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6 Dead, 12 Wounded: Who’s Responsible?

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January 8, 2011 was an absolute tragedy.  Psychopath Jared Loughner opened fire on a crowd at a political event in Tucson, Arizona, murdering six people (including, as I’m sure you’ve heard, a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl) and wounding an even dozen – most famously, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Naturally, the first thought that pops into your head in response to such news is, “So where does Rush Limbaugh fit into all of this?”  No?  How about, “To just what extent is the Tea Party directly responsible for this massacre?”  Not that, either?  Then your gut reaction has to have been, “I’m confused; was Sarah Palin the shooter, or the get-away driver?”

I jest.  I certainly hope you don’t view mass murder as a categorically right-wing political event.  I don’t mean to suggest that this heinous rampage wasn’t somehow politically motivated; after all, we’re talking about an attack at a congressional representative’s scheduled event featuring said representative being shot point-blank in the head.  But let’s step back for a moment and examine the media coverage to capture a much wider picture of what went on that day.  Frankly, it’s absolutely crucial that we do.

If you had an instant “it’s those damn conservatives ” reaction to this news story, I give you tongue-in-cheek congratulations for being well-trained by the ceaseless partisan politics we were all supposed to be past presumably as of the inauguration on January 20, 2009.  And, no, I’m not blaming President Obama for any of this, but while you watched media coverage absolutely ram a specific political viewpoint into this tragedy before anyone even knew who the shooter was, I want you to remember that we’re supposed to be living in a transformative time of something like endless political unity, sunshine, and daffodils.  I mean, right?  Aren’t we all supposed to have come together by now?  Was that not the general, if ridiculously wishful, expectation after the 2008 election?

No, obviously this isn’t some magical post-partisan era, and no wonder – partisanship is politics.  There was never really going to be a big national group hug because we elected a likable – and black! – guy to the presidency.  But really, does anyone actually believe we’re less a politically-polarized nation since… well, since this millennium?  Has the entire realm of politics and political discourse become any more rational, cerebral, objective, or civil since 2000?  Sure, we’re not in Utopia, but I challenge you to present an argument demonstrating that by any standard we as a nation have become more mature about our political viewpoints and disagreements as a whole.

You see, even before Jared Loughner was identified as the shooter in the Arizona killings there was a massive media push to assign a specific template to the story.  Now, keep in mind that not having an identified shooter means not having a clear motive behind the shooting.  Pretend you’re working at the news desk and, bam, you suddenly get reports that there’s 5 down and 13 limping (number 6 will die in the hospital, but you don’t know that yet) at a Safeway somewhere in Arizona.   One of the victims is Representative Gabrielle Giffords, which makes this an extra big deal.  So, what do you write?

Well, you could go with writing what you actually know: there’s 18 shot, including Rep. Giffords, and police currently report 5 dead.  The identity of the shooter is unknown, but he or she may be in custody.  If you as a journalist or commentator go any further than that, you’ve entered the arena of Just Making Shit Up.  After all, if you don’t know more that means you don’t know anything else. Unfortunately, honesty and restraint was not the order of the day in the national media following what was to be called the Safeway Massacre, so coverage exploded into abject conjecture and an utterly shameless smear campaign.  In other words, the deaths of six individuals were immediately hijacked to promote partisan politics without the slightest pause for integrity or so much as a whiff of professionalism.

Let’s break it down.  From here on out, I will be quoting text from the links provided and adding my own emphasis in italics as I believe necessary.

Nobel Prize-winning New York Times columnist Paul Kurgman, January 8, 2011, before the identity of the Safeway shooter was known:


We don’t have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was. [Representative Giffords has] been the target of violence before.

Ok, there’s no proof of what’s really behind all this but we do have some facts: Somebody went after the windows of Giffords’ campaign office a while back, and she is a congresswoman, and the murders took place at an official event she hosted.  However, 17 other people were also shot at the scene, so making assumptions is probably a little dicey.  That’s it.  That’s all we know right now.


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.

So we’re definitely starting to leap to the assumption that this is about the Tea Party.   But, remember, there’s no proof.

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.

Those rascally Republicans!  Decrying partisanship when somebody like, oh I don’t know, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman saddles them with the responsibility of a mass murder when – and I’m just quoting Mr. Krugman here – “we don’t have proof yet.”

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.

Wow.  Way to take the high road.

I’m going to take down comments on this one; they would need a lot of moderating, because the crazies are coming out in force, and it’s all too likely to turn into a flame war.

I can’t imagine why.

Nobel Prize-winning New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, Janury 09, 2011, after the identity of the Safeway shooter was known:


When you heard the terrible news from Arizona, were you completely surprised? Or were you, at some level, expecting something like this atrocity to happen?

I see you’re sticking with “atrocity.”  Take note, Sarah Palin!  But was I expecting “something like this” to happen?  Whatever do you mean, Paul?

I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 — an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again.

Whoah, hang on a minute there.  Now as of the time of this second Krugman piece, the entire country – and certainly The New York Times – is aware there is zero evidence that Jared Loughner has any affiliation at all with The Tea Party, John McCain, Sarah Palin, or anyone else even remotely like them.  What we do know on 1/09 is that Loughner:

1)  Is associated with a group called American Renaissance, which has an endearing mix of anti-semetic, anti-government, and pro-white nationalist bitterness.

2) Lists Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto and Hitler’s Mein Kampf among his favorite books.  Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest also made the cut, in perhaps the darkest of dark ironies.

3)  Is a drug abuser.

4)  Has serious mental health issues – including documented evidence demonstrating his obsession with mind-control – observed by the staff of his former community college as well as former classmates.

5) Has a previous record with the police involving making death threats.

So it looks like we have a complete loon as the triggerman.  Hell, it looks like it’s pretty much an open-and-shut case exactly one day after the shooting.  At least, if you’re not pushing a partisan outlook like Paul Krugman.

It’s true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled. But that doesn’t mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate.


Really, Paul?  Really?  Should we ignore all evidence and force Jared Loughner into a template you’re already entrenched in, based on your previous writings?  You’d better be able to sell me on it.

Last spring Politico.com reported on a surge in threats against members of Congress, which were already up by 300 percent. A number of the people making those threats had a history of mental illness — but something about the current state of America has been causing far more disturbed people than before to act out their illness by threatening, or actually engaging in, political violence.

Wait, so by what evidence does Jared Loughner have anything to do with…

And there’s not much question what has changed. As Clarence Dupnik, the sheriff responsible for dealing with the Arizona shootings, put it, it’s “the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business.” The vast majority of those who listen to that toxic rhetoric stop short of actual violence, but some, inevitably, cross that line.

…hey!  Excuse me!  We’re talking about Jared Loughner still, right?  As in, what we know?

Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed ad dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

What’s going on here?  Is anyone else confused?  What toxic rhetoric? Loughner has absolutely no ties to the GOP, the Tea Party, et cetera.  This is officially common knowledge.

And there’s a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you’ll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won’t hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, and you will.

Of course, the likes of Mr. Beck and Mr. O’Reilly are responding to popular demand. Citizens of other democracies may marvel at the American psyche, at the way efforts by mildly liberal presidents to expand health coverage are met with cries of tyranny and talk of armed resistance. Still, that’s what happens whenever a Democrat occupies the White House, and there’s a market for anyone willing to stoke that anger.

Wh… what?  Can we please go back to talking about Jared Loughner and how he has anything to do with what you’re talking about?

Or wait, is this a clever ploy?  Are you parodying Loughner’s impenetrable and insane writings by veering far, far away from any semblance of coherence?  Am I looking at a Pulitzer’s worth of cunning satire here?

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been happening: the purveyors of hate have been treated with respect, even deference, by the G.O.P. establishment. As David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter, has put it, “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we’re discovering we work for Fox.”

So will the Arizona massacre make our discourse less toxic? It’s really up to G.O.P. leaders. Will they accept the reality of what’s happening to America, and take a stand against eliminationist rhetoric? Or will they try to dismiss the massacre as the mere act of a deranged individual, and go on as before?

STOP!  ENOUGH!   Have you gone completely senile, Krugman?!

A rank idiot could note the unbearable hypocrisy of these embarrassingly self-satisfied articles; I have never in my life been exposed to such a level of self-serving garbage.  Really – and I mean this from the absolute bottom of my heart – I would not be in the least bit surprised to discover that this blatantly, noxiously self-indulgent bullshit that Krugman excreted under the banner of “journalism” was sponsored by K-Y Jelly Personal Lubricant.

This is truly beyond belief and comprehension.  There are six innocent people dead on the ground, and Paul Krugman deliberately ignores all evidence to exploit their cadavers and prop up his own political views.  Krugman is apparently beyond realizing that his idiotic rant is exactly the kind of hostile partisanship he’s allegedly assailing.  He refuses – refuses – to back down from fingering the other side of the political aisle as responsible for literal murder, and warns that more of the same is right around the corner.  Absent evidence, absent proof, absent the weakest connection, Paul Krugman is the worst partisan demon he could ever dream of demonstrating.

Krugman is anything but the only member of the media who engaged in this kind of stupidity, though I’ve deliberately chosen him as a truly wondrous case study.  For the sake of brevity, I’ll direct your attention to a few other corners for perusal.

Political Vultures

Journalists urged caution after Ft. Hood, now race to blame Palin after Arizona shootings

Barack Obama’s Oklahoma City Moment

The shame – and hypocrisy – of CNN

There is a lesson in all of this: the person responsible is the shooter.  It is utterly horrifying to witness the depths of political partisanship our country has plummeted to when people seek to recast the actions of a lone gunman into a political event before – and after – there’s a shred of proof either way.  As a nation, we have got to start getting our act together and recognizing how backwards we have become; there is no acceptable alternative.

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