The Arizona shooting

Sarah Palin, the ever-sensitive and ever-delicate, has compared criticism of her violent rhetoric, and the shocking, awful suggestion it might have contributed to the Arizona attack as “blood libel.” How amusing: A woman enjoying a multimillion dollar career and national celebrity whining that she’s in the same situation as centuries of Jews who were persecuted and accused of baking children’s flesh into the Passover bread. How she suffers.
As to the actual suggestion that she bears some complicity … my thoughts are mixed.
No, she certainly isn’t responsible in the way that, say, Bush bears responsibility for Gitmo. She didn’t order this guy or even encourage him.
Yes, I think her rhetoric and that of similar right-wingers does contribute to an atmosphere where a desperate, unstable person can decide violence is the solution. When people talk openly about gunning down liberals—and the right’s being doing it for years, now—it makes the unthinkable seem thinkable. The killers can tell themselves they’re just doing what everyone else is thinking. Sady Doyle discusses how it works here.Or you can rent Black Legion, in which Humphrey Bogart offers a perfect example of hate rhetoric appealing to a desperate man.
No, I don’t think raising that question is “politicizing” anything because it’s a political shooting. The guy may have been mentally ill, but he didn’t climb into a tower and shoot passers-by, he didn’t take out a McDonalds, he targeted a political candidate. So politics is relevant.
Don’t forget, the Ft. Hood shooter had some mental problems, but his religion certainly played into his decision to kill. Mental problems and political/religious violence are hardly exclusive.
And let’s not forget, the right has never had any trouble making the argument that everybody else is responsible for the consequences of their speech. Remember how liberals should shut up about torture and the difficulties of winning in Iraq because it would embolden the insurgents?
Or how violent hip-hop and rap would be responsible if anyone acted out their songs (a charge rarely levied against white singers who talk about shooting their cheating girlfriends, etc.)?
Or how Muslims who advocate violence and jihad are directly responsible if someone takes their words to heart? Let’s face it, if Muslim Rep. Keith Ellison had run a political ad involving gunsights (on anti-Islamic extremists such as Pam Oshry, Sarah Palin, Glen Beck, etc.), the right would be up in arms. If anyone Hispanic or black did it, the same. Hell, I’d almost bet money that Palin would be shrieking bloody murder if anyone of any race ran the kind of rhetoric against her that liberals have dealt with in this century (“Palin. Noose. Tree. Some assembly required.”).
All that being said, I’m inclined to agree with Slacktivist that the substance of Palin’s gunsight rhetoric is insignificant compared to her total bullshit. This is a woman who runs around screeching the complete falsehood that Obama’s health plan involves death panels to cut off care to senior citizens and how horribly, horribly offensive it is that a Muslim community center will go up on the site of a former coat factory (9/11! 9/11! Don’t think, just focus on the numbers!).
That’s all I have to say, but there are a few others worth listening to:
Ted Ralls on all the deaths taht don’t outrage us.
•George Packer on the myth that violent rhetoric is equal on all sides.
•Paul Krugman on the consequences of heated rhetoric.
•The Daily Howler offers some thoughtful doubts (check the Monday and Tuesday posts too).
•Glenn Greenwald on the inevitable suggestion that if we just lock up more people, this wouldn’t have happened.
I’ll finish with what Bill Clinton said after Oklahoma City because I believe it, now and then: “If they insist on being irresponsible with our common liberties, then we must be all the more responsible with our liberties. When they talk of hatred, we must stand against them. When they talk of violence, we must stand against them. When they say things that are irresponsible, that may have egregious consequences, we must call them on it. The exercise of their freedom of speech makes our silence all the more unforgivable. So exercise yours, my fellow Americans. Our country, our future, our way of life is at stake. I never want to look into the faces of another set of family members like I saw yesterday — and you can help to stop it.”

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