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Steve Likes to Curse
Writing, comics and random thoughts from really a rather vulgar man
Dog vs. Dog: Is Overheated Political Rhetoric to Blame for the Tucson Shooting? 
Wednesday, January 12th, 2011 | 10:45 pm [commentary, dog vs. dog, humor, politics]
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Is the hyperbolic, sometimes violent political rhetoric employed by politicians and media personalities like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck partially to blame for the shooting in Tucson, Arizona, that killed six and injured fourteen others, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords? 
 
As odd as it feels to be arguing that someone other than the gunman with the severe mental illness is responsible for the shootings in Tucson over the weekend, I think people like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are a little bit to blame. It’s not as if they, or any other comparable figure in the mainstream media, have ever outright incited violence. But they contribute to an “Us vs. Them” tone that encourages people to see those with differing beliefs or philosophies as the enemy. It doesn’t always lead to some violent tragedy. In fact — lucky for us — it hardly ever does. But it rarely goes anywhere good, either.
 
Ever listen to Rush Limbaugh, or Sean Hannity, or Mark Levin, or any of those other guys on the radio? Ever hear the way they talk about “liberals” and how they’re ruining the United States? Liberals want to take our guns away. Liberals want to do away with religion. Liberals want to gut the military and raise our taxes. (Your taxes, anyway; as a stuffed dog, my tax burden is relatively light.) Sometimes they’ll actually name a specific person, like President Obama or Nancy Pelosi or George Soros. Sometimes, as Sarah Palin did with her infamous cross-hairs poster, they’ll name twenty specific people at once. But mostly they like to spread the attack around more generally. And what is it that’s so bad about Obama, Pelosi, Soros, anyway? It’s that they’re a bunch of America-hating liberals!
 
People who buy into that message are already used to thinking about liberals as their enemies. Nevermind that the girl who lives next door, or the guy in town who works on your car, or the pastor of your church might identify her- or himself as a liberal. (Okay, probably not if you’re a Southern Baptist. But you see where I’m going.) The message of the right-wing media isn’t that liberals are people who see things a different way than conservatives, and that it’s important to talk openly with one another to reach compromises that can satisfy more than one side. The message is: conservatives are good people who love America, and liberals are all trying to turn the U.S.A. into the U.S.S.R.
 
Don’t get me wrong — liberals aren’t perfect angels. There are people on the left who demonize conservatives just as terribly as the Limbaughs and Becks demonize liberals. But it wasn’t a Republican this sick Loughner kid tried to kill. It was a woman he perceived as a big-government liberal.
 
Now, where do you think he could have gotten an idea like that? 
  
 
Okay, so what are we saying here? That this crazy Loughner guy got the idea to shoot Gabrielle Giffords because Sarah Palin put a little target picture over her congressional seat on a campaign poster a few months ago? Because that sounds a little far-fetched to me. And buddy, I know all about far-fetched.
 
(I once fetched a tennis ball from under a Volkswagen that had been thrown from like a hundred yards away. . . . The ball, not the Volkswagen.)
 
Sure, it seems obvious to you and me. Loughner just happens to shoot one of the members of Congress that Palin drew the cross-hairs on. Here’s the thing, though: we aren’t totally insane.
 
From what I hear, this Loughner nut is a big ol’ bag o’ crazy. He got kicked out of school — and not for bad grades or anything normal like that — for being crazy. You have any idea how crazy you have to be to get kicked out of community college for being fucking crazy? Pretty fucking crazy.
 
And I know you’ve seen his picture by now. Craaaaaaaaay-zay.
 
My point is, the guy is crazy. If we’re trying to explain the shooting, let’s go with that. Trying to bring in Palin and Glenn Beck and all these other morons who don’t even know what they’re saying half the time anyway — that’s just making more work. It was the crazy. Trust me, okay?
 
It was the crazy.

Comments 
Thursday, January 13th, 2011 | 07:44 pm (UTC)
Anonymous
(Psst, Stuffy, I think they're slipping a little somethin in your water bowl.)

Do we know that Loughner "perceived" Giffords as a "big-government liberal"? Is there any evidence of this? Surely you have evidence of this or you would not insinuate that he got the idea from Limbaugh and company. I would think, Stuffy, regardless of your own political leanings, you would never make such a serious accusation, after all we are talking about inciting murder, without having the facts to back up those accusations. Because, unless you have some solid evidence of your claim, then what your pandering in is a dangerous fantasy. Without any evidence that this lunatic had the ability to wrap his insane noggin around the principle of big government, you Stuffy, are doing nothing more than taking the cheapest shot at your political rivals. If your desire is to silence political opinions that do not match your own, than just say so. While still wrong and cowardly, at least it would be honest.
Thursday, January 13th, 2011 | 09:05 pm (UTC)
I believe I read somewhere recently that Jared Loughner, in addition to being seriously mentally ill (or perhaps even due to his illness), was stridently anti-government and suspicious and disdainful of authority. He even asked a question of Rep. Giffords at an event in Tucson a few years ago.

Given how sick the guy is, and how his anti-government sentiments don't seem to favor one major party over another, it's possible that he just wanted to shoot a politician, and if a Republican had been present at that supermarket that day instead of Giffords, the same scene would have transpired.

What I'm suggesting is that the tone of much of our political conversation (well, your political conversation — stuffed dog, remember?) is so divisive and accusatory and reflexive rather than reflective, that it encourages us to see each other as enemies pitted against each other in a struggle, rather than people with different ideas working toward common goals. I'm also suggesting (though I admit, this is just a stab on my part) that it might not be a coincidence that Loughner went after a member of the Democratic party, which has been relentlessly portrayed as the party of big government by right-wing figures in the media.

Here's one more thing, and this isn't a suggestion: Loughner did have a concept of big government. He's obviously a deeply disturbed individual who needed help long before this. But (despite what my esteemed colleague Toby Benson says on the matter) he's not so crazy that he can't grasp a concept like "big government bad" and choose to act on it. My evidence for that is the testimony of Loughner's friends, and of Loughner himself, which you can find in that linked story, and elsewhere.
Thursday, January 13th, 2011 | 11:40 pm (UTC)
Anonymous
There's a (pardon the pun)"big" difference between being anti-government and being anti-"big" government. Anti-"all" government is anarchy. So which one was Loughner? The question Loughner asked Giffords was nonsensical, it went something like, "How can there be government if words have no meaning?" Or some crazy shit like that. From what I've seen, most of the people who were close to Loughner say he was nonpartisan. I read somewhere else that someone described him as left leaning. He apparently had a beef with Giffords long before Sarah Palin was in the limelight as well as the Tea Party with their version of what is "big government." The point is, clearly, he was crazy with a capital C, so anyone who tries to pin down or make sense of his motives is playing a dangerous game.
Sorry, Stuffy, Toby's right on this one.
Thursday, January 13th, 2011 | 11:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks, baby.
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