In the 2007 campaign season, the Secret Service placed Barack Obama under their protection 19 months before the 2008 election, the earliest a presidential candidate had ever received that sad recognition. The move was a response to the death threats the first black candidate was already receiving.
According to a 2009 Guardian article, death threats against President Obama skyrocketed to over 30 per day following his first election. One particular threat was a plot by white supremacists to rob a gun store, shoot 88 black people, decapitate another 14 blacks and then assassinate Obama. A Google search reveals a continuous seven-year trail of threats against the president directly to the White House and other federal offices and via social media, to “shoot”, “hang”, “assassinate”, “hunt him down”, etc. A 2014 Washington Post article claims that “President Obama still faces three times as many threats as his predecessors …” In September of 2014 a man armed with a knife jumped a perimeter fence and entered the White House front door before being subdued. This same man had previously been pulled over by Virginia State Police, who allegedly found in his car a sawed-off shotgun, two sniper rifles, an assault rifle, a bolt-action rifle, one intact shotgun, five handguns and a map of Washington DC − with the White House highlighted.
From the beginning, the Republican-dominated Congress had nearly the same reaction. While not threatening to physically harm Obama, in an unprecedented action they swore to do everything they could to kill his presidency. On the very day of Obama’s inauguration in 2009, Frank Lutz and Republican congressional leaders including Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy met secretly and pledged to block Obama on all legislation, effectively and immediately bringing government to a standstill. Their contempt for Obama guaranteed that the nation was going to pay a price for electing a black president. Entering office, President Obama expected to be treated with the respect the office deserves, but the Republicans essentially went on a paid strike that began January 2008 and hasn’t ended, shutting down the government in 2013, threatening to do so numerous times, and attempting to kill the Affordable Care Act 56 times. According to Obama, the GOP blocked roughly 500 pieces of legislation from 2007 to May of 2014. And as of July 2015, the GOP has confirmed the fewest judges nominated by any president since 1969, boycotting judicial appointments. More than two dozen federal courts have declared “judicial emergencies” because of the resulting excessive caseloads.
To claim this is all simply the conflict between Republican and Democratic values is delusional. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney championed and signed universal healthcare in Massachusetts and stated his support for a national healthcare plan. And in the early nineties, several senate Republicans, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and the conservative Heritage Foundation all supported universal healthcare. For the Republicans, seven years of stonewalling President Obama has been their personal issue: The man is black.
Then of course, there is Rogers Ailes, Sean Hannity, and the right-wing hate machine. Fox news, through its army of bigoted hosts and guests, engages in a nearly continuous stream of black bashing and Obama bashing. Fox’s most devoted racist, Sean Hannity, ran countless segments totaling roughly 18 hours on the Trayvon Martin killing, claiming from the start that Zimmerman was only defending himself. Hannity claimed that Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, was falsely accused of murder in a way analogous to the three white Duke University students who were falsely accused of raping a black woman in 2006, never mind that Trayvon Martin is dead and Zimmerman killed him. Ann Coulter, perhaps Hannity’s most hysterical and self-promoting bigot, claimed that Martin was killed because he attempted to mug Zimmerman; however Zimmerman was stalking Martin from the start and nearly up to the physical encounter. Indeed, if anyone had any rights under a “stand your ground” law (had he lived), it would have been Trayvon Martin. But of course, the black teenager was unarmed and Zimmerman was carrying a Glock. Hannity interviewed Mark O’Mara, Zimmerman’s defense attorney several times and even allowed O’Mara to beg for contributions for his client’s defense fund.
In response to Michelle Obama’s compelling and frank speech to the 2015 graduating class at Tuskegee University, Hannity attacked the speech and the First lady, essentially calling her a racist. Michelle Obama could easily have talked about the centuries of slavery, about kidnappings, rapes, hangings, burnings, the civil rights movement, the ongoing denial of the rights of blacks (e.g., killings by cops, widespread voter suppression, gerrymandering, biased prosecutions and prison sentencing, etc.). But apparently, according to Hannity no black person, even the First Lady of the United States, should ever acknowledge their race or the ongoing history of racism in this country; to do is to be racist.
Coulter, Hannity’s frequent guest, takes the hysteria much higher. She equates the ongoing shift in US demographics (eventually resulting in whites becoming a minority), to genocide. “If this sort of drastic change were legally imposed on any group other than white Americans, it would be called genocide.” Of course, Coulter is well-known for her history of giddily-angry tirades against minorities and, by the way, she makes millions of dollars every year from her efforts.
In his radio program, Hannity recently claimed that leaders of the Black Lives Matter group are calling for the “killing of whites and white police officers,” that BLM leaders claim “it’s open season on white people and cops”, is encouraging “more executions of white people and cops”, and that such calls have been indirectly endorsed by the Democratic party. Of course none of this is true; leaders of BLM have never made such statements. Such false and inflammatory broadcasts are the height of irresponsibility.
In summarizing the worst of the many white race-baiters, and there are too many to list here, one cannot overlook Ted Nugent. At a concert in 2007, Nugent, with an assault rifle in hand, gave the following speech to the crowd: “I was in Chicago last week. I was in Chicago and said, Hey, Obama you might want to suck on one of these, you punk. Obama, he’s a piece of shit, and I told him to suck on my machine gun. Let’s hear it for him. And then I was in New York. I said, Hey, Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch. Since I’m in California, how about Barbara Boxer, she might want to suck on my machine gun. And Diane Feinstein, ride one of these you worthless whore.”
At the NRA’s annual meeting in April 2012, Nugent drew the attention of the Secret Service after telling the audience that he would be “dead or in jail” if President Obama was reelected to a second term. Nugent also called on the crowd to “…remember, we’re Americans because we defied the king. We didn’t negotiate and compromise with the king. We defied the emperors. We are patriots. We are Braveheart. We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November.” As ridiculous as this sounds, Nugent has a large following of like-minded fans.
Rolling Stone reported that during a June 2012 concert in Fort Worth, Nugent instructed the crowd “put a fucking gun in your hand, Texas, storm troopers coming.”
In another inflammatory diatribe, Nugent stated in an interview given at a 2013 gun show: “The President of the United States goes to the Vietnam Memorial Wall and pretends to honor 58,000 American heroes who died fighting communism and then he hires, appoints and associates with communists… He is an evil, dangerous man who hates America and hates freedom. And we need to fix this as soon as possible.” Note that this was after the election. Nugent also stated, “If you want another Concord Bridge, I’ve got some buddies.” Nugent might claim that he’s only speaking rhetorically, but white racists don’t kill blacks rhetorically, the use choke holds, guns, and gasoline.
The instances of inflammatory race baiting, black bashing, and Obama bashing by Fox, by Hannity, O’Reilly, and the rest, are well-known and importantly, generate a lot of cash. Fox News is consistently rated higher than its competitors for viewership and the primary reason is the network’s continuous diatribe of baseless attacks on President Obama and minorities. And it isn’t just Fox. We also endure this poison from Rush Limbaugh, Michael “Savage”, Laura Ingraham, and others. Race-baiting and hate-mongering are rehearsed and refined products of Rupert Murdoch and the rest, and they are happy to sell it because it has made each one of these people multimillionaires. Screeching, hysterical racism sells well in the USA.
In pathetic displays of pandering to conservatives, these falsehoods are frequently repeated by public officials as well. Rudy Giuliani declared that Obama inspired the murder of two NYC police officers following a grand jury’s failure to indict a police officer for the video recorded murder of Eric Garner, whose only crime was to sell individual cigarettes on a street corner. Eric Garner was a threat to no one, was surrounded by police, and as he lie on the ground and begged for mercy, he was choked to death. Incredibly, a secret grand jury declined to bring any charges against his killer.
Republican Ted Cruz blames Obama for inciting the murder of a Texas cop, saying “Cops across this country are feeling the assault… from the president, from the top on down as we see. Whether it’s in Ferguson or Baltimore, the response of senior officials, of the president, of the attorney general, is to vilify law enforcement. That is fundamentally wrong, and it is endangering the safety and security of us all.” Cruz’s statements are blatant falsehoods. President Obama is doing nothing to vilify cops; homicidally racist cops are doing their own vilifying.
Note that according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, at the six-year mark in President Obama’s presidency, 807 cops have been killed while on duty in the US. Compare that to the 1,129 cops killed on duty during the first six years of Reagan’s term, or the 1,034 cops killed on duty during the same period of GW Bush’s term.
This drumbeat of racism finds an enthusiastic audience with the nation’s millions of white bigots and with millions of racists in the Tea Party and Republican Party. Witness the 2008 and 2012 political rallies overrun with birthers carrying banners claiming Barack to be a Muslim (as if that is a crime), depicting Obama as a monkey, Obama hanging from a noose, Obama with a skull and cross bones, Obama with an assault rifle pointed at his head, with statements threatening his murder and numerous other racial messages.
In 2011, Lauren Pierce, the then president of the College Republicans at University of Texas at Austin, said on Twitter that the idea of assassinating President Barack Obama was “tempting”. Teachers are telling their grade school students that Obama is evil, that Obama hates America. Police sergeants are posting bullet-riddled images of Obama on their Facebook pages. Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal, a Republican, sent letters to his peers with a prayer asking for the death of Obama and that his daughters be childless. A mayor in Washington State posted on his Facebook account his opinion that the President and First Lady should both “hang for treason”. As I write this, the FBI has busted yet another plot by white supremacists, this one in Virginia, to bomb and shoot up black churches and Jewish synagogues to start the “coming race war”.
Bigots, fed by the racism-for-profit media machine and convulsive with hatred simply because there is a black man in the White House, seem intent on violence, which brings us to “law enforcement”. This is where what appears to be psychopathic, racist obsession − finds opportunity. The majority of cops are honest public servants, but crooked cops routinely get away with assault, tampering with a crime scene, manufacturing evidence, and sometimes even rape and murder. Bigoted cops belong to the one group that can actually act on their hatred of blacks with near impunity. Of course, attempting to murder the president carries great risk. It’s much easier for them to take revenge for the audacity of Barack Obama’s election by killing the nearest black surrogate victim, ergo: Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Michael Brown, Jr., Ezel Ford, Dante Parker, Tanish Anderson, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Rumain Brisbon, Jermain Reid, Tony Robinson, Phillip White, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, and of course, Sandra Bland. Not everyone listed here was a saint, but not one deserved to die. But this is what opportunistic, homicidal racism looks like. This is the result of the systemic racism that permeates our society and the continuous, escalating drumbeat of hatred, sold for-profit by Fox News, et al.
Let’s imagine for a moment a black rapper, perhaps Suge Knight, routinely getting up on stage with a black AK-47 style assault weapon, apparently loaded, and inviting leading Republican polticians: “Hey, Jeb Bush, you might want to suck on one of these, you punk. And that Cruz, he’s a piece of shit, and I told him to suck on my machine gun. Let’s hear it for him. And “Hey, Joni Erstn, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch.” Imagine a major media network dominated by blacks that constantly bashes and threatens, indirectly, the safety of leading white republican presidential candidates and congressional leaders. Imagine black clones of Hannity, Coulter, Limbaugh, Nugent. Imagine a non-stop river of threats and plots by young black men to murder leaders like McConnell and Paul Ryan. I imagine the white bigots in this land would be fine with that because, according to the US Supreme Court, we’re all now living happily ever after in a post-racial society.
The hate industry’s messaging, so unhinged and absent of coherent reasoning that it almost looks like brainwashing, legitimizes violence. Bigoted white cops, thinking they can get away with murder, are happy to exact the ultimate revenge against hapless surrogate victims − all for an unthinkable audacity, the election of our first black American president.
There was a time under the Fairness Doctrine and other laws when mass-media selling of hatred was essentially illegal. I’ve been an avid observer of society and politics for 45 years and I’ve never seen anything like this, when hatred is a product that generates many millions in profits, and there seems to be little market for mutual respect and dignity, or even sanity.