Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Giffords shooting, politics,violent rhetoric and news media cowardice

 In the immediate aftermath of the Giffords shooting the mantra of the news media was that they didn't know and didn't want to speculate if the shooting was politically motivated. But given that 20 people were shot and 6 killed, it didn't take a CSI to know that congresswoman Giffords wasn't shot by someone trying to steal her purse.

It took the sheriff of Pima county to make the point over and over and over again at the same press conference, that he blamed the violent rhetoric of "some" in the media and in politics, commentators on radio and television, political candidates and those in elected office, with motivating and unhinging an already unhinged person to pick up a gun and empty it at a Democratic congresswoman and a crowd of her constituents,  disturbed person who obviously believed the rhetoric he was hearing and took it literally. Rhetoric from conservatives that Democrats were tearing down America and turning it socialist. Especially when it came to, of all things, healthcare.

When the sheriff began talking about and blaming the violent rhetoric spewed by "some" as the motivation behind the shooting, everyone knew who the ":some" were. Conservatives in congress, on radio and television, and political figures like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman. It was Palin who talked about putting political opponents "in the crosshairs".

But CNN, who was covering the story wall to wall refused to specifically talk about who the "some" were that the sheriff was referring to, keeping it vague and obtuse. It is the kind of cowardice by the news media and commentators that allowed the rhetoric to flourish in the first place. Cowardice that gave those who spewed the rhetoric confidence that they wouldnt be held accountable or slapped down by a media that is generally intimidated by conservatives. Or at the very least, chooses to let the red meat rhetoric heat up the atmosphere for the sake of ratings.

A particularly galling piece of journalistic cowardice came from a writer named Matt Lewis, who accused liberal bloggers of "immediately politicizing" the shooting. In Lewis' view, pointing out the connection between the violent rhetoric of conservatives and what happened in Arizona was "politicizing" the shooting. It obviously was too much for Lewis to realize that the shooting was political and airing political motivations behind a political shooting is not "polticizing". It is not besides the point that the target was a Democratic congresswoman who had been threatened before and had her office vandalized and shot at because of her yes vote on healthcare reform.

But Lewis was doing what most in his profession do -make excuses for the right wing use of violent words in polticial discourse, make excuses for the schmuck at the anti- healthcare rally with the sign that he brought his gun,  fake some kind of spineless objectivity so he doesn't have to offend anyone. And act like its just politics. Even over a horrendous tragedy like this. Even more galling was Candy Crowley on CNN Sunday morning, discussing the violent and inflammatory rhetoric that  has come from conservatives disgracefully saying while interviewing senators Lamar Alexander and Dick Durbin that " Democrats are just as guilty as Republicans arent they". This thoroughly dishonest characterization when Democrats are not just as guilty was some attempt on Crowley's part to be "balanced". Dont lay blame where it really belongs,dont identify the offenders for fear of offending the offenders,and pretend everybody does it.

It also has to be said the Democrats and Obama as well as those covering politics, bear much of the blame also. Instead of forcefully standing up against the violent rhetoric, instead of fighting back against it, instead of Democrats and the news media voicing outrage at the Hitler signs and swastikas showing up at town hall meetings on health care, instead of getting tough and taking the shootings at Democratic offices and threats made to people like Bart Stupak for his vote on healthcare as an example of conservative lunacy, news outlets like CNN treated all of it as just politics,and Democrats and Obama especially didn't fight back.Obama not only didn't fight back and use his office to condemn those attacks and make the ugly rhetoric and threats a major issue, an issue that could have even been used in the last congressional election, Obama just capitulated,stayed silent in the wake of the lunatic behavior of some conservatives, and everyone treated it as just politics.

Even now the news media is in denial. As recently as Monday morning, Chris Jansen on MSNBC said, "there is still no evidence that the shooting was politically motivated". The FBI has released evdience that the shooter referred to what he was about to do as an :"assassination". The victim was a member of the United States congress. Other vicitims were her staff members and constituents. Evidence has been found that the shooter attended a previous event hosted by Giffords as well as a letter from the shooter to Giffords indicating displeasure with her and her positions. And yet the media, still afraid, and still in denial, are still unwilling to look at and admit their own complicity based on their own low "man bites dog"  journalistic standards when it comes to politics, in contributing to a violent and hate filled political atmosphere. To them it was just politics.

Now 20 people are shot, six dead including a nine year old girl and a Democratic congresswoman is in intensive care after getting shot in the head at a political event.  And the media still won't say it was politics.


Dhyana said...

Our history is replete with similar tragedies, such as the Virginia Tech killings, and most of them had nothing to do with politics. Victims of senseless killings cover a broad spectrum, from family members, to co-workers, to entertainers, and sometimes politicians. Multiple killings happen in the U.S. routinely, and the way I see it, most victims in this country are not politicians. I'm not saying that the political atmosphere is not foul, and full of violent rhetoric, bu I think it's unlikely to be the cause. It is just another symptom of the same problem.

Marc Rubin said...

".. I'm not saying that the political atmosphere is not foul, and full of violent rhetoric, bu I think it's unlikely to be the cause. It is just another symptom of the same problem."

Unfortunately evidence found in the shooters home indicates he had planned to assassinate Giffords,and the motive seems to be political. What isnt yet known is the extent to which he was motivated by right wing rhetoric using violent imagery, like Palin's web site using a gunsite as markers for "targeting" Democratic members of congress politically. One of the members of congress with a gunsite next to her name was Giffords.

Anonymous said...

The shooter has exhibited classic symptoms of schizophrenia, which typically shows up in the late teenage/early adult years. As a psychologist, I'm amazed to see that no one at his community college took action to get him therapy. All they did was kick him out and tell him he had to bring a doctor's note if he wanted to get back in.

I think the media is getting so much mileage out of the "political motivation" coverage that they are almost totally ignoring the fact that if this guy's obvious mental illness hadn't been neglected, the shooting might not have happened.

tamerlane said...

essn@Dyhana --

Those "senseless killings" you allude to always are quite full of sense in the killer's mind. You note that most of the killers in those cases were not politically motivated. Jared Loughner clearly was politically motivated.

He also acted in a political atmosphere where one side -- ONE side -- has been implying, behind an ever thinner veil, that it's OK to "target", "aim at" & "gun for" political opponents who are described as "enemies", "nazis" and "traitors."

tennismom said...

He also acted in a political atmosphere where one side -- ONE side -- has been implying, behind an ever thinner veil, that it's OK to "target", "aim at" & "gun for" political opponents who are described as "enemies", "nazis" and "traitors."

Glad to see you calling the democrats out on their violent comments. They have been especially bad since 2008. Calling for the murder of women, gang rape of women, etc. It needs to stop.

tamerlane said...


You must have just arrived fresh from the Happy Hour in the lounge of the Evanston Holiday Inn, where Palin-Red kool-aid is served to self-proclaimed "right wing extremists" like yourself.

And you totally won over this true liberal with your snark. Imagine that!

tennismom said...

Do not drink kool-aid,do not watch fox news. I am a liberal. I just don't like lies. I usually read this blog everyday. Your comment was so dishonest I wanted to respond. Both sides are guilty of over the top rhetoric. Do you blame the Daily Kos for the shooting of Congresswoman Gifford? He had a bulls eye on her and said she was dead to him. How about the democrats calling for the murder and gang rape of both Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton? Both sides use the nazi references. Did you object when Bush was called a Nazi and there were calls for his killing? Certainly not defending Bush as I helped campaign against him but don't call out one side and not the other. It makes you as bad as them. How about a little honesty and integrity. Both sides are guilty and this killing was about a very sick man who did not get help. Let's talk about the poor state of our medical care in this Country. Democrats had the votes and the public support for single payer health care and they betrayed their base and sided with the insurance companies. I guess that is why we have to talk about Sarah Palin.

tamerlane said...


I mistook you for another "tennismom", a notorious rightwing blogger. My apologies.

I was unaware of the "boyblue" comment at Kos viz. Giffords, as I read neither Kos, nor hillbuzz or americanthinker, where google led me.

I'm not fain to parse the matter much, however: 1) "dead to me" is, I believe, a mafia term implying, 'I want nothing to do with you.' When the mafia wants you really dead, they don't say anything; 2) boyblue has apologized profusely for his choice of words, a simple act beyond Palin's ability.

I have not forgotten Olbermann's woodshed comments, but to reject the validity of his recent comments based on that is a tu quoque fallacy.

Even granting, for a moment, your contention that the Left is JUST AS guilty as the Right, that does not negate the guilt of the Right.

Nevertheless, I do see an element to the TP rhetoric absent in all others. They have unequivocally suggested that, if you do not like what the government does, you should get out your guns and resist.