Gabrielle Giffords, and the Politics of Indecency

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on January 8, 2011

By now, just about everyone on the Internet, or near a television or radio is informed of the horrific story. Reports have fluctuated wildly, but this report appears to encapsulate the latest–at the time of this writing–on the situation. What we know is that the Congresswoman was rushed into emergency surgery, that she has pulled through for the moment, and is responding to the commands of her doctors, and that her doctors have stated that they are as optimistic as they can be, that she is going to be all right–indicating to me that the Congresswoman is not out of the woods, but that her situation is, thankfully, far better than was feared only a couple of hours ago.

Sadly, however, the day has not been without fatalities, including the death of a nine year old girl. The whole situation is horrifying and disgusting.

Now comes the part of the post that I would rather not get into, but since the subject is already out there . . .

We don’t know what the motivations of the gunman were in firing on Congresswoman Giffords, and the crowd assembled to hear her. It is possible that this was an act of random lunacy. It is also possible that it may have been a political act of lunacy. None of us are sure at this time, which is why it would be a really good idea to withhold judgment when it comes to speculating on the motives behind this shooting.

What we do know, however, is that there are plenty of people on Twitter, and in the Blogosphere who are perfectly willing to argue that the shooting was caused by behavior and rhetoric on the Right, because it fits into their own particular partisan narratives. Thus, we have the likes of Paul Krugman, Brad DeLong, Andrew Sullivan, and various appalling people on Twitter claiming–without any evidence whatsoever–that people like Sarah Palin are responsible for this attack. (Note here that Sullivan is forced to admit that the alleged shooters favorite books include The Communist Manifesto, and Mein Kampf; none of which find themselves on a mainstream American conservative’s favorite reading list, but that doesn’t stop the McCarthyism on Sullivan’s part.) I would characterize this kind of behavior as disgusting beyond belief, but it frankly insults those who are disgusting beyond belief to compare them to the likes of Paul Krugman, Brad DeLong, Andrew Sullivan, and all those whose first instinct in the wake of this act of derangement was to politicize it.

Did any of these people care to remind themselves that violent rhetoric exists on the Left? Did any of them wax outraged over this (now scrubbed from Daily Kos; here is the cached version)? Did any of them write angry blog posts when Democrats put out campaign maps with gun sights? Did they fire up their Condemnation Machines when Markos Moulitsas–whose Twitter feed is devoted to politicizing this act of violence–wrote the following about issuing primary challenges against Gabrielle Giffords, and other “bad” Democrats?

Not all of these people will get or even deserve primaries, but this vote certainly puts a bulls eye on their district. . . .

(Emphasis mine.)

Calls for violence have, in fact, been far more common on the Left than many on the Left would care to admit. Of course, in almost all cases, isolated calls for violence on either side of the partisan divide amount to little more than idiotic venting, which no one takes seriously. But it is worth noting that various McCarthyites on the Left are more than happy to wave the bloody shirt regarding this issue, because they believe that it will benefit their side politically. To be sure, when the shoe is quite firmly on the other foot, they earnestly tell us that it is wrong to “score points” by highlighting the politics of a “perpetrator of a crime.” But now that they thought it was possible that a conservative-kinda-sorta-person was behind the shootings, well, now the politics of the shooter are considered central to any discussion of the entire affair!

The whole affair is repulsive if one is a decent person in any way, shape, or form. Innocent people have lost their lives, or have been severely injured today, and all that certain demagogues can think of is how best to maximize political advantage from the whole horrendous calamity. As I have completed writing this post, Andrew Sullivan–in a fit of honesty which some might find uncharacteristic–has been forced to update his post (referenced above) with the following comment on the shooting suspect, Jared Lee Loughner:

4.40 pm. Loughner quote from his YouTube page (which seems just plain nuts to me rather than Tea Partyish):

I’m able to control every belief and religion by being the mind-controller!

“[J]ust plain nuts” is right. And if that conclusion pans out (note that Sullivan immediately tries to go back to claiming that “far right rhetoric” was behind the attack by writing that apparently, Loughner was a gold standard supporter. Query: Will Sullivan denounce himself for his own support for Ron Paul in the 2008 Republican Presidential nomination fight, and his ongoing admiration for Paul ever since then?), wouldn’t it have been better for Sullivan, Krugman, DeLong, and various other bloody-shirt-wavers to have waited for the facts to come out before yelling and screaming about how Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, Republicans, and the entire conservative movement were supposedly behind this attack?

  • Spottiswoode

    Difference being that the discovery channel hostage taker didn’t carry out an action that was rhetorically preempted by a Left Wing politician.

    This guy did. I don’t care about his politics, but it sure looks bad for Sarah Palin.

    • Anonymous

      Show me the causal relationship between anything that Sarah Palin did, and this shooting, because there is plenty in the post to indicate otherwise, if one actually bothers to follow the links.

      • Spottiswoode

        No causal relationship, just an apparent one. Do you deny that it looks awful for her and that any (in my view laughable, but, horrifyingly, present) smidgeon of presidential hope is now gone? Read my post about it.

        • Pejman Yousefzadeh

          Apparent relationships do not constitute actual ones, intellectually defensible ones, logically bulletproof ones, or even mildly interesting ones. To the extent that Sarah Palin’s Presidential hopes evaporate, I am glad, as I am no Palin fan (as anyone who searches the archives of this site will find out), but those hopes should not be dashed by lies.
          Your industry and businesslike savvy in using my comments section to promote your own blog is duly noted. Madison Avenue doubtless approves.

  • Aaron_Gardner

    That about covers it. Well said.

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