Monday, January 10, 2011

Tucson - The Blame Game and Batshit Crazy Lunatics

On January 8th at 10:10am in Tucson AZ Jared Lee Loughner opened fire on a crowd at a “Congress on your Corner” meeting killing six people and seriously injuring 14 others including US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Within moments of the news hitting the airwaves the various networks talking heads commenced to speculate on motives and assign blame. Broadcast outlets and Online blogs alike were engulfed in an orgy of finger pointing directed at “Right Wing Extremists” as the most likely source of or inspiration to the responsible party.

The effort to immediately politicize this tragedy is absolutely nauseating in and of itself. However, to politicize this tragedy a means of using it to forward a particular political agenda borders on the misanthropic if not sociopathic. How many times do we need to have a catastrophic event co-opted to the gain of another before we collectively cry “ENOUGH”?

Time and again when some wack-job goes off the deep end, members of various traditional and “New-Media” outlets have sought, openly and without apology to hang the act on those of a group they describe as “Right-Wing Extremists” or of having “Tea-Party" Affiliations. To wit:

In September of 2009 a US Census worker was found hanged in Manchester, KY. The hanging was immediately blamed on “Right Wingers” by Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic and on the “Glenn Beck / Fox audience” by numerous pundits paraded across MSNBC and CNN chat shows...but he hung himself in an insurance fraud attempt.

In February of 2010 Joe Stack lit his house on fire, drove to an Austin area airport, got in his plane and flew it into the side of a nearby IRS occupied federal building. The immediate reaction from the Daily Kos website connected the crash to the influence of the conservative "tea party" movement, writing that "teabaggers have struck with their first 9/11 inspired terrorist attack." In reality, Joe Stack was a Communist Manifesto quoting nut-job who equally hated both democrats and republicans.

In February of 2010 Amy Bishop killed three professors and injured three others at the University of Alabama. Initial reports, based on the fact that a few of the victims were black opined that the attack was racially motivated and some, including Keith Olbermann of MSNBC attempted to draw a link to the meme that racists are common in Tea Party groups and those generally opposed to President Obama.  They blamed Amy Bishop’s killings on racism (as if it were the sole purview of those on the right)...and then she turned out to be an Obama voter (and nut job).

In March of 2010 John Patrick Bedell opened fire on the entrance to The Pentagon. Scores of media outlets attempted to tie Bedell to opponents of big government in various Libertarian and “Tea-Party” organizations. In reality, Bedell was a registered Democrat, a virulent hater of GW Bush and a 9/11 “Truther”.

In April of 2010 nine members of the “Hutaree” militia were arrested. Immediate connections were made between the group’s anti-government positions and “Right-Wing / Tea-Party” themes. It turns out that two members, Jacob Ward, and ring leader, David Stone had voted for Democrats in past elections and the group as a whole had voted for both Democrats and Republicans in the past. The group is bunch of “End of Days” nuts.

In May of 2010 Faisal Shahzad attempted to detonate a bomb in Times Square, NY. Media, pundits, bloggers and even NYC Mayor, Michael Bloomberg disgustingly attempted to blame “Right Wing Extremists”. Bloomberg wondered aloud if the culprit behind the Times Square car bomb was “a mentally deranged person or somebody with a political agenda that doesn’t like the health-care bill or something.” Jason Levin’s oft cited supposition was:  “The suspect is a middle age white male, has a history of strong political views, and considers himself a Sarah Palin Tea Party express activist. An arrest is expected within days. In a strange twist, the suspect worked in the past as an informant with law enforcement agencies.”  As we now know, Faisal Shahzad is a Pakistani born Naturalized American Al-Queda fan-boy with a colorful history of anti-Bush sentiment.

In August of 2010 a NYC cab driver of Muslim heritage was stabbed. The resultant screed from media outlets centered on “Anti-Muslim Backlash” in reaction the to the Ground-Zero Mosque issue. In reality, the perpetrator was Michael Enright, an ultra left leaning visual arts student and proponent of the Park-51 project. He is a nut who was drunk at the time of the attack.

In September of 2010 James Lee entered the The Discovery Channel building in Montgomery County Maryland taking three hostages. Numerous outlets have attempted to draw a connection between Lee’s raving manifesto and the right’s opposition to amnesty legislation and anchor baby policies. In reality James Lee is at best an eco-terrorist but more accurately just a freakin nut.

I could go on and on and on, but I think the pattern is clearly established is it not?

I distinctly recall the media’s cry for restraint in assigning blame against Muslims in the aftermath of the shootings at Fort Hood, TX. That, was good advice at the time it of course still is and should be a matter of course in all such tragedies. There is nothing to be gained in speculating on motives or associations until ACTUAL FACTS are known about a given assailant.  In most of these cases, the shooter turns out to be so completely out of his/her gourd that no particular rational motivation can be determined.  In the rare case where cogent motivation is found, rushing to that conclusion before actual facts are known doesn’t make it any more or less true.  There is almost no upside in rushing to speculate in absence of any evidence or with uncertain anecdotal evidence except for potential bragging rights in case one manages to luck into the truth — or in scoring cheap attacks on political opponents through smearing them with blame.

But in this instance, in Tucson, the same people who insisted in November 2009 that people should not rush to judgment about the potential connection of radical Islam to the Fort Hood shooting practically, and almost gleefully tried to tie an apparent paranoid schizophrenic who hailed Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto to Sarah Palin.

The argument given for the assignment of blame to the “Right-Wing / Tea-Party” was based on a Palin PAC graphic identifying 20 target congressional districts for the 2010 election cycle, the graphic used rifle scope icons to identify the targeted districts. While the graphic employed a questionable level of taste in it’s iconography it is by no means an unusual turn of phrase. I don’t recall a single corporate sales meeting that didn’t identify “target markets” nor a marketing campaign that didn’t identify “target demographics” one wouldn’t automatically assume said rhetoric is likely to inspire violence against competing companies would they? Getting hysterical about the use of violent terminology in politics is about as hypocritical as one can possibly get as the turn of phrase and iconography is as common as cucumbers in the salad of political discourse.

Palin PAC Graphic

…an oddly similar graphic from the Democrat Leadership Committee website
Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos, the largest left-wing community online, put Gabrielle Giffords on a target list with a bullseye! Soo....

…and this Harry Mitchell (D) political ad see 0:32

It was the Clinton campaign that popularized the term “war room” for the rapid-response team they formed in 1992.  Should we blame Clinton for all subsequent wars, too? has a "WAR ROOM" link in their website header...whom are they waging war with exactly? CNN calls its political-news show the “Situation Room,” after the actual national-security response facility in the White House.  Maybe we should blame CNN for inciting wars and violence, too, using their logic?

Glass houses people, glass houses.

Does, the “Right-Wing” and Tea Party hold exclusive purview to violent imagery and rhetoric? Well I suppose that depends…..on your particular level of cognitive dissonance

"Kill Bush" flash video game, but they're only joking, not violent, right? 

Kill Bush graffiti? 

David Axelrod, 2009 “If you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard.” Violent rhetoric?

Obama, September 18, 2008 “Argue With Neighbors, Get In Their Face” Violent rhetoric?

Obama, June 13, 2008. “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” Violent rhetoric?

Obama, June 7, 2010: "So I now whose ass to kick" Violent rhetoric?

Remember when Obama offered to send one of his buddies over to Hannity to "tear him up"? Violent rhetoric?

At the end of all of this we are left with only one possible conclusion. Nobody other than Jared Lee Loughner is responsible for the shooting that took place this weekend. A guy that cites his favorite books as the Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf is about as likely to derive inspiration from Sarah Palin as Anthony Bourdain is to join PETA and convert to Veganism. There simply is no way a thinking person can connect the two. Loughner is a batshit-crazy lunatic and that is the end of that portion of the discussion. Discussions of how someone this far gone could have come to this point without the notice of friends and family are certainly warranted. Discussions of how he came to possess a weapon are as well.  But what has no place in this is the practice of assigning blame to one or another political philosophy or group. Neither is responsible.

We can and should though take a hard look at ourselves in this regard though. Though the connection between the Palin Pac graphic and Loughner is absurd, it does bring to light the fact that such imagery and rhetoric has gone too far. It didn’t cause this event, but it has escalated to the point where we are all behaving like complete assholes. Both sides of this are guilty of at best, the use of tasteless and inappropriate imagery and rhetoric. Both sides have equally behaved like complete douchebags. Both sides have sought to paint their opponents as dangerous. Both sides are wrong. Both sides need to knock it the fuck off.

I generally loathe Keith Olbermann and his flair for invective laced vitriolic hyperbole, and in the following piece he does employ selective memory in summarizing the state of political discourse, however the theme of his message is correct, and I concur. 

Let me know what you think. But know that I will remove your comments if they are insulting, offensive or defamatory...particularly if you lack the stones to put your name to the comment. The intent here is to raise, not lower the level of discourse.


  1. There's a big difference between targeting states and actual people.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. I agree with you absolutely. Sorry that I could not bring anything to the table in regards of intelligent debate, but I do have a few questions for you True; what impact do you think this will have in the future? I understand that the media will find another shiny toy whenever this story no longer brings the ratings, but what about the non-average politically minded citizen? And perhaps more important, do you think that this topic will be brought up during the 2012 elections? Sorry for all the questions, but I had to ask someone that thinks, like myself, that neither side is to blame at all but they both still suck regarding the devisive rhetoric. Thank you.