Tuesday, January 11, 2011

One Of Many

It comes from the right-wing political blog, redstate.com, whose proprietor, Erick Erickson, is a CNN political contributor:

Most Americans, 57 percent, believe the tragic shooting in Arizona isn’t connected to politics. That’s the result of a new CBS News poll which found only 32 percent of respondents aid the harsh political tone had something to do with the shooting.

But it comes also from the Capitol Hill newspaper "The Hill":

Almost 60 percent of the public believes that heated political rhetoric has nothing to do with an Arizona shooting spree that gravely wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) and killed a federal judge.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents in a new CBS News poll said rhetoric is unrelated to the shooting, while 32 percent said they believe the two are connected.

Both Red State and The Hill link to the article on the CBS News website reporting the findings. Understandably, neither Red State nor The Hill identifies the actual questions asked in the survey conducted by CBS News- because neither does CBS.

That, of course, raises- or should raise- doubts about the ability of the poll to assess sentiments toward the apparent actions in Tucson Saturday of Jared Lee Loughner. Individuals asked "do you favor an affirmative action program to reduce disparities in opportunites afforded minorities and others?" might respond differently than if asked "do you favor an affirmative action program which would give preference in hiring and other matters to minorities?"

Still, it wouldn't be surprising if most Americans did not recognize any connection between the shooting and recent political discourse. Perhaps opinions would change if they were aware- as I was not- of the series of political and/or ethnic-inspired incidents in the past two and a half years listed by Dave Neiwart at Crooks and Liars:

-- October 2008: Two neo-Nazis are arrested in Tennessee in a plot to murder dozens of African-Americans, culminating in the assassination of President Obama.

-- December 2008: A pair of "Patriot" movement radicals -- the father-son team of Bruce and Joshua Turnidge, who wanted "to attack the political infrastructure" -- threaten a bank in Woodburn, Oregon, with a bomb in the hopes of extorting money that would end their financial difficulties, for which they blamed the government. Instead, the bomb goes off and kills two police officers. The men eventually are convicted and sentenced to death for the crime.

-- December 2008: In Belfast, Maine, police discover the makings of a nuclear "dirty bomb" in the basement of a white supremacist shot dead by his wife. The man, who was independently wealthy, reportedly was agitated about the election of President Obama and was crafting a plan to set off the bomb.

-- January 2009: A white supremacist named Keith Luke embarks on a killing rampage in Brockton, Mass., raping and wounding a black woman and killing her sister, then killing a homeless man before being captured by police as he is en route to a Jewish community center.

-- February 2009: A Marine named Kody Brittingham is arrested and charged with plotting to assassinate President Obama. Brittingham also collected white-supremacist material.

-- April 2009: A white supremacist named Richard Poplawski opens fire on three Pittsburgh police officers who come to his house on a domestic-violence call and kills all three, because he believed President Obama intended to take away the guns of white citizens like himself. Poplawski is currently awaiting trial.

-- April 2009: Another gunman in Okaloosa County, Florida, similarly fearful of Obama's purported gun-grabbing plans, kills two deputies when they come to arrest him in a domestic-violence matter, then is killed himself in a shootout with police.

-- May 2009: A "sovereign citizen" named Scott Roeder walks into a church in Wichita, Kansas, and assassinates abortion provider Dr. George Tiller.

-- June 2009: A Holocaust denier and right-wing tax protester named James Von Brunn opens fire at the Holocaust Museum, killing a security guard.

-- February 2010: An angry tax protester named Joseph Ray Stack flies an airplane into the building housing IRS offices in Austin, Texas. (Media are reluctant to label this one "domestic terrorism" too.)

-- March 2010: Seven militiamen from the Hutaree Militia in Michigan and Ohio are arrested and charged with plotting to assassinate local police officers with the intent of sparking a new civil war.

-- March 2010: An anti-government extremist named John Patrick Bedell walks into the Pentagon and opens fire, wounding two officers before he is himself shot dead.

-- May 2010: A "sovereign citizen" from Georgia is arrested in Tennessee and charged with plotting the violent takeover of a local county courthouse.

-- May 2010: A still-unidentified white man walks into a Jacksonville, Fla. mosque and sets it afire, simultaneously setting off a fire bomb.

-- May 2010: Two "sovereign citizens" named Jerry and Joe Kane gun down two police officers who pull them over for a traffic violation, and then wound two more officers in a shootout in which both of them are eventually killed.

-- July 2010: An agitated right-winger and convict named Byron Williams loads up on weapons and drives to the Bay Area intent on attacking the offices of the Tides Foundation and the ACLU, but is intercepted by state patrolmen and engages them in a shootout and armed standoff in which two officers and Williams are wounded.

-- September 2010: A Concord, N.C., man is arrested and charged with plotting to blow up a North Carolina abortion clinic. The man, 26-year--old Justin Carl Moose, referred to himself as the "Christian counterpart to (Osama) bin Laden” in a taped undercover meeting with a federal informant.

As with the Tucson shooting, these often have been reported as isolated incidents (by even some liberals), unrelated to extreme anti-government rhetoric. Others in the mainstream media suggest that leftists are as likely as rightists to strike out in violence, even to the extent of claiming victimhood for conservatives. But as Neiwart notes, "exactly how many left-wingers can you find out there who walk into churches, museums and political rallies and shoot people in the head?"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Apparently I missed something that you and several popular columnists have been preview to. I've not seen or heard any evidence that this man was triggered by political rhetoric. I was unaware that there was proof he saw Palin's map. I was unaware that we definatively know he listened to right-wing pundits and politicians and it was their rhetoric that motivated him. Maybe I'm just foolish to contemplate that maybe, just maybe, there could be more than one simplistic and politically-opportune explanation for his actions.

Have you considered that even if all politicians and pundits never used "violent political rhetoric", more acts of violent extremism would continue because the internet now allows certain people (e.g. mentally unstable) to find each other, to read anything anyone says, and to radicalize? Given that most murdering extremists are paranoid and suspicious of everything in mainstream society, I'm hardly convinced that they are primarily influenced and driven by politicians and major pundits.


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