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SLANTblog: “Inflammatory rhetoric is heard by all who listen”

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I strongly recommend that everyone read this superb piece by F.T. Rea on SLANTblog. Here’s the conclusion, but definitely check out the entire thing, as it’s about the most articulate thing I’ve read on this horrible situation since it occurred:

That doesn’t mean Palin’s influence was what drove a deranged man to gun down a congresswoman and anyone near her. Combing through a madman’s papers and actions for a singular motive is unlikely to prove much. So trying to paint the shooter as a liberal or conservative, gone wrong, isn’t likely to solve a mystery, or make sense of senseless actions.

What we should remember is that inflammatory rhetoric about using bullets to solve political differences will be heard by good citizens, as well as some unhinged individuals bent on payback. It will be heard by the wicked, too.

Everything is connected.

Exactly right, even as the main fomentors of the inflammatory rhetoric attempt to somehow point the finger at “liberals” (don’t ask), and argue that their rhetoric had nothing to do with anything. A line of argument which, by the way, is revealing in and of itself…

P.S. The Pima County Sheriff’s Department has released a photo of a possible second suspect in this case — “a Caucasian male, approximately 40-50 years old, dark hair and was last seen wearing blue jeans and a dark blue jacket.”

UPDATE: Del. Scott Surovell (D-Mount Vernon) weighs in, focusing on “the dangers of easily available firearms coupled with the failures of our mental health system.”

UPDATE #2: A “senior Republican senator weighs in:

A senior Republican senator, speaking anonymously in order to freely discuss the tragedy, told POLITICO that the Giffords shooting should be taken as a “cautionary tale” by Republicans.

“There is a need for some reflection here – what is too far now?” said the senator. “What was too far when Oklahoma City happened is accepted now. There’s been a desensitizing. These town halls and cable TV and talk radio, everybody’s trying to outdo each other.”

The vast majority of tea party activists, this senator said, ought not be impugned.

“They’re talking about things most mainstream Americans are talking about, like spending and debt,” the Republican said, before adding that politicians of all stripes need to emphasize in the coming days that “tone matters.”

“And the Republican Party in particular needs to reinforce that,” the senator said.

  • and author of the “The Political Brain,” weighs in.

    …when you’re looking at the intersection of the mind of a clearly psychotic shooter (although perhaps with a nonpsychotic accomplice) with the quasi-delusional rantings of media personalities like Glenn Beck and newly elected members of Congress with severe psychological limitations, and the hate-mongering of people like Gov. Jan Brewer, on the political and psychological air a psychotic shooter breathes.

    And none of that is even touching the issue of why you would allow every violent delusional person to purchase the semi-automatic weapon of Smith and Wesson’s choice. Did people like Brewer and Sarah Palin cause this attack? No. Did they likely contribute to the conditions that created it and hence bear some responsibility for what just happened, irrespective of the prayers and pieties they’re now lavishing on the people they have encouraged their fellow citizens to hate? You betcha. In this case, they likely both fueled and channeled psychotic rage.

  • also weighs in:

    …in my book “The Argument Culture” I cited lots of concrete evidence that vitriolic rhetoric plays a role in inciting physical violence. Others have described how public rhetoric stoking hatred of Jews preceded and helped instigate physical attacks in Nazi Germany.

    There are many other contemporary examples as well. Nonetheless I have no doubt that others will regard this view with disbelief or even outrage. That’s why – heartbreaking as it is to say it – I don’t have great hope that this tragic shooting will lead to the elimination or even a ratcheting down of hate- and anger-inspiring rhetoric in the long run.

  • AnonymousIsAWoman

    That a high ranking Republican, a senior U. S. senator, has to remain anonymous in order to state the obvious which is that his fellow party members should ratchet down the tone.

    If you go to the Republican blogs, they are falling all over themselves to deny any connection between the toxic environment their leaders have created and the escalating levels of violence that finally culminated in this tragedy.  

  • weighs in, prompts an intense discussion!

    This poor woman.  I hope she makes it.  And I hope that this may help sink Sarah Palin after putting crosshairs on this woman.

    The over the top revolutionary rhetoric really needs to be toned down across the board in this country.  Sure I ramp up the rhetoric all the time, but you’ve never heard me talking about the bullet box or using any kind of ballistic metaphors.

    We are one country, remember that, please.

  • at this blog: “Metaphors for the weak and frightened.”

  • pontoon

    While the rhetoric has certainly been over-the-top by folks like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, the threats of violence toward Democrats have been occurring since then-Senator Obama was campaigning for the presidency.  I know Obama campaign offices in Central Virginia received odd “letters and packages” that contained threats.  The Obama campaign office in my home county was visited by the local Sheriff and the Virginia State Police where I was given direct phone numbers just in case there was ever a need.  I was instructed to write down when we received nasty phone calls or someone rode by yelling racial remarks and threats.  Some of our canvassers were met long before reaching a voter’s door by the occupants of the home waving their confederate flag, telling us to never return or else.

    Since the subsequent election of President Obama, some conservatives and right-wing fringe elements have certainly elevated the level of the rhetoric.  My question is:  Is it because of the state of our union or the ethnicity of our President?

  • kindler

    Interesting speculation at the HuffPost by the Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project.

  • DanielK

    I know this is not related to the subject but still worth mentioning.  The SPLC probably the most valuable resource right now given the violence that is possible during this time in our nations political climate.  You all know I’m in law enforcement and watch this stuff very closely.  I have to as I am a member of the “enemy” government.  Unfortunately, many of those on the right paint members of the SPLC as the “liberal” left and part of “Obama propaganda machine.”

    The SPLC has made it their mission to track right-wing extremists and for good reason.  Since the Oklahoma City bombing 35 law enforcement officers has been killed by domestic extremists who see our federal government as the enemy.  I know these dangers are a part of my job and violence could happen to me but attacks against me are possible but it’s heartbreaking that now those civilians who serve in our government and members of the public who take part in such public events have now become the target of this heinous violence.