The Modern, Clean-Cut Mansoners or Helter Skelters

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I want to share a now-more-pertinent short writing that I e-mailed to some media people on April 09.  As far as I know, it never got published. It ends with question #3 (below…in case you don’t get there).

3.  Must we wait until a tragic act of political violence occur in order to then demand more moral and legal accountability for the threats, lies and violent-inducing comments that contributed to the violent act?

Here’s now the whole “mini-article” …

“Many of us are worried about the safety of President Obama in the midst of an increasingly paranoid climate created and nurtured by the Republican extreme right. If any violent action is taken against against our President, or against any key person in his Administration, or against any liberal media analyst: who can be held accountable, morally and legally, for this violent action? This crucial question becomes especially relevant if the perpetrator can be linked to a particular group, corporation or leader that has significantly influenced his disposition towards violent behavior

Foe some reason, the name of Charles Manson comes to my mind. Initially, this seems very far-fetched. However, Manson was never convicted for personally killing anyone. As a charismatic leader, he had a powerful influence on his followers – on their thinking, their feelings, their ideology or ways in which they perceive society and the world – and a link was legally established between his pathological influence and the murders that were commited.

So we must ask ourselves: are there any similarities between the delusional, violence-inducing Manson influence and the myth-based, delusional, violence-inducing influence of the extreme Right? In other words, after watching the “birthers”, the “deathers”, the “fear-mongers” and so on … can we say that at the extreme-lunatic-Right we have now some modern, clean cut mansoners? Or, if you prefer, Helter Skelters?

They have a powerful influence over the minds and feelings of many of their most gullible, fanatic followers. They feed their paranoid tendencies with irrational fears, half-truths and outright lies … and they have the advantage (over Manson) of providing grandiose motives and justifications for their anger and their morbid inclination towards violence.

In the sick mind of Manson and some of his followers, the people that were murdered were rich, social-hypocrites, “pigs” … and it was not important whether they lived or died. In the sick minds of some at the extreme right, President Obama is either a Communist, a Nazi, an illegal alien who has usurped the Presidency, a deadly menace to our grandparents, an enemy of democracy, an anti-white racist, an enemy of the American way of life, a person so dangerous that “our country might not survive him by 2012” – or a combination of several of the above. Can we be surprised at the extreme anger, terror, hatred and inclination towards violence that the fear-mongering campaigns have generated?

All this would be extremely funny if it were not extremely dangerous. Some of these gullible, shallow “patriots” are literally “armed and dangerous” … and have no inclination towards hearing or knowing about the facts. Recently, a Protestant Reverend reverently declared to his followers that he wished Obama was dead …and I see all over Facebook housewives and moms quoting Jefferson about the need for armed citizens to defend our freedom and rights.  Some guys saying that the possibility of a military takeover should be considered … and several people talking about how the tree of liberty must sometimes be nourished with the blood of patriots! So the hysteria seems to be gaining momentum and it was reported (should be verified) that President Obama was receiving an average of 30 death threats per day, versus approximately 10 by President Bush.

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All Presidents are called “nasty” names (to say the least) and that’s part of free speech, but it gets really worrisome when there are concerted efforts to disseminate inflammatory false rumors and outright lies related to life-death situations and to some of the basic rights and core values of our country. And when some of the false allegations contain subtle and not-so-subtle violence-induction messages,  and when it turns out that there are politically-motivated leaders, groups and corporations behind these messages (and/or supporting them) – as has been brilliantly exposed by some analysts at MSNBC and others.

All of this brings us back to the original question – and to a couple of others that are related:

1. Who can be held accountable if a tragif act of violence does occur?

Again, we should also take into account the possible aggravating circumstances of establishing a link between the perpertrator(s) and specific violent-inducing influences (as the link established with Manson).

2. Where do you cross the line? What exactly may be considered illegal comments and/or behaviors, because they may be considered a serious threat or somehow suggest or promote the use of violence?

It is important that this be very well defined and clear – in the minds of all citizens – in order to, among other things, prevent irresponsible violent talk among people who don’t really mean it…and may not see its potentially dangerous influence on the lunatics that might take it very seriously.

3.  Must we wait until a tragic act of political violence occur in order to then demand more moral and legal accountability for the threats, lies and violent-inducing comments that contributed to the violent act?

P.D. A couple of new comments:

1. The fact that this Arizona suspect is not officially associated with the Tea Party does not mean that he does not hear the inflammatory messages that we all hear very often.

2. One of the main Republican strategies for “damage control” is to say that this happens because of “extremists” on both sides. (Some mainstream media are also repeating this mantra). Really? The problem is that it happens on a proportion of at least 10 to 1 in favor of the Republican side…and it’s getting harder to distinguish between the “extremists” and the Republican base or center.

By the way, it would be interesting to check – statistically – this “proportion of potentially violence-inducing messages” by going through such messages in media, social networks, pamphlets and other publications.

Ernesto Luis Ortiz

A Social Psychologist and writer, six books. Have sent past contributionswith socio-political analysis and some satire. His last book elaborates on a "holistic or comprehensive plan for primary prevention of violence". Lives in Carolina, Puerto Rico.

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A Social Psychologist and writer, six books. Have sent past contributions with socio-political analysis and some satire. His last book elaborates on a "holistic or comprehensive plan for primary prevention of violence". Lives in Carolina, Puerto Rico.

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