfectly safe and has nothing to worry about, in the same poisonous media climate which is also telling us he is likely to be killed, as it makes an attempt on him look easy and invites more attempts.

Here are just a few examples of the meme spreading from extremist to more mainstream circles

(Just as an aside, I think people on the left who continually raise the prospect of his assassination are just as guilty of perpetuating the meme as everyone else, though I suspect their motivation is more benign. Unless they are Hillary Clinton supporters).

  • Sean Hannity of Fox News pops up again, this time with some interesting use of language...

"I just feel that with the more we learn about the racial implications in his past, the more likely it is for sure he will be killed."

He all but left out the *Hint hint, nudge nudge, wink wink* from that statement. We all know the implication is that he is a black supremacist is being spread by the right, which is like a lightning rod to any racists out there.

  • Jonah "liberals once called me a fascist, so I call them it back now" Goldberg engages in more than just a bit of projection here when he suggests if Obama loses certain people will become unhinged. Maybe they will, but for the moment, it seems more likely a win will unhinge other 'certain people', as the above comments and Greenwald's own article are showing.

  • The hilariously named White Civil Rights website also engages in a degree of projection, when they fantasize about Mossad killing Obama. Because thats no way an excuse to talk freely about an assassination attempt at all, is it?

  • Even the bloody Torygraph tries to pooh-pooh the chances of an assassination emanating from the right, instead blaming the idea on a mix of conspiracy theory, wish for martyrdom (nice touch, by the way, the Muslim implication there) and generalized paranoia. Obviously Tony Harden doesn't pay much attention to the lunatic fringe, or he'd know how pumped up on this idea many of them are. While no doubt many of the left wing comments implicating the likes of Blackwater or Clinton are nonsense, there is a real radical threat.

  • Again, Vanguard News Network, another far-right US site, is spreading the Obama assassination meme under the cover of "tEh Jo0s DiD iT! (oR aT lEaSt wIlL dO!)".

And on and on it goes. I didn't even bother to go to some of the crazier, less well known sites. I thought this should cover it fairly nicely.

As a commentator at the Seattle PI points out, the best thing the media could do in order to play down these fears is not talk about it all the time. Yes, I do realize that makes me guilty to a degree as well, but I'm trying to introduce a phage here, to undercut the meme. By constantly finding ways to bring up the idea, either in terms of denying it having any possibility at all (all US Presidential candidates are potential targets, get over it) or prophesying it as a certainty, is only doing more damage and poisoning the civil discourse.

No comments: