Another One…

July 20th, 2010

From California:

(07-18) 17:59 PDT Oakland — A 45-year-old parolee, described by his mother as angry at left-wing politicians, opened fire on California Highway Patrol officers on an Oakland freeway early Sunday and was hit by return fire while wearing body armor, authorities said. …

[Janice Williams , the man’s mother] said her son, who had been a carpenter and a cabinetmaker before his imprisonment, was angry about his unemployment and about “what’s happening to our country.”

Williams watched the news on television and was upset by “the way Congress was railroading through all these left-wing agenda items,” his mother said. …

Janice Williams said she kept the guns because “eventually, I think we’re going to be caught up in a revolution.” But she said she had told her son many times that “he didn’t have to be on the front lines.”

Gee whiz, I wonder what “news” network he has been watching.

How many times do we have to see police officers shot at by right-wing loonies spurred into violence by the hysteric, crazed, wildly exaggerated extremism spouted by Fox before someone holds them responsible?

Free speech is free speech, but there is also a little thing called “incitement to violence.”

Someone remind me, during the worst days of the Bush administration, when we liberals were at our strongest fervor pitch, how many liberals snapped like this, armed to the teeth, and headed off to kill large number of people and went shooting at police officers? Because right-wingers are starting to build up the score pretty respectably on their side. Is it that liberals aren’t as predisposed to violence, or was it that the loonies on our side weren’t pushed over the edge by the “Liberal Media” as much as right wingers are today by Fox and others like them?

And, by the way, because the guy was a felon, not to mention because they won’t like the emergence of another right-wing crazed police shooter, countdown before right-wing bloggers start claiming he was really a liberal in three, two, one…

Update: According to recent news reports, Byron Williams was winding up 3 years’ probation following being released after a 6-year term for bank robbery, and has a history of violence. But the irony:

His mother, Janice Williams, said that her son, who had previously worked as a carpenter and a cabinetmaker, was angry at left-wing politicians and upset that no one would hire him because he was a parolee.

The irony, of course, is the the left-wing politicians are the sort who would pass laws making it easier for him to find a job. It’s the right wingers who tend to be more of the “throw away the key” types, and balk at anything which rings of reform or rehabilitation.

Categories: "Liberal" Media, Right-Wing Extremism Tags: by
  1. Luis
    July 20th, 2010 at 10:10 | #1

    A few notes: first, I was probably wrong to predict that right-wing bloggers will try to ID this guy as a liberal. While it is their SOP, there is too much pointing to him as a right-winger for them to say that and think it’ll stick without them looking like conspiracy theorists. More likely they’ll take the “look what the liberal fascists have driven another patriotic American to do” or some such.

    Second, the guy seems to have been headed for San Francisco; he comes from a rural town just west of Yosemite, and was headed west on i580, which would take him over the Bay Bridge. He went past any turnoff for the state capital, so it’s almost certain that SF was his destination–and news is out that he had a three-ring binder in his car labeled “California” which held what was termed a “list.” How much do you want to bet that Nancy Pelosi–a favorite target of Fox News–was at the top of that list? With crap spouted by people like Glenn Beck, who actually “joked” about killing Pelosi, it’d be surprising if she wasn’t on the guy’s list.

  2. Troy
    July 20th, 2010 at 13:52 | #2

    1) yeah, Canada, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Austria all have much more successful criminal justice systems

    2) Mother seems to be a piece of work, too, keeping the guns for the struggle that is coming. LOTS of these types up in the hills.

    3) Police investigation should prove to be interesting, with an actual conspiracy

    4) Aren’t you glad you’re in Japan? Gonna get a lot worse here before it gets any better

    The core problem is that 20-30% of the population is just bat—- insane about “creeping social-ism” like this guy.

    They’ve got the FOXNEWS + Palin thing going. There’s a strong overlap between religious nutjobbery and fear of teh social-ism. There really is no reaching these people and they form a majority in some states.

  3. Tim Kane
    July 20th, 2010 at 14:35 | #3

    “You have a right to free speech, but you don’t have a right to yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.” – Supreme Court dicta.

    You have a right to free speech. But you don’t have a right to purposely misinform the public. The more public your speech, the more that speech takes on the color of information, as in informing the public, the more you have a duty to speak responsibly.

    What gives Rush Limbaugh sweats in the middle of the night is the thought of a return to the fairness rule. Not because the fairness rule requires ‘fairness’ – Fox has learned to thrive on fairness, just make sure the opposed view is carried by a weak character.

    No what gives Rush & his confederates the sweat is the clause that journalism be responsible.

    Example: it is irresponsible to say, present end of life counciling with a doctor as government imposed death panels.

    There should be no problem in prohibiting speech that intentionally and knowingly misinforms the public especially with the possibility that it could inflame negative emotions to the point of triggering violent conduct.

    The problem with news channels is that they need to attract viewers. Sex sells, laughter sells, but so does inflammation of negative emotions. If your Rush Limbaugh, or Fox News, your stock and trade is in the latter most.

  4. Troy
    July 20th, 2010 at 15:08 | #4

    There should be no problem in prohibiting speech that intentionally and knowingly misinforms the public

    couple of problems 1) our system is based on standing to sue

    2) If people are getting bamboozled by BS the core problem is the people not the BS

    People are seeking voices that tell them what they want to hear.

  5. Luis
    July 20th, 2010 at 15:29 | #5

    Oh, I would so love to see news organizations be held accountable for their accuracy.

    Won’t happen, of course.

    First off, they’ll simply claim that they believed it was true.

    Second, they’ll couch the reports in weasel words, that they believed such consultations under the Obama administration could potentially be used to counsel grandma to OD on her pain medication, thus they could in that case be called “death panels.” You can claim that anything could happen.

    But, third, it wouldn’t ever get that far. If such enforcement were even hinted at, they would start a media campaign about how Obama is doing i9t, he’s “shutting down and censoring the media,” and probably would even start hyping fears of a coup d’etat with Obama shutting down the Constitution and yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah.

    But man, do we need such enforcement.

    No, I think that at minimum it will have to come down to a right-winger killing someone, the killer then admitting that he was egged on by a specific Fox News broadcast, and then a lawsuit against Fox. And even that would probably just tone them down only slightly, and make them be more careful to use insinuation and code words more often.

  6. matthew
    July 21st, 2010 at 09:25 | #6

    Easy answer. Some buys Fox news and turns it off.

  7. Kensensei
    July 21st, 2010 at 10:30 | #7

    Don’t be so hard on the shooter.
    He’s just acting on good “Christian values” (e.g., promoting guns, bombs, violence, killing innocent civilians because they share different values…; just like Christ himself once taught his disciples to ‘kill thy neighbor’ or something along those lines…

  8. Tim Kane
    July 21st, 2010 at 10:51 | #8


    Well in regard to the first, there is the legal standard: Known or should have know. Also, the crime would require a manifestation of intent (as do all crimes, even inchoate crimes).

    In regard to the second, you speak of tort law. I was thinking of something more statutory. In fact I would like a constitutional amendment. Who could be against an amendment that makes it a crime to purposely and intentionally misinform the public for political gain.

    There are other areas where this kind of crime (one involving the misuse of information) is not allowed. The SEC has made insider trading a crime. I don’t mean to say they are identical, I do mean to say that it is possible to make intentional misinformation a crime.

    The amendment I have in mind, would be part of a broader popular sovereignty amendment. Sovereignty should be vested in the electorate, manifested in the vote. I would then allow for codifying laws that protect the sovereigns from having their sovereignty diluted. One would be to limit lobbying to the passing of information, and precluding the exchange of favors, money, comfort or aid to a public servant – both the receiver and the offerrer of the aid would be liable for treason against the sovereigns. Like wise, purposeful, intentional misinformation of the public would be a similar crime, but also one that affects puplic saftey. Sure there would be ways around it, but in taking those ways, the mis-informer would be signalling to the public his misinformation. At the very least, society ought to say that this thing is not okay. BTW, in that amendment I would also allow for codifying spending caps for political campaigns as well as contribution caps, that are in the range of what most citizens can afford: if speech is free, it ought also to be equal and you shouldn’t be able to drown out my speech with your excessive money.

    Third – well, then this effort shouldn’t come from Obama. Have Representative Grayson push it.

  9. Luis
    July 21st, 2010 at 11:04 | #9

    Who could be against an amendment that makes it a crime to purposely and intentionally misinform the public for political gain.

    There are other areas where this kind of crime (one involving the misuse of information) is not allowed. The SEC has made insider trading a crime. I don’t mean to say they are identical, I do mean to say that it is possible to make intentional misinformation a crime.

    I would be all for such a concept, but again, I don’t see how it could work. Showing intent is a huge stumbling block–that’s what politicians hide behind to get away with daily acts of bribery. They can be against a bill one day, receive a “donation” from a company with financial interest in the bill the next day, and switch their vote to be for the bill the day after that–and so long as they just claim that the donation and the vote were not connected, they can get away with it.

    But let’s say that you word the bill to be more tough. People will then just get around the law by saying that they were mistaken, that they truly believed that what they said was true. You would have to word the law so that reporters could be penalized even for honest errors. But then they will just word the reports to be “speculative” or “theoretical” so that the message is clear but they are covered. Hell, Fox does that all the time already–you know, the whole “we’re just asking questions” garbage. To get to the point where you legislate spin would just be far too unworkable.

    Politics always has been a rather loose area when it comes to the truth. We already have laws on libel and slander–and yet look at how such libel and slander is tossed around on a daily basis. Obama is a Nazi? Who ever paid a penalty for saying something so demonstrably untrue? Politicians know that if they even tried to sue for such statements, then they would probably lose under free-speech provisions, but much more importantly, they would look bad for even trying. So they just let such stuff pass.

    I just don’t see how such a law could work in the real world. I’d love to see it happen–but even if there were a way to make it stick, you would still have to pass it–and, of course, it would never even get close to going through.

    However, I certainly would not mind seeing a lawsuit against Fox News saying that they intentionally misinform people and that has led to real-life damage to many people specifically–I am sure that with what we know today, such could easily be proven, and it would be an interesting test of First Amendment freedom.

    But then it would eventually get to the Supreme Court and the right-wingers who dominate that body would quickly kill it on whatever grounds they pleased.

  10. Troy
    July 21st, 2010 at 16:52 | #10

    I don’t think a top-down approach is feasible, from both pragmatic and philosophical reasons.

    Pragmatically, politics is already broken so altering the Constitution for this or any other meaningful reason is a no-go. I don’t think I’ll see another amendment in my lifetime (though perhaps a fix to birth citizenship is politically possible since it targets a public outside the present power structure).

    Philosophically, like I said above the problem isn’t the message, it’s the people who want to hear it. To fix this is going to require fighting very difficult and long running battles of the culture war, one mind at at time.

    Unfortunately the forces of darkness are very strong. This war may not be winnable. I kid Luis about wasting so much time on his blog with these issues but perhaps that’s the best use of his time. If he can win over 2 other people to our side that’s enough to win over the long run.

    Glenn Beck should be a comedy show, but instead he’s got millions of viewers. Same thing for Rush, Michael Savage, Hannity, O’Reilly, and the rest of the conservative message media. Conservative policies utterly ruined this country 2001-2006 (well, we’re still in a form of shock and can’t feel the damage quite yet) yet conservatives have lost very little mindshare.

    Altering the constitution isn’t going to fix this. Minds have already been broken.

  11. Tim Kane
    July 21st, 2010 at 18:02 | #11

    I’m not so convinced that it isn’t impossible to show intent. Almost all common law crimes have an ‘intent’ element to it. To be convicted a prosecutor has prove intent as well as act. In some cases, intent isn’t required (the most famous example: statutory rape) but also some homicide crimes don’t require intent, only recklessness).

    Liable and slander are torts (the law of wrongs). For public figures they are much more lacks than with nonpublic figures.

    The devil is in the details. Some fine art misinformation might not be stopped, but the brazen purposeful lie of the likes of Palin and Beck, that micro industry might be put out of business.

    Studies show that Fox viewers are consistently uninformed versus the public. I’m not saying you could eliminate all crime, no law ever does, but it does constrict it, no? Stealing takes place all the time, but the theft laws constrict it.

    The effect in the aggregate that might mean, oh, something like Bush loses Florida in 2000 or there’s just enough liberal senators that we get public option. Move the margin just an inch and you manifest a mile.

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