“If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun”

Former Irish News columnist Jude Collins popped up on Talkback today to add his voice to the various media commentators complaining about the dangerous rhetoric of the US right-wing in the aftermath of the attempted assassination of Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona.

But in his eagerness to attribute blame Jude Collins has become somewhat confused about the facts.

Of the two, the death of Gabrielle Giffords is the easier to explain. It may be, as US right-wing commentators claim, that the attack which killed Christina-Taylor Green and wounded Gabrielle Giffords was non-political, the work of a crazed loner,  motiveless. But few of us believe that. Giffords had been the subject of attack before. She was a liberal Democrat in a fiercely right-wing state. She was one of several politicians shown on material released by Sarah Palin’s office, the cross-hairs of an aimed rifle on their image with the instruction “Reload”. [added emphasis]

For the record, here’s the material he’s actually complaining about – in case you haven’t, you know, actually seen it.  It was released in March 2010 for the Congressional elections on November 2.

Such maps are not that uncommon.  Via the Professor, here’s a similar one produced by the Democratic Party in 2004.

And Giffords is more accurately identified as a moderate “Blue Dog Democrat“, a centrist who supports the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.  Indeed the Democratic Party supporting Daily Kos ‘targetted’ her in June 2008.

Who to primary? Well, I’d argue that we can narrow the target list by looking at those Democrats who sold out the Constitution last week. I’ve bolded members of the Blue Dogs for added emphasis.

[edited list]Emanuel, Rahm (IL-05)
Engel, Elliot (NY-17)
Etheridge, Bob (NC-02)
Giffords, Gabrielle (AZ-08)
Gillibrand, Kirsten (NY-20)
Gordon, Bart (TN-06)
Green, AL (TX-09)
Green, Gene (TX-29)
Gutierrez, Luis (IL-04)

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

Dangerous rhetoric?  Hardly.  Unless, of course, the

“new standard [of] what we may and may not say is: How will it affect the behavior of an obviously crazy person who may or may not hear it?”

But let’s be clear about what’s happening here.  Mick has thoughtfully added to the side-bar this post from Stumbling and Mumbling.

What worries me is that  a combination of cognitive biases can lead us to fail to see this, and instead to infer too much from specific cases. I mean:
1. The confirmation bias. Paul Krugman always hated rightist rhetoric. Jack Straw always had his doubts about Muslim culture. Both are quick to find confirmation of their priors.
2. The availability heuristic. It’s easy to over-rate the prevalence of events if one or two of them get publicity, and thus to exaggerate the extent of a problem. This is not happening in the Giffords case – everyone knows it’s rare for Congressmen to be shot – but it might be happening in the case of Pakistani sex crimes, where statistics are less well known.
3. Outgroup biases. If a member of another tribe does something bad, we tend to regard such behaviour as representative of that tribe, whereas if one of our own tribe does it, we regard it as a mere idiosyncrasy. [added emphasis]

Read the whole thing.

In the meantime, here are some words of wisdom from The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart

“We live in a complex ecosystem of influences and motivations and I wouldn’t blame our political rhetoric any more than I would blame heavy metal music for Columbine,” Stewart said on “The Daily Show” Monday night. “Boy, would it be nice to draw a straight line from this horror to something tangible, because then we could convince ourselves that if we just stopped this, then the horrors will end.”

“You cannot outsmart crazy,” Stewart said. “You don’t know what a troubled mind will get caught on.”

And the post title?  Not just a mis-quote from The Untouchables.  But, via the Professor again, Barack Obama during his 2008 Presidential campaign…

Here’s good take on the media coverage at the Guardian’s CiF America blog.

Adds  For the benefit of those in the comment zone who still don’t seem to get it.

Here’s a snippet from the Guardian’s live coverage today

That is certainly what former Democratic congressman Paul Kanjorski was asking for when he penned an editorial this week in the New York Times in the wake of the Tucson shooting, writing:

“It is incumbent on all Americans to create an atmosphere of civility and respect in which political discourse can flow freely, without fear of violent confrontation.”

So far, so good. Except Kanjorski gave the following quote to a newspaper in Scranton, Pennsylvania, last year when he was fighting an unsuccessful bid to get re-elected. He decided to have a go at Florida Republican candidate for governor Rick Scott and came out with the following gem:

“That Scott down there that’s running for governor of Florida. Instead of running for governor of Florida, they ought to have him and shoot him. Put him against the wall and shoot him.”

Oh dear. No doubt Kanjorski was just letting his mouth run rather than issuing a real death threat. But it does show that having the ability to say one thing while doing another is, sadly, one of the few bipartisan areas of American public life.

Hat tip to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. [added new link]

And from the linked Washington Examiner blog

I’ll give Kanjorski the benefit of the doubt that he did not literally mean Scott schould be killed. Regardless, Kanjorski’s way over the rhetorical line compared to the kinds of statements liberals are pointing to as evidence that Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh are creating a “climate of hate,” to borrow Paul Krugman’s phrase. And somehow I doubt that there would have been crickets from the national media if a Republican politician called for a Democratic candidate to be shot barely a week before the election.

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  • Mack

    Of the two, the death of Gabrielle Giffords is the easier to explain

    Well, she’s not dead yet for a start, breathing on her own now according to wikipedia, thank God.

    She also describes herself as an ex-Republican so I doubt she’s representative of the left of the Democrat party.

    That said I think a lot of the rhetoric in American politics is unhelpful (plenty of examples of pundit Glen Beck going too far floating about recently).

  • Carrickmoreman

    Mack (and everyone): Speaking of Beck. This is hilarious, from yesterday:

    http://techcrunch.com/2011/01/10/glenn-beck-violence/

    Good piece on the rhetoric:

    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2011/01/only-one-side.html

  • pippakin

    Jon Stewart has it just right. You cannot outsmart crazy. All the talk about right wing rhetoric was not only too much too soon, it was also wrong. The man is unwell as was the nutter who attacked Reagan.

  • Dec

    ‘You cannot outsmart crazy.’

    Yes, but you can make it more difficult for them to acquire firearms. But if that lesson wasn’t heeded after the Virginia Tech massacre it’s hardly going to be heeded now.

  • joeCanuck

    I wish people wouldn’t keep saying that this man is crazy. Let a court decide that.
    Jon Stewart’s piece last evening was thoughtful; he spoke from the heart. I don’t often watch his show but I did yesterday to see how he would handle this awful news. He did very well.

  • RepublicanStones

    Hang on, let me just tell you what I’m thinking. I’m thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I’m wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out — is this wrong? I stopped wearing my What Would Jesus — band — Do, and I’ve lost all sense of right and wrong now. I used to be able to say, “Yeah, I’d kill Michael Moore,” and then I’d see the little band: What Would Jesus Do? And then I’d realize, “Oh, you wouldn’t kill Michael Moore. Or at least you wouldn’t choke him to death.” And you know, well, I’m not sure.”

    Guess who?

  • joeCanuck

    Glen Beck? Rush Iimbaugh?

  • edgeoftheunion

    Google takes all the fun out.

    I suppose it is only a matter of time before the “Who would Jesus shoot” bands come out.

  • pippakin

    I think it sounds like Limbaugh? He often sounds in need of help.

    The young man in Ms Giffords case had question marks about his health. He was expelled from College and told not to go back until he had received help. He had had previous contact with Ms Gifford.

    If anything I think the problem is the lack of decent health care in the US, too many people slip through what system there is.

  • edgeoftheunion

    The previous contact with Giffords appears bizarre.

    “Three years ago, Loughner had found a place at a community college and attended one of Giffords’ outdoor meetings with constituents. He submitted a written question that essentially asked: “What is government if words have no meaning?”

    When Giffords, presumably baffled, gave only a cursory response, Tierney said Loughner was angered.

    “He said, ‘Can you believe it, they wouldn’t answer my question’, and I told him, ‘Dude, no one’s going to answer that’,” Tierney said. “Ever since that, he thought she was fake, he had something against her.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/10/jared-lee-loughner-arizona-shooting

  • A local reflection:

    Tucson Tragedy and a Crisis of Spirit – Grey Matters, Tucson Citizen Jan 09, 2011:

    I think we all have the potential, no the responsibility as humans to be a positive force. I don’t know of any situation where more violence and hate can solve a problem. .. rather than escalating the situation, let’s try and de-escalate and bring reason and calmness to the situation.

    Congresswoman Giffords has the skill to do just that. I witnessed her ability to reason and respectfully disagree with irate, inflamed constituents at town hall meetings over the last year. Gabe Zimmerman, her now deceased aid, was a master at conveying how important the well being of our community was to him.

  • Pete Baker

    Guys

    It might be better for the general discussion if you could show some evidence of having actually read the original post.

    And, if possible, of having understood it.

    And on that note, here’s a snippet from the Guardian’s live coverage today

    That is certainly what former Democratic congressman Paul Kanjorski was asking for when he penned an editorial this week in the New York Times in the wake of the Tucson shooting, writing:

    “It is incumbent on all Americans to create an atmosphere of civility and respect in which political discourse can flow freely, without fear of violent confrontation.”

    So far, so good. Except Kanjorski gave the following quote to a newspaper in Scranton, Pennsylvania, last year when he was fighting an unsuccessful bid to get re-elected. He decided to have a go at Florida Republican candidate for governor Rick Scott and came out with the following gem:

    “That Scott down there that’s running for governor of Florida. Instead of running for governor of Florida, they ought to have him and shoot him. Put him against the wall and shoot him.”

    Oh dear. No doubt Kanjorski was just letting his mouth run rather than issuing a real death threat. But it does show that having the ability to say one thing while doing another is, sadly, one of the few bipartisan areas of American public life.

    Hat tip to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. [added new link]

  • This blog might add to the post and give an idea as to some of the fecked up thinking within some of the tea party

  • joeCanuck

    It is somewhat typical of American political discourse. Those of us living over here (we get the US networks) know that negative political ads vastly outnumber positive ones; at least for the 30 odd years I have lived here. Which side is the worse? Depends on which side you support. In general, mind you, huge numbers of people don’t give a f**k. They want to be left alone to try to make some money.

  • Pete Baker

    As I said Moochin

    It might be better for the general discussion if you could show some evidence of having actually read the original post.

    And, if possible, of having understood it.

  • Pete Baker

    And from the linked Washington Examiner blog

    I’ll give Kanjorski the benefit of the doubt that he did not literally mean Scott schould be killed. Regardless, Kanjorski’s way over the rhetorical line compared to the kinds of statements liberals are pointing to as evidence that Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh are creating a “climate of hate,” to borrow Paul Krugman’s phrase. And somehow I doubt that there would have been crickets from the national media if a Republican politician called for a Democratic candidate to be shot barely a week before the election.

  • slappymcgroundout

    Pete, thanks for posting for the Dem illustration: Behind Enemy Lines. Indeed. And same as it ever was.

    Almost forgot, but I see that Stones is at it again. He would do well to consider:

    http://articles.latimes.com/2000/aug/10/news/mn-2108

    And, Stones, if we wanted to kill the nimrod Moore we wouldn’t use a gun. High transfat donuts would do just fine. The porker would not likely resist eating the tasty treats. Lastly, as always, if you have occasion to speak with the porker, remind him once again that they didn’t go bowling at Columbine.

    For one more almost forgot, for Carrickmoreman, yes, Andrew Sullivan, the wingnut who endorsed the other wingnut, Ron Paul, for President of the US. After Stones speaks with the porker, you can speak with Andrew. Remind him of this of his endorsement of Ron Paul for US President. But before you do that, go on Youtube and view the piece titled “Ron Paul on the American Civil War.” So, the US Civil War aka “senseless civil war”. So Andrew is right, Ron Paul, wingnut, is “the real thing in a world of fakes and frauds.” For how stupid Ron Paul is, note what he says, not only would slavery have ended had some bought the slaves, but all the hate against black Americans following would not have happened (in his words…”it lingered for a hundred years, I mean, the hatred and all existed…”). Ron Paul, wingnut, for thinking that they would have loved black Americans if only they’d been paid for their emancipation. Truly lastly, I am not Michelle’s biggest fan, not a fan at all, be she nailed this one to the wall:

    http://michellemalkin.com/2011/01/10/the-progressive-climate-of-hate-an-illustrated-primer-2000-2010/

  • slappymcgroundout
  • RepublicanStones

    but I see that Stones is at it again…

    pray tell what am I at again slapp?

  • Jimmy Sands

    It’s not long ago that the blogosphere was roundly condemning the prosecution of someone for a jocular tweet about bombing an airport. To suggest that rhetoric or even metaphor is the enemy I think rather misses the point. What is most corrosive to civil discourse in the US is the increasingly hysterical rightist narrative to the effect that the federal government is a dangerous tyranny which lacks constitutional legitimacy and that the democratic institutions of the US are inadequate to deal with the immediate peril. Beck does not, of course, seek the have people killed, he merely wishes to persuade his room temperature IQ audience to buy overpriced gold coins and dried food for the impending meltdown, nevertheless, many will see violence as a wholly logical response to this overblown shroud waving.

  • Twitter and the anti-social media

    Local reporters ‘made a pitch for talking with the local guy, as they tried to compete with the national media parachuting in to cover the story’.

    Be careful what you tweet – or blog; the MSM may descend like a plague of locusts.

  • Greenflag

    ‘I wish people wouldn’t keep saying that this man is crazy.’

    This atrocity was pre meditated .Do ‘crazies’ commit pre meditated murders or only a special type of crazy ?. Meanwhile another of the USA’s ‘crazies’ wants to protest at the funeral of the 9 year old girl – born on 9/11 who was taken to the Gifford’s ‘event’ to experience ‘democracy’ in action .

    On the same planet Baptist Minister Phelps believes that God sent the shooter as part of a heavenly plan to remind people who he (God ) is and that they had better obey him or else he’ll send more ‘shooters’ etc etc 🙁

  • Nunoftheabove

    Jude Collins has been talking pish about the situation locally for the last 20 years, anyone paying attention to his pronouncements on American life, economics or politics is away in the head entirely, I’d have thought.

  • Greenflag

    @ Jimmy Sands ,

    ‘What is most corrosive to civil discourse in the US is the increasingly hysterical rightist narrative to the effect that the federal government is a dangerous tyranny which lacks constitutional legitimacy and that the democratic institutions of the US are inadequate to deal with the immediate peril.’

    Good post JS .The USA may be on it’s way to becoming a corporate fascist one party state or to breaking up inot ‘ideological ‘ regions i.e North East and West Coast versus South and West with the latter regions becoming havens for the lunatic right and religious extremists . There is a palpable air that the USA’s democratic institutions have failed .Their inability to arrest or slow down the increasing emisseration of whats left of the American middle class or stand up to the ever bigger banks who were already to big to fail three years or to address the plight of some 25 million unemployed or the three million foreclosures while pumping 3 trillion dollars into the Iraq /Afghanistan wars etc etc .

    I suppose there are some in the USA who believe that if the Federal Govt appears to be able to do little about the problems mentioned above then surely a much smaller federal government or a Somali sized government would do better .?

    I read that a GOP politician mentioned that the Arizona mass murderer had no ‘fixed ‘ ideology as if this explained his (the murderer’s craziness ) 🙁 . Presumably having a fixed ‘ideology’ is protection against becoming a mass murderer ? I guess this politician has’nt read much of Europe’s ‘ideological ‘ wars 1917 -1945 where those who were ‘fixed’ in their ideology committed the greatest massacres of humanity to date 🙁

  • Funeral Protection Zone

    Gov. Jan Brewer on Tuesday signed a bill to create a “funeral protection zone” to keep protesters from disrupting the funerals of those killed in the mass shooting near Tucson.

    The bill was a bipartisan show of support for the victims, and it passed both chambers of the Legislature on a unanimous vote earlier in the day.

    Senate Bill 1101 creates a “funeral protection zone” that bans protesters within 300 feet of a funeral service. The ban applies to one hour before, during or after a funeral service. A violation is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

    It will have been in response to this sort of nonsense:

    “The Rev. Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas responded to the shooting by posting a video on the YouTube website, saying, “Thank God for the violent shooter.”

    He vowed to have his band of followers picket at the funerals.”

  • andnowwhat
  • andnowwhat
  • pippakin

    Wesboro Church is not right wing, not if their previous appearances at the funerals of dead military, something right wing Americans would consider the ultimate betrayal is anything to go by.

    ‘Crazy’ is very often premeditated. Its almost a necessary attribute.

    Many Americans are afraid of both their present government and most of the politicians regardless of party. To most Europeans Healthcare is a right. To, arguably, most Americans it is not and is even in their mass opinion against their all important Constitution. Obama has spent his first two years ignoring those fears and riding rough shod over the opposition.

  • andnowwhat

    Complete tosh Pipa.

    The american pharma/health industry and its lobbyists are extremely powerful. The insurance industry is massively wealthy and yet,it has become increasingly reluctant to abide by its policy and it’s customers.

    Unlike what it says in the bible, try to pull a thorn out of a lion’s paw and it will bite your head off, not thank you.

    America is a diverse nation with the only commonality being the abstract of a united nation and thus the manipulation of the constitution which was written in the paranoid, post colonial period.

    The founding fathers had independance from Britain, France, Spain etc. in their minds.

    It’s sickening to see the Boston Tea Party being bastardised in such a way.

  • pippakin

    andnowwhat

    None of your comment disputes what I said. The Constitution is vitally important to Americans and, if I may say so, its typical of Europeans that we deny its importance.

    Yes the Pharmaceutical and health insurance companies are over powerful so why not start the change by bringing them into line? Why make exceptions of powerful democrat leaning organisations? Already there are several states are taking the governments Obamacare bill to court because they insist it is against the Constitution.

    The whole mess has come about because Obama flatly refused to negotiate with Republicans. Its a bit late now, because he wants to begin campaigning for reelection, to start making flirtatious overtures. He has split the country and the results of the mid terms showed that.

    Ms Gifford was not left wing, she was a ‘blue dog’ democrat, fiscally conservative and thought people had the right to own guns. She had met Loughtner before and he was unhappy with their meeting.

    I think Loughtner is a sick young man who needs help. Now that he is going to be spending some time in prison, even before the trial, he will almost certainly be getting that help.

  • Brian

    This man was absolutely crazy.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703791904576075851892478080.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEADNewsCollection

    Also, have you seen of of his youtube videos? Nonsensical and deluded.

  • I did my decade and more in elective politics, albeit at no greatly distinguished level. One (I hope, unfair) accolade I acquired was to be the “Norman Hunter” (that dates me) of the Council Chamber. If you dish it out; you also have to be prepared to eat it up. As they say around these parts, play the ball, not the man.

    The political alignments of the individuals (liberal, blue-dog, tea-party) are irrelevant here. No sane person should stand on a public platform, or employ a blog-site, that enjoins physical violence (“decapitation strategy”?) or personal insult (the “Gordon Brown is insane” meme?). That’s why I wince when the “window-lickers” (Guido Fawkes’s term for his own following) who obediently rise to his bait over here.

    So, let’s start with Pete Baker’s soft-shoe shuffle on Obama at Philadelphia. The WSJ post was surprisingly unhostile to candidate Obama at first publication in June 2008; and it is abjectly apologetic now). The context was a comparison with American professional football; and as Pete Baker recognises there’s a tie to the Sean Connery character in The Untouchables. That, I suggest, provides a jokier context than Sharron Angle’s “second-amendment solution” for opponent Harry Reid.

    Beyond that, the Republican right have manufactured a climate of extreme language over a decade or more. They are so wedded to this vocabulary that, even now, Sarah Palin accuses her critics of “blood libel”: does she not know, dare no-one tell her the origin of the term? And Rush Limbaugh reckons Jared Loughner enjoys “the full support of the Democratic Party”.

    I saw somewhere on a US site a suggestion that the political word of 2010 should not be “tea-party” but “wing-nut” [Merriam-Webster dictionary: a mentally deranged person, an advocate of extreme measures or changes]. The thesis is the 21st century to date has been mad, bad and dangerous to know. I think the examples went beyond the machination of the Florida count and the lies about Iraq to embrace swiftboating, the birthers and Mrs Palin’s own death panels.

    Kanjorski has fulsomely repented. We don’t hear the same from the types who make a point by bringing artillery to public meetings, nor from the politicos who rant for them.

  • Palin’s use of the phrase blood libel has probably lost her the not insignificant Jewish vote. From what i’m reading it has not gone down well at all.
    The more i hear of her the less i like her and i wasn’t really a fan before. How she has responded to this shooting, responding as if she is a victim of the media and it’s reporting will have i think, sunk any chance she had of running in the presidential election.

  • Brian

    Moochin

    Palin has no chance of winning the primary or election.

    Most republicans despise her and view her as an embarassment.

    The evangelical bloc of the right wing, along with some rednecks, are extremely loyal to her. That’s about it.

  • Brian

    Oh, yes, and the media loves her. She brings high ratings.

  • Greenflag

    @ moochin ,

    I doubt if Palin got more than a handful of Jewish votes in the Presidential election . Only the very aged with Alzheimers would have given her a vote

    As for ‘only the evangelical bloc of the right wing and rednecks ‘ voting for her -thats just about the entire GOP outside the north east and west coast .

    There is NO moderate Republican Party any more . It would not surprise me to see Palin as the candidate and whether we like it or not if she is not selected she will have the major say in whoever gets the nomination .She may even run as a third party candidate and is probably the only current GOP politician who could do so .

  • Pete Baker

    Malcolm

    Fulsome is right. Repented? Not so much.

    As for your complaint about my “soft-shoe shuffle”

    The context was a comparison with American professional football

    No. From the WSJ blog you linked to

    Obama made the comment in the context of warning donors that the general election campaign against McCain could get ugly. “They’re going to try to scare people. They’re going to try to say that ‘that Obama is a scary guy,’” he said.

    And the 2008 Politico report I linked to was unhostile too. Because it’s about the choice of rhetoric.

    That is, after all, what Krugman et al, have been trying to use to try to apportion the blame for the 6 people killed in Tucson. Even if Jude Collins can’t quite remember accurately what it was he was supposed to have seen/heard.

    And that’s what this post is actually about, guys.

    The blatantly political attempt to attribute blame for a shooting in which only one person is to blame…

  • Brian @ 7:57 pm:

    With that you may have come close enough to win the cigar (fairground shooting gallery reference, I suspect).

    The “dwell-time” of a computer “hit” is measured in fractions of a second. It’s the first three lines of a book that sells. A song-track can be no longer than that of a primitive wax-cylinder because that is what we have been trained to bark at. The thirty-second ad has to tell the story, sell the product, include the legal disclaimer. So the politician has to encapsulate the message in a sound bite.

    Back in 2002 The West Wing did a episode [“Game On”] involving a presidential candidate debate. All the build-up involved President Jed Bartlett’s handlers urging him to the ten-word sound bite. In an exemplary bit of scripting we got this:

    Moderator: Governor Ritchie, many economists have stated that the tax cut, which is the centrepiece of your economic agenda, could actually harm the economy. Is now really the time to cut taxes?
    Governor Robert Ritchie, R-FL:: You bet it is. We need to cut taxes for one reason – the American people know how to spend their money better than the federal government does.
    Moderator: Mr. President, your rebuttal.
    President Bartlet: There it is. That’s the ten word answer my staff’s been looking for for two weeks. There it is. Ten-word answers can kill you in political campaigns. They’re the tip of the sword. Here’s my question: What are the next ten words of your answer? Your taxes are too high? So are mine. Give me the next ten words. How are we going to do it? Give me ten after that, I’ll drop out of the race right now. Every once in a while… every once in a while, there’s a day with an absolute right and an absolute wrong, but those days almost always include body counts. Other than that, there aren’t very many unnuanced moments in leading a country that’s way too big for ten words. I’m the President of the United States, not the President of the people who agree with me. And by the way, if the left has a problem with that, they should vote for somebody else.

    Once upon a time there were truly admirable, truly liberal Republicans. They were abused as “Rockefeller Republicans”. They were, on social matters, further “left” than many Democrats, not excluding FDR. Dwight Eisenhower wasn’t too far off their patch.

    Today, with a few exceptions in the North-East, they are a species extinguished by the fire-and-brimstone of Limbaugh, his predecessors and those who pay the piper.

    Sad, really.

  • Pete Baker

    I should have added those words of wisdom from The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart – for the benefit of those who didn’t bother reading them in the original post. [added emphasis this time]

    We live in a complex ecosystem of influences and motivations and I wouldn’t blame our political rhetoric any more than I would blame heavy metal music for Columbine,” Stewart said on “The Daily Show” Monday night. “Boy, would it be nice to draw a straight line from this horror to something tangible, because then we could convince ourselves that if we just stopped this, then the horrors will end.”

    “You cannot outsmart crazy,” Stewart said. “You don’t know what a troubled mind will get caught on.”

  • pippakin

    Pete Baker

    As I said in my very first comment on this thread. Jon Stewart was absolutely right. To try to blame republican leaning people is cynical and dishonest, worse it loses them what little intelligent support they had and it will be remembered.

  • Greenflag

    @ malcolm redfellow

    ‘Today, with a few exceptions in the North-East, they are a species extinguished by the fire-and-brimstone of Limbaugh, his predecessors and those who pay the piper.

    Sad, really.’

    More than sad MR -positively dangerous for the future of American and indeed western democracy 🙁

    @ Peter Baker ,

    Maybe Jon Stewart might reflect on the fact that while we live in a complex ecosystem and motivations and political rhetoric -it is still crazy that it’s possible and legal for a person with a mental illness to obtain a firearm with a magazine that holds 30 plus rounds of ammo in Arizona and probably elsewhere in the USA ?

  • Methinks Pete Baker @ 8:24 pm doth protest too much.

    He neatly elided the WSJ post:
    Obama said at a Philadelphia fundraiser Friday night. “Because from what I understand folks in Philly like a good brawl. I’ve seen Eagles fans.”

    Never heard of the Philadelphia Eagles, Mr Baker? Sunday, they lost the play-off 21-16 to the Green Bay Packers. So their supporters rampaged over the parking lot and trashed Packers cars. So it goes: “the Philadelphia fans have a reputation”.

    Moreover, unless I’ve severely misjudged the tone of my efforts here, I for one am not trying to use to try to apportion the blame for the 6 people killed in Tuscon. Even young Mr Loughner is entitled to be innocent until, or if, he is found guilty. [And “Tuscon” is the annual SciFi convention held in Tucson — a city twinned, as I recall, and however inappropriately with Roscommon].

    Most of the decent Americans with whom I deal are appalled by the bloodshed. They are, it goes without saying, delicate milquetoasts who avoid the likes of Limbaugh or Glenn Beck. Yes, I admit it, they even vote Democratic. Some are even Jewish. The others may even join the Country Club and play golf.

    What they tell me is that there is a recent tradition of extreme rhetoric, which sweet reason cannot restrain. And that rhetoric is largely from the extreme right.

    End of.

  • Pete Baker

    Malcolm

    The typo has been corrected.

    And here’s another of those quotes from the original post, this time from Stumbling and Mumbling, which some of you might not have bothered reading either. [with added emphasis again]

    What worries me is that a combination of cognitive biases can lead us to fail to see this, and instead to infer too much from specific cases. I mean:
    1. The confirmation bias. Paul Krugman always hated rightist rhetoric. Jack Straw always had his doubts about Muslim culture. Both are quick to find confirmation of their priors.
    2. The availability heuristic. It’s easy to over-rate the prevalence of events if one or two of them get publicity, and thus to exaggerate the extent of a problem. This is not happening in the Giffords case – everyone knows it’s rare for Congressmen to be shot – but it might be happening in the case of Pakistani sex crimes, where statistics are less well known.
    3. Outgroup biases. If a member of another tribe does something bad, we tend to regard such behaviour as representative of that tribe, whereas if one of our own tribe does it, we regard it as a mere idiosyncrasy.

  • Pete Baker @ 9:15 pm:

    Sorry: with the help of a good lexicon I can almost do several languages, ancient and modern. But not, alas, sociologese.

    Anyway, the issue is not one of blame, though it ought to be one of shame. It is that normal dialogue is impossible if one participant merely blasts incessant, incendiary, prejudiced, incorrect, repetitive, poisonous assertions through a megaphone.

    There is not a centrist (let alone leftist) equivalent of what Fox is paying Glenn Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh and now Palin, all excessively so, to do. Jon Stewart, however admirable, mild and witty, has an audience of around 1.5 million a late night. On Tuesday of this week, Glenn Beck on Fox had 2,110,000 viewers. There is one Jon Stewart: every local station has its shock jock and takes the syndicated big names. So for Stewart’s weekly audience of about 6 million of so, Limbaugh on radio clocks at least 15 million; Hannity 14 million on radio, Beck 9 million plus on radio with both pulling another 2-3 million any night on Fox News. How can there be a measured debate on the deficit when Limbaugh’s contribution is a track by Paul Shanklin: Obama the Magic Negro?

    Meanwhile, only two newspapers across the fifty States have an average one million circulation (the WSJ and the NYT) as readership migrates to cable and elsewhere.

    As it famously says in a place of quiet reflection: si monumentum requiris, circumspice.

  • Pete Baker

    “Anyway, the issue is not one of blame”

    Malcolm

    Try telling that to those trying to blame Palin et al. With their mis-remembered ‘evidence’.

    Seriously, have you not been paying attention?

    Look, again, at Jon Stewart’s sensible response to the attempt to attribute blame to right-wing political rhetoric [added emphasis, again]

    We live in a complex ecosystem of influences and motivations and I wouldn’t blame our political rhetoric any more than I would blame heavy metal music for Columbine,” Stewart said on “The Daily Show” Monday night. “Boy, would it be nice to draw a straight line from this horror to something tangible, because then we could convince ourselves that if we just stopped this, then the horrors will end.”

    “You cannot outsmart crazy,” Stewart said. “You don’t know what a troubled mind will get caught on.”

    “It is that normal dialogue is impossible if one participant…”

    “one participant”, again.

    Catch yourself on.

    If the concern of those on the left [Krugman et al] had been one of ‘civil’ discourse, then they wouldn’t have started by trying to blame the right for what happened in Tucson.

    Which is exactly what they tried to do.

    Btw, what happened to “End of.”?

  • “the various media commentators”

    .. turns out to be one commentator: Paul Krugman, who gets a mention in the mumbling and jumbling piece.

    Krugman’s call for eliminationist (mainly right wing) rhetoric to be toned down seems eminently sensible in light of this Krugman comment: ‘Last spring Politico.com reported on a surge in threats against members of Congress, which were already up by 300 percent’.

  • Pete Baker

    Nevin

    “turns out to be one commentator: Paul Krugman”

    Again, have you not been paying attention?

    Krugman may have been the first, but the cause has been taken up elsewhere.

    Some, for example Jude Collins, have even mis-remembered what they were concerned about.

    What the critics of the political rhetoric are missing is a link to the Tucson shootings.

    That’s what they are blaming on the rhetoric. But there is nothing to suggest that the two are, actually, connected in any way.

    Other than wishful thinking…

  • I doubt I’m the only one here not paying attention.

    I have not in any way failed to disagree with Jon Stewart. I have implied his moderation and realism, except among a particular group in the “chattering classes”, is drowned by by the tirades from the ranting right.

    Similarly I read and enjoy Krugman. I do not go with his every jot and tittle. I do not have to disavow him in detail to address other aspects of the points here at issue.

    In this exchange I have at no time draw[n] a straight line from this horror to something tangible because, knowing what we do at this interim, the alleged perpetrator is a “wing-nut”. That’s a useful term which Slappy @ 11:06 PM happily and pertinently employed, and which I should have acknowledged as a prompt @ 6:25 PM.

    What I am suggesting is that the rhetoric of the right is corrosive in itself. Doubly so in a society where an “eccentric” can be rejected by the armed forces on sociopathic grounds; but who can vent his frustrations at the local gunshop by buying a Glock or a Uzi. He doesn’t have actually to use the gun, of course: he’s just exercising his Second Amendment rights … yeah, OK: the purchase should be solace to the soul in itself. Ahem …

    Let’s bring this nearer home, a lot nearer:

    Did that play of mine send out
    Certain men the English shot?
    Did words of mine put too great strain
    On that woman’s reeling brain?
    Could my spoken words have checked
    That whereby a house lay wrecked?

    Old man Yeats may have been inflating his own importance; but he got the point.

    The rhetoric of the extremist plays to the assumption that there are two tribes:
    ¶ “us”, the precious few who hold the sacred cruse of revealed truth, and
    ¶ “them”, who are the sons of men, not to be trusted because there is no hope in them (with or without the shibboleth of a citation to Psalm 146) .

    To such types I find myself saying, “I wish I was as certain of anything as you are of everything”. I can’t see why; but that wishy-washy liberalism seems to aggravate them all the more.

    Such moral righteousness is not exclusively an American phenomenon: consider Guido Fawkes’s “window-lickers”; UKIP; the hawkers of Socialist Worker; the evangelisers at my Sunday morning door; Margaret Thatcher and her clones. It may just be more developed, more mature over there than here (though perhaps, like tastes in food and dress, it’s only a matter of time). For example: consider this. In a suburb barely twenty miles from Times Square a parent is likely to be presented with a “permission slip”. One group of parents refuse to allow their children to play at or visit another child’s house unless a signed printed card is returned declaring that no guns are kept in that house. Another group of parents issues a similar card which denies the existence of a single drop of hard liquor in the visited house. Weird?

  • andnowwhat

    Check out the images contained in here Peter Baker..

  • “Again, have you not been paying attention?”

    I’ve been paying attention to comment mainly from Tucson – as well as to the conversation flyer on Slugger ie an informal exchange of views. Are the mitherings of Collins or the opinion of comedian Jon Stewart of any great significance?

    When I saw the phrase ‘various media commentators’ I expected a link to an item carrying quotes from same, rather than a Krugman article.

    Krugman IMO isn’t opposing rightist rhetoric as might be inferred from the unidentified Stumbling and Jumbling comment or drawing on iffy cross-hairs-type metaphors; he’s highlighting the potentially very dangerous eliminationist rhetoric – as is the locally elected and seemingly conservative Democrat, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik.

    “We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry,” Dupnik added. “The fiery rhetoric that has taken hold in politics may be free speech, but it’s not without consequences.”

    Commentators on the NI Troubles might well say “Hear Hear” to Clarence. Even if there is no direct connection to the Tucson tragedy eliminationist rhetoric IMO is indeed very toxic stuff.

  • Brian

    GF

    “As for ‘only the evangelical bloc of the right wing and rednecks ‘ voting for her -thats just about the entire GOP outside the north east and west coast .”

    I love your blatant disdain and dismissal of all those hard working Americans who don’t vote Democrat and don’t come from the Boston, NY, or LA/San Fran. After all, anyone not from the North East and West Coast are little more than bumpkins, racists, religious freaks, or worse.
    I bet none of them can even read or write, and they all think Obama is a secret Muslim/marxist/fascist.

  • Brian @ 3:07 pm:

    A valid point, well-intended if a trifle overdosed in irony.

    It ignores:
    ¶ the whole Karl Rove strategy that built GWB as Texas Governor and then twice-President;
    ¶ what we saw in the Primary season last year: the dismissal of decent Republican candidates, hardly pale-pink in their liberalism, in favour of Tea Party endorsements.

    I’d nod at Bob Bennett in Utah; the shenanigans in South Carolina; the train-wrecks that were Christine “Coven” O’Donnell in Delaware and Paladino’s run for the New York governorship; Anna Little in the Jersey 6th; and let’s not forget Sharron Angle in Nevada nor (since his name is in the current frame) Gabrielle Gifford’s opponent, Jesse Kelly. The result was to put some rabid unelectables on ballot-papers.

    The prime aim of democracy is to get elected: if that is not possible, to engage as many voters as possible in some serious debate. Some stray over acceptable lines (hence today’s by-election at Old & Sad). Some wholly bin their principles (now, of whom does that remind me?). Then some campaigns are plain electoral-suicide.

    What does not have long-term advantage is to substitute a ten-word encapsulation (see earlier post) for a proper platform, or to build a campaign entirely on compound adjectives (“deficit-denying”, “job-destroying”).

  • Brian

    Regarding this subject in general…

    It is depressing that within minutes of the news I had friends posting about how right wing talk radio was to blame. In the next few days supposedly respectable writers and pundits followed suit based on zero evidence. He was a tea bagger, a fringe militia type, etc.
    Just as depressing was when I checked out a few right wing blogs that tried to pin him as a left wing pothead who read marx.

    The reality is that he was simply a deranged, mentally ill, paranoid schizophrenic who cared nothing for politics or talking heads, as anyone who has taken the time to read the articles about him, view his youtube videos, hear his friends talk about him has found out. He had a grudge against Giffords since 2007, when she ignored a question he asked about grammar and mind control.

    What is truly irresponsible are those political pundits who bemoan irresponsible rhetoric while immediately using this tragedy to score political points.

    As for speech restrictions…Any call to cool ‘inflammatory’ is a call to police all speech, and I can’t think of anybody in government, politics, business, or the press that I would trust with that power.

  • joeCanuck

    ..he was simply a deranged, mentally ill, paranoid schizophrenic..

    If true, he is not fit to stand trial and will go unpunished.

  • Brian @ 3:51 pm:

    Any call to cool ‘inflammatory’ is a call to police all speech, and I can’t think of anybody in government, politics, business, or the press that I would trust with that power.

    Innumerable bodies hold meetings: how many need police intervention? What keeps the peace is propriety, collective responsibility and participants appreciating the norms.

    So the “power” comes from the collective. What about each individual’s common decency? What about a group ethic? What about peer pressure? What about public esteem? Why cannot all persons guard their own tongue (and any offender to be shunned as a social deviant)?

    I’d not normally point to the House of Lords as an example of anything except the ludicrous; but it does manage much of its business without a formal moderator or “chairperson”. Order of speaking is determined by acclamation (though I think in reality it involves putting one’s name on a sheet and booking a slot beforehand). Lord Speaker or Deputy Speaker puts the question at the end, and declares a result. Only then is a division counted.

    The rhetoric of Australian politics (to this outsider) provides regular examples of invective that would be intolerable in Britain or Ireland. Curiously, their political doings seem to avoid fisticuffs because the threshold of “taking offence” is set quite high: even the most cutting remark seems wryly acceptable, provided it is original and witty and stays some way short of an undefined line.

    Note that today a Tory MP, passing the Speaker in a Commons corridor, is widely reported to have used “unparliamentary language”. I suspect he will be made to regret doing so, but not because of any formal process.

    What has gone amiss in US politicking is that the screeched insult has supplanted reasoned debate. Even so, there are many, many effective speakers and debaters across the 50 States. It’s just that, in the prevailing climate, they don’t get heard because they are being drowned out by the need to shock and awe.

  • Greenflag

    @ Brian,

    ‘I love your blatant disdain and dismissal of all those hard working Americans who don’t vote Democrat and don’t come from the Boston, NY, or LA/San Fran. After all, anyone not from the North East and West Coast are little more than bumpkins, racists, religious freaks, or worse.’

    I’m not disdaining or dismissing the entire Republican or independent voting Americans of the west and south . I’m aware there is a thinking , fiscally responsible minority still left amongst them . It’s the bible thumping troglodytes and Tea Party nutters and anti immigrant racists and ‘small government ‘ idiots that I dislike -and no I don’t dismiss them . In the hands of the ‘right ‘ populist right wing President these ‘troglodytes ‘ have the capacity to wreak even more economic havoc and warfare on the world than former
    warmongerers Bush and Cheney 🙁

  • Brian

    “have the capacity to wreak even more economic havoc and warfare on the world than former
    warmongerers Bush and Cheney ”

    I think you give them too much credit. At least I hope so.

  • andnowwhat

    @Greenflag.

    Maybe in short you are talking about “Birthers”?

    There is a very thin veil of racism in bothe the birthers and the teabaggers. They need to stop referrinhg to an intellectual elite. The people running your nation are meant to be superior. What is required of them, however, is the ability to make joe soap understand what they are at, unlike the tea party and Dubbya fans who think that the president should be just as ordinary and possibly, as unsophisticated as them.

    I would only like Palin to become president for one reason….can you imagine her at the G20 with Berlusconi and Sarcozy?

  • andnowwhat
  • Pete Baker

    I see Jude Collins has had a second bite at the cherry. And he’s still mis-remembering.

    But he, and several people here, evidently still don’t get it.

    It’s not about political rhetoric you, personally, dislike or even detest.

    Nor is it about political ideologies you, personally, dislike or even detest.

    It’s about the attempt to link that rhetoric, and those ideologies, to the shootings in Tucson.

    And evidence of such a link simply doesn’t exist.

    Beyond wishful thinking…

  • Jimmy Sands

    “It’s about the attempt to link that rhetoric, and those ideologies, to the shootings in Tucson.”

    It’s not as if Tucson were the only incident. Only the purblind would deny the link, for example, between Beck and the Oakland shooter.

  • joeCanuck

    It’s not does it or doesn’t it. Crazy is what crazy does. Nothing to do with left or right (there are extremes on evey side, left right and, yes, middle). That’s the way it is in the USA. As I opined previously, most people don’t give a f**k.

  • Pete, I’m not sure why you linked Collins to Krugman. Krugman was concerned mainly about eliminationist rhetoric, not iffy targeting metaphors, Republican or Democrat. IMO it’s too early to access whether or not rhetoric influenced the gunman in this particular case.