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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Tea and Psychopathy

As of this writing, it appears that Jared Lee Loughner, the gunman who shot Democratic Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, critically wounding her and several bystanders and killing six people (including a child and a federal judge), acted alone. We can't, therefore, directly blame Tea Party activists for his criminal rampage.
Of course, hardcore Tea Partiers blame Democrats in general and President Obama in particular for any offenses committed against government officials. See, for example, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) who, after Joe Stack launched a suicide attack against the IRS, killing a federal worker, essentially said he could understand where the lunatic was coming from. So, in that spirit, we feel justified in taking a moment to attack the attackers. Yes, we blame the Tea Party.
(DIGRESSION: We suppose that should really be "Tea Party," as this is still essentially a decentralized movement as opposed to an actual group of people concerned with the idea of governing. Just one more way this group of thugs is like the mafia: "Tea Party? Ain't no such thing." EOD)
One of the great ironies about Tea Party conspiracy theorists: For all their fears about incipient socialism and creeping totalitarianism, these people thrive on the very freedom thay suspect the government of trying to curtail. In true tyrannies, anyone who complained about their government with even a fraction of the vitriol expressed by the mildest of TP-ers would quickly find themselves in jail or worse. You don't hear about Tea Parties in North Korea--and Koreans LOVE tea!
We also note that Tea Party groups, while condemning Loughner, warn Democrats not to make political hay of this incident. They note that left-wing groups have committed terroristic acts as well. True enough. The Weather Underground comes to mind. But that was back in the 1960s. Throughout the reign of George W. Bush, the major Republican casualties were self-inflicted, arising as a result of sexual hypocrisy and financial impropriety (see Larry Craig, Tom Delay, et al.)--no crazed Naderite took a potshot at, say, Steve King.
We wish Rep. Giffords the best and hope she can recover. We also hope that some good can come of this. We hope that this tragedy forces people to step back, take a deep breath, and tone down the rhetoric that has brought us to this pass.

1 comment:

  1. Mark Marrdell | BBC America, Saturday, 8 January 2011

    "We do not, as I write, know what lies behind the shooting of a Democratic congresswoman and others in Arizona at a political meeting.

    If the YouTube video said to be from the man in custody for the shooting of Gabby Giffords - named by local media as Jared Loughner - really is by him, he seems very disturbed.

    Over soft lounge music, with the heading "My final thoughts", text appears mimicking in style formal logic, but in fact making incoherent rambling statements about sleepwalking, numerology and grammar. He writes about the US Constitution, about a currency not backed by gold, and that he can't trust the government and its treasonous laws. But the impression is of unbalanced incoherence rather than political grievance.

    While we don't know if the motive behind the shooting was political, it is very clear that it was immediately politicised, at least on the internet. Twitter was immediately full of accusations that the right had created a climate of hatred where this could happen. The right responded in fury. Some pointed out this wasn't based on evidence. One claimed an illegal immigrant was responsible, another that it was done by the left to harm the right.

    Much of the criticism was aimed at Sarah Palin.

    Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had been one of 20 names on a "hit list" issued by Palin, complete with graphics of a rifle-like telescopic sight.

    Ms Palin meant, of course, that Ms Giffords was to be targeted by voters in the mid-term elections. The congresswoman herself had warned of the danger of the site, after her office was vandalised in March.

    She said: "We're on Sarah Palin's 'targeted' list, but the thing is that the way she has it depicted, we're in the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they've got to realise that there are consequences to that action."

    Ms Palin hasn't directly commented on whether she thinks there were consequences to her actions but she did issue a statement saying: "My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today's tragic shooting in Arizona.

    "On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice."

    After the Oklahoma massacre, Bill Clinton spoke out, linking the attack by extremists to the anti-government rhetoric in Washington. I am uncertain whether it changed the nature of the debate but it was certainly judged something of a turning point for the president.

    It is just too soon to say if this shooting will have any lasting impact, although there will no doubt be new calls for a more moderate, less emotional discourse.

    But there is an irony.

    The rhetoric and debate that instantly sprang up around this crime show the volatile, febrile nature of American politics and those passions are unlikely to disappear overnight."