Arizona Shootings Offer A Pivotal Moment | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Arizona Shootings Offer A Pivotal Moment

Since the horrifying assassination attempt on Saturday, which left a wonderful little girl, a judge and several other Americans dead, America has come face-to-face to the level of violence possible at the hands of people who claim to hate the U.S. government. It is giving us the opportunity to change the tone of politics—which has become more vicious and, disturbingly, violent in recent years, especially since Sarah Palin started scaring the dickens out of people at campaign rallies. And, yes, the man who acted out against the people in Arizona was mentally disturbed, but people who act out on violent rhetoric often are. That doesn't take the violent rhetoric off the hook.

As Americans, we have a choice: Do we take this incident as a teachable (or learnable) moment and speak out about the violent rhetoric? Or, do we defend the rhetoric, a la Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh (who rely on radical rhetoric for followers)? Party doesn't, or shouldn't, matter. If you don't use violent rhetoric, you're not the ones we're speaking out against. If you do, you should rethink the strategy of appealing to hate, bigotry and fear to get votes or listeners or readers.

And before you start screaming about the First Amendment as someone did on my Facebook page this a.m. (un-ironically citing every conservative blog talking point in the process; we all can Google, you know), this isn't about the First Amendment. I and others are not saying the government should censor speech here (although at some point it has to step in on actual threats, of course). We're talking about taking personal responsibility—a meme that conservatives love to throw around when they're talking about someone who, say, needs a job or public assistance to feed their families. Take personal responsibility and self-regulate: And if you think the *only* way you can get votes, or attention, or readers, is by spewing violent rhetoric, then you have a bigger problem than those of us calling you out on it.

I'm talking to the so-called reasonable people here—the ones who believe in free speech but also don't want to see someone inspired to blow away a crowd of people at a suburban shopping mall. Speak up and out; let politicians know that you don't appreciate the rhetoric of hate. We're not talking about basic insults here (although people resorting to personal attacks aren't smart or impressive); we're talking about the kinds of language that actually incites violence, and has through history. (Think of the rhetoric of the Citizens Councils and their politicians and what it led to right here in our state). We can do better, America. We're supposed to be a model for the world: of democracy, diversity, freedom. Let's prove it.

We also need to watch out for false equivalency. Of course, "both sides" (a binary phrase I hate) can be ugly and insulting, but even the Secret Service warned that Sarah Palin's ratcheted-up rhetoric was making it more likely that someone would try to kill Obama (not to mention her bullseye and exhortations to "reload"). And let's be honest: radicals on the right tend to be bigger fans of, and own more, guns than fools on the left. That right there makes it an indirect comparison.

Take a look at this piece in The Baltimore Sun today and just think about it. Not all conservatives or Republicans are radicals, and not all use this rhetoric, but you folks are the ones with the most responsibility to not invite these folks under your tent just to increase your numbers. From the Sun piece:

The fact is that today's violent political imagery is produced almost exclusively by paranoid conservatives. Not all conservatives are crazy and paranoid, but the overwhelming majority of crazy, political paranoiacs are conservative. It doesn't help that their darkest thoughts are stoked daily by people like Glenn Beck and Michael Savage, who weave bizarre narratives about how ACORN, the Black Panthers, George Soros and other imagined demons are conspiring to overtake the U.S. government and undermine American values.

Cindy Sheehan was vilified for peacefully protesting the Iraq war outside George W. Bush's Texas ranch, but she didn't blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City or fly a plane into an IRS office, as deranged conservatives did. Pro-choicers and World Trade Organization opponents sometimes stage unruly public rallies, but they don't set off bombs at the Olympics or shoot people, like the anti-choice activist who murdered Dr. George Tiller did.

"There is a need for some reflection here — what is too far now?" one Republican U.S. senator asked rhetorically, after the shootings. "What was too far when Oklahoma City happened is accepted now. There's been a desensitizing. These town halls and cable TV and talk radio, everybody's trying to outdo each other."

That GOP senator spoke on condition of anonymity. When politicians at the highest levels of government are afraid to speak openly, that means domestic terrorism — the correct term for what transpired in Tucson — has reached frightening new levels.

By the way, that unnamed Republican quote was from a Politico piece this weekend.

Seriously, folks: We have two choices. Ignore the rhetoric and wait for the next incident and pray it's not on the scale of the Oklahoma City bombing. Or, step up and insist that the rhetoric be dialed back. This doesn't hurt anyone (although Glenn Beck might feel less relevant), but it very well could save lives. Please join this effort.

Previous Comments

ID
161520
Comment

Donna- When the Democrats act like they don't use the same violent rhetoric as everyone else does need to be mention in the discussion that they do. Doesn't make it right for either side to do it because the other one does, but to call out only Palin and the Tea Party when ya'lls own president does is flat out wrong. Just to quote Obama from his speeches "They Bring a Knife…We bring a Gun","Get in Their Faces!","I don't want to quell anger. I think people are right to be angry! I'm angry!""Hit Back Twice As Hard" "We talk to these folks… so I know whose ass to kick.""Republican victory would mean "hand to hand combat" "It's time to Fight for it.","Punish your enemies and reward your friends"'"I'm itching for a fight." and the Democratic Leadership Council uses bullseye targets on a map on their website. Also just how do you know any violent rhetoric by anyone Dems,Rep,Tea Party or Obama cause Loughner to shoot Rep.Giffords and the other people? Has that been proven? From what I have heard he had a problem with her since 2007 before the Tea Party even exsisted or Palin was on the national scene.

Author
BubbaT
Date
2011-01-10T22:49:18-06:00
ID
161523
Comment

That is insanely easy to answer, Bubba: I agree with you. Everyone should stop using violent rhetoric. (Apparently, you didn't read the post above.) I'm certainly going to watch my own language going forward; it's the responsible thing to do. And I call on people of all parties and ideologies to do the same, and to hold each other accountable and stop just childishly pointing fingers at each other. Now, that doesn't negate the fact that the right of today is a bigger fan of stockpiling weapons so they have more to back up their rhetoric, which has increased since Obama ran for office (note the Secret Service's concerns about Palin). But that doesn't mean it's all conservatives doing it -- but all conservatives, liberals and moderates should step up and take responsibility to stop it. I don't know that the violent rhetoric caused this incident. Again, read my damn post, Bubba, before wasting my time making me repeat myself. It is a warning sign that we all should take more responsibility and why anyone would think that's a bad thing really scares me. All this na-na-na-na-boo-boo by conservatives is really tiresome. Just step up and call for an end to violent rhetoric by everyone. How hard is that? Finally, I am not a Democrat, Bubba. Nor am a I Republican. I don't like parties as you've watched me here say for years now (assuming you've ever read anything I've written before posting under it and saying I said just the opposite). It is such binary and limited thinking to assume that someone who doesn't agree with you must be "a Democrat." Please. Try harder than that, and have enough respect for me to not come to my site and incorrectly label me.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-01-11T10:03:47-06:00
ID
161524
Comment

I truly hope that something is done about violent rhetoric before the presidential campaigns kick in with full force this year. I already know it's gonna be a mess, but we don't need a second civil war. In the meantime, I'll be designing my "Proud to Be an Independent" and "Proud to Be a Centrist" T-shirts.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2011-01-11T10:13:33-06:00
ID
161525
Comment

My comment is moot. Donna's reply wasn't posted when I entered it. Carry on.

Author
RobbieR
Date
2011-01-11T10:13:44-06:00
ID
161530
Comment

Donna- I do agree with you, all the violent rhetoric needs to stop. Just tired of all the finger pointing in the past few days when both sides are guilty using it. 6 people died, including a little girl, who wasn't old enough to to have any idea about politics. The blame lays at everybodies door,left,right,Dem or Rep. like you said(see I did read your post),but I never did said you didn't say that. If people are going to call out the right by name, don't you think they should call out the left by name too. Seems like if they don't, they are backhandly saying it's ok for them to do it,beause the right does it. Kinda like "We aren't going to mention you were bad,because we know you just did it because they did." Just my opinion. I don't know if the right is stockpiling weapons or not. I do know collectors,hunters and recreational shooters are having to buy in volume,because people go on a buying frenzy during every election and drive prices up. I don't think I did call you a Democrat, if you took it that way I am sorry, wouldn't insult you like that.:) That "ya'lls" meant supporters not Democrats if that's what you are refering to.

Author
BubbaT
Date
2011-01-11T14:10:00-06:00
ID
161531
Comment

Bubba, let me just be honest. I've been watching this (too) closely the last few days, and the response has not been anywhere near equal. I'm seeing much more of a call for civility/less violent rhetoric what the group that you would call "liberals" and much more defensiveness from people on the "right." (I hate this left-right crap, but I digress). I mean, you can stipulate that the two declared camps are going to point fingers at each other, but why is it that the first response from the right seems to be "they do it, too! (just like you have done). Why can't the *first* response be one more appropriate to the memory of that little girl you mention: "Let's stop the madness anyway we can. How can I help?" And, frankly, who gives a damn about the insults partisans hurl at each other when so much REALness is at stake? Why all the petty defensiveness that just. doesn't. matter? Now, all that said, Bubba, you need to be honest here. Which "side" fights hardest for the right to carry, conceal and bury weapons in the backyard just in case a thug or a socialist/communist comes calling? And which side has done more to welcome thousands of extremists, birthers and the like in recent years--people who make the typical Republican look Clinton-esque at the least? It hasn't always been true—think Weather Underground back in the day—but right now, the burden is heaviest on your side, Bubba, whether you like it or not, and whether or not the Arizona shooter was mentally ill or read Karl Marx. Y'all harbor the folks who chant often and loudly about violence and "Second Amendment solutions," and who tend to carry guns and proclaim often that they will use them. I fully understand that this isn't easy or face, but it's the truth. And it's up to y'all to tell violent extremists that they are not welcome under your tent. Every group faces these moments: Good Muslims must confront the extremists in their midst, white Mississippians have had to face their rhetoric that empowered the Klan; and the conservative right in the U.S. needs to face that they have allowed the birther/bigoted/anti-Islam/anti-"illegal"/here come the community rhetoric to go way, way too far and to a place that can inspire very evil response. Does that mean every single person is guilty? Of course not. What it means is that it is on us all to do something about it, to watch our own rhetoric and divisiveness, to turn off TV shows that divide (I don't have cable) and avoid blogs that deal in the politics of self-destruction. What's funny about it to me is that people on the right who don't or say these things take the criticism of the extremists personal. If you don't agree with violent right-wing extremism, why get defensive when anyone, left or right, criticizes them? That may be the weirdest (and scariest) part to me. The good news is that I have heard from conservatives this week who aren't defensive and want the ugliness to stop and who aren't afraid to admit that the far right has left the reservation. Sadly, they seem to be afraid to post about it publicly. What does that say?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-01-11T14:42:09-06:00
ID
161534
Comment

Donna- Why does the right respond "they do it too" because the left doesn't admit they do it at all. The right is at least honest enough to not to lie about it and not admit it. I didn't say "they do it to" nor am I defending anyone. I said I thought it was wrong of you as a journalist to call out Palin, The Tea Party and the ultra right for it by name and not call out the Prez,Dems, and the ultra left by name too. If you don't then in my opinion you're OKing the left saying "We do it because they do". If you're going to name names and blame people don't pull punches ,call them al out by name on both sides. Which side fights hardest for gun rights ,the right of course,but also Rep Giffords. You need to check out her website to see her stance on the 2nd Amendment. I have no politcal party,like you. I'm in the party of "The Lesser of Two Evils" I even voted for Clinton once because he was at the time. LOL Also you must not have read my post "I do agree with you, all the violent rhetoric needs to stop."

Author
BubbaT
Date
2011-01-11T16:30:48-06:00
ID
161535
Comment

Anybody noticed how the media hasn't identified Jared Loughner as a terrorist? But when the guy at Fort Hood went on his killing spree, he was branded a terrorist because he's a Muslim.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2011-01-11T16:50:52-06:00
ID
161536
Comment

Golden-He has been labled as an assassin. An an assassin and a terriodt are 2 different things. An assassin kills for religious, political reasons or he just a nut case and his target is usuallly a high profile person. A terrorist most of the time is trying to draw attention to a cause with killing ramdom people and causing terror. Nidal Malik Hasan the Fort Hood shooter had connections with Anwar al-Awlaki a known terrorist spiritual leader who has inspired Islamic terrorists against the West. Obama has even approved the killing of al-Awlaki if the U.S. gets a chance. Loughner so far hasn't been link with any terrorist group. He just a nutcase assassin. So I think you are way off base with the racist media angle you are implying.

Author
BubbaT
Date
2011-01-11T17:15:55-06:00
ID
161538
Comment

Bubba, one of the first definitions of terrorism the Googles turns up (in Wikipedia entry) is: Common definitions of terrorism refer only to those violent acts which are intended to create fear (terror), are perpetrated for a religious, political or ideological goal, deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants (civilians), and are committed by non-government agencies Terrorism is pretty much universally defined as violence for political or ideological reasons. It seems rather clear that, based on what we know so far, that the Arizona assassin was also as much a terrorist as the Fort Hood shooter. Golden has a good point. I said I thought it was wrong of you as a journalist to call out Palin, The Tea Party and the ultra right for it by name and not call out the Prez,Dems, and the ultra left by name too. So be it, Bubba. I've explained my position over and over again, and you wish it to fit into your binary paradigm. I doubt I will ever change that little habit of yours, so I'm not going to repeat myself ad nauseum. I will repeat this, though: The U.S. Secret Service has called out Palin's rhetoric. They are a security organization, and don't fit into these overly simplistic attempts to make everything equal so somebody's feelings aren't hurt. Bubba, your chosen side of the spectrum has the most guns stockpiled, and they're the ones talking big about "Second Amendment remedies" right now. I have said repeatedly that that does not negate the need for the left to also tone down the rhetoric and lose the goofy crosshairs, but you choose to question my journalistic prowess for not ceding to pressure to proclaim a contorted sort of fake equalization so that y'all don't have to take responsibility for who you've invited to your party and the toys they bring. Whatever, Bubba. I wouldn't be a real or effective journalist if I went around trying to split everything straight down the middle to keep one or the other side happy. I don't give a damn about party, or fake "balance." I care about truth and facts, and they seldom break out evenly along some fake political spectrum. What amazes me is that you spend this many words chastising me for speaking a truth you don't want to hear, and very few words chastising the violent radicals hiding in plain view over in your little corner of the political spectrum. Why don't you stand up for non-violent conservatives and shoo away the ones who are actually making y'all look bad? Man up, Bubba. I'm not your problem.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-01-11T17:41:42-06:00
ID
161540
Comment

Nothing will change because the devil can't be SHAMED into acting better. He is what he is! The argument that Democrats are doing the same thing is so false that I'm surprised anyone can get away using it anymore. Golden don't be foolish enough to fall for Bubba's explanation or even the ones supplied by the government. You decide what he is. I know the defendant's lawyer and I wil have a hard time pulling for her in this case. Like with Timothy McVeigh, right now, I'm thinking the defendant needs to pay up in the worse way. It does appear he has mental problem but I don't know that he is insane or mentally retarded. We will see. This ought to be a pivotal time for the right to rethink its evil ways. I know for a fact no such thing will happen. This is why I can't be independent in the common sense of the word (although I make my own decisions based on my own judgment and sensibilities). I'm vehemently opposed to the right as it is now and all its nutty ways, soldiers and supporters. As usual, until I see something different, real and enduring I'm not bulging from my position.

Author
Walt
Date
2011-01-11T17:45:12-06:00
ID
161542
Comment

Walt, your post reminds me of something that's been eating at me for days. History has shown that evil flourishes when criticism of it is shut down. It feels like many people are trying to do that now. I read a book once about the German media early in Hitler's reign of terror before people were forced to accept what he was really doing. It's easy now to look back and be horrified (just as in the Civil Rights Movement), but then the dynamic was apparently similar: Media and others were demonized if they didn't go along with Hitler's ghetto, etc., ideas because Jews were so demonized, and it was the right thing to do. Before someone kneejerks a gasket, I'm not saying that the radical right is trying to do a Hitler (although some of the language about Muslims and immigrants is bone-chilling). But the process of how bad guys and the people they have fooled into supporting them demonize those who try to expose them and seek the light is very informative. And I believe there are some biblical examples that might be apropos as well. Just thinking aloud ...

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-01-11T17:55:49-06:00
ID
161543
Comment

BTW, Bubba, before you retort with the very same thing about how I'm not being fair to the radical right, let me set up some game rules here. This is my blog post, and I'm looking for serious discussion, not kneejerk defensiveness. Let Rush and Glen Beck rant all they want, but this thread is only going to welcome serious discussion going forward. Discussion from various points of view -- I've seen some good columns and posts criticizing tactics of the left on this that aren't just reflexive repetition -- are welcome, but let's end the merry-go-round. We will stipulate the Bubba et al believe that Donna Ladd is not being fair to the far right. As if that's news. ;-) And Walt, I know your feelings about "the right," but please don't stereotype everyone on the right as "evil." That's not true, and you know it. You need to be serious and respectful as well. Onward ...

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-01-11T18:00:25-06:00
ID
161545
Comment

Donna- Fort Hood killer had proven terrorist connections and Loughner has none so far. Until he is proven to have one using assassin in the media is correct.Didn't Obama say using terrorist wasn't PC anymore anyway. Do you and Golden know somthing nobody else knows? Ya'll should really contact the FBI.

Author
BubbaT
Date
2011-01-11T18:04:46-06:00
ID
161547
Comment

Walt - bud,where you been?

Author
BubbaT
Date
2011-01-11T18:12:48-06:00
ID
161549
Comment

Bubba, you apparently missed Golden's "terrorist" point. Neither he nor I are calling for the use of "terrorist" (although I don't overly mind it when it applies); he is pointing out what he sees as a conflict in the way the two men are discussed. I know there is debate over whether Fort Hood shooter should be considered a terrorist, and I don't have a position on that. From Wikipedia, for what it's worth: In November 2009, after examining the e-mails and previous terrorism investigations, the FBI had found no information to indicate he had any co-conspirators or was part of a broader terrorist plot. The U.S. has since classified Anwar al-Awlaki as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and the UN considers Awlaki to be associated with al-Qaeda.[7] Yet a year after the attack, questions lingered of whether the incident was caused by mental health issues or Hasan was a terrorist, as government agencies have still not officially linked Major Hassan to any radical groups. [8] My point to you was that you seemed to be misdefining "terrorism" by indicating that an assassin "kills for religious, political reasons" and a terrorist kills "to draw attention to a cause." But to be honest with you, it's a semantics debate I'm not overly interested in. Both were tragic cases, and the main thing they seem to have in common was untreated mental illness. Oh, and of course, someone can't be influenced by the words of others to commit violence, so his associations and "ties" must not matter, no? [sarcasm off]

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2011-01-11T18:23:09-06:00
ID
161551
Comment

Bubba every now and again I get so busy I don't have time to chime in. Bubba we need your help to get your teammates - the republicans - to act more civilized. I know it's hard and unlikely they will do so no matter who asks. Tell them improvement isn't so bad. Furthermore, tell them a change is gonna come sooner or later with or without them no matter the strength or resolve of their resistance. The great question I suppose is what will be the cost to everyone. We don't need no more war or trouble; but just like the world's great colonizers had to be run off or overthrown so many places around the world your party as it is now has to go too. There won't be any peace until that happens no matter how many times we choose to look the other way pretending we don't see what is clearly before us.

Author
Walt
Date
2011-01-11T18:44:31-06:00
ID
161553
Comment

Walt- Wish I could help you, but you see I don't know any uncivilized Republicans, don't hang out with those types.

Author
BubbaT
Date
2011-01-11T19:20:04-06:00
ID
161558
Comment

Donna, you did expound on my points pretty well. Thanks. The fact is, though, that while Loughner may not be regarded as a terrorist (at least in the way most Americans think of a terrorist), his actions were terrorist-like. He didn't use bombs to carry out his actions, but he still caused fear among people who were there to meet with the congresswoman or simply do their grocery shopping. What were the people at the Safeway store supposed to think when they hear gunfire in a place where it's not supposed to happen? Also, Loughner may not have set out to commit this crime as a way to scare the public, but clues so far seem to reveal that it was political in nature. So I think it is fair to regard him as a terrorist.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2011-01-11T23:03:30-06:00

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