The Tide Is High

Henry K. Lee at San Francisco Gate:

Convicted felon Byron Williams loaded up his mother’s Toyota Tundra with guns, strapped on his body armor and headed to San Francisco late Saturday night with one thing in mind: to kill workers at the American Civil Liberties Union and an environmental foundation, prosecutors say.

Williams, an anti-government zealot on parole for bank robbery, had hoped to “start a revolution” with the bloodshed at the ACLU and the Tides Foundation in San Francisco, authorities said.

But before he made it to the city, Williams was stopped at early Sunday by California Highway Patrol officers for speeding and driving erratically on westbound Interstate 580 west of Grand Avenue in Oakland.

Police say he then initiated a chaotic, 12-minute gunbattle with officers, firing a 9mm handgun, a .308-caliber rifle and a shotgun. He reloaded his weapons when he ran out of ammunition and stopped only after officers shot him in areas of his body not covered by his bullet-resistant vest, authorities said.

Jillian Rayfield at Talking Points Memo:

The Tides Foundation, which prosecutors in California say was among the targets of the anti-government unemployed carpenter Byron Williams before he got into a chaotic shootout with several law enforcement officers Sunday, is also a favorite topic of Fox News host Glenn Beck.

Beginning in 2009 (and as recently as last week), Beck has repeatedly included the group — along with ACORN, the SEIU and George Soros — in his cabal of liberals and liberal organizations that are supposedly agents of President Obama’s plan to spread Marxist and socialist ideas throughout the United States.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that Beck necessarily inspired or influenced Williams’ alleged plan to attack the Tides Foundation. But the group has been something of a whipping boy for Beck over the last year.

Oliver Willis

Teddy Partridge at Firedoglake:

The Tides Center, located at the Presidio, is essentially an aggregator of wealthy heirs’ money, who want to do good but would rather not be bothered doing the due diligence responsible philanthropy requires nowadays. They do that homework, and meet their donors’ overall goals without bothering them with the specifics of each beneficiary’s every operation.

They also provide spectacular conference center space — I attended great day-long team-building exercises when working for a non-profit San Francisco AIDS service organization, thanks to a colleague’s wife who worked at Tides — with quiet and peaceful views of the Golden Gate bridge. Contemplative, dedicated to social justice, low-profile, but essentially a capacity-building, incubator-providing, infrastructure-enabling clearing house for do-good inherited wealth: here’s Tides’ mission statement, from their website.

Our mission is to partner with philanthropists, foundations, activists, and organizations across the country and across the globe to promote economic justice, robust democratic processes, and the opportunity to live in a healthy and sustainable environment where human rights are preserved and protected.

Scary, right?

Michael Wolraich:

Why did Williams target a little-known non-profit in order to incite a revolution? Just ask Fox News…

Of course, the good folks of Fox News don’t want violence. Glenn Beck, for example, has admonished his audience, “If you ever hear someone thinking about or talking about turning violent, it is your patriotic duty to stop them. The only way to save our republic is to remain peaceful–forceful but peaceful.”

Beck has also denied that his dire prophesies of communist revolution and totalitarian oppression encourage violence. Comparing himself to a flight attendant, he explained:

Blaming TV or radio hosts for the nutjob who killed three Pittsburgh police officers over the weekend is like blaming a flight attendant after a terrorist takes down a plane. In other words: Giving passengers a safety talk to prepare them for a worst-case scenario doesn’t mean you are responsible should a terrorist make that worst-case scenario happen. One person is providing important information. The other is a nutjob who would’ve acted no matter what.

Beck’s analogy isn’t quite right, however. He hasn’t been calmly telling the passengers where to find their life jackets and thanking them for flying with Fox News. He has been hysterically shouting, “THE PILOT IS TRYING TO CRASH THE PLANE! WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!” For example, here is a “safety talk” that Beck delivered to his Fox News passengers a few months after he invoked the flight attendant defense:

I told you yesterday buckle up your seatbelt, America. Find the exit. There’s one here, here and here. Find the exit closest to you and prepare for a crash-landing because this plane is coming down because the pilot is intentionally steering it into the trees…They are taking you to a place to be slaughtered.

That’s some safety talk. A safety talk like that might lead some passengers to do more than just buckle their seat belts. It might even lead some “nutjob” to shout, “Let’s roll!” and rush the cockpit.

Justin Elliott at Salon:

Here’s what Beck said about Tides on July 13, five days before the shooting:

Well, they [progressives] have the education system. They have the media. They have the capitalist system. What do you think the Tides Foundation was? They infiltrate and they saw under Ronald Reagan that capitalists were not for all of this nonsense, so they infiltrated.

Here’s another typical Tides diversion from Beck’s April 27 show, in which the foundation served as a link in a chain connecting the White House and domestic terrorists:

The Joyce Foundation, which gives money to the Tides Foundation — John Ayers, the brother of Bill Ayers, Wade Rathke. On the board between ’03 and ’08 was Valerie Jarrett. She is in the White House now. She was also with the Fed in Chicago at the same time she was on this board.

Tides spokeswoman Christine Coleman told Salon that “after comments [about Tides] on Glenn Beck, similar things pop up on the right-wing blogosphere.” So clearly there is an echo-chamber effect here, with Beck the driving force.

No one’s saying that Beck is advocating violence or that anyone who watches Fox will be whipped up into a frenzy to hunt out left-wingers. But there’s a real possibility that Williams heard about Tides on Beck’s show.

A spokesman for Beck declined to comment on the Williams case.

Steve Benen:

Remarkably, no one was killed, though Williams was firing a rifle with ammunition that “could penetrate ballistic body armor and vehicles, police said.” He was in court yesterday, and will face all kinds of criminal charges, including the attempted murder of four police officers.

But stepping back, every time there’s violence like this, I’m reminded of the concerns raised by the Department of Homeland Security last year, about potentially violent anti-government extremists — concerns that appear increasingly prescient.

These examples of politically-motivated attacks seem to keep piling up. Just this year, John Patrick Bedell opened fire at the Pentagon; Joe Stack flew an airplane into a building; Jerry Kane Jr. and his son killed two police officers in Arkansas; and the Hutaree Militia terrorist plot was uncovered. Last year, James von Brunn opened fire at the Holocaust memorial museum; Richard Poplawski gunned down three police officers in Pittsburgh, in part because he feared the non-existent “Obama gun ban”; and Dr. George Tiller was assassinated. In 2008, Jim David Adkisson opened fire in a Unitarian church in Tennessee, in part because of his “hatred of the liberal movement.”

Let there be no doubt: deranged madmen are responsible for their own violent actions. But in the wake of these attacks, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to wish that some of the leading far-right voices would lower the rhetorical temperature a bit, helping to cool the tempers of those who might be inclined to hurt others.

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