The New York Times' Eliminationist Rhetoric

In a post today titled "NYT suggests ‘deniers’ should be stabbed through the heart -- like vampires," Anthony Watts writes at his popular Watts Up With That? science blog, "imagine if the tables were turned, and the cartoon depicted global warming alarmists such as Mike Mann or James Hansen in the same role? Our friends would have a collective cow. Yet, somehow, somebody at the New York Times thinks it is acceptable to suggest 'dispatching' a whole class of people that hold a different viewpoint from them."

Actually, we needn't imagine anything to get a sense of the left's reaction; we can simply flash back to the start of 2011.

On January 8, 2011, the shooting of Democrat Gabrielle Giffords, Republican-appointed Federal Judge John M. Roll, and over a dozen others by a random apolitical lunatic occurred. Even before the smoke cleared from the crime scene, Paul Krugman of the New York Times was having an aneurism over Sarah Palin's target-themed clip art, despite the fact that Democrats had previously used the same imagery in their own ads. He would quickly attack Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) over her employing "eliminationist rhetoric" because she said, "I want people in Minnesota 'armed and dangerous.'" Though actually the full quote, as James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal discovered, has no "eliminationist rhetoric" at all:

In March 2009, the left-wing site ThinkProgress attempted to present Bachmann in an unfavorable light by using a longer version of this comment. Blogger Dave Evers nonetheless found the site guilty of "selective quoting" and made his case by presenting the quote in its full context. It's not terribly interesting but is important to commit to the record. Here is what Bachmann said (Evers tells us that the ellipses reflect pauses, not omitted text):

But you can get all the latest information on this event, this . . . a must-go-to event with this Chris Horner. People will learn . . . it will be fascinating. We met with Chris Horner last week, 20 members of Congress. It takes a lot to wow members of Congress after a while. This wowed them. And I am going to have materials for people when they leave. I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us, having a revolution every now and then is a good thing, and the people--we the people--are going to have to fight back hard if we're not going to lose our country. And I think this has the potential of changing the dynamic of freedom forever in the United States and that's why I want everyone to come out and hear. So go to bachmann.house.gov and you can get all the information.

Now, if Krugman had said the words "armed and dangerous" were ill-chosen, we would have agreed. If he had said they were irresponsible, that would be a legitimate opinion, albeit one we would be inclined to discount as partisan.

But that is not what he said. Krugman, who recreationally burns politicians in effigy, described Bachmann's comment as "eliminationist rhetoric." That is flatly fraudulent.

It was also during that period that the National Journal’s Michael Hirsh appeared on MSNBC saying that "gun metaphors," such as "killing, murdering, taking out," should be stricken from the media culture:

His proposal? Make such language inappropriate in the same racial slurs are inappropriate.

That’s the kind of language I think we got to have a hard think about now,” Hirsh said. “Do we really want to continue to use that kind of language at these levels? Or, should there be kind of a social sanction, not a legal one, but a moral sanction in the way that we’ve stopped using certain epithets like the ‘n’-word public forums. Stop using that kind of language, those kinds of metaphors.”

To return to today's cartoon, it's also a curious message given the past rhetoric of Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the Times' publisher -- who, according to the New Yorker, told his father that he was perfectly fine with American soldiers getting shot in Vietnam, because "it's the other guy's country," and America shouldn't be pushing its worldview on someone else by force. When Michelle Obama told NBC's Jimmy Fallon on Thursday that "young people are knuckleheads," perhaps this is what she was referring to. But apparently the older, if not yet wiser Sulzberger is perfectly fine with Americans to also be murdered at home for having alternative beliefs.

Yes, it's a cartoon, and no person in his right mind is going to see it and be inspired to murder someone he disagrees with, and if media were to be created worrying about what the insane would do with it, there's be no crime dramas on TV or slasher films in movie theaters, let alone political ads and cartoons. But the Times -- and the rest of the left -- temporarily forgot that message to bludgeon the newly resurgent right to death (pun intended) in early 2011.

On January 9th 2011, the New York Times ran an unsigned editorial on the shooting in Tuscon that noted:

It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman’s act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members. But it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge. Many on the right have exploited the arguments of division, reaping political power by demonizing immigrants, or welfare recipients, or bureaucrats. They seem to have persuaded many Americans that the government is not just misguided, but the enemy of the people.

* * * * * *

Now, having seen first hand the horror of political violence, Arizona should lead the nation in quieting the voices of intolerance, demanding an end to the temptations of bloodshed, and imposing sensible controls on its instruments.

Last year, the New York Times returned to this theme, in an article titled, "In Gun Debate, Even Language Can Be Loaded":

No wonder it is hard to get rid of gun violence when Washington cannot even get rid of gun vocabulary. The vernacular of guns suffuses the political and media conversation in ways that politicians and journalists are often not even conscious of, underscoring the historical power of guns in the American experience. Candidates “target” their opponents, lawmakers “stick to their guns,” advocacy groups “take aim” at hostile legislation and reporters write about a White House “under fire.”

The ubiquitous nature of such language has caused people on both sides of the emotional debate in recent weeks to take back, or at least think twice about the phrases they use, lest they inadvertently cause offense in a moment of heightened sensitivity.

Don't hold your breath waiting for the left to live up to their own rhetoric.