Saturday, October 23, 2010

How the right is wrong on Rachel Maddow's Steve Stockman comments

This Monday, Rachel Maddow began her show with a powerful segment about the extremism of the current crop of GOP candidates and made connections to the extremists last GOP "revolution" in 1994. She discussed the ties to the racists and extremists in the militia movement of two '94 legislators in particular:

Yes, this has happened to a smaller degree before. In 1994, in the first midterm election after the last Democrat president was elected, we got a slate of candidates that included Helen Chenoweth of Idaho, Steve Stockman of Texas. These two were so close to the militia movement in this country that Mr. Stockman actually received advance notice that the Oklahoma City bombing was going to happen.
It's hard to forget the crazy that was the late Helen Chenoweth, who was, with help from The X-Files, responsible for mainstreaming the black helicopter paranoia of the militia movement. Steve Stockman was not as flamboyant, but just as nuts. This Texas Monthly story (free registration required) contains many of the lowlights of Stockman's short congressional career. Stockman was the author of a manifesto published in Guns and Ammo declaring Bill Clinton and Janet Reno murderers and that the Waco siege was staged to push an assault weapons ban. (This kind of conspiracy theory is echoed in the current right-wing claim that the BP oil spill was staged by environmentalists.) He claimed a secret operation at Fort Bliss spied on the militia movement. He got into a public tussle with the mother of a murder victim when he wanted to use his name for an anti-gun control bill. He called for a government investigation of the Kinsey Report, 47 years after its publication. The Texas Monthly estimated he generated an ethics investigation once every two months. When asked about his interest in ceramics, he replied "don't say that or they'll think I'm a fag for sure. '' Thankfully, Stockman was sent home after a single term.

It was for the honor of this distinguished legislator that the right-wing blogosphere sprung into action after Maddow's report. Stockman is most notorious for receiving a fax notification the day of the Oklahoma City bombing. Unfortunately, Maddow was either the victim of a misstatement or sloppy research as Stockman didn't receive the fax until after the bombing. To her credit, Maddow issued a prominent correction during her show on Wednesday.

On Monday, I said that Mr. Stockman's notice from the militia movement about the Oklahoma City bombing was advance notice. It wasn't in advance, it was right after the bombing. I apologize for the misstatement. It was an editing error and it was mine alone.
Still, the right-wingers were unforgiving. The trolls at Newsbusters claimed that Maddow implied "Stockman consigned 168 innocent people to death". Reason accused her of "mistakenly accusing someone of being an accessory to the worst act of domestic terrorism in this country's history". And most over the top, according to Outside the Beltway, she knew she was making a false claim on Monday because she gave the correct information about the Stockman fax in an earlier broadcast in March, the same broadcast she cited in on Wednesday in the above clip.

I don't get it. I know that as a liberal, I'm inclined to give Maddow the benefit of the doubt, but I can't come up with a reasonable interpretation of her comments that would make any of the above statements accurate. There seems to me a clear difference between, to take a recent turn of phrase, palling around with domestic terrorists and being directly involved in an act of domestic terrorism. Even Maddow's most thick-headed critics know this, but only the wildest extrapolation of her remarks would place Stockman in the latter camp. And if Maddow was doing this - purposely according to OTB - why was she so subtle about it? Wouldn't it drive home her thesis even more to play up Stockman's supposed involvement? Why make such a dramatic accusation in passing and then immediately drop it?

The conspiracy theory is too tempting to pass on, but to reasonable people who have no axe to grind and don't have a need to cram Maddow into the paradigm of a partisan crank, it seems much more plausible that this was simply an error, that they were correct in March but sometime in the last ten months the busy staff and host of a daily commentary show forgot the details of a 15 year old incident involving an obscure one-term congressman.

This (feigned?) outrage about Stockman's lack of responsibility for the Oklahoma City bombing allows Maddow's critics to ignore what Stockman was actually responsible for: peddling conspiracy theories and contributing to an atmosphere of paranoia and hate. If anyone in Congress got a fax from Bill Ayers at any time in the last half-century, those same critics of Maddow would be absolutely outraged. But the terrorists who killed 168 people felt that Stockman was such a kindred spirit that they singled him out for notification, and Maddow's critics think that's just Stockman standing up for the heartland.

No comments:

Post a Comment