In the aftermath of last weekend's deadly shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic, many on the Left have reacted despicably yet predictably -- seeking to exploit the actions of a madman in order to level a moral indictment against an explicitly anti-violence political movement. The anti-Planned Parenthood rhetoric of pro-lifers, it's alleged, is at least partially responsible for the violence that claimed three lives. The underlying message isn't subtle: Those who've expressed outrage over the abortion provider's horrifying organ harvesting business model have blood on their hands because their words and political activism 'inspired' an unstable individual to perpetrate a killing spree. This is dangerous, speech-stifling rubbish. It's also a staple of the Left's End of Discussion playbook, wherein partisans attempt to "win" debates by silencing and delegitimizing their ideological opponents. Planned Parenthood officials have been spouting this line for days, starting well before any potential motive was established. Others have piled on, with cheap demagogue Harry Reid joining the opportunistic chorus, calling for an end to the Congressional probe into Planned Parenthood's illegal practices exposed by an anti-abortion group's extensive undercover investigation:
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pushed House Republicans to disband the committee investigating allegations that Planned Parenthood mishandled fetal tissue on Monday, following last week's shooting at a clinic in Colorado. "We should not fail to see the context in which this vile assault took place. Last summer, a right-wing group began releasing videos with unsubstantiated allegations. Since that time the Republican Congress have made it their mission to push these unsubstantiated allegations," the Democratic leader said of the inquiry into the healthcare provider...But Reid added on Monday afternoon that lawmakers "must be mindful of our words and our actions. We bring people into a frenzy of hate and anger while providing them with easy access to firearms — [that] has proven disastrous for our country."
First of all, the purpose of the investigation is to explore and vet the very allegations Reid calls "unsubstantiated," even though they arise from statements made on video (edited and unedited) by Planned Parenthood executives and whistleblowers. There is on-camera evidence of several apparent crimes, including failing to secure patient consent prior harvesting fetal organs, altering abortion techniques in order to reap more valuable intact specimens, and profiting from fetal organ transfers -- each of which is illegal. Reid argues that Congress should cease looking into these matters because they were raised by a "right-wing group" (irrelevant), and because Republicans' discussion of the matter has whipped up a "frenzy of hate and anger." Because a controversy over X "caused" a nutcase to do Y, we must ignore X. This is a non-sequitur, the only purpose of which is to run interference for a Democratic mega donor. Though Reid has routinely demonstrated his lack of compunction over peddling in cynicism and deceit, he's likely emboldened on this subject matter in particular, on which the mainstream media is uniquely biased. Case in point, this Associated Press headline, which swallows whole the tendentious Reid/Planned Parenthood premise:
Congressional GOP leader defends House investigation of Planned Parenthood despite shootings at Colo. clinic: https://t.co/P5HexA4C0i— The Associated Press (@AP) November 30, 2015
What's especially galling about the Left's debate-crushing smear campaign against pro-lifers -- who've been virtually unanimous and unequivocal in their condemnation of the shooting -- is how often the Left gets away with selectively applying their own illiberal standards on political speech and violence. NRO's Jim Geraghty wrote an excellent piece about this yesterday, on which Megyn Kelly drew heavily in an impactful Fox News segment that aired last night. One example: When a deranged gay rights activist attempted to massacre the staff at a socially conservative advocacy group in 2012, were same-sex marriage proponents lambasted for their "dehumanizing" slogans that attributed opponents' motives to "hate"? Were they instructed to stop speaking out on behalf of their cause, lest another psychotic person twist their words into a call for blood? No. Ramesh Ponnuru offers another pertinent example:
Jim Pouillon was murdered in 2009 by a man who objected to [an] anti-abortion pamphlet he was distributing. Press coverage was scant, but some pro-choice groups, to their credit, denounced the murder. The New York Times didn't run articles suggesting that over-the-top pro-choice rhetoric -- likening pro-lifers to the Taliban, accusing them of seeking to oppress women, urging a crackdown on their ability to protest abortion -- had set the stage for the murder. Pro-lifers refrained from suggesting that pro-choice groups bore responsibility for the murder. (I'm not aware of any exceptions to this generalization.) That was to their credit: The suggestion would have been obscene. Pro-choicers have been less restrained in the wake of the recent murder of three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. They intend to turn the killings "into a political moment they say will put abortion opponents on the defensive."
The abortion lobby has been eagerly aided in that endeavor by Democratic politicians, point-scoring ideological allies (by the way, the accusations against Planed Parenthood are not "lies"), and sympathetic (read: most) media outlets. Because the Left engages in this form of moral bullying so frequently -- someone really ought to write a book about this phenomenon -- I hope you'll forgive me for quoting my last post on the subject:
Spree killer Christopher Dorner's rambling manifesto espoused admiration for various CNN and MSNBC personalities. The anti-religious fanatic who slaughtered three young Muslims in North Carolina was a fan of Rachel Maddow and Neil deGrasse Tyson. The LGBT activist who planned a bloody massacre at the conservative Family Research Council used a map from the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center to choose and locate his targets. And December's New York City cop murderer was involved in the anti-police protest movement, in which he may have been exposed to chants like, "what do we want? Dead cops!" That last bit comes a lot closer to actual incitement than the other examples I enumerated, but none of those deranged criminals' actions can be fairly laid at the feet of CNN, or MSNBC, or Neil deGrasse Tyson or SPLC. And guess what? If a Left-wing, anti-Christian nut who never misses an episode of Real Time with Bill Maher shoots up an evangelical church tomorrow -- God forbid -- Maher's speech would not be at fault for that, either. This form of guilt-by-association, especially of the tenuous or even non-existent variety (see: Giffords and Palin), is designed to shame and impugn innocent people who hold opposing ideological viewpoints.
This insidious silencing method should be forcefully rejected by thoughtful actors across the ideological spectrum. It squelches honest debate, and as evidenced above, it can easily be used to bludgeon liberals and conservatives alike, depending on the circumstances. Sadly, the Left has less of an incentive to crack down on this trend because they enjoy a distinct demagoguery amplification advantage, thanks to their dominance of opinion-driving social institutions. That frustrating reality notwithstanding, those Americans who value the free and robust exchange of ideas must make the following point as often as necessary: Political rhetoric, with the very rare exception of explicit incitement, is not "to blame" when unhinged people do horrible things. To argue otherwise is to conflate sentiments with which one disagrees with criminal actions -- a tempting, lazy, and anti-speech intellectual cop-out that should be treated as anathema to a vibrant open society. Resist it, even when doing so is politically inconvenient.