The Death of George Tiller

Pro-lifers like to style themselves the modern equivalent of the '60s civil rights movement. In the wake of the murder of the Kansas abortionist George Tiller, many pro-choicers are doing their foes the favor of recycling arguments once favored by the civil rights movement's opponents. If you blame "extreme rhetoric" for the sporadic anti-abortion violence of the last few decades, you're not so far from the people who blamed angry words and nonviolent disobedience for the ghetto riots of the '60s.

If you're not familiar with those old accusations, Rick Perlstein's recent book Nixonland is full of illuminating examples. A particularly potent passage summarizes an article written by Richard Nixon in 1966:

"Who is responsible for the breakdown of law and order in this country?" it asked....Blame the actual individuals who burned down buildings, certainly. But "the more important collaborators and auxiliaries" were otherwise. "It is my belief that the seeds of civil anarchy would never have taken root in this nation had they not been nurtured by scores of respected Americans: public officials, educators, clergymen, and civil rights leaders as well." He named Hubert Humphrey, who'd declared that he could "lead a mighty good revolt"; the "junior senator from New York," who declared "there is no point in telling Negroes to obey the law"; and generically, "the professor" who, "objecting to de facto segregation," ends up turning youth into insurrectionists: to him "it may be crystal clear where civil disobedience may begin and where it must end. But the boundaries have become fluid to his students."

And no, I'm not denying the influence of words: just the idea that people must be morally responsible for the ways their words are received, and the easy assumption that Tiller's killer would not decide to murder an abortionist—or that angry black people would not decide to riot—absent the influence of an external force. For an extended critique of the idea that moral blame for Tiller's death extends beyond the person who pulled the trigger, see Brendan O'Neill's excellent column from yesterday, a powerful assault on the notion that "public debate should be watered down to the level of polite tea-party disagreements, lest any borderline cranks be agitated or inflamed by it."

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  • ||

    While I think the blame for the murder of Dr. Tiller lies solely with the person who pulled the trigger, that doesn't mean that any criticism of the Bill O'Reilly's and the Operation Rescue people and so on is invalid.

    I wouldn't go so far as to say they have blood on their hands or are responsible for the murder, but their rhetoric is irresponsible, and the words people use do have consequences. Do they foster an environment that would embolden a fanatic to act in such a manner and lauds such actions when they occur? Absolutely they do.

    Look at Dave Leach's comment:

    Dave Leach, publisher of the magazine Prayer and Action News, said he met Roeder about 15 years ago. A decade ago, Roeder subscribed to the quarterly magazine, which is published in Iowa and has said "justifiable homicide" against abortion providers can be supported, Leach said.

    "Scott is not my hero in that sense; he has not inspired me to shoot an abortionist," Leach said in an e-mail. "But definitely, he will be the hero to thousands of babies who will not be slain because Scott sacrificed everything for them."



    Not only is the publisher of the Prayer and Action News magazine "supporting" the killing of Dr's who provide a legal service to people who want it, but they are elevating them to "hero" status.


    O'Reilly in particular has attacked Dr. Tiller with quite a bit of sensationalist bile :

    Now, we have bad news to report that Tiller the baby killer out in Kansas, acquitted. Acquitted today of murdering babies. I wasn't in the courtroom. I didn't sit on the jury. But this there's got to be a special place in hell for this guy.



    Dr Tiller was acquitted of 19 misdemeanors alleging he failed to obtain a second opinion for late-term abortions from an independent physician, as required by Kansas law. Not quite the same as being acquitted of murdering babies, now is it. But "baby killer" provokes the desired emotional response from the audience. Stating that he allegedly wasn't getting second opinions as to the medical necessity/appropriateness of the late term abortion does not.

    Furthermore, I think the media is being quite hypocritical in their coverage of this guy. There is a name for people who, when they can't make change via the political process, resort to violence and murder to push their change through -- it's called terrorism.

    This guy is a domestic terrorist. He had been seen vandalizing abortion clinics in the week leading up to the murder, and he had a previous conviction for having bomb components in his car trunk, and he had violated his parole. This guy was a motived religious extremist.

    Like Andrew Sullivan says:

    Imagine an Islamist fanatic had assassinated a pro-Israel rabbi in a synagogue, and had harassed synagogues for years, including one arrest for bomb materials in his car. Imagine if one of his associates had tried to kill the rabbi before. Would there be any question that this was Islamist terror? So why is this not Christianist terror?



    And when I see this (More from the ever class Mr. Leach):

    Scott Roeder, 51, of Merriam, Kan., whom authorities have described as a suspect in Sunday's fatal shooting here of George Tiller, the doctor who had been a focal point for abortion opponents for decades, was once a subscriber and occasional contributor to a newsletter, Prayer and Action News, said to Dave Leach, an anti-abortion activist from Des Moines who runs the newsletter. Mr. Leach said he and Mr. Roeder had met once, and Mr. Roeder had described similar views to his own. Of Dr. Tiller's death, Mr. Leach said, "To call this a crime is too simplistic," adding, "There is Christian scripture that would support this."



    If it were a muslim newsletter or an Imam at a mosque, i'm sure they would be on a watch list and Fox News would be labeling the Prayer and Action News a terror cell.

  • Mad Max||

    I must say that Reason's discussion of the Tiller case is remarkably fair-minded.

    Since my endorsement would be the kiss of death as far as some posters are concerned, let me make clear that there are some parts of Reason's Tiller commentary that I don't agree with.

    I don't think there's a full moral equivalence between the lefty radical community of the 1960s and the mainstream of today's prolife movement. In the 1960s, there were some leftists who were committed to true nonviolence, but there were many who were not, and they were not a fringe like the violent element of today's prolife movement.

    Recall that the New York Review of Books published an article celebrating urban riots, with a cover illustration of a Molotov cocktail. This would be like some mainstream prolife publication doing a front-page article celebrating the assassinations of abortionists, with a gun or bundle of dynamite lovingly illustrated on the cover.

    The unconditional denunciations of the Tiller murder by the mainstream prolife movement is in contrast to the justifications, contextualizations, etc. which many of the Left made for the revolutionary (or would-be revolutionary) violence of the 1960s.

    Nor have mainstream prolifers (Fred Phelps, a possible exception, is not mainstream) made pilgrimages to enemy countries to denounce the U.S. policy on abortion.

    Incidentally, I notice that there are more Tiller threads than there are about that guy who just killed a military recruit, apparently from political reasons.

  • Blame Canada||

    I blame Canada for all the voilence going on!

  • ||

    And that bitch Anne Murray too.

  • ||

    Look ma! Another abortion thread! You get the beer and I'll go get the popcorn!

  • Mad Max||

    Brandybuck,

    Let us stop the abortion thread in its tracks by starting our own Abdul Hakim Mujahid Muhammad thread.

    'Abdul Hakim Mujahid Muhammad, 23, was ordered held without bail at a hearing Tuesday in Little Rock. He is charged in the death of Pvt. William Long, 23, of Conway, outside the Army Navy Career Center in Little Rock.

    '"This individual appears to have been upset with the military, the Army in particular, and that's why he did what he did," Little Rock Police Lt. Terry Hastings said.'

    To discuss - what is the moral responsibility of all those people who referred to Guantanamo Bay as a 'gulag,' who denounced alleged war crimes by U.S. Army soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, etc.

    Disclaimer: I don't buy into the 'irresponsible rhetoric' theory, because war crimes - even war crimes by the U.S. Army - deserve to be denounced, even if this unstable people use this denunciation as an excuse to murder soldiers (assuming that something of the sort is the case, which we don't know yet).

    But I would like to see the proponents of the irresponsible rhetoric theory explain - shouldn't opponents of a social ill (like abortion or an unjust war) moderate their criticism, lest they be accused of stirring up killers?

  • Jeff P||

    Ah, the age-old discussion of the moral burden of free-speech and responsibility, played out on the troll-infested chatroom where uncivil discourse is not only allowed, but encouraged.

    Yeah, this will go well.

  • ||

    Just make religions financially liable for the actions of their followers (when the action was done in the name of and in furtherance of that religion or its teachings) and we won't have problems like this. Any other business that sells a defective product that causes death and terrorism would be sued in an instant. And don't give me freedom of religion or freedom of speech - religions are businesses and commercial speech is far less protected than other speech. And religions must be responsible for their actions, just like anyone else exercising their freedoms.

  • zoltan||

    It would make much more sense if that guy had actually killed someone involved in Guatanamo.

  • ||

    Let's tax gays to pay for AIDS too.A confiscatory excise tax on anal lube,poppers and Judy Garland records would be a good start.

  • ||

    Tom,

    You are right in that this was an act of terrorism. The point of the act was to terrorize other doctors into not performing abortions. Indeed, it is very successful. Only a lunatic would perform abortions.

    That said, you ravings about Fox News and the like are non-sense. No one that I know of is advocating violence against abortion doctors. They may use strong rethoric, but strong rethoric is not advocating violence. This differs from radical Mosques were people are directly told that it is their religious duty to commit acts of violence.

    Shut the fuck up with the Fox News bit. You are right. This guy is a terrorist and needs to be shot. But, he victim was still a baby killer who aborted children because their parents found out they were handicapped. Tiller didn't deserve to die. But the people who called him what he was aren't responsible for his murder.

  • Jonas||

    I may be pro-life, but even I am getting sick of everybody constantly bringing up this Tiller thing as a way to show how even-handedly they can respond to inflammatory rhetoric on both sides. Let's just move on...

  • Mad Max||

    Some information about the early political development of the alleged killer from The Wichita Eagle:

    '"One day someone told him that paying income taxes isn't constitutional," [his wife] Lindsey Roeder recalled. "And he realized if he stopped paying his taxes he could pay all of his bills. From there things just started like a snowball. He became very obsessive."

    'Roeder moved out of the [marital] home in 1994, she said, after he got involved with the Freemen movement, an anti-government group.'

    Then it was onward and upward, into the terrorist splinter group Army of God.

    To all those people who go around saying the federal income tax is unconstitutional - I sure hope you can sleep at night, with all that blood on your hands.

  • ||

    "To all those people who go around saying the federal income tax is unconstitutional - I sure hope you can sleep at night, with all that blood on your hands."

    fuck you you troll. That makes absolutely no sense. Ted Kasinsky was a radical environmentalist. Do the greens have the blood on their hands over the people he murdered? That is just stupid to be beyond belief. If this blog had a moderation feature, you dumb ass would be banned of posting such stupid shit.

  • ||

    Mad Max,

    If you were kidding, I apologize.

  • Alice Bowie||

    U people have it all wrong.

    It took the riots to get some form of civil rights for the blacks.

    It took 9-11-2001 for a us president to finally say that they support a palestinean state.

    It took stonewall for homos to get rights.

    ----------------------

    And...most importantly...There is NOTHING out of the Ordinary about some Christian Fundamentalist showing up to a church an murdering somebody.

    Didn't the Nazis kill all those jews with god on their side ?

    Don't the jews kill muslims with god on their side?

    Didn't the guys on 9-11-2001 do that little stunt with god on their side ?

    When people are executed in america...isn't there some foolish pedophile priest right there saying a 'hail mary' while they hang someone?

    ---------------------

    Oddly enough, it's us agnostics and athiests that seem a lot more God-Like than the hypocrats that wear yamakas and make the sign of the cross or bow to the east.

  • Alice Bowie||

    You are right in that this was an act of terrorism.

    A Terrorist is a term made up by jews to refer to muslims and people who do not support israel.

    U here it ALL the time from Jews...

    "...All muslims are NOT terrorist...but All terrorists are muslims"

  • ||

    Let's throw the name "Phil Kline" into the mix. He was the Kansas Attorney General and later the Johnson County District Attorney who used his elected position to terrorize Tiller in the courts for years with ideological fervor. I want to hear from both sides about this guy. Was he responsible for inciting the murder of Tiller with his hate speech of the man?

    Let the games begin.

  • JB||

    Jesse Walker likes to style himself the modern equivalent of the piece of shit movement.

    He should be held responsible for the way his words are received.

    Jesse, btw, did you hear about the the Muslim who killed a US solidier the other day? Thus, every Muslim is a member of your piece of shit movement.

    As for Tiller, I don't understand all this whining. He was only a clump of cells after all.

  • ||

    A Terrorist is a term made up by jews to refer to muslims and people who do not support israel.

    And the IRA and Timothy McVeigh are/were?

    If you were kidding, I apologize.

    I can't speak for him, but Mad Max is not a troll and I'm pretty sure he was being facetious.

    Also, I hope BruceM is kidding.

    And ChicagoTom, I agree that Leach's comments were objectionable, but I have yet to see anything O'Reilly said (in this instance) that's beyond the pale.

    Also, Andrew Sullivan's comparison seems just slightly inapt (after all, Tiller was directly responsible for what Roeder found unjust).

    zoltan,

    No kidding.

  • ||

    There are only 5 people to blame the 5 Supreme court Justices that made this legal in 1973. Yes i believe the gunmen should be punished but it never wouold have happened. AS the Liberal Keith Olbermann says
    12 Babies lives spared.

  • ||

    Just make religions financially liable for the actions of their followers (when the action was done in the name of and in furtherance of that religion or its teachings) and we won't have problems like this.



    Don't limit it to religion! Include political ideologies as well! Imagine if liberalism was financially responsible for the actions of liberals! I don't know who we would send the bill to, but it would be awesome if we could get compensated for the shenanigans of liberal politicians. Not to leave out conservatism, but I think liberalism currently has the deeper pockets so we should target them first.

    And religions must be responsible for their actions, just like anyone else exercising their freedoms.



    We should expand that to businesses too! Let the company go to jail when the employee is caught shoplifting. Send the corporation the parking ticket when a mid level manager doesn't feed the meter. Hold the group accountable for the actions of the individual!!!

  • runescape gold||

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  • John Brown has thoroughly disc||

    John Brown's body lies moldering in the grave,
    While weep the sons of bondage whom he ventured all to save;
    But tho he lost his life while struggling for the slave,
    His soul is marching on.

    John Brown was a hero, undaunted, true and brave,
    And Kansas knows his valor when he fought her rights to save;
    Now, tho the grass grows green above his grave,
    His soul is marching on.

    He captured Harper's Ferry, with his nineteen men so few,
    And frightened "Old Virginny" till she trembled thru and thru;
    They hung him for a traitor, they themselves the traitor crew!
    But his soul is marching on.

    John Brown was John the Baptist of the Lord we are to see,
    Lord who of the bondmen shall the Liberator be,
    And soon thruout the Sunny South the slaves shall all be free,
    For his soul is marching on.

    The conflict that he heralded he looks from heaven to view,
    On the army of the Union with its flag red, white and blue.
    And heaven shall ring with anthems o'er the deed they mean to do,
    For his soul is marching on.

    Ye soldiers of Freedom, then strike, while strike ye may,
    The death blow of oppression in a better time and way,
    For the dawn of old John Brown has brightened into day,
    And his soul is marching on.

  • epexegetical hermeneuticist an||

    hope you can sleep at night, with all that [emphasis added] blood on your hands.



    ...should have tipped you off.

  • MNG||

    "To all those people who go around saying the federal income tax is unconstitutional - I sure hope you can sleep at night, with all that blood on your hands."

    If the guy had killed an IRS official and we had told him that the federal income tax is morally equivalent to murder or holocaust, then maybe you'd be on to something. But as it is you've got a very poor analogy!

  • MNG||

    "John Brown has thoroughly discredited the anti-slavery movement!"

    Everyone knows I'm no friend of the South, but I can say that everything I know about John Brown suggests he was a fanatical murderer bordering on insane...

  • MNG||

    If someone had shot Rush Limbaugh in the kidney following Wanda Sykes' comments, I wonder what the right would be saying right now?

  • ||

    "Everyone knows I'm no friend of the South, but I can say that everything I know about John Brown suggests he was a fanatical murderer bordering on insane..."


    He was. Of course if he were around today, people like Jacob Sullum and William Saleton would be saying he is the only sincere abolitionist. Afterall, if slavery really was as bad as they claimed it was, how could they not engage in acts of violence. I hate that BS logic.

  • ||

    "If someone had shot Rush Limbaugh in the kidney following Wanda Sykes' comments, I wonder what the right would be saying right now?"


    Hopefully saying that person who did it was a murderous nutcase. Now the question is, if the right said what you think they would say, wouldn't the left be screaming like stuck pigs?

    Rush Limbaugh wasn't shot. Tiller was. Given that fact it is incombent on the left not the right to refrain from acting like jackasses and pretending that Tiller's murder is the result of anything other than one person's derrrangement.

  • ||

    "-or that angry black people would not decide to riot-absent the influence of an external force."

    When logic and reason aren't on your side, toss Rodney King on the table?

    Dude, weakest link ever. Buh-bye.

  • Mad Max||

    I suppose a better analogy would be Usama bin Laden invoking leftist polemicists in support of his position:

    'Bin Laden frequently namedrops the anti-war blogosphere's favorite authors and activists. In October 2004 he advised the White House to read "Robert Fisk, who is a fellow [Westerner] and a co-religionist of yours, but one whom I consider unbiased." In the same statement bin Laden chastised Bush for leaving "50,000 of his citizens in the two towers" because he considered "a little girl's story about a goat and its butting [to be] more important than dealing with airplanes and their butting into skyscrapers."-a clear reference to Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11, which opens with footage of Bush reading My Pet Goat to a classroom of children on the morning of 9/11.'

    from 'Blogger, Bush-Basher, Bin Laden
    Why does an Islamist warrior sound suspiciously like Michael Moore?' Brendan O'Neill | January 25, 2005

    http://www.reason.com/news/show/33020.html

  • ||

    But as it is you've got a very poor analogy!

    Why does no one seem to think Mad Max was just joking? Now I'm starting to doubt my own sanity.

    suggests [Brown] was a fanatical murderer bordering on insane...

    Fine line between firebrand and madman sometimes. I'd say whatsisface trhat killed Tiller definitely crossed over to "madman".

  • ||

    Mad Max @9:11 talkin' 'bout 9/11!

  • Mad Max||

    Art-P.O.G.,

    Yes, you guessed correctly.

    On this blog, one of the most sure-fire ways to get taken seriously is to be facetious.

    'OMG, how can you advocate eating Irish babies?'

  • Mad Max||

    Not that I am worthy of comparison with the great Dean Swift, of course. For one thing, I'm *much* more handsome.

  • ||

    On this blog, one of the most sure-fire ways to get taken seriously is to be facetious.

    Yeah...'course there're 3 or 4 semi-regulars on this board who I wish were joking but...I fear they're not...

    And, don't take this personally (sometimes I don't choose my words well), but Tony...sometimes you're all right, but other times I hope/wish you're lampooning a leftist.

  • ||

    Wouldn't the better analogy to the prolife movement and Tiller be the radical greens and the Unabomber?

  • Zeb||

    I am about as pro-legal-abortion as one can be, but I will say the pro-choice crowd needs to shut up about this (and the pro-life crowd just needs to shut up and mind their own business). One crazy person killing someone does not say anything about the state of the pro-life movement. There is no trend here, there is nothing to be learned. Just one bad person who did a bad thing.

  • ||

    One crazy person killing someone does not say anything about the state of the pro-life movement

    +1.

  • ||

    One crazy person killing someone does not say anything about the state of the pro-life movement.

    Very true, but as Our New Masters have pointed out, its a shame to let good crisis go to waste.

  • epexegetical hermeneuticist an||

    Why does no one seem to think Mad Max was just joking?



    epexegetical hermeneuticist anarch != no one.

    Harrumph.

  • bloodstar||

    All bets are off if there are cell phone records of him calling Operation Rescue During the last Week.

    Outlawing abortion won't save lives, it'll just mean more women die or are in the hospital from botched abortions. "According to Unicef, unsafe abortions cause 4 percent of deaths among pregnant women in Africa, 6 percent in Asia and 12 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean.

    "They just poke, poke, poke," he said. "And then the woman has to come here." Sometimes the doctors find fragments of sticks left inside the uterus, an invitation to sepsis."

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/02/health/02abort.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

    If you want to end abortion, solve unwanted pregnancies.

  • ||

    If you want to end abortion, solve unwanted pregnancies.

    How? Abstinence education doesn't work, sex education is omnipresent, contraceptives of all types could hardly be more freely available.

    There is no cure for stupid.

  • KT||

    The flipside of course, is that you can publicly call someone a murderer over and over again, and all it takes is one person in the movement to go crazy enough to actually pull the trigger. Then everyone else slinks away like "hey, I didn't say to kill the guy".

    Yeah, you just constantly called him a murderer for years on end. How else is that supposed to be "interpreted"?

    By the way, how come these people never seem to mention the mother in all this? Tiller wouldn't have had a practice in the first place if there weren't a demand for late-term abortions. But no, everything is the fault of the doctor.

  • JB||

    "There is no cure for stupid."

    Sure there is. 2 to the chest and 1 to the head.

    That tends to take care of a clump of cells.

  • ||

    "By the way, how come these people never seem to mention the mother in all this? Tiller wouldn't have had a practice in the first place if there weren't a demand for late-term abortions. But no, everything is the fault of the doctor."

    True. But no one but this nutjob wanted to kill the guy. You are right. Mothers who have late term abortions to keep from having a kid with downs are pretty gross.

  • Zeb||

    "Yeah, you just constantly called him a murderer for years on end. How else is that supposed to be "interpreted"?"

    Well, lots of actual murderers are called murderers all the time, yet most people will agree that the extra-judicial killing of a murderer is still both a crime and a bad thing to do.

  • Sean Scallon||

    "Pro-lifers like to style themselves the modern equivalent of the '60s civil rights movement"

    They sure do and their cause will suffer just all those 60's causes suffered because of violence and terrorism.

    Anarchy just doesn't sell in the U.S., never has, never will.

  • ||

    So KT, two questions for you.

    If you really believe that calling abortionists murder causes abortionists to be murdered, aren't you calling the callers murderers and won't you be causing them to be murdered? And what would we call you? And what would someone call me?

    Having said that, I agree with you. No one would have killed Tiller if he had been removing appendixes. So what is a pro-lifer to do? Stop calling it murder if that is what they think it is? You understand that though you disagree, millions (not just one or two) believe that Tiller was murdering persons. (Don't fall into the "it is legal" argument - that is as irrelevant as suggesting that Stalin wasn't a murderer)

    Do you want them to abandon reason and stop saying what they believe to be true?

  • Michael Ejercito||

    MADD has waged a campaign against drunk driving for over two decades.

    If someone murders a drunk driver, is MADD responsible?

  • runescape gold||

    thanks

  • rs gold||

    thank you

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