Typically, whenever some new event prompts a collective cry of disgust or outrage, the right wing noise machine leaps into action with some demonstration of false or exaggerated equivalency. In minutes, freedom rings with the sounds of "both sides do it." Whatever the meme, be it racist, violent, anti-semitic, or unpatriotic, the right uses an army of social media users and bots to blather 24×7 with noise designed to obfuscate any real event or issue, and exonerate any conservative of anything other than peaceful, "decent," expressions, as is their "constitooshinal rite."
Every other day, some other blogger on the left is wailing and wringing hands over the "disgusting, outrageous, vile, repulsive" indignities from these right wing Hatriots with little or no regard for degree of offense. Ugly banners are interspersed with death threats on Facebook so often, that it's hard to conclude much of anything except that there's a lot of cranks and sociopaths in America. And the right is correct when they say that "both sides" have their share of them. Thus, using such 'outrages" as pretext for some larger point or argument is inviting the other side to toss out deflections and red herrings as counterpoint, and it's all one big road to nowhere. It distracts our media, politicians and personalities from the all the lying about facts, policies, and things that really matter.
The latest exercise comes to us in this less-than-easily-verified document:
Death Threats Against Bush at Protests Ignored for Years
Here's one sample photo from it:
Together with my favorite investigative partner, @Karoli, we're going to keep an eye on these efforts, but until we have something larger to say, just a few observations and thoughts:
- The page in question is a collection of photos submitted to the sharing site, binscorner.com, by a "user" named "PortoNovo KajaNazimudeen."
- None of the source links work. They are actually enclosed in A tags (links), but the href= attribute is blank. Hmm. Now why would you make a link to nowhere, unless your purpose was to "suggest" that the links were real, but just "broken." (Most people would never know how to "inspect" the links behind the scenes in the source code of the document.) One might do this so that the reader would not all too easily discover that almost all of them come from a few sources, and without working links, it's a lot of work to confirm that they even come from the sources indicated. But I did check a few, such as Ringo's pictures. (We'll return to him)
- While Ringo suggests he took most of his "in L.A. over 6 years," many of the posted images look like they could come from any of the many foreign protests over 8 years of the Bush administration. British, German, Dutch, and South American Bush haters (and anti-globalists) all used such rhetoric and images routinely.
- With today's Photoshop and digital title generators and filters, repurposing such photos is easy to do. I wouldn't be surprised if some of these were originally aimed at Saddam, Carter, Bush I, or Obama, and just "tweaked." There are photo magicians all over the web who love to do such work. I am going to send some to a photo forensics specialist and see what he thinks.
Having said all of this just because I like to be thorough, I believe that most of these pictures are probably real and undoctored, although taken from many different contexts, which makes them hard to evaluate, qualitatively. But that doesn't mean they are not gamed, somewhat anyway. As mentioned, quite a few of them come from a far-right wing, pro-Israel, nuthatchery called Ringo's Pictures (the oft-debunked, and highly manipulative pro-Israel MEMRI is all over this site). Just take a look at the editorializing he does on each picture, to see where he's coming from.
In the About page for his collection of photos, Ringo does try to suggest that he's just a simple, humble, magnanimous truth teller (who hates liberalism), offering up these words of faux-moderateness (Wingnuts so love to posture smugly that they are the only truly devoted, non-violent paragons of civic virtue and temperance):
I do not offer these images as a defense of any similar tactics now being employed by some anti-Obama protestors, in fact, I plead with those opposed to President Obama's agenda to avoid the adolescent behavior displayed by anti-Bush activists over the previous eight years. Remember, just as the media went out of their way to shield the public from the vulgar and anti-American behavior of many anti-war demonstrators, so too will they go out of their way to shine a light on any offensive behavior by even one protestor opposed to President Obama. I offer these photographs only to show the hypocrisy of those on the Left who pretend to be shocked, as if such tactics are new or unique to our current President and his policies.
Assuming that all or most of these pictures are in fact genuine, let's look at the range of nutcases presented? We have mostly ANTI-WAR rallies, where passions always run high among activists. That's not exactly the same context as a "tax" or "big government" protest, such as we see with the so-called Tea Party rallies. And even within these protestors, we have a smorgasbord of crazies from Truthers to Larouchies. And remember, a lot of Bush haters were skinheads and assorted right wing hate groups who didn't think Bush was tough enough on immigration and affirmative action. I am reasonably sure that many of these photos are from this group.
But none of this really matters anyway.
The real issue is NOT whether people's politics make them say stupid things and craft goofy misspelled signs.Both sides DO do that, at times. But the contexts and degrees count.
I side with Rachel Maddow here.I like all that noisy, ugly democracy at work. I think the real issue is the much more serious matter of recklessly inciting the violence with either deliberately violent imagery (reload), urging people to show up with weapons, and generally conditioning people of limited range and self control to get much too excited about how they express themselves.
The words and gestures coming coming from the likes of Palin, Bachmann, Limbaugh, and other not-so-bright conservatives, Tea Party advocates, and Fox personalities are designed to fire these people up to keep the passions lit; passions they are pretty confident will carry conservatives back to power so they can ruin these people's lives even more than they already have.
I think the Pulitzer prize winning conservative columnist, Kathleen Parker, probably said it best in today's Washington Post. I will leave it to her to finish my point:
What Americans can do to discourage future McVeighs — by Kathleen Parker
But words matter, as we never tire of saying. And these are especially sensitive times, given our first African American president and unavoidable fears about the worst-case scenario. If Jodie Foster could bestir the imagination of Hinckley, a Sarah Palin in the Internet age could move regiments.