Posted by Joe R. Hicks
The political dust has settled and facts have begun to emerge about the evil and/or mentally disturbed Jared Loughner, the 22-year-old man who sits behind bars charged with shooting to death six people and wounding 14 others in Tucson, Arizona.
In the days since the tragedy a great deal more information about the man who apparently pulled the trigger allows us to understand far more about this than we did within the first few hours. It’s appropriate to look back at those who acted like vultures, picking at the bones of an American tragedy way before they had any information to allow them to offer a reasoned assessment of what transpired on that Saturday morning.
Even as Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was on her way into surgery, struggling for her life after a nine-millimeter bullet ripped through her brain, the nation’s political vultures looked for ways to lay blame for the shootings on their political enemies.
Inside of 48 hours the left and several willing accomplices in the mainstream media tried to make the argument that Jared Loughner was influenced, if not inspired, by conservative talk radio, Sarah Palin, a “climate of bigotry and hate,” the Tea Party, or “mean-spirited” immigration laws.
From thousands of miles away in Abu Dhabi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was briefed by her staff about the Arizona shootings and, with no evidence to support the contention, linked Loughner to political extremism. She said “Look, we have extremists in my country. A wonderful, brave young woman congress member, Congresswoman Giffords, was shot in our country.” Lacking any facts that the shooter was motivated by political beliefs of any kind, this nation’s Secretary of State made the politically-loaded assessment that the killer was motivated by political extremism.
But the die was cast. From CNN to The New York Times and beyond, there was an attempt to connect political conservatives and conservative politics to Loughner’s murderous rampage – damn the facts, full speed ahead.
The New York Times went to print with an editorial that featured this headline: “Bloodshed and Invective in Arizona.” The editorial claimed that Loughner “… is very much a part of a widespread squall of fear, anger and intolerance that has produced violent threats … and infected the political mainstream with violent imagery.”
This controversial opinion by the Times may provide the groundwork for a spirited cocktail party debate over the level and tenor of the nation’s political discourse, but what the hell did any of this have to do with the specific acts of a deranged man who had no discernable political ties.
But as radio talk host Larry Elder is fond of saying of those who seek to score political points no matter what, facts can be like Kryptonite to Superman. Even as evidence mounted that Loughner was “mentally troubled,” “scary,” “a loner” and “non-political” the talking-heads continued to hammer home their talking points.
Clarence Dupnik, the Sheriff of Arizona’s Pima County – the guy responsible for investigating Loughner’s actions – called a press conference to lambast his state and link Loughner’s rampage to an “atmosphere of hatred and bigotry.” He condemned Arizona as “… a Mecca for prejudice.” Dupnik in the past had called the Tea Party movement a bunch of “bigots” and declared Arizona’s new immigration law “racist.” When pressed, this lawman admitted that his opinions about what motivated the killer were based on not one single fact.
Then The New York Times’ columnist, economist Paul Krugman weighed in. He pulled evidence from nowhere to argue that Loughner was connected to a conservative-created “climate of hate.” Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic magazine writer, connected imaginary dots leading to Sarah Palin – the political figure he endlessly obsesses over. However, the prize for irresponsible journalism goes to The New York Daily News writer Paul Daley. His essay was titled “The blood of Congresswoman Giffords was on Sarah Palin’s hands.”
Meanwhile, over at The New Republic, David Greenberg wrote a piece that teased readers with the sly question, since Congresswoman Giffords is Jewish, “was this an anti-Semitic attack?” Having planted this nasty little seed, Greenberg then back-tracked, saying “There is no significant evidence to conclude as such.” No significant evidence? How about no evidence at all!
So what do we know about the alleged killer.
We know that his deranged mind was a fan of both The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf and he appears to have dabbled in satanic beliefs – investigating law enforcement officers apparently discovered some sort of odd satanic alter in his back yard.
An ex-friend of Loughner’s, Zach Osler, appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America and told the host “He did not watch TV. He disliked the news. He didn’t listen to political radio. He didn’t take sides. He wasn’t on the left. He wasn’t on the right.”
Since this contradicted the pre-conceived script, none of this mattered. For this nation’s political vultures, bone-headed and ideological efforts to generate a near-political panic had logic - as well as a momentum - all its own.
As people lay dead – including a nine-year-old girl, with others wounded and bleeding, and with a courageous and well-liked Democratic member of Congress on her way into an operating room, political opportunists gambled that this crisis could be used for political gain.
Rahm Emanuel once said “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”
Some took what he said far too seriously and after the ugly bloodletting in Arizona, seized on the possibility that they could use this horrific event to shut up their political opponents.
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January 19, 2011 | 3:46 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
Last week, when President Obama delivered his moving address in Tucson it was hard to predict what its impact might be. A brief moment when we were asked to appeal to our better angels that would pass as the trauma of the awful shooting faded from memory or, perhaps, a pivot after which we would all ask ourselves if we couldn’t each contribute to a more civil and temperate society.
Today’s news suggests that maybe, just maybe, the nature of our discourse might change a bit.
The president had urged us
“to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds…. let’s use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.”
The press reported this morning that the governor of Alabama delivered a speech yesterday, the day of his swearing-in, at a Montgomery Baptist church where he declared that,
“If you’re a Christian and you’re saved…it makes you and me brother and sister….Now I will have to say that, if we don’t have the same daddy, we’re not brothers and sisters…so anyone here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister and I want to be your brother.”
On its face, these remarks could easily spark indignant responses from Jewish and other non-Christian spokesmen. Indeed, the head of American Atheists called the remarks, “outrageous”.
But, the head of the Birmingham Jewish Federation, Richard Friedman, was temperate, indeed, it was as if he had absorbed Obama’s admonition “to pause for a moment and make sure we’re talking in a way that heals.”
He spoke about sensitizing “our leaders to the fact that there are non-Christians in this state, and encourage them whenever possible to be sensitive to that.”
And in a comment which seemed to reflect Obama’s suggestion to “expand our moral imaginations,” the Federation’s head assessed the context of the governor’s comments,
“these folks typically don’t mean any harm at all…it never occurs to them that they’re saying anything that would make others uncomfortable. They are simply motivated by their passion for their own religious faith.”
Friedman appropriately said he would assemble a delegation of Jews and Christians that would try to meet with the governor “as soon as possible to initiate a dialogue.”
This incident could just have easily devolved into name calling and nasty assertions of bigotry. The Jewish leaders could have ended up as media stars on cable news networks and a flashpoint for demagogues and publicity hounds would have been created.
Instead, our “instincts for empathy” were sharpened and an opportunity created for greater understanding and less rancor. The Birmingham Federation’s leader didn’t assume the worst motivation so as to “score points and further the pettiness that drifts away in the next news cycle” (the President’s words).
There is always time for anger and outrage, an effort of understanding can’t hurt.