Let us surprise you: Although we at Irregular Times are strong proponents of freedom of speech, we also believe that there are limits to decent political speech. Such limits begin when political speech incites criminal behavior intended to stifle the political speech of others.
For example, we believe that political speech that instructs others to commit brutal assaults and murder of members of an opposing political group is too extreme to be ethically acceptable, and may in fact be illegal. We are not lawyers, of course, and so we will not bother with the legal arguments against the incitement of political violence. It is enough for us to believe that encouragement of assault and murder of one's political opponents is unethical. That's why, whenever we have been asked to encourage violent acts against conservatives, we have refused. We believe that nonviolent solutions are preferable to violence, even when we are dealing with conservatives who get under our skin.
At this point, our readers may doubt that there is any kind of systematic program to encourage political violence in the United States. Indeed, it sounds like a paranoid fantasy, but as a matter of fact, such a program has been put into place by a web site that has given itself the unimaginative name Right Wing Stuff (they shorten it into Rightwingstuff for the sake of their web address).Shopping for Intimidation
Early this morning, we were startled to come upon this radical conservative site, which exists only as a large shop on the CafePress system. CafePress is a wonderful system that we ourselves use to sell a variety of political merchandise: Bumper stickers, t-shirts, coffee mugs, buttons, and an awful lot more.
We proudly engage in emphatic political speech in the slogans and designs we create for these products, but we are also proud to say that all of our messages are nonviolent. We encourage our readers to make fun of Republicans, to be sure, but we never encourage any form of violence - not a war, or an execution, or an assault, or even a spanking.
Sadly, the messages that Rightwingstuff places on its own political products are quite often very violent. Not just one or two products in the Rightwingstuff online catalog, but scores of them, literally call upon people to attack their political enemies.
Sometimes, the acts of violence are national in scale. For example, one of the Rightwingstuff bumper stickers calls upon people to bomb France. This demand is ironic, given that conservatives claim to be fighting against terrorists with bombs. Of course, France is not even close to being at war with the United States. Yet, the owners of Rightwingstuff are calling upon Americans to set off bombs within the borders of France - essentially, to engage in acts of terrorism. To the Department of Homeland Security, which is supposed to prevent acts of international terrorism, we suggest that the people behind Rightwingstuff might be worth a look.Conservative Domestic Terror Squads?
Of course, we don't believe that the owners of the Rightwingstuff shop on CafePress would ever actually engage in terrorist bombings of France. Oh, it's not that the Rightwingstuff conservatives wouldn't want to, but rather that conservatives seem to be philosophically opposed to actually visiting France. If they refuse to visit France, they can't very well set bombs off there, can they?
We wish that the same could be said for the Rightwingstuff agenda for domestic terrorism. That's right: Rightwingstuff actually promotes terrorist attacks against Americans right here within the borders of the United States.
Terrorism is defined as an act of violence against civilians in order to achieve a political goal. Through its products on CafePress, Rightwingstuff is promoting a program of terrorist acts against political progressives - or, as the the Rightwingstuff militia prefers to call us, liberals.
It sounds far-fetched, but the Rightwingstuff organization is actually abusing the CafePress system in order to issue hunting licenses that purport to give conservative Americans the authority to hunt down liberals and kill them, with no limit. To the right you can see what this license to commit terrorism against American liberals looks like.
What frightens us even more than knowing that Rightwingstuff is offering permission to murder liberal Americans is the knowledge that many conservatives in America are actually accepting Rightwingstuff's offer. The Rightwingstuff shop on CafePress lists this item as one of its most popular among its conservative Republican clientele. We don't know exactly how many of these so-called liberal hunting licenses are held by conservative militia members, but we do know that the quite a good number exist, just waiting to be put into use.
There are plenty of other slogans inciting political violence on the Rightwingstuff shop. To the left, you see one of the more threatening of these items. The donkey in this image is, of course, the mule that represents the Democratic Party. So, just as the Got Milk? ad campaign encouraged Americans to drink milk, the Got Ammo? graphic that Rightwingstuff places on bumper stickers, t-shirts, mugs and even baseball caps is telling Republicans that they ought to go out, get some ammunition for their guns, and then take aim at Democrats. The simple message put out by this item from Rightwingstuff is: Kill Democrats.Political Murder and Assault is No Joke
Other political products sold by Rightwingstuff try to make a joke out of domestic conservative terrorism against political progressives. Examples of the graphics used on these products can be seen below. Don't they look cute, cuddly, and harmless? Don't be fooled. The violent instructions of these slogans could not be more clear.
As these items show, the owners and creators of the Rightwingstuff online store are telling conservatives to attack liberals by beating them with clubs and setting them on fire. There is a veneer of humor, as some play with words is used in the slogans, but such simple linguistic cleverness forms only a very thin mask on a very violent command: Attack, attack, attack!
What's really appalling to us at Irregular Times is the hypocrisy of these violent conservative messages. We get accused of "Bush bashing" or "bashing the Republicans" quite often, but all we really do is engage in verbal critiques of the policies of the Republicans in Congress and the Bush Administration. Yet, here we have conservative Republicans, actually instructing each other to physically bash Democrats, clubbing liberals and shooting Democrats as if they were wild animals in a deadly political game.
We do not find these slogans to be funny at all. And, before some conservative reader tells us to lighten up, we'll say that we wouldn't think it was funny if the graphics at Rightwingstuff told people to beat up and kill Republicans. We're bipartisan in our opposition to violence.
Are we frightened? You bet we are. We're not so much frightened of being physically attacked by Republicans with liberal hunting licenses issued by Rightwingstuff. Instead, we're frightened that so many Republicans seem to believe that this kind of incitement is funny, or exciting, or somehow justified.
Our fear is that the violently extremist rhetoric of the conservatives at Rightwingstuff reflects a much more prevalent tendency toward impulsive mob violence among American conservatives. In the policies of conservative politicians, and in the language used by conservative activists, there is a consistent embrace of quick, sudden, and ruthless violence against those who oppose the right wing agenda of the Republican Party. The fact that so many Republicans find the idea of hunting down and killing their political opponents to be amusing suggests that, if the political and cultural divisions fostered by George W. Bush and the Republican elite continue to grow, many Republicans may begin to interpret slogans like this literally. Violent commands to commit acts of anti-liberal terrorism are not just speech. These items are laying the groundwork for a very real slaughter.
Americans often ask, in naive shock, how the Nazis ever could have come to power in Germany. They wonder how Rwandans could have been convinced to butcher their neighbors with machetes. They question what led to the mass graves in Kosovo and Bosnia.
The answer to these questions is found in the terrorist rhetoric of the Rightwingstuff propaganda. The answer is that the spark that sets off the powderkeg of genocide is found in these images.
The items sold by Rightwingstuff are not meant to express support of or opposition to any political candidate. They are not meant to merely inform fellow citizens of a political opinion. These items are intended to intimidate the opponents of the conservative agenda. They are intended to make people with progressive ideals afraid to speak up, using the threat of physical violence. It is a very short step from threatening assault and murder to actually following through on the threat.What will it come down to?
We've been in touch with the owner of Rightwingstuff and with CafePress, the company through which Rightwingstuff sells the items with these violent messages. Both insist upon continuing to sell these items in spite of the fact that the messages seek to create an atmosphere of terror in order to stifle political opposition.
It's within the prerogative of Rightwingstuff and CafePress to continue to sell these items, of course. We're not going to file a lawsuit, or call in FBI agents to investigate. We hope that this story will not end with the discussion of criminal liabilities resulting from an actual politically-motivated murder.
The owner of Rightwingstuff is so furious that we have written this article that he has tried to intimidate us with the threat of legal action. He's written us a "cease and desist" message demanding that we take this article off the Internet. He says this article makes him "look bad."
Of course, we have no intention of removing this article. It's not against the law to write the truth about what people do in the name of politics. If the owner of Rightwingstuff wants to take us to court because of our expose of his violent message, we will welcome the chance to call greater attention to the serious problem of conservative political terrorism.
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