But, where Esenberg gets in over his head is when he tries to drive a right-wing talking point that he knows (or should know) isn’t true. He is too smart to really think that President Obama is a Manchurian Candidate socialist with a Messiah complex, but he worked that tired saw all during the campaign and since.
In the past couple of days, he has joined the rest of the right-wing script-readers in a ridiculous attempt to pretend that two domestic terrorist incidents in the past couple of weeks had nothing to do with the overheated right-wing lunacy that permeate mainstream radio, Fox News and various blogs every time there is a Democrat in the White House. He even goes so far as to say that the Nazis in Germany had more in common with the left than the right. Next thing you know, he’ll be arguing that the disastrous Bush administration was run by a bunch of Democrats with a twisted penchant for unnecessary death and dark comedy. But once you start heading down that slippery slope of denial, this is where you end up.
The attempted re-definition of the obvious political dispositions of the two latest perpetrators of domestic terrorism is ludicrous on its face. The guy who killed legal abortion provider Dr. George Tiller has lurked in the shadows of the right-wing’s favorite anti-woman emotional wedge issue – the right of women to make up their own minds about what happens inside their own bodies – for years. The guy who shot up the Holocaust Museum is an old-school right-wing lunatic in the white supremacist/John Birch Society mode, howling at the moon about the control of the world by the Jews and interracial dating, proudly exercising his Second Amendment rights to wreak havoc in a public place (talk about open-carry!).
Before the blood was even dry in the Museum, the right-wing echo chamber was out using yet another tragedy for political purposes, spouting its predictable bullet points to deflect the notion that its decades-long campaign of hate rhetoric would have produced such obvious results from its weakest adherents. First, they went into deep denial about what their overheated squawkers are saying, over and over, and the predictable (preferred, even) impact of their pretend-impassioned entreaties. Second, they hilariously claimed that the murderous anti-choice activist and the murderous gun-toting white supremacist weren’t really right-wingers at all; in fact, they might be flaming lefties. And, for those who might not swallow that load of bullshit, they made the "point" that the left has its own extremists, resulting in – well, no one who has caused death with the bright light of world peace, universal health care, choice, etc. in their hearts, but, you know, they made us feel bad. Or something.
For reasons known only to himself, Esenberg buys into all of this. Although he admits he’s never watched a guy who has to be seen to be believed, he defends circus clown Glen Beck because he ultimately decided FEMA was not building concentration camps after he previously "reported" on them. He also says it was no big deal "calling" an abortion provider a "baby killer" (he’s talking about Bill O’Reilly) – apparently, you can be a professor at Marquette without knowing the difference between an unborn fetus and a "baby". Actually, now that I think of it, such delusion might be a job requirement.
He implies that Beck and O’Reilly spewed their invective in passing when, in fact, they both used the same intense, dog-on-a-bone hammer-driving that they and countless other right-wing megaphone-owners employ on any "issue" they get their manipulative hands on. Beck didn’t just "report" the absurd notion of FEMA concentration camps – he ran entire segments on the nutty notion for several weeks ("I can’t debunk it," he said ominously to the slack-jawed simpletons on Fox & Friends before quietly saying "never mind" weeks later). O’Reilly didn’t call Dr. Tiller a "killer" once or twice – he did it at least 24 times while making hating Dr. Tiller a personal campaign of his, saying at one point "if I could get me hands on Tiller...well, you know". Yeah, Bill, we know. Cowardly church-assassin Scott Roeder knew, too.
People like Beck and O’Reilly (and Limbaugh and Hannity and Sykes and Belling, etc.) don’t argue issues; they demonize opponents. Obama isn’t just wrong, he’s evil. What are you supposed to do with evil people, let them just walk around and not pay for their sins? What kind of patriot/Christian are you? This is the black-and-white fantasy world these people create for themselves and their emotional, fearful, imaginary target demographic: the angry-white-male who feels he is being emasculated and made powerless by other races, immigrants, feminists, gays, Democrats and anyone else who seem to be dancing happily in the streets while they sink further into their Lazy-Boy in High Life-enhanced depression. Of course some of them are going to strike out. The wing-nuts taunt them for being so stupid to sit there and accept "the situation", even if, like Obama’s election and the Democratic congress, it is a result of a healthy democratic process.
Esenberg also tries to get the murders off the right-wing books by toying with the notion that the Museum killer, anyway, "could just as readily be called a member of the extreme left as of the extreme right". This is nuts, of course. He tries to explain in his comment section. "White supremacy is not a ‘right wing’ view [sez who? It certainly always has been.] and one could argue that there is more anti-semitism on the left than the right." The latter point – made ad nauseam elsewhere by Esenberg’s fellow travelers – is that those who protest the Stupid War in Iraq complain about the "neocons" who talked Bush into it, "neocon" supposedly being a codeword for "Jewish" because many of them happen to be. This cheap dodge to addressing the real issues is nothing new, but no less cheap when propagated by Esenberg.
Finally, we get the I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I argument: the Left supposedly has its own overheated rhetoric that leads to, well, not murder, but, you know. He trots out the names of Howard Dean, Keith Olberman, Al Gore, Al Franken, and Joe Biden as people who are somehow just as "intemperate" as the wing-nut squawkers. And how’s that, exactly? Al Gore taking the nation to school on climate change (oh, Rick, you're not really a climate change denier, are you?) supposedly "could...prompt violence on the part of environmental radicals", he says in a comment. To Esenberg, information is not only power -- it's hate. Did Howard Dean say at some point that the Democrat/Republican contest was one between "good and evil", as Esenberg claims in a comment? So what if he did? Did he craft a whole show around the idea and drive it for years, as Sean Hannity does everyday to make the same point about how evil Democrats are? Esenberg pretends not to know the difference between an off-hand comment and the kind of concerted, talking-pointed campaign in which he often takes part.
The official right-wing echo chamber doesn’t directly promote violence because it doesn’t have to. They know if they spew enough poison in the air, a few of the more unbalanced in their audience will go off the reservation and act on the logical consequences of their hateful words and campaigns. This is the way they want it. Irrational , emotional appeals based on lies will not always get you where you need to go. But add a little danger and chaos to the equation and, well, as Hitler taught us, people will move.
UPDATE: As usual, Tom Toles nails it.