Articles in the current press say people have shouted "off with his head." They have chanted "terrorist" and "kill him." An article in the BBC says a town hall audience recently called Obama "an Arab" and a "traitor" and said they were afraid of him. An article in the Washington Post says twice last week speakers stressed Obama's middle name in referring to him and one called him to a "man of the street." The Washintgon Times says
Mr. McCain reportedly ousted the Buchanan County, Va., chairman of his campaign for a newspaper column in which he said that if Mr. Obama was elected, he would have the White House painted black and would replace the stars on the U.S. flag "with a star and crescent logo."One reporter writes of McCain supporters "drunk on rage and anger." Outrageous accusations in pro-McCain blogs are being spread by email campaigns, including this one: Barack the Black Hitler. Newspapers are reporting that an audience booed McCain when, in an effort to restrain the vitriol, he said Obama was a decent family man and voters should not be afraid of him. They're also giving heavy coverage to remarks by congressman John Lewis about the dangers of fomenting an "atmosphere of hate" (see for example this piece in the New York Times). Lewis, who McCain had previously praised as one of three people on whom he depends for sage advice, warned that "toxic language can lead to destructive behavior." In Salon, Glenn Greenwald says this is unprecedented nastiness:
TNR’s Michael Crowley: McCain lynch mobs are no different than Bush criticsAn article in the Baltimore Sun agrees. It quotes the director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at Penn who says the vitriol has been encouraged by inflammatory words from the stage. She says "Red-meat rhetoric elicits emotional responses in those already disposed by ads using words such as 'dangerous' 'dishonorable' and 'risky' to believe that the country would be endangered by election of the opposing candidate." I'm happy to see the McCain campaign is now trying to tone down the rhetoric, although, as Lewis suggested, it may be a little late. Stirring up fury among voters who are already committed to a candidate makes little sense. Raising the irrational fear level of people who are uncommitted would seem to be a good tactic, though amoral. As McCain seems belatedly to have realized a country that is stunned by the onslaught of a recession (one that may yet prove to be a first class global depression) does not need to its fear-level jacked up. It needs reassurance. It needs a way to calm panic, not exacerbate it. His new restraint now seems to indicate a kind of desperation, however. And, among Republicans, the sense of foreboding may be growing, as this blog post suggests: A bit of horserace commentary (the lede: "So I hear (via a prominent member of the sane Republican faction) that the word on the right side of the street is that the Republican National Committee is about to pull the plug on its joint ads with the McCain campaign, and devote its resources instead to trying to save a couple of the senators who are at serious risk of losing their seats.") For the good of the country, we all have to hope that the polarization of the electorate can be mended whatever the outcome of the election.
The mass accusations of “terrorist” and “Arab traitor” against Obama didn’t just get randomly blurted out by a few hard-core, isolated ideologues. Rather, that is exactly the message being spewed systematically from McCain and Palin themselves (“pallin’ around with terrorists”), their parade of ads, and the coordinated efforts of opinion-leaders on the Right. Even veteran campaign reporters for whom Balance is a religion have been acknowledging that the McCain/Palin rallies are unique in their mass-crowd vitriol and intense rage.