Violent extremism of any stripe is beyond the pale. The intentional murder of innocents remains one of the world’s ultimate evils. If only everyone speaking on the issue of anti-government extremism chose their words as carefully as President Clinton.
Alas, the talking heads of MSNBC have not. They have used the anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing to declare open season on almost anyone right of center.
The suggestion by Oklahoma lawmakers that they might want to form a state defense force is completely legal and appropriate under both the federal and state constitutions. Yet MSNBC commentators labeled the idea, without any evidence other than innuendo, a precursor to the next civil war.
And for MSNBC, baseless commentary like this runs only against the right. Think back to its coverage of Code Pink and the antiwar protests of the Bush administration. None of its commentators fretted over whether the protesters would lead to a resurgence of left-wing violence such as that practiced by the Weather Underground, the Blank Panthers, or the Symbionese Liberation Army. That would have been totally inappropriate — but no more so than what it’s eagerly doing now with conservative protesters.
When MSNBC demonizes tea-party demonstrators and other conservative activists as aiding and abetting political violence, it’s hard to see it as anything other than partisan fear-mongering of the worst sort. The surest way to incite violence is to suppress legitimate dissent.