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Proem. I loathe the notion of the left-right paradigm. I hate the use of the term left or right, liberal or conservative, but reluctantly do so herein for shorthand purposes only. Forgive and indulge me. Let me also note that despite my best efforts, no matter how careful I am in phrasing my opinion, the term “conspiracy theory” will rear its ugly pointed little tin-foil hat-covered head. That term has now enjoyed default status with the criminally unimaginative and ill-informed. It usually accompanies the surprise of a political tyro when her naïveté’s showing. As you most probably know, those who bark the loudest know the least. Especially history and/or the more sinister back story to history. (Ironically, sinister in Latin denotes “left.”)
Save this podcast. This will be relevant for years to come. It’s a primer on decoding the professional left-right duality.
Aggregate and exaggerate. Exploitation is defined in part as taking advantage of (a person, situation, etc.), especially unethically or unjustly for one’s own ends. And what you’re seeing in the aftermath of Saturday’s horror, the overreaction and casuistic connections being made by folks of all political stripes are amazing. Add to the mix a mind-paralyzingly unimaginative and impuissant 24/7 cable news media mosh pit along with a blogosphere that, as is usually the case, amazingly gets it right more often than not, and you’ve got an incredibly fascinating yet tragic story chockablock with distortion, bias, misinformation, exaggeration, hype. A veritable media seizure.
The Tucson shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, and at least 17 others does not need my appraisal to validate its horrors. Six of the victims died from their wounds, including Federal Judge John M. Roll, the chief judge for the United States District Court for Arizona, and a 9-year-old girl, Christina Taylor Greene. Born in Maryland on Sept. 11, 2001, Greene was featured in a book called “Faces of Hope: Babies Born on 9/11.”
The assailant’s name and picture and image I will not honor, depict, refer to or grace with any mention whatsoever. It’s something I ask the media to do voluntarily as I will discuss infra.
Dupnik: The Left’s New Arpaio. As you know, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is the darling of the Right. A hardscrabble, take no prisoners lawman who apparently has no earthly idea of the Constitution and/or the presumption of innocence. But he’s loved nonetheless by the hard-nosed, law and order Right.
Well, meet the Sheriff Joe of the Left. Pima County Sheriff, Clarence W. Dupnik, another Arizona Sheriff. At lightening speed, he connected the dots at a press conference and, utilizing the most convoluted and specious reasoning seen since the network pitch for Chevy Chase’s talk show, gave us and the professional Left the following.
“We need to do some soul searching,” Dupnik told reporters. “It’s the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business.
“When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this county is getting to be outrageous. Unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become sort of the capital,” Dupnik continued.
“We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry,” Dupnik said.
Let me cut the chase. No vitriol, hate speech, rancor or mean-spirited whatever can explicate or justify a mentally ill person acting out. And, believe it or not, the homicidal mentally ill more often than not can read. And they read a host of books, articles and listen to various opinionators and music. For us to say that this deranged man was inspired by the impolite and impolitic message of whoever you care to blame is ludicrous. As is usually the case, one side will jump on a fact and extrapolate it and try to establish causation (versus correlation) as to the ideas of an avowed enemy. In this case, the gunman wrote a litany of disjointed protestations anent our going off the gold standard, literacy and a host of other observations. Those thoughts didn’t propel his insanity, they accompanied it. And that’s a big difference. There is no evidence that anyone inspired this incident, but why ruin a great story, right?
The media should vow to not print of word of this assassin’s biography; stop giving future killers a forum. I propose that the media in all its permutations — video, print, yeah, even the blogosphere — agree voluntarily, without the exercise of any governmental prohibition, to refuse to print inter alia the picture, visage, musings, words, Facebook entries, YouTube videos, address, history . . . absolutely nothing pertaining to this creep. I’m no forensic psychiatrist but I have been around the criminal justice block as an ex-prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer and know that there are people, especially today in the LOOK AT ME! world of Twitter and Facebook (e.g.), whose sole basis of committing such heinous crimes is to be noticed and recognized and validated. Validated by the press. To be the next three-named psycho killer listed in Wikipedia under “Three-named Psycho Killer.” Within hours, sure as shite, the feckless and impuissant 24/7 media plastered every known piece of this killer’s bio on the flat screen. High school yearbook photos (incidentally, everyone’s high school photo looks demented), words, philosophies, favorite books. It looked like a Match.com bio. Have these idiots no souls? No, forget souls, how about minds? And as to a subject matter of concern, frankly, no one gives much of any thought to: What about this lunatic’s family? Is there the possibility that this incredible killer coverage saturation might identify the hapless and innocent family members as targets of the next attack?
It’s not hate speech that kills; murder kills. And in this case, insane and baseless murder. I don’t when it happened exactly. It certainly was clear to me with the advent of hate crime legislation that the thought police were on their way. Hate crimes, as you well know, are unconstitutional (in spirit, at least) prohibitions against certain thoughts and criminal motivations. Up to the advent of hate crimes, intent was all that mattered in criminal law. Why you killed someone or what you were thinking was irrelevant? As far as hating your victim, well, it was frankly implied by your having killed your victim. Hate was understood. After all, what’s a love crime? Slowly but surely we’ve been acclimated and habituated to the fact speech is not absolute. That thought can be violative. That intention and hate are themselves the subject of criminal sanctions. I’ve railed against these ideas for years, more often than not confused with someone who either likes or brooks hate. On the contrary. But no matter how loathsome an idea or thought is, no matter how much it hurts or stings, that doesn’t countenance the government’s cutting short or off speech. As I’ve reminded folks for years, the First Amendment’s a bitch. And as much as we grieve for the victims, it is absolutely incumbent upon us as rational citizens to withstand the urge to overreact. But overreaction is our middle name.
No one seems to want to address the issue of mental illness in our country. It was reported in 2005 that “one-quarter of all Americans met the criteria for having a mental illness within the past year, and fully a quarter of those had a ‘serious’ disorder that significantly disrupted their ability to function day to day, according to the largest and most detailed survey of the nation’s mental health.” What’s worse is that less than half of those in need get treated. And we’re talking about schizophrenia and other disorders requiring hospitalization and involuntary commitment. And you’ll never hear anyone talking about those issues. Are you kidding?! This is the country that fights against health care availability for those with catastrophic illnesses, and you expect the lachrymator Boehner and his boys to spend a second discussing the merits of mental health? Puh-leeze. We’re medieval in our understanding of what this crisis even entails. And you can bet that lawyers for this lunatic assassin will advance a full-throated insanity defense and plead NGRI, but not to worry. Even our legal system’s behind the times (imagine that!) when it comes to insanity defenses. The M’Naghten Rule will be of little help as it rarely is.
Blame is a parlor game. I in no wise mean to be cute or coy, but did we blame the theater and actors for Lincoln’s assassination? What about JFK’s assassin? Well, admittedly, that might be a bad example. But that’s another story. It’s almost Pavlovian this reflex that we have to ascribe causation to anything and everything. Marijuana’s a gateway drug. Ozzy Osbourne’s music makes kids mental. Violent video games inspire homicide. In fact, so hardwired is our fascination with causation (N.B. not correlation) that we’ve even created a cottage industry based on the idea that exposing a child to Mozart and cutesy videos will make them smarter. (Can you say Baby Einstein?)
Palin’s now in the crosshairs the left suggest inspired this tragedy. As everyone knows by know, Sarah Palin loves guns and hunting and all things shoot ’em up. Much of our country is gun averse and (worse) gun nescient. The number of folks, usually pantywaist leftie types (and forgive my label shorthand, but you get the point), who went bonkers over the notion of her even hunting apparently never considered exactly what hunting entailed. Or, for that matter, where their own meat came from. So, suffice it to say, when Sister Sarah started talking about field gutting (I know, it’s field dressing. But field gutting sounds so severe.) a moose or hunting wolves from a helo, the anti-gun folks just threw another log on the hate fire and now this ad infra.
Those are unmistakable crosshairs. And Gabrielle Giffords is No. 4 on the hit parade. So what do we make out of this? This connection was made instanter immediately following word of the shooting. Palinophobes made it very clear that these references clearly denote targets. Without hearing so much as a word of the shooter’s various manifestos or the first piece of evidence, the Palin connection was made. And thrown in for good measure was the caustic tone of political truculence.
After all, there’s no other interpretation that one could have when targets and crosshairs are mentioned. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the rarity of the target theme in ads and political semiotics says it all.
Oops. (Side note: Mark my words, some nutcase will target Target next. Crazy? You watch.)
The answer is simple: anything that can be construed, conflated or interpreted, no matter how insane or specious, it’s all fair “game.” (Sorry.) The Palinophobes are having a field day making any connection they can between the tragedy and Sarah herself. And the Tea Party. Gun rights advocates. The “radical right.” Name it. No matter what she says, no matter how she reiterates that she had nothing to do with this shooting, that she doesn’t endorse this violence, nothing will suffice. Nothing. This is a political and ideological pile-on.
Here’s a Tweet from this feller. The limpidity of the message is only outdone by its idiocy and illogic.
Boy, he really showed her, huh?
Did someone mention Teddy Roosevelt? This was a bad dude. Quite the gun nut. Bully! (Which under PC rules today is strictly forbidden as we have a strong no bullying policy.) The great white hunter. (Boy, talk about not PC!) He was even shot in the chest in 1912 and the .38 slug was slowed and ultimately stopped by an eyeglass case and his folded speech. In fact it didn’t even phase him. He gave his speech on time and as planned. TR never blamed guns or hunters or the image of the hunting fetish. My how times have changed. And that will be the precise issue, viz. times have changed. What may and might have worked for the frontier crowd might not today. And there’s a certain degree of truth to that. Today we’re a medicated, SSRI’d, tranquilized, therapied, sensitivity-trained lot. The rules have changed along with our brain chemistries. What may have been absolutely acceptable once is now punishable under state and federal laws.
You see, it’s very simple. Humans are mindless dolts, susceptible to any suggestion. So watch what you say.
And something tells me that Palin’s “Don’t Retreat, Reload” will be most probably retired. And perhaps as it should. As will “Second Amendment remedies” to address the “domestic enemies” in Congress à la Sharron Angle. Let me reiterate, this may be a good idea. I’m certainly not against restraint. (It’s moderation I have a problem with.)
Even Jane Fonda weighed in. (Finally, some sanity at long last.) She even threw in a shot at the Tea Party. Congratulations, Jane. You just might be the only one who even knows what the rhetoric if not the platform of the Tea Party is.
You know, it’s funny. You’d think that if people were so susceptible to mere suggestion, the incessant recommendations of a healthy diet and exercise as well as the necessity of voting would see substantial results. I guess it’s just some messages.
On a personal note, for years during my nascent talk radio career in Tampa, “Lock ‘n Load” was my shibboleth, rallying cry, whatever. Callers greeted me and I them with a friendly “Lock ‘n Load,” clearly a gun reference but hardly a call to violence. It was our “Kowabunga” or “Baba Booey.” Later on I named my bluegrass trio “Lock ‘n Load” with no resultant or inspired or resultant gun violence therefrom. Once a certain radio exec suggested to me that I lose the salutation as it might be construed as inspiring violence especially after Columbine. True story.
I saw the writing on the wall; the insanity was revving up.
The Second Amendment strikes again. Thus sayeth the loud and ill-informed. And who better to opine on the subject of our Constitutional guarantees accorded by the deuce than that eminent jurist and proud member of the juridical vanguard, comedienne Elayne Boosler. Hit it, Elayne!
Simply brilliant. Thank you.
Oh, boy! It’s everybody’s favorite Nobel-winning economist from the Times. Paul Krugman joined the fun. I know what you’re thinking: Finally, an economist weighs in.
You know that Republicans will yell about the evils of partisanship whenever anyone tries to make a connection between the rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, etc. and the violence I fear we’re going to see in the months and years ahead. But violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate. And it’s long past time for the GOP’s leaders to take a stand against the hate-mongers.
I found this interesting. Notice what Krugman posted on his blog in this screenshot.
Now, that’s interesting. Krugman’s own words are inciting “crazies.” The level-headed and carefully articulated words from this notable liberal and Nobel laureate are themselves inciting hate and divisiveness. And there are no bulls-eyes even. Imagine that. What’s scary is that you’d think an economist of all people who be most adept at cause and affect analysis, but what do I know?
You think today’s rhetoric is bad? It’s child’s play compared to the mud-slinging of yore.
There have been impolite political campaigns for as long as we have had government, and the slogans of elections of over 100 years ago or more appear to be exactly as strident and unpleasant as those of today. Andrew Jackson, in the election of 1824, was the recipient of the Democratic rallying cry “A convicted adulteress and her paramour husband”, in reference to he and his wife Rachel being married before her previous marriage had been made void. In 1884 Grover Cleveland was harassed on the campaign trail by the unfortunate (although very catchy) slogan of “Ma, Ma, Where’s my Pa? Gone to the White House, Ha! Ha! Ha!”, due to his having fathered an illegitimate child. Cleveland’s supporters in turn exhibited a similar level of maturity, chanting “Blaine! Blaine! James G. Blaine! The con-tin-en-tal liar from the state of Maine!”
Having one’s supporters rather than one’s campaign come up with slogans has the benefit of allowing unpleasant sentiments to be espoused while the candidate himself appears to be above it all. This worked well for Herbert Hoover in his 1928 campaign against the first Catholic to run for the presidency, Alfred Smith, as it produced such memorable, offensive, and effective slogans as “A vote for Al Smith is a vote for the Pope”, and “Rum-soaked Romanist”. [Source]
And don’t forget that when the anti-Dubya crowd (of which I was a proud member as to certain issues) called him and President Cheney killers and torturers, that hate speech was somehow overlooked or forgiven. Or was that hate speech? What exactly is hate speech again? Oh, yes. That which is directed against your group. Got it.
Watch DHS and Napolitano escalate searches and the like. Citizens will demand it. You watch. Per usual folks will look to the government to make them safer, thus playing into the hands of Big Sis Janet and the folks at DHS. “Somebody call Chertoff and tell Mikey Boy, we’re gonna need a sh*tload of scanners. Call your folks at Rapiscan. You’re gonna make a boatload of bucks!” I’ve mentioned the ever-escalating world of DHS domestic surveillance and personal privacy and liberty violations. The first thing I think of whenever there’s a new calamity is how will Big Sis exploit this. Can’t you see it now? More backscatter ionizing radiation devices at malls, subways, bus depots, sporting events, concerts, rallies. Don’t look now, but it’s happening as we speak.
Minority Report, here we come. Think I’m kidding? A system is already being utilized. It’s known as CRUSH (Criminal Reduction Utilizing Statistical History) and it evaluates and processes crime records, intelligence briefings, offender profiles and even weather reports, all with the intention of identifying potential “flashpoints” where a crime is most likely to occur. The “predictive analytics” technology has been credited as a key factor in lowering crime rates in targeted cities. This in coordination with greater law enforcement surveillance and monitoring of Internet chatter, websites, Tweets, name it, will provide new tools to watch “strange” behavior. And watch, as we sift through the current shooter’s manifestos and the like, American sheeple will demand that the government use new tools to keep an eye on what you write. Don’t worry, Google and Facebook already have that covered.
Stop asking why! Was there a memo that the MSM barking seals got that directed them to keep wondering why this inanity occurred? That’s the only thing I can point to to explain this incessant question. Next to, of course, TV diarrhea that spews and spurts projectile-like by an unimaginative and dim-witted media. Motivation is irrelevant when dealing with the insane. Focusing in on if he targeted Giffords specifically is equally a waste of time. Who in their right mind (sorry, I forgot I’m talking about the media) could think anything but the fact that she was targeted? Seriously, who? On what planet does this person live who scratches his head wondering as to the target connection? One weekend cable newsmonkey queried if the fact that a semi-automatic pistol was used that utilized a large magazine indicated an intent to kill. I kid you not. No, honey, I think the fact that any weapon is aimed and fired is a sufficient indicium of intent.
Try threading a common denominator through this nutjob’s dossier. He lists “The Communist Manifesto” and “Mein Kampf” as two of his favorite books. See any inconsistencies here? Any antipodal interests. He also enjoyed “Animal Farm” and Ayn Rand. A dystopian allegorical novella meets objectivism. Oh, and let’s not forget “Siddhartha.” So he’s a commie, Nazi, Tea Partier, Buddhist leftie or right-winger. Good luck, mind hunter.
He was rejected by the Army?! Oh, so he’s the one. You had to be in a coma not to realize that our military ranks were so attenuated despite stop-loss and redeployment that they were essentially letting anyone in with a pulse. And to think this nutbag was so crackers, he was refused entry in any capacity in our threadbare military. Wow. He wanted to join and was refused, but he’s called a leftie. Rush Limbaugh skirted military service in Vietnam with a bumb rear and a pilonidal cyst and he’s called a right-winger. Does this make any sense to anybody? Didn’t think so.
Talk radio and TV: the usual suspects. The Pauls: Ron & Rand, Fox Business News, Matt Drudge, Alex Jones, Judge Andrew Napolitano, Geraldo, Beck, Rush. You watch. Media Matters is already gearing up to lower the correlation and causation boom as we speak. The shooter will be called a right-winger. Unless he’s called a left-winger. Yep, it seems that a high school chum of the killer, Caitie Parker, Tweeted about him. Uh oh, leftie media. You might want to take note of this. According to Miss Parker, the gunman was left wing. Quite liberal. What?! Again, I reiterate for the thousandth time, insanity knows no political direction.
Caitie hadn’t been Tweeting for long before she was deluged with offers to appear on the 24/7 barking seal news shows. When she mentioned that this Lee Harvey wannabe was liberal, well, you can imagine the scrambling.
In Democratic administrations, terrorists are homegrown; during Republican administrations they’re foreign. Have you noticed that whenever there’s an act of terrorism — and the case could certainly be made that the Tucson horror is terrorism, fine — the bad actors during Republican administrations are foreign and alien (e.g., Taliban, bin Laden, al Qaeda, Islamo-Fascism, whatever that is, during the Bush 43 years) while those during Democratic ones are homegrown and domestic (e.g., McVeigh, Militias, David Koresh, Waco Siege and Branch Davidians during the Clinton years). In fact, as of late, the news has been filled with new forms of terror. You guessed it, home grow but with a twist. Allegedly al Qaeda sorta but domestically grown.
Big Sis even noted, “[t]he First Amendment protects radical opinions, but we need the legal tools to do things like monitor the recruitment of terrorists via the Internet,” Napolitano told the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy in June of last year. Uh oh. I get scared when the government starts talking like that. And you should too.
The runaway 24/7 media provided the unfortunate and inadvertent comic relief. This weekend, the media were caught off guard by the shooting. With newsrooms gutted, the victims of budget cuts and layoffs, some networks had the D-team and second-stringers doing their best to cobble together something, anything and feed it to the TV video monster.
- I watched a most uncomfortable Dr. Sanjay Gupta and and equally uncomfortable anchor dude on CNN try their damnedest to explicate and limn the intricacies of gunshot brain trauma neurosurgery anent a patient the good doctor never saw, facts no one had and a victim’s condition no one knew. The anchor feller actually asked Gupta to pretend he was a gunshot victim and put him through the neuro-eval paces. Scintillating.
- Sunday on “Meet the Press” while a colleague of the Congresswoman was being interviewed, mandatory B-roll of Giffords, shown for the umpteenth time, was rolling with volume in the IFB earpiece of the poor interviewee. He was trying to talk but heard the haunting voice of his gravely wounded colleague in his ear the whole time.
- I caught some no-name behavioral “expert” of some stripe suggest that the killer’s statements about government were clearly psychotic. Repeat: clearly psychotic. Not off or strained or a tad askew, but psychotic. And, oddly enough, those very thoughts were ofttimes uttered by hosts on this network’s business baby brother network.
- All day MSNBC rolled out perennial on-call 24/7 go-to guy, ex-FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt, my absolute favorite, who’s usually enlisted to comment after the perp has been pinched. I know, I know: why do you need a profiler when you know who did it? My point precisely.
- And finally, I lost count of the number of times the various outlets reported that Giffords was dead or had died. And the reason is simple: The rush to be first, which has always been part and parcel of news reporting, outweighs accuracy. Period.