A few minutes into his latest weekly infomercial on WNZF, Joe Mullins, the Flagler County commissioner, called for the beheading of liberals.
Mullins has previously called for shipping off liberals on trains, an allusion to the genocide of Jews. He’s vilified women for their weight, their looks, their behavior. He’s demeaned members of the LGBTQ community. He routinely uses anti-Semitic imagery made infamous by Nazis to portray people he doesn’t like. (With obsessive regularity, he photoshops my head on the body of a cockroach–an old Nazi trope and the same imagery Hutus used in the run-up to the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda–or makes it look like a virus while smearing my citizenship with racist allusions to my Arab ancestry).
He is openly insulting even in public forums, as he was to fellow-commissioners during a meeting in September and at a 9/11 event. He previously and privately threatened one commissioner enough that the commissioner called the sheriff. Mullins’s two allies on the commission have inexcusably and on three occasions refused to censure him, downplaying his impunity and emboldening him instead. We shouldn’t be surprised that, like a creature proudly confusing feces for trophies, he’s again not disappointing them.
But calling for the decapitation of liberals isn’t just a new low for an individual stoned on bigotry and hate. This is an incitement to violence. It is an explicit wish to see liberals murdered. And it took place on the air, broadcast by our county’s only local radio network, after he posted a video of the 22-minute infomercial on his social media page. He has since taken it down, or Facebook removed it.
David Ayres, general manager at WNZF’s Flagler Broadcasting, was not aware of the statement even after it aired Saturday morning. You can’t fault him for not reviewing every minute of every infomercial that airs on the station, let alone a narcissist’s weekly onanism into the void. “I’m stunned actually, and no I didn’t hear it,” Ayres said at first, after I read him the excerpt below. After hearing the infomercial in full an hour later, Ayres stunned me when he texted: “From an FCC perspective it was clearly his opinion and freedom of speech. That’s why we have disclaimers saying comments and opinions of the talk show hosts and guests are not those of Flagler Broadcasting. That’s talk radio.”
No, that’s not talk radio. It’s complicity in the unconscionable. No responsible newspaper, news site or radio station would allow anyone under any circumstance to call for the killing of law-abiding fellow-citizens. (As of this writing, the podcast had not yet appeared on WNZF’s website, as all local infomercials usually do. Late Sunday morning Ayers said he will not post the podcast.)
Sen. Tom Cotton had the right to his opinion in that abominable OpEd the New York Times published in June, when Cotton called for authoritarian-style use of troops and mass arrests of “rioters,” and the Times had every right to run it. But the Times failed its own standards, readers and staff by publishing an incendiary, error-filled and bigoted piece with such poor editing. (“The editing process was rushed and flawed, and senior editors were not sufficiently involved,” The Times conceded.)
There is no way to parse Mullins’s words or the snide chuckle that accompanied it. This wasn’t a joke. It was in line with a two-year context of similarly amoral language from a man who, ironically, can hardly speak three phrases without invoking God or himself, or confusing the two. His latest infomercial was a year-end review of “the good, the bad and the ugly,” and some stale fabrications about Trump’s “fraudulent” defeat. He is sponsoring busloads of delusions heading to Washington (“I’m just excited to represent Flagler, to be able to go with these guys,” he said on his Facebook page) to contest an election 81.3 million Americans have decided, every state has certified, and 59 legal decisions have reaffirmed, including one from the Trump-packed Supreme Court.
He was about three minutes into his aria to alternative facts when he lamented the April shut-down of the economy and subsequent restrictions. That’s when he came up with his string of barbaric analogies and his death wish for liberals. Here’s the full statement in context (you can hear it here):
“Lives are important. I will never disagree with that. But at the end of the day you cannot have the cure, and we’ve said this many times, worse than the disease, and to kill your economy, to kill your income stream, to kill your avenue of being able to pay bills is just way too [inaudible]. That’s not the solution we can find. I mean, you know, if you think about it, if you get cancer in your arm, is it worth going and having your arm cut off? What do you do if you get it in your head? I mean there are some liberals I’d like to see their heads cut off, you know, they couldn’t do that thinking crazy thing they do. But what do you do? So you really, is that a solution? Killing the economy was probably one of the worst mistakes that we have made as a country.” (A Wahhabist by inclination, Mullins’s affinities for certain regimes should not surprise anyone: the only country that still cuts off people’s heads is Saudi Arabia.)
No, calling for the killing of liberals is not “free speech” by any standard, let alone the FCC’s or that of federal courts. Vox has documented five years’ worth of incitement to or encouragement of hate groups and violence by Trump, but nothing anywhere near as explicit as this. Search all you want: even extremists, particularly extremists who happen to be public officials, know better than to call for the death of political opponents. It happens rarely, and when it happens the consequences are swift.
In 2009 a three-judge panel of federal judges ruled against the challenge to the handgun ban in Chicago. Hal Turner, a New Jersey conservative radio jock, wrote in his blog, thinking that he was echoing Thomas Jefferson when he was merely perverting him, that “those judges deserve to be killed. Their blood will replenish the tree of liberty; a small price to pay to assure freedom for millions.” Turner was tried and sentenced to 33 months in prison, because when there’s any room for normalizing calls for killing of people you disagree with, the bullets are not always far from the chamber. Ask Gabby Giffords.
This week even Trump administration officials distanced themselves from Lin Wood, the lawyer and Trump ally who tweeted that Vice President Mike Pence should be executed by firing squad. A few weeks ago when the police chief of a tiny Arkansas town posted “Death to all Marxist Democrats” on social media, along with hopes that the likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton “hang on the gallows,” he was forced to resign. That’s in a solitary village in the Ozarks.
In Flagler, it’s indulgence and pandering for its elected barbarian–again and again and again, because his money buys complicity, it buys political allies, and in a county big on bombastic pieties and short on principles, it buys media, no matter how far he goes to cajole brutality, incite hatred, and now murder.
This is your county commissioner, Flagler. This is who you elect, who you enable, who you excuse. This is who you are.