When I write commentaries about news or historical events, I like to find reliable information sources and cite them as needed. Right now, however, I am out of town with a laptop computer shared by three people. The other two are a Harvard student and a research scientist, so you can guess where I am in that pecking order.
Which is why this has been mainly a “Tweet week”.
And this is why I’ve you’ve heard nothing from me here about the assassination attempt on Rep.Gabrielle Giffords.
Jared Loughner was pretty obviously a deeply disturbed young man. His mental issues went beyond the subtleties requiring a psychological evaluation. He was sufficiently odd that he, to quote a young female classmate’s email, “scared the crap out of [her].” When she was in class with him, she kept her purse close at hand and sat by a door for a fast escape if the necessity arose.
It is certainly fair to say that Loughner did not need so-called ‘fiery’, provocative rhetoric to send him out on a shooting spree. He might have been provoked by anything; or nothing.
Mark David Chapman didn’t shoot John Lennon because of fiery political rhetoric. Lennon was shot because Chapman was a deeply disturbed young man.
That, however, does not let the purveyors of ‘fiery’ rhetoric off the hook, nor does their claim that “everybody says those things.” (Mom used to say, “If everybody jumped off a cliff, would you?”)
Yes, there are always wing nuts who make crazy statements and crazy claims. (Hello, Orly Taitz?) It is nonetheless fair to lay some blame for violent political behavior at the feet of supposedly responsible leaders and politicians in positions of influence and power who fail to disown, refute and condemn statements which are inflammatory or unfounded.
Republican opinion makers and elected leaders could disown so-called “birthers”, but they don’t. They could refute claims that Obama is a Muslim, but they don’t. They could have declared that there was no such thing as ‘death panels’, but they didn’t. They could castigate Rush Limbaugh for hoping that Obama failed as president of the United States, but they never have.
Some right wing commentators have tried to dismiss alleged conservative hate speech by saying that these kinds of remarks don’t have any impact and thus can’t cause violence. Well, as one columnist observed, if these remarks don’t affect anything, then why make the remarks in the first place? If such remarks shouldn’t matter but are hurtful or even unpatriotic (“I hope President Obama fails.” – Rush Limbaugh), why aren’t they condemned by responsible Republicans and Tea Partiers? Why aren’t lies, deceptions and half-truths refuted? How can a mainstream conservative (if that’s not an oxymoron) commentator like Charles Krauthammer say that the Obama tax deal was bad because it might actually lower unemployment and improve the economy in advance of the 2012 elections?
Michele Malkin equates hate speech to “…law-abiding, constitutionally-protected, peaceful, vigorous political speech of the Right.” She equates criticisms of hate speech to the hate speech itself. So if someone falsely yells fire in a crowded theater and someone else points out that person to authorities, are they equivalent? If someone makes hateful comments and someone else correctly accuses them of hate speech, are they equivalent?
These remarks do matter, and Conservatives know it. They do scare people, and Republicans know it. They do drive frightened conservatives voters to the polls to vote for other conservatives, and these disingenuous, unpatriotic, self-serving, shameless, conscienceless politicians and commentators know it.
And when some mentally unstable person may have been influenced by right wing hate speech, the conservatives are the first ones to claim it’s not their fault.
Conscience guilty, much?