In the early 70s, Nixon and Agnew began a culture war. They rightfully guessed that they could win the White House by dividing the nation into the Far Left, the Far Right and the Great Silent Majority. By labeling the educated who opposed many of their ideas effete intellectual snobs and castigating the media as biased, they essentially declared war on those who were educated, anti-war or anti-big business.
Since then, there have been many right wing politicians to continue the fight: Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. They have been gleefully aided by those who learned how to make money by siding with them. Rush Limbaugh, Bill OReilly, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity have made millions by inciting the angry rabble to take back America.
Their actions have (either directly or indirectly) resulted in the threat of violence against those who they politically oppose. Timothy McVeigh reportedly was whipped into a murderous rage by the Turner Diaries and the ranting of conservative talk radio. Its likely that OReillys constant references to Dr. Tiller as a baby killer and websites, such as that operated by The Army of God, incited Scott Roeder to act. Glenn Beck, Fox News and Dick Armeys FreedomWorks rallied the torch and pitchfork crowd to interrupt town hall debates on health care. And, on several occasions, right wingers have been inspired to bring guns to Presidential events.
Most recently, a part-time Census worker was found hanged with Fed scrawled on his chest. That wouldnt have anything to do with Congresswoman Michelle Bachmans rant against the Census as an administration plot to spy on conservatives would it?
It appears the constant verbal attacks on the Left are increasingly becoming violent attacks. Gun and ammunition sales have skyrocketed following the election of President Obama. The Secret Service, which is charged with defending the President, has disclosed that threats against the President are at an all-time high. And the rhetoric is angrier than ever.
Where does it stop? When does freedom of speech become incitement to riot?
Before deregulation, radio and television stations were held to higher standards. Stations were forced to show that they were acting in the public interest in order to keep their broadcast licenses. The necessity to prove their worthiness precluded stations from knowingly broadcasting lies and hate speech.
But Limbaugh, OReilly, Beck and company are mere megaphones in this assault on political opponents. As a result of its constant drumbeat against regulation and government intervention, the organization most responsible for the current level of public discourse is the Republican Party.