Saturday, January 15, 2011

In the wake of Arizona, how two wrongs might kill the right

Conservatives as usual continue to miss the point over the debate on their violent rhetoric as a result of the Arizona shootings.

 It's irrelevant that Jared Loughner's shooting rampage in Arizona had no direct connection to any of the violence rhetoric that has been the hallmark of conservative politics for the last two years. It makes no difference ( though we will probably never know) if Sharon Angle's "2nd amendment solution", or Palin's " don't retreat, reload", or the shooting of the offices of Democratic members of congress over healthcare or Palin's cross hairs map  in any way influenced or put ideas in Loughner's mind, though it's hard to believe that if he was exposed to it, given his already deranged mind, that it wouldn't have had an influence.We will probably never know.

 But what the shooting has done, and which the right has been oblivious to, is it has created an increased national revulsion to their customary rhetoric, imagery and tactics. At the same time it has created an opportunity to bring the right wing's penchant for violent brownshirt rhetoric disguised as patriotism to the forefront and possibly bring it to and end. But instead the right, from Palin to Limbaugh have been ready to fight to defend it. The rhetoric and imagery was their first wrong. But what might actually kill them ( does anyone have a problem with that metaphor)  is their second wrong -- their attempts now at trying to defending it.

For 15 months, specifically over, of all things, healthcare, the right wing has employed violent rhetoric, violent imagery and in some cases violent tactics to try and get their way. The violent tactics have been designed to do one thing -- intimidate those who disagree with them.  That is fascim in its rawest form.

They showed up at town hall meetings and Tea party rallies with signs comparing Democrats who supported the public option to Nazis. And they showed up with guns strapped to their hips. Sarah Palin, now on the defensive, rallied conservatives with the slogan "don't retreat, reload" and put the cross hairs of a telescopic site next to the names of Democrats in congress she wanted to get rid of including Gabriella Giffords. Does it matter if Loughner's actions had nothing directly to do with Palin? No. In fact if they found a trove of writings by Loughner saying he was motivated  by Palin he would just seem even crazier than he is now. As is anyone motivated by Palin. But that doesn't get Palin, or Sharon Angle and her "2nd amendment remedy" or Michelle Bachman's lunatic fringe comments or those of Limbaugh, Beck and others off the hook.

The reason people are talking about them and their penchant for ratcheting up violent imagery is because conservative use of intimidation and the threat of force against those who disagree with them is right out of the fascist handbook. The Loughner shooting,while it may not be directly connected to conservative tactics, has become an instant metaphor for them. And that is why its become the big issue that it should have been a year ago.

We can certainly lay some blame on Obama for not using his position as president to stand up to it condemn  it, make it an issue, and rally public opinion against it. There is the outside chance that if he had, if the Democrats made that a campaign issue and asked Americans to vote on that issue, there may have been a slightly different outcome in the last election. Certainly it would have motivated a lot of Democrats and liberals who stayed home because of their disgust with Obama and his constant capitulation to the right, to cast their vote for something they believed in and supported.

What the right is gambling on now though is that they can retain the support of a majority by saying they have nothing to apologize for, that their violent imagery and the violent tactics had no connection to the Arizona shooting and therefore is perfectly ok. What they are not realizing is that because of the shooting, their tactics,have come back to haunt them. Their chickens have come home to roost, and in trying to defend themselves they are running the real risk of alienating the vast majority of the American people who will have no patience for those tactics now and in the future. Especially if the Democrats ignore those who will accuse them of "trying to politicize" what is clearly a political issue and continue to attack them and their bizarre attempts at political self defense.


Dhyana said...

Most everything you say is right, except on one important point, that it makes no difference that Loughner had no link to the vitriolic discourse. It makes a difference because the Democrats trashed a great opportunity to get the facts right and go after the cause of the problem, guns in the hands of the mentally disturbed.

Within one hour of the tragedy, as if prepared, the Democratic Party, bloggers and the media went on a rampage to connect dots that were not there. Now that the truth comes out that the man was closer to the Virginia Tech and other mentally distressed individuals, the left won't give up its silly premise that the discourse is responsible.

I'm not a supporter of Sarah Palin, but I found the frenzied attacks on her metaphors deceitful, hypocritical and politically motivated, aimed at one individual: Sarah Palin. It's a blunder of major proportion.

Marc Rubin said...

"I'm not a supporter of Sarah Palin, but I found the frenzied attacks on her metaphors deceitful, hypocritical and politically motivated.."

Im not a supporter of the way what passes for the Left does anything but while nothing Palin said directly motivated Loughner, I have no doubt that the violent right wing rhetoric motivated those who fired shots at the offices of Democrats who voted for healthcare reform, motivated the death threats against Bart Stupak and motivated the jerks who showed up at anti-healthcare rallies with guns. The Loughner shootings just brought out what should have been dealt with a year ago but there was no one in Democratic leadership and especially not Obama who had the guts to call it out at the time. Meanwhile the mental health issues are getting some play now in the press.

Anonymous said...

I don't think we need to make a direct correlation between anything the rabid right says, specifically. It's the toxic atmosphere created by all this hate talk and imagery. I'm appalled when I hear the word 'treason' applied to anyone and everyone who refuses to accept ring-wing memes. It falls right into the "take our country back" mantra. From whom? may I ask.
Presumably, we're all Americans.

But oh no, according to the political shock jocks, Democrats are Marxists, socialists or evil progressives. The terms are used so loosely, you'd think they all meant the same thing. Ultra right-wing Republican politicians have doubled down on the accusations because the public wants an enemy to blame for the morass the country has fallen into. And that tar pit is largely due to Republican policy over the last 30 years.

Should anyone blame Sarah Palin directly for Tucson? No. But a refusal to admit that violent, dehumanizing rhetoric, the cumulative effect of language and imagery could easily be a contributing factor, is just one more instance of the Republican Party defending the indefensible. We can't talk about rhetoric. We can't talk about gun control. Instead, we're eager to pass this off as an unpredictable, uncontrollable event. Just some crazed individual. Do we need to talk about our failure in the mental health arena? Yes, we do. But that shouldn't excluded a wider range of topics and/or contributing factors.

Congresswoman Giffords herself expressed concern about the hate speech and violent imagery during November's election cycle. In the wake of last week's shootings, it seems only reasonable to me to take her warning seriously.

Anonymous said...

Weren't we told by some of the Obama supporters, just prior to the 2008 election, that if Obama wasn't elected there would be rioting (or blood?) in the streets?

Wasn't it Obama who said, "if they bring a knife to the fight, we'll bring a gun"?

Now, he wants everyone to tone down the rhetoric because the elevated rhetoric is being directed at him -- and he wants to coast to re-election.

Anonymous said...

dear mark
what happen, you are just one sighted only?? see what kind of rhetoric the conservative use, it looks like you have a lack of memory, YOU DO NOT REMEMBER THE VIOLENCE, VERBALY AND IN SOME OCCASIONS EVEN PHYSICALLY the democrats used in the primaries and in the general, do not remember maps democrats used when they took over the house,
SELECTIVE MEMORY DOES NOT BELONG TO JOURNALISM, JOSEPH PULITZER ,said something like: the end of democracy is near when the media is in concubinage with DC

Anonymous said...

Why does no speak about the unsettling effect rap music and violent (slasher) movies have on emotionally or mentally unstable or borderline people?

Our whole society seems to love violence; the more violent some movie, TV show or song is the better -- and the more MONEY it makes for its creator.

Anonymous said...

-- from "Talk about civility is fine, but where are the new calls for gun control?" at:

"President Obama is predictably eloquent in his calls for greater civility, but he won't dare intimate that it might be wise to toughen background checks or restrict access to any weaponry. As a candidate, he called for a new federal assault-weapons ban - the old one, which expired in 2004, banned the rapid-fire clip that felled 19 people in Arizona - but he has been mum on that ever since. Meanwhile, he signed a measure that allows people to pack their pieces in national parks. All told, the gun-curb activists at the Brady Center (a very lonely bunch these days) have awarded Obama an F."

Anonymous said...

Please jog my memory here.

Did Obama give an "eloquent" speech about civility after a disgruntled black employee massacred eight of his white co-workers in Manchester, Connecticut last August?

Did Obama speak "movingly" about those eight victims?

Did Obama tell a life story about each of those victims?

tamerlane said...

I don't care (for the moment) what obama did or didn't do, said or didn't say. This discussion is about what the TP leaders have said and done.

And what the TP has been announcing, in no uncertain terms, is:

1) the federal government is an oppressive, tyrannical entity;

2) the federal government (because it interprets the Constitution differently from us) is illegitimate;

3) You have a Right to defend yourself against this government, and any law or regulation you personally don't like, by taking up arms.

That, folks, is sedition.

Anonymous said...


You can decide for yourself what this occasion is all about, and I'll do the same.


If this Tuscon massacre is all about Tea Party sedition, as you claim, how come Obama never addressed that or the issue of gun control at the memorial service, or since?

How come Obama hasn't tied the Tea Party rhetoric to these killings?

I will tell you. Because he wants them to vote for him in 2012. Yes, as unbelievable as that may seem to you, Obama is now bending over (in every sense of that phrase) to woo The Right. He certainly no longer gives a damn about The Left or his supporters in the liberal community; his policies now are all geared toward winning support on The Right.

So, Obama will make NO calls for common sense gun controls, even though this certainly would be a good moment to discuss limitations on gun ownership. But Obama won't do that because he wants the votes of the gun owners AND the gun lobby's money.

tamerlane said...

@ latest anonymous:

I didn't say the Tuscon shooting was about what the TP has said and done, rather "this discussion" (i.e., the host's post) . I, like our host, take this occasion to address it.

You've chosen to address what obama has NOT done, either before or after this event, about gun control and rhetoric. And then you jump to a whole lot of other things BO does not related to the subject.

Is it really impossible to discuss a subject without dragging obama into it?

Anonymous said...


The topic of gun control -- and Obama's refusal to discuss it -- is related to the post about the Tea Party.

Obama is now courting The Right and the Tea Partiers; look for even worse things to come (from Obama) as he sucks up to The Right and the Tea Partiers.