This should be a major news story -- deserving of signifcant coverage on cable TV and on leading mainstream media news sites:
SPOKANE, Wash. — A backpack found along the route of the Martin Luther King Jr. march in Spokane contained a bomb "capable of inflicting multiple casualties," the FBI said Tuesday, describing the case as "domestic terrorism."
The FBI said the Swiss Army-brand backpack was found about 9:25 a.m. PST on Monday on a bench at the northeast corner of North Washington Street and West Main Avenue in downtown Spokane.
In an interview on msnbc cable's "The Rachel Maddow Show," Spokesman-Review reporter Thomas Clouse said confidential sources told him that the device was equipped with a remote control detonator and contained shrapnel.
The fantasically good news here is that a major tragedy was averted -- in large part because of alert Spokane citizens who spotted the backpack, thought it suspicious, and called the police, just as authorities have asked the public to do ever since 9/11. The bad news, of course, is that someone out there wanted to cause a major tragedy -- on Martin Luther King Day, no less -- and that person, or persons, is still at large.
An explosion and the potential for multiple murders that a shrapnel bomb could have caused to those celebrating Dr. King's legacy would have been a staggering blow to a nation that is still reeling and feeling the aftershocks of the first assassination attempt against a member of Congress in nearly 33 years. Even though the bomb didn't explode, the episode raises deeply troubling new questions about the extent of violent politically fueled anger in America in 2011, and why it seems that liberal targets like Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and now King Day marchers are the ones in the crosshairs, to use the controversial word of the day.
In other words, it's what Joe Biden might call a BFD. But you wouldn't know that if, for example, you visited the two websites that -- in my own 30 years of experience as a journalist, for better or worse -- do more than any other to set the agenda on national coverage in newsrooms across the country.
One of those (note I said "for better or worse") is The Drudge Report, which ultimate Beltway insider Mark Halperin has said "rules our world." In the 16 or so hours since the FBI went public with the "domestic terrorism" angle, Matt Drudge has spotlighted articles about things like a man arrested for taking photos at Miami airport, a blogger who may lose his firearms permit for a post related to the Tucson massacre, and laser incidents against airplanes -- but nothing about the thwarted Spokane bombing.
OK, so that's Matt Drudge -- but the silence of the leading mainstream news website -- that of the New York Times -- is a little harder to explain. I've checked their home page at least a half-dozen times since last night, and I have yet to see a featured story on the FBI investigating "domestic terrorism" in Washington State. The lack of Times coverage may explain while for the most part, the coverage of this story on cable TV -- the people who routinely hyped run of the mill car chases and blown-tire airplane landings -- has been very minimal. I say for the most part because there have been a couple of exceptions. "The Rachel Maddow Show" on MSNBC featured the Spokane story as major breaking news at the top of its broadcast last night, and for a time it was the lead story on the Huffington Post. Major news outlets -- but with a liberal orientation.
Which is why I can't help but wonder if there's a backstory here related to the past weeks coverage of the assassination attempt on Rep. Giffords, and the right-wing critique of some of that coverage. As you surely recall, the fact that a Democratic congresswoman was targeted in a state that has been a bastion of the Tea Party Movement and unrest over issues like illegal immigration provoked a number of articles about political rhetoric on the right -- including the fact that Giffords had been mapped with crosshairs in the now famous political mailing by Sarah Palin's PAC.
When it emerged that alleged gunman Jared Lee Loughner was an almost certainly mentally ill 22-year-old who seemed to follow some bizarre conspiracy theories but not the political rhetoric of Palin or the Tea Party, there was massive pushback from conservatives who accused the mainstream media of jumping to unfair conclusions. Most famously, Palin herself emerged to call this a "blood libel." The former GOP veep nominee was savaged for using that charged term, but you have to wonder now if the pushback from Palin is actually a case of "mission accomplished."
That's because with this new episode in Spokane, not only have the pillars of the mainstream media not raced to any conclusions, but they seem to be in a competition as to who can most ignore the story altogether. But there's no need to jump to unwarranted conclusions here; the actual facts have been laid out by the nation's preeminent law enforcement agency, the FBI -- that we are dealing with a case of "domestic terrorism," that the sophisticated device along the King Day parade route was capable of causing mass casualties, and the target was American citizens celebrating an icon of the progressive movement, Dr. King.
Maybe the implications are just a little too frightening for the mainstream media to want to deal with. But this episode seems to clarify what some of us have been reporting and writing about for the last two years, that there is an escalating tide of political violence in this country, and the majority of perpetrators or incidents involve the targets of eliminationist rhetoric from the right wing. This is a major issue for America -- on a par, in my opinion, with U.S.-China relations or the future of health care reform -- and the media is dropping the ball here, big-time. It's not too late to pick it up.
Last night on his Fox News show, Glenn Beck spent a considerable amount of time attacking the Chinese for the deplorable conditions endured by much of their workforce. Employing his trademark overwrought sarcasm, Beck ticked off the indignities of working for the Chinese company Foxconn, like low wages, overcrowding, substandard company housing, and high worker suicide rates.
Now, I know that the Glenn Beck show isn't big on context, self-awareness, or accurate retellings of American history, but it's more than a little ironic for Beck to be outraged about inhumane working conditions in China and simultaneously portray the American Progressive movement as the "cancer" of American politics, given that much of the Progressive agenda was aimed at correcting those same injustices of industry.
On today's edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity suggested that 33 bullet clips should not be restricted, in part, because "if you're equipped in the use of a gun, it's nothing to drop a clip, throw one in, pull it back, and you're ready to shoot again. It does not take that long to do that. Alright, so you got ten shots, ten shots, ten shots. I mean, I can do it in two seconds."
Sadly, Hannity ignores the fact that it is precisely the vital time span that it took for Jared Loughner to try to reload his clip that allowed four individuals -- Patricia Maisch, Bill Badger, Roger Salzgeber and Joseph Zimudio -- to stop Loughner's shooting rampage during Gabrielle Giffords "Congress On Your Corner" event. There is no way to know, but this means that it is possible that if Loughner had smaller clips and had to reload more often, he would not have been able to get off as many shots before being stopped.
While Loughner stopped shooting and attempted to switch magazine clips, he was hit by a chair and tackled to the ground according to Bill Badger. Badger was one of the two men who pushed Loughner to the pavement and held him there. Then Patricia Maisch, after being told to grab Loughner's additional magazine clip, wrestled the magazine clip away from Loughner.
From the January 14 broadcast of Dial Global's The Ed Schultz Show:
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Fox & Friends hosted GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) to suggest that more people carrying guns would deter crime, as well as falsely claim the District of Columbia is the "criminal capital of the country." In fact, numerous experts have argued that there is no link between laws allowing people to carry guns and a decrease in crime.
Right-wing media have accused Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik of being a liberal activist in the wake of the tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona. However, Dupnik has previously encouraged gun ownership among his constituents, has advocated for citizenship checks of students in public schools, and supported the controversial Arizona immigration law after some provisions were removed.
From the January 12 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
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This afternoon, the Huffington Post picked up the Columbia Free Times' report that the South Carolina firearms retailer Palmetto State Armory was advertising the sale of assault rifle components engraved with the phrase "You Lie." According to the Free Times' initial report, the company's website stated, "Palmetto State Armory would like to honor our esteemed congressman Joe Wilson with the release of our new 'You Lie' AR-15 lower receiver":
After they published their article, the web page was apparently removed.
Wilson, of course, is infamous for shouting "You lie" at President Obama during President Obama's September 2009 speech before a joint session of Congress. He subsequently apologized.
How does Glenn Beck fit in? Palmetto State Armory has been a Beck advertiser. Here's audio of Beck calling them the "on-line source you've trusted for years," promoting on-air their "brand new store in the Midlands," and lauding their "stock of tactical firearms":
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman takes a lot of abuse from right-wingers for his liberal political views and his economic theories that contradict the right-wing way of doing things (never mind that Krugman did receive a Nobel Prize in economics). But did you know that Krugman is just like Fred Phelps, pastor of Kansas' Westboro Baptist Church and best known for leading his tiny flock in odious protests of funerals of fallen soldiers?
That's what NewsBusters' Matthew Sheffield wants you to think. In a January 12 post (cross-posted at the Washington Examiner, where he works as an online media consultant), Sheffield asserts that any liberal who suggests that extreme right-wing rhetoric might be contributing to an environment that may have played a role in the Arizona shooting is acting just like Rev. Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church brood because, as Sheffield explained, liberals think "Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and anyone else who dares to resist the march of history are heretics. That's why they need to shut up, or in the event that they choose not to, have someone else shut them up."
Sheffield transcribed a Phelps sermon asserting that, in Sheffield's words, "Innocent people were killed because American and its leaders have sinned against the higher light." He then claimed that this "is effectively what New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said in a column printed Monday." This is followed by a lengthy section of Sheffield juxtaposing excerpts of Phelps' sermon with Krugman's column.
But Sheffield's little experiment discredits his argument. For instance, Krugman's statement that he was "expecting something like this atrocity to happen" is juxtaposed by Phelps' statement "God appointed the Afghanistan veteran to avenge himself on this evil nation." How are those statements any way analogous? We have no idea.
Krugman has never claimed he wanted to silence all views he opposes, nor does he claim divine approbation for his views; rather, he spoke in his column specifically of "eliminationist rhetoric" that he identified as "coming, overwhelmingly, from the right." Krugman has not called for his opponents to be struck down from above, nor is he running around the country picketing the funerals of those he disagreed with.
Americans may not be able to agree on much these days, but one thing both left and right do agree on is that the funeral protests held by Phelps and his fringe congregation are hateful and despicable. What purpose could Sheffield have in likening Krugman to Phelps other than revel in the vitriolic rhetoric Krugman is trying to tone down?
The latest criticism of Rush Limbaugh's offensive and false comment claiming that accused Arizona shooter Jared Loughner "has the full support" of "the Democrat [sic] Party" and that Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik is "doing everything that [he] can to make sure" Loughner is "not convicted of murder" comes from a surprising source: Tim Carney, senior political columnist at the conservative Washington Examiner.
After stating in a January 11 Examiner blog post that Limbaugh "added as much toxic waste to the Tuscon debate as Paul Krugman -- probably more" with his comments, Carney wrote:
Limbaugh is doing the same thing here Krugman and other liberals have done: he's simply making stuff up to smear the other side, and try to turn this atrocity into a political weapon.
What liberals are defending Loughner? What evidence is there Sheriff Dupnik wants to go light on the guy? And what about this guy would lead anyone to believe he wants to be the victim -- I would guess the opposite.
As I said about Krugman, Limbaugh isn't stating a viewpoint, he's making stuff up, especially where he claims to get in Loughner's mind.
Here's the best I can do to explain Limbaugh: he seems stuck in the 1990s, where we on the Right were often battling a "blame-society" relativism. But Dupnik and Krugman aren't blaming the Right in order to exculpate Loughner -- they are most likely doing it in order to vent frustration or to delegitimize our arguments. Limbaugh's fighting the wrong fight, and assigning the motive that's least likely and most offensive.
I was just beginning to think tonight that things were clearing up and the Krugman-Kos drivel was fading away. Then Limbaugh throws this garbage into the mix.
Now the countdown begins on Carney's inevitable walkback of his criticism, like every pretty much every other conservative who has committed the offense of criticizing Limbaugh in public.
Sarah Palin comments on the Arizona shootings:
Like many, I've spent the past few days reflecting on what happened and praying for guidance. After this shocking tragedy, I listened at first puzzled, then with concern, and now with sadness, to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event.
Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election.
[E]specially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.
So, according to Sarah Palin, violent rhetoric plays no role in inspiring violent acts -- but criticism of violent acts incites "hatred and violence."
On his Fox News show, Glenn Beck claimed that lawmakers are considering "a ban on guns" in light of the recent shooting in Tucson, Arizona. Beck has previously stoked fears that the government or President Obama "will slowly but surely take away your gun or take away your ability to shoot a gun, carry a gun."
From the January 11 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:
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From the January 11 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:
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From the January 10 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:
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