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The Left's Unreported Extremism
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In a recent column Cal Thomas states the obvious when he observes “Democrats and their friends in the big media protect their own when accused of outrageous acts.” Thomas contrasts the way the media has savaged the Republican Party, including Mitt Romney, for a stupid remark by Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin about women being able to protect themselves against conceiving in a “legitimate rape” with the pass given to women abusers on the left or in the Democratic Party. The man imagined to be the “lion of the Senate,” longtime Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy “drove off a bridge in Chappaquiddick, Mass., leaving a woman, not his wife, to drown.” The reckless driver, who was under the influence at the time, was given a three-month suspension of his license in a state that his family controlled politically. Moreover, Kennedy, a senator for life, was comforted afterwards in the NYT about “the ordeal he had to overcome.” In 1978, the former president who will be a featured speaker at this year’s Democratic convention, Bill Clinton, was accused by a campaign worker, Juanita Broaddrick, of attempted rape when Clinton was attorney general in Arkansas. Not to worry! Clinton had the media cover for him and is now hailed as a champion of women’s rights.

The reason these cover-ups and double standards work is that lots of people suspend belief when told about feminist Democrats fighting Republicans who wish to enslave women. But no matter which party wins in November, the social changes of the last 50 years, which the government has actively promoted, are not likely to be altered. One has to be mad to mistake the wishy-washy Romney for an Iranian Ayatollah.

Such media bias does not surprise me. Those in a profession whose members identify themselves by more than 9 to 1 with the left and, for want of a more radical alternative, the Democratic Party, give us lots to choose from. The (for me) most annoying recent case of such bias came with the coverage of the gay activist who tried to shoot up the Family Research Council in Washington. The activist in question, Floyd Lee Corkins, went with a loaded gun and a pocket full of Chicken-fil-A sandwiches to wipe out a “hate group.” The council that Corkins targeted advocates traditional heterosexual marriage and opposes the legalization of gay marriage. It has also published more controversial but documented views about gays being more likely than heterosexuals to engage in pedophilia. Such positions call for debate, but such advocates as the Southern Poverty Law Center and Huffington Post are not accustomed to holding discussions with those on the other side. They rant against them as “hate groups.” SPLC spokesperson Heidi Beirich sees no significant difference between the Family Research Council’s rejection of gay lifestyles and the incitement to violence practiced by neo-Nazis. But that’s nothing new. For decades the center has accused those it dislikes of fomenting hate.


It has also used scare tactics, as a revealing article in Harper’s (November 2000) proves, to enrich its staff. The article’s author, Ken Silverstein, depicts SPLC founder Morris Dees as someone who lines his pockets with gifts from donors who think we’re about to be taken over by an American Hitler. And SPLC headquarters in Montgomery, Alabama has issued “hate” accusations against all newsworthy groups seeking to limit immigration and against the American Family Association as well as FRC for opposing the gay movement.

Not coincidentally, Corkins took Chick-fil-A products together with a gun when he went after the FRC. Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy is an opponent of gay marriage who once donated $1,000 to the FRC and who is well-disposed toward the American Family Association. The only victim of Corkins’s assault was a black guard at the FRC, who was severely wounded but heroically wrestled the assailant to the ground and then contacted the police. The FRC’s decision to bring charges against the SPLC as an accessory to the crime is understandable but may be thrown out of court for lack of direct evidence.

The network news had little to say about what happened at the Family Research Council. One could only imagine the reaction if the attack were on an abortion provider. Meanwhile, even after the SPLC’s rhetorical excesses have become obvious, it continues to be widely quoted as the final word on “right-wing extremism.” Its “research scholars” pop up on TV and in the national press. If I were investigating left-wing extremism, I would not rely on inflamed partisans on the other side. But the media has different standards of truth.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: American Media 
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  1. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Republicans continously invent narratives (i.e. lies) about their opponents but just can’t take it when those feeble wishy-washy muslim-loving America-hating Democrats play the same game. What hypocrites.

  2. You really think Chappaquiddick and Juanita Broaddrick weren’t covered in the media? Seriously? What planet are you living on? What really wasn’t covered was Laura Bush’s involvement in a death by motor vehicle, which you never would have heard the end of if it had been Hilary Clinton. As for Corkins, there is much less coverage of a shooting when nobody dies.

  3. You bring up two accusations or confirmed instances of politician misbehavior from over three decades ago; and one instance of a crazy person doing something bad.

    You have no argument whatsoever that there is “unreported extremism” on the left.

    As to the behavior of crazy people, we know that the guy who shot up a church in Tennessee because he wanted to kill liberals was a fan of O’Reilly and Hannity. We know that the guy who murdered three cops in Pittsburgh was a Glenn Beck fan who feared that Obama would take his guns. We know that the well-armed guy who was arrested en route to attack the Tides Foundation was a Glenn Beck fan. Etc. That’s all in the past four years.

    More broadly, we should remember that the reason that we care about the government is because it implements policies that affect people’s lives.

    As Seth Masket pointed out, the GOP’s recent extremism required the party to nominate a flip-flopper:

    [A]ny Republican presidential nominee today would have to be a serious flip-flopper. … No one taking the stances Romney needed to take to win this year could have had the sort of résumé needed to be a typical major party nominee. The Republican Party has been moving to the right very quickly in recent years. Almost no one taking the stances that Romney is taking now could have been elected as a senator or a governor from most states just a few years ago. So, if you were consistently conservative (like, say, Bachmann or Santorum), you were either doomed to service in the House or to being kicked out of the Senate. If you had a presidential résumé, conversely, it was probably because your views were pretty moderate a few years ago. Arguably, the only person who can get nominated in the current Republican Party is someone who has pivoted to the right rapidly in the past decade. Rapid polarization makes flip-flopping a necessity.

    I don’t entirely agree with Masket’s evaluating the GOP’s extremism on a left-right spectrum; longtime conservative ideas like the EITC, housing vouchers, the individual health insurance mandate, cap and trade, fiscal stimulus (which the GOP pushed in 2001 and 2008), etc., have suddenly become completely toxic to the GOP. They represent constructive attempts to address real-life issues; because being a Republican is about resenting perceived outsiders, those ideas are irrelevant to or hated by today’s GOP. It’s not clear that this change represents a move to the right.

    We are witnessing asymmetric polarization, as this post’s weak examples demonstrate.

  4. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    A well chosen and instructive example. Given the widely reported bias and corruption at the SPLC itself, it is irresponsible for reporters to use its research or circulate its arbitrary and selective application of “hate speech” labels.

    (Been a while, Prof. Gottfried. Good to have you back.)

  5. John E_o says:

    The FRC’s decision to bring charges against the SPLC as an accessory to the crime is understandable but may be thrown out of court for lack of direct evidence.

    I thought District Attorneys brought charges in criminal cases. Is the FRC now an agent of The State?

  6. What a bunch of rot and nonsense. As noted above, Chappaquiddick and the numerous Clinton scandals got PLENTY of press coverage. You’d be better off arguing that friendly authorities resulted in slaps on the wrist where an average Joe might be facing a prison term, but there are plently of examples of Republicans benefitting from prosecutors looking the other way as well.

    @John E_o: The FRC is entitled to sue who it wants (whether it can win a case, or even survive a summary judgment or dismissal motion is another matter). While the FRC has ramped up the rhetoric against SPLC, it has yet to take any legal action; nor have any government prosecutors indited SPLC for anything. One can construe the phrase “deciding to bring charges” to mean levelling accusations in the media, stating a desire for an indictment from a private party, or even the filing of a police report–but you are correct; FRC cannot initiate a criminal prosecution of anybody. That duty lies with prosecutors and/or a grand jury.

  7. jamie says:

    I’m uncertain how Bill Clinton’s alleged assault of Juanita Broaddrick constitutes “political extremism.” I suppose if the Arkansas Democratic Party had put the issue up to a vote and decided that women should be assaulted, or if Clinton had gone on the air and declared that employers making advances on their female employees aren’t “legitimate” attempts at rape, this would be something to discuss. There’s a lot of hypocrisy among Democratic pols, but hypocrisy isn’t extremism. Quite the opposite.

    If a Democrat hires a prostitute and apologizes, that’s not extremist; if he tries to decriminalize prostitution, that is extremist. See the difference?

    The claim that someone like Todd Akin is an extremist comes from the perception that the statements in question are conscientious and from the heart, and not made out of vice or weakness.

    Talking about the SPLC is more interesting, but the SPLC does not accuse the members of the FRC of pedophilia, it doesn’t claim that conservatives christians make poor soldiers or fathers, it doesn’t seek to outlaw certain forms of sexual activity on the basis of religious precept. If the FRC says homosexuals abuse children, it’s slanderous; if it pursues majoritarian, coercive social policy, than it’s tyrannical and most certainly a threat to freedom. “Hate group” is strong language, but that’s all it is, and I don’t see on what basis can you claim that the activities of the SPLC are morally equivalent to the FRC, let alone a skinhead group or a freeman militia.

  8. phelps says:

    No, the DA decides who to prosecute. Citizens bring, or file charges against those they suspect of committing crimes. If the DA decides a crime has been committed, then he indites (did I spell that correctly)the suspected offender by way of Information. There are two ways to file charges, by Information, or Grand Jury.

  9. Tim says:

    Did I just read a post in the American Conservative criticizing liberals? How did that one slide by the editors?

    Reflection Ephemeral is actually right to chide Mr. Gottfried for going back decades to point out the unreported–or, more accurately, underreported–extremism of the contemporary left. There is plenty of evidence that extremism is alive and well right now within the Left. The Democratic Party just released its platform, and it includes planks that call for taxpayer-funding of abortion and that no longer include the previous goal of making abortion “rare.” These positions are as unpopular with the American electorate as the Republican Party’s platform stance on outlawing abortion without any exceptions, and yet the media will largely ignore them, even though Obama supports both positions.

    A few months ago, Democrats overwhelmingly voted against a bill that would have outlawed late-term abortion in the District of Columbia. Most Americans would be surprised–even appalled–to learn that late-term abortion is legal in our nation’s capital, which is evidence enough of the media’s complicity in the Left’s extremism.

    As a state senator, Obama voted against a version of a bill that would have given legal protection to infants that had survived an abortion. This despite the fact that the federal version of the bill was approved unanimously–even by Barbara Boxer. That Obama could stake out such an extremist position and yet bask in the glow of the media in 2008 tells you everything you need to know about what constitutes extremism for the media.

  10. Acilius says: • Website

    “In 1978… Bill Clinton, was accused by a campaign worker, Juanita Broaddrick.” More accurately, it was in 1998 that Juanita Broaddrick accused Bill Clinton of having raped her in 1978. If Mrs Broaddrick had brought that charge at the time, I suspect matters would have played out very differently indeed. Not that Mr Clinton would necessarily have been convicted, or even that the charge would necessarily have prevented him from going on to be elected governor. Look at William Janklow, elected to four terms as South Dakota’s governor after he was accused of rape in the 1970s. But it is certainly difficult to imagine that Mr Clinton would ever have been taken seriously as a presidential candidate if Mrs Broaddrick had come forward at the time.

  11. cka2nd says:

    According to the VANDERBILT Television News Archive, there were four network news stories about the 1993 non-fatal shooting of Dr. George Tiller, one each on ABC, CBS and NBC about the shooting itself and one on ABC on the conviction of Rachelle Shannon for the shooting. There were none on Shannon’s indictment, and CNN seems to have ingnored the story altogether. Keep in mind that this was before news organizations had websites; it’s entirely possible that the networks would have shunted a story about the non-fatal shooting of a Kansas abortion provider to their websites if they’d had them at the time.

    The Archive lists two stories on ABC on Floyd Lee Corkins, but a google search reveals stories on the CBS and NBC websites and a fairly extensive number of them on

    I think Mr. Burns is right. If Corkins had succeeded in killing someone, there would have been more coverage on the networks’ evening newscasts and on CNN. Since, thank goodness, no one was killed, the combined coverage on the three networks and their respective websites is, in my opinion, comparable to their coverage of the non-fatal shooting of Tiller 19 years ago. And while CNN may have ignored the FRC shooting just as they did the 1993 Tiller one, certainly hasn’t. I don’t think the evidence supports the claim that the network news and CNN are engaging in liberal bias in not covering Corkins’ non-fatal attack on the FRC more extensively.

  12. John E_o says:

    @phelps – Thanks very much!

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