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“Heated Political Rhetoric” And The Giffords Shooting

Within minutes after the news of the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had broken nationwide, and even while conflicting reports were circulating that she had died, there were those who were doing all they could to draw political “lessons” from what is clearly an undeniable tragedy. Markos Moulitsas, the owner of Daily Kos, tweeted out “Mission Accomplished, Sarah Palin,” with a link to a post about the “target map” that has suddenly become a political issue again. Matthew Ygelesias tweeted out a linkto the same “target map” with the message “A reminder that gun imagery and electoral politics don’t mix that well”. Andrew Sullivan continued the focus on Palin’s map and said:

When a congresswoman is shot in the head in the very act of democracy, we should all pause. This is fundamentally not a partisan issue and should not be. Acts of violence against political figures destroy democracy itself, for both parties. We don’t know who tried to kill congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (she appears to be still alive) and we should be very cautious in drawing any conclusions yet about why. But we can know that, whoever tried to kill her and for whatever reason, political rhetoric involving words like “target” and “gun-sights” is inherently irresponsible.

Paul Krugman joined the piling on at his New York Times blog:

We don’t have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was. She’s been the target of violence before. And for those wondering why a Blue Dog Democrat, the kind Republicans might be able to work with, might be a target, the answer is that she’s a Democrat who survived what was otherwise a GOP sweep in Arizona, precisely because the Republicans nominated a Tea Party activist. (Her father says that “the whole Tea Party” was her enemy.) And yes, she was on Sarah Palin’s infamous “crosshairs” list.

And, before we even knew one thing about the shooter, one diarist at Daily Kos called on Sarah Palin to accept responsibility for the crime:

What will the answer be this time?  Will Sarah Palin show that she has any iota of substance in her being, and any sense of the power of fire?  Will she own up to her responsibility?  Will the major media step up to do its job, or is it completely beyond any redemption?  Will we have to turn again to Jon Stewart to give us comfort that at least one individual of integrity works in the media?

As this excellent piece at Politico notes, the eagerness with which the partisans jumped all over this story before the barrel of the gun was even cool says as much about the current state of our political system as the rhetoric they were purporting to condemn:

A few days, or at the very least, a few hours – in an earlier era, people would have taken a breath before plunging into a remorseless debate about the political implications of an obscene act of violence.

Not in this era.

Within minutes after a gunman’s shots—bullets that killed a federal judge, a nine-year-old girl and four others, and left a congresswoman clinging to life—activists of all stripes were busy, first on Twitter and blogs, then on cable television, chewing on two questions that once would have been indelicate to raise before the blood was dry:

Who in American politics deserves a slice of blame for the Tucson murders? And what public officials find themselves with sudden opportunities for political gain from a tragedy?

By day’s end, the argument that the political right—fueled by anti-government, and anti-immigrant passions that run especially strong in Arizona—is culpable for the Tucson massacre, even if by indirect association, seemed to be validated by the top local law enforcement official investigating the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D).

“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 country is getting to be outrageous,” said Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, an elected Democrat, at a news conference Saturday evening. “And unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

(…)

One veteran Democratic operative, who blames overheated rhetoric for the shooting, said President Barack Obama should carefully but forcefully do what his predecessor did.

“They need to deftly pin this on the tea partiers,” said the Democrat. “Just like the Clinton White House deftly pinned the Oklahoma City bombing on the militia and anti-government people.”

Another Democratic strategist said the similarity is that Tucson and Oklahoma City both “take place in a climate of bitter and virulent rhetoric against the government and Democrats.”

James Joyner has already done an excellent job of showing that the hand-wringing over Palin’s “targeted districts” map is pretty silly when you consider that it’s a concept that has been used in political fundraising for decades, but even this morning that isn’t stopping the chattering classes from using the Giffords shooting as another opportunity for a navel-gazing discussion about the state of political rhetoric in the United States. In today’s New York Times, for example, Carl Hulse and Kate Zernike have a piece saying that the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords puts “a new focus” on vitriol in American politics:

WASHINGTON — The shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and others at a neighborhood meeting in Arizona on Saturday set off what is likely to be a wrenching debate over anger and violence in American politics.

While the exact motivations of the suspect in the shootings remained unclear, an Internet site tied to the man, Jared Lee Loughner, contained antigovernment ramblings. And regardless of what led to the episode, it quickly focused attention on the degree to which inflammatory language, threats and implicit instigations to violence have become a steady undercurrent in the nation’s political culture.

Clarence W. Dupnik, the Pima County sheriff, seemed to capture the mood of the day at an evening news conference when he said it was time for the country to “do a little soul-searching.”

“It’s not unusual for all public officials to get threats constantly, myself included,” Sheriff Dupnik said. “That’s the sad thing about what’s going on in America: pretty soon we’re not going to be able to find reasonable, decent people willing to subject themselves to serve in public office.”

(…)

Not since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 has an event generated as much attention as to whether extremism, antigovernment sentiment and even simple political passion at both ends of the ideological spectrum have created a climate promoting violence.

There is a major difference, though, between the Oklahoma City bombing and this shooting. It was fairly clear almost from the beginning that there was a domestic angle to the bombing of the Murrah Building, and the fact that it occurred on the anniversary of both the disastrous end of the Waco Siege (which had become a major rallying cry for the so-called “Patriot” movement in the 1990s) and the Battle of Lexington and Concord made it obvious what the motive behind the attack was even before Timothy McVeigh was arrested. That’s not so here. Notwithstanding the efforts of the chattering class and many on the left to tie this shooting to “Tea Party rhetoric” or statements by politicians like Sarah Palin and Sharron Angle, it’s fairly obvious that Jared Lee Loughner is a deeply disturbed, paranoid individual who doesn’t even appear to have an connections to the Tea Party movement, or any political movement for that matter. Turning his actions into a debate about political “rhetoric” is sort of like reacting to the Jeffrey Dahmer story by having a debate about dietary standards.

Rick Moran notes over at his place the absurdity of trying to connect the words of political leaders and pundits to the actions of a lunatic:

Here’s the bottom line. It is the height of idiocy to posit that the motivations of humans who commit such heinous acts are as simple as many on the left make them out to be. The mind is a terribly complex organ and to try and make the gobsmackingly stupid direct connection between something anyone says or does, and the act of violence itself is giggle-worthy. This is especially true in broken and smashed minds like Mr. Loughner.

Trying to draw a line from something Hannity or Palin, or any other conservative says and a light going off in Loughner’s head demonstrates a cluelessness that proves partisan intent rather than any profound psychological truth. It also shows a laughable ignorance of how the mind works – even among those with a healthy psyche. The armchair psychologists on the left who continue to ascribe logical connections to an illogical mind can’t really be serious, can they? They have to know that it is more than likely that a voice in Loughner’s head told him to kill the congresswoman for reasons having nothing to do with politics.

We go through this exercise every time there’s violence like this. One side or the other tries to make political hay out of tragedy with no more knowledge of what drove the perpetrator to violence than my pet cat Aramas.

Honestly, I think cats might have a better insight into human behavior than we do, but more broadly Rick is absolutely correct here.  Yes, there is a time and a place to condemn violent or stupid political rhetoric, and I’ve done so more than once in the five years that I’ve been blogging. At the same time, though, it is both the height of stupidity and a dangerous trap to fall into. Stupid for the reasons Rick notes in the piece linked above. Dangerous because once you start accepting the idea that a speaker can be held responsible for the actions of the random lunatic who might have heard what they say, then it isn’t too far to go till you get to the argument that certain type of speech needs to be “regulated,” which is another word for banned.

After all, if Sarah Palin’s “targeted districts” map is ripe for criticism as an example of bringing violent imagery into political rhetoric, then what about this from the guy who eventually became the President of the United States:

“If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” Obama said at a Philadelphia fundraiser Friday night. “Because from what I understand folks in Philly like a good brawl. I’ve seen Eagles fans.”

Politics stirs up strong passions, that’s a fact that has been true throughout American history. Those who see the last several years as proof that we’ve gone down hill have quite obviously forgotten history. America’s Revolutionary Era was full of violent rhetoric even before the first gun was fired. The rhetoric surrounding the Elections of 1800 and 1860, as well as the rhetoric in the years leading up to the Civil War, was incredibly violent (does nobody remember the fact that a Senator was caned, nearly do death, by a Congressman on the floor of the Senate in the 1850s?). Compared to those eras, what we see today, while it may be louder and more easily accessible thanks to 24 hour cable news and the internet, is positively peaceful.

There’s only one person responsible for the actions of Jared Lee Loughner, and his name is Jared Lee Loughner. Rather than spending the next week or two gazing into our collective navels and decrying “heated political rhetoric,” let’s focus on the victims and on making sure something like this doesn’t happen again.

Update: Jazz Shaw has another excellent take on this whole issue over at Hot Air’s Green Room:

One phrase which some partisans on the port side of the political ship seem to hate at times is the conservative mantra of personal responsibility. To my way of thinking, this ties in to the entire concept of the worst elements of the nanny state, where it is not only the government’s job to protect us from ourselves, but the same government becomes liable if it fails to stop us from doing something insane, even if there were no obvious red flags available to call attention to the situation before it ripened.

The fact of the matter is that personal responsibility is a required cornerstone of an open, democratic society such as ours. Everyone must be their own first guardian and must stand ready to be held accountable for their actions.

And personal responsibility means that even if you hear a political leader say something “heated,” it’s still your choice to go to the Safeway on a Saturday morning and kill six people.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. ponce says:

    And the other threats against and attacks on other members of Congress that have happened since the wingnuts started braying about “2nd Amendment solutions” to the librul problem?

    Also not connected in any way?

    The Right can’t help it if their crazy rhetoric spurs some of their supports to act on it?

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  2. alkali says:

    I don’t think this works. Yes, this shooter was almost certainly mentally ill, but a key reason to avoid overheated and violent political rhetoric is that we all know that there are people out there who will irrationally take action based on that rhetoric.

    To put it another way, if a prominent political commentator and said, “Politician X is a traitor and should be shot, dead,” it is substantially likely that anyone who would pick up a gun based on that statement would be mentally ill. That does not mean that making that statement is a morally neutral act.

    That said, as a factual matter, I agree that there is no evidence connecting the Palin website graphic to this shooter, and ascribing responsibility for this shooting to Palin is absurd.

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  3. Anon says:

    Palin’s map was clearly meant to be metaphorical. Angle’s comments are another matter, however. They should have been condemned by GOP leaders in very strong terms.

    …people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I’ll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.

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  4. Brummagem Joe says:

    After the Joyner rationalisation comes the Mataconis rationalisation. Years of inflammatory rhetoric on cable tv and talk radio echoed or ignored by Republican politicians; easy access to guns particularly in red states like AZ which allow loonies like Loughner to walk around with concealed weapons. How could anyone, anyone, possibly think there’s any connection whatever between the shooting of Gifford and extreme political activism. What a silly suggestion. As Doug say we need to stop talking about inessentials and start focussing on preventing this happening again. How would you suggest Doug? Even more inflammatory rhetoric and making the carrying of guns over the age of 18 mandatory?

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  5. Pete says:

    Alkali, are you equating making incendiary comments in the political theater today to ” yelling fire in a crowded theater?”

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  6. Rock says:

    When the President of the United States, The Department of Homeland Security, The Justice Department, and the News Media demonize you or the state you live in long enough, how long will it be before some blithering idiot strikes a blow for justice?

    If there is a political component to this, given the insane rhetoric by the above and those on the left against Alaska, former Governor Palin, Arizona, and Gov. Jan Brewer, I’m not surprised that something like this would eventually happen. But I am surprised at who the targets were.

    But here we are, a little more than 24 hours after the shooting and the news media has absolved itself from any responsibility, the politicians ran for cover and divorced themselves from their inflammatory statements of the past, betting on the short attention span of the public, and the barking moonbats have called for the heads of Palin, Beck, Limbaugh, and Hannity. Total insanity reigns.

    Obviously the killer acted alone and was a typical village idiot nurtured by an educational and legal system devoid of values, and encouraged by the attitude that anything goes as long as he can claim freedom of speech and insanity as a defense. We know that bleeding hearts everywhere will leap to his defense as a victim of society, and blame everyone except him for his actions.

    I’m waiting breathlessly for the DOJ to arrest Palin, Beck, Limbaugh, and Hannity and Tea Party activist as accessory to murder by inciting Village Idiots into action. Meanwhile the press will continue to piss on everyone’s boots and anoint their gods with absolution.

    Can’t we at least wait until the dead are buried before slinging feces?

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  7. Modulo Myself says:

    Look, the right and conservatives have completely embraced a paranoid and marginalized vision of America that from the zone of relative sanity converges directly with the logic of someone who appears to be schizophrenic.

    For example, if Glenn Beck was a nobody who committed some act of violence, everyone would be nodding in agreement at the ‘disturbed’ diagnosis when his Youtube videos were found.

    Instead, he’s not a nobody. He plays or is a deranged paranoid imbecile on television, and is cheered for it, or at least tolerated and explained away.

    Extend this to cover the people who think we need to take America and the Constitution back from socialism and Mitt Romney’s health care plan, or that scientists have created the global warming hoax, or that immigrants and minorities are screwing over white people (with the government’s help, as Limbaugh and Beck so graciously point out), or that the government operates as a tyranny because it taxes, and you have today’s modern Republican party, all with anger, guns, a deep sense of victimization, and as much connection to reality as Loughner seemed to have.

    Instead, you guys are melting down and pretending to be deep students of human behavior…

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  8. The idea that we should all take time to reflect on the incident and mourn the victims before we jump into political discourse and an attempt to frame the issue in a way that supports our own position is admirable. However, it’s also unrealistic. All aspects of politics have become more real time, with every side and every individual jumping to get their point heard amid the clamor. Asking liberal Democrats, as reasonable people, to opt out of this behavior is like asking for unilateral nuclear disarmament.

    It’s hard to see from here how we fix the political discourse in America. The most likely options I see require a more sophisticated electorate, more benevolent politicians, or some kind of deus ex machina. I say most likely options; none of them is particularly likely.

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  9. PD Shaw says:

    I think Doug understates the history. I was just reading today that my state’s constitution once required elected official to swear they had hadn’t ever been involved in a dual (accepted, challenged, stood as a second or otherwise) as part of the oath of office.

    Of course, didn’t stop people involved in duals from taking office; that would have been impractical.

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  10. george says:

    So, if violent imagery in political debate creates violence, when do we impeach Obama for talking about bringing a gun? And how about those maps the democrats used, as shown in Joyce’s article?

    Both sides do this all the time, because sane people understand metaphors. And insane people are going to do crazy violent things in any case – like the fellow in Manitoba who cut off a fellow passenger’s head recently because the voiced in his head told him to do so.

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  11. swift boater says:

    Doug,

    you know that this guy was a committed leftist. I am sure you do.

    And you know that he is on record as saying that Giffords vote against Nancy Pelosi for minority leader was the final straw, her sell out was complete.

    So this off the wall leftist shot Giffords for not being left enough, the way Oswald, a Communist shot JFK for not being left enough.

    Or Ray, a lifelong Dem shot MLK.

    Or Sirhan SIrhan, a Palestinian nationalist shot RFK for not siding with them.

    Take a look at these four examples, all Dems and/or leftists perpetrating political violence.

    Of course we can go back to Lincoln and the KKK, the terrorist organization of the Democratic South if you like, but it wont matter, all who want to can keep pretending its conservatives acting upon violent tendencies..

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  12. Herb says:

    I think you may regret this post in the coming days. Crazy or not, “heated political rhetoric” influenced this man’s actions. It seems more than appropriate that it’s part of the debate.

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  13. ponce says:

    “if Glenn Beck was a nobody who committed some act of violence, everyone would be nodding in agreement at the ‘disturbed’ diagnosis when his Youtube videos were found.”

    How true MM.

    And conversely, if the shooter’s YouTube rants had come to the attention of the “Right” people he could have been a rising young star on Fox News or Pajamas Media today.

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  14. tps says:

    Herb: Prove it.

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  15. Davebo says:

    I think you may regret this post in the coming days.

    I’ve seen nothing in Doug’s posting history to suggest that. Though I may well have missed it.

    And this isn’t a slam on Doug, just an observation.

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  16. john personna says:

    I had thought I’d said enough on this topic. I said things like:

    I don’t think Sarah Palin wants to hurt anyone. I don’t think sane people listening to her are going to go out and hurt everyone. The danger in any metaphor that skirts violent imagery isn’t with those. It’s with the nutters who aren’t going to understand the real message.

    We want rhetoric that will empower the rational, and calm the irrational.

    and

    There may be a few odd people who are blaming Tea Partiers in general, Bigfoot. I have no problem saying those people are wrong. In fact, the more they think is “is” the Tea Party the more likely they are on the crazy scale themselves.

    What I’m saying was that the violent imagery was a mistake, and should have been taken on earlier. Not even because of this. Because, as James says, we saw it as a bad idea before this even happened.

    The Tea Party can make their message without the gun metaphors, and they can turn back people who show up with guns to peaceful political rallies.

    There are certainly people who are going too far in their criticism of Palin and the Tea Party, but I’m afraid that you go too far in your defense, Doug. You make me feel sad all over.

    You are really saying that we cannot even talk about violent imagery, but why exactly? Talking about it is hurtful to people who defended it, before this happened?

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  17. john personna says:

    And on what a note you ended:

    And personal responsibility means that even if you hear a political leader say something “heated,” it’s still your choice to go to the Safeway on a Saturday morning and kill six people.

    Maybe in your lawyerly way you think that’s the best you’ve got, but it hardly calls to our higher principles as a nation, does it?

    You really just said “let’s have the rhetoric, it’s all the nutters’ fault for believing it.”

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  18. ponce says:

    “You really just said “let’s have the rhetoric, it’s all the nutters’ fault for believing it.””

    I think it’s more, “Let’s talk about anything other than how this psycho legally bought a gun.”

    Anything.

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  19. john personna says:

    What’s the original page look like, hater? Is the bullseye graphic on it, or was it added for illustration.

    FWIW, bullseyes are used in carnival games:

    http://www.kaboodle.com/reviews/bulls-eye-bean-bag-toss

    While I agree that it is a fuzzy relative scale, there is certainly less “lethality” in one image than the other. But, I am not an expert in visual communications, nor do I play one on TV.

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  20. PJ says:

    @george:

    “Both sides do this all the time, because sane people understand metaphors.”

    Both sides, my ass.

    what’s “Second Amendment remedies” a metaphor for?

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  21. ratufa says:

    1) People are ultimately responsible for their own actions.

    2) At the same time, it’s not a contradiction to say that people’s actions are influenced by outside factors and that intemperate rhetoric may influence people “on the edge” to commit violent acts. We have little problem believing this in other contexts. For example, one may believe that anti-American propaganda by Al Jazeera may be a factor in increasing violence against Americans.

    3) In light of point 2, personal responsibility cuts both ways. If your public speech includes incitements to violence, thinly veiled or explicit, you are not responsible for what some listener does. But, you are responsible for your own speech, and prudent people should consider the effects that their words may have.before they open their piehole.

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  22. Eric Florack says:

    Was the declaration of independence “Heated Political Rhetoric”?
    I’m just curious where the border of your definition is.

    Also, in looking at the guy’s YOU TUBE account, it seems clear he was a left leaner. So why are so many willing to blame the right, I wonder?

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  23. Jay Tea says:

    I think you may regret this post in the coming days. Crazy or not, “heated political rhetoric” influenced this man’s actions. It seems more than appropriate that it’s part of the debate.

    The alleged shooter (I WILL NOT use his name) ranted about how stupid, illiterate, and ignorant the masses were, and how only he had seen The Truth. That particular genus of lunatic is NOT going to look to “stupid” people like Palin and the Tea Party for inspiration or instructions.

    Yes, there are some who would. But not this kind. Not the drug-addled, mentally-ill, hard-left nuts.

    Who are solely responsible for their actions.

    Unless you’d like to look at the college that was so terrified at his outbursts and threats in classes that they were convinced he would get violent… and said and did nothing, not even notifying authorities that he was getting more and more deranged. They have their silence on their conscience.

    J.

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  24. michael reynolds says:

    No, it is always time to condemn hateful, violent rhetoric.

    And do not dare to pretend that gun violence can simply be casually dis-associated from the gun fetish of the right wing. There may be heated rhetoric on both sides, but 1) there’s a hell of a lot more coming from the right and 2) only the right worships the gun.

    This is absolutely the time to talk about inflammatory rhetoric and absolutely the time to talk about the sick gun-worship of people on your side, Doug. I understand you and James don’t want to be associated with the cult of the gun but too goddamned bad: they’re your people.

    You lie down with these people and you wake up with flees. Here’s a thought: stop lying down with them.

    Your side and mine often disagree, but only your side talks about “reloading.” Only your side indulges in these violent fantasies, posturing as freedom fighters who have to “water the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots.”

    Whether or not any of this is connected to Loughner, there is a deep, abiding sickness on your side, Doug. I understand you want your tax breaks and whatever the hell else in your mind excuses your on-going political partnership with these people, but this attempt by reasonable conservatives like you and James to shut everyone up lest we blurt out some uncomfortable truths about this sickness on your side of the aisle, makes it all the more important that you be ignored.

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  25. Ronin says:

    All of a sudden the Tea Partiers are calling for calm and for people to tone down the rhetoric and not jump to conclusions. That’s a switch!

    Here’s just one of the shooter’s YouTube quotes:

    “In conclusion, reading the second United States Constitution, I can’t trust the current government because of the ratifications: the government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar,” he writes in one video posting. “No! I won’t pay debt with a currency that’s not backed by gold and silver! ”

    That’s plenty of evidence. There’s more and more stuff coming out showing him to be anti-abortion, anti-immigrant, anti-government, pro-gold standard, racist, etc. Right out of the extreme Tea Party playbook. Oh and he targeted a Democrat too. All your tortured rhetorical gymnastics can’t deny these facts.

    What’s great is that Giffords survived and the Tea Party failed — again. So although the Tea Baggers are clearly crazy and violent we can thank God they are also incompetent.

    Sorry Tea Partiers. This is all on you.

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  26. Jay Tea says:

    Sorry, Ronin. You’re entitled to your opinion, but not your own facts.

    The nutjob had a long history of being predominantly a leftist, but with some ideas that appeal to some on the right. He was more of a “one from Column A, five from Column B” political theorist, with no real coherency.

    He seemed upset that Gifford wasn’t sufficiently leftist enough.

    Which side “owns” him? Neither. He owns himself, and his deeds. But you’re NOT going to push him on the other side just to make yourself feel better.

    As I noted, he ranted about how “stupid” and “ignorant” the masses are. A psycho with that kind of sense of superiority is NOT going to fall in with — let alone be a puppet of — “stupid” people like Palin and the Tea Party.

    Now, if he’d ranted about Commies and socialists and being a patriot and taking his country back, then you’d have even a shred of credibility. But in the taxonomy of nutjobs, his rhetoric places him on… well, not your side, but certainly on your end of the spectrum.

    J.

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  27. ponce says:

    “it seems clear he was a left leaner.”

    Haha, is that you Jonah Goldberg?

    Let’s not forget this guy shot a Democratic Congresswoman before trying to deny he was a wingnut.

    This isn’t Fox News…

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  28. michael reynolds says:

    Jay Tea:

    Why don’t you explain to us again how you’ll balance the budget by cutting the department of education?

    The nutjob had a long history of being predominantly a leftist, but with some ideas that appeal to some on the right. He was more of a “one from Column A, five from Column B” political theorist, with no real coherency.

    You can’t get through your own absurd statement without contradicting yourself. He had a “long history of being predominantly a leftist” and yet he had no real coherency. Which is it?

    He was 22. He doesn’t have along history of anything. What he had was a gun which he used to shoot a Democratic congresswoman and a bunch of other people. His target was a DEMOCRATIC congresswoman. He shot a DEMOCRATIC congresswoman in the head. Evidence in your weak and utterly dishonest mind that he was a “leftist.”

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  29. Ronin says:

    Comment in violation of site policies deleted.

    Those wishing to buy advertising should send inquiries to otb@blogads.com

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  30. Jay Tea says:

    lord save us from the frothing ideologues…

    Look, the guy’s old classmate — a well-established liberal — says he was always on the left.

    He was a supporter of GIffords as recently as 2007.

    His contempt for the “stupid” people could come straight out of any of Doug’s anti-Palin pieces.

    He lists of favorite books included Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto.

    His favorite video featured a US flag burning (something that is the hallmark of every single Tea Party event, as I recall).

    You don’t have to own him, but you don’t get to push him into my camp.

    J.

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  31. Patricia says:

    I am a psychotherapist with a Ph.D in Psychology. Toxic rhetoric–from either “side”–incites dangerous behavior in unstable people. Period. More responsibility and fewer excuses (or fancy footwork), please.

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  32. Herb says:

    “Herb: Prove it.”

    He targeted a Congresswoman and he engaged in his own “heated political rhetoric” all over the internet. What is there to prove?

    “Also, in looking at the guy’s YOU TUBE account, it seems clear he was a left leaner. So why are so many willing to blame the right, I wonder?”

    Why are so many willing to blame the left?

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  33. jwest says:

    Loughner probably was influenced by media figures and heated rhetoric.

    But since the only person interviewed who actually knew him said he was “radically left”, the only thing we don’t know is if the heated rhetoric that drove him to murder came from Ed Shultz or Keith Olbermann.

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  34. Jay Tea says:

    Finally, the nutjob had no coherent political philosophy — that’s pretty much the definition of “nutjob.” He had no ideological loyalty or purity, just his craziness. He needed help, and instead was shunned and feared and ignored and tolerated.

    Now six people are dead, because people who saw something, didn’t say something. All, in all likelihood, out of fears of “not wanting to ruin his life” or “get involved” or risk invoking his wrath.

    He is psychotic. What’s YOUR excuse?

    J.

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  35. michael reynolds says:

    Jay:

    As usual you have nothing. Not a link, not a piece of evidence, not a shred of logic. You just regurgitate tea party talking points. And when confronted you still have nothing. Vapor.

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  36. Eric Florack says:

    Let’s not forget this guy shot a Democratic Congresswoman before trying to deny he was a wingnut.

    Because she wasn’t liberal enough.
    Just ask Kos.

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  37. Eric Florack says:

    But since the only person interviewed who actually knew him said he was “radically left”, the only thing we don’t know is if the heated rhetoric that drove him to murder came from Ed Shultz or Keith Olbermann.

    Or, just leftie blogs.

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  38. john personna says:

    I like to think I’ve taken the line Patricia suggests.

    Don’t get too fancy folks.

    Just say the violent imagery wasn’t such a good idea, and now is not the time to pretend otherwise.

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  39. PJ says:

    “Because she wasn’t liberal enough.”

    He was, as pointed out by Ronin:
    -a gun nut
    -anti-government
    -anti-abortion
    -anti-immigrant
    -pro gold standard

    And he tried to kill a Democrat for not being liberal enough?

    Pray tell, in what way?

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  40. sam says:

    @Doug

    “The tragic shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others in Arizona has started another debate about political rhetoric. It’s a stupid debate, and it’s utterly pointless.”

    I’ll tell you what’s stupid and pointless — the arguments about who “owns” this boy. All the evidence points to him suffering a severe mental disorder. So severe, that arguing that political principles and theories could gain a purchase and exert traction in such an unhinged personality, calls into question the seriousness of the folks engaged in this fvcked up “debate”.
    Nothing in these mudfests betrays the slightest bit of respect or sympathy for the victims of this terrible act. Instead, you use it as a just one more data point in your little chickenshit forever war.

    You all should be ashamed of yourselves.

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  41. john personna says:

    Don’t say “all” Sam. Read with some discretion.

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  42. sam says:

    I meant all who’re arguing, “See, he’s one of your’s” — those people. Silly asses.

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  43. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Reynolds, your picture makes you look like the next nut case. Jay Tea provided all the information anyone with a double digit IQ could understand, which, Michael leaves you wanting. The shooter did mention the Congresswomans failure to support Nancy Pelosi as minority leader was the LAST STRAW. I know you have some stupid retort to that, so let us have it. For God sakes, put the other picture back up. It was bad enough but the current one could scare small children.

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  44. george says:

    @PJ

    “@george:

    “Both sides do this all the time, because sane people understand metaphors.”

    Both sides, my ass.

    what’s “Second Amendment remedies” a metaphor for?”\

    Did you read James’ earlier post, where he shows the ‘targets’ used by the democrats? How about Obama talking about bringing a gun to a knife fight? Violent metaphors are part of politics, and yes, both sides do it (unless the Democrats and Obama are now conservatives?). I’d say the Republicans are doing it more currently, the left was more interested in ‘smashing the state’ in the 60′s and 70′s when they felt on the outside; but both sides do it.

    And actually, I have no idea what “Second Amendment remedies” means, either as a metaphor or a literal statement. Its just vague political talk, rather than a concrete program.

    Look, if citizens can’t distinguish between metaphor or fiction and reality then all is lost anyway … if you can’t trust your citizens at even that level then you might as well pack it in.

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  45. john personna says:

    George, should I really worry about what bring to a knife fight?

    I think we’re worried about what people bring to political rallies.

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  46. john personna says:

    Maybe I’m late noticing this old one, dated 8/19/2009:

    Do Guns at Political Events Disturb You? Then Consider Skipping Arizona for Now

    See, this is one of those things that bothers me. It’s one of those things we were told we shouldn’t complain about then. Before this happened. Look at the first comment there:

    “Are they individuals ‘extremists’ because they choose to exercise their rights? WOW this one is way off base. Stick to travel, not politics.”

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  47. george says:

    “George, should I really worry about what bring to a knife fight?

    I think we’re worried about what people bring to political rallies.

    Again, I’m not sure there’s much difference in what the radicals on both wings bring. Consider the latest anti-G20 protests in Toronto, cars set ablaze, windows smashed with bricks, tear gas … how does that compare to the Tea Party rallies?

    There are nut cases on both sides, and my suspicion is that a lot of them go to both kinds of rallies, because they’re there for the violent release rather than because they particularly believe in anything.

    Right now I think the conservatives have more violent imagery than the liberals did under Bush, but I don’t think the difference is particularly striking. And both are tame compared to what you typically see on TV or movies …

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  48. john personna says:

    George, I’m very ready to say anti-G20 protests are crazy. I don’t endorse or defend them at all, or anyone else doing similar.

    To me it’s very simple to just say let’s reach for the goal: civil discourse.

    And building a wall to protect statements that were just ill-advised (a) isn’t required, and (b) doesn’t help. Just move on.

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  49. [...] “Heated Political Rhetoric” And The Giffords Shooting (outsidethebeltway.com) [...]

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  50. ponce says:

    “Because she wasn’t liberal enough.”

    Is that the best you guys can come up with?

    I gotta say I’m disappointed with the Republican’s shrill apologists work spinning this issue.

    I think it’s obvious even they don’t believe what they’re spewing.

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  51. It was fairly clear almost from the beginning that there was a domestic angle to the bombing of the Murrah Building, and the fact that it occurred on the anniversary of both the disastrous end of the Waco Siege (which had become a major rallying cry for the so-called “Patriot” movement in the 1990s) and the Battle of Lexington and Concord made it obvious what the motive behind the attack was even before Timothy McVeigh was arrested.

    By that logic, we can conclude that the 9/11 attacks were obviously the work of Scottish Nationalists, coming as it did on the anniversary of both the Battle of Stirling Bridge and the Scottish Parliament’s vote to devolve from the United Kingdom.

    Now obviously we later learned of militia movement’s involvement, but to argue we could tell that a priori based solely on potentially conicidental historical anniversaries is a completely ridiculous argument.

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  52. JJ says:

    He also thought there was a conspiracy by the government to indoctrinate people with the Bible, listed both Mein Kempf and The Communist Manifesto among his favorite books, and was really upset about Gifford not voting for Pelosi as Minority Leader. These aren’t tea party talking points, just the opposite in many cases. He had no coherent ideology and

    Oh, and “anti-government” isn’t just a right-wing libertarian thing. In Europe, for example, anarchists tend to be left-wing socialists. Karl Marx was anti-government, at least in its existing form. Just like how fascism and communist totalitarianism are pretty similar even though they’re opposites in theory, both sides have extreme anarchy-or-close-to-it wings that have plenty in common.

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  53. matt says:

    Oh good grief… We’ve reached the point where serial killers and mass murderers now have their potential political views dissected and argued over…Here’s an idea you might want to consider. The dude was a crazy nutjob and not everyone fits into your neat little left or right stereotypes…

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  54. anjin-san says:

    Let me ask you something Doug. How many OTB posters that you associate with “the left” have you ever seen threaten to shoot/kill another poster over a political disagreement? I personally have had 2 posters from “the right” on OTB say that they had guns and were prepared to shoot me. It was disturbing enough that I considered, and am still considering giving up political blogging, something I enjoy.

    So have you EVER seen a left/Democratic poster in here threaten to shoot someone? Even once?

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  55. ponce says:

    “Oh, and “anti-government” isn’t just a right-wing libertarian thing. ”

    Let’s just be thankful that this horrible event will further ostracize the anti-government extremists in our midst.

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  56. athiest hater says:

    Extreme hate-filled left-wing rhetoric:

    •“If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.” Barack Obama in July 2008

    •“I want you to argue with them and get in their face!” Barack Obama, September 2008

    •“Here’s the problem: It’s almost like they’ve got — they’ve got a bomb strapped to them and they’ve got their hand on the trigger. You don’t want them to blow up. But you’ve got to kind of talk them, ease that finger off the trigger.” Barack Obama on banks, March 2009

    •“I don’t want to quell anger. I think people are right to be angry! I’m angry!” Barack Obama on ACORN Mobs, March 2010

    •“We talk to these folks… so I know whose ass to kick.” Barack Obama on the private sector, June 2010

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  57. matt says:

    Something about a dude named “athiest hater” complaining about “hate-filled” rhetoric cracks me up. Then I read his “examples” and fell into a completely uncontrollable laughter…

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  58. [...] “Heated Political Rhetoric” And The Giffords Shooting (outsidethebeltway.com) [...]

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  59. george says:

    John:

    To me it’s very simple to just say let’s reach for the goal: civil discourse.”

    No argument there.

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  60. mantis says:

    The pristine, principled logic of Jay Tea:

    The nutjob had a long history of being predominantly a leftist,

    not this kind. Not the drug-addled, mentally-ill, hard-left nuts.

    But in the taxonomy of nutjobs, his rhetoric places him on… well, not your side, but certainly on your end of the spectrum.

    you don’t get to push him into my camp

    GFY, Jay.

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  61. anjin-san says:

    Matt, mantis, WR, Michael… Perhaps we should simply stop engaging people such as JT, Bithead, Zels and so on. Remember the old adage about trying to teach a pig to sing. Has anything positive ever come out of any of those conversations?

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  62. Ronin says:

    Sorry Mantis. Jay Tea’s faulty logic is based on falsehoods.

    The shooter had a long history of being a conservative radical according to school administrators and teachers. He was in no way a liberal unless you choose to ignore all his stated beliefs and go on the speculation of ONE girl who was met him a couple times 4 years ago. But you are desperate so I see why you must choose one dubious speculation over overwhelming facts.

    Portion of comment in violation of site policies deleted.

    Those wishing to buy advertising should send inquiries to otb@blogads.com

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  63. mantis says:

    My point was that Jay is offended that some have claimed this guy is rightwing, while repeatedly claiming he is leftwing himself. That his claims are based on very flimsy evidence and contradicted by a number of other factual details is unsurprising. Most of his arguments are.

    A side note: I’d love to hear from those who always tell us gun control is wrong because then only the criminals have guns, and a well armed populace is the best crime deterrent. Please explain how at a public event in a state with some of the loosest gun laws in the country, this individual was able to fire more than 30 shots, even reloading, without being stopped by a gun-carrying, law-abiding citizen? Is making sure even the mentally ill can get weapons really worth it?

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  64. michael reynolds says:

    “Jay Tea” has once again pulled a disappearing act when asked to substantiate some of his claims.

    This is the same character whose only suggestion for balancing the budget was cutting the Department of Education.

    He’s a fraud.

    He tells a lie and people discuss it.

    He’s a less subte version of Doug who simply tells us we shouldn’t discuss anything. Or at least anything that might get in the way of whatever agenda he uses to rationalize his continued political alliance with people he despises.

    Here’s what I’d like to see from Doug and James: some explanation of why you’re both political allies of people like Glen Beck and his acolytes here.

    Yes, you do criticize them. Full props for that. But you’re still inside the tent pissing out rather than outside the tent pissing in. Why? Are tax cuts really all that matters? At what point does the rational “Menshevik” become responsible for the “Bolsheviks?” At what point are you just camouflage?

    I would love to see the two of you offer some non-evasive justification for your continued alliance with the GOP and the so-called conservative movement. What precisely are the issues that are so terribly important that you will give your votes to the Republican party?

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  65. michael reynolds says:

    Mantis:

    Thank you for making that point.

    This guy was brought down by un-armed citizens. All the gun-toting he-men of the west must have been at some other Safeway, because the first person to tackle him was an unarmed woman he’d already shot. So much for the armed populace.

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  66. anjin-san says:

    > This guy was brought down by un-armed citizens.

    And a citizen of the Netherlands, one of those much despised European socialist weenies, Jasper Schuringa, was they guy who heroically took on the “Christmas bomber” on flight 253 not all that long ago. I personally enjoy shooting guns and own several, but I also realize that heart and guts is either something you have or you don’t, you can’t buy it and put in in a holster.

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  67. anjin-san says:

    michael…

    Seriously, why don’t we start giving JT and his ilk exactly the attention they deserve, which is none at all? I am as guilty as anyone, I feed the idiots too.

    The difference between them and us is that they need us to engage them to justify their presence here, where as we actually have a few worthwhile things to say. I suggest we improve the level of discourse by not participating with the lowest common denominator(s).

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  68. Axel Edgren says:

    Jazz Shaw is an idiot – Loughner already is taking personal responsibility, it is being put on him by the feds.

    But the fact of the matter is that nutcases and the psychologically unstable are drawn and directed by exactly the kind of rhetoric Palin and many other republicans have used. They turned it all into warfare and militarized all their complaints against Obama.

    No one is trying to say Palin is an accomplice, you tools. Just that she and her ilk are irresponsible. Listen to what the sheriff in the affected county said. Again.

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  69. Axel Edgren says:

    “What precisely are the issues that are so terribly important that you will give your votes to the Republican party?”

    FASCISM! SOCIALISM!

    You know, real intellectual and reasonable grievances.

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  70. Jay Tea says:

    My apologies; I didn’t realize my going off to watch TV and get some sleep would have such deeper significance. I needed to boost my levels of surrealism, so I left you amateurs for the pros who produce “Desperate Housewives.”

    I was not trying to “prove” the nutjob in question was a liberal; I was pushing back against those who want to declare him a conservative, right-wing, Sarah-Palin-loving Tea Partier in clear defiance of known facts. This guy’s so-called “views” are all across the spectrum, and the unifying element is that the guy is plain nuts.

    Which a lot of people noticed, and not one of them did anything about. People were terrified of him snapping, he was even arrested for death threats, but no one did anything that might have headed this off.

    Unarmed people stopping terrorists is a good thing. Armed people have a better chance of succeeding. Depending on unarmed people to stop armed terrorists is beyond folly.

    Pretty much everything about this guy screams that he held Palin and the Tea Party movement in utter contempt, yet you STILL want to shove him in their corner. You insist that he must have been inspired by them, followed their covert orders, did their bidding. Why are you so desperate to push him away?

    J.

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  71. Axel Edgren says:

    “This guy’s so-called “views” are all across the spectrum, and the unifying element is that the guy is plain nuts.”

    Being anti-abortion is plain nuts? I agree, of course, but this was unexpected.

    “Pretty much everything about this guy screams that he held Palin and the Tea Party movement in utter contempt, yet you STILL want to shove him in their corner. ”

    Pretty much everything? He hasn’t said a word about them – apart from his hatred of the illiterate there is nothing to suggest he had particular animosity towards teepers.

    He shot a democrat and a judge that betrayed the right’s increasingly excessive and self-righteous anti-immigrant insanity. No one is saying maniacs like you wanted it to happen, but your kind of infantile, self-compassionate and demonizing rhetoric grabs the attention of people like Loughner most of all.

    No one is saying you anti-Obama crusaders and psychopaths turn sane people into murderers, but when you depict a select few politicians as the people whose fault everything bad is, the insane or at least unstable are precisely the ones who are dumb enough to believe you.

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  72. [...] from their muck to blame Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, and other assorted elements of the right. Doug Mataconis and Gabriel Malor identify some of the more prominent ghouls and respond to them, so I need not do [...]

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  73. MarkedMan says:

    Loughner seems to be seriously deranged and I doubt we’ll ever know how much influence anyone had over his actions. So I offer this thought experiment not to prove anything about him but to help clarify my own thinking. I repeat and emphasize, this is a thought experiement and has nothing to do with Loughner.

    1) Someone gets up to speak before a mob and starts rallying the crowd against their political opponent. That opponent is un-American, the worst threat America has ever faced, a sneaking saboteur the media and the members of the other party are too stupid, weak and spineless to understand. That opponent would never have been tolerated by our forefathers, who were patriotic, wise and not afraid to use second amendment remedies. The crowd, whipped into a frenzy, storms off, drags the opponent from his office and beats him to death on the street.

    2) Same scenario, but nothing happens at the rally. A year later, one member of that crowd buys a gun with an extended magazine, marches into the the opponent’s office and kills him.

    I think it is both acceptable and necessary to talk about the effects of violent, over-the-top rhetoric in the first instance. I’m having trouble coming up with a rationalization about why it is off-limits in the second.

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  74. anjin-san says:

    We have heard quite a bit about the KOS diarist who said Giffords was “dead to him”. Not much comment from the right about this: (via TPM)

    In March 2010, as he was preparing to vote for the health care law, conservative advocates published photos of then-Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-OH) with his family — and posted his address, and directions to his house — on the internet.

    Then-House Minority Leader John Boehner, who represents a district adjacent to the one Driehaus served, told a conservative magazine that Driehaus would be a “dead man” in Cincinnati if he voted for the legislation.

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  75. george says:

    I’m still not sure how Palin’s targets are more harmful than the portrayals of killing Bush that were common (use google if you doubt) during his presidency. They were even going to make a movie about an assassination. Both parties have used this kind of violent imagery for decades (probably since the revolution, though that’s just a guess) – and every once in awhile someone shoots a president or congress person … and both democrats and republicans have been targeted (the Kennedy’s, Ford, Reagan for instance) recently.

    Basically the problem is the lack of state funded care for the insane, and the lack of reasonable gun control laws. In a population of 300 million a certain percentage are always going to hear voices telling them to shoot an ‘evil’ politician.

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