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Should We Be Surprised?

1/10/2011 1:54:34 PM

Tags: Gabrielle Giffords, Jared Loughner, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Paul Krugman, Tea Party, Sarah Palin, politics, Extra!, Brad Zellar

In the aftermath of Saturday’s gruesome shooting spree in Tucson, people on both sides of the growing American political divide can try to backpedal all they want, but if ever there was a time to point fingers and ask tough questions about the tenor of our national “debate,” that time is now.

Yes, it takes a seriously disturbed individual to open fire on a crowd of innocent people, whether those people are schoolchildren, former co-workers, or merely random targets. You cannot, however, separate Jared Loughner’s actions from the political climate in which they occurred, and to pretend that the attempted (and explicitly planned) assassination attempt on a member of the United States Congress—an attempt that claimed the lives of six others, including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge—was purely the act of an isolated madman operating in a moral vacuum is disingenuous, at best.

By now everyone’s heard about Sarah Palin’s disgraceful “target” map. Rational people might view that graphic as nothing more than a folksy way to mobilize campaign resources, but Palin—and the rest of her Tea Party cohort—surely know that there are an awful lot of irrational and disturbed people out there who may not necessarily understand the nuances of such a subtle motivational tool. Nuances tend to elude the kind of people who might, say, carry guns to political rallies or, say, stomp a woman outside a Senatorial debate in Kentucky.

To say that such deeply angry and irrational people could not possibly be susceptible to deeply irrational rhetorical incitement from pundits and politicians is foolhardy. Gabrielle Giffords knew as much, and said last spring—referring explicitly to Palin’s map—“When people do that, they’ve got to realize that there are consequences to that action.”

There are consequences, and there will continue to be consequences, when, as Extra! magazine noted in its January issue, Fox pundits like Bill O’Reilly joke about “decapitating” newspaper editors and columnists (as he did in 2005, and again last year), or when Glenn Beck “jokes” about poisoning former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Or, for that matter, when Liz Trotta, yet another Fox contributor, “jokes” about assassinating President Obama.  Funny stuff, I guess, if you’re a Beltway sophisticate of a certain political persuasion.

Not so funny, however, if you don’t quite get the joke, and really not funny when there are so many people out there who aren’t joking at all.

Source: Extra!, New York Times, Huffington Post, Media Matters 

Image on the home page by Freedom To Marry, licensed under Creative Commons.



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Post a comment below.

 

Julie
1/30/2011 8:11:37 AM
As the good old song goes... Version 1- HELP ME FAKE IT TO THE RIGHT. OR Version 2 - HELP ME FAKE IT THROUGH THE RIGHT Oh, and Occum...which hand should we raise? Left or right?

Occum
1/20/2011 3:57:49 PM
Since no one is listening anyway I will jump on my soapbox here. Here goes. Considering the complexity of life I feel it is not only juvenile but increcibly simplistic to ascribe ones self to a group in the sense they are used in current times. I am a republican or conservative. I am a democrate or liberal. History explains those two descriptors have switched the hand they have held over time in this country and society as a whole. As I listen to certain radio talk show hosts referring to each other as "the great one", "el rushbo" "the great american" I can only refer back to the superlatives of simplistic and juvenile used in the last mention. So how do we personlly become fiscal conservatives that are socially liberal.? I listen to alot of political televsion and radio programs yet I can't recall "the immediate endictment" of the right wing political media being called out. I do remember an upset and overloaded sheriff commenting on an upsetting and somewhat personal event in his community. Every day since then I have heard the monotonous diatribe of the initiating talk show host followed by every other show host "parroting" the same non-thought provoking mantra. Now they are picking at a Goebbels reference made by "some quasi-socialistic democratic wanna be communist. Are they looking in the mirror? Are they hearing what they are saying. Please raise your hand if there is any merit to this.

Occum
1/18/2011 9:57:26 PM
I love pettifogging. The etomology does not stand up but it is a fun word regardless. So what is the arguement we are all engaged in? Politics by its most basic meaning is the practice of communicating the discourse of life. So I become confused as to why the fashioning of variable ideas becomes the life and death situation ranted about by either side. However, I find there are absolutes pronounced by certain parites that scare the crap out of me. The answer is..... stand by all ships at sea......YOU DON'T KNOW.....let me repeat that to everyone laughing.....YOU DON'T KNOW. It is that simple. Religion, politics, child raising, airline schedules, mail delivery or is it a dog turd or a pine cone? So we listen to all the "experts" because they have shows to tell us. Rush, Rachel, Seah, Chris, Keith, Glen, ad infintitum. I asked previously how Geraldo would reconcile his beginings at WillowBrook with what he does now. I used to care... I wonder who still does.

Brad Zellar
1/17/2011 8:25:57 PM
I might quibble with some of what Bob Bennett says, but I can't help but admire a man who uses such a marvelous adjective as "pettifogging," and uses it correctly.

Bob Bennett
1/17/2011 7:43:39 PM
There is fault on both sides of the aisle. The left has taken advantage of many of the rights innumerated in the Constitution, but has given back little execept more bureaucrats and more pettifogging laws. The right is sick of the left's abuses while the left has little understanding of the values of the right. Much of the left were pampered and believe that is normal. Yes, abuses abound on the right as well; but much of both left and right are really reactionaries; we have ours so screw you. The privedlges of both left and right may not last much longer. Both are over-burdening America.

Bob Bennett
1/17/2011 7:43:10 PM
There is fault on both sides of the aisle. The left has taken advantage of many of the rights innumerated in the Constitution, but has given back little execept more bureaucrats and more pettifogging laws. The right is sick of the left's abuses while the left has little understanding of the values of the right. Much of the left were pampered and believe that is normal. Yes, abuses abound on the right as well; but much of both left and right are really reactionaries; we have ours so screw you. The privedlges of both left and right may not last much longer. Both are over-burdening America.

Julie
1/17/2011 12:57:26 PM
Be careful what you wish for! It's my understanding that we are still supposed to be employing secret ballot voting. With the oxymoronic standards we use today regarding privacy and privacy laws, why bother upkeeping secret ballot voting. We walk around having public conversations on mobile devices, we advertise our personal political views with such things as bumper stickers, etc....while fussing and fuming over the recent Wiki-leaks issue of releasing private documents. We want medical or financial privacy and political privacy and yet we walk around blabbing it all to anyone who will lend an ear. Is it time to do away with secret ballot voting and anything else lo longer left to privacy?? Be careful what you wish for.

Brianz
1/15/2011 3:09:32 AM
Why should we be surprised, the Palins, the Becks and the O'Reillys represent the image of the American people's lack of respect for each other's differences and try to high jack the right of Freedom of speech to say anything that pops in one's frustrated head and then spume it out under a pseudonym on the Internet where they cannot be identified for their hate mongering comments. In some sense, these unidentified cowardly individuals that hide behind freedom of speech are not much better than those who pull the trigger on innocent people. When one has to listen to the ridiculous gun toting arguments that some people come up with to rationalize carrying guns all the time in public, one wonders if part of the American population who rant and rave about their god given rights to tote guns don't suffer from a form of a genetic brain damage and paranoia which keeps them pathologically scared out of their minds and wits and where they are under some kind dillusionnal spell that needs to carry guns like a baby needs to "suck" on a pacifier. Sorry but I have had enough of listening to American gun toting "bull-shit" and a diet of their lame reasoning day in and day out while innocent people are being threatened or killed like in some third world country because they dare have a difference of opinion from those of gun toters. Imagine the gall of some of these gun mongers calling Islam violent. Any intelligent person could see that Amerika has met the enemy, it's themselves.

janieones56_2
1/14/2011 8:39:08 AM
I read that Sarah Palin has received death threats from people who perceive her as being responsible for the shooting in Tucson. Don't know if the people issuing the threats are mentally ill or not, but either way it's an ironic, sad and bizarre response, no?

janieones56_2
1/14/2011 8:39:02 AM
I read that Sarah Palin has received death threats from people who perceive her as being responsible for the shooting in Tucson. Don't know if the people issuing the threats are mentally ill or not, but either way it's an ironic, sad and bizarre response, no?

Roger Dobronyi
1/13/2011 7:05:22 AM
How can anyone believe that anybody in such a mental state was not super-susceptable to the acidic rhetoric voiced on certain Networks 24/7. Shortly after the election in 2008 a man confronted my wife at the post office and it almost became violent simply because we had an Obama bumper sticker on our vehicle. The Senator in Colorado has had an attempt on his life. Democratic offices have been vandalized. Claiming this wasn't political is like getting caught red-handed committing a crime and then claiming innocence. People with mental problems enable vitrolic poison pushers on television to access these people and have them commit the terrroist acts like that in Tucson against the Democratic party! To say we shouldn't be so quick to blame politics can only be stated by someone either so vacuous he shouldn't be allowed a even a drivers license or else so criminal as to actually support this kind of activity for his own purposes. I think it is evident it is the latter and that these people are evil!

John Shields
1/13/2011 12:48:55 AM
Thank you for the words of sanity that I have been yearning to read. As an American who has lived in Canada for the past forty odd years, I have been grieved by the divide that has opened in the years since Obama's election. I drove from Victoria to San Francisco listening to talk radio that I don't ordinarily hear. I was appalled by the tone and the vitriol, and I became deeply concerned for America. The comment to this piece is quietly reassuring.

Judy
1/12/2011 8:37:33 PM
My Mother and her twin are schizophrenic. I am a psychiatric nurse. Not all people with mental illness are violent. As I read local news in Ohio and Nationally I see more and more people in leadership positions (school boards, hospital boards, tenure boards at the university) all having episodes of fear for their lives. I think the question is why do people threaten with violence every time they do not get their way? I have always said I never would own a gun, am now contemplating doing so. Why do I feel the need to defend myself? What is happening to our country as a whole?

Susan Troy
1/12/2011 7:17:52 PM
I have been so sad inside all week and wanting to speak out on this madness. I do not listen to Fox News or Sarah Palin or the talk show hots because I think it feeds into the basest and nastiest part of our society. Yes, the constant bombardment of hatred and prejudice by uninformed bullies does set a tone. It is like the gratuitous violence on video games. Guns hurt, kill, maim and take us all out. What makes anyone think this doesn't happen? I live in Oakland, California. This happens every day of the week and it is political. It reflects the values of a society that is hell bent on adolescent behavior--screw all but six and save them for pall bearers, as my mother used to say. The tragedy in Arizona just made it that much worse. We have a politics of "beggar thy neighbor" and it shows. And it is dead wrong.

Occum
1/12/2011 4:15:59 PM
Thanks John. Your post (amongst other synapse firings) brings to the forefront of my mind an irony which has been festering for a chance to breathe. One of the stories that brough Geraldo Rivera to national acclaim was his investigation of Willow Brook Psychiatric Center. If I remember correctly he and John Lennon started a foundation (or something to that effect) for the mentally ill. As a Fox News contributor how does that angle play out? Could he convey sympathy for the shooter as a mentally ill person and take the heat of being too understanding? What would Bill and Dennis say? Also, if threatening language is reasonable cause for a visit by law enforcement why aren't there interuptions in political speeches, talk show airings, television broadcasts or any public medium. I will be chastised for being off point but you know how these things go.

JOHN WALTON
1/12/2011 2:52:13 PM
Hi Occum. If you go back far enough the "crazies" actually got treatment. We started reversing that trend with the dehospitalization movement of the 70s that, while right-headed, returned mentally ill to their communities from large state hospitals were they languished for the most part. The theory was that they would receive better more humane treatment there, but adequate treatment services in communities were never funded so now estimates were (before the recession) that 75% of our homeless population are mentally ill. This leads to confrontation with law enforcement who lack adequate training or resources so many of the mentally ill are at best jailed or left on the street and at worst killed by law enforcement. One could easily conjecture that if mental health funding were returned to the levels of the 1970s, this shooter might have been better assessed when his abberant behavior was identifies and perhaps received the treatment he obviously needs. This is not to excuse his actions and I hope that he will be held fully accountable. But as a society we have chosen not to prioritize treatment for funding. I also hope the the hatemongers will take responsibility for creating an atmosphere that increases the likelihood that violence is seen as a viable alternative.

Occum
1/12/2011 1:23:43 PM
I will post this at my own regret it may get picked up and made point of but here goes. After hearing Sheriff Dupnik make the point, correctly but unfortunately, that (and I am paraphrasing) that "back in the day crazies were locked up" or something to that effect. I say correctly because I come from a police family and that was pretty much the thought process at the time. With that in mind and back to my curioiusity, I am surprised certain talk show hosts aren't blaming groups like the ACLU for for setting the stage for things like this to happen. Any thoughts?

Anjisan
1/12/2011 1:04:55 PM
Valerye, wouldn't you think that it was a Dem that was shot would be evidence enough? There indeed IS right-wing hate speech which specifically targetted Giffords. Back in June 2010, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords's Republican (Tea Party) opponent Jesse Kelly had an event at which voters could shoot an assault rifle with the candidate, promoted as thus: "Get on Target for Victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly" Read more: http://www.utne.com/Politics/Gabrielle-Giffords-American-Political-Debate.aspx#ixzz1AqiXXgYx

JOHN WALTON
1/12/2011 12:25:23 PM
Denying the link between violent speech and violent action seems again to denying the link between climate change and human behavior. If we wait to "prove" either it's too late. That said I want to call attention Valerye's comment on violent speech on the left. I think we must ALL be accountable to tone it down. Use of violent metaphors on the left only justifies and escalates those from the right. It's time to heed the multiple calls to a return to civil discourse. One way to get there is to call out anyone who resorts to violent language and to acknowledge that it is unacceptable coming from anyone. Let the left shame by example as I heard a gentleman on the Huffington post do this weekend acknowledging his own inappropriate use on violent language. Let's all get our knuckles off the ground and begin to achieve the potential of our species.

Brad Zellar
1/12/2011 11:28:29 AM
I have nothing against dissenting opinions, but I do think it's interesting that the right is suddenly so defensive about its rhetoric and tactics. They'll insist there was nothing political about the planned attempt to assassinate a congresswoman; it was merely the work of a "nutjob" operating in a moral vacuum. Yet it seems to me that these same zealous defenders of the First and Second amendments are in something of a constitutional box on this one; they want to protect free speech at any and all cost, make semi-automatic guns available to anyone (including "nutjobs"), and gut health care and social services programs that might provide the care --or safekeeping-- that our growing population of mentally ill desperately needs. All of the incidents Velerye mentions were political, whatever the ideology or mental state of the perpetrator. I also think it's worth pointing out that the overwhelming majority of mentally ill people in this country are far more likely to harm themselves or be victims of violence than to commit violent crimes.

Carin Froehlich
1/12/2011 11:06:36 AM
You have made some refreshing "good points" in your well written article. I understand the fact we have "freedom of speech", but what I do not understand is how can people make a living "lying" to the public? When are politicians, radio and TV media going to be come responsible for what they say and do?It seems that the"Only" time they ever get in trouble is if it has to do with a sex scandal. The mass confusion and fear that they generate not only to the mentally challenged but to well educated people is becoming an issue in every single town across this country. We personally do not even have the "freedom" to put a political sign up on our property, without being "heckled" or threatened. America has had it with the whole "Political Circus". The time has come for every politician , to be held accountable for what they "Promise,Preach,and Promote".

Occum
1/12/2011 10:44:56 AM
From the onset I have heard no one accusing any political or idealogical group. I have heard the term vitriolic language about four billion times but never attached to anyone in particular. I did notice, however, that within hours there were many talk show hosts predicting the "right wing" would be blamed. Now why would that be?

Valerye
1/12/2011 10:38:08 AM
There is still NO evidence that the killer was associated with or motivated by anything said by a particular political person or group. Until that is confirmed, it is pointless to speculate and point fingers at others. It is more important to find out the TRUTH of the matter than to blame as quickly as we can. Debating over whose "hate speech" motivated him - while we still have no evidence - only serves to fuel the ugly side of political debate and to dishonor the dead and injured.

Anjisan
1/12/2011 10:33:19 AM
There indeed IS right-wing hate speech which specifically targetted Giffords. Back in June 2010, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords's Republican (Tea Party) opponent Jesse Kelly had an event at which voters could shoot an assault rifle with the candidate, promoted as thus: "Get on Target for Victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly"

Valerye
1/12/2011 10:19:41 AM
What is disgraceful is the rush to condemn "right wing rehtoric" as the cause of the killer's actions. There is NO evidence at this time that the killer was motivated by "right-wing hate speech". May I remind you that Sirhan Sirhan was NOT to the right of Kennedy, but far, far to the left. The right does not have a lock on "hate speech". It was President Obama who said "don't bring a knife to a gun fight", exhorted his supporters to argue with his opponents and "get in their face" and told Latinos to "punish our enemies" Paul Kanjorski, former Democratic rep from PA stated that REpublican Governor Scott of Florida should be "put up against a wall and shot". At this time, the killer's motive is not clear and we should refrain from pointing any fingers at anyone other than the nutjob who pulled the trigger. It is disgusting to see anyone, whether they are media or political professionals or if they are simply citizens with an agenda, take this tragedy and try to spin it for their political agenda.

Occum
1/12/2011 9:31:02 AM
Well said. I am hearing the argument also that this type of rhetoric has been going on for centuries. Maybe so, but the messages have never gotten to the masses with such immediacy and repetition. Unstable people have enough to do dealing with the voices in their heads....they don't need affirmation from supposed talents on loan from God (no I am not bringing God into this just quoting a talk show host.)

Harlan Hoffman
1/12/2011 9:23:13 AM
As long as we are discussing political assassination, and over the top rhetoric, why not use the appropriate adjectives like: ignorant, stupid, rigid, dogmatic, barbaric, hateful? excusing behavior with adjectives like disturbed and insane, makes the act a health issue with little if any responsibility put on the perp and the sophists that instigate the drama.

Alison
1/10/2011 3:27:38 PM
Thank you for boiling it all down to these few, perfectly chosen words.






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