Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Not a joke
The New York Post seems to think sending terrorist threats is a big joke.
MSNBC loudmouth Keith Olbermann flipped out when he opened his home mail yesterday. The acerbic host of "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" was terrified when he opened a suspicious-looking letter with a California postmark and a batch of white powder poured out. A note inside warned Olbermann, who's a frequent critic of President Bush's policies, that it was payback for some of his on-air shtick.


He asked to be taken to St. Luke's Hospital, where doctors looked him over and sent him home. Whether they gave him a lollipop on the way out isn't known.

The Post writer, Paula Froelich, apparently lacks the senses of perspective and long-term memory necessary to recall that the Post was one of the places hit with real anthrax back in 2001 and that three of her colleagues were hospitalized in that attack. Along with those mental abilities, Ms. Froelich also lacks knowledge that sending bio-threats through the mail is a federal crime. When Clayton Waagner sent fake anthrax threats to Planned Parenthood clinics in late 2001 (after the attack on the Post), he was sent to federal prison for 19 years.

Froelich might make the excuse that she was just following the example of that fine Christian role model for female conservative pundits, Ann Coulter who jokingly (I assume) took credit for a hoax anthrax threat sent to the New York Times last July.

This is a good example of eliminationist rhetoric disguised as humor, a trend increasingly common on the right in recent years. David Neiwert is the local blogosphere expert on this trend and why it is worth our concern. I want to point out a second aspect of this particular example. The fact that Froelich was so monumentally insensitive to her own colleagues experience makes me suspect that her piece wasn't really the result of any kind of meaningful thought process, it was pure reaction on her part.

Although most people would like to think that their opinions are the result of some kind of core values or philosophy and an intelligent deliberative process, the sad fact is that that's not really how we work. In many spheres of life, including, especially, politics, we don't think things through before forming opinions. Instead, early in life, we identify with a group and then adopt the opinions of our group. When faced with a new issue, we check to see what "our team" believes and then rationalize our way around to supporting that position. This often leads people to support positions directly opposed to their deeper value system (or that expose their real value systems). These contradictions give the other side endless opportunities to cry "hypocrisy!"

I'm trying to give Froelich the benefit of the doubt by assuming that she didn't stop to think about the larger implications of anthrax attacks on journalists. I'm assuming that this was an unthinking reflex on her part. She saw an opportunity to gain points for her team by mocking a player on the other side. If she had thought about it, she would never have made light of such a thing.

Of course, I might be wrong and she might really be the biggest jerk in the tri-state region.

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