Sunday, January 9, 2011

Monday Media Rant: Tucson

Sarah Palin did not cause this. Nor did Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Boeck, Keith Olbermann, or Rachel Maddow. Fox News and MSNBC are not to blame. Nor is Ann Coulter. Vicki McKenna and Sly are not to blame.

That said, all the aforementioned, and the whole lot of political talkers, tweeters, and bloggers need to have a few big helpings of STFU for starters, and then carefully consider the content of their public communications.

The young man who did this is probably insane.

Don't "try to make sense of this", as the popular have attempted since Saturday afternoon. It's not about "sense."

It's a tragedy.

Thoughts and prayers for the families of the victims.


  1. David Wynn Miller of Milwaukee fame has an interesting local connection to the Jared Loughner shooting spree and to S. Palin and the StormFront disciples of her little church in Wasilla, don’t be surprised if inquiring minds want to know.

  2. Just a bit more...

  3. In 1170, England's King Henry II, expressing frustration with Archbishop Thomas Becket, lamented "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" The feeling at the time was that Henry’s words played a role in the murder of Becket inside Canterbury Cathedral by four of Henry's knights.

    Words have consequences.

    When Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck, speaking to millions from their electronic pulpits, suggest beheading journalists or shooting government officials, do they not at some level encourage, or even legitimize, such violence?

    If you are counting coup, you will soon discover that, far and away, most of that sort of talk is coming from the political right.

    When an elected official advises voters to be "armed and dangerous," do we not invite, or even endorse, just such behavior? The ascendant GOP representative from Minnesota, Michele Bachman issued such a call.

    When a prominent political figure (let's say, Sarah Palin) puts gun sight crosshairs over Gabrielle Giffords' name on her various Web sites and Facebook pages, and urges "patriotic Americans" to "take back" Mrs. Giffords' congressional district, are we to be astonished when someone tries to do just that?

    When a candidate for the Senate, call her Sharron Angle repeatedly talks about using "Second Amendment remedies" and "taking out" her opponent, is she just being harmlessly colorful?

    We have seen what happens when we demonize illegal immigrants (a problem largely of our own making), then wink when - wholly predictably - heavily armed vigilantes take the law into their own hands.

    It may be that Jared Loughner, the alleged shooter in the Arizona massacre, is mentally ill, but that does not, ipso facto, mean the thoughts that led to his actions were formed in a vacuum, uninfluenced by the toxic rhetoric that pervades our country.

    Using the public airwaves to call for visiting harm on particular individuals, or distributing literature to that effect, is not idle chatter. It is incitement to violence.

    “The act of persuading, encouraging, instigating, pressuring, or threatening so as to cause another to commit a crime” is itself a crime that has been embodied in Common Law for centuries. Incitement is a crime because words can, and often do, result in actions.

    When politically moderate efforts to improve the nation's health care laws result in widespread calls for armed rebellion, those raising the call are playing with fire. It is as dangerous as our being tolerant, even deferential to people who ostentatiously bring firearms to political events.

    The public political responses to the murders in Tucson have characterized the incident as "a terrible tragedy." The statement, while true, but nowhere near good enough to justify letting the inciters off the hook. The willingness of some to write this dangerous language off as mere incivility encourages a level of tolerance that only emboldens the purveyors.

    It does not matter that the corrosively violent language is oftentimes a tool to gain attention or audience share. Are we really ready to give the voices of the hate machine total absolution for their role in encouraging sociopathic behavior?

    The talk isn’t going to be toned down until the consequences for the hate mongers outweigh the rewards of their provocations.

  4. If they were really that indispensable, there would be a way for them to turn the washing machine off by themselves.