Wednesday, 12 January 2011
Thoughts on Tucson
Since there really isn't much else to think about this week, let's keep going on the Arizona massacre. Some random thoughts:
That awful church, Westboro Baptist, that demonstrates with vile signs and slogans at military funerals announced they will picket the funeral tomorrow of nine-year-old Christine Taylor Green who was murdered on Saturday.
But Tucson has pulled together and volunteers will hold an “angel action.” They are sewing 8 x 10 foot angel wings to shield the family and friends of Christine from the Westboro picketers. In the past, Hell's Angels have organized to prevent the church from disrupting funerals. These strange bedfellows give me hope and should be an inspiration to Congressional adversaries.
Way back on Saturday – doesn't that feel like a long time ago now? - before emergency medical workers had finished their grisly tasks at the Safeway store, Sarah Palin, in an apparent belief that the country required her immediate response, issued this statement even before the president had spoken:
“My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today's tragic shooting in Arizona,” she wrote. “On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice.”
She has been embarrassing herself for too long now. She lost an election, quit her public job, cashed in on her notoriety and now, with this self-important gaucherie, it is time for her to go. Please. Please. Go.
In a quickie CBS News poll conducted on Sunday and Monday, 57 percent said harsh political rhetoric had nothing to do with the shooting in Tucson. Predictably, more Republicans believe this than Democrats and independents.
I'm not so sure.
As I said yesterday, I don't believe Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the pundit loudmouths are responsible for the Arizona shootings. But they do make an outsized contribution to an increasing acceptance of violent death images in public conversation.
At the least, hateful rhetoric decreases the possibility of rational debate on the important issues our nation faces. At the most, it increases the possibility that an unhinged someone will take it as permission. (That is not to say that I think this necessarily applies to Arizona suspect, Jared Loughner. No one knows.)
Political partisans have expended a great deal of effort trying to enumerate who – the left or the right – is to blame. Even a cursory search of the web reveals far more, and more over-the-top, rhetoric from the right, but I don't think we should dwell on that. Everyone needs to take it down a few notches – permanently.
This debate over who is more culpable prompted Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to issue a press release yesterday titled, “treat incitement seriously or expect more Gabrielle Gifford (sic) killing sprees.”
Assange and the Wikileaks staff have a good deal of personal experience with vicious hate speech. Some examples:
"Back in the old days when men were men and countries were countries, this guy would die of lead poisoning from a bullet in the brain."
Bob Beckel (Fox):
"A dead man can't leak stuff...This guy's a traitor, he's treasonous, and he has broken every law of the United States. And I'm not for the death penalty, so...there's only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch."
(Aside: If this were not so deadly, it would be funny that someone with a paid-for soapbox doesn't know that an Australian, by definition, cannot be a traitor to the U.S.)
"Julian Assange should be targeted like the Taliban."
Jonah Goldberg (National Review)
"I’d like to ask a simple question: Why isn’t Julian Assange dead? ...Why wasn’t Assange garroted in his hotel room years ago? It’s a serious question."
You can argue with me about repeating this stuff here, but just look at the monstrousness of it – and that's only a small portion of calls for the murder of Assange.
Are you not shocked silly? I am. Aside from internet clips, I have never watched Fox News; I don't listen to talk radio of any political stripe; and I only occasionally dip into the National Review so I didn't know people urge murder to their listeners and readers. I don't mean to sound naïve, but aren't those statements the media equivalent of shouting fire in a theater?
I have some experience in my past – in the 1960s and '70s – producing talk radio programs and I have not a twinge of doubt that had anything close to statements quoted above happened then, the host and producer would be immediately canned - probably yanked off the air within five minutes.
More, the radio station would have been flooded with complaints from listeners. Boycotts would have been mounted. But I can find no reports of public protest against the radio hosts of today. Their sulfuric invective lives on after the broadcasts in print, on YouTube and on publications' websites without a word of condemnation.
Have we all become inured to brutal rhetoric?
There seems, even in the aftermath of Tucson, to be no shame. I haven't checked, but many sources report that the bulls eye graphic remains on Sarah Palin's Facebook page. And this, since removed, appeared on Glenn Beck's website until yesterday:
Why was that gun image on Beck's website in the first place? What was his intention in publishing it? What did he expect his website readers to know from seeing it?
Well, I'm rambling now. If nothing else comes from the killings in Tucson, it has created a moment to reflect, to think and talk among ourselves about the nation's culture of violence and perhaps develop a consensus. We can do some of that here.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Steve Kemp - LONG LOST NEWS: Rumsfeld: Democracy Doesn't Work