After reading a lot of hand-wringing from right-wingers today, it strikes me that the only way they would ever accept that maybe, just maybe, their years and years of increasingly violence and eliminationist rhetoric might have had any bearing on today's events in Arizona would be if the gunman were to have, say, posted videos of himself saying "I'll kill for you, Sarah Palin!" to YouTube, or maybe left a Facebook status message of "I'm off to kill that Democrat now!"
Right-wing rhetoric in this country has been a cesspool of violent fantasy for years. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed, as I have, the work of journalist David Neiwert, but the vehemence of the denials does surprise me a little. Ezra Klein said it well:
But today's shooting was a reminder of what real political violence in this country could look like, and the awful recognition that it could've easily fit with comments made by trusted political figures should stop us cold. We're lucky to live in a country where political violence is rare. We're lucky that that doesn't appear to have changed. But that may be dumb luck that we're benefiting from. It is hard to look through those statements and believe that we're doing enough to keep our political system peaceful.
It should stop us cold, but it doesn't. Instead, the violent rhetoric from the Right is downplayed and denied, and lots of false equivalency -- "Your side does it too!" -- is tossed around. There's a screen-grab of some DailyKos diarist making the rounds of the Rightwingers, because a DailyKos diary is the same thing as a former candidate for Vice President and current Big Leader on the Right running an ad where Congressional opponents are "targeted" using gun-sights.
Here is WNYMedia.net's Christopher M. Smith, from a discussion thread on Facebook:
By its very nature, the [attempted] murder of a Congresswoman is a political issue. Especially when the person who allegedly committed the act is evidently an adherent to various crypto-libertarian and right wing ideologies. So, to wonder how straight the line is from a political leader who targeted the victim with a gunsight in a mainstream political campaign to the assassination by gun of that very Congresswoman is not "out of bounds" by any means.
No matter how you look at it, we need to think about changing the tone of political discourse in this country away from "second amendment remedies" to losing elections (Angle), being "armed and dangerous" (Bachmann) over the healthcare bill and "reloading rather than retreating" and taking out political opponents using implicitly violent imagery (Palin). It's time everyone grew the f*** up and realized the consequences of their language. [slightly edited by me for clarity and language]
The only way this could not be political is if the killer's motivations had turned out to be completely apolitical. The only assassination of a political figure, successful or not, that I can recall filling that bill is John Hinckley Jr.'s shooting of Ronald Reagan; I have to figure that if today's assassin had been attempting to impress a girl, that would have come out by now.
But even so, that's a very short list of examples of violent right-wing rhetoric Chris gives. There's no reason why he had to stop there; as a long-time denizen of the blogosphere, I've seen a ton of it. I've seen one right-wing blogger selling coffee cups with a picture of a gun on one side and the slogan "So many liberals, so little time!" on the other. I've seen another who offered shirts with the slogan "Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required." on it. And it goes back farther even than that; I remember how, after Waco in 1993, G. Gordon Liddy went on the radio and advised his listeners that if they saw ATF agents coming toward them, they'd do well to "take the head shot". For those who want to wade into this cesspool, the work of journalist David Neiwert is the place to start. Or just peruse this timeline.
As Ezra said, this should give us pause -- but I doubt it will. I suspect that lots of Right-wing bleating and screaming will have its usual effect, and that soon enough, we'll be hearing from the Concern Trolls of the Beltway Village, the Deeply Serious people, that we need to tone down the rhetoric on "both sides". There will be lots of cautionary tut-tutting about how we can't "politicize" this incident, possibly with reminders of the "awful politicization" that took place at the funeral of Senator Paul Wellstone. (Well, it really didn't take place there, but no matter -- it's almost part of the official narrative now.) And of course, the "both sides need to tone it down" camp will be right, because they'll have a crazy murderer gunman on one side, and a DailyKos diarist on the other. And thus the center line will get nudged rightward yet again.
Oh, and this act will never actually be seen for what it is: Terrorism. Because terrorism is done by brown people with bombs, not white people with guns.
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