The Politics of "Murder"

This right-wing rhetorical strategy is used so often, people barely give it any notice anymore. Calling people "murderers" and "baby killers" has become a normal part of U.S. media.
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The violent killing of yet another American doctor at the hands of yet another right-wing political activist forces us to ask a crucial question: Why does the right-wing anti-abortion movement in America repeatedly give rise to people who see murder as a legitimate form of protest?

The answer does not lie in any single procedure (e.g. "late term abortions"), but in the violent rhetoric that defines a political movement.

The murderer of Dr. George Tiller is the product of a political movement that has so thoroughly expanded the definition of "murder" that it now includes everything and everyone who rejects or even questions the idea that a zygote is a citizen. Until that movement changes its focus, it will continue to give rise to activists who kill doctors.

So called "late term abortion" is a hotly contested and controversial practice debated in living rooms and judicial opinions alike. But it is not the reason a right-wing activist shot another doctor. Dr. George Tiller was killed in his church because the right-wing has built a political movement around a violent idea: that America has been transformed by liberals into a culture that "murders" babies.

Like a giant river supported by millions of tiny underground streams, this movement is supported by everyone who defines those with whom they disagree on abortion policy as supporters of "murder."

For those Americans whose worldview has been saturated and distorted by this political movement, "murder" is not just a throwaway term from TV, radio or church. For these few, "murder" has become a dark lens through which they view all of contemporary American society--a poisonous paradigm that leads them to believe the only way to end this new holocaust is to refresh the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots.

But those who kill doctors are only one part of the problem.

Even among those who would never condone violent acts in politics, many feel perfectly comfortable contributing to the political rhetoric that has steadily expanded the definition of "murder" to the point where it cultivates actual political violence.

In 2009, the right-wing definition of what constitutes the "murder" of babies goes far beyond the actual abortion of a fetus to encompass a vast range of political views, situations and people. It has become commonplace on the right, for example, to talk about defrosting frozen embryos as an act of "murder." Many on the right talk about the so-called "morning after pill" and the RU486 "abortion pill" as "murder." Many on the right even talk about birth control as "murder."

Murder, murder, murder--the drumbeat is hypnotic. When the right is talking about abortion, they are accusing the left of "murder."

Watching Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity or other right-wing media figures discuss abortion offers a good glimpse into how these debates take shape, but it is not the only cause.

In political debates, right-wing voices almost always use certain controversial procedures to define abortion as "murder," but even when the subject moves beyond those procedures they continue to use "murder" to describe all other aspects of abortion. The phrase "baby murderer," then becomes short-hand for referring to "liberals" in other contexts.

This right-wing rhetorical strategy is used so often, people barely give it any notice anymore. Calling people "murderers" and "baby killers" has become a normal part of U.S. media. Guests on TV and radio shows who routinely accuse their debate opponents of supporting or condoning "murder" are invited back time and time again to repeat the accusation.

Steeped in this expanding definition of "murder," almost all right-wing political participants choose violent rhetoric over violent action. They choose to call someone a "murderer, rather than killing a doctor, as a protest against abortion.

But because the rhetoric has steadily expanded to such a vast range of political views and actions that have all been encompassed by one giant concept of "murder," there are some right-wing activists who do chose violent action as the best way to bring about political change.

No matter how many or how few late term abortions are performed, so long as the right-wing anti-abortion movement continues to fold dissent into an ever-expanding definition of "murder," then the right-wing will continue to give rise to activists who kill doctors.

(cross posted from Frameshop)

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