January 11, 2011
I wasn’t planning to comment on the shootings in Arizona, but the rush to exploit the tragedy for political gain shouldn’t pass unremarked. The first thing that caught my eye was this smug and nasty sermon from the Guardian’s Michael Tomasky, who tells us “rage is encoded in conservative DNA.”
Guns are simply too central to the mythology of the American right, as is the idea of liberty being wrested from tyrants only at gunpoint. For the American right to stop talking about armed insurrection would be like American liberals dropping the subjects of race and gender.
Mr Tomasky’s rather selective alarm has thankfully been noted by Natalie Solent and Tim Blair.
Glenn Reynolds, a man whose “conservative rage” is difficult to detect, offered this:
To be clear, if you’re using this event to criticize the “rhetoric” of Mrs. Palin or others with whom you disagree, then you’re either: (a) asserting a connection between the “rhetoric” and the shooting, which based on evidence to date would be what we call a vicious lie; or (b) you’re not, in which case you’re just seizing on a tragedy to try to score unrelated political points, which is contemptible… Those who purport to care about the health of our political community demonstrate precious little actual concern for America’s political well-being when they seize on any pretext, however flimsy, to call their political opponents accomplices to murder.
At Harry’s Place, Gordon MacMillan is troubled by “violent metaphors,” albeit only those used by some Republicans:
If you do use such explicit language like “reload” and “bullseye,” and “cross hair” imagery then to many the message is clear. You’re gunning for people even if it is metaphorically.
Even more troubled – to the point of authoritarian incoherence – is Pennsylvania Democrat Robert Brady. Mr Brady hopes to outlaw the “use of language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a federal official or member of Congress.” As an example of impermissible symbology, Brady pointed to a map used by Sarah Palin to indicate “targeted” congressional seats, saying: “You can’t put bull’s-eyes or crosshairs on a United States congressman or a federal official.” That the map in question does no such thing doesn’t appear to hinder Mr Brady. Apparently his perception is enough.
As Jeff Goldstein notes,
Neither Sarah Palin nor that Kos jaggoff targeted Congresswoman Giffords. What they targeted was her Congressional seat. Nobody literally put a bullseye or a target on her. And anyone pretending that they did - in order either to win political points or because they actually believe such nonsense - is either craven and opportunistic, or else too moronic to be taken seriously, save for the dangers they pose to our liberties by advocating for a legally-binding crackdown of fucking symbolism… One person’s dog barking is another person’s words from the Devil instructing them to kill. The answer to which is to get the person hearing voices some help, not to outlaw dogs.
Update, via the comments:
The tawdry surrealism continues. 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, as featured on the websites of Sarah Palin, Harry Mitchell and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. None of which delays the Guardian’s Michael Tomasky in his second rush to the fray. After casually denouncing his critics as “just comments from conservatives,” Tomasky asks, 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?
Well, one might just as readily 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. Baseless supposition is, clearly, an entertaining pastime. And hey, who needs evidence when it comes to murder? There’s the narrative, after all. Which may explain Tomasky’s confidence in concluding,
I don’t think anyone can plausibly deny that most of it [violent rhetoric] comes from the right wing.
At which point readers with strong stomachs may wish to poke through this.
Language still plays on the mind of Paul Krugman, a moral lodestone for readers of the New York Times. Mr Krugman triumphantly quotes a three word comment about being “armed” - with facts - as a damning example of “eliminationist rhetoric.” A phrase Mr Krugman uses three times, despite his difficulties in finding examples. Oh, and the New York Daily News tells us, quite firmly, that Sarah Palin may have “the blood of more than some poor caribou on her hands.” Apparently it’s possible to call for temperate rhetoric while accusing one’s opponents of complicity in murder.
Feel free to add your own.