Joshua Lott / courtesy The New York Times
Above the Fold
To try to inflame the public on a daily basis, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, has impact on people–especially [people] who are unbalanced to begin with.
–Pima County, Arizona Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, January 9, 2011
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.
–Paul Krugman, January 10, 2011
This morning in Arizona, this age in which this country would accept “targeting” of political opponents and putting bullseyes over their faces and of the dangerous blurring between political rallies and gun shows, ended. This morning in Arizona, this time of the ever-escalating, borderline-ecstatic invocation of violence in fact or in fantasy in our political discourse, closed. It is essential tonight not to demand revenge, but to demand justice; to insist not upon payback against those politicians and commentators who have so irresponsibly brought us to this time of domestic terrorism, but to work to change the minds of them and their supporters - or if those minds tonight are too closed, or if those minds tonight are too unmoved, or if those minds tonight are too triumphant, to make sure by peaceful means that those politicians and commentators and supporters have no further place in our system of government.
–Keith Olbermann, January 9, 2011
No one knows what history will make of the present — least of all journalists, who can at best write history’s sloppy first draft. But if I were to place an incautious bet on which political event will prove the most significant of February 2010, I wouldn’t choose the kabuki health care summit that generated all the ink and 24/7 cable chatter in Washington. I’d put my money instead on the murder-suicide of Andrew Joseph Stack III, the tax protester who flew a plane into an office building housing Internal Revenue Service employees in Austin, Tex., on Feb. 18. It was a flare with the dark afterlife of an omen…All it takes is a few self-styled “patriots” to sow havoc.
--Frank Rich, February 27, 2010
A hard rain’s gonna fall means something’s going to happen.
There was nothing really surprising about Saturday’s massacre in Arizona; that was the most horrifying thing about it.
Events like this are completely predictable in a country where so many pundits and politicians are addicted to apocalyptic rhetoric, and all serious attempts to restrict the use of firearms have been abandoned.
Where else but America could an obviously deranged college student be thrown out of school and forbidden to return without official certification of his mental health–and then proceed directly to a sporting goods store to purchase a 9 mm Glock pistol with a 30-bullet clip. This kind of gun, according to Brady Campaign president Paul Helmke, “is not suited for hunting or personal protection. What it’s good for is killing and injuring a lot of people quickly.”
As Gail Collins pointed out in a crucial column today, the only reason Jared L. Loughner was able to buy that semiautomatic weapon legally was “because the law restricting their sale expired in 2004, and Congress did not have the guts to face up to the National Rifle Association and extend it.”
Today there is blood on the hands of all the legislators who failed to extend that law– and not just the blood of their colleague, a federal judge, four other dead and fourteen wounded innocents. We can add to that the blood of tens of thousands murdered in the Mexican drug wars in the last four years–nearly all of them killed with assault weapons purchased legally on our side of the border, according to Mexican and American law enforcement officers.
Arizona is one of 12 “gold star” open carry states
In a powerful special comment on Saturday night, Keith Olbermann summarized the acts and the attitudes which contributed so much to this fatal climate–and which must now be repudiated:
If Sarah Palin, whose website put and today scrubbed bullseye targets on 20 Representatives including Gabby Giffords, does not repudiate her own part in amplifying violence and violent imagery in politics, she must be dismissed from politics - she must be repudiated by the members of her own party, and if they fail to do so, each one of them must be judged to have silently defended this tactic that today proved so awfully foretelling, and they must in turn be dismissed by the responsible members of their own party.
If Jesse Kelly, whose campaign against Congresswoman Giffords included an event in which he encouraged his supporters to join him firing machine guns, does not repudiate this, and does not admit that even if it was solely indirectly, or solely coincidentally, it contributed to the black cloud of violence that has envellopped our politics, he must be repudiated by Arizona’s Republican Party.
If Congressman Allen West, who during his successful campaign told his supporters that they should make his opponent afraid to come out of his home, does not repudiate those remarks and all other suggestions of violence and forced fear, he should be repudiated by his constituents and the Republican Congressional Caucus.
If Sharron Angle, who spoke of “Second Amendment solutions,” does not repudiate that remark and urge her supporters to think anew of the terrible reality of what her words implied, she must be repudiated by her supporters in Nevada.
If the Tea Party leaders who took out of context a Jefferson quote about blood and tyranny and the tree of liberty do not understand - do not understand tonight, now what that really means, and these leaders do not tell their followers to abhor violence and all threat of violence, then those Tea Party leaders must be repudiated by the Republican Party.
If Glenn Beck, who obsesses nearly as strangely as Mr. Loughner did about gold and debt and who wistfully joked about killing Michael Moore, and Bill O’Reilly, who blithely repeated “Tiller the Killer” until the phrase was burned into the minds of his viewers, do not begin their next broadcasts with solemn apologies for ever turning to the death-fantasies and the dreams of bloodlust, for ever having provided just the oxygen to those deep in madness to whom violence is an acceptable solution, then those commentators and the others must be repudiated by their viewers, and by all politicians, and by sponsors, and by the networks that employ them.
And if those of us considered to be “on the left” do not re-dedicate ourselves to our vigilance to eliminate all our own suggestions of violence - how ever inadvertent they might have been then we too deserve the repudiation of the more sober and peaceful of our politicians and our viewers and our networks.
It has hardly helped matters that hate mongers like Roger Ailes and Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly are routinely treated so softly (or even warmly) by pundits and reporters like David Carr and Brian Stelter and Bill Carter and David Gergen and James Poniewozik, and, worst of all, David von Drehle, who wrote, obscenely, in Time, that Beck is “tireless, funny, [and]self-deprecating…a gifted storyteller with a knack for stitching seemingly unrelated data points into possible conspiracies — if he believed in conspiracies, which he doesn’t, necessarily; he’s just asking.”
And when incompetent repoters like NBC’s Mike Viqueira run clips of Sarah Palin saying that Barack Obama “wants to take all your guns away”–and then neglects to point out that this is a cold-blooded lie–they throw a different kind of fuel on the fire. (The sad truth is, the Obama admnistration has not done a single thing to try to encourage any kind of gun control in America.)
As Keith Olbermann said on Saturday, “we stand at one of the clichéd crossroads of American history. Even if the alleged terrorist Jared Lee Loughner was merely shooting into a political crowd because he wanted to shoot into a political crowd, even if he somehow was unaware who was in the crowd, we have nevertheless for years been building up to a moment like this. Assume the details are coincidence. The violence is not. The rhetoric has devolved and descended, past the ugly and past the threatening and past the fantastic and into the imminently murderous.”
Yesterday, Matt Bai wrote in the Times, “Tucson will either be the tragedy that brought us back from the brink, or the first in a series of gruesome memories to come.”
If this is going to be the event that leads us away from the abyss, instead of plunging us to the bottom of it, new and different kinds of courage and intelligence will be required from all of us.