Sunday, January 9, 2011

The "Becking" Of America: How Right-Wing Media and Politicians Incite Violence

"Becking" (verb)To use violent metaphors or make thinly-veiled suggestions of violence against opponents, while maintaining plausible deniability against charges of incitement"

The Coalition To Stop Gun Violence has built an "insurrectionism timeline".  It lists hundreds of incidents of right-wing speech and of acts of violence clearly incited by such speech.

The timeline pre-dates the election of President Barack Obama, beginning after June 26, 2008, when the U.S. Supreme Court embraced the National Rifle Association's contention that the Second Amendment provides individuals with the right to take violent action against our government should it become "tyrannical."

The timeline also unintentionally chronicles the "Becking" of America, in which right-wing media personalities and lawmaker employ violent metaphors or thinly-veiled suggestions of violence to demonize their opponents.

The Giffords' shooting brought this phenomena home when reports surfaced that Sarah Palin - who had quite literally targeted Gabrielle Giffords with her "Take Back The 20" campaign - was quietly scrubbing a map with Giffords' district marked with gun sight crosshairs from her PAC website.

Yet Palin's defenders, and some in the mainstream media, have tried to claim Democratic lawmakers and media personalities are equally to blame for the toxic political environment because a diarist on the liberal website, Daily Kos, posted that Giffords was "dead to him" after she cast a vote against Pelosi as House Minority Leader (the diarist later apologized for the wording and took the post down).

Palin defenders have also quoted Obama as saying, "Don't bring a knife to a gunfight." during the 2008 campaign, and although I can find this quote plenty using Google, I can't it attributed directly to Obama.

Compare this to the dozens of incidents of right-wing "Becking" CTSGV has documented from the last two years, and which I've highlighted below (and it's by no means an exhaustive list), then look at the violence that's resulted.

Our country is, in a word, well and truly "Becked".


July 27, 2008—Jim Adkisson shoots and kills two people at a progressive church in Knoxville, Tennessee, wounding two. Adkisson calls it “a symbolic killing” because he really “wanted to kill…every Democrat in the Senate & House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg's book,” but was unable to gain access to them.

September 22, 2008—The National Rifle Association launches its GunBanObama website, which predicts that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, “if elected…would be the most anti-gun president in American history.” The website is part of a $15 million NRA campaign to discredit Obama.

February 5, 2009—FOX commentator Glenn Beck hosts an hour-long special on Fox called “We Surround Them, a “grassroots effort to wake up our Nation's leaders and let them know what many, if not most, Americans truly believe in and stand for.”

February 20, 2009—FOX commentator Glenn Beck hosts a program that games a 2014 civil war scenario called “The Bubba Effect.” It involves citizen militias in the South and West taking up arms against the U.S. government.

March 3, 2009— FOX commentator Glenn Beck interviews NRA celebrity spokesman Chuck Norris. During the interview, Beck states that, “Somebody asked me this morning, they said, ‘you really believe that there's going to be trouble in the future?’ And I said, ‘if this country starts to spiral out of control and, you know, and Mexico melts down or whatever, if it really starts to spiral out of control, before America allows a country to become a totalitarian country … Americans will, they just, they won't stand for it. There will be parts of the country that will rise up.’ And they said, ‘where's that going to come from?’ And I said, ‘Texas, it's going to come from Texas.’”

March 9, 2009—NRA celebrity spokesman Chuck Norris writes in an editorial published at WorldNetDaily: “How much more will Americans take? When will enough be enough? And, when that time comes, will our leaders finally listen or will history need to record a second American Revolution?”

March 21-22, 2009—Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN)
states that she wants residents of her state to be “armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us ‘having a revolution every now and then is a good thing,’ and the people—we the people—are going to have to fight back hard if we’re not going to lose our country.”

April 4, 2009—Neo-Nazi Richard Poplawski shoots and kills three police officers responding to a 911 call to his home in Pittsburgh. His friend Edward Perkovic tells reporters that Poplawski feared “the Obama gun ban that’s on its way” and “didn’t like our rights being infringed upon.” Perkovic also commented that Poplawski carried out the shooting because “if anyone tried to take his firearms, he was gonna’ stand by what his forefathers told him to do.”

April 7, 2009—The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis releases an assessment of right wing extremism in the United States. The Department notes that “the economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment.”

Recalling the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh, the Department speculates, “The possible passage of new restrictions on firearms and the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.”

May 31, 2009—Scott P. Roeder shoots and kills Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider, in the foyer of Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas. The FBI lists Roeder as a member of the Montana Freemen, a radical anti-government group. 

Between January 6 and May 15, Politifact found 8 instances where conservative talk show host, Bill O'Reilly called George Tiller a "baby killer". Other reports show O'Reilly had labeled Dr. Tiller "Tiller, the baby killer" as far back as 2006.

June 3, 2009—Hal Turner, a New Jersey resident and white supremacist blogger/radio host, is arrested on charges of inciting injury after calling for the deaths of two Connecticut state legislators on his blog because they sponsored a bill that would have transferred financial power in Roman Catholic parishes from priests and bishops to lay members. “While filing a lawsuit is quaint and the 'decent' way to handle things,” he wrote, “we at TRN (Turner Radio Network) believe that being decent to a group of tyrannical scumbags is the wrong approach. It's too soft. Thankfully, the Founding Fathers gave us the tools necessary to resolve tyranny: The Second Amendment. .”

June 10, 2009—James W. von Brunn, a convicted felon and a “hardcore Neo-Nazi,” walks into the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. and shoots and kills a security guard. Von Brunn believed that Western civilization was going to be replaced with a “ONE WORLD ILLUMINATI GOVERNMENT” that would “confiscate private weapons” in order to accomplish its goals.

July 15, 2009—Katherine Crabill, a Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates in the state’s 99th District makes headlines by calling on Americans to resist the course President Obama has set for the country. Appearing at a “Tea Party” rally, Crabill quotes a 1775 speech by Patrick Henry and then states, “We have a chance to fight this battle at the ballot box before we have to resort to the bullet box. But that's the beauty of our Second Amendment right. I am glad for all of us who enjoy the use of firearms for hunting. But make no mistake. That was not the intent of the Founding Fathers. Our Second Amendment right was to guard against tyranny.”

July 31, 2009—On WWJB-AM in Hernando County, Florida, talk radio host Bob Haa takes a call from a listener who mentions ammunition, target practice, and Barack Obama. Haa tells him not to waste his ammunition on targets, to save it for the administration. Haa is later visited by an agent for the Secret Service.

August 11, 2009—William Kostric is filmed openly carrying a handgun outside of President Obama's health care reform town hall meeting in New Hampshire. Kostric holds a sign that reads, "IT IS TIME TO WATER THE TREE OF LIBERTY!" a reference to the following Thomas Jefferson quote: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

August 17, 2009—Chris Broughton openly carries a handgun and AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle to a health care rally in Phoenix, Arizona. Simultaneously, President Obama addresses a VFW Convention across the street. In a video recorded that day, Broughton states, “What do you think we did in the revolution, in the American Revolution? The British weren't stealing money from us for health care. They weren't taxing us the way they are now back then. And what did we do? We forcefully kicked them out of our country."

August 26, 2009—At a secessionist rally on the state capitol steps in Austin, Texas, gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina states that, "We are aware that stepping off into secession may in fact be a bloody war. We are aware. We understand that the tree of freedom is occasionally watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots.”

September 28, 2009—Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), the Chairman of the Second Amendment Task Force in the U.S. House of Representatives, calls House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a “domestic enemy of the Constitution” at a health care reform town hall meeting.

September 29, 2009—An editorial at the Newsmax website calls for a military coup to oust President Obama.

October 18-19, 2009—Reports emerge that the Secret Service has received an unprecedented number of death threats against President Obama. Ronald Kessler's account of presidential security, In the President's Secret Service, states that there has been a 400% increase in such threats in comparison with Obama’s predecessor. Another source of these reports is an August 5, 2009 study by the Congressional Research Service which finds: “The [Secret] Service’s protection mission has increased and become more ‘urgent’ due to the increase in terrorist threats and the expanded arsenal of weapons that terrorists could use in an assassination attempt or attacks on facilities.”

November 2009— A billboard is erected on I-70 in Lafayette County, Missouri, that promotes "a citizens guide to REVOLUTION." It urges Missourians to "LIVE FREE OR DIE" and "PREPARE FOR WAR" with a corrupt government. The billboard is highlighted at the Lafayette County Republicans website.

February 13, 2010—An unidentified speaker at an event organized by the Lewis and Clark Tea Party Patriots in Asotin County, Washington, tells the audience, "How many of you have watched the movie "Lonesome Dove"? What happened to Jake when he ran with the wrong crowd? He got hung. And that's what I want to do with [Democratic U.S. Senator] Patty Murray."

February 18, 2010—Joseph Stack of Austin, Texas, flies a single-engine plane into an office building containing nearly 200 IRS employees, killing one and wounding 13. In a suicide note,  Stack lays out his grievances with the federal tax agency, stating, "... Violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer."

March 2010—The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) announces that 2009 saw a dramatic increase in the number of new anti-government "Patriot" groups in the United States. Specifically, the number of Patriot groups jumped from 149 (including 42 militias) to 512 (127 of them militias) in 2009—a 244% jump.

March 2, 2010—FOX News commentator Bill O'Reilly, speaking about the McDonald v. Chicago case before the Supreme Court, declares that plaintiff Otis McDonald's inability to own a handgun in Chicago amounts to "tyranny." Predicting that four justices on the Court will side with the city of Chicago, O'Reilly states, "It's interesting that in America today the far Left that wants the government to call the shots, not the folks. In the past, Right-Wing extremists like Hitler and Mussolini were in the forefront of state control. But with the exception of Burma, today's totalitarians are primarily on the Left."

March 4, 2010—John Patrick Bedell, a California resident, travels to Arlington, Virginia, and opens fire on police officers at the entrance to the Pentagon. Bedell is armed with two semiautomatic firearms and "many [ammunition] magazines." Bedell injures two officers before he is killed by return fire. Reports reveals Bedell to be a Truther who believed that the U.S. government had been taken over by a criminal organization in a 1963 coup. In an Internet posting, he writes, "This organization, like so many murderous governments throughout history, would see the sacrifice of thousands of its citizens, in an event such as the September 11 attacks, as a small cost in order to perpetuate its barbaric control."

March 19-22, 2010—During consideration of health care reform legislation by the U.S. House of Representatives, vandals attack Democratic offices in Pleasant Ridge, Ohio; Wichita, Kansas; Tuscon, Arizona; Niagra Falls, New York; and Rochester, New York. Mike Vanderboegh, the former leader of f the Alabama Constitutional Militia, takes credit for the violence after posting a blog on March 19 that states, "If we break the windows of hundreds, thousands, of Democratic party headquarters across this country, we might just make up enough of them to make defending ourselves at the muzzle of a rifle unnecessary."

Several Democratic members receive death threats, including Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who is told snipers will "kill the children of the members who voted YES"; Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), who receives a message saying, "You're dead; we know where you live; we'll get you"; and Rep. Betsy Markey (D-CO), whose staffer is told by a caller, "Better hope I don't run into you in a dark alley with a knife, a club or a gun." 

House Minority Leader John Boehner, speaking about Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-OH), says he "may be a dead man."

March 21, 2010—As the U.S. House of Representatives enters a final round of debate over a controversial health care reform bill, Conservative blogger Solomon "Solly" Forrell calls for the assassination of President Barack Obama on his Twitter account. In two separate postings, Forrel writes, "ASSASSINATION! America, we survived the #Assassinations of #Lincoln & #Kennedy. We'll surely get over a bullet 2 #BarackObama's head! ... The next #American with a #Clear #Shot should drop #Obama like a bad habit."

March 23, 2010—Sarah Palin announces her "Take Back The 20" campaign (which called on Americans to vote out of office Democrats from conservative districts who had voted for health care reform) on her Facebook page. The page includes an image of a map with targeted districts marked with crosshairs.

That same day, Palin tweets to her supporters a note about the Facebook message, writing, "Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: 'Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!' Pls see my Facebook page."

One of the targeted districts was Garielle Giffords'.

March 24, 2010—After voting for health care reform legislation, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) receive faxes with drawings of nooses.

March 25, 2010—Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), who voted for health care reform legislation, receives a package containing white powder and an angry letter telling him to "drop dead ."

March 26, 2010—Rep. Vic Snyder (D-AR), who voted for health care reform legislation, receives a letter stating, "It is apparent that it will take a few assassinations to stop Obamacare. Militia central has selected you for assassination. If we cannot stalk and find you in Washington, D.C., we will get you in Little Rock."

That same day, NRA Board Member Ted Nugent makes the following comment on FOX News' "Your World" program: “I’m the expert on the health care bill because I kill pigs and a just shot a monster big pig here in Texas and seeing as how this is a pig bill created by pig bureaucrats to help out American pigs … We gotta’ kill the pig.”

April 1, 2010—CNN commentator Erick Erickson, questioning the legality of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), makes the following comment on WMAC-AM radio: “We have become, or are becoming, enslaved by the government ... I dare ‘em to try to come throw me in jail. I dare ‘em to. [I’ll] pull out my wife’s shotgun and see how that little ACS twerp likes being scared at the door. They’re not going on my property.”

April 7, 2010—Gregory Lee Giusti, 48, of San Francisco, California, is arrested for making threatening phone calls to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Giusti allegedly called Pelosi dozens of times, recited her home address, and told her that if she wanted to see it again, she should drop her support for health care reform legislation. Giusti had a "history of mental health problems" and his mother indicated he was influenced by "Fox News and all of those that are really radical."

April 13, 2010—Reports surface that state Sen. Randy Brogdon (R-OK) and Rep. Charles Key (R-OK) have met with Oklahoma Tea Party groups to discuss the formation of a new "volunteer militia" to defend against what they see as improprer federal infringements on state sovereignty. 

One Tea Party leader involved in these meetings, J.W. Berry of the Tulsa-based OKforTea group, has called for the Militia to "launch a thousand guerrilla attacks on the plans that these people have to ruin us and our country."

April 19, 2010—Pro-gun activists conduct two rallies in the Washington, D.C. area to demonstrate their opposition to an "oppressive, totalitarian government." The choice of date is significant, as April 19 marks the anniversary of the first shots being fired in the American Revolution at the Battle of Lexington/Concord, the fiery conclusion to the 1993 siege at Waco, and the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh.

May 15, 2010—Referring to a controversial new anti-immigration law in Arizona, FOX News personality Glenn Beck tells the 2010 NRA Convention, "Let's talk a minute about a 'well-regulated militia' and why you might need one because the government isn't doing their job. Let's meet people in Texas, Arizona and California."

May 27, 2010—The Washington Times publishes an editorial claiming that a United Nations treaty seeking to curb the international, illicit trade in smalls arms "would necessarily lead to confication of personal firearms" in the United States. The editorial goes on to say, "Not all insurgencies are bad. As U.S. history shows, one way to get rid of a despotic regime is to rise up against it... Governments are a bigger threat to most people than their neighbors."

May 30, 2010—Sharron Angle, a candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senator in Nevada, tells the Reno Gazette-Journal that a recent increase in gun sales nationwide "tells me that the nation is arming. What are they arming for if it isn't that they are so distrustful of government? They're afraid they'll have to fight for their liberty in more Second Amendment kinds of ways." These comments echo ones made by Angle in January, when she told conservative radio show talk host Lars Larson, "You know, our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason....if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around?

June 9, 2010—Addressing the Obama administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress, FOX commentator Glenn Beck says, "Shoot me in the head if you try to change our government—I will stand against you. And so will millions of others."  Beck also compares American Progressives to Osama bin Laden and claims "they want to overthrow our entire system of government."

June 12, 2010 - Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' Republican opponent, Jesse Kelly, hosted a gun event , inviting supporters to "Get on Target for Victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M15 with Jesse Kelly."

Kelly, who also touted his experience as a Marine combat veteran, often used images of himself handling guns in campaign literature and on his website. Those images are no longer available on his campaign website because Kelly scrubbed most of the site right after the Giffords shooting.

July 11, 2010—Supporters of Tea Party candidate Joe Miller openly carry assault rifles and handguns during a community parade in Eagle River and Chugiak, Alaska, while young children march alongside them. Miller, who is running against Senator Lisa Murkowski in the Republican primary, was endorsed by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who described him as a “true Commonsense Constitutional Conservative.”

July 18, 2010—California Highway Patrol officers arrest Byron Williams, 45, after a shootout on I-580 in which more than 60 rounds are fired. Officers had pulled Williams over in his pick-up for speeding and weaving in and out of traffic when he opened fire on them with a handgun and a long gun. Williams, a convicted felon, is shot several times, but survives because he is wearing body armor. Williams, a convicted felon, reveals that he was on his way to San Francisco to "start a revolution" by killing employees of the ACLU and Tides Foundation. Williams' mother says her son was angry at "Left-wing politicians" and upset by "the way Congress was railroading through all these Left-wing agenda items."

September 16, 2010—Patricia Stoneking, the President of the Kansas State Rifle Association, tells Fox News, "People need to arm themselves, We have the right to put limits on our government, and that's what [the Second Amendment] does." Explaining why America's Founding Fathers drafted the amendment, she says, "They knew government could become tyrannical. We have the right to defend ourselves from a rogue government."

October 15, 2010—Conservative radio show host Glenn Beck lays out a hypothetical scenario on the air where the government is considering taking his children because he refused to have them receive a mandatory flu vaccine. Beck tells his audience that his response to the government would be "Meet Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson."

November 4, 2010—On his radio show, conservative host Glenn Beck fantasizes about President Obama being decapitated during a trip to India, saying, "If anybody thinks he was a Muslim over here, well God forbid, they think he was a Muslim over there because he left his religion for Christianity, death sentence, behead him.” Beck then tells his listeners that "God forbid" this should happen, as there would be a "New World Order" overnight in the United States.

Fox News host Bill O'Reilly fantasizes about killing a Washington Post reporter while on the air, saying, "Does sharia law say we can behead Dana Milbank?" O'Reilly also tells co-host Megyn Kelly, "I think you and I should go and beat him up."

Sarah Palin brags on twitter, "Remember months ago "bullseye" icon used 2 target the 20 Obamacare-lovin' incumbent seats? We won 18 out of 20) 90% success rate:T'aint bad".

One district unsuccessfully targeted was Gabrielle Giffords', the representative gunned down in Tuscon on January 8th, 2011

November 9, 2010—U.S. Representative-Elect Allen West of Florida's 22nd Congressional District hires conservative radio talk show host Joyce Kaufman as his Chief of Staff. On July 3, Kaufman told a crowd of Tea Party supporters, “I am convinced that the most important thing the Founding Fathers did to ensure me my First Amendments rights was they gave me a Second Amendment. And if ballots don’t work, bullets will."

The next day, public schools in Broward County, Florida, go into lockdown after an email threat is received by WFTL 850 AM. The email is sent to conservative radio host Joyce Kaufman in response to remarks she made the day before. The email expresses support for her view of the Second Amendment and says that to further "their cause...something big will happen at a government building in Broward County, maybe a post office maybe even a school." A phone call is then received at the station, allegedly from the emailer's wife, warning that he is preparing to go to a Pembroke Pines school and open fire.

November 29, 2010—U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, circulates a PowerPoint presentation to his colleagues in which he compares the Obama administration to the Nazi regime in Germany and likens himself to Gen. George Patton, bragging, "Put anything in my scope and I will shoot it."

January 8, 2011—U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) is shot in the head by Jared Lee Loughner, with reported ties to an anti-Semetic, anti-immigration hate group, American Renaissance. 13 others were also injured, and 6 were killed, including a 9 year-old girl born on September 11, 2001.


  1. what about the killing of two cops in Arkansas by a father and son who believed they were "sovereign citizens"?

  2. A pretty comprehensive list. I can think of at least one other. The increase in the incendiary, violent, weapon-images rhetoric will continue until those that use it are prosecuted in the square of public opinion. This list should be virally shared over and again.

  3. Grady, there are many, many more examples like the one you've cited.

  4. This is quite an extensive list, but Joe Stack was not a right-winger; he was a person whose concerns were not all-too-uncommon. In my opinion, his grievances were legitimate, but he went about it in the wrong way. Whether he was inspired by the violent rhetoric of Faux News or the NRA is unclear. After the bailout, however, the wealthy profited and the rest of America lost (following the recession, the only economic bracket that experienced a net gain was CEOs). As the underprivileged search for simple solutions and scapegoats, right-wing pundits are taking advantage of them and inciting hatred, injecting vitriol into the popular discourse. That the majority of the poor do not have college education, and are susceptible to populist rhetoric, encourages the right-wingers. America's lax gun laws allow violence to occur, and something should be done to stop it. People must resist, through independent thought, the appeals to the lowest common denominator. Beck's agenda is polluting the common discourse with persuasive violent rhetoric - it must be resisted.

  5. You forgot Thomas DeStories, who was convicted of second degree murder, after being stirred up by local right wing media in Phoenix about how photo radar was a part of 'big brother government,' emptied his magazine into an occupied photo radar van, killing the operator.