War In the Closed World 31

On the reaction to the Tucson murders

I don't talk much here about current events, but I want to register my objection to the hideous attempt to exploit the killings in Arizona for political gain. It's hard to tell how much of this is just partisan hysteria and blindness, and how much is calculated, and it doesn't really matter: it's repulsive. 

I could link to any number of criticisms and refutations of this stuff, but I'll confine myself to this one from National Review. Here's the key passage:

The irony of criticizing the overheated rhetoric of your opponents at the same time you call them accomplices to murder apparently was lost on these people, most of whom have never been noted for their subtlety (or civility). It is vile to attempt to tar the opposition with the crimes of a lunatic so as to render illegitimate the views of about half of America.

I have yet to see any report that the Arizona killer had any connection to or even paid the slightest attention to Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, et.al.  And even if he did, it wouldn't especially discredit them, because he is crazy. I don't think I've ever heard anyone try to blame Squeaky Fromme's attempted assassination of President Ford, or the Manson murders themselves, on the left just because the Manson "family" were hippies. I don't recall an outcry for Hollywood to tone down its violence after a young man obsessed with the movie Taxi Driver, which involves a character who plots an assassination, did in fact try to assassinate President Reagan. Indeed, it's been a feature of national life for thirty years and more for the entertainment industry and most progressives to deny vehemently that there is any connection between the pervasive violence and general degeneracy of much of that industry's "product" and anyone's behavior.

How about considering the possibility that deploring hatred while stoking your own hatred is neither a persuasive tactic nor healthy in itself? How about if we all try to stop hating each other? 

UPDATE:  Looks like sanity is beginning to take hold

UPDATE 2: The New York Times is now saying Loughner is a Nietzsche-reading nihilist/anarchist.


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I don't know, Maclin. When you have political candidates suggesting that we may need to resort to "second amendment solutions" and posing with rifles, like her opponent had, and generally demonizing their enemies (Obama's "reign of terror", which I saw on a political mailing), you have an inflammatory rhetoric which can definitely resonate with the paranoid (paranoia is the mental disorder most likely to take a political turn).
Actually, and I hear this on Limbaugh's show today, the shooter's favorite movies were "Spare Change", which is a 9/11 "truther" paranoid rant, "Through a Glass Darkly", another political paranoid film, and (ditto) "Donnie Darko". I have seen the first two of these and yes, they are anti-government movies. Of course Limbaugh used this to characterize the guy as a leftist (?), but that is more of the same: THOSE PEOPLE OVER THERE etc etc...

But (a) there is no indication that this guy was at all aware of, for instance, Sarah Palin's "target" graphics, ("He did not watch TV. He disliked the news. He didn’t listen to political radio. He didn’t take sides. He wasn’t on the left. He wasn’t on the right.") and (b) it's only the harsh rhetoric from the right that alarms pundits. No alarm or condemnation about this. No outcry when Obama said "They bring a knife, we bring a gun." John Kerry joked on Bill Maher's show about shooting Bush. Etc. etc.

I'm all for dialing back the rhetoric all around, but the attempt to blame Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, the Republican Party, et.al. for this and yet to give their opponents, the entertainment industry, and anybody who can't be plausibly tagged as a right-winger, a pass is not only absurd and/or dishonest, but actually makes the whole problem worse.

There is quite a lot of anti-government sentiment on the left. I certainly heard phrases like "reign of terror" from the left very often during the Bush administration.

Peter Hitchens' 2c worth...


The Left has a tendency to blame conservatives in a knee-jerk fashion whenever something like this occurs. They don't recognize that the failure of their own policies greatly contributes to public dissatisfaction with government. And as far as their own hate-filled rhetoric goes...Daily Kos, anyone? Move On? Huffington Post?

As one local talk show host puts it, being a liberal means never having to say you were wrong.

Not too mention that there is evidence that Loughner had a grudge against Giffords as early as 2007.


Never mind saying they're sorry, how about just practicing the civil and reasonable discourse they preach?

Yeah, I've read that, too, Janet. Something about her not answering his question. I can't remember the question now but it was something pretty off the wall, like "what is reality?"

Excellent comment from Peter Hitchens, Louise. Thanks.

Yes, it would be nice if EVERYONE said "Whoa, we have been irresponsible, let us knock it off." Instead we get only MORE of the same, finger pointing and blaming the Other. What I read here is depressing; a conservative site where no responsibility is acknowledged, yet plenty is leveled at Those Evil Liberals...sigh.

No, you're misunderstanding me, or I haven't been clear. I don't deny the conservative contribution to partisan hostility. I deny conservative responsibility for the crimes of Jared Loughner. And I deplore the reflexive and evidence-free attempt to assign it. If we are going to say it's just "the atmosphere", both sides need to look in the mirror.

What I read here is depressing; a conservative site where no responsibility is acknowledged, yet plenty is leveled at Those Evil Liberals...sigh. You ever consider your own contribution to this, Daniel?


I deny conservative responsibility for the crimes of Jared Loughner.

A critical distinction.

Sorta. :-)

This is a conservative site?

Heh. I smiled at that, too. Though to a certain extent it's true: politically speaking, I'm conservative-for-lack-of-a-better-word. And most of the people who comment here lean at least a bit to the right politically.

It's funny, I read National Review's blog regularly, and they implemented comments a few months ago, but I had never left a comment till last night, when I left one disagreeing with almost all the other commenters about Obama's speech--I thought it was good, they didn't. The post on which we were commenting was favorable.

Here's an interesting remark, I think, by Peter Kreeft. He said "I used to be a democrat and a liberal, now I'm a republican and a conservative. I have not changed."

As they say in the classics: I think there might be something in that for all of us.

Republican and Democrat needed capitals!

Well, I can't say that, as I definitely changed--I was not just a liberal but a left-wing wacko (ok, I'll say it so no one else has to: "..and now you're a right-wing wacko"). By that I don't mean that to be on the left is to be wacko, just that I was. That really only lasted a couple of years or so. Mostly I was just driven by rebellious emotion and was going with the left-wing herd, not really thinking.

Also, I was never a Democrat and am not now a Republican, though I mostly vote that way.

Ronald Reagan said something similar to what Kreeft did, btw.

Well, that may be, but the site itself usually doesn't have a political valence--and left-leaning views have been espoused by David and others (by me too!)--and by a number of the people who get quoted on here (writers, musicians).

I saw the post as very fair, and I'm a pox on both your houses kind of person when it comes to liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat (because I'm seen the Faith ignored too many times because of politics taking precedence in people's thoughts).

But again, I think calling this site "conservative" is really reductive, and frankly misses the point of what it's about (and why I come here).

This site is contemplative.

That's a description I'm happy to have.

I didn't mean to insult anyone; I said the site was conservative because that is the prevailing outlook, and the reaction of most of you is pretty predictable on any given issue. Of course it does not have the prevailing meanness of the talk show cons. I have only seen it get ugly once, when we were discussing the proposed Islamic cultural center in Manhattan (the misnamed "Ground Zero Mosque"), and I consider that an aberration...

I read a novel last summer in which the narrator is the mother of a boy who becomes a mass killer in high school. It's called We Need to Talk about Kevin. It's by an American woman who lives in England called Lionel Shriver. I couldn't decide after reading it if it is actually an evil book or simply has an extremely graphic depiction of an evil mind (or two). I can hardly recommend it, since I found it so disturbing, but it does bring out something many conservatives know.

Good point. And, in passing, I've always thought that to be the parent of someone like this Tucson guy must be a near-unbearable cross. I'm not sure I could bear to read that book.

Thinking of conservative and liberal in their most basic senses (not necessarily or these days even often how they're used), of reluctant to change vs. eager to change: we always need liberals to say "this is bad, it needs to be changed" and conservatives to say "yes, but if you do that, then this..." It's a natural dialectic. There's a great remark by Henri de Lubac to that effect about "liberals" and "conservatives" in the Church.

You know, Maclin Horton, if you concerned about the coarsening of public discourse, I can think of someone fairly proximate to you whom you could admonish.

Peter Hitchens on Tucson again:

"Arizona has always had plenty of guns. America has always had heated political rhetoric. What is new is that it now has legal dope as well."


Well, I wouldn't go as far as PH on this. I mean, it's true that marijuana can make an unstable person more so, but I wouldn't go from that to the sweeping statements he makes. The number of potheads in the US must number well into the millions, and on balance I expect they are far less violent than drunks.

And the thing is, as PH well knows, we have nutters and potheads in the UK, and they don't kill MPs. Political assassination is not a new phenomenon in the US it does back through MLK and the Kennedys to Lincoln. At least by comparison with the UK, it seems to be a specially American phenomenon.

That's true, and a lot of ink has been spilled, especially since the assassination of the '60s, conjecturing as to the causes of that syndrome. I don't think anybody has come up with anything more profound than "America is just like that." It makes me think of a remark by Auden that I read many years ago: he said American and Russia were more like each other than like Britain. He didn't use the word "crazy" but I think that's sort of what he had in mind.

It's a good remark from Auden. Having formulated that thought ('there are as many nutters in the UK as in the USA and they don't kill their MP'), I did begin to wonder whether the American homicides were really 'political murders' - especially for the recent ones, they might just be celebrity murders. It could be that for the nutter, they're murdering a celebrity, and attaining a moment of fame, not a politician as such. It could be, further, than in their own States, governors and congressmen simply are more of celebrity figures than MPs are in the UK, and therefore more liable to attract homicidal nutjobs.

Sometime in the past week or so I read an appraisal of this syndrome which made very much the same point, but now I have no idea where I read it. I think the idea was being applied to the attempted assassination of either Wallace or Reagan. Or both. John Lennon's murder fits right in there, too, obviously.

Also, I think we have a tendency to hold our politicians, especially the president, responsible for *everything*. I don't know if this has always been the case.

That's a very interesting thought, Francesca re: the general lack of political assassination in the UK. I can only think of one of those here in Oz - a South Australian politician - who was killed in the few days before we moved there (Sept 2002). We're much into it either, even allowing for the fact that there are many more people in the US than here and even several times more than those in Britain.

But I am inclined to think that our worst crimes here are drug related. E.g. the mother who prostituted her 12yo daughter for drug money. 100+ men used her before the authorities found out about it. It concerns me greatly that there are 100+ men in my city who think it's okay to have sex with a 12yo girl, even if they were told she was 18. Now, of course, the 100+ men might not have been drug users, but the mother was and that's why the daughter was prostituted.

Francesca, what do you know about Edinburgh? Particularly regarding such things as affordability? Nick has just applied for a job there. Is the weather as bad as I think it is? LOL!

Please would y'all say a prayer for us. The company Nick works for is struggling and may go broke very soon. The great pity is that this was a really good (and fairly small) company to work for and was very supportive of the workers' families. Especially, please pray for Nick's boss, who has mouth cancer. (His prognosis is good but he's very sick right now).

We're not too worried, but prayers would be appreciated.

Will do.


Louise, I am about to set out for the social security office on my third attempt to get a social security number, and I will say the rosary for you and Nick during the doubtless interminable wait.

Edinburgh is expensive to live in. Coldness of climate is very relative. For instance, today in Indiana it is much milder than the past three weeks, though snowing lightly, but it is colder than the coldest winter day in Aberdeen. I think the climate in Edinburgh is OK, but I lived happily in Aberdeen for 15 years!

I'll certainly pray for you & your family, Louise. Scary situation, and unfortunately too common these days.

Of course we have huge amounts of drug-related crime here, but most of it is not because the culprits are deranged by being high. It's either that they're desperate for the next high, as was probably the case in that horrible story you related, or that they're involved in the trade and are competing with other dealers, trying to cheat somebody, trying to avoid being cheated, etc. Violent crime is mostly of the latter sort. The addicts themselves mostly commit burglaries.

Thankyou, Janet, Maclin and Francesca - your prayers are much appreciated. Thanks for the info, Francesca.

I must say, Maclin, I have no fully formed opinion re: drugs, so mostly I just read to become more informed. I can count on a reasoned discussion here, thankfully.

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