I often read the blogs and websites of those with political views that differ from mine, just to see what they are thinking. On some occasions, I find there may be a topic with which I agree.
More often than not though, I am simply appalled; not surprised, but appalled.
One of the more conservative sites, Freedom Outpost, reposted a Facebook comment from Christian American Patriots Militia leader Everest Wilhelmsen, in which he said the Constitution provided the justification to assassinate President Obama.
According to an excerpt cited by Freedom Outpost: “The authority to kill Obama comes from the Second Amendment of our Constitution: He is levying war on the United States and aiding and comforting our foreign enemies – the Second Amendment gives us the right and duty (authority) to engage an enemy of the United States that does so with the design to reduce us under absolute despotism. I would be very surprised, if Obama does not leave Washington DC today (Nov. 19th) … never to return, if he is not dead within the month.”
Freedom Outpost did not endorse Wilhelmsen’s position. It just reposted it, which is distressing enough.
The idea that someone would suggest that it is OK to consider the possibility of committing murder over ideological differences ought to give one pause – even if it is nothing more than an academic debate.
See, Wilhelmsen didn’t encourage anyone to go out and do it; he just said if it happened it would be justifiable. Walking that fine line of stirring hate and panic, while giving oneself plausible deniability is one of the most insidious forms of hate.
If someone misinterprets the militia leader and considers his words a direct invitation to take action, he can say he was not encouraging that action, just expressing dissatisfaction, and is not responsible for the behavior of a presumably sick individual.
And maybe there is some truth to that. Maybe Wilhelmsen doesn’t really expect anyone to be inspired by his rant to act. Perhaps he simply wants Obama’s legacy irreparably tarnished. The problem, however, is that there may be those who indeed take those words to heart and see it as a clarion call to action.
Author Michael Cottman wrote in “HaterNation: How Incivility & Racism Are Dividing Us,” there are 1,018 known hate groups operating across America, an increase of 755 percent during the first three years of Obama’s presidency.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which has a detailed “hate map” of the nation that shows the concentrations of these groups, reports that the Secret Service was aware of Wilhelmsen’s remarks, but would not say if an investigation had been opened.
According to the SPLC, “It’s not immediately clear whether Wilhelmsen’s public statements cross the line from free speech protected by the First Amendment to an actual threat against the president, which is a federal crime.”
One would like to assume that such threats receive immediate and close scrutiny, but as we’ve reported before, there have been more threats against this president than any of his predecessors.
For some, a political or character assassination wouldn’t be enough.
And that ought to put us all on alert.
Jackie Jones, a journalist and journalism educator, is director of the career transformation firm Jones Coaching LLC and author of “Taking Care of the Business of You: 7 Days to Getting Your Career on Track.”