The shotgun-wielding suspect in Sunday’s mass shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church was motivated by a hatred of “the liberal movement,” and he planned to shoot until police shot him, Knoxville Police Chief Sterling P. Owen IV said this morning.That struck a chord with me, but not for the reason you might expect.
There's a local radio station in town that broadcasts a show hosted by a husband and wife team. I don't want to name the show or link to it because I don't want to give them publicity.
Occasionally I will tune in while in the car, mainly when one of my sports shows is at commercial, and also mainly to hear what they have to say about local issues (county government, schools, etc). But a lot of what I end up hearing (and fascinated with, in a watching-the-accident-as-you-pass-on-the-highway kind of way) is a lot of deep-seated contempt toward liberals.
Now, I know you're thinking, "What? A conservative local talk show? In Knoxville??? Who whoulda thunk?" And as we all know there's nothing conservatives love better than bashing liberals (and vice-versa) so it's nothing really new here. Rush Limbaugh and Jeneanne Garafalo have turned this sort of thing into an art form.
But there's always been something a little over-the-top about this particular radio show in its discussion style. There's haughty, and then there's haughty. There's contempt, and then there's contempt. Substitute the word "black" for "liberal" and you'd think you were listening to something from the 50's in Mississippi. In fact, they and some of their callers don't simply call them liberals - they're "Libs". "The Libs" say this, and "The Libs" do that. Insert your own racist-derogatory terms to understand the tone and bias that comes across on this radio show.
And, to top it off, there's always a taste of Christian apologism that they bring to their broadcasts. They publicly avow their religious convictions (which I happen to agree with) yet their actions betray their beliefs.
Here's the thing: they're perfectly free to broadcast whatever they like. Just because some of it rubs me the wrong way, that's my own thing to deal with. I can turn them off anytime I like. If they want to say how much they hate liberals - fine. That's totally their right to feel, and right to say. If they want to broadcast their opinions of whether gays might be immoral deviants (a policy they also seem to espouse) that's fine and totally within their rights as well.
But people listen. And people learn. And people follow. And people act.
The media's reach is wide and their influence is vast. People's capacity for tacking onto a movement or belief and letting their flames be fanned by those they listen to in the media is well-documented.
When you speak publicly how much you hate certain groups of people, how certain groups of people are contemptible, and stupid, and how some barely deserve to exist in our society - the message I get from this radio show - then you have to understand that some people will be listening to you, and some people may agree with you.
And no matter how well intentioned you may be, some evil people may energized to act. I have no idea if the shooter listened to this radio show (his hatred of Christians makes me doubt it), but he likely listened to something like it. Or he talked to and associated with people who do listen to it, or read literature about it, or frequented websites or blogs that mirror it, and it increased his hatred. To a point where he felt he had to act. When groups of people are marginalized in the media, it become much easier for these evil people to find targets for their hatred. "Didn't get a job? Must've been the libruhls! Or the gays! Lost my food stamps? Must've been those Muslims! Or the blacks! Or the ________'s!" (again, you fill in the blank of the favorite compartmentalized labeled group of your choice)
And here we are, a day after, dealing with the aftermath.
Be careful what you say. Children Will Listen.