Let’s condemn violence before it happens

Let’s condemn violence before it happens January 24, 2012

Every time an incident of violence targeting abortion providers makes the news, most anti-abortion groups rush to condemn such violence.

These condemnations may not be internally consistent, but I believe they are sincere and I am glad to hear them, time after time.

Given that the repetition of this pattern over the years has clearly established a long record of opposition to such violence by such groups, I’d like to highlight for them an opportunity to condemn such violence before it occurs.

As Rachel Maddow recently reported, the radical clerics of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue have launched an online database listing the names of doctors who perform abortions, along with their photographs and home addresses. Maddow notes that this is not taking place in a historical vacuum:

So, this is the pattern, detailed wanted posters going up, the distribution of exact addresses and descriptions and photos and other specific information about a doctor, these posters distributed by anti-abortion extremists. And then the doctor gets assassinated. This is the pattern …

We interviewed a doctor in North Carolina a little more than a year ago who told us that he fear for his life after the same tactic was used against him. The poster with photo, and address and detailed information for a doctor who provides abortion services — this is a tried and trued means of intimidation for the extreme anti-abortion movement.

And because of all these past instances of the distribution of that kind of personal information about a doctor being followed by an extremist using violence against that doctor, this is a form of intimidation that has well-earned its intended terroristic effect. People who are brave enough to provide abortion services in this country are aware of the threat of violence that is implicit in anti-abortion extremists distributing the specific information — the information of how to find them, and what that doctor looks like when do you find them.

Operation Rescue is well aware of that historical context. The pattern is so clearly established that they can’t help but acknowledge it in a nudge-nudge wink-wink legal disclaimer that they hope will shield them from criminal and civil action after information from their database is used by some extremist in exactly the deadly way that they know and we know and everyone knows we can expect it to be used.

“This site is meant for informational purposes to aid in the end of abortion through peaceful, legal means,” the disclaimer says.

It is in no way meant to encourage or incite violence of any kind against abortion clinics, abortionists, or their staff. We denounce acts of violence against abortion clinics and providers in the strongest terms.

When the “informational purposes” of this databases lead, inevitably, to the very “acts of violence” that this disingenuous disclaimer claims to denounce, all of the more mainstream anti-abortion groups and spokespeople will rush to condemn that violence “in the strongest terms.”

It would be nice if some of them actually spoke up nowbefore that violence occurs, to condemn this database and call on Operation Rescue to take it down.

 

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  • Oh look, there’s a pig flying by my window.

  • God this shit is disgusting. I’ve seen right-wingers use this tactic against atheists, abortion doctors, feminists… The message being, apparently, you shouldn’t have the freedom to disagree with right-wingers.

  • Lori

    Has anyone demanded that Operation Rescue explain exactly what “informational purposes” not related to violence and intimidation are served by providing names, photos and home addresses of doctors to anyone with an internet connection? What possible need would anyone have for that information other than intimidation and violence?

    This is why, unlike Fred, I don’t believe that anti-choicers’ after-the-fact condemnations of murder are sincere. For all the supposed condemnation of violence, Operation Rescue still enjoys a great deal of support and is still an accepted part of the movement that claims to be pro-life. I simply do not believe that anyone who supports Operation Rescue is actually genuinely sorry when doctors are murdered. The history is too long and too violent for me to be willing to buy that kind of self-serving lie.

  • Emcee, cubed

    “This site is meant for informational purposes to aid in the end of
    abortion through peaceful, legal means,” the disclaimer says.

    So, just out of curiosity, exactly what “peaceful, legal means” of ending abortion require a doctor’s home address? Or pictures of their car or license plates? Or the names and pictures of their children?

    And we won’t even go into the fact that these are the same type of people who claim that the names and addresses of signers of political petitions, and of donors, which have to be released and made public by law, shouldn’t have to be released and made public, because the scary liberals might harass them.

  • Anonymous

    They are not sincere when they apologize and you’re crazy if you think they are. They are overjoyed by the murders but are smart enough to know that it is really impolitic to come right out and say so.

    What I would like to see is a group like the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of a doctors family sue these folks for wrongful death. They’ve bankrupted other hate groups with this tactic, they could bankrupt Operation Rescue. In a civil court, OR’s legal disclaimer may not hold any water with a jury full of people who are fed up with terrorist violence. Any idiot can connect the dots from their wanted posters to the blood of Dr. Tiller in the church vestibule. It would be nice if we use a civilized way to stop Operation Rescue and the violent terrorists that they encourage and support.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think it’s sincere, really, because I don’t think they’re owning their role in it. If I give someone a gun and they go out and shoot someone, I have played a real role in that person’s death. If I give cover to someone else who gives a third person a gun, I’ve played a role in the matter. Denouncing it — before or after the fact — doesn’t help.
    It’s called stochastic terrorism — and, to paraphrase a commentator on Making Light, it’s the sort of situation that happened before laws started to deal with stalking: there was nothing anyone could do until it was too late.This has been condemned before (c.f. the death of Thomas Becket), but apparently that only matters if the death is one of their own.These people know at some level what they’re doing — and even if they don’t, they should have known.

  • Lori

     
    If I give someone a gun and they go out and shoot someone, I have played a real role in that person’s death.

     

    I would modify this slightly and say that if you give a gun to someone you know to be violent and that person shoots someone, it’s reasonable to say that you played a role in the crime. Depending on the circumstances you may not be legally culpable, but morally you very definitely are. 

    Operation Rescue knows that there are violent people in and around the anti-choice movement. Any claims on their part that they are not responsible for what those violent people do with the information that OR provides is just bullshit.

  • WingedBeast

    It’s not just the printing of photoes, names, addresses.  It’s also the language used, which commonly allude to the Holocaust.

    What really gets me harkens back to O’Reilly calling Tiller “Hitlerian”, and then, afterwords decrying any use of violence.  Does anybody believe that, given the opportunity and the real belief it would end the holocaust, anybody using that language would say that it’s the wrong thing to do to kill Hitler?  Of course not.  The ideology is very black-and-white.  There’s only good and evil and killing evil is acceptable.

    So, what they’re saying is “these are the people it is explicitly morally acceptable to kill as a means to the ends of stopping abortion” and then following that up with “of course we in no way condone any kind of violence.”  Then, they are shocked, shocked I say to find that there is gambling going on in this establishment.

    I realize that free speech is one of the most important freedoms in the US and, as a Nation, all else being equal we’re going to err on the side of letting people say whatever, but we’ve got to, at least on a moral scale, put it to people that they know what they’re saying.  Somebody should have challenged O’Reily to whether or not he was tacitly agreeing to any attempted assault or murder attempt.

  • Anonymous

    Here’s a post to shove in a concern troll’s face the next time one appears to protest that, well, for instance, we can’t know like for sure that Newt Gingrich truly in his heart believes that white male Christians are fundamentally basically superior to all other forms of life in the universe, especially The Negroes.

  • Diez

    How do you engage these people?

    I’m asking seriously.  How is it even possible to have constructive dialogue with someone this out-of-touch?  I’m not using this as a derogatory term– I’m speaking from experience that when you bring up the subject of abortion, pro-lifers lose touch with reality.  They disengage from all logic and pure emotion takes over.

    The poor babies.  Oh, no, the babies!  Won’t someone think of the babies?  WHY AREN’T YOU THINKING OF THE BABIES, YOU MONSTER!?

    I’ve lost friends trying to talk about this.  Good, otherwise intelligent people who have helped me through rough patches, who I just cannot speak to now without becoming incredibly uncomfortable.  I tried to get them to see reason, and they dropped a nuclear bomb of emotion in my face and blew me right out of their lives.

    How do you rationally engage people who seem to get off on irrationality?

  • Anonymous

    That Operation Rescue target database needs to be replaced with an FBI banner.

  • Anonymous

    That Operation Rescue target database needs to be replaced with an FBI banner.

  • “These condemnations may not be internally consistent, but I believe they are sincere and I am glad to hear them, time after time.”

    And with that, Fred Clark joins the ranks of every other mealy-mouthed “moderate Christian” who is more concerned with making excuses for the insane Talibangelists within his religion in order to “preserve the brand” than in the fundamental decency for all people that says “terrorism is wrong.” As far as I’m concerned, if Obama wasn’t going to shut down Gitmo and prosecute all the people who engaged in torture and forced confessions, then he should have shipped that terrorist Scott Roeder down there and water-boarded him until he gave up the names of every member of Operation Rescue who gave him materiel support. And then THEY should have been rounded up like the terrorists they are and given their own one-way trip to our gulag in the Caribbean.

    These animals facilitate the murder of their political rivals and you “believe they are sincere” in condemning the the assassination of people they plainly wanted killed. Crap like this is why I think Christianity, like every other religion, is a fucking plague on this nation and this world. And you, Fred, want to debate on whose superficial symptoms are the least debilitating but you refuse to consider the possibility that you need a cure. Suddenly, I have an intense desire to vomit.

  • This is why, unlike Fred, I don’t believe that anti-choicers’
    after-the-fact condemnations of murder are sincere. For all
    the supposed condemnation of violence, Operation Rescue still enjoys a
    great deal of support and is still an accepted part of the movement that
    claims to be pro-life. I simply do not believe that anyone who supports
    Operation Rescue is actually genuinely sorry when doctors are murdered.
    The history is too long and too violent for me to be willing to buy
    that kind of self-serving lie.

    I think it’s more complicated than that — and by complicated, I will include “irrational, illogical, and inconsistent.”  I think that what they want is exactly what they get: they want all the benefits of calling for the murder of doctors but without either the legal culpability nor the moral culpability of being responsible for murders. Remember: these are people whose sense of self-worth is based around the idea “We’re the moral ones who want to protect life; they’re the murderers.”  It’s just as important for them to convince *themselves* that the murders weren’t their fault.

    Yes, it’s hardcore cognative dissonance, but I think that’s really how it is: they want it both ways: to be able to shout from the rooftops “Kill them in their beds! Slit their throats!” but never be held accountable for it. They don’t *actually want* the violence per se. The rhetoric *is itself the goal*; the actual  violence is more like acceptable losses.

  • Dead is dead.

  • Anonymous

    And with that, Fred Clark joins the ranks of every other mealy-mouthed “moderate Christian” who is more concerned with making excuses for the insane Talibangelists within his religion in order to “preserve the brand” than in the fundamental decency for all people that says “terrorism is wrong.” … And you, Fred, want to debate on whose superficial symptoms are the least debilitating but you refuse to consider the possibility that you need a cure. Suddenly, I have an intense desire to vomit.

    Could you try to calm down a bit? You’re really not helping anyone’s cause here.

    I don’t believe the forced birther condemnations of violence are sincere. I do believe Fred’s belief in their sincerity is sincere. Fred tends to believe the best of everyone, and this is no exception.

  • Baader Meinhoff

    Maybe the answer is for some brave pro-choice activists to start shooting the fundie leadership, perhaps on a three-for-one basis, whenever an abortion doctor is killed. Using a rifle they probably wouldn’t get caught. Look how long the Beltway snipers stayed free.

  • Anonymous

    Coming on the heels of *this*: (TW: EXTREME ANIMAL CRUELTY, Terrorism) http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/01/23/409443/arkansas-democratic-campaign-manager-comes-home-to-find-childs-cat-murdered-liberal-written-on-dead-body/

    I can certainly see all of the “peaceful” and “legal” ways that database will be used to “end abortion.”

    Fuck these people are monsters. Disgusting, inhuman monsters.

  • Guest

    I’d like to see Anonymous take that database down with a DDoS.

  • Lori

     
    Yes, it’s hardcore cognative dissonance, but I think that’s really how it is: they want it both ways: to be able to shout from the rooftops “Kill them in their beds! Slit their throats!” but never be held accountable for it. They don’t *actually want* the violence per se. The rhetoric *is itself the goal*; the actual  violence is more like acceptable losses.  

     

    Oh, I absolutely believe they don’t want to be held accountable for it. I even believe that the violence isn’t the goal of many people in the anti-choice movement, although I do think it’s rather obviously the goal of OR. What I don’t believe is that they’re truly sorry or feel any genuine regret when doctors are murdered. I think they pay lip service to the idea because they know that good people are supposed to be upset when someone is murdered, but I don’t believe they really are. 

    Also, as Coleslaw points out, dead is dead so I really don’t care if they feel bad or not when their supposed sorrow doesn’t lead them to change anything.

  • Azrael D. Macool

    Dude, seriously, calm down. They’re not inhuman, the problem is that they’re exactly human. I don’t mean to get on your case or anything, I just feel that calling people Hungary like inhuman or monsters or animals is the exact reason that things like the assassination of abortion doctors happens.

  • There are moments (and they are increasing in frequency) when I think most leftists in this country will continue trying to “understand” and “reason with” the Christian Right all the way onto the trains, into the camps, and through the doors marked “communal showers.” 

  • Grey Seer

     Because if we don’t acknowledge the existence of other points of view, if we choose immediate and violent opposition to anything that contradicts what we percieve to be the only true and sensible outlook on life, then we are no better than them.

     And I have no intention of letting them drag me down to their level. So yes, I am going to continue doing my best to understand the other side’s point of view, and I am not going to give up on reasoning with them. What the hell else should I be doing, exactly?

  • Knowing what’s going on in somebody else’s mind and how to change it is a useful skill.

    As for denunciations of anti-abortion violence, Fred’s talked about the issue before. He does not think very highly of anti-abortion groups. He believes that most of the Holocaust rhetoric is not sincerely believed by those who espouse it, but rather that it’s being used as a cynical, hypocritical, and immoral means of gaining money and/or political power. He believes that the people who are so misguided as to believe it are the ones committing the violence, and that the rest is cognitive dissonance — that in their gut, most people know that violence isn’t justified in this context, but that they don’t all realize this implies that A) abortions aren’t genocide and B) their gut knows it.

    I think that’s an accurate summary.

  • Well personally, if Roe v. Wade is overturned (which I expect to happen by the end of this decade; sooner if Obama loses this November), I would advocate burning a church every day until the Supreme Court changes its mind or until the ERA gets passed, but that’s just me. More likely nothing will be done and you can explain to your daughter (if you have one) that it’s important to not sink to the level of your enemies and instead to cling to the better natures of our internal angels and so that’s why she’ll have to suck it up and spend nine months carrying her rapist’s baby to term.

  • FangsFirst

    A) abortions aren’t genocide

    This whole sentiment has always befuddled me. Genocide is an attempt to eliminate all of a particular group. Do they think those who endorse the legality of abortion are in favour of killing all–as they would term it–babies? For…being babies? All of them? Ever?

    I don’t think ANYONE thinks this is the case, not even them, so that term is so inherently disingenuous it annoys the hell out of me.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with the general sentiment. I don’t agree with burning down churches.

    I do think we’ve passed the point where we can talk to them like adults, though. I’m befuddled as to what we’re supposed to do with them.

    Edit: Since obviously they don’t want to talk with us, and they don’t want to come down and do things like rational adults. Ignoring them doesn’t seem to work, and society does not seem interested in stepping up to the plate. Things are going to spiral really quickly if something isn’t done.

  • Grey Seer

     OK. First point, I’m British, so overturning Roe vs Wade and all that will have shit-all effect on me or my family. So for the purpose of this discussion, please refrain from trying to frame your arguements in terms of hypothetical tragedies that could befall my loved ones.

     Secondly… burning churches in an attempt to force the Government to change the laws to your liking is what is generally known as terrorism. It is also, essentially, exactly the same tactics that the militant anti-abortionists have been practicing when they murder innocent people to make a political point. That you can both condemn those people for their actions in one breath while encouraging the exact same thing in the next does not speak very highly of your morals. Or sanity.

  • Anonymous

    There’s other things going on in their heads, too, and I think there’s may be a biological imperative for it. I was reading the other day on Myer’s blog a post on biology and why human women are the only mammals who have periods, rather than just simply reabsorbing the lining of the uterus and recycling it. I don’t remember what the exact conclusion was, but somewhere in the conclusion, it was drawn that apparently getting rid of the baby quickly is a pro-woman strategy. It makes sense; babies tax resources and tremendously hazardous to the mother. It’s in the male’s best interest to see her keep that baby, especially when it’s his offspring, because that means his genes live to see the next generation.

    Thus, if you think about, abortion is getting rid of a resource tax, and is inherently pro-woman for it. Anything that smacks of being pro-woman is instantly the object of scorn from the male-dominated society, not to mention being an “anti-man” strategy (it gets rid of the baby; the man doesn’t benefit from it at all), from an evolutionary stand point. Not that it matters anymore whether it’s “anti-male” or not, because we’re well past the point where our evolutionary heritage should have any bearing on us as a species, but atavism seems to be a very common trait on the political right.

    I hope I relayed that right. I’ll have to find that blog post and double check, but I think that was the sum of the parts, and relayed through a scattered brain that read it about a month ago.

  • Anonymous

    but somewhere in the conclusion, it was drawn that apparently getting rid of the baby quickly is a pro-woman strategy

    I think the general consensus arrived in the comment thread (either on Phyrangula or Pandagon) was that that was very carefully hidden snark.

    Someone accurate snark, but snark nonetheless.

  • The problem there is that terrorism WORKS! Abortion is de facto illegal in most of this country as a result of a thirty year campaign of terrorism against abortion providers. And in response, Christianists on the Right have wrung their hands and deplored all the violence while sniggering to themselves as soon as the cameras were turned off, while turncoats on the Left have consistently sold women out on abortion rights issues because too many “independents” think abortion is “icky” or something. Compare the treatment of the suspected terrorist Jose Padilla, whose diabolical scheme to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge with a blow torch led to him being driven mad by years of solitary confinement, with that of Scott Roeder, whose constitutional rights were scrupulously protected and who was actually allowed by the judge to present evidence that deadly force was justified because Dr. Tiller performed late term abortions. The forced birth terrorists are winning, in large part because they know no one on the other side will ever fight back. I only wonder what they’ll go for next once Roe v. Wade is gone: prison terms for gays? the banning of contraceptives? or perhaps they’ll take up the cause of that little Christianist freak in the video Fred showed, the one who wants to ban epidurals because God meant for women to suffer in pregnancy!

  • Lori

     
    The problem there is that terrorism WORKS! 

     

    In the short term yes, in the long term generally not. For one thing, you hit a point where the people you need to have support you turn on you because they’re sick of the violence. 

    Beyond that, the fact that something works doesn’t make it right. 

  • Burning churches only works within the context of BLACK METAL.

  • Anonymous

    You know, I remember there was a program that Something Awful people used to take down the sites of pedophiles that worked by downloading the entirety of the website. It was supposed to be used for backup, but when hundreds of people are smoking your bandwidth and flooding the server with connections, it would in effect be a DDoS. Sure would be a shame if a bunch of people decided to do that to this site. I would SURELY not take part in anything like that.

    [edit] By “this site” I meant the site of these American Taliban anti-choice fuckfaces, not Patheos. Just to be clear.

  • FangsFirst

    Burning churches only works within the context of BLACK METAL.

    I can’t ever bring myself to not listen to Emperor or Mayhem on moral grounds…though I probably ought to…

    (not that she could tolerate it anyway, but my SGF made clear that she would not be listening to them. I told her that was cool, and I would respect it happily)

  • Anonymous

    I’m no fan of Black Metal. As near as I can tell, it’s pretty much the same and I don’t really care for the vocal style.

    That said, I will instantly prove myself a hypocrite and suggest Dimmu Borgir and Einherjar if you’re interested in black metal. Also, if you’re looking for something *really* weird, check out Orphaned Land; they’re a doom/death/black/prog/whatsit metal band. From Israel. Who have lyrics in Hebrew and English (with Yemenite choruses!)

  • FangsFirst

    Heh, I am middlingly familiar with black metal, though I’m more of a death metal-er (barring most “gore” stuff, which I can’t stand, with a few odd exceptions). Emperor and Mayhem are pillars, both for their reputations (which include quite a few things I cannot, well, “can’t support” is so beyond insufficient it isn’t even funny…) and for their music. I really can’t hold Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, IX Equilibrium or Prometheus: the Discipline of Fire and Demise out as anything but excellent–and rather varied, actually. Plus, Ihsahn started singing some parts (!).
    Mayhem’s stuff I tend to like more the latter-era (incidentally, I’ve now eliminated the music made by the most offensive members of either band, which may make the whole tolerance more understandable, I guess¹) which isn’t really black metal anyway. I keep meaning to listen to more Darkthrone and Immortal, but I never do.

    There is some serious variation in the genre though, and there’s plenty to be found. John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats (!) is pretty big on black metal, and he and I had a conversation at a metal show about it once. I was all bright-eyed about 1349 being a real live black metal band from Norway I was seeing in concert–he thought they were kinda boring (but said so in a very polite way).

    Dimmu (like Cradle) are often called out as “not true black metal” though anyway. Einherjar I hear about periodically, but never more than in lists…

    Orphaned Land was always brought up for sheer peculiarity, heh. Another one I’ve been meaning to listen to, in fact. But I’m still behind and somewhere have my hand-written list from talking to Mr. Darnielle of bands I’m supposed to listen to…

    ¹There is, however, an image floating around the internet referencing the most infamous of all events in black metal history that I made some years back. Someone actually sent it to me, not knowing it was my work, which was pretty amusing.

  • Anonymous

    This is were my mind went:

  • FangsFirst

    Ah, yes, speaking of deservedly horrendous and repellent reputations…

  • Wednesday

    Operation Rescue’s protestations that they were sorry to see Dr. Tiller murdered were pretty offensive, actually.  Sure, what they said to the press was “oh, we are appropriately horrified that a human being was murdered and our prayers are with his family”, and so anyone who only saw their statement on Dr. Tiller’s murder in the newspapers could reasonably think they were sincerely sorry.

    On their website, however, they were singing a slightly different tune. “We’re soooo sorry that Dr. Tiller died before he Turned To Jesus.” Not that he died. Given that Dr. Tiller was murdered at his church where he was serving as an usher, OR’s statement was a clear slap in the face of Dr. Tiller’s family, church, and heck, entire denomination.

    And that’s even without getting into whether or not they felt Violence Was Wrong (which, if they had, they should’ve contacted the FBI, since they had been contacted by Roeder repeatedly, including on the day of the murder).

  • MaryKaye

    From what I can find on the Net, it is not true that only humans menstruate:  chimpanzees at least do, and several sources say all great apes do.  I suspect it has to do with the industrial-strength uterine setup needed to sustain a nine month pregnancy.  Other mammals mostly have much shorter pregnancies.

    Many, perhaps most, mammals have some form of spontaneous abortion when conditions are not conducive to carrying the fetus to term.  Rabbits and mice can selectively self-abort less viable fetuses, and can also abort the whole batch under sufficiently bad circumstances.  Mice generally start twice as many fetuses as they are going to bear, and abort the less vigorous half.

    One could wish humans were like this.  Or perhaps they are–about half of all conceptions end in early miscarriage.  The ones for which we resort to medical abortion are those that got through the early spontaneous-abortion screen.  But putting in a voluntary “I won’t sustain a pregnancy at this time” switch would be a great improvement, in my view.

  • Apocalypse Review

    I think it has been reported that stress can cause a miscarriage, as well – so while human women probably don’t have a direct link that says “this baby’s not viable for me”, there is probably a correlation between worry and upset over the pregnancy and spontaneous miscarriage rates.

  • Hipocracy is never pretty.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Well personally, if Roe v. Wade is overturned (which I expect to happen
    by the end of this decade; sooner if Obama loses this November),

    Never gonna happen.  The GOP had a pretty solid lock on all three branches of government from 9/11 up through 2006, and they didn’t even bother TRYING to ban abortion.

    The GOP _needs_ Roe vs Wade there for them to fulminate against.  Actually putlawing abortion won’t get them elected, but PROMISING to outlaw abortion gets them elected.

    Although I’m sure this is mighty cold comfort to women living in areas where they’re hard at work on asymptotic denial of abortion rights via nitpicky legislation.

  • runsinbackground

    That would make them a pattern-killer, of course, which makes them easier to catch. If you know that “any murder of a prominent American Christian hard-right leader is probably connected to any other” that narrows down your possible suspects considerably. The Beltway Sniper actually only stayed free for  about 3 weeks.