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.
Read the full article here
(Is it fair for the writer to lump Olbermann in with Limbaugh and Beck? Yes, he is of course hugely partisan, but does he use hate speech??)