It's been almost two years since George Tiller, who was one of the country's few providers of later-term abortions, was gunned down in his church in Wichita, Kan. His brutal murder was followed by a heated national debate over who and what was responsible for it. Tiller's killer, Scott Roeder, was a diagnosed schizophrenic who appears to have acted alone. But anti-abortion activists and several prominent commentators -- most notably Fox News host Bill O'Reilly -- had spent years issuing heated attacks on Tiller for his work. Did their emotionally charged rhetoric -- O'Reilly would ridicule the doctor as "Tiller the baby killer" -- create a climate conducive to Roeder's action?
In his new book, "The Wichita Divide: The Murder of Dr. George Tiller and the Battle Over Abortion," crime journalist Stephen Singular explores these issues -- and concludes that Tiller's murder can only be understood within the context of right-wing extremism that has become increasingly mainstream. We caught up with him earlier this week:
You've been reporting on right-wing extremist activity since 1987, when you looked into the 1984 murder of talk radio host Alan Berg. How has it changed in the past 25 years?
You know, when I wrote about Alan Berg, I was writing about some very marginalized people. These were a bunch of white guys without jobs, and no money and no prospects and nothing going on; some had been to prison.
Now, [when we talk about the persecution of George Tiller,] we're talking about the attorney general of the state of Kansas. Now we're talking about some of the most successful figures in the American media -- we're talking about multimillionaires who get paid to demonize people on national television, who get paid millions and millions of dollars to tell people [that] Tiller['s] the Baby Killer, who get paid to deny all the complexities we're talking about, it's not just. It's an entire society that's said, "Hey, we're going to reward this kind of behavior."
And that filters down. It affects everything. It's an emotional atmosphere, and it not only affects the general culture -- think about the people who are at risk in that culture, emotionally, psychologically...
Revisiting the murder of Dr. George Tiller
Sunday, Apr 17, 2011