Jens 'n' Frens
Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures."
  -- Daniel Webster

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 :::

As you already know, a probably-schizophrenic man shot a bunch of people in Tucson on Saturday, killing a half-dozen (including a federal judge) and seriously injuring several others, including a US Representative. Some people quickly decided he had been provoked by Sarah Palin and/or the Tea Party. This was not as unreasonable than when Mike Bloomberg suggested PPACA (Obamacare) as a motive for the Times Square bomb, but it still wasn't based on much. It was fairly quickly determined that, to the extent that the killer can be tied to an ideology, that ideology would be postmodernism.

I don't think making a quick guess is inherently wrong, but I think you should clearly acknowledge what you are offering is a guess, and if the facts turn out to contradict your guess, you should quickly acknowledge that (much the way Paul Krugman hasn't). Especially when you are singling out an individual, you should be more careful. Even if Sarah Palin's rhetoric had set the guy off, some of the comments about her have been akin to blaming Jodie Foster for Reagan's shooting. I think it perfectly reasonable for Palin to use the term "blood libel", as she was accused of complicity in mass murder -- unless the term is going to be excluded (even by analogy) from any conversation not discussing Purim, it seems fair to allude to it here. Most analogies to the Holocaust are offensive not because it is inherently offensive to draw an analogy to the Holocaust, but because most Holocaust analogies are to things like having to wait an hour for one's entree.

That all goes for commentators. It's more or less their job to give voice to their ignorance. Law enforcement officials should be held to a higher standard. Sheriff Dubnik has been vocally partisan, indifferent to evidence, and possibly incompetent. He ought to be removed from the case or, better, his job. I have to acknowledge that his statement that his county is a "Mecca for prejudice" is supported by the fact that they elected a prejudiced sheriff, but his possible astuteness on that one point is not really a mitigating factor.

There's been a lot of talk over the last half-week about civility. I have about thirty URLs saved up, but I might not end up posting any of them, because this whole discussion is a non-sequitur (just as it would be to mention violent movies or video games). Not an entirely unwelcome non-sequitur -- the rhetoric does tend to ratchet up, and suggesting that people cool it a little is often useful - Glenn Beck often seems lacking in perspective, but not today - though it can obviously go too far and will inevitably involve some hypocrisy (see also here).

Of course, the current discussion has tended too much to be one side making stuff up and the other side objecting. But not everybody on the left has been unfair. Jen Rubin notes:
On the subject of the media coverage, it is important not to lump all media outlets and pundits together. Yes, Paul Krugman, Joe Klein,Laura Rozen, much of the CNN lineup and other blowhards made fools of themselves, assigning blame to conservative political rhetoric (is the "Battleground poll" also to blame?) based on zero evidence and carrying water for the fever swamp's narrative. But there were also Mara Liasson, Juan Williams, Huffington Post's Howard Fineman, Slate's Jack Shafer, Howard Kurtz and other non-conservatives who called out the hyper-partisans who would blame conservative campaign rhetoric for the violence of a lunatic. And on the news side, mainstream reportersprovided ample evidence of the shooter's mental instability and hismulti-year obsession with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (prior to the whole Tea Party movement and Palin's emergence on the national scene), implicitly undermining the notion that the crime was prompted by campaign literature.

One last point that I've only seen made once is how this incident and its aftermath demonstrates America's political stability:

There were no riots. People were shocked and horrified, but they remained calm. They were generous with their time, their concern, and their prayers. Civilians — elderly ones — risked their lives to subdue the killer. Those who are professionally involved in responding to these sorts of situations performed their jobs with aplomb.

This in a nation suffering under a climate of simmering, barely controlled violence? Where are the riots?

It is a situation of a different magnitude, but I am reminded of what did not happen in the wake of 9/11. I am reminded of what did not happen in the wake of the Ft. Hood shooting and what did nothappen after Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad’s attack on the Army recruiting center in Little Rock.

May I point out: This is not normal, if by normal you mean consistent with the experiences of the greater part of mankind over history. When Indira Gandhi was assassinated — not eons ago, but in 1984, and not in some savage corner of the world, but in civilized, pacifistic India — thousands of Sikhs were lynched in retaliation, a pogrom of unbelievable horror. The French have seen more political violence this month while debating rent control than we will see after an assassination attempt. Consider Theodore Dalrymple’s take on Algeria and Tunisia, and their recent unrest, and what it bodes for the future of Europe.

::: posted by Steven at 5:16 PM

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Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

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