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.