Jonathan Raban (UK Independent): One could be shocked, but hardly surprised, by the news on Saturday … it was an event that seemed to grow out of America’s present disturbed and angry climate, like a killer-tornado or hurricane: awful, yes, but part of the weather, and, in some sense, only to be expected.
….an ad published last March by Sarah Palin’s political action committee … showed a map of the United States, dotted with 20 vulnerable Democratic seats in Congress, each identified by cross-hairs in a gunsight. Giffords’ seat was one of these. The legend above the map read: “We’ve diagnosed the problem… Help us prescribe the solution.”
….it would be absurd now to claim that the proposed “solution” was death by assassination … but Gabrielle Giffords made great sense when, in March 2010, she discussed the Palin map with a TV interviewer, saying: “Sarah Palin has the cross-hairs of a gunsight over our district – and when people do that, they’ve got to realise there are consequences to that action.”
In the martial atmosphere of an election year (and in a country where four sitting presidents have been assassinated, and many more have survived serious attempts on their lives), extravagant figures of speech can all too easily become literal, and rhetorical guns turn into real ones.
In November last year, Giffords was narrowly re-elected against a Tea Party Republican named Jesse Kelly who… conducted his political campaign in the language of warfare. …. “Get on Target for Victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office Shoot a fully automated M-16 with Jesse Kelly.”
Kelly’s campaign website closed down some time after noon on Saturday, and was replaced with a message of sympathy for Gabrielle Giffords … before the site closed, I caught his November thanks to the “thousands of warriors who fought with me in this campaign”.
….voters became “warriors” … but the word also exactly reflects the Tea Party mindset: this is war. Or, as Sarah Palin put it in a Tweet last year: “Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: ‘Don’t retreat – instead RELOAD!’…..
….The Tucson shootings can’t be blamed on Palin, Kelly, or the Tea Party: all three are more or less typical inhabitants of the debased, exaggerated and vitriolic language that now dominates American public discourse. Keith Olbermann, on the liberal left, speaks it as fluently as do Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck on the right….
….There is a chance, if rather a slim one, that the Tucson massacre will make both politicians and commentators draw back and reconsider their terms. Politics is not warfare. The Democratic party is not a colonialist tyranny. Obama is not George III. To live in a slew of overheated metaphors, in language vastly disproportionate to the occasion, is to invite and license the kind of atrocity that happened the day before yesterday.
The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords may lead to the temporary hibernation of rightwing rage, but it is encoded in conservative DNA
Michael Tomasky (The UK Guardian): It was instructive to read elected Republicans’ official statements in response to the Gabrielle Giffords shooting for what they did not say … you’ll note that they are silent on the question of the violent rhetoric that emanates from the rightwing of American society. You don’t have to believe that alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, is a card-carrying Tea Party member (he evidently is not) to see some kind of connection between that violent rhetoric and what happened in Arizona on Saturday.
…. he had political ideas … many of them (not all, but most) were right wing. He went to considerable expense and trouble to shoot a high-profile Democrat, at point-blank range right through the brain. What else does one need to know? For anyone to attempt to insist that the violent rhetoric so regularly heard in this country had no likely effect on this young man is to enshroud oneself in dishonesty and denial.
….some things will change, at least for a while. Sarah Palin will be deeply diminished by this. Speaking about the now well-known cross-hairs imagery over the map of Giffords’ congressional district on Palin’s website, Giffords herself last year expressed concern about “consequences”. Palin pooh-poohed this at the time.
Palin’s unctuous and hypocritical “prayer” for Giffords and the other victims will mollify only those who think she can do no wrong. But in general, this hastens that blessed day when we no longer have to pay attention to her self-serving lies and idiocies.
….This kind of rhetoric will go into hibernation now, but only for a bit. Because not only is it too central to rightwing mythology; it is central to Republican electoral strategy … Get people to hate liberals. Get them to think not only that liberals have ideas for the country that are wrong – get them to believe that liberals despise the country and are actively attempting to hasten its demise. Say progressivism isn’t just invalid or even dangerous, but “evil” and a “cancer,” as Glenn Beck says. Fear gets people to the ballot box.
….Today’s Republicans and conservative commentators surely understand the fire they’re playing with. But they do it, and a tragedy like Saturday’s won’t stop them, as long as they can maintain a phoney plausible deniability and as long as hate continues to pay dividends at the ballot box.
Paul Krugman: …..We don’t have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was. She’s been the target of violence before. And for those wondering why a Blue Dog Democrat, the kind Republicans might be able to work with, might be a target, the answer is that she’s a Democrat who survived what was otherwise a GOP sweep in Arizona, precisely because the Republicans nominated a Tea Party activist. (Her father says that “the whole Tea Party” was her enemy.) And yes, she was on Sarah Palin’s infamous “crosshairs” list.
Just yesterday, Ezra Klein remarked that opposition to health reform was getting scary. Actually, it’s been scary for quite a while, in a way that already reminded many of us of the climate that preceded the Oklahoma City bombing.
You know that Republicans will yell about the evils of partisanship whenever anyone tries to make a connection between the rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, etc. and the violence I fear we’re going to see in the months and years ahead. But violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate. And it’s long past time for the GOP’s leaders to take a stand against the hate-mongers.
Update: I see that Sarah Palin has called the shooting “tragic”. OK, a bit of history: right-wingers went wild over anyone who called 9/11 a tragedy, insisting that it wasn’t a tragedy, it was an atrocity.
It was only on Friday that Palin, in an interview with her buddy Laura Ingraham, said that President Obama was “hell-bent on weakening America”. Only an enemy of America would be hell-bent on weakening it, so is that what the President is, an enemy of the country that elected him? The hate speech just keeps on coming…..