Glenn Reynolds is upset that people in the press and liberals and Democrats have blamed the shooting in Arizona on the heated rhetoric of Sarah Palin, the Tea Party movement, hate radio, and the right. I think it is reasonable to wait to see what can be learned about the shooter’s political beliefs and espoused motivations before we assign direct blame on anyone. We’ve already learned a little bit about the shooter, and it doesn’t appear that he was motivated primarily by anything he heard or read from the right-wing media wurlitzer. The man seems to have been emotionally unstable and to have been going through a deteriorating descent into anti-social dysfunctional behavior. We don’t know what kinds of media he consumed yet, and so it is hard to say how media influenced his twisted worldview.
It does matter whether the man was influenced by heated political language or not. But there is another issue. The reason that people on the left are so quick to assume a connection is because we not only feel threatened by the right’s rhetoric, we have been predicting that that rhetoric is going to get someone killed. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords predicted that something bad might happen to her because Sarah Palin was targeting her in cross-hairs. Maybe something bad was going to happen to her anyway. But it’s important that people on the right listen to us and take us seriously when we say that we think their tactics are dangerous and irresponsible, and can easily lead to tragedies like the massacre in Arizona. We’re not saying that after the fact to score some cheap political points. We have been saying it.
Sarah Palin targeted 20 members of Congress for elimination. Eighteen of them were voted out of office (or retired). Now, let’s refresh our memories about what Sharron Angle said:
Angle: I feel that the Second Amendment is the right to keep and bear arms for our citizenry. This not for someone who’s in the military. This not for law enforcement. This is for us. And in fact when you read that Constitution and the founding fathers, they intended this to stop tyranny. This is for us when our government becomes tyrannical…
Manders: If we needed it at any time in history, it might be right now.
Angle: Well it’s to defend ourselves. And you know, I’m hoping that we’re not getting to Second Amendment remedies. I hope the vote will be the cure for the Harry Reid problems.
So, in other words, Angle was saying that we can deal with tyranny peacefully by electing her. But if she isn’t elected then the only way to deal with Harry Reid is to shoot and kill him. Well, Gabrielle Giffords beat the odds and was reelected. It makes sense then that someone who was following Angle’s advice would decide that killing her was the only recourse left.
However tenuous the logic may be, the rhetoric of Palin and Angle created that kind of logic. And that’s what we object to. So, yes, it does matter whether the shooter was listening to political rhetoric or not. But our objection stands regardless. Don’t talk about us like vermin that need to be eradicated and we won’t assume you are trying to eradicate us. Simple, really.