Joseph Welch, Thou Shouldst Be Living At This Hour (The Crazy Increaseth)

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on January 11, 2011

I will admit that despite my best efforts, and the efforts of others to convince the public that the Underpants’ Gnome Theory of the Arizona Shootings does not hold water, I was worried that the public might not listen. Happily, I have been proven wrong:

A majority of Americans reject the view that heated political rhetoric was a factor in the weekend shootings in Arizona which killed six and critically wounded a congresswoman, a CBS News poll said on Tuesday.

[. . .]

CBS said its nationwide telephone poll found that, “57 percent of respondents said the harsh political tone had nothing to do with the shooting, compared to 32 percent who felt it did.”

Rejection of a link was strongest among Republicans, 69 percent of whom felt harsh rhetoric was not related to the attack, while 19 percent thought it played a part.

Among Democrats 49 percent placed no blame on the heated political tone against 42 percent who did. Among independents the split was 56 percent to 33 percent, CBS said.

(Emphasis mine.) A pretty comprehensive messaging failure on the part of the port side, I should say. Even Barbara Walters is not convinced.

Of course, the prevailing opinion on the part of those on the other side of the partisan divide is that if at first you don’t succeed in deliberately misleading the public, try, try again. Thus, we have–you guessed it!–Andrew Sullivan giving us the following:

. . . why, one has to ask, does this person with mental illness, carefully select for assassination an already targeted and demonized congresswoman, rather than, say, a supermarket, or a workplace, or a school? We don’t know precisely yet – but it sure is relevant to ask that question. Why not shoot up the animal shelter he was fired from? Or the classroom he was banished from? In fact, it is a kind of bizarre suppression to avoid the obviously political fact of the target Loughner selected.

Bear in mind, reader, that once upon a time, during a relative Golden Age, Mark Twain wrote for the Atlantic. Now we have this.

No one ever said or wrote that Jared Loughner was not political. But his obsession with politics was not fostered by Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, the Republican party, or the center-right movement as a whole. Rather, it was fostered by mental illness, mental illness which–I can’t believe I keep having to write this–caused Loughner to be obsessed with Gabrielle Giffords three whole years ago, before most people knew who Sarah Palin was, before she published the map that sent Andrew Sullivan into such a tizzy that he has forgotten (blessedly?) to write a post in the past few days speculating as to what the true facts might be concerning Trig Palin’s matrilineal line, before anyone heard anything about a 21st century Tea Party. What part of these facts are beyond Sullivan’s ability to understand? The center-right had nothing to do with this. Rather, an attraction to the culture of conspiracy theories that is the product of severe mental illness caused Loughner to do what he did. Are we not using enough one-syllable words to make the meaning plain to the likes of Andrew Sullivan?

Of course, all of the hand-waving that makes up the rest of Sullivan’s post notwithstanding, he completely fails to put some meat on Phase 2, just as Paul Krugman failed in the same effort. Memo to the Atlantic: This kind of intellectual trainwreck is now entirely characteristic of Sullivan’s writing. He is ruining your brand. When will you make him stop doing so?

As though all of this were not enough to make one weary, comes now Kevin Drum with this: “I don’t really blame conservatives for being upset at liberals trying pin the blame for the Giffords shooting on them, but the furious defensiveness of their counterattack says all that needs to be said about how uncomfortable they are with their own recent history.” Um, no. The furious whatever of the counterattack says all that needs to be said about how outrageous it is to blame the Arizona shootings on Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, the Republican party, and the center-right as a whole, all without any causation whatsoever. Again, I can’t believe we actually have to go over these elementary points multiple times.

Michael Moynihan writes truth:

I’ve yet to see any of those pundits and bloggers that wished, hoped, prayed that they could wring political points out of the awful crime in Tucson concede that their immediate suggestions (because the smart ones always include a smattering of weasel words and phrases; “probably,” “could be”) that the gunman was a disgruntled Tea Partier were spectacularly wrong. Alas, no one has admitted that they jumped the gun, that political considerations dictated their response to the murder of six people, including a nine-year-old girl.

Instead, many of these contemptible creatures, who insist on blaming a half-witted reality television star for the actions of a deranged amateur grammarian, have shifted gears, arguing that while perhapsthe assassin wasn’t motivated by Glenn Beck, it’s certainly possible that, in this overheated climate, such a person could be motivated by righty talkers. (For those with less partisan instincts, but are still interested in advancing a pet cause, the blame fell on everything from video games to that ubiquitous 1980s blame magnet, heavy metal music.)

To veterans of the 1990s culture wars, such obfuscations recall campus debates on the postmodern perception of “truth” (always in quotes); that academic slip clause allowing one to evade discussions of factual inaccuracies by shifting discussion to tedious debates over the very meaning of truth. Indeed,The Economist is right to argue that Jared Loughner’s rants about mind-control seem more Foucault than Bachmann.

When it was revealed by Middlebury College sociologist David Stoll that Nobel Prize-winning writer (and doyenne of university syllabi) Rigoberta Menchu had invented key parts of her harrowing memoir of the Guatemalan civil war, many who taught the book insisted that it would remain a part of their curriculum. Menchu might have been a first-class fabulist, it was argued, but her story represented a truth familiar to those affected by the Guatemalan civil war. So there I was, sitting in a television studio yesterday, debating a university professor who intoned gravely that while this particular shooter might not have been motivated by the Tea Party, that type of rhetoric could potentially provoke others to shoot members of Congress.

Crawling out from under an avalanche of doltish tragedy blogging and tweeting, there isn’t much more one can say about the shootings in Tucson that hasn’t already been said by the few sensible pundits left in the United States. But it is perhaps worth pointing out that many of those denouncing rhetorical extremism are themselves in danger of drifting into similar territory (I won’t say “extremist” because dumb political rhetoric isn’t always “extreme”).

Read it all. In sum, what Moynihan is saying is that the Left is now reduced to claiming that its arguments concerning the Arizona shootings may be fake, but they are accurate. Hmm, where have we heard that before? Do I really need to link to an answer?

It is worth noting that having failed to convince the country that the center-right has blood on its hands, people like Mark Halperin now believe that the center-right should forgive and forget efforts to smear and slime it in the court of public opinion.

Really. Watch for yourself:

Halperin is shocked, shocked that conservatives are upset that they have been accused, for all practical purposes, of being accessories to murder and attempted murder. The mind reels.

Want to see some real examples of advocacy for political violence? See this (via Aaron Worthing):

And this (also via Worthing):

Tell me again how the center-right supposedly has a monopoly on hate speech, and violent rhetoric.

Of course, there are people who have conducted themselves with honor and dignity in the aftermath of the shootings. A third hat tip to Worthing, as he refers us to Jon Stewart:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Arizona Shootings Reaction
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> The Daily Show on Facebook

As Worthing writes, Stewart’s point “is that we can’t really blame overheated rhetoric for the massacre, but let’s try being kinder to each other anyway.” Fine with me. Too bad that significant parts of the Left Blogosphere have decided to completely forget the second half of that sentence.

As have certain politicians of the Left. Bernie Sanders, come on down!

There has been no shortage of individuals and institutions that have sought to capitalize on the shootings in Tucson. Add Vermont senator Bernie Sanders to that list.

This afternoon Sanders sent out a fundraising appeal, seeking to raise money to fight Republicans and other “right-wing reactionaries” responsible for the climate that led to the shooting.

He writes:

Given the recent tragedy in Arizona, as well as the start of the new Congress, I wanted to take this opportunity to share a few words with political friends in Vermont and throughout the country.  I also want to thank the very many supporters who have begun contributing online to my 2012 reelection campaign at www.bernie.org.  There is no question but that the Republican Party, big money corporate interests and right-wing organizations will vigorously oppose me.  Your financial support now and in the future is much appreciated.

(Via Brian Faughnan.) What is wrong with these people?

Previous post:

Next post: