How Responsible is the (Pro-Life or Black Lives Matter) Movement for (the Planned Parenthood Shooting or Cop Killings)?

Using criminal actions to discredit broader movements is toxic, and will probably be used against you too.



Since last year, when the Black Lives Matter police reform movement first coalesced, it has been blamed by police apologists and critics of the movement for a number of police killings. Critics argued the reform movement created a hostile environment for cops—one that leads to violence against them.

"Black lives matter is a murder movement," the refrain goes. Last month, Chris Christie one-upped the rhetoric by claiming President Obama was encouraging "lawlessness" and not supporting law enforcement officials. Not true.

This weekend, after a gunman walked into a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado to kill people and take hostages, the president specifically singled out the killing of a police officer as a tragedy.

Many supporters of Planned Parenthood, meanwhile, began to advance the argument that the political attacks on Planned Parenthood were in part responsible for the actions of the gunmen, whose motives and affiliations are still largely unclear.

The president of Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains, for example, said a "negative environment" around Planned Parenthood contributed to the attack.

Others don't just blame pro-lifers, but all Christians (even though, obviously, not all pro-lifers are Christians and not all Christians are pro-life, but hey, it's ok for people of conscience to stereotype sometimes right?). "Is Political Rhetoric Inciting Christians to Violence?" Huffington Post asks, surely a line of questioning neoconservatives can learn from to attempt to connect Islamist terrorism to domestic anti-war causes.

Another blogger at Huffington Post declared that the "use of the word 'murder' is incendiary, inciting to violence, and it must end." Were you not previously aware of the ideological commitments that would link a pro-choice position with a pro-Black Lives Matter one, that argument might sound like the one police unions have used against filmmaker Quentin Tarantino for daring to suggest cops who kill people are murderers.

Of course the cops disagree, as do abortion rights activists about abortion. Neither of those groups, however, are entitled to any kind of monopoly on the definitions of the terms they use. Similarly, supporters of the U.S. drone war object to the use of the word "murder" to describe the killing of people from flying death machines. I'm waiting for the day the pro-war side accuses me of inciting Islamist terrorism because I've expressed concern about the U.S. murdering Muslims around the world.

Comments from Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, a fierce critic of Planned Parenthood, are particularly astonishing for their lack of self-awareness. "So what I would say to anyone who tries to link this terrible tragedy to anyone who opposes abortion or opposes the sale of body parts is, this is typical left-wing tactics," Fiorina told Fox News Sunday. It may be a left-wing tactic at the moment, but it's not a tactic exclusive to it. It was a right-wing tactic when it was about linking the terrible tragedy of the murder of police officers to anyone who opposes police brutality or supports police reforms.

This is insane on both sides. Anti-abortion people who have accused Black Lives Matter of inciting violence against cops (tragically a lot of overlap with these two groups because most people decide their politics based on partisanship, not principles) should consider how they feel being blamed for a murder because of the rhetoric they deploy about an issue they deeply care about and whether that kind of blame makes any more sense when they're on the accusatory and not receiving end of it.

Similarly, people sympathetic to Black Lives Matter who have spent this weekend blaming all pro-lifers, or all Christians, or whatever broader cohort, for inciting violence against Planned Parenthood (also, tragically, a lot of overlap) should consider how substantively similar their arguments and attempts to blame an entire political movement for the actions of one murderer are to the arguments anti-Black Lives Matter people use to blame that entire movement for the actions of one murderer.

And both sides should consider how they've contributed to the unfair attacks against them by deploying such attacks against their own enemies when it suited their political arguments.