Sunday, January 09, 2011

Those responsible for violent political rhetoric DO have to bear responsibility for their words

Kyle says:

There is no political party to blame for the horrible shooting that took place outside Tuscon, Arizona yesterday. The man, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, was by all accounts a very disturbed person, with a history of bizarre theories and schizophrenic like paranoia. Not more than an hour after the sad event took place, the social media sites such as twitter and Facebook ran ramped with rumors that he was a leftist or that he was a extreme conservative. Both sides hurled unfounded rumors on top of outright lies, to support their case that it was the other side which was the voice of violence and derangement that caused this man to do what he did...

The only difference between those disturbed and twisted individuals, whose only goal was to make political gains out of this sad situation and Jared Lee Loughner is that he acted out his insanity with a gun. And yes, those on the right, or a least those trolling as if they were on the political right grew more callous, more twisted and more pathetic as the whole thing unraveled. People died at the hands of a disturbed man, and this wonderful social media thing that we have now, gave a forum for people to say things that they wouldn't have the guts to say to someone in real life....or has it?

Yet, let us not forget in any way that Jared Lee Loughner wasn't the first crazed person in recent memory to express violent insanity in the memes of right wing ideology. Most recently, before Loughner there was Byron Williams, Jerry Kane, and Richard Poplawski. So I'm not willing in any way to let the right wing off the hook for this; it is true that Loughner's insanity is his own, but the fact of the matter is, Adolf Hitler is still responsible for Mein Kampf. And he's also responsible for the other Nazi horrors, even if others pulled the trigger.

So as John Cole says:

Want to watch a Republican freak out? Utter the following statement:

“This shooting demonstrates that we really need to tone down the violent political rhetoric.”

Then watch the freakout begin, even though there is nothing partisan or pointed about that statement. “Why are you pointing fingers? Both sides do it! Why are you blaming Sarah Palin?”

And then my personal favorite: “He was just crazy!”

No shit. You have to be crazy to walk into a crowd of people and start spraying bullets, killing a bunch of elderly people and a little kid. That is crazy.

The point we have been trying to make for the last couple of years is that Republicans need to stop whipping up crazy people with violent political rhetoric. This is really not a hard concept to follow. There are crazy people out there. Stop egging them on.

Right wing media discourse in this country is in the hands of a few, and they can pretty much drive the direction of the current Republican Party.  They have been putting way too much vitriol into the political discourse; their currency is resentment and anger.   It is not surprising then to see resonances of this in the actions of the alienated and insane.   And those responsible for creating that which resonated in these alienated and insane folks should be held accountable.


I saw – god, on Twitter! – the most apt responses to this position I’ve seen yet, from some sociologist in Madison WI, no less: blaming this on insanity is a form of “ableism,” which I take to mean the implicit denigration of those with disabilities. Furthermore, it occludes the fact that violence in America IS a social problem, and, I would also add, a public health problem (obviously Ms Giffords’ health has been greatly compromised by this violence).

It's an interesting conundrum: psychosis and responsibility, but yes, putting this on "insanity" is a compartmentalization that does not do justice  to the reality.


Kyle said...

I'm sorry, I have not seen one shred of evidence that Loughner acted out of incitement he found in the right wing rhetoric. The evidence people present is circumstantial at best, so I don't think you can pin motives on what drove his insanity to this level. Yes, those who incite violence need to be held accountable for their actions, but yesterday, the left and the right jumped the gun (no pun intended) blaming the motives of his actions on the other side.

I did say in my piece that those who incite violence do need to be held accountable, but sorry, anyone that still holds on to a political motive for yesterdays insanity is far reaching speculation at best. But I do agree, the right needs to tone down it's rhetoric...but how?

Mumon K said...

The fact is, what I've seen has lots of paranoid delusions in it no doubt, but also some odd fetishizing of his ideas of the constitution, of the power of government, of abortion as terrorism, and of "hard money" and the like.

I too am not saying the guy was a right-winger, but I am saying it doesn't matter. What does matter is that these memes - as well as violence being a remedy for addressing the disharmony between reality and one's ideas - have been propagated largely by the right recently (unless you want to go back to the Weatherman or the Symbionese Liberation Army or the Black Panthers).

That's all I was saying, until I added just now the bit about being insane is itself not an excuse either especially since we're also talking about what is OBVIOUSLY really a public health issue.

NellaLou said...

This I wrote on Twitter as many particularly in the news media have tried to isolate this person as some kind of "anomaly"

A "deranged" mind does not exist in isolation.It is fed by context, circumstances, learning, exposure--environmental input. #interdependence

If a person is severely deluded, even psychotic, the content of those thoughts come from somewhere. They are not self manufactured. Work with or know people labeled psychotic and this is abundantly obvious. What also is obvious is that those with severe perceptual issues are even more sensitive to the environment than many others. Ask anyone with knowledge of psychology who's worked in milieu therapeutic approaches. Ask anyone who's ever worked in or resided or otherwise spent time in a psychiatric facility why the situation is so strictly controlled, why stimulation is severely limited.

None of us is an isolated entity. We are all both products and expressions of our environments.

[I could quote a couple of thousand citations here but that's enough]

Mumon K said...


Thanks. I quite agree.

Unknown said...

I think the need to tone down the rhetoric is one most-centrally having to do with getting back to more-rational-based arguing/discussions. And, to just generally, see ourselves in others.

I mean, as much as I would want to discourage insanity by damping down sane poeple's insanity [by, say, making it unlawful for NellaLou to blog], I don't know how you enforce that.

Better that the course of the culture steers itself into milder waters on (what seems like) its own volition. But right now it may be the impetus for that is lacking. The Repub/Tea coalition is in ascent. Wackiness is on the move!

Paul Garrigan said...

I think that while there are many benefits of social media and the web it has also had some hugely negatively consequences. There are now too many people spreading hate messages for different causes - each group blaming the other group. Instead of the internet bringing people together it seems to be creating more division. Maybe having the ability to talk about our petty hatreds and prejudices isn't such a swell thing after all. The genie is out of the bottle now though.

I don't know what the answer is, and there are too many people who think they do have the answer. It is worrying that the standard of debate on a lot of news media these days doesn't rise much above what you read on the web. Who's to blame? I suppose all we can try to do is not add to it. I suspect that unless we find a way to regulate the hate there will be many more shootings around the world.

Mumon K said...

Tom and Paul:

It takes skill, but I think it is possible to create speech and action in such a way that the nasty kind is not encouraged.

NellaLou said...

Tom you know if you make it illegal I'll only do it all the more! Social transgression seems to be my schtick.(or sticking point depending upon the perspective)