Sunday, June 7, 2009

Home-grown Terror

Scott Roeder, the suspected murdered of Wichita doctor George Tiller, announced from his jail cell today that he was aware of plans for additional violence and additional killings should abortion remain legal. For all we know, this guy is a complete fruitloop who gets his instructions from a shower loofa.

On the other hand, look at the record: 5 doctors and 4 others killed over the last 15 years, the bombs at abortion clinics, the use of butyric acid and anthrax threats, the national and regional radio and TV hosts calling for doctors to be stopped, and the clinic personnel who must live in fear and wear bulletproof vests as they try to provide a legal medical service to women in need. Sure, Roeder might be a nutjob talking out his ass but the network of anti-abortion extremists, the media support, and more is reason enough to be concerned.

What I wonder is why these actions never seem to get the label "terrorism" in our current culture and media that is so eager to see and label terrorism everywhere (or lambaste a politician who doesn't say "terrorism" in a speech to a global audience)? The media has no problem tagging environmentalists who try to prevent the destruction of forests as terrorists. The anti-fur activists or animal rights activists who set animals free or spray paint on fur coats are called terrorists in the media. (An interesting exception...the Sea Shepherds featured in the reality show, "Whale Wars").

While I don't condone their methods, I haven't heard about anti-fur activists killing the owners of fur coats or tree huggers blowing up trailers full of loggers. Why are these people reviled and vilified in the press as terrorists but those who cold-bloodedly murder doctors, nurses, and clinic workers excused in some circles, celebrated in others, and seen as disturbed individuals acting of their own accord rather than as terrorists supported by violent extremists and egged on by incendiary radio and TV hosts as part of a national campaign to terrorize people in our neighborhoods? If it was a Muslim man who had shot a doctor in Kansas and then claimed to know of plans for similar actions nationwide, the firebrands on Fox News would be be screaming bloody murder and we'd see headlines of "Terrorism in the Heartland".

As I've been writing this, I've checked around online and I know I'm not the only one asking these questions. I've seen a number of reasons, among them the lack of a threat to profits as well as a lack of lobbying power and the fact that violence against women just isn't taken seriously in many corners. We're even presented with the Republican candidate for vice president trying to parse why a U.S. citizen who would try to bomb the Pentagon is a terrorist and a U.S. citizen who bombs abortion clinics isn't. I have my own cynical theory: cowardice. Cowardice on the part of the media and politicians.

The anti-abortion extremists have a very loud megaphone and aren't afraid to use it, spurred on by vocal and visible members of the media (e.g., O'Reilly, Limbaugh, etc.), and their supporters in Washington. As Cristina Page points out, these people get even louder when a Democratic is in the White House and the violence has a corresponding spike. Someone with stature willing to stand up and use the national stage to publicly declare that these people are terrorists will be vilified in the right-wing press, painted in the same way that those who opposed Bush and Cheney were painted as enemies of the state and weak. The religious aspects of the abortion debate add to the dynamic. No one in public life or depending on advertising dollars wants to go toe to toe with a clearly active and noisy movement based in part of religious belief. It would be too large a risk to their business or their hopes for re-election.

Of course abortion is a divisive topic and many very good people have honest disagreements. Those opposed have every right to demonstrate against it in the same fashion that others can demonstrate in support of a woman's right to choose. However, there are limits that no one should be permitted to cross. Thankfully, those that have crossed that line have usually punished via the legal system. Still, the level of public incitement and the acceptance of the actions taken by anti-abortion extremists will continue to exist and fester until we all put the true name to it. It is terrorism.

"I know there are many other similar events planned around the country as long as abortion remains legal." -- Scott Roeder, Suspected killer of Dr. George Tiller, June 7, 2009

Terrorism: the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.

Yep, sounds like terrorism to me.

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