Fred Phelps, the crazy leader of the Westboro Baptist Church cult, has become infamous for blaming any bad event on the evils of homosexuality. Earthquake in Haiti? Blame the gays. Combat troop deaths in Iraq? Ditto.
Phelps' logic works thusly: God literally hates people who engage in homosexual conduct and unless societies take the steps to ban and punish such action, God is going to destroy them. Any natural disaster or mass murder is, accordingly, the will of God being carried out on the "sinners" who refuse to listen.
If that type of "logic" sounds familiar, it should be. It's exactly the same as the explanations the far left is resorting to in its efforts to pin the recent Tucson, Arizona shooting onto conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, John Boehner, Glenn Beck, and the right generally.
Even the face of an overwhelming amount of evidence that Jared Lee Loughner had exactly zero connections to Palin et al., many on the left are continuing to insist that conservatives and libertarians bear at least some responsibility for creating a "climate of hate" simply by engaging in the exact same type of vigorous political speech that the left is continually urging its politicians to engage in.
Read any random left-wing website and you'll see countless rants about how Democrats need to be more like Alan Grayson, the fanatic who formerly represented Florida's 8th congressional district. He's best known for fabricating stories about the Republican who eventually defeated him and repeatedly stating that the GOP version of health care is to encourage the poor to "die quickly."
Limbaugh, Beck and the rest cannot be allowed to behave in such a way, however, because to forcefully oppose or ridicule the shibboleths of liberalism is the worst kind of evil, even worse than Al Qaeda according to MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann:
"Al Qaeda really hurt us, but not as much as Rupert Murdoch has hurt us, particularly in the case of Fox News," he said in a 2007 interview. "Fox News is worse than Al Qaeda--worse for our society. It's as dangerous as the Ku Klux Klan ever was."
What to do about such evilness? How about pray it away? That's exactly what Olbermann's fellow MSNBC ranter Ed Schultz did in 2009 when he asked God to "take Dick Cheney to the promised land" on account of his being "an enemy of the country."
In a great column printed Tuesday, George Will explained perfectly where such hypocritical and vicious rage comes from:
It would be merciful if, when tragedies such as Tucson's occur, there were a moratorium on sociology. But respites from half-baked explanations, often serving political opportunism, are impossible because of a timeless human craving and a characteristic of many modern minds. The craving is for banishing randomness and the inexplicable from human experience. Time was, the gods were useful. What is thunder? The gods are angry. Polytheism was explanatory. People postulated causations. And still do. Hence: The Tucson shooter was (pick your verb) provoked, triggered, unhinged by today's (pick your noun) rhetoric, vitriol, extremism, "climate of hate." Demystification of the world opened the way for real science, including the social sciences. And for a modern characteristic. And for charlatans. A characteristic of many contemporary minds is susceptibility to the superstition that all behavior can be traced to some diagnosable frame of mind that is a product of promptings from the social environment. From which flows a political doctrine: Given clever social engineering, society and people can be perfected. This supposedly is the path to progress. It actually is the crux of progressivism. And it is why there is a reflex to blame conservatives first.
In short, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and anyone else who dares to resist the march of history are heretics. That's why they need to shut up, or in the event that they choose not to, have someone else shut them up.
According to the editors of the New York Times, Arizona, the state in which Loughner did his ghastly deed, needs to "lead the nation in quieting the voices of intolerance, demanding an end to the temptations of bloodshed, and imposing sensible controls on its instruments."
The arrogance is palpable. But not unexplained. After all, it's rhetorically very similar* to the statement Fred Phelps put out on Youtube Jan. 8:
Thank God for the violent shooter, one of your soldier heroes in Tucson. God appointed the Afghanistan veteran to avenge himself on this evil nation. However many are dead, Westboro Baptist Church will picket their funerals. We will remind the living that you can still repent and obey. This is ultimatum time with God. "Except ye repent, ye will all likewise perish." Luke 13:3. This nation unleashed criminal, violent veterans on Westboro Baptist Church for telling you to obey God. We told you at your soldiers' funerals that they are dying for your sins. You hate those words. And you will not stop sinning. So you sent violent veterans, so-called Patriot Guard Riders, to attack and try to silence Westboro Baptist Church. Then you sent violent, crippled veteran Ryan Newell with 90 rounds of ammunition planning to shoot 5 Westboro Baptist Church members while picketing. God restrained the hand of them all, then he turned a violent veteran on you. Twenty-two-year-old Jared Loughner opened fire outside a Tucson, Arizona grocery store, shooting Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, federal judge John M. Rall, and 16 others. At least 6 are dead, and counting. Congress passed three laws against Westboro Baptist Church. Congresswoman Giffords, an avid supporter of sin and baby killing, was shot for that mischief. A federal judge in Baltimore, part of the massive military community in Maryland and in the District of Columbia, put Westboro Baptist Church on trial for faithful words from God. Federal judge Rall paid for those sins with his life. Today, mouthy witch Sarah Palin had Rep. Giffords in a crosshairs on her website. She quickly took it down because she is a cowardly brute, like the rest of you. The crosshairs to worry about are God's. And he's put you in his. And your destruction is upon you. You should have obeyed. This nation of violent murderers is in full rebellion against God. God avenged himself on you today by a marvelous work in Tucson. He sits in the heavens and laughs at you in your affliction. Westboro Baptist Church prays for more shooters, more violent veterans and more dead. Praise God for his righteous judgments in this earth. Amen.
In short: Innocent people were killed because American and its leaders have sinned against the higher light. Which is effectively what New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said in a column printed Monday. I've taken the liberty of illustrating the comparison by interposing Krugman's and Phelps' words:
KRUGMAN: When you heard the terrible news from Arizona, were you completely surprised? Or were you, at some level, expecting something like this atrocity to happen? PHELPS: God appointed the Afghanistan veteran to avenge himself on this evil nation. KRUGMAN: Put me in the latter category. I’ve had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach ever since the final stages of the 2008 campaign. I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 — an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again. The Department of Homeland Security reached the same conclusion: in April 2009 an internal report warned that right-wing extremism was on the rise, with a growing potential for violence. Conservatives denounced that report. But there has, in fact, been a rising tide of threats and vandalism aimed at elected officials, including both Judge John Roll, who was killed Saturday, and Representative Gabrielle Giffords. One of these days, someone was bound to take it to the next level. And now someone has. PHELPS: "Except ye repent, ye will all likewise perish." Luke 13:3. KRUGMAN: It’s true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled. But that doesn’t mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate. PHELPS: We told you at your soldiers' funerals that they are dying for your sins. You hate those words. And you will not stop sinning. KRUGMAN: It’s important to be clear here about the nature of our sickness. It’s not a general lack of “civility,” the favorite term of pundits who want to wish away fundamental policy disagreements. Politeness may be a virtue, but there’s a big difference between bad manners and calls, explicit or implicit, for violence; insults aren’t the same as incitement. The point is that there’s room in a democracy for people who ridicule and denounce those who disagree with them; there isn’t any place for eliminationist rhetoric, for suggestions that those on the other side of a debate must be removed from that debate by whatever means necessary. And it’s the saturation of our political discourse — and especially our airwaves — with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence. PHELPS: A federal judge in Baltimore, part of the massive military community in Maryland and in the District of Columbia, put Westboro Baptist Church on trial for faithful words from God. Federal judge Rall paid for those sins with his life. KRUGMAN: Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P. PHELPS: You should have obeyed. This nation of violent murderers is in full rebellion against God. God avenged himself on you today by a marvelous work in Tucson. He sits in the heavens and laughs at you in your affliction. Westboro Baptist Church prays for more shooters, more violent veterans and more dead. Praise God for his righteous judgments in this earth. Amen.
About the only thing separating Paul Krugman and Fred Phelps rhetorically is the latter's call for more killings. Don't count on the Westboro left realizing this any time soon, though.
* Pedantic note: Besides using similar rhetorical devices to slam their bugbears, Krugman and Phelps are also providing perfect examples of the logical fallacy known as "affirming the consequent."