Derek Wall is former Principal Speaker of the Green Party. He keeps a regular blog from an eco-socialist perspective at Another Green Worldwhilst regularly contributing to the Morning Star.
There has been huge shock over the shooting of Arizona Congresswomen Gabrielle Giffords and the accompanying killing of six people, including a nine year old girl and a judge, this weekend.
Many commentators on what passes for the US left have pointed to incitement from former Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who used the slogan ‘”Don’t retreat, reload.” and produced a map with cross hair targets above the names of congress members who supported health care reform on her website. These included Gabrielle Giffords.
US politics has become increasingly polarized and violent. Support for mild reforms of healthcare are labelled as Marxist revolution and supporters of the Tea Party dance around with banners of Obama disguised as Adolf Hitler. It would be amusing if it didn’t lead to violence.
Fox TV and right-wing shock jocks pump out hatred.
It looks like, given the continuining decline of US power and economic chaos leading to unemployment and desperation, right wing movements will grow and violence will intensify. Some even talk of the coming of an age of American fascism. The violence, though, is not an exception.
Guns have long been used in US politics. Radicals or even centrist democrats have long been demonised by the media, the process fuels ‘lone gun men’ (rarely women) and the job is done. From Martin Luther King, Jr to JFK some of the best known American leaders have been assassinated.
It goes beyond this, the US state has been prepared to kill on occasion after occasion. In 1995 I had the pleasure of meeting Ramona Africa, she was a member of controversial ecology group the MOVE organisation. In 1985 the FBI dropped a bomb on her home in Philadelphia, killing nine adults and five children. Ramona was the only adult surivivor. The most prominent journalist who defended the MOVE organisation, has been in prison since the 1980s on charges that many commentators argue were fabricated.
Members of the Black Panther Party were killed by the authorities in cold blood during the 1960s. For example, Fred Hampton a Panther activist who set up a free breakfast programme for kids in the ghetto, died after over 50 FBI agents raided his flat and pumped in over two hundred bullets in 1969
Activists with the American Indian Movement have also been executed by the authorities. And of course the violent suppression of indigenous people was a necessary condition for the colonizing of North America by Europeans.
Of course, it couldn’t happen here in Europe, or could it? The well known leader of the student protest movement in the 1960s Rudi Dutschke was defamed for months by the Springer Press who published the German equivalent of our tabloid newspapers. A ‘lone’ gun man’ Josef Bachmann shot Dutschke, calling him ‘a communist bastard’. Like Gabrielle Giffords, Dutschke survived a bullet to the head but was severely injured and he eventually, several years later, drowned in the bath.
Political violence is not uniquely American but it has strong roots in the country, non-violent protest is the norm but repression from the authorities, often using violence or incitement for others to use violence, is common. Protest in the UK has already led to the worst kind of tabloid demonisation, where might this lead?