David Thompson
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January 11, 2011

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rjmadden

"rage is encoded in conservative DNA"

Tomasky is shameless. Blood libel and double standards won't cost him his job though. At the Guardian they're treated as qualifications.

carbon based lifeform

"He went to considerable expense and trouble to shoot a high-profile Democrat... What else does one need to know?"

So a psycho left winger shoots a Democrat and Tomasky blames 'right-wing' rhetoric. Tha man's a genius.

David

“So a psycho left winger shoots a Democrat and the left blames ‘right-wing’ rhetoric.”

The key factor is, I suspect, the man’s mental illness rather than his politics, which seem at best incoherent and conspiracy-driven. But it is remarkable just how readily some on the left have tried to assign culpability to People They’ve Never Liked Anyway – and who apparently have violence encoded in their bones. In other circumstances, such blathering would be laughable. And then there are people who hope to outlaw words and symbols that could be perceived as threatening, even when they aren’t, by people so inclined and with agendas of their own.

TDK

Presumably the fact that the Daily Kos published an article titled "My CongressWOMAN voted against Nancy Pelosi! And is now DEAD to me!" two days before the shooting had no effect on the killer.

This link also shows the Democrat target map that explicitly shows Giffords as a target
http://hillbuzz.org/2011/01/08/my-congresswoman-voted-against-nancy-pelosi-and-is-now-dead-to-me-eerie-daily-kos-hit-piece-on-gabrielle-giffords-just-two-days-before-assassination-attempt-on-her/

TDK

Also Climate Resistance do a good post on the Guardian's Damien Carrington

http://www.climate-resistance.org/2011/01/the-immoderate-moderator-comment-is-not-free.html

David

TDK,

Thanks for that. Point well made.

TDK

Bishop Hill

http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2011/1/10/damian-on-lunatics.html

sackcloth and ashes

I think it's fair to point out that some of the rhetoric coming from the Tea Party/Beck/Limbaugh posse has been positively deranged. And Palin has pandered to this sentiment shamelessly (remember the 'death panels'?).

That doesn't mean that she has incited murder, but she has been extremely irresponsible in her rhetoric. Not that this is purely a conservative flaw.

TDK

re: Death Panels

Health care needs are virtually infinite, whereas the resources to meet the needs are limited. Ipso facto health care will be rationed. There are many options to achieve but we'll highlight only two:
1. Ration by ability to pay
2. Ration by bureaucrat committee according to some scale (eg. QALY)

No country's health care is based entirely on only one of these - there is a mix. (The US system is biased towards 1, the UK's towards 2.)

In the UK, people who smoke are in some areas refused operations that could extend their life. The committee that met and agreed to deny such health care (and instead direct the resources elsewhere) inevitably caused the earlier death of some people. Similar facts can be elicited for the overweight or for people who live in the wring area. For example, I have to go private to check for a particular heart problem, whereas my relatives in other parts of the country can be checked for free.

Therefore the facts of rationing are established. It is merely the name of the committee that is in dispute.

In the health debates in the US (and the UK for that matter) conservative opponents of state health care are routinely described as wicked, heartless, condemning the poor to die etc etc etc. ie there is no shortage of "positively deranged" rhetoric coming from proponents of state rationing of health care. I note that you selectively condemn only half the overheated political rhetoric ("death panel"). Without the full picture it is hard to understand why such rhetoric is deployed.

I would suggest that in a political debate, requiring that the terminology should be fixed by one side is illogical and invariably partisan.

Bob-B

I don't recall the Guardian objecting to the film which depicted the assassination of George W Bush:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_a_President_(2006_film)

sackcloth and ashes

TDK, I did point out that the right did not have a monopoly on wild and hysterical rhetoric. I remember that when Palin's candidacy for the Vice President was announced, the likes of Naomi Wolf portrayed her as a latter-day Evita, ready to prepare the ground for a fascist coup. That to me was an infantile and counterproductive way of attacking Ms Palin, who could better be accused of being a political lightweight who confuses soundbites with policy.

Palin and her ilk could have led the charge against Obamacare by examining its regulations in depth, and pointed out its flaws. Instead, they resorted to scaremongering. That puts them in the same category as the 'Bushitler' crowd during the previous administration, and the 'Clinton is a drug-dealer/murderer' mob during the one before that.

rxc

It is interesting that there is such a loud call in the left-wing mediasphere about toning down the rhetoric, and making our political discourse more restrained and "civilized". All this, when "acivists" for left-wing causes, such as environmentalism and human rights and animal rights, move further and further into extremism. I have seen accounts of training in universities for would-be activists that encourages them to be "in your face" as they confront people opposed to them. I have also read accounts from environmentalists who attended meetings intended to resolve issues, where they went into the meetings, not with the intent to compromise, but to take the most extreme position possible, so that any compromising was done by the opposite side. It is a standard left-wing tactic, which has been discovered by the right, mostly in the form of pro-lifers, who have taken it to the extreme of shooting doctors who perform abortions.

Now, of course, the left says that we need to calm down and be responsible. And, as well, they say that we ALL need to hold ourselves responsible for the shooting, because we have ALL spoken too harshly and raised the rhetoric level too far. More guilt.

This was a tragic shooting, and the asassin needs to be held acocuntable, but for all of us to take responsibility is weird.

Paul Power

PlanetMoron catches the pot calling the kettle black at http://planetmoron.typepad.com/planet_moron/2011/01/its-like-a-crisis-only-better.html

Anna

And guess which line the Beeboids have taken...

http://biased-bbc.blogspot.com/2011/01/bbc-editor-removes-anti-palin-tweet.html

david lawler

It's not as if the guardian ever incites violence is it now.

As long as one forgets the enless recent ecouragement for "direct action" against the coalition cuts trotted out by a motley collection of trots, and chanpagne socialists.

Why, anyone would think the average guardianista is a sanctomonious hate-filled hypocrite.

TDK

Sorry, I was too strong, but the point remains that most demands for an end to hyperbole/hate speech emanate from partisans who find it acceptable from their own side. We live in an era when the left demand and practice direct action, yet hyper ventilate when anyone opposes them, or suggests the use of the same tactics. You don't even need to oppose Obama's health bill, just point out that the claims of cost savings are ridiculous and see the claims of hate speech roll in. You disgree because he's black - sound familiar.

I'm no particular fan of Palin, regarding her (as you do) as a lightweight, but I do enjoy the fact that she irritates the great and good. I also recognise that whereas I might prefer my commentators to be reasonable like say Thomas Sowell, others are persuaded more by the likes of PJ O'Rourke or Mark Steyn. Thus Palin has her place.

There's a fatal mistake been made by the right in the last 30 years. They have allowed themselves to be defined as the Nasty People. Think about that. We have a Green movement that is fundamentally misanthropic and yet they are seen as "nice" caring people. That's because they own the narrative. In order to combat the left we must stop accepting their narrative, stop allowing them to frame the debate.

Yes some of the Tea Party are barmy but when the media attempt to claim that this is solely a movement of racist whites we need to shout bullshit.

I don't get upset at death panels because essentially this is essentially what the committee's are doing - they are choosing who gets treatment and who doesn't. For the sake of conciliation let me give you an example of where I get irritated at the right - when Christopher Booker defended Creationism.

TDK

essentially I need to proof read before I click post!

rxc

Oh, and we all remember the 10:10 video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-Mw5_EBk0g)about blowing up children who did not go along with the GLobal Warming/Climate Change/Global Climate Distruption propoganda...

tehag

"rage is encoded in conservative DNA"

Must have inherited from their "raging grannies."

tehag

"I think it's fair to point out that some of the rhetoric coming from the Tea Party/Beck/Limbaugh posse has been positively deranged. And Palin has pandered to this sentiment shamelessly (remember the 'death panels'?)."

Yes. I remember the government twice trying to include death panels in Obamacare. And both times the death panels were accurately labeled "death panels."

"we'll highlight only two"

Highlighting the top three "rationing" techniques

1 Friends with inside connections to politicians and bureaucrats get infinite care (the EU+ Soviet method)
2 People buy what they can afford (this is not "rationing")
3 People are "evaluated" by bigoted, prejudiced bureaucrats with insane standards

Only number two is fair.

Lee Ward

I'm a little bemused by this piece and its comments. What exact point are they making? That political hay shouldn't be made by a tragedy like this? I quite agree. Or that the degree of inflamed rhetoric on the right is balanced by that on the left?

WTP

See, it works like this...When a trained psychologist expressing fervent Islamic views and deep opposition to the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan goes on a shooting spree on a US Army base, it is an "isolated and tragic case" and Janet Napolitano will tell us that "This was an individual who does not, obviously, represent the Muslim faith".

Now if a pot-smoking, pro-flag burning, anti-religion nut case goes on a shooting spree, this is an individual who does, obviously, represent Sara Palin and anyone to the right of the political spectrum.

Of course I try to keep in mind that it's not that y’all lack the intelligence to understand this, it's more likely an indication that y’all are mentally unbalanced.

Gaw

I agree with Lee Ward above. Just because some on the left are irresponsible idiots does that give some on the right a free pass? I don't feel any affiliation with either (thank God). But isn't it entirely reasonable to describe Beck, Limbaugh, Palin, etc. as indulging in inflammatory demagoguery?

David

Lee,

“What exact point are they making? That political hay shouldn’t be made by a tragedy like this? I quite agree. Or that the degree of inflamed rhetoric on the right is balanced by that on the left?”

I can’t speak for the commenters, but I’d say both points are worth pondering. (Though I wouldn’t use the word “balanced.” In terms of both prevalence and people explicitly acting on “inflamed rhetoric,” I’d say the left currently has the edge, and by some margin. See the archives for dozens of illustrations.) What most caught my attention was the eagerness to make connections and accusations of an unproven, dubious or ludicrous nature - a kind of linguistic land grab: “See how violent and dangerous our political opponents are! Something must be done!” As though this particular episode were driven by political affiliation rather than, say, derangement, and as though violence were “encoded” only in one’s opponents.

Update:

As yet, there’s no evidence that Loughner’s homicidal actions were inspired by, or related to, anyone else’s “rhetoric.” Nor is there any evidence that Loughner was driven to murdering people at random by the graphic design of strategy maps featured on the websites of Sarah Palin or Harry Mitchell, or the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Yet this is the bizarre implication or insinuation of numerous commentators. To me – based on what little we know so far – this sounds quite bonkers. We already have politicians and commentators calling for the outlawing of “language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening.” Among them, Robert Brady, who seems to believe that an innocuous piece of graphic design will turn otherwise sane people into homicidal maniacs.

(Incidentally, the “elsewhere” posts don’t advance an argument in the way that a standard post here might. Sometimes the items featured share a common theme or are tangentially connected. Sometimes it’s a collection of disparate views and/or subject matter. Think of the one above as a spur to conversation.)

randian

There's a fatal mistake been made by the right in the last 30 years. They have allowed themselves to be defined as the Nasty People.

I don't believe could have been avoided. The left controls the media, not the right. Tell a lie often enough, it becomes true.

SG

"We already have politicians and commentators calling for the outlawing of “language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening.” Among them, Robert Brady, who seems to believe that an innocuous piece of graphic design will turn otherwise sane people into homicidal maniacs."

Glenn Beck is sounding saner by the minute.

David

“Glenn Beck is sounding saner by the minute.”

To be clear: I don’t much care for inflammatory rhetoric. I didn’t care for the hanged and burning effigies of an incumbent conservative president, or the supposedly titillating film about assassinating that same incumbent conservative president. And I wasn’t overly impressed by the comedienne who took delight in gang rape scenarios featuring a conservative female candidate. None of it looks good, to say the very least. (And given the number of such examples, across the political spectrum, the fixation with an innocuous map of congressional seats seems a tad bizarre.)

But in a free society deranged and repulsive outbursts aren’t likely to go away anytime soon. Unless, that is, some people try to criminalise outbursts they find ugly. And that’s the thing. What’s the endgame for someone like Robert Brady? Who gets to decide what kind of map graphics are “threatening”? Exactly how much banning and censorship will save us from the risk of that one suggestible sociopath who may – may - be out there?

Simen Thoresen

As for gun control - this is only required to prevent the wrong people from owning guns.

The right people, should of course be allowed to carry;
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/early-lead/2011/01/heath_shuler_said_hell_carry_g.html


TDK, aynrandgirl - the Nasty People brand only means something to the left, so those who are not-left tend to ignore it. While the leftists seem to think that that they can shape reality by discussing it in the right terms, those on the non-left tend to dismiss this view. The truth may be somewhere between these two sides...

-S

TDK

lee

I guess your point is directed at me.

I thought I made it clear I preferred a more reasoned debate. In any case I cannot see any method to restrict it, that would be fair to all sides. That isn't to say I believe that open calls to assassinate political opponents or commit other crimes should be allowed. However I note that in this case, as in so many other cases, the causal chain is tenuous at best.

So my answer is free speech is best. We ought to allow the Michael Tomasky's of this world to make spurious claims about Palin's complicity but then ridicule his shoddy logic. Which I guess is what's happening.

TDK

Simen Thoresen

those on the non-left tend to dismiss this view.

I doubt that's true. It is widely known that surveys of the public demonstrate a reluctance to admit to certain views. Thus fewer people admit to intending to vote conservative than actually do. Or conversely consider the gap between the high numbers of people claiming to be doing their bit for the environment with the actual results.

TDK

And finally, Michelle Malkin posted a series of relevant links

http://michellemalkin.com/2011/01/10/the-progressive-climate-of-hate-an-illustrated-primer-2000-2010/

David

“They have allowed themselves to be defined as the Nasty People.”

Whatever Loughner’s motives may prove to be (assuming they’re comprehensible), note the associations that are already being forged by Tomasky and his peers through sheer repetition: “Guns… Crosshairs… American Right… Tea Party… Shooting… Palin… Republicans…” Newsweek published a photo of Loughner alongside the words “right wing extremism,” despite the fact his politics are as yet unclear and their relevance unknown. The slaughter of six innocent people, including a child - by a madman - is being associated with People Who Aren’t Leftwing. Those raging, dangerous, nasty people. According to this narrative, it’s not a lone psychopath on a murder spree; it’s about his rhetorical accomplices and their “violent metaphors.” With enough repetition maybe more people will believe that “rage is encoded in conservative DNA.”

newrouter
But isn't it entirely reasonable to describe Beck, Limbaugh, Palin, etc. as indulging in inflammatory demagoguery?

it would be nice if you provided some examples of their "inflammatory demagoguery".

David Gillies

I think a great deal of the rage we are seeing can be ascribed to those on the Left who feel they have set the tone of the discourse for the last half-century and are now seeing their iron control slipping away. The new media really are a threat to the old oligopoly, and not an over-hyped one, which explains the animus towards such things as blogs and talk radio. As a rather quotidian example, even comparatively recently, the idea of a bunch of people scattered across the globe being able to have a near-real time back-and-forth about the nature of political rhetoric would have been fanciful.

Lovernios

I don't recall the Guardian objecting to the film which depicted the assassination of George W Bush

That's different. That's art.

Col. Milquetoast

it would be nice if you provided some examples of their "inflammatory demagoguery".

I've heard the following inflammatory demagoguery on TV :
To arms, citizens,
Form your battalions,
Let's march, let's march!
That impure blood
May water our furrows!
...
Tremble, tyrants and you traitors
The shame of all parties,
Tremble! Your parricidal schemes
Will finally receive their reward!

We'll also have to do something about pet dogs and their inflammatory language (recall that the Son of Sam killer was told to kill by his neighbor's dog).

gebrauchshund

"But isn't it entirely reasonable to describe Beck, Limbaugh, Palin, etc. as indulging in inflammatory demagoguery?"

Actually no, I do not believe it is. In fact I see it as an unjustified smear against reasonable people that you happen to disagree with politically.

But then I'm probably an inflammatory demagogue. It's so hard to be sure anymore.

David

Oh, it goes on. Michael Tomasky returns to the subject again, glibly denouncing his critics as “just comments from conservatives,” and asking, apparently in all seriousness: “Does there have to be absolute hard proof that Jared Loughner was a committed right-winger before we can say that violent [i.e., right-wing] rhetoric likely played some kind of role here?”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/michaeltomasky/2011/jan/10/jared-lee-loughner-and-responsibility

Well, one might just as well assume that “some kind of role” was played by Loughner’s taste in music and drugs, or his fondness for the Communist Manifesto, or his elaborate rants about grammar conspiracies and UFO cover-ups. And hey, who needs evidence when it comes to murder? There’s the narrative, after all. Which may explain Tomasky’s confidence in saying, “I don’t think anyone can plausibly deny that most of it [violent rhetoric] comes from the right wing.”

That towering intellect Jane Fonda saw fit to blame Sarah Palin and the Tea Party, though evidence and logic escaped her yet again. Ditto Paul Krugman of the New York Times, who used an innocuous comment about being “armed” - with facts - as an example of “eliminationist rhetoric.” And the New York Daily News is telling us, quite firmly, that Sarah Palin may have “the blood of more than some poor caribou on her hands.” Some people can evidently call for temperate rhetoric while accusing their opponents of complicity in murder.

As Jeff Goldsten notes drily over at Protein Wisdom:

“As a rough estimate, about 51,999,999 households, responsible for the legal care of 259,999,999 guns, did not shoot up a political meetup at a Safeway this weekend — despite the climate of overheated political rhetoric and conservative-bred HATE that practically compels them to do so.”

http://proteinwisdom.com/?p=23980

It’s one thing to say that lurid and combative rhetoric can be unpleasant or counter-productive or whatever. It’s something else entirely to insinuate, based on nothing, that such rhetoric inspires mass murder and therefore makes the speaker complicit, along with his or her audience. And only a fool would allow his political opponents to decide what constitutes legitimate political discourse.

mlrosty

"And only a fool would allow his political opponents to decide what constitutes legitimate political discourse."

It's starting already. "HATE SPEECH = MURDER."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_theticket/20110109/ts_yblog_theticket/in-the-aftermath-of-the-giffords-shooting-a-debate-over-heated-political-rhetoric

And guess who'll get to decide what counts as 'hate speech'…?

sackcloth and ashes

In the interests of balance, let it be known that when Stephen Timms was stabbed the Graun was less than equivocal in condemning his would-be assassin:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/nov/04/youtube-radicalisation-roshonara-choudhry

Adrian of Adelaide, Australia

Yay, I think I'm first in with Australia's best, the celebrated Leftard columnist Bob Ellis. Believe it or not he's one of our literary heavyweights.

It would not do him justice if I tried to summarise the piece. Suffice to say he has mown down all before him with this article 'Tucson Gunshot Blues'.

Ok, here's a teaser:

'The events in Tucson underline too, with blood and screaming, prayer and soul-searching, America’s decline as an opinion-forming nation in a world grown more educated in its addled and feckless boorishness. No other nation agrees much any more with lethal injections, handguns for nutjobs, bigamous preachers, nose jobs, Elvis weddings, stark naked tabletop dancers, gigantic steaks with Freedom Fries, annual ‘work’ on businessman’s faces and perpetual religious wars in the Middle East in the way Americans do, and most feel the craziness has to stop'.

You Poms might've won the Ashes but no one can match us for Lefty ratbags like 'our Bob'.

Here's the link: http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/42964.html

Karen M

The last word...?

http://kaching.tumblr.com/post/2709520449/pay-attention-pay-close-attention-read-carefully

Wm T Sherman

I think the Left has overreached with this libel. I think too many people see it for what it is.

Another piece of the puzzle: the despicable Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik (D) has been running his mouth in the same vein as described above, blaming talk radio and a "climate of hate" that of course, comes entirely from non-Democrats. There are rumblings however, that Dupnik has a motive to distract from the facts of the matter -- that despite years of bizarre and potentially dangerous behavior, the shooter was allowed to slide repeatedly without prosecution, possibly because his mother is a Pima County employee.

http://thechollajumps.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/jared-loughner-is-a-product-of-sheriff-dupniks-office/

If he'd been prosecuted as the law allowed, of course, buying a gun would have been prevented by his criminal record.

The allegations linked above are not actionable as they stand. They are however, a starting point for further inquiry. Previous contacts between the Sheriff's department and the shooter have now been acknowledged by Sheriff Dupnik himself. Note that the obsession with Congreswoman Giffords has been traced as far back as 2007.

There is the additional question of, where was the police presence at Gifford's public event?

sackcloth and ashes

'No other nation agrees much any more with lethal injections'

Indeed, other countries with death penalties prefer other more human methods of execution, like hanging, stoning, or firing squads. And of course they're enlightened enough not to sentence you to death for something trivial like murder, but real crimes like being gay, or wanting to marry someone you love, or even speaking out against the government.

'handguns for nutjobs,'

And Australia's never had any problem with gunmen going on rampages?

'stark naked tabletop dancers,'

And the problem is what exactly?

'gigantic steaks with Freedom Fries'

Hmm ... I'm hungry.

'perpetual religious wars in the Middle East'

Well it's good to know there was no sectarian or confessional violence in that part of the world until 2001.

Stuck-Record

Gordon MacMillan over at HP is a 'true believer' in the Holy Church of Labour. His posts read like hastily retyped press releases from Ed Milliband's sock-drawer.

AC1

More on what Wm T Sherman is hinting at.

Some more signs of a cover-up here...

http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2011/01/12/20110112gabrielle-giffords-arizona-shooting-pima-county-wont-release-jared-loughner-records.html

sackcloth and ashes

I thought this was worth digging out. This is a news clip of John Wayne's 'roast' in Harvard Uni in January 1974, where the most violent action is the lobbing of snowballs, and the confrontation between anti-establishment students and the maker of the 'Green Berets' revolves around piss-taking and self-deprecation. I'm not sure something like this could happen today - either in a Uni Hall, or on 'Fox News'.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dINMVPRA3DY

Rafi

"Mr Krugman triumphantly quotes a three word comment about being “armed” - with facts - as a damning example of “eliminationist rhetoric.”"

The NYT comment pages get more like the Guardian's every week.

Anyone think we'll ever hear retractions or apologies from Krugman, Yglesias, Tomasky, Moulitas etc?

David

“Anyone think we'll ever hear retractions or apologies from Krugman, Yglesias, Tomasky, Moulitas etc?”

Given the apparent lack of interest in reality, I doubt it very much. That’s one of the advantages of being uninterested in reality. You can pretend you were never wrong.

WTP

"Given the apparent lack of interest in reality"

When I was in school, there was a popular T-shirt that read "Reality is for people who can't handle drugs". I mistook it for a joke. Apparently its purpose was to communicate information. Is there one specific drug or is there some sort of cocktail recipe that works, cause I've tried a few myself but none of them seemed to work as required…

David

One thing that’s surreal about this is the fact that much more lurid and obnoxious commentary can be found elsewhere. If we take a step back, the odd rightwing blowhard is small beer. I’m sure Pat Buchanan regularly coughs up something unpleasant and deranged, probably involving Hitler, feminism and/or lesbians; but if you want a large and vociferous political movement in which sinister, totalitarian rhetoric is commonplace and mainstream, then modern environmentalism – an overwhelmingly leftist phenomenon - is a very good place to start.

James Lovelock - hardly an unknown figure – repeatedly refers to humanity as “a virus” and “an infection,” which he sees as in need of totalitarian measures: “We need a more authoritative world. You’ve got to have a few people with authority… It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while.” Paul Ehrlich wants us to submit to global socialism and – for our own good - sterilant drugs in our food. Conservationist Paul Watson describes humanity as “the AIDS of the Earth” - “a cancer” requiring a “radical and invasive” remedy - namely, that “human populations” should be “reduced to fewer than one billion.” John Gray regards human beings as “not obviously worth preserving” and, like Watson, dreams of a world better off without us.

The Optimum Population Trust talks about the need for “intervention by the state” in human reproduction, while the Post Carbon Institute excitedly looks forward to a world of “death and pain” and “short life spans.” The Guardian’s Guy Dammann tells us, “There is something magnificent about the thought of an entire species simply switching itself off… to make way for something more lasting.” His colleague Alex Renton goes further: “A cull of Australians or Americans would be at least 60 times as productive as one of Bangladeshis.” Then there’s the Melbourne neuroscientist and environmental crusader Dr John Reid, who has a plan to save the world by putting “something in the water” – specifically, “a virus that would… make a substantial proportion of the population infertile.” And on and on it goes.

I hardly need to point out the historical precedents, nor do I need to remind readers that regarding people as pestilence and disease rarely bodes well.

Darleen Click

rage is encoded in conservative DNA

Now just substitute the word "Jew" for "conservative" and one will see why "blood libel" is an apt description of the Left's behavior over the past several days.

Gaw

'Inflammatory demagoguery'? There are literally dozens of examples. Stuff like this from Limbaugh (merely the first thing I found): His [Obama's] education plan is Maoist (no surprise given the Ayers/Klonsky influence), and he is otherwise a Bolshevik. I'm also quite sure, given his character traits, that he would be a Stalinist if he thought he could get away with it ... and he's working on that, too. I wonder what the country will look like in his 10th or 15th year as president? If I believed this were true, I'd feel it incumbent upon me to use all means to oppose Obama.

David, you seem to be engaging in a huge amount of whataboutism. Is it really enough for the sane right to aspire to be no worse than the wannabe genocidal left?

David

Gaw,

“David, you seem to be engaging in a huge amount of whataboutism.”

No, I don’t think so. I am, though, trying to provide some perspective, which isn’t quite the same thing. Given the ludicrous agitation about, for instance, map graphics, it struck me as odd that overtly “eliminationist rhetoric” had been overlooked by those most keen to find it. The psychology of that omission intrigues me.

“If I believed this were true, I'd feel it incumbent upon me to use all means to oppose Obama… Is it really enough for the sane right to aspire to be no worse than the wannabe genocidal left?”

As I said earlier, I don’t much care for inflammatory rhetoric. And I find it remarkably easy not to be inspired to insurrectionary violence by Rush Limbaugh or anyone else. And this is the thing. I’ve no urge to ban rhetoric or symbols I find asinine or disagreeable, or to insinuate that those who indulge in it, or hear it, will be spurred to, or complicit in, mass murder. Others, however, feel differently.

Gaw

David,

The sole alternative to inflammatory rhetoric isn't banning it (a terrible and stupid idea for so many reasons). It's for individuals to insist on a more proportionate and responsible rhetoric - from left and right. Civilisation depends on more than adhering merely to what's legal.

I can't imagine your being led astray by a Limbaugh, of course. But doesn't the success of demagogues throughout history suggest that plenty of others might be?

As I say, if I were to believe what Limbaugh claimed in that excerpt I'd regard it as my duty to use all means to oppose Obama. Can't you imagine there are people in the world who might believe Limbaugh?

David

Gaw,

“It’s for individuals to insist on a more proportionate and responsible rhetoric - from left and right. Civilisation depends on more than adhering merely to what’s legal.”

Indeed, and, as I hope is clear, I’m all in favour of civility in debate. The question, though, is how to encourage it – how does one “insist”? How does that work in the public realm of a free society? What struck me as surreal was the urge to do much more than encourage civility, as when Robert Brady announced his plan to ban words and symbols deemed “threatening” - despite his inability to distinguish between targeted congressional seats and crosshairs on individuals. Likewise, attempts to depict the speakers of certain words (“reload,” “bullseye,” etc) as complicit in a particular murder, despite a total lack of evidence. It’s bizarre.

“Can’t you imagine there are people in the world who might believe Limbaugh?”

But what would you like to see done about that?

Gaw

Insistence is a strong form of encouragement, no more.

What I would like to see is more conservatives dissociating themselves from radical populists such as Limbaugh - in forums such as this. Without influence they're nothing. At the very least, not tuning in would be useful in hitting them where it hurts them most - in the wallet. That would be insistent enough.

Gaw

I should probably point out that I love this blog and think it does a great job of nailing lefty idiocies (and worse). But why stop there?

David

Gaw,

Thing is, I had a similar exchange a while ago, on a not dissimilar topic, and we arrived at the same problems. I quite understand why people may find certain blowhards obnoxious and unhelpful. But what happens next? Aren’t we worryingly close to saying “Society made him do it”? And what if some people like bombast and overstatement, as evidently they do? Who gets to decide what constitutes acceptable and legitimate debate? Is it wise to allow any interest group to define the parameters of what may be said, however luridly?

“Insistence is a strong form of encouragement, no more.”

Well, clearly, others disagree. Some insist by insinuating complicity in murder. Some wish to insist by using the force of law.

David

Gaw,

Sorry, missed this one:

“I love this blog and think it does a great job of nailing lefty idiocies (and worse). But why stop there?”

Well, the subjects I tend to cover regularly are much closer to my world than, say, the bunker reports of Glenn Beck. (I have written quite a lot about Islam, for instance, but there’s only so much of that nightmare you want in your head. Some subjects can be fun to poke about in; others are just ugly and rather depressing.) More to the point, I find the urges, manoeuvres and dishonesties found among the left much more interesting than, say, Rush Limbaugh.

Gaw

Don't we all get 'to decide what constitutes acceptable and legitimate debate'? And in places like this one?

But I can't deny that the pathologies of the left are more interesting! I guess it's the bad faith, self-deception and hypocrisy, which, to be undeservedly fair, isn't as common on the objectionable right.

TDK

His [Obama's] education plan is Maoist (no surprise given the Ayers/Klonsky influence), and he is otherwise a Bolshevik. I'm also quite sure, given his character traits, that he would be a Stalinist if he thought he could get away with it ... and he's working on that, too. I wonder what the country will look like in his 10th or 15th year as president?

I fail to understand why this is inflammatory. This quote just adds up to saying Obama is influenced by the far left in various forms. That's an opinion.

The last sentence is particular interesting. I recall Naomi Wolfe writing in 2007 about the 10 steps to a fascist America that the Bush administration seemed to be taking. My reaction to that was she's an idiot. My reaction to the claims that Obama is planning on aping Stalin are the same. Neither claims are incendiary, merely stupid.

Are you seriously suggesting that no one should be able to say (right or wrong) that Obama is inspired by Socialism?

David

Gaw,

“Don’t we all get ‘to decide what constitutes acceptable and legitimate debate’? And in places like this one?”

If anyone gets to decide what’s acceptable here, strictly speaking that’s me, your host and barkeep. But I doubt that has any impact on how discussions are had elsewhere. And all things considered, that’s probably for the best.

newrouter

"merely the first thing I found): His [Obama's] education"

this being the internet, a link to the quote would be appreciated.

svh

"MSNBC Marches Ahead With Its Own Set of Facts"

http://proteinwisdom.com/?p=24101

Money quote: "MSNBC is not so much a news organization as it is a leftwing proving ground for cultural memetics."

Gaw

David, you misunderstand me. I'm pointing out that a culture of civility is something that grows bottom-up as well as top-down. If enough people are persuaded that comparing democratic politicians to Stalin and Hitler is unacceptable, and are willing to withdraw support as a consequence (that is in terms of votes or audience), then it will diminish. If discussions here and in other unofficial meeting places have no impact on discussions elsewhere we'd just as well resign ourselves to having others run our lives.

Having said that, I suppose I have to take issue with TDK. Calling Obama 'Maoist', 'Bolshevik', and 'Stalinist' does not merely suggest he is 'inspired by socialism'. Funnily enough, blackening your opponents in this way is the sort of ruse that the Maoists, Bolsheviks and Stalinists were masters of: all their opponents were Fascists of one sort or another. It surely goes without saying that this sort of practice is a bad thing - and usually ends badly. It should be insistently discouraged by all people of good will (see above).

David

Gaw,

“If discussions here and in other unofficial meeting places have no impact on discussions elsewhere we’d just as well resign ourselves to having others run our lives.”

I’m not sure I follow you. The fact that it’s usually fairly civil here doesn’t seem to have any impact on the tone of what happens elsewhere. And my mockery of some writers’ casual hyperbole doesn’t seem to have had any impact on their habits, or on its prevalence in the wider world. But then I don’t want to set the tone or boundaries of how other people express themselves. To want that, or to expect to have some discernible effect on the tone of debate in general, seems a wee bit… egomaniacal.

Update:

I may prefer that people are reasonably civil when speaking with me or with other commenters here and very occasionally I’ll turf someone out for being a total arse. But I don’t expect to have any influence on how they behave elsewhere. I can try to set a tone here and hope that others bear it in mind. And I can choose whether to allow deranged or obnoxious remarks on my territory. But beyond that…

newrouter

"Calling Obama 'Maoist', 'Bolshevik', and 'Stalinist' does not merely suggest he is 'inspired by socialism'. Funnily enough, blackening your opponents in this way is the sort of ruse that the Maoists, Bolsheviks and Stalinists were masters of: all their opponents were Fascists of one sort or another. "

And the lot of them should be called statists. Obama is a statist. Obamacare will require me to have health insurance. If not I'm penalized/taxed. A property tax. Personal liberty in the most basic sense is at stake here. How can you be free if the state "owns" your body.

Gaw

[I think I lost a comment probably because I forgot to enter the code-thingy. Anyway, here's the sports version]

David, that seems a strange argument coming from someone who runs a very effective polemical blog! If individuals and groups don't shape cultural mores (true, each close to insignificant but together what we tend to describe as civil society) then who does? The state? The mass media? Scary if true. But no need to lose hope yet, I think.

Patrick Brown

newrouter:

"And the lot of them should be called statists. Obama is a statist."

And for those looking for proof of inflammatory rhetoric from the right...

Come on. There are degrees of statism, and all governments are statist to a greater or lesser degree. You may think being required to have health insurance is going too far, but it's still a long way short of Stalin or Mao. Have a little perspective.

Unlike many people commenting here, I've come from the left. I'm disillusioned with the left's authoritarianism, its abandonment of the ideal of equality in favour of sectarian identity politics and quotas, and its self-satisfied assumption that any right-wing opinion must be motivated by pure moustache-twirling evil. But I'm no more impressed by the right-wing assumption that any policy pursued by left-wing politicians must be motivated by totalitarianism comparable to the worst monsters of the 20th century.

David

Gaw,

“David, that seems a strange argument coming from someone who runs a very effective polemical blog! …But no need to lose hope yet, I think.”

I think between us we’re confusing tone and particulars. I’m talking about tone and how little influence one has (beyond one’s own immediate territory). Whether the particulars of what’s discussed here have any measurable influence, I couldn’t say. At least three of the people whose writing I’ve criticised have visited this site and they don’t seem to have altered their thinking as a result. But then it seems a tad naïve to imagine that they would.

I don’t see this as a matter of hope or, as you put it earlier, resignation. I just try to be realistic about what can be influenced. If some readers of this site start to notice the manoeuvres being made by various commentators, and the assumptions and conceits commonly in play, then great. But “shaping cultural mores” seems a wee bit ambitious.

TDK

It surely goes without saying that this sort of practice is a bad thing - and usually ends badly.

It needs stating very clearly that demonising people on the basis of their beliefs is not the same demonising them on the basis of their genes. So let's agree that distinction.

That the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany ended badly is not in dispute, what I fail to understand is why calling your opponents fascist led to the result. Stalin was going to kill Trotsky because he was a rival. Calling him a fascist was incidental. If it hadn't been that, it would have been "royalist", "white Russian", counter revolutionary", "Menshevik", "bourgeois", "traitor", "saboteur" or nothing at all. The same is true of all the other political deaths in the Soviet Union. I would suggest, without any fear of contradiction, that only a tiny proportion of the politically murdered were genuine fascist sympathisers.

If this isn't what you had in mind for "end badly" perhaps you can clarify?

Incidentally you are aware that Weimar Germany had anti-hate speech laws?

WTP

My 2 cents, and that may be all that it's worth...For years I avoided political debate, not so much because I had a distaste for it, though I still do, but because I so rarely saw either party change their opinion based on even the most ignoble defeat. But eventually I came to realize, though perhaps because I may be a little slow to pick up on these things, that such is not the point. The point isn't so much the parties involved ironing anything out, instead it is the influence on those in silent observation of what is being debated. This in spite of the fact that the two parties debating may have zero recognition of this. Additionally, in some cases, the "defeated" party, after usually years of unconscious reflection, will modify their views. Depending on the audience, the tone can be more or less effective. Depending on the medium of observation, this may be irrelevant to the debating parties.

Hope that made some sort of sense. I'm more a 1's and 0's kind of guy and that's the best I can do whilst I quietly tolerate having the newspaper read to me by The Wife...

Taxed Enough Already

“the Guardian's Michael Tomasky, who tells us "rage is encoded in conservative DNA.""

Wow, he really nailed us. People who aren't lefties are just full of rage for no reason. It's nothing to do with leftist policies. We're just born that way, I guess.

/sarcasm.

Gaw

I'm still interested, David, in where you think cultural mores are shaped. If not in places like this (if not this place on its own), as well as pubs, clubs, gateposts and water-coolers then where?

TDK, there are so many good and reasonably evident reasons not to call your democratic opponent Hitler or Stalin that it seems otiose to list them. Also forget the legal thing - I'm not in favour of making it illegal to call anyone Hitler or Stalin.

David

Gaw,

“I’m still interested, David, in where you think cultural mores are shaped.”

I’m sure they’re shaped by all manner of things in all kinds of places. That would be a thread in itself. I’m just not convinced that any significant impact could be attributed to this rather humble outpost. Whatever it is that happens here, “shaping cultural mores” sounds a bit too grandiose.

Anna

"At least three of the people whose writing I've criticised have visited this site and they don't seem to have altered their thinking as a result. But then it seems a tad naïve to imagine that they would."

We want names. ;)

Was it Shameless Milne? Laurie Penny? Bidisha (jazz hands!)?

David

Anna,

“We want names. ;)”

Heh. And take the fun out of your guessing? The point, though, is the kinds of personalities I’ve mocked are often deserving of mockery precisely because they’re impervious to correction, even on matters of fact. They don’t so much argue a point as indulge in role-play. So there’s little hope of having much effect on how they see the world, or claim to see the world. All I can do is highlight their manoeuvres and see if others notice how strangely they dance.

Franklin

If the map with the targets was a harmless bit of graphic design, then the principled response would have been to leave it in place at SarahPAC.com and stand by it. Instead her organization couldn't pull it down fast enough, and then claimed that the gunsights were in fact surveyor marks, which was so farfetched it doesn't seem to have gained any traction even among her supporters. Palin is a creature of politics, not principles, but even so her actions are admission enough that this graphic was at least retrospectively damning and irredeemable.

I have to point out as well that if Loughner had attacked Giffords with a knife or a pair of nunchucks it would not have been so easy to associate the assault with political communications designed to appeal to gun culture, and it was only too easy to find examples thereof pertaining to Giffords' 2010 campaign that were Republican in origin. That the producers of these materials are now suffering political consequences because of Loughner's rampage is appropriate and easy to understand. (Note that I said political consequences, not accusations of responsibility.) Some symbols are volatile, and they can ignite due to the carelessness of those around you.

David

Franklin,

“Palin is a creature of politics, not principles, but even so her actions are admission enough that this graphic was at least retrospectively damning and irredeemable.”

So in future people should… what? Stay clear of putting target symbols on targeted congressional seats? Because some pundits and broadcasters appeared to lose their minds, and then stayed deranged deliberately for political leverage?

“Some symbols are volatile, and they can ignite due to the carelessness of those around you.”

I’m by no means a Palin groupie, but I don’t see Palin or gun symbology as the overarching issue. What I saw happening was a large number of pundits trying to delegitimise their opponents in an underhanded way. They seized an opportunity to propagate a lie (or rather, a desire) in order to cow their opponents on false or unsubstantiated grounds, and no amount of contrary evidence seemed to impede them: “He’s a right-winger, a conservative, a teabagger… We kept telling you they were evil and dangerous… What? He isn’t? But he must be! Well then he must have been listening to evil teabagging Republicans! They made him do it with their violent rhetoric! After all, violence is in their DNA. Yes, that must be it!”

I saw an enormous exercise in collective bad faith. Facts simply didn’t matter. It was surreal and rather eerie. For instance, like many others, PZ Myers announced pre-emptively and with some confidence: “The scumbag who committed this crime has been caught; I’ll bet he’ll turn out to be a Teabagger who listens to a lot of AM talk radio.” When this was found not to be true, Myers grew even more emphatic: “Screw that. Now is the time to politicize the hell out of this situation.” (Ditto Krugman, ditto Tomasky, ditto Yglesias, ditto Marcotte, ditto Moulitas.) For some people, what actually was didn’t seem to matter. What ought to have been – according to them - did. And I find that much creepier and more damning than Palin or the reactions of her staff.

carbon based lifeform

"If the map with the targets was a harmless bit of graphic design..."

If? Please show me a direct causal link between the maps (used by both parties) and this shooting.

Franklin

So in future people should… what? Stay clear of putting target symbols on targeted congressional seats?

So in the future, politicians thusly beset when their rhetorical strategy blows up their faces can refrain from portraying themselves as victims on a scale akin to the centuries-old maligning of the Jews. Krugman et al. are pathetic, but they are a consequence of a media climate hellbent on "winning" the current news cycle, and this sad state of affairs would not have come into existence if the left (or any singular entity) controlled the media, as Aynrandgirl blithely suggested. On a related note, regarding David Gillies' observation overhead that a leftist, old-media oligopoly is expressing animus towards blogs an talk radio - today the NYT waxed curious about who, indeed, was casting all of these irresponsible assertions...

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/17/business/media/17media.html

..and found that the majority of intemperate remarks had issued from the new media, singling out Kos in particular. It also notably refrained from coming to the defense of Krugman, letting Bill O'Reilly's criticism of him stand. Lumping blogs and talk radio together in this context is a little dubious - Vanity Fair reported in the last year or so that the median age of Rush Limbaugh's audience is 68. None of this exonerates the above liberal pundits of anything you've charged them with, but they are of a piece with a toxic discourse perpetrated by parties on both sides, and some of your commenters are betraying ignorance and denial about how that discourse came into being.

@carbon based lifeform: Suffice it to say that there are possibilities that are neither "harmless bit of graphic design" nor "direct causal link between the maps (used by both parties) and this shooting."

David

Franklin,

“So in the future, politicians thusly beset when their rhetorical strategy blows up their faces can refrain from portraying themselves as victims on a scale akin to the centuries-old maligning of the Jews.”

Again, I’ve no interest in defending Sarah Palin or her choice of language. I don’t see that, or her, as the key issue. The term “blood libel” - presumably without the capitals - may not be the wisest choice but it doesn’t strike me as a serious basis for outrage. What I did notice on watching her video was how at times the inapt smiling rendered it almost ghoulish.

What interests me is the struggle to frame the broader debate and to demonise views one may not share as “hate speech” or incitement, or something very similar. For me, that’s the wider context. It’s the attempt to associate one’s political opponents with hatred, bigotry and homicidal violence, as its chief or exclusive purveyors, and on a pre-emptive basis and regardless of evidence. The effect of which, and the intention of which, is often to inhibit certain kinds of debate and certain lines of thinking. That’s what caught my attention. And it caught my attention in part because on a tiny scale that trick has been tried with me.

Franklin

What interests me is the struggle to frame the broader debate and to demonise views one may not share as “hate speech” or incitement, or something very similar. ... The effect of which, and the intention of which, is often to inhibit certain kinds of debate and certain lines of thinking.

If that's the crux of the issue, then one could ask if they succeeded, and I rather doubt that they did. Not that this sort of thing isn't worth calling out for its own sake. "Hate speech" is exactly how Phil Donohue, president of the Catholic League, characterized a work of video art by David Wojnarowicz, and via leveraged pressure from two Republican congressman managed to have it removed from an exhibition at one of the Smithsonian museums several weeks ago. Conservatives leaped forward in unison to remind everyone that we believe in freedom of speech in this country, and that means that in nearly every case, we must countenance the expression of views we don't agree with. Kidding! They didn't.

David

Franklin,

“If that’s the crux of the issue, then one could ask if they succeeded, and I rather doubt that they did.”

Maybe not. Though I doubt it will be long before it’s tried again in some other context, perhaps by some of the same people and perhaps with more success. And what’s interesting to me is how prevalent such efforts are among the supposed intelligentsia. Not just the usual culprits of yore but people whose vocation is supposedly debate and the testing of ideas. There are dozens of examples in the archives in which discussions of controversial subjects – Islam, multiculturalism, illegal immigration or whatever – have been disrupted, cancelled or shut down in the name of civility, sensitivity or “fighting hate speech.” Usually by people who want to show the world just how much they care.

As I’ve noted before, the rise of ostentatious sensitivity has coincided with a determination to disrupt, censor and smear. “Haters don’t get to speak,” as one pious student put it, despite having no clear definition of what constitutes “hate” and why. Apparently there’s a list of topics we aren’t supposed to discuss freely, emphatically or in realistic ways. And that list ain’t getting shorter.

svh

"If that's the crux of the issue, then one could ask if they succeeded, and I rather doubt that they did."

"Poll: 35% blame Palin for Tucson shooting. The media focus on Sarah Palin's notorious crosshairs map does some lasting damage.
A substantial minority -- 35 percent -- blame the Palin map either a great deal or a moderate amount for what happened in Tucson. Granted polls don't do nuance well, but that number should be 0 percent… There is simply no evidence that the Palin crosshairs map had anything to do with what Loughner did."

http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/01/17/poll_palin_map_arizona/index.html

Laban

The contrast between Tomasky's views on Loughner and Major Hassan are striking :

http://www.anorak.co.uk/270195/media/jared-loughner-and-major-nidal-hasan-expose-media-prejudice-michael-tomasky-explains.html

"We have much more to learn about Hasan before we can jump to any conclusions... We should assume until it’s proven otherwise that Hasan was an American and a loyal one, who just snapped, as Americans of all ethnicities and backgrounds and political persuasions do."

Note also Tomasky's 'violent rhetoric' in the Journolist affair - "Listen folks–in my opinion, we all have to do what we can to kill ABC and this idiocy in whatever venues we have."

http://dailycaller.com/2010/07/20/documents-show-media-plotting-to-kill-stories-about-rev-jeremiah-wright/

Franklin

35%, eh? Interesting figure, that.

Roughly a third of conservative Republicans (34%) say Obama is a Muslim, as do 30% of those who disapprove of Obama's job performance. ... The belief that Obama is a Muslim has increased most sharply among Republicans (up 14 points since 2009), especially conservative Republicans (up 16 points). ... When asked how they learned about Obama's religion in an open-ended question, 60% of those who say Obama is a Muslim cite the media.

http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1701/poll-obama-muslim-christian-church-out-of-politics-political-leaders-religious

SG

Once again Palin drives the left insane.

Franklin

Once again Palin drives the left insane.

In my case she drove a registered Republican to vote for a Democrat.

Andrea Harris

Ah, now we see where Franklin is coming from. *bored now*

David

A footnote of sorts…

The socialist millionaire Michael Moore has been playing a similar game to the one noted above. Gun owners own guns because they’re all afraid of black people, or, er, something.

http://blog.eyeblast.tv/2011/01/michael-moore-people-own-guns-because-they%E2%80%99re-racists/

Moore doesn’t so much argue a point as insinuate. He bundles together disparate issues and emotive associations regardless of logic. Therefore we have to paraphrase: “Why do you want to defend yourself, and your loved ones and your property? Is there something wrong with you? Or with American foreign policy? Is it because you’re a racist? Look deep inside yourself. You are, aren’t you?”

Someone once said, “I carry a gun because a cop is too heavy.” As are armed bodyguards, of which, incidentally, Mr Moore has employed at least one. Though he takes care not to mention this. Readers will, however, be familiar with Mr Moore’s capacity for unrealism:

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2009/10/quote-of-the-day.html

Franklin

*bored now*

Sorry, Andrea - I live for your simpleminded amusement.

Someone once said, “I carry a gun because a cop is too heavy.” As are armed bodyguards, of which, incidentally, Mr Moore has employed at least one.

Your average cop is downright portable compared to Michael Moore.

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