Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tennessee Church Shooter Sentenced

Sara has written a wonderful post on the Orcinus site about the sentencing of Jim Adkisson in Tennessee. He's the guy we've discussed before who shot up the Unitarian Church in Knoxville last July, killing a couple parishioners in the process.
Many of us intuited at the time that Adkisson's rampage was exactly the kind of rancid fruit that would inevitably take root in an American countryside thickly composted with two decades of hate radio bullshit, freshly turned and watered with growing middle-class frustration over the failing economy. That suspicion that was verified in the days that followed, when police searched Adkisson's apartment and found it filled with books and newsletters penned by Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and other right-wing hate talkers.

The connection between conservative talk-radio and the shooter's actions became even more evident with the release at his sentencing of a 4-page hand-written minifesto. In it he lays out his thinking, which as chilling as it may be, makes you wonder how prevalent it is.
"Know this if nothing else: This was a hate crime. I hate the damn left-wing liberals. There is a vast left-wing conspiracy in this country & these liberals are working together to attack every decent & honorable institution in the nation, trying to turn this country into a communist state.

"I thought I'd do something good for this Country Kill Democrats til the cops kill me....Liberals are a pest like termites.

In the Orcinus post, Sara seems to be saying that this Manifesto and the future writings of Adkisson are liable to become as popular as the Turner Diaries with the hate crowd. Which, by the way, Wikipedia explains was "initially only available through mail order and at gun shows." Do you think that's true; is this guy bound to become a hero to some?

She makes no bones about blaming the talk radio crowd.
Nicely done, Messrs. Hannity, Goldberg, Limbaugh, Savage and O'Reilly -- and all your lesser brethren who keep the hate speech spewing 24/7/365 across every field and into every shop in the country. There is no more debate to be had, no more doubt about it: What you did in the name of "entertainment," and for the sake of the almighty ratings, raised and animated a monster like Jim Adkisson, gave him a list of targets ("the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg's book"), and was directly responsible for the deaths of two brave and decent people. Adkisson was clearly angry and crazy -- but his "manifesto" draws the clearest, brightest line possible between the media he consumed and his actions that terrible Sunday morning.

Is it fair to blame them? What's your opinion on that? Do you think Jim Adkisson is an anomaly, or are there many just like him, ready to blow?

The last time we talked about this, I said, "The problem seems to be when these lethal weapons get into the wrong hands, whether those are the hands of a ghetto drug addict or an unhinged right wing bigot, we've got trouble. I say the fewer guns the better."

He did the crime with a shotgun, which as far as I know, no one is seriously suggesting we ban. But, perhaps this case illustrates another phenomenon we've often touched upon. Presuming he owned the shotgun legally and previously had been a law-abiding citizen, on the day of the shooting he became part of the "flow."

Please leave a comment.


  1. Mike,

    Define "hate speech" and tell me why few if any liberals have ever been accused of using it.

  2. "hate speech" is definable using much the same logic as "hate crime". the easiest explanation for why us leftists don't get accused of it is that we know better than to use it... ;-) and the second easiest is that any potential accusers fear opening the door to prosecution for it, lest they be pushed through it themselves by their own past words.

    on the topic, this particular shooter was clearly an exception, not the rule. we can tell, by how very rare his kind of crime truly is. but i'm disappointed, mike, that you try to jump from him to your hobby horse of gun control --- his case makes a much stronger argument for limits on the first amendment rather than on the second.

    here, perhaps, my own european background shines through a bit. i'm not inseparably wedded to freedom of speech, i can see how words can indeed hurt people, and how ideas can be more dangerous than any mere guns. i'm not saying we should institute censorship, but no civil right is completely unlimited or unlimitable. just as there are people we do not allow to legally own guns, perhaps there should be things we ought not allow people to say --- or people who ought not be allowed to speak freely in broadcast media such as talk radio.

    as our host likes to say, please comment.

  3. So are you an advocate of the 'fairness doctrine'?

  4. Nomen,

    Who gets to define what can and can not be said?

    You, I, the community we live in, the state, the federal government.

    In many areas, it would be very easy for conservatives to rule out free or heck any speech by liberals... not very fair, eh?

    As far as the liberals not using hate speech, BUNK.

    How many times have we heard some liberals calling their opposition Nazis, or all manner of vile derogatory things based on skin color, religion or beliefs.

    When liberals do it, it is "freedom of speech" but when conservatives or anyone liberals disagree with it, it is "hate speech".

    College campuses are famous for this. Sorry but try again.

    Freedom of speech has to include things that make the blood boil, otherwise it isn't free speech.

    Defend the right of people to say that which you diametrically oppose otherwise someday it will be your rights being trampled.

  5. if you were asking me, Thirdpower, then up to a point i am. the fairness doctrine as once applied is an eminently excellent idea, but the current fad of "balanced reporting" needs to end.

    (the difference is that in the second, utter lunacy is presented as equally valid, equally credible, or equally well supported as simple fact or eminent sense. you'll see "balanced reporting" when a newspaper interviews an evolutionary biologist and feels some need to give equal prominence and equally many column-inches to a creationist, for "balance". the two are plainly not comparable, but get presented as though they were. the "fairness doctrine" did not require such, and no such requirement should exist.)

  6. In many areas, it would be very easy for conservatives to rule out free or heck any speech by liberals...

    in many of those areas, bob, you could make a reasonable argument that this has already de facto happened, and is enforced by intimidation.

  7. The neo-cons and pro defense republicans use hate speech against Americans when patriotic (liberal ) Americans question how the US troops are used. This of course is only a cover to protect the huge amount of money wasted on military weapons and programs which do little for national defense.

  8. and all your lesser brethren who keep the hate speech spewing 24/7/365 across every field and into every shop in the country

    Exactly correct. I've been studying and analyzing those who dwell of the fringes of society, the far-right to be exact, and I've come to two conclusions: they are generally socially immature and prone to propaganda.

    Regular [i.e. socially mature] adults have a sense of the larger society in which they live and can accept all 'types' of people who populate that society. Tolerance is a learned virtue, yet many in a society missed those lessons in their formative years. Hate is more easily taught than tolerance.

    Enter the 24/7 right-wing talking heads: they have found the 'perfect' audience for their blather- sponges who easily and readily soak up the vitriol. Goebells was a master.

    On the far left-side of the spectrum dwell radicals as well; they have similar maturity issues. Here, however, the 'anger' raging inside is most often unleashed against society in general, government and government buildings in particular.

    On the far right-side of the spectrum, on the other hand,the anger is directed against people and cultures rather than objects and concepts.

    Thus, the rage of Jim Adkisson was played out at the end of a gun, the victims: people. Just yesterday a 64-year-old man with a gun was arrested near Congress after he told police that he had a "delivery" for President Barack Obama; he had a gun in his car.

    The reason that the right-wing fringe is much more 'active' than the left-wing fringe is the daily propaganda from hate radio.

    Left-wing radicals cannot 'tune into' anarchist radio for a daily feed; right-wig radicals know all of the stations.

    Here's a larger question: just what is the 'agenda' of the radio talking heads? What do they hope to obtain?

  9. Hate speech?
    You know, there is a big difference between real political analysis and someone exploiting a market niche in sensationalistic ratings war to out do each other in being outrageous.
    How can this cynical sensationalist ratings war not have an effect on an uneducated, willfilly ignorant public????
    People don't want to have to think too much and these guys offer them simplistic ideas and targets to hate.

    I appreciate that most western European countries have a tradition of being able tolerate ideas and enjoy hearing heated debate.

    The kind of 24 hour trash talk media that is a billion dollar business in America, simply does not exist here and yes, here in France, there is a fairness doctrine for points of view in the media and in elections it is observed down to the second.

  10. Heh, Muddy, you're certainly one to talk. But thanks, I do apriciate the Irony. : ]

    Still I think this discussion has gone WAYYY overboard.

    Son of Sam (David Richard Berkowitz) claimed a dog requested he kill people. Charles Manson go his marching orders (or so he claims) from the Beatles. (An insidious hate-group that Mike B. Links on this page.....*just kidding*)

    Have none of you heard of Occam's Razor?'s_razor

    I mean all the right-wing types have millions of viewers, yet assaults like this are VERY rare. Maybe the dude was just nuts, and O'Reilly (as pig-headed as he may be) might be as much to blame as John, Ringo, Paul, George, and Pete Best, or the Dog that lived next door to Dave.

    Oh and everybody should just calm down and re-read Muddy's Diatribe of ad hominems and projection just to solidify that ignorance and anger knows no party line.

  11. Hey guys,check this out:

  12. Couple of different thoughts on this.

    Glad that it was discovered, but it wasn't the police that stopped this potential problem but the wife who shot her husband.

    Another is this: if we can't control radioactive material with all the laws and safety checks in place; what hope do we have controlling firearms? Firearms which are a little more common and easier to manufacture then radioactive material.

    Here is another story that proves the point

    Tale of the Radioactive Boy Scout

    Golf Manor, a subdivision in Commerce Township, Mich., some 25 miles outside of Detroit, is the kind of place where nothing unusual is supposed to happen, where the only thing lurking around the corner is an ice-cream truck. But June 26, 1995, was not a typical day.

    Ask Dottie Pease. Cruising down Pinto Drive, Pease saw half a dozen men crossing her neighbor's lawn. Three, in respirators and white moon suits, were dismantling her next-door neighbor's shed with electric saws, stuffing the pieces into large steel drums emblazoned with radioactive warning signs.

    Huddled with a group of neighbors, Pease was nervous. "I was pretty disturbed," she recalls. Publicly, the employees of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that day said there was nothing to fear. The truth is far more bizarre: the shed was dangerously irradiated and, according to the EPA, up to 40,000 residents of the area could be at risk.

    The cleanup was provoked by the boy next door, David Hahn. He had attempted to build a nuclear reactor in his mother's shed following a Boy Scout merit-badge project...

    Read the whole thing (excerpted from a great book by the same name) and tell me again how we can bubble wrap the world and keep people from making bad decisions.

  13. I'm curious what the radioactive source was.

    I mean an old radium dial alarm clock or the guts of a smoke detector is radioactive.

    If he had enugh to make a serious bomb, why is his wife still alive?

    You'd think that if the bomb could disperse radiation enugh to cause any serious damage he'd either need a REALLY amazing containment facility (highly doubtful) or his wife would be suffering from severe radiation sickness being in such close proximity with the source.

    I could be wrong, just saying it doesn't smell right to me, and my knowlege of biology....

  14. Weer'd and Bob, Do you guys think the O'Reillys and Limbeaus of the world are good for America? Do you deny the connection between them and this shooter?

  15. Mike,

    I think they are good for America. Just like I think the Al Franken's and Reverends Sharpton, Jackson, et al are good for America.

    Don't forget the radicals come in all flavors like the ones on the left that spew just as much "hate" as Limbaugh is accused of...let's see; there is Louis Farrakhan & Reverend Wright for example.

    If we never heard them speaking, on either side, wouldn't the problems grow unchecked, festering without people being able to see how heinous the words really are?

    Out of conflict can come resolution, we need people to speak on the fringes because otherwise we just muddle along without resolving the problems.

    Is there a connection, yes. Is there a causation probably not. Weer'd talked about the Son of there a connection between his murders and dogs, yes. Did the dogs cause SOS to murder? No.

    Why not focus more on the affects of anti-depressants on these types of crimes? Check out the number of mass murders and the correlation to how many were on anti-depressants. Check out the effects of the anti-depressants on thought patterns.....the guns don't pick themselves up without the person being aware but the anti-depressants can cause behavioral problems without the person being aware.

  16. Don't forget Olbermann, Helmke, And Bryon Miller.

    All of them have just as much freedom of speech, despite the hateful/ignorant nature of what they say.

  17. weerd, are you seriously trying to claim Keith Olbermann is even vaguely comparable in vitriol or hatefulness to rush limbaugh?! if so, what languages do those pundits pontificate in on your planet?

  18. Nomen,

    Care to show how they aren't comparable?

  19. One difference is that left wing people, however passionate, stopped trying to kill their opponents about four decades ago. That shit went out with the Weathermen. I'm afraid the righties never stopped. This kook is just the latest, and by the sound of his writings, the most virulent.

  20. Ummm, so you're saying right-wing motivated killings are MORE common than left wing ones?

    I'd say both are exceedingly rare...I bet you don't have anything to back that whopper up, Mike...

  21. Mike,

    So, you are saying it isn't "hate speech" if nobody is trying to actively "kill" the people the hate speech is directed at?

  22. i'd nearly agree with that, bob. it isn't hate speech if it doesn't at least encourage people to commit crimes; it isn't hate speech if it doesn't say, fairly explicitly, "this (or these) person(s) ought to be (attacked, killed, hurt in some way unlawfully)".

    thing is, that sort of thing spouts out of the mouths of right-wing bloviators fairly routinely. us lefties? not so much, no.

    heck, Dave Neiwert at Orcinus has made something of a blogging name for himself documenting this sort of thing. you want evidence, he's got kilobyte upon kilobyte of it.

    'course, i've pointed you at Neiwert's work before, bob, back when you were all gung-ho about the hate-monger Jonah Goldberg. wonder if you'll actually read him this time...?

  23. Nomen, you must be picking and choosing your lefties like I pick-and-choose my Righties.

    I won't lie the more obnoxious right-wing commentators (Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Beck, Coltier, ect) don't get my ear very often. Tho I do seek out Olbermann, Wright, Helmke, Miller et al as oposition research.

    Still I must say the feild is fairly even. There's a few firebrands on one side, a few on the other, a bunch of moderates in between, and very few people calling for actual crimes.

    And then there's the stupidity of a bunch of (left wing) people attempting to blame the action of a crazy person on those acts.


  24. "The novel was initially only available through mail order and at gun shows,"

    Right. Because the book was written in 1978. Just a few years before the internet.

    One would think that w/ the increased availability, that extremist actions related to it would increase.

    Just like CCW creating "Wild West Shootouts", that hasn't happened either.

  25. Tolerance is a learned virtue, yet many in a society missed those lessons in their formative years. Hate is more easily taught than tolerance.

    Couldn't agree with you more, Mudrake.

    The right wing pundits are balance to the newspaper editorialists and the left wingers like Olbermann who, IMO, is the worst of the vitriolic ones on TV. I don't like O'reilly's bad interrupting tactic --and Rush is overly blustery for my tastes --but conservatives were starved for years to hear people who articulated what they thought about the liberal mindset.

    I don't think most of the conservatives are "hateful" either --just because they point out how hateful --and championing of irresponsibility the people are on the left.

  26. Don't forget Bill Maher --scorn personified --and scorn is the first cousin of hate.

  27. Nomen it isn't hate speech if it doesn't say, fairly explicitly, "this (or these) person(s) ought to be (attacked, killed, hurt in some way unlawfully)".

    thing is, that sort of thing spouts out of the mouths of right-wing bloviators fairly routinely. us lefties? not so much, no.

    REALLY? I don't recall hearing right wing commentators call for unlawful harm to lefties. Not like MR who says right-wingers should be rounded up and put in boxcars. And taken where? Previously he said to detainment camps. He has also called for the assassination of Bush --while admitting he didn't personally believe in gun-use, however.

  28. I don't recall hearing right wing commentators call for unlawful harm to lefties



    or, hell, try to take the advice i keep trying to give bob, and go read. it's not as if right-wing eliminationism is new or secret or obscure --- that last link is part one in a series of ten, after all --- you just have to be willing to admit to yourself that it exists. but that seems to be more than y'all are capable of...

  29. It's a good point that Weer'd brings up. "And then there's the stupidity of a bunch of (left wing) people attempting to blame the action of a crazy person on those acts."

    This is exactly the same sticking point we discover with all the personal responsibility discussions we've had about the murderers. My bleeding-heart often finds excuses for them, while some of you say, they did the crime they have to pay the price.

    Well in this case, we have an unhinged man who killed people for what he said in his own words is some kind of cause. And it's the same cause that those rightie talk-radio guys espouse, only more smoothly and more politically acceptable, at times, just barely.

  30. Mike,

    Jim Adkisson seems crazy by your standards...are you willing to see him spend a year or two in a mental hospital then go free?

  31. i can't speak for mike, but myself, i'd be more than willing to see him locked up in a mental hospital until the headshrinkers deem him sane --- regardless of how long or short a time that was.

    (of course, based on my experiences with psych docs, i'm privately convinced they don't consider anyone to be "sane", ever.)

  32. ...Unless their govenment funding tells them otherwise....

  33. BTW Nomen, did you notice that you just gave a vote of confidence for Mental Health incarceration...then a vote of no-confidence on the Doctors that supposably are in charge (of course I'd say Polititions call the final shots, as they hold the purse strings)

  34. I have an idea that will solve multiple problems at once.

    Let's still lock up all the criminals in prison but we need to do something about unemployment.

    So, let's put all the unemployed in school to be psychiatrists. Increase jobs in education;both elementary - might have to teach them to read & higher education - college. Then once they graduate they can work in the prisons...make it a one on one assignment to turn all those mis-guided, abused victims of society into productive members of society.

    Bam! Unemployment resolved, recidivism resolved, over crowding in jails resolved, abuse in homes resolved (because they won't get out and have kids that they raise like they were raised).

  35. weerd, my main concern is that he be incarcerated. how and where is of considerably less concern to me; prison, psych ward, the two are not much different in my eyes --- either one will do for the purpose of keeping Adkisson and his ilk out of general society.

    but yeah, between prison wardens and psychiatrists, i do trust the wardens more.

  36. Presuming he owned the shotgun legally and previously had been a law-abiding citizen, on the day of the shooting he became part of the "flow."

    Liberty involves risk. I understand that one of the risks of my freedoms is that someone with no previous record of violence might buy a gun and decide to commit a crime.

    In this country we presume innocent rather than pass laws a priori with the assumption that folks will break the law.

    All men have the equipment for rape, all women have the equipment for prostitution. A small percentage of each will use that equipment criminally.

    There's simply no way to mitigate risk without restricting the liberty of everyone else. This is a terrible story, but it's no justification whatsoever for restricting my Constitutionally protected freedoms.

    How do you restrict the flow of guns to "previously law-abiding citizens" without resticting the rest of the population? It's impossible.

  37. "either one will do for the purpose of keeping Adkisson and his ilk out of general society."

    For the time being. But what about when he gets out? Would you let him spend the night in your house?

  38. 'course not, weerd. where'd you get this seeming notion that i want to go easy on him? far from it.

  39. Nowhere, Nomen. Maybe I put the cart before the horse.

    I'm deeply wary of the "mental rehabilitation" system, becuase it's both deeply expensive, and 100% unprofitable by natutre. This means it's run by the State, and so the State (who are NOT Psychiatrists) calls the shots.

    Overall if a released convict or inpatient is not somebody you'd willingly invite into your house, something is broken with the system. Because even if they aren't sleeping in your house, or living on your street, they're living on SOMEBODY'S street.