Giffords Shooting: Crazy Talk Leads to Crazy Acts. Take a Stand Against Hatred.
Why did a crazy person shoot at Democratic Elected officials? Is it just because he’s crazy?
Or could it just possibly be because Republican elected officials call Democrats tyrants, power-grabbers and traitors, and talk about taking up guns and doing something about it?
(For background on this story, see our previous article, “Giffords Shooting: Environmentalists in Crosshairs“)
George Packer sums it up:
For the past two years, many conservative leaders, activists, and media figures have made a habit of trying to delegitimize their political opponents. Not just arguing against their opponents, but doing everything possible to turn them into enemies of the country and cast them out beyond the pale. Instead of “soft on defense,” one routinely hears the words “treason” and “traitor.” The President isn’t a big-government liberal—he’s a socialist who wants to impose tyranny. He’s also, according to a minority of Republicans, including elected officials, an impostor…
This relentlessly hostile rhetoric has become standard issue on the right. (On the left it appears in anonymous comment threads, not congressional speeches and national T.V. programs.)
Giffords had been targeted by local Tea Party activists with threats, and her office attacked. What difference does it make if the actual crazy person who took that rhetoric at face value and acted on it was a member of the Tea Party, or whether one of the books on his reading list was “The Communist Manifsto”?
At a press conference today, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik spoke out about what he has seen in his district:
“When the rhetoric about hatred … about mistrust of government” gets heated, Dupnik says, it inflames “the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” Dupnik says that “has impact on people, especially those who are unbalanced personalities to begin with.”
He was immersed in an environment that incited violent action against Giffords. So he acted.
Responding to an earlier incident, Giffords spoke to MSNBC.
“People really need to realize that the rhetoric, firing people up… for example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s ‘Targeted List’. She has the crosshairs of a gunsight over our district. When people do that they have to realize there are consequences to that action… in the years that some of my colleagues have served, 20, 30 years, they’ve never seen it like this. Leaders – community leaders, not just political leaders – when things get too fired up can say ‘Whoa, let’s take a step back here’.”
At that time, Sarah Palin responded to criticism of her crosshairs graphic with more rhetoric: “Don’t retreat. Instead — reload!”
Now, her spokesperson is backpedaling, claiming they weren’t crosshairs, they were surveyors marks, and it’s “disgusting” to insinuate Palin had anything to do with inciting violence (while at the same time, Palin’s sites are being scrubbed of the most incendiary material; TakeBackThe20.com is completely offline as I write this).
But here’s what Palin was saying right after the election:
Remember months ago “bullseye” icon used 2 target the 20 Obamacare-lovin’ incumbent seats? We won 18 out of 20 (90% success rate;T’aint bad)
There were only two Democrats left from Palin’s list. One of them was shot yesterday.
Violence talk begets violent action
Conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan: “The entire psychological structure of the “Tea Party” is rooted in the theme of patriotic armed revolt against an illegitimate tyrant. Violence and the rhetoric of violence is embedded within it. When you do that, someone somewhere will take you seriously.”
Former Republican blogger John Cole: “The point we have been trying to make for the last couple of years is that Republicans need to stop whipping up crazy people with violent political rhetoric. This is really not a hard concept to follow. There are crazy people out there. Stop egging them on.”
Why is this so difficult? Everyone decries the “incivility in Washington”, but nobody is willing to point the finger where it belongs. And no, it’s not “the same thing” when some random guy on the Internet spews anti-Republican hatred, and the leader of the House Republicans foments hatred against his Democratic colleagues.
…Ohio Democrat Steve Driehaus clashed repeatedly with [John] Boehner before losing his seat in the midterm elections. After Boehner suggested that by voting for Obamacare, Driehaus “may be a dead man” and “can’t go home to the west side of Cincinnati” because “the Catholics will run him out of town,” Driehaus began receiving death threats, and a right-wing website published directions to his house. Driehaus says he approached Boehner on the floor and confronted him.
“I didn’t think it was funny at all,” Driehaus says. “I’ve got three little kids and a wife. I said to him, ‘John, this is bullshit, and way out of bounds. For you to say something like that is wildly irresponsible.'”
Driehaus is quick to point out that he doesn’t think Boehner meant to urge anyone to violence. “But it’s not about what he intended — it’s about how the least rational person in my district takes it. We run into some crazy people in this line of work.”
Driehaus says Boehner was “taken aback” when confronted on the floor, but never actually said he was sorry: “He said something along the lines of, ‘You know that’s not what I meant.’ But he didn’t apologize.”
As Matt Bai put it at the New York Times,
The problem here doesn’t lie with the activists like most of those who populate the Tea Parties, ordinary citizens who are doing what citizens are supposed to do — engaging in a conversation about the direction of the country. Rather, the problem would seem to rest with the political leaders who pander to the margins of the margins, employing whatever words seem likely to win them contributions or TV time, with little regard for the consequences.
…In fact, much of the message among Republicans last year, as they sought to exploit the Tea Party phenomenon, centered — like the Tea Party moniker itself — on this imagery of armed revolution. Popular spokespeople like Ms. Palin routinely drop words like “tyranny” and “socialism” when describing the president and his allies, as if blind to the idea that Americans legitimately faced with either enemy would almost certainly take up arms.
And Bai pointed out that in 2008 when John McCain was confronted by a woman who accused Barack Obama of being a “closeted Arab”, McCain didn’t feed her hysteria or call Obama a terrorist. “No, ma’am, he’s not,” Mr. McCain said. “He’s a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with.”
It’s time to stop the hatred. It’s time to stop feeding crazy people with crazy talk.