A year of ugly liberal slurs
Remember the wave of outrage that swept the nation after Charlton Heston, the president of the National Rifle Association, told a radio interviewer that the best way to deal with liberal filmmaker Spike Lee would be to ''shoot him with a .44-caliber Bulldog'' revolver? Remember the scathing editorials and the full-page ads blasting Heston's appalling remark?
You don't remember? Don't feel bad. It never happened. Heston never said that about Lee.
Lee said it about Heston.
He was speaking in May, just a few weeks after the slaughter in Littleton, Colo. Asked for his thoughts on Heston, Lee recommended assassinating him with a .44 special. A conservative who made such a comment about a liberal would have been crushed under an avalanche of denunciation. But when a liberal talks that way about a conservative, the media rarely notice.
Welcome to my yearly column on liberal hate speech and the double standard that shields it. By ''hate speech,'' I don't mean language that is merely insulting. When Rosie O'Donnell, hosting a Hillary Clinton fund-raiser in October, described Rudolph Giuliani as New York's ''village idiot'' and compared his looks to ''a Pez dispenser,'' she was simply being obnoxious. But when liberals liken conservatives to Hitler or call for them to be killed - that's hate speech.
It isn't only Spike Lee who advocates death for those who have the temerity to hold non-left-wing views.
When Elia Kazan, the bete noir of Hollywood's aging Reds, was awarded the Oscar for lifetime achievement, the haters were out in force. ''I'll be watching, hoping someone shoots him,'' said Abraham Polonsky, who was blacklisted for his Communist sympathies in the 1950s. ''It would no doubt be a thrill.''
The Washington Post's Richard Cohen commented on the fact that Newt Gingrich was cheating on his wife even as he was denouncing Bill Clinton's moral failings. ''For hypocrisy, for sheer gall,'' Cohen wrote, ''Gingrich should be hanged.''
Even the comics aren't free of death threats. The main character in Aaron McGruder's ''Boondocks'' is Huey, a militant black student. In one strip Huey considers titles for his report on ''the black neoconservative movement and its most famous champion.'' His first choice: ''Ward Connerly Should Be Beaten by Raekwon the Chef With a Spiked Bat.''
Central to the leftist mentality is the belief that conservative opinions are not simply misguided, they're evil. Conservatives are not erring brethren to be reasoned with, they're moral heretics to be cursed. And so liberals routinely reach for vicious epithets when talking about nonliberals: Nazis, racists, the Ku Klux Klan.
''Conservative legal interest groups,'' says Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell, ''such as the Center for Individual Rights and the Southeastern Legal Foundation'' - which oppose racial preferences and quotas - ''are ... a homogenized version of the Klan. They may have traded in their sheets for suits ... but it's the same old racism.''
Newsweek's archliberal Eleanor Clift was one of many who erupted with venom when Bill Clinton was impeached. ''That herd of managers from the House,'' she hissed in January, ''I mean, frankly all they were missing was white sheets. They're like night riders.'' The left-leaning Arkansas Times spat poison at the independent counsel. ''Kenneth Starr,'' the paper editorialized, ''is cunning, ruthless, and about as well-mannered as Heinrich Himmler.'' In the Los Angeles Times, Karen Grigsby Bates wrote, ''Whenever I hear Trent Lott speak, I immediately think of nooses decorating trees. Big trees, with black bodies swinging.''
Cartoonist Paul Conrad, also of the L.A. Times, drew a sketch of Buford Furrow - the bigot who opened fire in a Jewish community center, then murdered a Filipino mailman - and labeled it: ''A faith-based compassionate conservative.'' Republicans opposing a minimum-wage hike, charged US Representative Major Owens of New York, are like foreign leaders who support ''ethnic cleansing'' - i.e., mass killing.
Then there was the proposal in Florida to raise funds for adoption agencies through a new specialty license plate bearing the logo ''Choose Life.'' There are already 45 such plates, which promote everything from protecting dolphins to Special Olympics. But a prolife message was too much for state Senator Skip Campbell, who fretted that senators would next be asked to approve a plate reading ''Be a Nazi.''
But for sheer filth, nothing in 1999 topped Salon's hate-filled attack on Ann Coulter, a well-known Washington lawyer and Clinton critic. In June, Coulter wrote a nonpolitical column lamenting the state of romance in Washington. Soon after, the Web magazine Salon, an avidly pro-Clinton publication, launched a malignant personal attack. It purported to offer 11 tips for improving her love life. Among them: ''Quit injecting yourself with your own urine,'' ''Stop being a mean bitch,'' and ''Get your head out of your ass.'' It urged her to tape a sign in her kitchen reading, ''Men don't want to date castrating bitches.'' And that's not to mention the stuff that can't be repeated in a daily paper.
If a conservative Web site had hurled such vileness at, say, Cheryl Mills, Clinton's young attorney, there would have been a furious outcry. It would have become a national scandal. Pundits and talk show hosts would have torn the Web site to shreds.
But Salon is liberal and Coulter is not. So nobody said a thing.
Jeff Jacoby is a Globe columnist.
This story ran on page A23 of the Boston Globe on 12/30/1999.
© Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.
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