But what most appalls and frightens me now, observing others' reactions to this event--in the media, and in comments to online articles and Facebook posts--are the wild and irresponsible conclusions people are leaping to that this single act of violence was somehow "caused" by the angry rhetoric and hostility toward politicians stirred up by conservative critics of government. By some hysterical pretzel-logic, most of the blame-throwing seems to be directed at--who else?--Sarah Palin. Their "reasoning" goes something like this:
PREMISE: An atmosphere of incivility and hostility toward government and politicians prevails in America today.In other words, anyone who has publicly and angrily criticized the government and its officials in recent years--presumably including me, and maybe you too--is at least jointly responsible for the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords.
PREMISE: That atmosphere has been fostered by Sarah Palin (among others, including Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and members of the Tea Party movement).
FACT: Someone committed an act of violence against a government official.
CONCLUSION: Sarah Palin and her allies are responsible for that act of violence.
Before the suspected shooter had even been officially identified, and without the slightest evidence of what his motives might have been, mainstream media news stories (for example, this one from the AP) were noting that "Giffords has drawn the ire of the right in the last year, especially from politicians like Sarah Palin over her support of the health care bill"; that "[h]er Tucson office was vandalized a few hours after the House voted to approve the health care law in March"; that "Palin listed Giffords' seat as one of the top 'targets' in the midterm elections because of the lawmakers' support for the health care law"; and that "[t]he shooting comes amid a highly charged political environment that has seen several dangerous threats against lawmakers," including one by "a San Francisco man upset with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's support of health care reform" and one by another California man "known for his anger over left-leaning politics" who shot at highway patrol officers and planned to attack the ACLU. It was pointed out that Rep. Giffords' opponent in the November elections, a former Marine, was pictured on his website in military gear holding an automatic weapon.
Left-leaning Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, in several press conferences and interviews only hours after the shooting, referred to it as evidence that his own state had become a “mecca for racism and bigotry”, and blamed the act on "the vitriol that comes out of certain people’s mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country" (this is the same county sheriff who, a few months ago, called the new Arizona Immigration law unwise, stupid and racist and that he would not enforce it).
A lead article in Sunday's New York Times makes this incredible statement:
While the exact motivations of the suspect in the shootings remained unclear, an Internet site tied to the man, Jared Lee Loughner, contained antigovernment ramblings. And regardless of what led to the episode, it quickly focused attention on the degree to which inflammatory language, threats and implicit instigations to violence have become a steady undercurrent in the nation’s political culture."Regardless of what led to the episode"? This statement encapsulates the problem with the current debate over the Arizona shooting's relationship to the "emotionally charged political climate" and who's responsible for it. Even though Loughner's motivations are presently unclear, at best, and may have little or nothing in particular to do with Ms. Giffords' politics or current government policies--and almost certainly nothing to do with Sarah Palin or campaign ads ran months ago which this youthful, mentally disturbed suspect probably never saw--liberals in the government, media, and general populace are eagerly leaping to the conclusion that they do, with no factual basis whatever. "What led to this episode" should have everything to do with the debate, and if investigation shows that this was the irrational act of a raving lunatic, that should be the end of it.
Of course, the Left won't let that be the end of it; by some twisted quasi-logic "Sarah Palin and her allies," through their passionate rhetoric and antigovernment attitude, will be fixed with responsibility for inspiring, emboldening, or enabling an unbalanced individual to commit such an act. As far as they're concerned, the case is already closed.
But we're thinking people. So, let's look at what evidence there is at the moment before we make judgments. And what little there is doesn't lend much credence to the wave of self-righteous indignation against conservative political rhetoric. An article on MSNBC last night, which quotes Loughner's YouTube videos and MySpace postings extensively, says that:
The videos are not blatantly political, in the sense that they do not mention the congresswoman or federal judge that he's suspected of shooting, nor any specific legislation. They do complain that too few people in the area speak English — immigration has been a hot-button political issue, particularly in the border state of Arizona, and the federal judge who was killed had handled high-profile cases about immigration, after which he received threats. (The sheriff said Saturday night that it appears the judge was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the gunman went first for the congresswoman.)If you proceed to read the article's own quotes of Jared Loughner, you'll find that he complains that too many people are "illiterate"--he never once mentions Mexicans or the Spanish language, or that people can't speak English, and he talks more about "grammar" and how the government is using it for "mind control." He says absolutely nothing about immigration.
In fact, here's essentially all he says about government or politics:
I know who's listening: Government Officials, and the People . . . Nearly all the people, who don't know this accurate information of a new currency, aren't aware of mind control and brainwash methods. If I have my civil rights, then this message wouldn't have happen . . .The MSNBC article lists among Loughner's favorite books, as indicated in an online profile, "Animal Farm," "Brave New World," "The Wizard of OZ," "Aesop's Fables," "The Odyssey," "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," "Fahrenheit 451," "Peter Pan," "To Kill A Mockingbird," "The Communist Manifesto," "Gulliver's Travels," "Mein Kampf," and "The Republic." This article, and another posted this evening, quotes a former friend of Loughner who described him as a "pothead" and his past politics as "left wing, quite liberal, & oddly obsessed with the 2012 prophecy."
I can't trust the current government because of fabrications. The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar.
The majority of citizens in the United States of America have never read the United States of America's Constitution. You don't have to accept the federalist laws. Nonetheless, read the United States of America's Constitution to apprehend all of the current treasonous laws.
In conclusion, reading the second United States Constitution, I can't trust the government because of the ratifications: The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar.
No! I won't pay debt with a currency that's not backed by gold and silver!
No! I won't trust in God!
What's government if words don't have meaning?
I don't know about you, but I find it hard to see what in all this suggests any responsibility for Loughner's actions on the part of Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, the Tea Party movement, the Republican Party, or political conservatism in general. Given that several of the authors of Loughner's favorite books were critical of governments and social systems of their day, it seems just as logical to infer that Aldous Huxley, Kurt Vonnegut, Lewis Carrol, Karl Marx, or Plato inspired him to shoot Gabrielle Giffords.
Sarah Palin has been singled out for criticism by liberals and the media for publishing a "target map" on her PAC website using small "cross-hairs" symbols to roughly identify the districts of 20 House Democrats up for election in last year's mid-term elections, including Rep. Giffords'. The Congresswoman's face is not on the map, nor is anyone else's, and her name is only one of twenty listed on the map. The map doesn't mention "targeting" or shooting anyone. Interestingly, the ultra-left blog Daily Kos also posted what it called a "target list" identifying Giffords in a 2008 post, which listed Giffords as one of dozens of representatives with "a bull's-eye on their district" for being a "bad apple" Democrat.
The Left's and media's response to the Arizona shooting evinces the sort of political scapegoating and witch-hunting that liberals claimed to abhor back in the 1950s and '60s. Today, they're all to happy to pin responsibility for a lone maniac's actions on certain individuals (other than the actual perpetrator), and a whole class of people (conservatives), they don't like. Presumably, they would find the many vocal critics of John F. Kennedy's policies complicit in his assassination by Lee Harvey Oswald. Oddly, I haven't heard anyone on the Left condemning Muslim leaders or the atmosphere among Muslims of hate against Christians, Jews, and Americans generally for Nidal Malik Hasan's massacre of 13 soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas in November 2009. Nor have I heard any of them denounce the attitude of divisiveness that drove the "New Black Panthers" to intimidate voters in Philadelphia in 2008, or the spirit of hate that impelled SEIU thugs to terrorize a bank executive's children in their own home last May.
The point of this post, however, isn't so much to defend Sarah Palin or Tea Partiers against hysterical, groundless attacks as it is to warn my readers about the impact that these denunciations and demands for "civility" could have on free expression and the political future of this country.
We should remember that in 1933 the Nazis used the setting of a fire in the German Reichstag building, by an unemployed, mentally disturbed Communist sympathizer, as an excuse to push through the German Parliament a suspension of civil liberties and for mass arrests of political opponents, which enabled the Nazi party to consolidate its hold on power. Five years later, the Nazis used the shooting of a minor German diplomat in Paris, by a young Jewish man upset at his family's forced deportation from Germany, as an excuse to launch the Kristallnacht, a nationwide pogrom against Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues that marked the beginning of the Final Solution and the Holocaust.
Today in the United States, the Giffords shooting and the "uncivil, antigovernment atmosphere" from which it supposedly sprang will undoubtedly fuel a campaign to have the Federal Communications Commission and other government agencies regulate talk radio and the Internet (the latter move has already begun on transparently innocuous grounds, as discussed here and here) so as to prevent the spreading of "divisive", "hateful," or seditious rhetoric. The FBI and the Treasury Department (including the IRS and Secret Service) will be called upon to "investigate" people and organizations who do the spreading and to threaten their funding and tax-exempt status. At a minimum, open and forthright criticism of the government and of political figures will be discouraged as "uncivil" and as a potential incitement to violence. This will be true not only for high-profile figures like Sarah Palin, but also for ordinary folks like you and me, who like to express our opinions in easily-monitored online forums like this blog, or on Facebook (or in bars, buses, or anywhere else snoops might be employed).
Of course, everyone wants peace and civility. But people aren't angry for nothing, and it wasn't Sarah Palin or any other conservative spokesperson who "made" them angry. Their fury was, and is, the direct result of the relentless campaign within governments, the media, and other elements of society to negate the Unites States Constitution and fatally undermine all that this country has traditionally stood for. Let's deal with the causes of popular anger, not merely the symptom.
It's sobering to think that the American Revolution might never have happened if the plainly inflammatory antigovernment statements of firebrands like Samuel Adams, Thomas Paine, and Patrick Henry had been suppressed. Career politicians, bureaucrats, socialists, public employee unions, and their running dogs in the media and academia would like nothing better than to make sure that ordinary people in this country could never rise up against their masters again. They'll use any excuse--even the impulsive shootings of a Congresswoman, a judge, a little girl, and some old ladies in a mall parking lot by a crazed, pot-smoking loser like Jared Loughner--to stifle dissent and advance their agenda.
Don't let them. Don't shut up. Don't hide. Don't stop exposing their corruption and evil schemes. Don't stop defending your liberties, whatever it costs, and no matter what others try to embarrass you with. Don't surrender, and don't retreat--not one inch.