Monday, January 10, 2011

Thoughts on the Recent Shooting

I haven't been around for a bit, what with the holidays and all, but the attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords requires a bit of commentary. I went to Salon this morning to review what they had on the issue. As it turns out they have two articles suggesting that the actions of Jarad Lee Loughner were motivated by craziness rather than politics. Laura Miller's "The real message of Loughner's book list" suggests that his books can be seen as anti-authoritarian but don't give much of a message beyond that. Steve Kornacki's "Let's not make this something it isn't" is even more direct.
At best, the connection between Palin’s behavior and Saturday’s tragedy is abstract. If anything, the shooting reinforces a point that James Fallows has made: The motives of political assassins rarely have anything to do with mainstream political debate and rhetoric. For now, at least, this seems to be the case with Loughner. This doesn’t mean it’s unreasonable to criticize Palin and others who push the envelope with their rhetoric. But when liberals use this moment to highlight every provocative statement Palin has made, it’s also not unreasonable if she says that her opponents are trying just a little too hard to make her the villain.
That seems fair. Crazy people like Loughner are unlikely to stop being crazy if we just talk more nicely about our political opponents.

Salon also has an article by Alex Pareene tracking the use of gun and violent imagery from the Right; not hard to do, unfortunately. And while this article starts out from Kornackis point, it quickly deviates right back into blaming conservatives for Loughners actions.
Whether Jared Loughner is a far-left nihilist or a right-wing racist or -- as he most likely is -- some weird politically incoherent amalgamation of extremist beliefs tinged with paranoia, he wasn't driven to murder by angry campaign slogans. Steve Kornacki's right -- Loughner was not a Gadsden Flag-wielding Tea Partier incited to violence by the Twitter messages of Sarah Palin. But he is a product of the culture, and there's a reason he chose to attack a Democratic Congresswoman. There's a reason why his paranoia was directed at an elected official, the closest representative of what he saw as in illegitimate government. The attempted assassination of a member of Congress seems depressingly like the inevitable conclusion of two years of hysterical revolutionary language suffusing every single domestic political debate.
We shouldn't blame Palin et al. for the actions of Loughner, but they did create a cultural context for such actions to make sense. Kind of a backhanded way of blaming Palin.

That said, it's nothing on Rachel Alexander over at Townhall. Her article, "The Left Hypocritically Exploits Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' Shooting," does exactly what it says on the tin. She focuses entirely on Loughner and his reading list and fairly explicitely blames liberalism for his madness.
Did the values pushed by the left of moral relativism, self-indulgence promoting acceptance of his imbibing of illicit drugs, and “tolerance” of hate-filled totalitarian books like The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf while dismissing the teachings of the Bible contribute to Loughner’s delusions? Perhaps.

Loughner is behind bars, so we may find out someday. Meanwhile, as more evidence comes out revealing Loughner has ties to the left, not the right, expect the left to suddenly blame his actions on mental illness.
Subtle. Alexander's only reference to Loughner's victim is in the title, incidentally. Presumably she figures that everybody knows the details.

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