Notebook, 9 January 2010: Tucson Shootings and False Equivalence . . .

A lot has already been said about yesterday’s shootings in Tuscon, Arizona, about mentally imbalanced individuals bearing arms, the Virginia Tech shootings, about the culpability of Daily Kos, and lots here about the state of political rhetoric.

At least one new fact has emerged since last night: Congresswoman Giffords was specifically targeted. This makes it a political assassination attempt, by definition an act of terrorism:

the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.

Let’s start off with Matt Bai’s attempt to conflate Daily Kos with the tea party which opened with:

Within minutes of the first reports Saturday that Representative Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, and a score of people with her had been shot in Tucson, pages began disappearing from the Web. One was Sarah Palin’s infamous “cross hairs” map from last year, which showed a series of contested Congressional districts, including Ms. Giffords’s, with gun targets trained on them. Another was from Daily Kos, the liberal blog, where one of the congresswoman’s apparently liberal constituents declared her “dead to me” after Ms. Giffords voted against Nancy Pelosi in House leadership elections last week.

One of those pages was mine. Even though my diaries seldom generate much response, the discussion following My crazy uncle and Sarah Palin (the discussion here), had anyone committed an act of political violence—terrorism after reading my somewhat raw rant, I’d bear some responsibility. Deleting that diary was the responsible thing to do. Was the diary over the top? I’m still uncertain, but faced with this uncertainty, I chose the safety of others, and my own peace of mind. From what I understand, the diary Bai refers to was also deleted by its author.

* * *

Responsibility . . .

The discussion here since this happened has largely revolved around the imagery and rhetoric of right wing gun enthusiasts, as well as the politicians and pundits who pander to them, who actually whip up fear, anger and resentment among this group, and just plain make shit up in order to do it. Another kossack correctly writes today about The Absense [sic] of the Mental Health Issue about this aspect of the shooting. Certainly Loughner was unbalanced (though I doubt criminally insane—mind you, I’m no lawyer. I’m just someone writing with the best available information I have at this moment), but does this relieve the right wing of the responsibility of incitement? Did they drive Loughner to commit this act? That remains to be determined. However in one respect, they bear the responsibility of enabling this act, as evidenced by the recently enacted law in Arizona permitting carry-and-conceal, the legislation permitting anyone to carry guns in national parks, and even into the state house of New Hampshire. I know that I preach to the choir here, but that’s just crazy.

Gun enthusiasts have assumed that one item on the democratic agenda is stringent gun control. If so, I haven’t seen it. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I haven’t heard of a single gun-control proposal made in the last two years. Well, this should change, and though I personally am as comfortable with responsible gun ownership as any NRA member, mentally unbalanced people owning guns should be a no-brainer. The NRA should take the lead in this effort, and if they don’t, they must be painted with the same brush as Sharon Angle, Nick Kelley, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and the entire tea party as terrorist enablers.

* * *

Timothy McVeigh, Joseph Stack III, the angry confrontation of members of Congress:


all paint a picture of exclusively right-wing violence. Returning to Matt Bai, he gets this right:

During the culture wars of the 1990s, fought over issues like gun rights and abortion, right-wing extremists killed 168 people in Oklahoma City and terrorized hundreds of others in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park and at abortion clinics in the South.

I’m the first to admit that it wasn’t always this way. I remember well the Weathermen’s bombings, the SDS and the Unabomber, however those days are long past.

The violence is exclusively on the right today. What makes things different today is that the violence is explicitly pushed as a right wing theme by candidates and officials of the GOP as well as the media outlets who have given this hate speech air time, that’s television as well as radio.

It might be appropriate, therefore, to revisit regulations permitting hate speech on the public airwaves.

For all Alan Grayson’s statements and Anthony Weiner’s angry speeches, there is no, and never has been, any left wing corollary in recent political discourse. This belongs solely to the right, and as Keith Olbermann said last night, they must explicitly repudiate it, or they own it. So when Speaker Boehner says:

“An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve.”


he’s being disingenuous, to say the least. Boehner may be trying to paint himself as a fellow victim, and of heroically soldiering on regardless, but he seems to have repeated this exact wording in two different statements, so it seems his brand of spin has been revealed.

So is Jon Kyl.
So is Fox News. (a well-earned h/t to EmptyWheel)

We’re going to see the case for moral equivalence between the radical right and far left be the huge talking point in the coming weeks, and it just won’t wash. One progressive blogger has it about right:

“The imbalance is stark: Democrats and liberals rail against the right’s ideas; the right rails against the left’s very existence.”

A thoughtful post there, which should be read by everyone. The difference between attacks on the policy and attacks on the person, recently the subject of a series of diaries here, could not be more a propos than now.

And as I noted in my last post,

“The Enemy’s Heart is not American in any sense I recognize it in myself, but it is indeed an authentic American voice.”

I don’t understand the radical right’s priorities, but I recognize what I’m hearing from them, and anyone who claims moral equivalence between the right and left is offering a specious argument. Indeed, it’s mendacious.

* * *

Finally, my thoughts go out to all the victims, their families and friends.


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