09 January 2011

Incitement to violence

First, the only person responsible for Jared Loughner's actions is Jared Loughner. Whatever rhetoric he heard, he had free choice about whether or not to pull the trigger. He chose to pull it.

Second, we would clearly have a right-wing terrorist problem in this country even without the inflammatory rhetoric of Palin, Beck, and the rest. There was the Tiller murder; there were the Hutaree; there was McVeigh. Hate-filled paranoids are what they are, and they will do what they will do.

That being said, it is valid to call attention to that inflammatory rhetoric. Aside from Palin's famous gunsight map, she and others have used metaphors of gun violence in a political context ("don't retreat, reload", "Second Amendment solutions", etc.) so often that they certainly must have known that someone might take it as encouragement to actual violence. Yet they continued to do so. And don't try to tell me they didn't know; nobody's that naïve.

Palin in particular should know better, having been the target of vile and violent rhetoric during the 2008 Presidential campaign (and I condemned that at the time, too).

Free speech cannot be compromised. But free speech includes the right to call out purveyors of inflammatory rhetoric for what they are. If the Palins and Becks finally lose whatever status they have as "respectable" representatives of conservatism, it will be well deserved, and should be welcomed by rational conservatives.

Update: Progressive Eruptions has posted a history of right-wing terrorism since 2008 -- there are far more examples than most of us are familiar with.

Update 2: I begin to wonder if the most ancient and terrible bigotry of them all played a role here. Giffords is Jewish -- and it's reported that one of Loughner's favorite books is Mein Kampf.

Update 3: See worthwhile reads at Blue in the Bluegrass, Frank Schaeffer, Politics Plus, Frum Forum, PoliticusUSA, Liberal Values, and Pharyngula.

The dominant reaction in the right-wing blogosphere, for now, seems to be circling the wagons -- infuriated denial and outrage at the very suggestion that years of inflammatory rabble-rousing by the high-profile extremist fringe of the right could have been a contributing factor to this or earlier cases of murderous violence. But make no mistake: they know. The fury has a histrionic quality that can't quite hide the underlying panic. It's the vehemence of people trying to convince themselves as much as us. They know.


Blogger Jack Jodell said...

Free speech does NOT include yelling "fire" in a crowded theater, but that is what Palin, Angle, Bachmann, Beck, and Limbaugh all constantly do. They are all wholly self-serving and VERY irresponsible phonies, and now some absolute idiot has taken his "second amendment solution" literally and killed six people and grievously wounded 12 others.

Idiots like those mentioned above are all abusers of free speech and should be completely ignored for all time!

09 January, 2011 12:03  
Blogger One Fly said...

"If the Palins and Becks finally lose whatever status they have"

That would be nice but----

09 January, 2011 12:25  
Blogger Ahab said...

I wonder if the Arizona shooting will have any impact on the tone of political rhetoric flying around. Will the right-wingers calm down for a while, or will it be business as usual?

09 January, 2011 13:30  
Blogger LadyAtheist said...

By calling what they do metaphorical or just rhetoric, they avoid the charge of being called treasonous or inciting. They use inflammatory language because they know their audience. I blame their audience of bigoted cretins. Maybe if those cretins stopped talking about people going to Hell the rest of the rhetoric would tone down.

09 January, 2011 15:31  
Blogger Robert the Skeptic said...

Well said... although I seems to me that the phrase "rational conservatives" is an oxymoron.

09 January, 2011 15:37  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

JJ: The inciteful rhetoric is definitely coming under more scrutiny, and judging by the defensiveness and efforts to change the subject that I'm seeing from right-wing trolls on liberal blogs, they're alarmed and realize the issue has come to a head.

1F: They could lose it if (a) far fewer right-wingers continue to listen to them, and (b) the MSM stop treating them as respectable.

Ahab: I think it's too soon to tell. What I'm mostly seeing now is circling the wagons, but it's been only a little over a day since the murders.

LA: One has to be something of a cretin to treat a Palin or a Beck as a respectable speaker for one's own side. I haven't seen evidence of any religious angle to these murders yet, but the fundamentalist religiosity that saturates the right wing these days certainly contributes to the whole absolutist, good-vs-evil world-view.

RtS: Thanks. As for what I would call rational conservatives, examples can be found here and here.

09 January, 2011 17:46  
Blogger LadyAtheist said...

I was listening to the radio and the only station carrying "news" was a conservative talk radio station. They were very eager to blame Mexican druglords because of Giffords' anti-immigration stance. At the tire place the cretin at the counter insisted the TV had to show FOX news. They played up the immigration stuff but didn't mention her support for gay rights. Curious.

09 January, 2011 20:00  
Blogger mommapolitico said...

Brilliant piece. Hope you don't mind if I link to you in my next post, Infidel. I am blown away that the right refuses to take responsibility for their incendiary rhetoric.
Thanks for the insightful piece.

09 January, 2011 22:28  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

LA: They must be getting desperate. Mexican drug lords are seriously dangerous and violent people, but there's not a particle of evidence that they had anything to do with these murders.

MP: Much thanks -- and I'd be delighted if you linked to it.

09 January, 2011 22:44  
Blogger godlizard (aka dotlizard) said...

I have some right wing friends on Facebook, and they have some further right friends, and from time to time I wander into one of their discussions to attempt to bring a little balance (or just to poke at them for fun, but I rarely if ever do that).

So, I was in one of these discussions, and one of the right-ier leaning folks observed:

"We knew this was coming. It's a shame innocents always seem to get in the way."

They knew this was coming. Whether or not right wing/tea party rhetoric was at the root of this particular act of violence, the purveyors and consumers of hate-filled rhetoric have been anticipating "this" -- that is, for the nutjobs of this world to pick up where their words leave off, and take it the rest of the way.

It's a pathetic and cowardly way to do harm -- sit and spew and wait for the unhinged to do your dirty work.

10 January, 2011 11:49  
Blogger Prash said...

I totally agree with you...

10 January, 2011 12:12  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

I agree with the observations posted here. One other thing I thought was interesting to think about.

Sometime over the weekend someone emailed me this Michael Moore tweet: (I don't have the exact quote) If a Muslim had put the gunsight graphic up on his/her blog and one of the targeted politicians had taken a bullet to her head, where do you think that Muslim would be right now?

As I said elsewhere, we're awfully selective when it comes to dealing with perpetrators of violent rhetoric.

10 January, 2011 12:34  
Anonymous nonnie9999 said...

well said, infidel.

it seems the only people who are being introspective and really concerned and contrite are the ones who aren't really guilty of hate talk. yes, people use metaphors all the time, including violent ones. however, when the hate-talkers use it, they do so knowing that it will stir up the wrong emotions in people and that some of those people will react violently. i doubt that we'll see any change in the way they conduct themselves.

10 January, 2011 19:48  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

GL: "We knew this was coming. It's a shame innocents always seem to get in the way."

Disquieting, too, since it clearly implies that Giffords, the main target, was not innocent.

There's also this, from a commenter on Palin's Facebook page.

It's a pathetic and cowardly way to do harm -- sit and spew and wait for the unhinged to do your dirty work.

They love the plausible deniability, though.

Prash: Thanks.

SK: If a Muslim had done that -- or even more, if a Muslim had been the shooter -- we'd now be awash in the usual naïve Bushian clichés about Islam being a "religion of peace" which has only been "hijacked by extremists" and that this particular bad guy didn't really represent Islamic teachings, et cetera ad nauseam.

Nonnie: Thanks. I think if the hate-talkers had that capacity for introspection, they wouldn't have been hate-talkers in the first place. Not to mention the possibility that some of them consciously wanted to encourage violence. It's very hard to imagine that they didn't know what they were doing.

11 January, 2011 06:05  

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