(The picture, of an unnamed protester, is from Sen. Arlen Specter's town hall meeting today. Via AP.)
Many people have questioned the wisdom of Chris Matthews and MSNBC for putting the gun-carrying wingnut on the air and giving him an opportunity to talk.
I can understand that criticism. There is only one reason the man showed up with a loaded gun and a provocative sign* at a town hall meeting devoted to, of all things, health care reform. (Health care! Oh, the irony...) And that reason was to draw attention to himself and his position, if one can call it that. By appearing on the Matthews' program, he got that and then some, more than he deserved. It is easy to predict that he will become a hero of the far right-wing fringe and a fodder for the progressive ridicule.
On the other hand, however, the interview was useful inasmuch as it showed that there is no "there" there. The man could not/would not directly answer Matthews' questions and instead spouted off the well-worn slogans taken straight from the liberty or death bag of the right wingnuttery.
He could be easily dismissed as just another whackjob, which he is in some respects, but his presence at the meeting with the loaded gun and the justifications that he gave for it point to something quite serious and insidious: the white wingnut rage brewing just barely under the surface of the American life this summer (though not only).
In the wingnut's mind, the loaded gun was for "self-defense." As absurd as it sounds, this reasoning shows the deepening fear and projected hatred which have been sweeping the white America -- or some of its segments -- seemingly for ages and which have now intensified with the election of Barack Obama to the highest office.
We know this projected hatred, and the rage it produces, quite well: it too often comes to a boil in political assassinations and acts of domestic terrorism. Mr. Wingnut feels threatened in his rights to "liberty" or whatever may be on his mind, so, in self-defense, he may think nothing of obliterating others, whom he perceives as the source of this threat. We have seen it before.
Right-wing talk show hosts, Limbaugh, Beck and their ilk, stoke the fear and rage with their absurdist rhetoric, which, unfortunately, finds a captive audience in this segment of the population as it "explains" these individuals' disadvantaged position in life, justifies their fears, and further demonizes the others, who, in their eyes, are responsible for it all.
Never mind that Limbaugh and Beck spew their nonsense from the safety of their well-cushioned ivory towers, obscenely compensated for doing nothing more than fomenting disorder and rage. The run-of-the-mill wingnut does not take time to stop and notice what's really being done to him and for what reason -- he grabs his loaded gun, in self-defense, to come to a presidential meeting devoted to, of all things, the health care reform.
We have seen this before and we know where it leads. It is absolutely incumbent on the Republican leaders and talk show hosts to tone down their hateful rhetoric to prevent tragedies that may be just around the corner. If they don't, we will hold them responsible.
BTW, perhaps we can bring back a bit of Dubya's "war on terra" thinking and tactics, because we are clearly dealing with terrorism of the domestic kind here.
*As Cenk Uygur points out, This is the same exact quote Tim McVeigh was referencing in a shirt he wore... before bombing the Oklahoma City federal building.
Cross posted at The Middle of Nowhere