Blood Libel: Have They No Decency?

Democratic Leadership Conference's "Targeting" Map

Sarah Palin's infamous map

Glenn Foden

From a New York Times editorial:

…It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman’s act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members. But it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge. Many on the right have exploited the arguments of division, reaping political power by demonizing immigrants, or welfare recipients, or bureaucrats. They seem to have persuaded many Americans that the government is not just misguided, but the enemy of the people.

That whirlwind has touched down most forcefully in Arizona, which Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik described after the shooting as the capital of “the anger, the hatred and the bigotry that goes on in this country.”…

And Paul Krugman , columnist and Nobel Prize recipient for political invective:

When you heard the terrible news from Arizona, were you completely surprised? Or were you, at some level, expecting something like this atrocity to happen?

Put me in the latter category. I’ve had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach ever since the final stages of the 2008 campaign. I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 — an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again. The Department of Homeland Security reached the same conclusion: in April 2009 an internal report warned that right-wing extremism was on the rise, with a growing potential for violence…

Funny, I remember going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York at the end of the Bush administration and during the Obama campaign and observing a number of T-shirt hawkers in front of the museum displaying nothing but the most vile and violent anti-Bush and anti-Cheney T-shirts. I asked one of the hawkers if he would be selling similar stuff if Obama became president.

Only if he invades Belgium was the response.

Yet, I don’t recall any on the left decrying the violent words and symbols directed at Bush/Cheney.

From the Wall Street Journal:

…the shooting news had barely hit the wires on Saturday before the media’s instant psychoanalysis put the American body politic on the couch instead of Mr. Loughner. “Bloodshed Puts New Focus on Vitriol in Politics,” declared a story in the New York Times, which focused primarily on the tea party and Sarah Palin in the context of mass murder. The story even hauled in opposition to health-care reform.

Politico, the Beltway website, chimed in by quoting a “veteran Democratic operative” advising the White House “to deftly pin this on the tea partiers,” just as “the Clinton White House deftly pinned the Oklahoma City bombing on the militia and anti-government people” in 1995.

Shouldn’t a publication insist that someone urging the exploitation of murder at least put his name on the record? The same goes for the anonymous Republican Senator quoted by Politico denouncing “town halls and cable TV and talk radio” in relation to Mr. Loughner.

Consider the kind of rhetoric that is being implicated as incendiary and beyond the pale. Mrs. Palin is being scored for having put contested Congressional seats such as Ms. Giffords’s in cross hairs on her website before the last election. This is supposed to be an incitement to murder?

At least one left-wing site also put Ms. Giffords on such a “target” list because she is one of the Blue Dog Democrats who doesn’t vote the party line. And yesterday right-wing websites were reprising this or that quote from Democrats and even President Obama invoking some martial or weapons metaphor to suggest they are as culpable. This is as offensive as the blame-Republican implications in the New York Times….

[The Tuscon murderer’s]… case couldn’t be more different than that of Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood killer who was motivated by Islamist hatred of America. Yet it is notable that the press corps was more restrained in identifying Major Hasan’s Islamist role models than in immediately stretching to link Mr. Loughner with American politicians who universally denounce such violence.

Ponder the implication of this. A deranged soul shoots a public figure and we are supposed to change our political discourse and rule certain people and opinions out of bounds based on whatever incoherent ramblings Mr. Loughner published on his website? …

Every two years we hold elections so that sane Americans can make a judgment on the policies of President Obama, John Boehner, tea party candidates and so on. But even though the people have recently had their say, in a typically raucous but entirely nonviolent fashion, we are supposed to put that aside and assess what a murderer with a mental illness has to tell us about the state of American politics, government and our national dialogue.

This line of argument is itself an attack on democratic discourse, and it is amazing that it even needs to be rebutted. Taking such an argument seriously will only encourage more crazy people to believe they can trigger a national soul-searching if they shoot at a political target. We should denounce the murders and the murderer, rather than doing him the honor of suggesting that his violence flows in any explainable fashion from democratic debate…

And Glenn Harlan Reynolds:

…With only the barest outline of events available, pundits and reporters seemed to agree that the massacre had to be the fault of the tea party movement in general, and of Sarah Palin in particular. Why? Because they had created, in New York Times columnist Paul Krugman’s words, a “climate of hate.”

The critics were a bit short on particulars as to what that meant. Mrs. Palin has used some martial metaphors—”lock and load”—and talked about “targeting” opponents. But as media writer Howard Kurtz noted in The Daily Beast, such metaphors are common in politics. Palin critic Markos Moulitsas, on his Daily Kos blog, had even included Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s district on a list of congressional districts “bullseyed” for primary challenges. When Democrats use language like this—or even harsher language like Mr. Obama’s famous remark, in Philadelphia during the 2008 campaign, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun”—it’s just evidence of high spirits, apparently. But if Republicans do it, it somehow creates a climate of hate.

There’s a climate of hate out there, all right, but it doesn’t derive from the innocuous use of political clichés. And former Gov. Palin and the tea party movement are more the targets than the source.

American journalists know how to be exquisitely sensitive when they want to be. As the Washington Examiner’s Byron York pointed out on Sunday, after Major Nidal Hasan shot up Fort Hood while shouting “Allahu Akhbar!” the press was full of cautions about not drawing premature conclusions about a connection to Islamist terrorism. “Where,” asked Mr. York, “was that caution after the shootings in Arizona?”

Set aside as inconvenient, apparently. There was no waiting for the facts on Saturday. Likewise, last May New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and CBS anchor Katie Couric speculated, without any evidence, that the Times Square bomber might be a tea partier upset with the ObamaCare bill.

So as the usual talking heads begin their “have you no decency?” routine aimed at talk radio and Republican politicians, perhaps we should turn the question around. Where is the decency in blood libel?…

What remains to be seen is whether Barry will try to make political hay out of the shooting as Clinton did with Oklahoma City. Barry has a strong compulsion to “commit sociology,” in George Will’s words, and force on the rest of us his (highly politicized) version of “what this all means.” Let’s hope that someone, perhaps new chief of staff William Daley ( a putatively sensible man), restrains The Great Explainer.

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