Right Thinking From The Left Coast
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Monday, January 10, 2011

The Arizona Killings: Day Three

Despite numerous ongoing revelations that Jared Loughner was seriously deranged, was a conspiracy theorist (including a 9/11 truther) and had an obsession with Representative Giffords that long pre-dates the Tea Parties, the Left is determined to try to blame this on the Right Wing. (Of course, when we were previously attacked by eco-terrorists and Islamists, we were cautioned not to “rush to judgement”—unless we were trying to blame the Times Square bombing on the Tea Party or the Discovery Channel attack on anti-immigration groups.)

The focus is on Tea Party rhetoric, specifically Sarah Palin’s map.  Palin isn’t helping, of course, trying to pretend that the target crosshairs were surveyor’s marks (which wouldn’t makes sense and is belied by her own tweets) and cleanse her facebook feed and websites of any damning material.

However, much as I’d like to bash Palin, the use of target imagery and even inflammatory rhetoric is nothing new to politics.  Boortz and Malkin have a rundown, including several posts that Daily Kos has tried to scrub from their website.  Personally, the “they do it, too!” excuse never works or me; I expect better of conservatives than liberals.  But the idea that the climate of “anger and hate” we are experiencing now is unique or even unusual is ignorant not just of history but of last week.

Nor is the current climate necessarily disastrous to the Republic.  Lexington:

Well yes, America could become like Pakistan if people concluded that it was legitimate to settle arguments with bullets. But in America, where guns are plentiful and political and religious feelings intense, the telling thing is that almost no one at all considers political violence to be legitimate. The killings have been met with universal condemnation by ordinary Americans and the whole political class. The violent act of one probably deranged individual doesn’t show that America is heading down the same road as Pakistan. And the response to it suggests that the political cultures of the two countries are fundamentally different.


For as long as I’ve been alive, crosshairs and bull’s-eyes have been an accepted part of the graphical lexicon when it comes to political debates. Such “inflammatory” words as targeting, attacking, destroying, blasting, crushing, burying, knee-capping, and others have similarly guided political thought and action. Not once have the use of these images or words tempted me or anybody else I know to kill. I’ve listened to, read—and even written!—vicious attacks on government without reaching for my gun. I’ve even gotten angry, for goodness’ sake, without coming close to assassinating a politician or a judge.

From what I can tell, I’m not an outlier. Only the tiniest handful of people—most of whom are already behind bars, in psychiatric institutions, or on psycho-meds—can be driven to kill by political whispers or shouts. Asking us to forever hold our tongues lest we awake their deeper demons infantilizes and neuters us and makes politicians no safer.


The great miracle of American politics is that although it can tend toward the cutthroat and thuggish, it is almost devoid of genuine violence outside of a few scuffles and busted lips now and again. With the exception of Saturday’s slaughter, I’d wager that in the last 30 years there have been more acts of physical violence in the stands at Philadelphia Eagles home games than in American politics.

Frankly, there are things in politics we should be mad about.  If you can’t get worked up about the federal government tightening its grip on 1/5 of our economy—pro or con—why are you paying attention to politics at all?  Pro-lifers should be angry about what they see as the murder of innocents and pro-choicers should be angry about what they see as the loss of control of their own bodies.  Socialists should be mad about poverty and free-marketers should be angry about hyper-regulation.  But the beauty of our system is that almost everyone draws the line at violence.  As angry and vitriolic as things get, this sort of thing is unusual.  In many place in the world, this kind of political violence is normal.

Words did not create this tragedy; a chemical imbalance or organic problem in this man’s brain created it.  Everyone who knew him—everyone—saw that something was deeply seriously wrong with him.  Numerous acquaintances have said that they expected something like this.

I would like a cooling of some rhetoric—not because I fear violence but because I think we should reserve our most inflammatory rhetoric for the most inflammatory acts.  But that’s a personal preference.  I’m not going to glorify my personal preference of how politics show be discussed by trying to link “lesser” political commentary to violence.

(I should not, at some point, Balko’s comment that unprovoked violence by our government against its own citizens—in the name of the War on Drugs—does not receive a tiny fraction of the condemnation a Tea Partiers shouting at a Congresman does).

Exit inspiration—this morning’s interview with Christina Green’s father.

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This shouldn’t happen in this country, or anywhere else, but in a free society, we’re going to be subject to people like this. I prefer this to the alternative.

This man has more grace and courage in his little pinky than the entire commentariat has.

Update: Sully’s reader ask how this guy got a gun.  Easy: as far as I know, he was never officially diagnosed with mental illness.  And you can thank parts of the Left for that, who have opposed (with some valid reasons) locking people up against their will.

The college this guy was enrolled at did the right thing, possibly preventing this tragedy from occurring on their campus.  But there are limits to what you can legally do about he mentally ill.  And I suspect those limits are what allowed this guy to get a gun.  Assuming, of course, that being unable to buy a gun legally would have prevented him from buying one illegally.

Update: This.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 01/10/11 at 09:49 AM in Politics   Law, & Economics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink
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