Boehlert: What if Fox News actually wants mob violence?
Conservative commentators were atwitter last week following news that Ann Coulter's speech at the University of Ottawa was canceled in the face of protests. Of course, Coulter has the right to speak her mind on campuses. But in announcing the cancellation, her conservative Canadian sponsor, pundit Ezra Levant, put the blame on out-of-control liberals who had allegedly made it unsafe for Coulter to speak, breathlessly telling reporters that "the police and the security have advised that it would be physically dangerous for Ann Coulter to proceed with this event and for others to come in" and stressing the presence of an "unruly mob" outside.America's conservative corporate media make money for getting viewers - what better way to do that than to inflame violence. Explaining the facts of health care reform or any other legislation by Democrats are what the media - our supposedly objective watchdogs are supposed to do.
Naturally, right-wing bloggers south of the Canadian border then went ballistic. Gateway Pundit claimed a menacing mob of 2,000, armed with "rocks and sticks," had surrounded the Ottawa campus building where Coulter was to speak. And yes, a fire alarm was even pulled.
But it turns none of those hysterical claims were true (except for the part about someone pulling a fire alarm without cause). The 1,000 protesters were peaceful, according to university officials (good luck finding those rocks and sticks). And no, the police did not cancel the event out of our concern for Coulter's safety. They simply thought the event should have been held in a bigger venue to facilitate the large crowd. (Who invites Ann Coulter to campus and then books a lecture hall that, according to one estimate, holds just 400 people?)
Fact: Coulter and her promoters canceled the show on their own. There were no imminent signs of mob violence or threats of personal harm, just good old-fashioned, raucous, campus-style debate. But faced with a boisterous crowd, Coulter took her marbles and went home, while her conservative allies concocted tales of looming left-wing violence and feasted on the publicity.
Later, whining about her traumatic no-show in Ottawa, Coulter told a reporter, "I would like to know when this sort of violence, this sort of protest, has been inflicted upon a Muslim?" [Emphasis added.]
Oh, so now pulling a fire alarm qualifies as "violence"?
The hysterical hand-wringing was predictable. But the real stunner last week was watching the same conservatives who fretted over Coulter's safety then turn around and excuse and rationalize actual right-wing violence and intimidation stateside in the wake of the historic health care vote. Speaking out of both sides of their mouths with astonishing ease, conservatives denounced liberals who protested Coulter's appearance in Canada, and then played defense on behalf of marauding right-wing radicals who unleashed death threats, threw bricks through office windows, and hurled epithets at politicians. All in the name of saving America from President Obama's brand of evil socialism.
That form of intimidation and harassment the GOP Noise Machine had no problem with. Indeed, Democrats themselves were to blame for the rash of political violence.
Or so said the Tea Party team at Fox News, where there was little sense of remorse or shame -- or even apparent concern -- about the unprecedented bouts of violence and intimidation last week. (See list below.)
Instead, like Sarah Palin, Fox News simply reloaded and kept spraying the poisonous rhetoric all around. Worse, the "news" channel spent parts of last week either denying or rationalizing the uncorked madness. For instance, Glenn Beck suggested the incidents had been concocted. "It's almost as if the left is trumping all of this up just for the politics," said Beck.
Fox News friend Rush Limbaugh agreed:
Our side doesn't do this kind of stuff. It's all made up -- 95 percent of it's made up and it's being done to divert everybody's attention."
And from Andrew Breitbart's Big Government: "We doubt these threats are actually real."
Those who weren't denying the acts of violence were busy whitewashing them. On Fox News, S.E. Cupp made fun of Democrats who she claimed sought sympathy after being on the receiving end of a "couple of angry voices mails." Cheered Cupp, "I'm glad people are angry."
Hmm, "angry" voice mails? Here's an example of one of the actual hate messages left on a Democrat's voice mail:
"Congressman Stupak, you baby-killing mother f***er... I hope you bleed out your a**, got cancer and die, you mother f***er," one man says in a message to Stupak.