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There Was A Shooting In Arizona, Sarah Palin Is Not The Story

Jonathan Martin takes to Politico this morning to argue that Saturday’s shooting in Arizona somehow represents a turning point for Sarah Palin:

With a long list of enemies, a taste for incendiary rhetoric and responsibility for a campaign website graphic that placed gunsight logos on a map of targeted congressional districts, it didn’t take long for Sarah Palin to get pulled into the orbit of Saturday’s massacre in Tucson.

So far, the former Alaska governor has said little, only posting a brief message on her Facebook page Saturday offering condolences to those affected by the shooting. But the rush on the left to affix some of the blame on her for the assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has suddenly turned the tragedy into a defining moment in Palin’s meteoric political career.

Whether she defends, explains or even responds at all to the intense criticism of her brand of confrontational politics could well determine her trajectory on the national scene—and it’s likely to reveal the scope of her ambitions as well.

Palin didn’t respond to an email Sunday afternoon. Her advisers are furious that she’s being linked to the tragedy, but recognize the delicacy of the situation and are trying to assess how best to halt it from spiraling further without making it any worse.

Part of Palin’s quandary is rooted in the unique spot she occupies. Since her resignation from the governorship in the summer of 2009, Palin has played a role that is part talk-show personality and part political figure. It’s a positioning that has served her well, creating personal wealth and celebrity appeal while energizing her core supporters.

But now, for the first time, Palin is being forced to choose between the public and private spheres she operates in. If she has any intentions of running for the presidency, she must begin to appeal to the country’s broad political center. And that task just got harder in the wake of Tucson.

Let’s be honest about it. The only reason that Palin may pay a political price because of the shooting in Arizona is because the media will have decided that she is the focus of the story, not because of anything she did. There’s no evidence that Jared Lee Loughner was any kind of a Palin follower or fan; in fact, his politics over the past several years seem to have been a bizarre mixture of far left, far right, and conspiracy theories. There’s also anecdotal evidence that he is, at least in some sense, mentally disturbed.Finally, it’s becoming clear that this individual had some kind of obsession with Giffords long before anyone outside of Alaska ever heard the name Sarah Palin.  How, exactly, Sarah Palin is responsible for the actions of such a person is beyond me, and I’m a guy who has very low regard for Palin to begin with.

There’s been much talk, of course, about the soon-to-be-infamous “target” map that Palin’s PAC used last year as part of its campaign against a group of Congressmen who had voted for the health care reform bill, but even there the argument comes up short. As James Joyner noted yesterday, the idea of the “target” map is one that didn’t originate with SarahPAC, and American politics has been filled with so-called “violent” rhetoric for two centuries now. The very word “campaign”, for example, has military origins:

A series of military operations undertaken to achieve a large-scale objective during a war

Political campaigns are always full of the idea that they’re involved in a kind of combat with the opposition, and acting as if Sarah Palin was the first person to come up with lines like “Don’t Retreat, Reload” is simply to ignore history and political reality.

That isn’t to say that Palin is without blame, of course. Her rhetoric has gone over the top on occasion, such as during the 2008 campaign when she spent a month trying to convince America that Barack Obama was a socialist who palled around with terrorists, or last summer when she threw gasoline on the simmering fire of the debate over the so-called “Ground Zero” mosque. More recently, her spokesperson’s assertion that the “target” map was really just surveyors symbols reveals a level of political naivete that makes one wonder if she and the people around her have any idea what they’re doing.  Nonetheless, Sarah Palin is not responsible for what happened in Tuscon on Saturday, she neither pulled the trigger nor said anything that comes even close to incitement to violence. This was the action of deranged mind, and as much as I dislike Sarah Palin and hope she never attains political power again, I am not going to hold her responsible for what Jared Loughner did. Neither should the rest of America.

Related Posts:

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. john personna says:

    So, you create a headline story for a popular political website called:

    “There Was A Shooting In Arizona, Sarah Palin Is Not The Story”

    … right

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  2. john personna says:

    As I just said in another thread here:

    Such are the moral complexities of our lives, Jay Tea.

    Sarah could have made the wrong choice in symbolism without being a bad person, let alone responsible for any later crazy-man’s act.

    It would just be misreading the moral question to say that because she wasn’t responsible, she wasn’t wrong.

    You’re making the “because she wasn’t responsible, she wasn’t wrong” argument, aren’t you?

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  3. Ronin says:

    Comment in violation of site policies deleted.

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  4. sam says:

    Nice effort, Doug, and I do agree that she’s not responsible for the tragedy. But when you make the conscious decision to turn your life into a 24×7 press release, injecting yourself into everything from the mosque in New York to the START treaty, with side trips to Dancing with the Stars and your own reality show, you can’t realistically expect a pass on this, can you?

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  5. michael reynolds says:

    One of the reasons not to talk crazy is that you end up finding yourself associated with crazy people, whether that was the intent or not.

    I’ve seen very few people saying Sarah Palin is responsible for this shooting. I’ve seen lots of people saying that Republican gun-worship is a contributing factor. And I’ve seen lots of people saying that when you have what appears to be a paranoid schizophrenic who has glommed onto the paranoid style currently practiced by the right, maybe it’s time to talk about that paranoid style.

    It’s true that individuals are responsible for their own actions. It’s also true that that includes loudmouths like Palin.

    Let me put this as openly as I can: we on the left are afraid of you on the right. We hear your paranoid rants, we hear your apocalyptic rhetoric, we hear your leaders talking about the need for blood to water the tree of liberty. We see your lingering race hatred. We know you contain if not embrace violent elements. And we know well your fetishization of guns.

    You are threatening us.

    We are your fellow Americans, and your side, Doug, is making violent threats against us, and violent threats against the president.

    You need to stop. I don’t think most of you intended the rhetoric to get to this point, but it has, and you need to stop. Stopping does not begin with you trying to camouflage or distract from this process. It starts with you admitting that the Republican party has deliberately pandered to the gun nuts, has openly embraced violent and threatening rhetoric — like the famous map — and that you have profited from lies intended to identify anyone on the left as alien, un-American, even treasonous.

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  6. john personna says:

    Let me put this as openly as I can: we on the left are afraid of you on the right. We hear your paranoid rants, we hear your apocalyptic rhetoric, we hear your leaders talking about the need for blood to water the tree of liberty. We see your lingering race hatred. We know you contain if not embrace violent elements. And we know well your fetishization of guns.

    Remember the story of the amygdalas.

    Conservatives have those guns because they are afraid. I’ve seen this in microcosm when conservative friends explained to me why they were buying “Obama election” guns and food stocks.

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  7. john personna says:

    (I may have just written one of those things that is too true to say openly.)

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  8. michael reynolds says:

    JP:
    Six of one, half dozen of the other. I’m afraid of armed people who are eternally afraid.

    But feeding that fear wins elections for Republicans. And good Republicans know that there’s no price too high to pay to ensure that the marginal tax rates don’t rise to 39%. What’s a little paranoia, a little violent posturing, a bit of race-baiting so long as the tax rates stay low?

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  9. Axel Edgren says:

    No one is saying they can prove causality.

    They are saying that Palin et al. increased the chances that one particular segment of the population would be the target of the ire of the less stable and more psychotic or conspiratorial.

    The latter is NOT an insidious, opportunist or overly political statement. It’s a very small jump.

    Do republicans cause bombing of abortion clinics or cruel treatment of non-heterosexuals? NO
    Do they slightly increase chances that such things happen by never reeling in their rhetoric? YES

    Same principle here. STOP THINKING IN LAZY DUALITIES (Caps lock is cruise control for measured discourse!)

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  10. john personna says:

    I guess that gets back to the core concern Michael. If Republican strategists know about the amygdalas, and I’m sure they do, then they know that stroking fear gets out the vote.

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  11. rodney dill says:

    All of the posts and comments on the shooting are beginning to sound like last Sunday’s Dilbert strip.

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  12. Boyd says:

    Some of you folks aren’t very self-aware. Or at least, are either unaware or are deliberately ignoring the rhetoric of your own political wing.

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  13. bandit says:

    “There was a shooting in Arizona AND the Tea Party, of which Palin is a leader, is involved”

    Complete and utter BS. He was without being redundant a lefty lunatic.

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  14. mantis says:

    I have no idea what made this individual do what he did, but it certainly doesn’t seem as though Palin was a factor at this time.

    acting as if Sarah Palin was the first person to come up with lines like “Don’t Retreat, Reload” is simply to ignore history and political reality.

    Is that the standard now? Nothing anyone says can be legitimately criticized unless they coined a phrase? Absurd.

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  15. wr says:

    “The only reason that Palin may pay a political price because of the shooting in Arizona is because the media will have decided that she is the focus of the story, not because of anything she did.”

    Which may be unjust on a basic level, but is insanely, hilariously just in a poetic sense. Because the only reason Palin has any role in the public sphere at all is tha the media has decided that she is always the focus of the story. No matter what happens in the world, no matter how little it has to do with a failed politician and TV hostess from Alaska, the press breathlessly repeats and hyperventiliates over whatever nonsense she’s spewed out on Twitter about the subject. Without Wolf and the others treating her as an important figure, she’d be as marginal as any other subliterate Fox personality.

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  16. Brummagem Joe says:

    Palin is just one brick in the wall of extremist rhetoric we hear from Republicans either for political, or in the case of people like Beck and Limbaugh, pecuniary advantage. Mataconis is not getting it because he doesn’t want to get it. No one is suggesting Loughner is a dedicated follower of Palin. He’s a nut case as these people usually are and such people are susceptible to the sort of nonsense we hear from the myriad of right wing rabble rousers of whom Palin is one. Add to that easy access to guns and the right to conceal them, which the law in AZ allows, and you have a perfect conditions for possible political assassinations. Mataconis knows all this as well as I do but because of the political implications he’s essentially muddying the water by claiming this is about Palin. It’s not, although the incident isn’t going to do her political (as distinct from her media) career much good outside of the hard core Republican right. Having seen the barrage of rationalisations over the last 48 hours from Republicans like Mataconis it’s fairly obvious there’s going to be no change in tone absent some popular backlash. If public revulsion starts to show up in opinion polls and ballot boxes, there will be some dialling back but otherwise it will be business as usual. Mataconis’ Republican cynicism is fairly appalling in strictly moral terms but I recognize it’s political utility.

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  17. Stan says:

    “we on the left are afraid of you on the right”

    We’ve passed from having liberal politicians afraid of losing their seats to having them afraid of losing their lives. That’s the point, isn’t it? Wasn’t physical intimidation a factor in the “Brooks Brothers riot” in Florida that shut down a vote counting session? And won’t every federal judge involved in immigration and health care cases and every Democratic congressman wondering whether to continue supporting liberal causes worry hard over their physical safety? Right now I’m smelling fascism, and I don’t use the term lightly.

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  18. PJ says:

    @Boyd
    “Some of you folks aren’t very self-aware. Or at least, are either unaware or are deliberately ignoring the rhetoric of your own political wing.”

    Feel free to join me in denouncing all violent rhetoric and those who use it. Not only in the past but also in the future.

    (We might disagree about if there’s more coming from one wing than the other, but that’s really beside the major issue here.)

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  19. Rock says:

    Perched to pounce!

    MSM Vulture (Catharsis aura)

    http://www.redstate.com/dia0420/2011/01/10/msm-vulture-catharsis-aura/

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  20. section9 says:

    Oh great. This is how liberals like to shut down debate, by making baseless accusations against their political opponents and pining for the next Reichstag Fire.

    Very safe prediction: the Left has overplayed its hand and Palin will turn out quite well. There is a downside to the Left not having total control of the media anymore. Watch.

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  21. floyd says:

    PRATTLE ON !
    Confounded discrepancy posing as consideration…. nothing new here.

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  22. Brummagem Joe says:

    section9 says:
    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 11:17
    “and pining for the next Reichstag Fire.”

    Godwin’s Law?

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  23. Jo Dougherty says:

    If you do not understand that the Rhetoric of this Palin person and the Tea Bagger’s is
    dangerous, just remember Hitler use Rhetoic to convince a whole nation of people that
    another group of people were responsible for the “Depression in Germany”, and whatever they did to them they deserved, sound to me like the aforementioned people are using the same tact.

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  24. Tom Mathers says:

    If the lefties/progressives/liberals have a similarly sized and sourced list, please provide:

    http://michellemalkin.com/2011/01/10/the-progressive-climate-of-hate-an-illustrated-primer-2000-2010/

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  25. An Interested Party says:

    @Tom Mathers: No problem…

    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2011/1/9/934563/-Guns,-God-and-Incitement

    I’m sure we could play this game all day…the bottom line is that there are irresponsible people on the left and the right and it is rather silly to try to pin this kind of thing on either side exclusively…

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  26. Axel Edgren says:

    “If the lefties/progressives/liberals have a similarly sized and sourced list, please provide:”

    Yeah no but see this didn’t result in anyone being the target of the segment of the population that is insane, right?

    Nutcases will always exist. They are *exactly* the kind of people you should consider before you design the messaging to be used against people you dislike. Palin et al. have not done this. Evidently.

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  27. Jay Tea says:

    mantis, old chum, you might want to get your smelling salts handy. The last time I spoke like this, you had a near-fatal attack of the vapors.

    Let me put this as openly as I can: we on the left are afraid of you on the right. We hear your paranoid rants, we hear your apocalyptic rhetoric, we hear your leaders talking about the need for blood to water the tree of liberty. We see your lingering race hatred. We know you contain if not embrace violent elements. And we know well your fetishization of guns.

    You are threatening us.

    Oh, bullshit, michael. You’re not scared of right-wingers with guns. You want to say you are, because it serves your political agenda. But you’re not.

    Because you’re not acting like it.

    If you were really scared of right-wingers with guns, you’d talk about how there are about 260 million guns in civilian hands in the US. And the vast majority of of those who have strong political leanings are conservative — because it’s conservatives that consider the 2nd Amendment to be an individual right, and are most likely to choose to exercise it. So you, by rights, ought to be scared shitless at those numbers.

    If you were scared, you wouldn’t make your snide little snipes at the right-wingers. You’d either say nothing, out of fear, or you’d be demanding the mass confiscation of arms from civilians, backed by the military. The very last thing you’d do is make little digs and use inflammatory rhetoric about how dangerous and unpredictable and scary they are, because that would only piss them off and draw attention to yourself.

    The vast, vast majority of gun owners are reasonable, rational, responsible people who take the responsibilities of gun ownership extremely seriously, and would never dream of acting irresponsibly with their guns. Especially over a pissant like you.

    So, then, why would you want to make conservatives so frightening? Because it suits your political agenda. To reinforce your own base. To sway ignorant or weak-willed moderates to your side, by scaring them away from the Big, Bad Right-Wingers With Their Big, Bad Guns. And to demonize your ideological opponents, for reasons that need no elaboration.

    (mantis, break out your clean panties now. You’re gonna need ’em.)

    But here’s what you should be scared of, michael. The danger of the self-fulfilling prophesy.

    How many times do you think you can lie about the dangerous right-wing gun owners and castigate them over things they have no control over, before one of them says “screw it, if I’m going to be punished for shit like this, I might as well go ahead and do it anyway. They can only hang me once?” You call people monsters over and over and over again, and sooner or later you just might convince some of them that they’re monsters.

    Won’t be me, michael. I don’t own any guns. Never have. Don’t think I ever will. No real interest in taking on that level of responsibility. But I once did live next door to a guy who owned several, including (legally) an automatic weapon. I lived in a shitty neighborhood, and I felt better knowing that if something bad happened, Bob (and his guns) were right next door.

    Thanks, michael. You’ve shown that there’s something worse than a coward. It’s someone who pretends to be a coward for personal and political gain.

    Fortunately, you’re not very good at it. That cuts into the harm you can cause with your fraud.

    J.

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  28. Axel Edgren says:

    Finally the old nutcase I starting to talk like a man, albeit a stupid one.

    Well, frankly, I don’t see how gun-owners are demonized or treated as liabilities or maniacs – the worst they get is Freudian jokes in the mass media, and of course the righteous mocking of the tinfoil hatters, cultists and wannabe-alpha males that riddle the refuse parts of the US.

    Another thing you are doing is making a sweeping claim about causality. You say the depiction of gun-loving right-wingers cause them to… Well, snap. Might be the other way around – that gun fetishists (and they are fetishizing the 2nd amendment) have been prone to do genuinely unpleasant things and that this causes the suspiciousness towards them.

    Right-wingers scare me politically. Democracy is flawed and they are generally acting like a bunch of desert-dwellers of yore. Their votes and lives should have no effect on upstanding, superior people like me. Homophobes or anti-secularists don’t deserve votes – that is a priori.

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  29. wr says:

    So Jay — Conservatives are brave, true, wonderful manly men… but they are also so sensitive that if people they’ve never met say mean things about them (not them specifically, mind you, but people like them), then they’re liable to snap and start murdering random strangers on the street because as long as they’re getting criticized, they might as well commit mass murder?

    You can’t have it both ways, Jay. Either these conservatives you talk about are wonderful human beings or they are incipient mass killers. Maybe you don’t see the contradiction, but it’s there.

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  30. mantis says:

    mantis, old chum, you might want to get your smelling salts handy. The last time I spoke like this, you had a near-fatal attack of the vapors.

    You flatter yourself, but you’re right about my reaction to what you have written. It’s the same as before. You reveal yourself to be yet another rightwing fantasist, dreaming of the day when liberal blood runs through the streets.

    If you were really scared of right-wingers with guns, you’d talk about how there are about 260 million guns in civilian hands in the US. And the vast majority of of those who have strong political leanings are conservative — because it’s conservatives that consider the 2nd Amendment to be an individual right, and are most likely to choose to exercise it. So you, by rights, ought to be scared shitless at those numbers.

    Shorter Jay Tea: Conservatives have more guns, and we really like to use them, so be afraid liberals. Be afraid for your lives.

    But here’s what you should be scared of, michael. The danger of the self-fulfilling prophesy.

    See, Jay likes to pre-build his excuses. If another rightwinger snaps and starts shooting people, Jay can just blame liberals for it. It’s your fault for saying guns are bad! Of course, he doesn’t really need the pre-built excuse. He would just blame liberals anyway.

    How many times do you think you can lie about the dangerous right-wing gun owners and castigate them over things they have no control over, before one of them says “screw it, if I’m going to be punished for shit like this, I might as well go ahead and do it anyway. They can only hang me once?”

    Thanks for that insight into what you think of gun owners, Jay. Apparently you think gun owners believe that people publicly opposing guns is just as bad as the criminal punishment for murder, so they might as well murder anyway. Interesting. You do know that despite the fact that Michael and others find gun worship on the right frightening, no one is being hanged as a result, right?

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  31. […] There Was A Shooting In Arizona, Sarah Palin Is Not The Story (outsidethebeltway.com) […]

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  32. Jay Tea says:

    Man, you folks STILL don’t get it.

    What I am saying is the logical extension of what michael said — and yes, it’s ridiculous. You are not frightened in the LEAST of the average right-winger, but it suits your politically to pretend you are. You talk about how dangerous they are, but have absolutely no trepidations about smearing and insulting them whenever it’s politically convenient. Because you know it’s absolutely safe.

    Oh, and back to the topic at hand: we’re learning more and more about the alleged Tucson gunman, and it’s putting a major crimp in your “blame the Tea Party” theory. ‘Cuz I’ve been to a Tea Party event, and I can’t think of anywhere I was LESS likely to run into a 22-year-old, parents’ basement-dwelling, pot-headed, occult-dabbling, flag-burning, black-wearing 9/11 truther. Like a guy I heard on the radio said — this punk would fit in perfectly with the G-8 protesters and the nutjobs arrested for planning terrorist attacks at the 2008 Republican National Convention.

    J.

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  33. mantis says:

    What I am saying is the logical extension of what michael said — and yes, it’s ridiculous. You are not frightened in the LEAST of the average right-winger, but it suits your politically to pretend you are.

    And you’re telling us we should be. You say it right here:

    So you, by rights, ought to be scared shitless at those numbers.

    Why, by rights, should we be scared shitless of rightwingers, Jay?

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  34. Jay Tea says:

    oh, mantis. I said that IF YOU AGREE WITH MICHAEL, then you should be scared. He says he’s scared. I said he’s lying.

    Apparently you agree with me. Man, that must hurt…

    J.

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  35. mantis says:

    oh, mantis. I said that IF YOU AGREE WITH MICHAEL, then you should be scared.

    Let’s review the tape, shall we?

    If you were really scared of right-wingers with guns, you’d talk about how there are about 260 million guns in civilian hands in the US. And the vast majority of of those who have strong political leanings are conservative — because it’s conservatives that consider the 2nd Amendment to be an individual right, and are most likely to choose to exercise it. So you, by rights, ought to be scared shitless at those numbers.

    Nope, that’s not what you said. What you said was because of all the guns rightwingers possess, and their proclivity to use them, we should be scared. Not that if we agree with Michael we should be scared. Just that we should be, because you rightwingers have all the guns.

    You may not have meant it that way, but that’s what you wrote. It’s far from the first time you’ve issued warnings to liberals that fine upstanding rightwingers who love guns may just start using them for political purposes (which you tacitly endorse), so you’ll forgive me if I judge you based on your words, and not your backpedalling.

    Apparently you agree with me. Man, that must hurt…

    I’ve agreed with one side of your mouth many times. Problem is the other said says the opposite.

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  36. Terrye says:

    This is so ridiculous. There is not a shred of evidence that Palin or the Tea Party or anyone on the right had any contact with or influence over this sad crazy young man…and btw, if he had been screaming God is Great in Arabic when he opened fire, no doubt enlightened liberals would be telling us not to jump to conclusions, or blame the wrong people…maybe they should do the same thing here. At least get the facts. Even Obama said that today.

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  37. bains says:

    James,
    Through (what I believe to be contempt, duplicity and) neglect, you have engendered a comment section that is close to mirroring John Cole’s site. Those that love it are inherently drawn to the stench of their beloved swamp. I remember heated, yet respectful debates with Alex three years ago. Tis a pity that I no longer feel like engaging, and that Alex is no longer as engaging.

    You are this site’s ‘general’, it is up to you to ‘lay down the law’ and ‘demand some discipline’. The moonbats have to love all that “aggressive” terminology – so easy to massage into a message (good students of Alinsky your commenter are); I must be a deranged “wing-nuts”: The narrative fails when all the prominent “moon-bats” use exactly the same terminology – and with much more frequency.

    But it is your site. With Both Doug and Alex, I could disagree with intelligently – your comment section is another matter…

    I blame Ronald Reagan’s Evil Empire comment for changing me to the Evil side. (/heavy snark)

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  38. An Interested Party says:

    It’s rather interesting how so many around here who are so upset at generalizations that they think are being slung their way don’t seem to mind turning around and doing the same thing to others…as far as anyone’s tender feelings being hurt by the level of discourse that is on display in the comments here, I would invite them to visit the comments section of RedState or Hot Air…I’m sure they would find much more “reasoned” discourse suitable to their sensibilities…

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  39. wr says:

    Mr. Bains — Just to give you one little piece of information… just about nobody on the left has read Alinsky. Until rightwingers started hyperventilating about Rules for Radicals, I doubt it sold five copies a year. You guys are the only ones reading it…

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  40. 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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  41. jukeboxgrad says:

    If the lefties/progressives/liberals have a similarly sized and sourced list, please provide:

    http://michellemalkin.com/2011/01/10/the-progressive-climate-of-hate-an-illustrated-primer-2000-2010/

    Malkin’s list misses the point, badly, and I don’t think anyone here has yet said why. A nice explanation is here:

    Conservatives like Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin have tried to muddy the waters by claiming that the left has employed violent rhetoric as well. While this may be true for rank-and-file activists on both sides, there is no question something much more disturbing has happened on the right over the past two years, with conservative leaders — including sitting lawmakers and leading political candidates — employing violent rhetoric to an alarming degree.

    http://thinkprogress.org/2011/01/10/scarborough-palin-apologize/

    Most or all of Malkin’s examples are about “rank-and-file activists” behaving badly, not about “sitting lawmakers and leading political candidates” behaving badly. Big difference.

    And a nice summary of those statements by “sitting lawmakers and leading political candidates” is here:

    http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/01/10/revolutionary_rhetoric

    I’ve read a lot of commentary on this, but I think Alex Pareene provided the most intelligent summary of the situation:

    Loughner … is a product of the culture, and there’s a reason he chose to attack a Democratic congresswoman. There’s a reason why his paranoia was directed at an elected official, the closest representative of what he saw as in illegitimate government. The attempted assassination of a member of Congress seems depressingly like the inevitable conclusion of two years of hysterical revolutionary language suffusing every single domestic political debate.

    The Tea Parties are based around the rhetoric of the American Revolution, which was a violent insurrection. It makes a sad sort of sense that a bunch of comfortable white reactionaries would dress up their childish tantrums with such grandiose language, because “desperately protecting your privilege in the face of what appears to be the demise of the empire” sounds much less inspiring than “defeating tyranny.”

    As the Republican Party has become more homogeneous, more regional and more reactionary, it has tended to make up for its growing demographic shortcomings by making sure its supporters are more motivated and energized — and the most effective way to energize them has been to make sure they’re constantly enraged. …

    When she’s not talking about God, Sarah Palin’s talking about guns. Practically all her rhetoric is blood-soaked, and proficiency with firearms is a key element of her persona. … “Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD” isn’t one unfortunate incident of over-the-top language, it’s her mantra. “Going Rogue” begins with that line, attributed to her father.

    … there’s a difference between using the imagery of politics as street fight and employing revolutionary rhetoric. And when you combine standard-issue violent political language with the idea — stated and reiterated by nearly every prominent right-wing politician and media figure since Obama took office — that the opponent is not simply wrong, but has illegitimately seized power, and is illegally exercising that power, the inevitable question raised is, “What do we do to stop them?” …

    … when elites don’t just condone but participate in the combination of … violent imagery with the idea that the government represents an existential threat — that representatives of the government are domestic enemies, that your liberty and even your physical safety are in danger — the idea of political violence is normalized. … When everyone’s hoisting guns and shouting “tyranny” and playing at being a revolutionary, there will be a couple of people who don’t see the wink. …

    There’s Dick Morris on Fox just throwing this out there: Maybe “those crazies in Montana who say, ‘we’re gonna kill ATF agents because the U.N.’s going to take over'” are “beginning to have a case.” … There’s also Michele Bachmann more explicitly calling for a revolution, invoking Jefferson’s famous “tree of liberty” line. … Even the goofiest of the sideshow midterm primary candidates presented themselves almost uniformly as not just the spiritual descendants of the Founders, but the would-be leaders of a new revolution. Alabama’s Rick Barber is just sitting at a bar, chatting with Washington about how the IRS is the modern-day equivalent of George III … Sharron Angle implicitly called for violence if Republicans couldn’t win traditional elections. Some idiot from Glenn Beck’s show says violent overthrow of the government is “on the table.” Beck himself constantly presents the specter of vast cataclysmic violence as inevitable — just around the corner, unless we turn back from liberalism soon.

    This stuff infects the whole culture. When this is the bed you make, you can’t be too shocked when monsters hide under it.

    Bachmann also said she wanted “people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax,” because “having a revolution every now and then is a good thing.”

    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2011/01/violent_imagery_in_politics_is.html

    Also:

    Who can forget that Sharron Angle, a woman who was almost a United States senator, suggested that Americans might look to “Second Amendment remedies” if Congress wasn’t more responsive to their complaints. Rush Limbaugh casually invokes the potential for a “Second American Revolution,” … As Matt Bai noted, many conservatives employ this kind of language “as if blind to the idea that Americans legitimately faced” with tyranny “would almost certainly take up arms.”

    Palin’s gunsight map is appropriately getting lots of attention, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are numerous other examples of conservative leaders, not just “rank-and-file activists,” using the rhetoric of revolutionary violence.

    Also worth noticing:

    there was a 300 percent increase in … threats against all members of Congress (both representatives and senators) in the first few months of 2010 … there has been a 400 percent increase in the number of threats against the White House since Barack Obama took office

    http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/10/to-understand-assassination-threat-look-beyond-tucson/

    This event is a wakeup call. Hopefully we’re paying attention.

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  42. Jay Tea says:

    Ronin, you need to catch up with reality.

    Gun nut: That usually means someone who owns a LOT of guns, and likes to talk about them all the time. Got any proof he owned more than the one gun?

    Anti-government: that ain’t exclusively right-wing. There are a ton of anarchists on the left side. You can usually recognize them because they tend to be youngish, wear black, talk about f-ing things up for the sake of f-ing them up, like to cause chaos, like to scare other people… you know, kinda like this guy.

    Anti-abortion: one rhetorical argument, from a guy who lived to make abstract rhetorical argument.

    Anti-immigrant: far more concerned about the “quality” of immigrants than their actual immigration status. Lumped them in with “stupid” and “ignorant” other people.

    pro gold standard: No, he challenged our currency standard. Was also pro pot standard.

    Targeted and shot a Democrat he’d been obsessed with for a couple of years, and despised on a personal basis after initially being drawn to her. Shot and KILLED a Republican federal judge.

    9/11 Truther, who is convinced that the Bush administration either engineered or allowed the attacks to happen.

    Now it turns out he was a militant opponent of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as fiercely anti-Christian.

    This guy would have fit in just perfectly with the anarchists who routinely go after things like the G-8 summits and the 2008 RNC convention.

    I’m not trying to put the blame for this nutjob on the Left. I’m trying to take his politics off the board. You’re trying to shove him into the Right’s camp, for some truly transparent and contemptible political purposes.

    J.

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  43. mantis says:

    He didn’t vote in 2010. He’s no tea partier. They voted.

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  44. Jay Tea says:

    Let’s recap, to build on mantis’ last point:

    Sarah Palin and the Tea Party’s inflammatory rhetoric finally scored its first victory. But instead of some redneck taking out Barney Frank or Anthony Weiner or Nancy Pelosi or Charlie Rangel, an emo schizo pothead anarchist shoots a Blue Dog Democrat who most recently deserted Nancy Pelosi in the House leadership vote.

    Is that about right?

    J.

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  45. mantis says:

    Sarah Palin and the Tea Party’s inflammatory rhetoric finally scored its first victory.

    Doesn’t look that way at all, no. So I guess you on the right are in the clear to keep identifying your political opponents as targets for shooting practice at campaign events, constantly telling everyone that concentration camps for white gun owners are being built by FEMA/ObamaHitler, and election disappointments can be fixed with “second amendment remedies.” Oh, and if none of that works, you’ll secede.

    Anyway, I’m sure you’ll get the next mass murder. That should please you.

    By the way, Jay, you should probably refrain from criticizing others’ speculation if you’re going to imply Loughner did what he did because Giffords “deserted Nancy Pelosi in the House leadership vote.” You sound like a complete idiot.

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  46. Jay Tea says:

    Ouch, mantis. Good point. I should have said “who deserted Pelosi” instead “because she deserted Pelosi.” I gave a really bad implication there.

    Whoops, my bad. Or, rather, your bad. I DIDN’T draw that conclusion — you did.

    Didn’t you ever hear what happens when you “assume?”

    J.

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  47. mantis says:

    Nice try, but nobody’s buying what you’re selling.

    When you lack subtlety, the “who me?” response doesn’t exactly work.

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  48. heidiho says:

    any press is good press – thanks!

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  49. […] Sarah Palin was unjustly dragged into the aftermath of the Tuscon shootings but, as McManus and Steven Taylor both argue, she had an opportunity to try to turn things around. […]

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  50. Jay Tea says:

    It’s a little late to the party, but ABC News dug into the shooter’s “anti-abortion” credentials. Here’s how Ann Coulter summed it up:

    ABC News reported: “One Pima Community College student, who had a poetry class with Loughner later in his college career, said he would often act ‘wildly inappropriate.’

    “‘One day (Loughner) started making comments about terrorism and laughing about killing the baby,’ classmate Don Coorough told ABC News, referring to a discussion about abortions. ‘The rest of us were looking at him in shock … I thought this young man was troubled.’

    “Another classmate, Lydian Ali, recalled the incident as well.

    “‘A girl had written a poem about an abortion. It was very emotional and she was teary eyed and he said something about strapping a bomb to the fetus and making a baby bomber,’ Ali said.”

    Here’s the Times’ version: “After another student read a poem about getting an abortion, Mr. Loughner compared the young woman to a ‘terrorist for killing the baby.'”

    So that’s how the Times transformed Loughner from a sicko laughing about a dead fetus to a deadly earnest pro-life fanatic.

    There goes another of the shooter’s right-wing credentials… are there ANY left, or are we ready to concede the guy had no coherent ideology, and was straight from CrazyLand?

    J.

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  51. […] in light of last week’s over-the-top reaction to the shootings in Arizona. As Douthat notes, and I’ve argued elsewhere, the efforts by some in the media to tie Palin and others on the right to Loughner’s actions, […]

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