"'Shoot Him With a .44': Liberal Hate Speech, 1999"

by Jeff Jacoby, from the Boston Globe, Dec. 30, 1999

Remember the wave of outrage that swept the nation after Charlton
Heston, the president of the National Rifle Association, told a radio
interviewer that the best way to deal with liberal filmmaker Spike Lee
would be to "shoot him with a .44-caliber Bulldog" revolver?  Remember
how newspaper editorials scathingly condemned Heston's appalling
remark?  Remember the full-page ads blasting the twisted mindset that
leads conservatives like Heston to say such grotesque things?

You don't remember?  Don't feel bad.  It never happened.  Heston never
spoke those words about Lee.

Lee spoke them about Heston. 

He was talking to reporters in May, just a few weeks after the
slaughter in Littleton, Colo.  Asked for his thoughts on Heston, Lee
recommended assassinating him with a .44 special.  A conservative who
made such a comment about a liberal would have been crushed under an
avalanche of denunciation.  But when a liberal talks that way about a
conservative, the media rarely notice.

Welcome to my yearly column on liberal hate speech and the double
standard that shields it.  By "hate speech," I don't mean language that
is merely insulting.  When Rosie O'Donnell, hosting a Hillary Clinton
fundraiser in October, described Rudolph Giuliani as New York's
"village idiot" and compared his looks to "a Pez dispenser," she was
simply being obnoxious. When Margaret Carlson of Time magazine said,
apropos congressional Republicans, that "the only thing that could
explain this love of tax cuts is a lowered IQ," she was engaging in
childish name-calling.

But when liberals liken conservatives to Hitler, or call for them to be
killed -- *that's* hate speech.

It isn't only Spike Lee who advocates death for those who have the
temerity to hold non-left-wing views.

(*)  When Elia Kazan, the *bete noir* of Hollywood's aging Reds, was
awarded the Oscar for lifetime achievement, the haters were out in
force. "I'll be watching, hoping someone shoots him," said Abraham
Polonsky, who was blacklisted for his Communist sympathies in the
1950s.  "It would no doubt be a thrill."

(*)  The Washington Post's Richard Cohen commented on the fact that
Newt Gingrich was cheating on his wife even as he was denouncing Bill
Clinton's moral failings.  "For hypocrisy, for sheer gall," Cohen
wrote, "Gingrich should be hanged."

(*)  Even the comics aren't free of death threats.  The main character
in Aaron McGruder's "Boondocks" is Huey, a militant black student.  In
one strip, Huey considers titles for his report on "the black
neoconservative movement and its most famous champion." His first
choice: "Ward Connerly Should Be Beaten by Raekwon the Chef With a
Spiked Bat." (Eventually he settles on something less obscure, but just
as ugly: "Ward Connerly Is a Boot-Licking Uncle Tom.")

No doubt Polonsky, Cohen, and McGruder didn't mean for their words to
be taken literally.  But the test of hate speech isn't what you mean,
it's what you say.  And saying that a public figure ought to be
murdered is so far beyond the pale that even liberals shouldn't be
allowed to get away with it.

Central to the leftist mentality is the belief that conservative
opinions are not simply misguided, they're evil.  Conservatives are not
erring brethren to be reasoned with, they're moral heretics to be
excommunicated. And so liberals routinely reach for the most vicious
comparisons when talking about nonliberals: Nazis, racists, the Ku Klux

"Conservative legal interest groups," says Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell,
"such as the Center for Individual Rights and the Southeastern Legal
Foundation" -- both of which oppose racial preferences and quotas --
"are ...  a homogenized version of the Klan.  They may have traded in
their sheets for suits ..., but it's the same old racism."

Newsweek's archliberal Eleanor Clift was one of many who erupted with
venom when Bill Clinton was impeached.  "That herd of managers from the
House," she hissed in January, "I mean, frankly all they were missing
was white sheets.  They're like night riders . . . ." The left-leaning
Arkansas Times spat poison at the independent counsel.  "Kenneth
Starr," the paper editorialized, "is cunning, ruthless, and about as
well-mannered as Heinrich Himmler." In the Los Angeles Times, Karen
Grigsby Bates wrote, "Whenever I hear Trent Lott speak, I immediately
think of nooses decorating trees.  Big trees, with black bodies
swinging. . . ."

Cartoonist Paul Conrad, also of the L.A.  Times, drew a sketch of
Buford Furrow -- the bigot who opened fire in a Jewish community center
in August, then murdered a Filipino mailman -- and labeled it: "A
faith-based compassionate conservative." Republicans opposing a minimum
wage hike, charged US Rep. Major Owens of New York, are comparable to
foreign leaders who support "ethnic cleansing" -- i.e., mass killing.

Then there was the proposal in Florida to raise funds for adoption
agencies through a new specialty license plate bearing the logo "Choose
Life." There are already 45 such plates, which promote everything from
protecting dolphins to Special Olympics.  A pro-life message, however,
was too much for state Senator Skip Campbell, who fretted that senators
would next be asked to approve a plate reading "Be a Nazi."

But for sheer filth, nothing in 1999 topped Salon's hate-filled attack
on Ann Coulter, an attractive and well-known conservative activist and
Clinton critic.  In June, Coulter wrote a nonpolitical column lamenting
the state of romance in Washington.  Soon after, the web magazine
Salon, an avidly pro-Clinton publication, launched a malignant personal
attack.  It purported to offer 11 tips for improving her love life. 
Among them: "Quit injecting yourself with your own urine," "Stop being
a mean bitch," "Buy a vibrator," and "Get your head out of your ass."
It urged her to tape a sign in her kitchen reading, "Men don't want to
date castrating bitches." And that's not to mention the gross
innuendoes that can't be repeated in a family newspaper.

If a conservative web site had hurled such vileness at, say, Cheryl
Mills, Clinton's liberal young attorney, there would have been a
furious outcry. It would have become a national scandal.  Pundits and
talk show hosts would have torn the web site and its writer to shreds.

But Salon is liberal and Coulter is not.  So nobody said a thing. 

* * *

(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe.  His e-mail address is
jacoby@globe.com .) 

Return to rants