Death Threats Against Barack Obama: Is Racism A Contributing Factor?

The news that Facebook had someone, who was a subscriber, set up a poll on whether President Obama should be killed, is a danger sign of how far we have gone in an irresponsible way in our public rhetoric, and radio talk show hosts share a great amount of responsibility for this by inciting people with hateful, extremist language which provokes unstable people to the point that we have this outrageous development.

Of course, many will say that every President faces bitter attacks and has death threats, but we now know that the threats against the life of President Obama are 400 percent greater than against President Bush. This is occurring while Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and their ilk call Obama a “racist”, “fascist”, “communist”, “socialist”, “muslim”, “terrorist”, and a Kenyan, not born in the United States.

Many would say there is no racism involved, but one has to differ, and say it is obvious that at least 30 percent of the nation, heavily Southern but not solely so, is unable to accept Obama because he is African American. Of course, Obama is not going to say this, but former President Jimmy Carter was correct in his assessment, as much as many people wanted to deny it and attack him for saying it.

This is a difficult time, with the highest unemployment numbers since the Great Depression, high numbers of foreclosures, more people in desperate circumstances than we have seen in seventy years, but it is not a justifiable reason for such a dramatic increase in death threats, unless one is willing to look in the mirror and admit that racism is the major factor.

Change is always scary and certainly contributes to a sense of insecurity that can create unrest. Certainly, also, African Americans can be as racist as whites can. No one is trying to say that whites are unique in their reactions, but in this case, with an African American President in office, and the obvious growth of websites attacking Obama, joined with the right wing media attacks being the worst they have ever been, we have to say that the point is being reached where freedom of speech is reaching a point of “drawing a line in the sand”.

The Schenck V US case of 1919 set up the idea of limits on freedom of speech–that one does not have the right to shout “fire in a crowded theatre and endanger others”, therefore–that if speech presents a “clear and present danger to others”, it can be prosecuted.

The incendiary talk show hosts have caused a lot of this problem, and Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and their ilk will have blood on their hands if violence, god forbid, ensues against President Obama. It is time to tone down the rhetoric, gentlemen, and respect the office, if not the man, in the Presidency, and tell your listeners that it is time to desist from the promotion of hate and racism!

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