I complained in my previous post about the automatic assumption that the shooter was a disgruntled right-winger, fired up on tea party rhetoric. I thought it was more likely the shooter was connected to the Arizona immigration debacle, or a member of some Mexican drug cartel.
As it turns out, we were both wrong. The shooter was 22-year-old white kid from Arizona with a recent history of making "delusional rants and harrowing warnings" (according to the Associated Press) that he'd even recorded on YouTube.
But one thing I wasn't wrong about - and the others were - is that he had no connection to the tea party, didn't follow Sarah Palin and was, by all accounts, just a random nut job rather than a fired up right-winger taking Palin's suggestion of 'targeting' Democratic politicians literally. In fact, this kid was actually a registered Democrat himself.
That hasn't stopped them stepping up to battle the so-called 'violent rhetoric' of these politicians. One top article is by a scholar at the University of Colorado, Gary Hart. You can read it here.
Since it summarizes pretty much everything that's wrong with the tack people have taken today about the Arizona shootings, I thought I'd dismantle it piece by piece.
Gary opens with this:
"Gradually, over time, political rhetoric used by politicians and the media has become more inflamatory."Firstly, it's 'inflammatory' [you're not really in a position to criticize people's spelling, are you? - Kitty Copy Editor]. Secondly, it's absolutely rubbish. Clearly whatever Gary Hart is a scholar of up in U of C, it's not American history. [Actually, he's the author of Restoration of the Republic: The Jeffersonian Ideal in 21st-Century America, so you might be wrong there. - Editorial Bear]
I recently finished reading Oxford University's awesome The Glorious Cause, by Robert Middlekauff, which outlines some of the pre-revolutionary politicking between the Loyalists and those who would later become Revolutionaries.
Newspapers, pamphlets and flyers from those days actively incited rioting and mobs, and it wasn't uncommon for servants of the crown to be beaten, hung, tarred and feathered or even killed by those angry with their policies. Sometimes, riled up with beer and rum, they'd march a mob over their political opponent's house and simply smash it to the ground.
After the revolution, it's worth remembering that politicians frequently dealt with their political opponents with the business end of a flintlock pistol. Alexander Hamilton killed political rival Aaron Burr on the banks of the Hudson because of some testy letters in the Albany Register.
In fact, to claim that today's political shtick is more inflammatory than it used to be reveals an astonishing lack of perspective regarding the history and heritage of American politics.
But let's move on:
"The degree to which violent words and phrases are considered commonplace is striking... ...Today we have seen the results of this rhetoric."Except we haven't.
With this statement, Gary Hart is trying to insinuate that the gunman who killed six people at today's rally was inspired by the so-called violent words and phrases used by politicians like Sarah Palin.
Whether or not her words truly are 'violent' is debatable enough, but now we know a little more about the gunman, it's more than likely that he didn't even listen to any of them.
This kid was registered as a Democrat, and claimed his favorite books were Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto, and he made a video of himself burning an American flag. He doesn't sound like the sort of kook who tunes into The Glenn Beck Show or Sarah Palin's Alaska - which means you can't blame them for stirring him up.
"Those with a megaphone, whether provided by public office or a media outlet, have responsibilities. They cannot avoid the consequences of their blatant efforts to inflame, anger, and outrage. We all know that there are unstable and potentially dangerous people among us. To repeatedly appeal to their basest instincts is to invite and welcome their predictable violence."This is the part of Gary's bullshit that really annoys me.
The fact is, nobody rational looks at Sarah Palin's crosshairs map and thinks: "This is a list of politicians who must be assassinated."
They realize that Palin only wants them 'targeted' and 'eliminated' through the ballot box - not in real life. This is because there's a general rule of thumb in life which states: "Most people aren't f**king morons."
And if there are people who get confused about what Sarah's asking them to do - and note that we haven't seen any yet, and the Arizona shooter certainly wasn't one of them - you have to argue that this is their problem, not ours.
I think it's ridiculous for lefties like Gary Hart to suggest that politicians should moderate their language based on the hypothetical premise that a single lunatic might misinterpret it and commit violence as a result.
That's far more likely to happen as a result of watching a violent movie or video game - both things I'm willing to assume a liberal academic like Hart would vehemently defend as 'free expression.'
Finally, Gary Hart wraps up with this:
"So long as we all tolerate this kind of irresponsible and dangerous rhetoric or, in the case of some commentators, treat it with delight, reward it, and consider it cute, so long will we place all those in public life, whom the provocateurs dislike, in the crosshairs of danger."Firstly, I'd like to introduce Gary to a little friend of mine: The Period. 49 word sentences are not acceptable from somebody who claims to be an scholar - you're not Cormac McCarthy.
Secondly - stop being an idiot.
There's a little thing the left wing and Democrats don't seem to understand the concept of and that's personal responsibility.
If some gun-toting jackass shoots down a politician because he's fired up on tea party rhetoric, that's not the fault of the tea party - it's the fault of the idiot who pulled the trigger. Blaming an individual's actions on somebody else's words is basically absolving them of guilt for the crime they committed - like blaming the bartender for pouring you too many drinks when you get arrested for drink driving.
Besides, let's get real here. Sarah Palin and crew aren't afraid to use fightin' words, but they've never advocated violence against anybody. Compared, in fact, to politicians of the past they're practically milquetoast.
Today's tragedy raised many questions - regarding gun control, the care and diagnosis of the mentally ill and what protection representatives in office might require. However, talking about Sarah Palin and the tea party is a red herring - it had nothing to do with what occurred today and trying to make any link between the two events is utterly misleading.