Quote of the Day: Sean Hannity Is Promoting Cliven Bundy’s War and He Should Be Held Accountable

“Some on the right will try to make this a free speech issue. But this isn’t about the right to say unpopular or dangerous things. It’s about the abuse of a powerful megaphone for selfish ends, with potentially disastrous consequences. The freedom to speak doesn’t exempt one for moral responsibility for what is said.”

R.J. Eskow, writing for Salon, on Sean Hannity’s ongoing on-air lionizing of scofflaw rancher Cliven Bundy

What Eskow is talking about here is something I’ve written about many times. It’s a question I’ve asked, really: What do you do when a media outlet refuses to behave responsibly? When it peddles outright lies? When it preaches a kind of cultural armageddon? When it, directly or indirectly, stokes the fires of armed insurrection without any regard whatsoever for what could be the disastrous impact?

Four years ago, Glenn Beck regaled his Fox News viewers day after day, week after week with paranoid fever dreams about the coming collapse of America and the need for some kind of resistance to the encroaching progressive threat. He picked specific targets for his outrage, people and institutions he claimed were surreptitiously trying to destroy the country; one of them was the Tides foundation, a relatively obscure organization based in San Francisco that Beck had singled out as being part of the secret liberal cabal.

In July of 2010, a guy named Byron Williams, wearing body armor and armed heavily, got into a shootout with the California Highway Patrol, injuring two officers. Under questioning he said that he was driving to San Francisco with the goal of “starting a revolution” by killing members of the Tides foundation and the ACLU. Why? Because he watched a lot Glenn Beck and heeded the host’s warnings that his beloved country was about to be taken away from him if somebody didn’t do something. So Byron Williams did.

And he wasn’t the only one.

True, it was impossible to directly blame Beck for the actions of some of his less-than-stable followers and eventually Beck’s eliminationist doomsaying became too much even for Fox News and Ailes got rid of him. But Fox News and the conservative entertainment complex never did an once of soul-searching — and they’ve damn sure never been held accountable when they pulled the kind of crap Beck did then and Hannity is now.

What Hannity is doing by relentlessly validating Bundy and his militia buddies’ armed standoff with the federal government — providing them, night after night, with a big sloppy kiss and a phalanx of Fox News’s powerful Marshall stacks to amplify their neo-Confederate rhetoric — is helping to push this whole thing further and further toward a violent confrontation. Hannity is protected by the First Amendment, of course, but as a professional broadcaster with a national audience and lot of influence, he should be held to a higher standard than simply the basest definition of what’s acceptable speech. Just because he has the right to say something doesn’t mean he should be saying it; there’s a difference between what’s legal and what’s right.

If you have a bunch of men with assault rifles threatening to shoot duly sworn federal agents you do not encourage them in any way. You do not valorize them on national television. You do not sympathize with them. You do not paint their stand as noble and deserving of praise. To do any of these things has the potential to become the equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater — and that, I’m afraid, is not protected speech.

But Hannity isn’t going to back down because he’s thoroughly shameless. And Fox News won’t back down for the same reason. What do you do about about a news outlet that refuses to behave responsibly? I still have no idea.

  • GrafZeppelin127

    All that’s required is (1) a desire to vote Republican and (2) an intense, outsized, unwavering, unexamined, unquenchable, unshakable hatred for anyone and everyone who doesn’t. Fox will promote you, support you, parrot you, whatever you want. Everything else is immaterial.

  • EarlyMedievalSerf

    The federal government is an imperial power that exists independent of the citizens who elect it. Taken in isolation the Bundy incident is the federal government’s overreaction to a rancher who refuses to pay an administrative fine. But taken in the context of the other arrogant and imperial actions the federal government engages in, this is about a power struggle between individual rights and the imperial power of the united states government. Harry Reid’s disgusting comment that these Americans are domestic terrorists is shameful. Terrorists flew planes into buildings and kill innocent people. These men are merely futility attempting to fight off the imperial federal government’s levying power to collect an imperial debt.

    • Aaron Litz

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

      Oh wait, you’re serious?!

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

      I especially like how you upvoted yourself!

      Wow, just… wow. I’d like to see you live under an actual “imperial” government for a few years and then see if you have the fucking gall to compare it to the US government. Unfortunately you wouldn’t have a tongue left to do so, if you were still alive at all.

      Oh yes, it’s “shameful” to call these people terrorists… terrorists are only brown foreigners. When they’re white Americans they’re proud patriots.

      • EarlyMedievalSerf

        You too should be ashamed of yourself comparing these americans to terrorists too. Ask the families who lost loved ones to the terrorist actions of the Boston bombers if the Bundy supporters are terrorists.

        • MightyMad

          Terrorist: a person who uses violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.

          Patriot: a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors.

          Now which definition gives the most accurate description of Cliven Bundy?

          No, no, please do not give us your dumb, bias answer. As long as you’re on your neo-con/Kool-Aid high, anything you will come up with will make no sense.

          • EarlyMedievalSerf

            Those are dumb, biased definitions of Patriot and Terrorist.

          • Robert Scalzi

            No dimwit – those are DICTIONARY definitions straight from Webster

          • MightyMad

            As Mr Scalzi already said, it’s more than time you open a dictionary to educate yourself, your poor, idiotic soul.

        • Jaimie Muehlhausen

          If you weren’t serious your comments would be laughable. Sadly, you actually believe it.

        • Robert Scalzi

          As a citizen of Watertown, Mass I can assure you most of MY town thinks Bundy is a free loading welfare cheat and a racist to boot and call his militia goons terrorists – Nice try dimwit.

    • GrafZeppelin127

      Nonsense.

    • ThunderingTom

      LOL. Can you make less sense? I bet you can. Bundy went to court and lost.
      The Court order state the Govt could confiscate his cattle for Non-payment of grazing fees that every Rancher pays if grazing on Federal land or private property. Wake up! Oops, I am sorry! I did not realize you are an imperial sock puppet.

      • EarlyMedievalSerf

        And the British government said that the colonists had to pay taxes on their tea too! They could have taken that to court too!

  • DoremusJessup20

    Speaking of the Fox effect, I’d seen bits and pieces of this interview with a Bundy supporter who’d driven from New Hampshire. I was trying to figure out what made him tick so I watched the whole 6 minute interview on youtube. I doubt you’ll be surprised by where he draws inspiration.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKjbG-gkskE

    • kurgen99

      These people are delusional, and they are guilty of seditious conspiracy. You cannot confront sworn US officials with firearms and at the same time claim to be a patriot of the United States. You cannot waive the American flag and, at the same time, reject the authority of the United States.
      The guy in the video clearly suffers from mental health issues.

  • Steven Skelton

    I also get a kick out you blaming Beck for the actions of some psycho and then pretend you aren’t in just the next paragraph.

    • formerlywhatithink

      Hey, I hope the link helps you out. Reading comprehension, it’s nothing to be scared of.

      http://www.readingrainbow.com/

      • Steven Skelton

        You really got me with that zinger. It has ruined my whole evening. It was clever and timely and just fucking awesome!

        • formerlywhatithink

          It wasn’t a zinger, you seriously have trouble with reading comprehension and I just wanted to point out that there is help out there.

        • bbiemeret

          True, it was impossible to directly blame Beck for the actions of some of his less-than-stable followers. This implies that he was at least partially to blame, as in influenced the actions, if not outright commanding them. Formerly may be on to something.

    • aceshigh

      You defend Beck, but you’re NOT a conservative.

      Right. Got it.

  • Steven Skelton

    Nothing pisses off a liberal more than not being able to control the voices and actions of others. My favorite part of not being a liberal is that I recognize that not everyone will agree and there isn’t a damn thing I can (or should) do about it.

    • formerlywhatithink

      “My favorite part of not being a liberal is that I recognize that not everyone will agree and there isn’t a damn thing I can (or should) do about it.”

      What a load of crap. So all those conservative cries for boycotts (hypocritically, usually cheerleaded Fox “news”) against people/companies who don’t toe their line, was what? Just a big joke? Grow up. The difference between a liberal is that a liberal wants people who have the biggest megaphones to have the greatest responsibility in what they say. Conservatives want people to only say what they approve, anything is unacceptable.

      • Steven Skelton

        I’m not a conservative. Sorry. But please, feel free to pretend I am the big meany meany poo poo head conservative ogre that you want me to be.

        Best you vent your frustrations here on line lest Chez blames me for something you may do in the real world.

        • JozefAL

          Well, you certainly didn’t prove your NON-conservativeness with your initial anti-liberal rant.

          You can whine you’re not a conservative, but deep in the heart of every self-proclaimed libertarian is a conservative waiting to break free.

          The fact is, though, your whole little anti-liberal rant up above, every use of “liberal” could just as easily be replaced by “conservative.” The far-right and its extremists have, FOR DECADES, been hiding behind the “it’s not MY fault for what my listeners do.” From the head of the Aryan Nations down to Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, every last one of them stokes the flames and fires of hatred and as soon as one of the “true believers” follows through and carries out the actions the speaker was “urging,” they suddenly pull the “not my fault” card. And they’ve gotten away with it. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. The little guys become the expendable cannon fodder who get sent to prison for the actual crime they committed; the masterminds get off scot-free–free to keep spouting their hatred and bile to a new bunch of recruits, willing and eager to heed their masters’ wishes and commands.

          • Steven Skelton

            I guess you know me better than I do.

          • ssj

            I guess we do. What of it?

          • Aaron Litz

            You can screech “I’m not a Conservative!” all you like, but every time you post a comment spouting Conservative screeds it puts the lie to it.

            It’s a favorite tactic of you Crypto-Conservatives; loudly proclaiming your “Independent” stance whilst simultaneously promoting staunchly Conservative views. And if you truly do believe that you’re not Conservative after everything you’ve been saying for years, both here and at DXM, then you are simply deceiving yourself.

          • Frederic Poag

            He’s independent Aaron. He simply chooses to believe in Conservative principles and talking points down the line. He’s a “free thinker.”

          • Aaron Litz

            Ahh, I get it. Free Thinking, Independently held Conservative ideals. ;)

        • DHaradaStone

          Nice how you pretend to stay above the fray while being a passive cheerleader for sedition. You’re being way too cute for anyone to take you seriously. Chez isn’t calling for control. He’s questioning the morality of Hannity pandering to violent extremists and goading them toward action in a cynical bid to drive TV ratings.

          • Steven Skelton

            The headline says he should be held accountable. You don’t hold people accountable for what you believe they have a right to say.

            I don’t pretend to be above the fray either. I’m right here in it. For a number of years now I’ve been debating Chez about what free speech means and that those who commit crimes are responsible for them and not the people who dare to speak unpopular opinions.

          • DHaradaStone

            Sure you do. Every time a politician or celebrity opens his or her mouth, people hold them accountable. Either at the polls, at the box office or in columns like Chez’s. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a right to say what they’re saying. The sort of incitement that Hannity regularly engages in is not criminal. But he is morally culpable for the results of that incitement.

          • formerlywhatithink

            “You don’t hold people accountable for what you believe they have a right to say.”

            No, the government can’t hold people accountable for what they say, as they are protected by the First Amendment (except under certain conditions). But, the First Amendment does not protect you, me or anyone else from the consequences of what they say that is handed to them by their company, the company’s consumers, consumers, boycotts, etc.

            Freedom of speech is not freedom of consequences. As long as it is not the government suppressing the speech, they have no protection. Jesus, you conservatives say you champion the Constitution but have a piss poor understanding of it.

            If a campaign were started to try and force Fox to fire Hannity, no, that would not be a violation of the First Amendment but the forces of the free market (another thing you conservatives say you love but have a piss and moan when it’s in action in a way that doesn’t make you happy). Speech does, and always have, real world consequences and people are held responsible for it.

          • http://vermillionbrain.blogspot.com/ Vermillion

            You don’t hold people accountable for what you believe they have a right to say.

            Yes. Yes you do. You do hold them accountable. That is the exchange: the right to do it, with the responsibility to use it well.

            Technically, you have the “right” to go on Sesame Street and recite the entire script to Pulp Fiction. Does that mean you should, or that nobody can say anything against it? Does that mean you would support someone who did?

            And wait a sec: if Hannity has a right to say whatever he wants, including supporting a guy who who had people pointing guns at federal officers, then doesn’t Chez have the right to say that Hannity is a craven troll that shouldn’t do those sorts of things?

          • Christopher Foxx

            Vermillion: “Technically, you have the “right” to go on Sesame Street and recite the entire script to Pulp Fiction

            Technically, legally and in reality, no you don’t. Sesame Street has no obligation whatsoever to provide you with a forum for anything.

          • http://vermillionbrain.blogspot.com/ Vermillion

            Actually, I was referring to his saying that people have a “right” to say whatever they want, and that automatically means no accountability. That is why I said “and nobody can say anything against it?”.

            In this case, the Pulp Fiction-quoting asshole would indeed be challenged by the people on Sesame Street. According to Mr. Skelton’s statements, Sesame Street would be in the wrong for wanting to restrict the asshole’s freedom of speech, regardless of the content or appropriateness of said speech. Just like certain national cable networks tacitly endorsing armed conflict with federal workers and the government over utter bullshit.

            So really, I do agree with there being no obligation on Sesame Street to entertain such nonsense. I was using that as an example of when the “right” Mr. Skelton speaks of (the fantasy right of “say whatever you want, nobody can stop you”, not the actual First Amendment) runs into reality.

            If that wasn’t clear, I must admit, I was in a rush to get it out.

          • Razor

            You don’t hold people accountable for what you believe they have a right to say.

            Dumbest thing I’ve read on the internet in 2014. Well done.

          • Christopher Foxx

            You don’t hold people accountable for what you believe they have a right to say.

            What an utterly stupid comment. Of course people should be held accountable for what they say. People are responsible for what they say. Just because someone has a right to speak freely doesn’t mean they get to say whatever they want with no consequences.

            What those consequences should be is debatable, and essentially the question posed by Chez. He admits he doesn’t have a ready answer. Your answer is clearly “Nobody I agree with is responsible for what they do.”

        • formerlywhatithink

          A passive aggressive conservative to boot.

    • trgahan

      so screaming “fire” in a crowded theater is ok and the person who does it should be immune from any consequences? Is that what you are saying?

      • Steven Skelton

        Funny…I re-read and didn’t see anything like that.

        • trgahan

          “Nothing pisses off a liberal more than not being able to control the voices and actions of others. My favorite part of not being a liberal is that I recognize that not everyone will agree and there isn’t a damn thing I can (or should) do about it.”

          You claim liberals want to control voices and actions and you say there isn’t a damn thing to do about others actions even if you don’t agree with them…or is your reading comprehension indeed really that bad?

          • Christopher Foxx

            Yes, his comprehension, reading and every other type, is indeed really that bad.

    • http://vermillionbrain.blogspot.com/ Vermillion

      You know what? I don’t think you are a conservative.

      You are just a troll.

      And not even the typical type that wanders in here whenever the SEO hits for anything Beck and Paul. At least they are actually expressing a legitimate ideology. They actually put effort into their crazypants screeds. You just assume the opposite side of whatever post you comment on and pretend it is independent thought.

      Calling you a conservative is an insult to conservatives. Hell, calling you a libertarian is an insult to them too. You aren’t independent, you aren’t unique, you aren’t the lone voice of reason or a special snowflake. Nothing you have written is original or controversial beyond the basic talking points, and it certainly isn’t anything that actually adds or subtracts value to any discourse taking place.

      You are a puff of air, sir. An inconsequential puff of air. And I am sad that so many of us have wasted the time and energy of treating you as more substantial than that.

      • formerlywhatithink

        Completely agree, but instead of thinking of him as a puff of air, he’s more of an intentional fart: squeezed out in a juvenile hope of disgusted reactions that only buoy his own sense of self worth. It would be pitiable if not so apparent.

    • Frederic Poag

      Yup that’s what we libs want: control. We’re all about increasing the Defense Budget. We don’t have a problem Cowboy Diplomacy. We’re all about controlling women’s bodies telling them what they can and can’t do with them. We make voting a harder process so less people vote. We wanna keep the disinfranchised down, and in their place so they can “pull themselves up by their boot straps!”

      Yup that’s totally what Liberals are all about because we want people to be held to account for their actions.

    • GrafZeppelin127

      I doubt that imagining oneself superior to imaginary people (and congratulating oneself for being so) impresses anyone other than oneself.