The Shootings Make the Right Look Irresponsible and Clownish

This is the most reasonable application of Right Wing vitriol to the Tucson shootings.

They’re (Republicans and the Right) in a tough spot these days partly because it’s impossible for them to mount the defense of their rhetoric that is true: “I am a frivolous person, and I don’t choose my words based on their meaning. Rather, I behave like the worst caricature of a politician. If you think my rhetoric logically implies that people should behave violently, you’re mistaken – neither my audience nor my peers in the conservative movement are engaged in a logical enterprise, and it’s unfair of you to imply that people take what I say so seriously that I can be blamed for a real world event. Don’t you see that this is all a big game? This is how politics works. Stop pretending you’re not in on the joke.” American Scene


What does make the Tucson event important in this context is not that violence in political talk causes stuff like it, or makes it more likely; it’s that it’s a salient, memorable, horrifying example of what that talk is frivolously using to make cheap points.  Every lout trying to put on the fake toughness of a bully surrounded by a retinue with this kind of imagery can now be called on it with the reality of Tucson: “Is this, or is this not, what you are asking for when you talk like that? and if not, what can you possibly mean, and what kind of person are you to talk that way?” RBC

And Sarah Palin can’t say anything without being offensive, even when she’s trying not to be.

“Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own,” Ms. Palin said in a video posted to her Facebook page. “Especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.”

Ms. Palin’s use last year of a map with crosshairs hovering over a number of swing districts, including that of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, had increasingly become a symbol of that overheated rhetoric. In an interview with The Caucus on Monday, Tim Pawlenty, a potential 2012 rival and the former Republican governor of Minnesota, said he would not have produced such a map.

But in the video, Ms. Palin rejected criticism of the map, casting it as a broader indictment of the basic political rights of free speech exercised by people of all political persuasions.

She said acts like the shootings in Arizona “begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state.”

“Not with those who listen to talk radio,” she added. “Not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle. Not with law abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their first amendment rights at campaign rallies. Not with those who proudly voted in the last election.”

By using the term “blood libel” to describe the criticism about political rhetoric after the shootings, Ms. Palin was inventing a new definition for an emotionally laden phrase. Blood libel is typically used to describe the false accusation that Jews murder Christian children to use their blood in religious rituals, in particular the baking of matzos for passover. The term has been used for centuries as the pretext for anti-Semitism and violent pogroms against Jews. NYT

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2 Responses to The Shootings Make the Right Look Irresponsible and Clownish

  1. gregdowney says:

    Great collection. I couldn’t agree more with the sentiment. You would hope that, after Tucscon, no American would think that outrageous paranoia, advocating violence and assassination, and vilification of politicians or the very fact of having government, was acceptable rhetoric. I don’t think anyone can argue that shocking rhetoric creates people capable of homicide, but it can make it harder to perceive who is really dangerous, if supposedly sane individuals continually swagger around like completely insane hate-mongers and vicious threats are commonplace.

  2. Austin says:

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the people most guilty of violent rhetoric have changed their behaviors much. The obfuscation you talk about is a great point. If people think the right thing to do is bring their rifles to a presidential speech and mull around outside, talk about poisoning Nancy Pelosi or the need to shoot Democrats in the head, or that destroying the property of elected officials is a tolerated way of showing your displeasure with their votes, what does a threat look like anymore? Using ALL CAPS?

    We keep rolling back what a threat is as more people say they want to hurt politicians and violently change society. Now the conciliatory dialogue seems to agree that threats are unknown disturbed individuals who have been ignored by the social welfare system, who have guns, and get close to elected officials. That’s really too narrow for a free society.

    I just came across an interesting poll, which I think I’ll share.

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