Jim Lee Dykes, 65, gunned down a 66-year-old bus driver named Charles Albert Poland Jr. and abducted a 5-year-old boy he’s still holding hostage in his bunker on his Alabama property. The Vietnam-era veteran is described as someone who listened to conservative radio and didn’t like government, starting with Obama.
The AP reported:
Michael Creel said Dykes kept to himself and listened to a lot of conservative talk radio.
“He was very into what’s going on with the nation and the politics and all the laws being made. The things he didn’t agree with, he would ventilate,” he said.
James Arrington, police chief of the neighboring town of Pinckard, put it differently.
“He’s against the government, starting with Obama on down,” he said.
Dykes also has been arrested for possession of marijuana and neighbors say he once killed a dog with a lead pipe. According to neighbors, he patrols his yard with a flashlight and a firearm, threatening to shoot children who step foot on his property.
Ironically, given his hatred of government, Dykes lives in a FEMA trailer on his rural property.
“I think he’s just a really angry and bitter guy with some anger management issues,” Morris Dees of Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery told the AP. “He is just against everything – the government and his neighbors.”
Against everything. That pretty much sums up the anti-government, Obama hating, conservative mantra.
While it’s certainly unfair to paint everyone who listens to talk radio with the same brush, it also can’t be ignored that this scenario is far from isolated. Far too often, we’re finding violent criminals who listen to conservative radio, which deliberately feeds into their paranoia and anger in order to make a profit.
A new report by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center determined that violent attacks by right-wing groups and individuals have increased by 400% since 1990, and increased dramatically in the last five years. They write, “There are three major ideological movements within the American violent far right: a racist/white supremacy movement, an anti-federalist movement and a fundamentalist movement.”
The study also finds a correlation between a contentious political environment and ideological empowerment (another service of the epistemic closure inherent in the right wing media bubble) with increasing levels of violence.
While the shock jocks make money off of scaring their base with malignant seeds of hate, they’re also scaring mentally ill people and reinforcing their sense of helplessness and hopelessness — both of which can drive people on the edge into taking action on their feelings (nothing left to lose).
Conservative talk radio isn’t responsible for the murder Dyke committed or the kidnapping of an innocent 5-year-old boy, but it’s long past the time for conservative shock jocks to have a come to Jesus moment where they do the civilized thing of questioning if they are taking things too far.
The question should be asked, if this is not their intention, then why not tone it down a notch? If they don’t mean to frighten their listeners into believing that an evil man is running the government and coming for them, then why preach that very message day after day. If they don’t mean for half of the people targeted by their rhetoric to get death threats, then why do they continue on the same path and expect different results?
Yes, they are free to say whatever they want. And that’s what children do – they say whatever they want. Grown ups consider the consequences, even if they have a right to do something. Having the right to indoctrinate vulnerable people with hate does not absolve the speaker from his or her moral and ethical responsibilities to society. Preaching terror day after day to vulnerable people has consequences.
Update 5:35 PM: MSNBC is reporting that the stand off is over, the young boy is thankfully okay and the suspect is dead.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.