Former President Bill Clinton has sounded an alarm he has sounded before, warning that the intensity of the rhetoric on conservative radio emboldens fringe radicals to violence. As he did in 1995, when he was in the White House, Clinton lays the Oklahoma City bombing at the feet of big-government critics, a strategy that then managed to halt the momentum of Republicans in their assault on Democratic policies. Also as in 1995, King of the Radio Right Rush Limbaugh has countered that Clinton is using revisionist history to avoid his administration’s own responsibility for Timothy McVeigh’s attack, which wasn’t timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Branch Davidian massacre by accident. Limbaugh’s argument that the conduct of Federal agents in Waco (as well as Ruby Ridge) had a lot more to do with McVeigh’s anger than anything he heard on talk radio is persuasive on the merits.
Nevertheless, Clinton’s general point that talk radio is playing with fire is a legitimate one. Limbaugh might not even be aware of it, because his tone on his own show is not appreciably more shrill than it has always been (though his continuing attempt to draw parallels between the tactics and policies of the Obama Administration and Hitler’s Nazis may be a new low), but Rush is probably not listening to his competitors and compatriots. Their rhetoric makes the anti-government screeds of 1995 look like sonnets. Anyone who takes Glenn Beck, Jeff Kooner, Michael Savage or Mark Levin seriously, to name just four, would quickly become convinced that we are on the verge of a media-assisted totalitarian takeover. That prospect is sufficient to suggest the necessity of violent resistance even to non-wackos.
The theme is relentless on talk radio: the government wants to facilitate an invasion of illegal aliens, make English-speaking Christians an impotent minority, nationalize industry, shut down opposing voices on television and radio, revert to a nanny state, impoverish us with taxes, direct every aspect of out lives, indoctrinate our children (this discussed over the strains of one of the idiotic “Praise Obama” songs), use global warming as an excuse to transfer our wealth to third-world nations, reject basic American values, and, naturally, take away everyone’s guns so nobody can do anything about it.
If there is a domestic terror attack directed against the government, it can’t be blamed on Waco. Words do matter (though Bill Clinton is an ironic messenger of that truth), and the inflammatory words of conservative talk radio have passed any responsible limits. Rush and his buddies should heed Clinton’s warning, self-serving though t may be.