Jacob Weisberg (Slate): There’s something offensive, as well as pointless, about the politically charged inquiry into what might have been swirling inside the head of Jared Loughner …. it is appropriate, however, to consider what was swirling outside Loughner’s head.
…the context was the anti-government, pro-gun, xenophobic populism that flourishes in the dry and angry climate of Arizona. Extremist shouters didn’t program Loughner…. but the Tea Party movement did make it appreciably more likely that a disturbed person like Loughner would react … in the crazy way he did.
At the core of the far right’s culpability is its ongoing attack on the legitimacy of U.S. government — a venomous campaign not so different from the backdrop to the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 … it is this, rather than violent rhetoric per se, that is the most dangerous aspect of right-wing extremism.
…Conservative entertainers like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin like to titillate their audiences with hints of justified violence, including frequent reminders that they are armed and dangerous. Palin went so far as to put a target on someone who subsequently got shot. Whether or not the man who fired the gun was inspired by Palin isn’t the point. The point is that you shouldn’t paint targets on people, even in metaphor, or jest.
Guns are also at the heart of how the right’s ideology enabled Loughner. Tea Partiers often frame the right to bear arms as a necessary check on federal despotism … First you rile up psychotics with inflammatory language about tyranny, betrayal, and taking back the country. Then you make easy for them to get guns.
But if you really want trouble, you should also make it hard for them to get treatment for mental illness …. if Republicans succeed in repealing the Obama health care bill, that’s how it will remain.
Again, none of this says that Tea Party caused the Tucson tragedy, only that its politics increased the odds of something like it happening … it is the right that amuses itself with violent chat and proclaims an injured innocence when its flammable words blow up.
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