Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Palin On Personal Responsibility

I must have been wrong. On January 9 I wrote of Sarah Palin's (in)famous 'crossshairs' image

Too little is known now for any conclusions to be drawn as to motivations, even the assumption that Representative Giffords was the primary target. Still, if she was, it was an attempted political assassination and an objective, curious media would have a few questions to pose to the former governor.

Although slyly noncommittal as to whether Palin's apalling ad actually did contribute to the crime apparently committed by Jared Loughner, reasonable minds might have concluded that I thought so.

Evidently, however, no such connection should be made. That has been made clear by Sarah Palin herself. Attention was focused on use of the arguably anti-Semitic term 'blood libel' following release of Mrs. Palin's seven-and-a-half minute video (below); address (transcript from hypervocal.com) about the shooting in Tucson. However, practically buried within that same statement, the ex-Governor joined the debate over whether the atmosphere fostered by vitriolic rhetoric and images play a role in violence"

If you don’t like a person’s vision for the country, you’re free to debate that vision. If you don’t like their ideas, you’re free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.

Palin apparently believes individuals "should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn."

Palin, of course, referred to the potential impact of "journalists and pundits"- far be it for her, a politician, to assume any responsibility or afford anyone an opportunity to assign her responsibility, especially when the Third Estate can be blamed. Still, she supported the principle: incendiary words can incite violence. That is, by itself, nearly enough for me to conclude that (except in the most extraordinary situations) they cannot.

It is no contradiction, though, to suggest that Loughner probably was motivated by something beyond, or in addition, to any mental illness he was suffering from. It is too soon to determine what that was, or to what extent it may have motivated the shooter, but Alex Pareene (without even bringing up the name "Glenn Beck") in Salon explains it well:

Yeah, he's no Tea Partyer. He's a complete nut. It's silly to obsess over "tone," as if arguing on TV caused this. Cross hairs on a map is rude, but didn't lead directly to this. But there are hints of far-right rhetoric in Loughner's Internet trail. In addition to the passing mention in his YouTube videos of currency backed by gold or silver, he was said to have gone off on "a rant about the Constitution" at his school. There are varieties of far-right extremist belief that seriously appeal to, shall we say, troubled young men convinced of their own intellectual superiority. That's the Ayn Rand demographic, basically.

This is just sort of listening for echoes of understandable rhetoric in the ravings of a madman, and there's no politician or media person who should be held personally responsible for any of this guy's crimes, but the direction his madness took was inspired by something. There's a reason he was fixated on the illegitimacy of the government, there's a reason he was fixated on his member of Congress, there's a reason he decided to shoot her instead of, say, shooting up the community college that kicked him out. I think it's likely he was drawn to some of the really nutty, out-there kind of individual sovereignty stuff, and I also think that the fact that there's been so much intense media noise concerning the supposed illegitimacy of the federal government over the last couple years probably had an effect on this guy's obsessions.

1 comment:

just jake said...

Gotta love the Alaskan's contribution to bolsterning Obama's chances of being reelected.

All this debate about what caused the looney to shoot off his legally obtained semi-automatic gun should be focused upon pressing the more important issue of gun control.

And I hope if and when Representative Giffords returns to Congress, she will reconsider her position on the matter.

Overwrought Reaction

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