Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Palling Around With Neo-Nazis

Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman were charged yesterday with threatening to assassinate Barack Obama. The two men are neo-Nazis and the craziness of their plot, from its fixation with numerology to its campy costuming (the two intended to wear white tuxedos and top hats while slaughtering Obama and 102 other black Americans) should not encourage us to ignore its hatefulness, and the sources of that hatefulness.

To be clear: No one technically “palled around” with these neo-Nazis. Sarah Palin did not go moose hunting with Cowart and Schlesselman, nor did her allies in the press nor her allies in the press, from Sean Hannity to Mark Stricherz, go bar hopping with the duo. There was no “palling around” because there was no casual relationship. There was something actually far worse: a causal relationship. For, surely, one of the mitigating factors Cowart’s and Sclesselman’s attorneys will point to is the fact that for several weeks a Governor of one of the fifty states, who had secured her party’s nomination for the vice-presidency of the nation, and a variety of serious media outlets had broadcast as newsworthy and significant the “fact” that Barack Obama “palled around” with terrorists.

We all know that terrorists are enemies of the United States so someone who “pals around” with them must at the very least be aiding and abetting the terrorists. Isn’t that what Palin meant to suggest? Young men and women wearing the uniform of the United States are engaged currently in two wars fighting terrorists who threaten our nation. Why should we stand idly by while one of the terrorists’ allies stealthily wins political support when our brothers and sisters are fighting against the same terrorists abroad?

You can hear the objection: We never told anyone to kill! We never told anyone to purchase a short-barreled shotgun, or two handguns, or a rifle and ammunition (all of which were found in Cowart’s and Schlesselman’s possession)! True enough. But, it requires a willful ignorance not to know that questioning the patriotism of the first black candidate for president might capture the attention of racist haters, that suggesting a casual connection between Obama and terrorism was a variety of hate-mongering, and that, long after it had been demonstrated that there was no meaningful relationship between Obama and Ayers, continuing to raise the issue amounted to shouting “fire” in a crowded arena. You can drive one hour from our nation’s capital (to the north or south, I might add) and find KKK and other racist memorabilia. The arena of racism is a crowded one and shouting “fire” is literally incendiary.

I do not believe that any of those who rehearsed the Ayers story wanted Obama dead. I also believe that their language was designed to raise doubts in some, even at the risk of raising hate in others. Such language is most certainly not exculpatory for these neo-Nazis, but is certainly a mitigating factor. I recognized all along, what Mr. Cowart and Mr. Schlesselman did not recognize, that the Ayers story was merely an attempt at character assassination, not real assassination. It was merely a revival of McCarthyite smear tactics, but no one told the neo-Nazis it was just a smear campaign. The confusion should not let Cowart and Schlesselman off the hook for their criminal acts and intents, but neither should it excuse the shameful acts and intents of those who stoked their hate.

Michael Sean Winters


Unknown said...

This post is insulting. Certainly Obama's association with the very liberal Ayers is newsworthy.

Biaggio said...

The post is Christian. It shows how hateful rhetoric can lead to evil acts. More to the point is how so many can lead a country into war, bloodshed, wounded and death, for dubious and contestable reasons.
Robertson and Falwell were famous for this, capitalizing on fear of homosexuals by fostering violence and gaining money from such acts.

What is really newsworthy is how a totally unqualified person can be nominated as vice president.

Jim Belna said...

In case anyone was wondering, this is what ''Palin Derangement Syndrome'' looks like. First, there is zero evidence that these criminals had ever heard Governor Palin make any remarks about Senator Obama; for that matter, there is zero evidence that they even know who Sarah Palin is. All of the available evidence suggests that they were only interested in killing Barack Obama because he was a famous black man. Unless you want to blame Sarah Palin for the fact the Barack Obama is black, there is zero basis for associating her with this incident at all - which is surely why Michael Sean is the only man in America to do so. Second, Sarah Palin did not claim that Barack Obama palled around with foreign terrorists; she explicitly referred to the fact that Barack Obama has a long-standing relationship with Bill Ayers, a self-confessed unrepentant domestic terrorist. If anything, Governor Palin was understating this relationship by using the phrase ''palling around''. They jointly controlled a $150 million educational fund and served together on a foundation board, doling out funds to such worthy beneficiaries as the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and PLO representative Rashid Khalidi. Of course, Obama says that Ayers is just some guy who lives in his neighborhood, which is presumably why Michael Sean contends that ''it has been demonstrated that there was no meaningful relationship between Obama and Ayers''. Sane people respectfully beg to differ. Finally, I certainly hope that Michael Sean is the only person in this country who considers exposure to political speech a mitigating factor for racists who target presidential candidates for assassination. I imagine that even the would-be assassins would be embarrassed to make such an inane assertion. But then again, anyone who has convinced himself that Barack Obama is the pro-life candidate in this race is capable of believing anything.

Unknown said...

Hey biaggio: I agree that Palin's experience or lack of experience are newsworthy. I would not suggest that the unrelenting news stories about palin are the reason for the Palin-hanging-by-a-noose in California. I also would like to see more news on whether the comic Al Frankin has enough experience to be a Senator. It would be nice to see an SNL spoof about a comic like Frankin running for Senate.