Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Keith Olbermann: O'Reilly and FOX created the climate for Dr. Tiller's Murder

Keith Olbermann says it so well: O'Reilly in particular, and FOX in general, were instrumental in whipping up the frenzy--with oft-repeated buzzwords and catchphrases that rhyme with the murdered doctor's name, for example--that grew and swelled, the way frenzies tend to do, and inevitably led to an act of extremism. In this case, a deadly, criminal, and irreversible act of extremism.

Constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley appeared on Rachel Maddow's program and stated that First Amendment rights, particularly freedom of speech, meant it would be very difficult to successfully prosecute O'Reilly or any other talking head for incitement. Indeed, he said protected speech was a very broad category that even included what he referred to as "hate speech".

And he's right. O'Reilly can always just state that he is entitled to his opinion, and that's really all he was doing here: expressing his opinion, based on the facts, and the facts do include the number of abortions that Dr. Tiller performed and where he performed them.

Never mind that O'Reilly's protected speech, in its typically polarizing way, conveniently left out the compelling and heartbreaking stories behind those late-term abortions themselves: women whose pregnancies had gone terribly, tragically wrong and who had to choose between a third-trimester termination and leaving their other children motherless; child rape victims; babies without vital organs; conjoined twins whose brief, pain-wracked lives--in the unlikely event they survived birth--would be spent hooked up to wires, tubes, and ventilators.

Never mind that O'Reilly's protected speech was presented in the form of glib, soundbite-ish rhyming slogans and repeated over and over. Never mind that his campaign against OB/GYN Dr. Tiller--and ultimately, against a woman's right to bodily autonomy, period--was a classic case of propaganda that employed standard techniques: ad nauseam reinforcement, black-and-white fallacy, demonizing the enemy, half-truths, name-calling, oversimplification, repetition, scapegoating, and of course, the use of slogans and virtue words.

Never mind that O'Reilly's protected speech enjoyed a multiplier factor, unimaginable to the Constitution's framers, in that it was electronically broadcast to millions of American ears and eyes, simultaneously. And then, repetitively.

I say this as a dyed-in-the-wool First Amendment supporter: Words have consequences, and so do viruses, often to a deadly degree. In protecting the former--as we surely must--let us not enable the proliferation of the latter.

Also at Cogitamus.

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