Tonight, following Amanda Melissa's resignations, I am reminded of the how violence has long been a tool of the right-wing in its attempts to end reproductive choice in America. Consider the following
In the U.S., violence directed toward abortion providers has killed 7 people, including 3 doctors, 2 clinic employees, a security guard, and a clinic escort.(...)
According to statistics gathered by the National Abortion Federation (NAF), an organization of abortion providers, since 1977 in the United States and Canada, there have been 17 attempted murders, 383 death threats, 153 incidences of assault or battery, and 3 kidnappings committed against abortion providers.(...)
The first letters claiming to contain anthrax were mailed to U.S. clinics in October 1998, a few days after the Slepian shooting, and since then, there have been a total of 655 such bioterror threats made against abortion providers.(...)
According to NAF, since 1977 in the United States and Canada, property crimes committed against abortion providers have included 41 bombings, 173 arsons, 91 attempted bombings or arsons, 619 bomb threats, 1630 incidences of trespassing, 1264 incidences of vandalism, and 100 attacks with butyric acid.
Violence against abortion providers is by far a more serious threat to reproductive freedom than any democratic, legislative, or judicial means. On the democratic front, despite South Dakota being the 11th most "pro-life" state in the nation, according to Survey USA
, a ballot measure to outlaw abortion was soundly defeated, 55%-45% last November
. On the legislative front, despite Republicans holding a trifecta in Washington D.C. for four years from 2003-2006, and despite Republicans holding a trifecta in over 25 states for at least two years during the last decade, not only does abortion remain legal in every single state in the nation, it was never successfully outlawed anywhere (although Demcoratic-controlled Louisiana is pending on that front). When it comes to the judiciary, despite more than two-thirds of current federal and Supreme Court justices being appointed by Republicans, Roe vs. Wade has yet to be overturned, or even seriously challenged since Casey versus Planned Parenthood (another Democratic move).
Over the past fifteen years, conservatives have had every possible democratic, legislative, and judicial tool at their disposal to outlaw abortion, at least somewhere. However, all of their attempts on these fronts have failed miserably. The only thing hat has worked for them has been violence committed against abortion providers. When I write "violence," I am being as nice as humanly possible. Take another look at the list of acts I quoted above, described, and tell me that it doesn't smack of a coordinated, terrorist campaign against abortion providers. Sadly, it has largely been successful. The reason there are only one, two or three abortion providers in two dozen states is because of the terrorist campaign conducted against abortion providers. As all democratic means have failed them, the only tool conservatives have successfully used to slow down abortion has been a campaign of terrorist violence against abortion providers.
But that isn't the only area where terrorism and the threat of violence remains a key political tool for American conservatives. As much as we laud the sophistication, coordination, and long-term funding that was required to build the Republican Noise Machine, the incidents of the past week bring into stark relief how the continuing threat of violence against targets of the Noise Machine play a key role in its operation. Keep in mind that the targets of right-wing smears are often junior staffers, college professors or other mid-range employees that ultimately mean little to the organization where they are employed. By targeting such people, the Noise Machine hopes to enact more pain to the organizations who employ those-who-dare-to-ever-step-out-of-line-
with-conservative-orthodoxy than those-who-dare-to-ever-step-out-of-line-
with-conservative-orthodoxy can ever bring to the organization in question. However, in the rare cases where that is not enough to achieve victory, such as John Edwards refusing to fire Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan last week, other tactics are employed in order to achieve the desired result. In order for the Noise Machine to get its scalps and thus continue its normal operation, simultaneous to all of the media smears there is a constant campaign of violent threats. In the case of Marcotte and McEwan, when the organization employing the targets refused to cave from media pressure, the targets themselves caved largely as a result of the constant string of violent threats leveled against them by right-wing activists. As Melissa wrote in her public resignation letter
There will be some who clamor to claim victory for my resignation, but I caution them that in doing so, they are tacitly accepting responsibility for those who have deluged my blog and my inbox with vitriol and veiled threats. It is not right-wing bloggers, nor people like Bill Donohue or Bill O'Reilly, who prompted nor deserve credit for my resignation, no matter how much they want it, but individuals who used public criticisms of me as an excuse to unleash frightening ugliness, the likes of which anyone with a modicum of respect for responsible discourse would denounce without hesitation.
Much like the democratic means attempted by conservatives to outlaw abortion, the media pressure against Edwards didn't work. Unfortunately, the violent threats against Melissa did. Over at Pandagon
, Amanda offers a taste of some of the tamer threats she received during the episode, and which it appears she continues to receive. Ultimately, it appears that it was the continuing threat of violence, not any media pressure or caving from the Edwards campaign, that allowed the right-wing to "take scalps" in this whole affair.
During the brief media frenzy surrounding my googlebomb campaign in October of 2006, I myself received about five dozen death threats that looked not unlike the ones Amanda posted at Pandagon. Also, when Michelle Malkin tried to attack two college students for engaging in anti-war protests, the college students also received dozens of death threats
. Considering of this, it now seems pretty clear to me now that every
right-wing media campaign against a mid-level Democrat or progressive is always
accompanied with numerous threats of violence. It seems to be a ubiquitous back-up tactic of the American right-wing in the event that their media pressure fails to work, just as it failed to work against the Edwards campaign, and just as it failed to work against me when it came to the Googlebombs. As it the case with abortion providers, if you can't beat them using democratic means, and if you can't defeat them using your vast media empire, use death threats as a final tactic to force relatively powerless individuals to bend to your demands.
Terrorism and the threat of violence against American citizens remains a key political tool for the American right-wing. This is true both in the sense of conservatives and Republicans trying to scare people into voting for them / justifying their legislative agenda, and in the sense of actual terrorism and threats of violence against Democrats and progressives who stand in their way. The most important lesson we should learn from the entire "Edwards bloggers" incident is not that Edwards caved (he didn't), not that Amanda and Melissa let us down (they didn't), not that the media is dominated by a Republican Noise Machine that justifies any right-wing smear (it is, but what else is new under the sun?), but that physical violence and the threat of physical violence is still successfully being employed as a political tactic against individual progressives in America. Make no mistake: without threatening violence, Donohue, O'Reilly, Malkin, and everyone else associated with this smear campaign would have lost, and badly, just as we thought they had lost badly at the end of last week. In the end, their campaign was saved via death threats. You won't read about that in any of the AP stories, but it is something we need to address front and center--even if just on our own at first--none the less.