It Happened Here

A commentary.

Jim Burroway

January 9th, 2011

My city is reeling this morning. Six dead, fourteen injured. Dorwan and Mavanell Stoddard, a retired couple in their seventies, were standing in line at Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s meet-and-greet at a Northwest side Safeway when the shooting started. He’s dead; she was shot in the legs and is expected to recover, physically. Two more retirees, Phyllis Schneck, 79; and Dorothy Morris, 76; are also dead. Third-grader Christina-Taylor Green had recently been elected to student council at Mesa Verde Elementary and went to learn more about government. She, too, is dead. U.S. District Judge John Roll had just said hi when the shooting started. He’s dead. So is a Giffords aide, thirty-year-old Gabe Zimmerman, who was engaged to be married.

Thirteen others, besides Giffords, are wounded. Five, including Giffords, are in critical condition and five are in serious condition. The Red Cross put out a call for blood donations. The area in front of University Medical Center was the site of a candlelight vigil. The flickering flames struggled to remain visible in the glare of television cameras. The intersection of Ina and Oracle, Northwest Tucson’s busiest intersection and site of the shooting, is now open, but the shopping center itself remains sealed off.

Everyone says this sort of thing doesn’t happen here. People say that everywhere this sort of thing happens.

There’s more focus this morning on local media on Jared Loughner’s mental state. The picture that emerges from people who knew him confirms what I noticed yesterday; the man had struggled with serious mental problems. He had been expelled from Pima Community College, and barred from coming back unless he underwent psychological evaluation and obtained certification that he was not a threat to others. Obviously, he never obtained that certification.

There are a lot of blogs trying to pin this on tea party politics. I do believe that the rhetoric that animates the tea party and now infects Fox News and much of mainstream Republicanism is extremely dangerous and is quite capable of stoking violence like this. But the more we learn about Loughner, the more it appears that this hateful rhetoric had little influence on Loughner’s motive. None of his rambling writings reference conservative or tea party politics. Instead, he accuses the government of mind control and brainwashing by controlling grammar. As I wrote yesterday, he is clearly struggling to make sense of reality, a common problem with people with schizophrenia.

There is, however, a second person of interest. Police are looking for a 40- to 50- year old man who is believed to have been at that Safeway with Loughner. So that part of the story clearly isn’t a closed book. And it still doesn’t diminish what Pima County sheriff Clarence Dupnik said at yesterday’s news conference.

When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And, unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.

“It’s not unusual for all public officials to get threats constantly, myself included. And that’s the sad thing of what’s going on in America. Pretty soon, we’re not going to be able to find reasonable, decent people who are willing to subject themselves to serve in public office.

Whatever may or may not have motivate Loughner, I think Dupnic has it right: Arizona has become a “sort of the capital” for prejudice and bigotry. I have never seen a more rapid decline in the political climate anywhere. State politics here is turning resident against resident, citizen against citizen. Hours after Giffords’s health care vote, her office was vandalized. At a similar Giffords meet-and-greet last August, police carted away someone whose pistol had fallen out of his holster before he was able to approach Giffords. Private Minutemen militias kill American citizens near the border, and suspicious white powder shows up at Rep. Raul Grijalva’s office. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.

Yesterday, as my partner and I were leaving a Home Depot about a mile south of the shooting, we overheard a man on a cell phone telling someone to stay indoors because someone is shooting. We hadn’t heard anything and just assumed he was talking about something happening somewhere else. Things like that don’t happen here. But now we know it does. And unless we all examine our consciences, worse will happen, not by someone who is mentally ill but by someone who has his wits about him and is capable of doing even more harm.


January 9th, 2011

This yet again reminds me how much I enjoyed living in countries that aren’t so obsessed with guns. I haven’t yet seen anyone ask the obvious question: how does a mentally unstable, possibly schizophrenic individual get a gun? Clearly our gun laws do not work.

Then add into it the cowboy rhetoric, gun-inspired language and images (Sarah Palin’s “targets”), mix them together and the result is inevitable. I’m only surprised it hasn’t happened sooner.


January 9th, 2011

Patrick – I bet dollars to doughnuts that the accomplice being sought is what would answer the gun question.

I’m interested how much the accomplice has to do with the victims, as if someone sane takes a nutter with a function and gives the nutter a gun, well, that person’s motive becomes interesting. It’s a cheaper way to get someone killed than hiring a hitman. I only suggest it because the person of interest is being sought because he was at the Safeway with the gunman.


January 9th, 2011

I am really curious about what the author this blog post said in relation to not yet seeing any tie to a political subgroup.

Do you somehow think that the angry violent rhetoric is coming from anyplace other than the right wing and tea party?

do you have pro-lgbt politicians on tape saying that we should take aim and reload at the republicans and anti-gay hate mongers?

Do you really expect that an “i love sarah palin” button in his possession is required to tie this to that rhetoric? and if not there, she just gets a free pass?

The Sheriff there is right, the violent rhetoric MUST stop. It affects the already unhinged more than most, but the rise of the Tea Party and the fame of the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs demonstrates clearly that hate filled speech plays to a large number of people, and the proof is the millions in revenue they collect and the popularity of their “shows”..

While Palin may not have handed him the gun and Sharon Angle may not have sent him an email about the appearance, their media blasted violent demands (in rhetorical form) have incited the shooter and others like them to jump deeper down the rabbit whole of violence and that rhetoric MUST stop and the blame for using it placed squarely on those that speak it!

This part crosses all party lines, but focus must start on the most aggressive and hate filled users of violent imagery.

Jim Burroway

January 9th, 2011


What it will take is evidence, not speculation.

I am very angry at what the teahadists have done to our political culture. But I’m looking for specific evidence that Loughton was in any way influenced. I don’t see it yet. I’m not saying it’s not there or we won’t see it in the future as we learn more (especially if we learn something about the other “person of interest.”) But right now, there is a profound lack of evidence tying Loughton to the tea party, or even its rhetoric. Teahadists are more than happy to do the whole guilt-by-association thing, and carry it to its most asinine conclusions. But I won’t. I’m looking for evidence. And unless you’re not better than the tea party, you shouldn’t either.


January 9th, 2011

Part of the problem is the violent “us vs them” rhetoric has become like the air we breathe. It’s simply all around us. It might be hard to find direct connecting evidence to the Tea Party, or any other group, because the connecting evidence is so all-pervasive. Just turn on a news program on the television, it’s in the newspapers, it’s in the music, it permeates movies so much we don’t even notice. Have you seen ads for video games lately?

This is an extremely violent country and our politicians manipulate that to serve their ends. Now throw into the mix the Tea Party rhetoric – whether a person is directly tied to them or not becomes almost irrelevant because it is so infused into the culture. You don’t have to be directly influenced by the Tea Party, you just have to breathe in the toxicity that permeates the entire culture.

America is a very sick country. Unfortunately, it’s become so paranoid-delusional it can no longer recognise it’s need for help.

Our politicians prime objective is to get (re)elected … at any cost. What is good for the country is secondary (or tertiary).

paul canning

January 9th, 2011


a representative of Southern Poverty Law centre on Olbermann last night examined the rhetoric in the videos and spoke about tracing it back to hate groups – including the stuff about grammar.

As well, HuffPost has an article today linking parts of the rhetoric to a white supremacist group.


January 9th, 2011

There is evidence that Loughner was motivated by extremist conservative ideology. According to Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, even the idea that the government controls us by controlling our grammar originated with an extremist writer:

The federal government is investigating possible ties to the conservative publication American Renaissance. The DHR describes AR as anti-government, anti-immigration, and anti-Semitic:

Peter Ould

January 9th, 2011

Do you not think that the FCKH8 campaign is equally guilty of “violent rhetoric” that is unhelpful?

Priya Lynn

January 9th, 2011

No Peter, that campaign didn’t use veiled calls for murder.


January 9th, 2011



Rob Lll

January 9th, 2011

Last night I returned home from a grueling screening of the Holocaust documentary “Shoah” only to be confronted not just with the news about the Arizona shooting, but also horrifying stories about a Portuguese gay activist murdered in his New York hotel room and a new mass grave found in Mexico. It wasn’t exactly a banner day for my faith in humanity.

However, this morning I felt a little better after reading this:

Even in the most horrifying situations the best of human nature can assert itself.

Incidentally, according to Joe My God), the young man is not only quick-thinking and compassionate, he’s also gay.

Ben in Oakland

January 9th, 2011

I don’t recall ever calling for violence against Christians because they are an offense to decency and morality, a stench in god’s nostrils, or a threat to family, children, marriage, religion, freedom, western culture, education, health…

…and on and on and on.

Jim Burroway

January 9th, 2011

Paul Canning,

I saw Potok’s claims, and they are not convincing. Look at the evidence itself. Look at the videos. There are no ties between Loughner’s rhetoric and the hate groups. There is no similarity. Look at the videos themselves, and you’ll see.

As for the Huffington post, that “source” ended up being a rumor that is now being backtracked by the web site that first put it up.

I am on the lookout, and will report what I see, but so far there are no links yet.

Peter Ould

Oh please. FCKH8 is not “violent rhetoric.” Point to one thing about the entire campaign that is “violent rhetoric.” You are being absurd.

There is a massive, massive difference between using non-violent potty language on the one hand, and on the other drawing gunsight targets on congressional districts, carrying firearms to rallies, accusing Democratic opponents of instituting “death panels”, singling out fellow citizens for infringements of their constitutional rights as a matter of law, sending package bombs in the mail to Homeland Security, bashing out windows of Gifford’s congressional office after she voted for health care reform, sending white powder to the congressional offices of another Arizona Democratic congressman, and insinuating that opponents are not just un-American, but also, in some cases, non-American.

To pretend that there is some sort of equivalency is willful blindness.

Timothy Kincaid

January 9th, 2011

It’s been reported that Loughner considered himself very liberal and that he disapproved of Giffords’ ability to understand his positions. It’s possible that his views have changed and now he is susceptible to teaparty rhetoric; but that is a presumption that is currently without tangible support.

But if his views are as they have been reported and he acted accordingly, then Pima County sheriff Clarence Dupnik is grandstanding and using the situation to make political points that are directly opposite to reality. If Loughner considered Giffords to be unsympathetic with his liberal views (which is all we have so far), then it would be statements like Dupnik’s that are to blame – accusations of bigotry and prejudice that may have appealed to Loughner – not those of Palin whom he would ignore.

Or none of the rhetoric right or left may have been relevant. It may be that he heard his lamp tell him to shoot his representative.

I would hope that Dupnik can reel back in his positioning until we know the circumstances. While it may appeal to those who wish to blame “the other side” it only serves to fuel animosity.

Timothy Kincaid

January 9th, 2011


Yes, both sides have engaged in the practice of dehumanizing those with whom they disagree. They cease to be people, and become gun-site targets or H8ers to whom we can say “f*ck you.” Incivility is perfectly acceptable when it’s “our side” because the “other side” is evil, you see.

When people cease to be those with whom we disagree and become those whom we destroy, then the logical conclusion is what happened in Tuscon.

Yes, Palin engages in this tactic (and is truly one of the worst on the right). The freepers and townhall commenters engage in bald-faced bigotry and proud declarations of hatred. But so do many on the liberal side of the equation.

We see language like “Rethuglicans” and the vilest of demonization of conservatives, Republicans, Christians, etc. on a number of liberal – including gay liberal – sites. Fortunately, most BTB commenters are far better behaved – and far more likely to think rather than respond with knee-jerk hatred.

Mihangel apYrs

January 9th, 2011

everywhere’s home to somewhere, and a tragedy just down the road is worse than an atrocity 100 miles away.

Deep breaths and focus ahead, where our enemies lurk


January 9th, 2011

The “accomplice” has turned out to be a cab driver, and has been cleared of involvement in the case.


January 9th, 2011

That “Person of Interest” turned out to be the cab driver who took Loughner to Safeway.

Loughner didn’t have the correct change to pay the cab fare and the driver went inside the store with him where, apparently, Loughner got the change and paid the driver. The driver then left the area.


January 9th, 2011

Tough I respect your right to your opinion, I disagree. You, like many, keep thinking that in order to be fair we have to blance our complaint against hate mongers by pointing out where some on our side are rude at times as well.
We have lost any ability to talk about objective facts in our need to seek balance. The table next to me is a table, even if someone else thinks it is an elephant.
I think one objective truth is that the right wing of politics in this country has taken advantage of the hate mongering while skilling side stepping responsiblity.
I live a few mintues from this tragedy and shopped there on occassion. It is frighting when I thank that a fairly moderate person in Congress (who has been very supportive of gay rights) could be the focus of something like this. There is a clear difference in name calling that sometimes comes from our side (calling people bigots, etc) and the systematic words on the other side that have set up great disrespect for our govenrment and persons like our representive. I saw the ugly signs along the high way, liberals never did anything even close.

Timothy Kincaid

January 9th, 2011

No, pax58,

I’m not “providing balance”. I could give a flying flip about “providing balance”. I’m simply telling what you call the objective truth.

The left is every bit as quick to use contempt and dismissiveness as a tool as is the right. I know that isn’t pleasant to hear for those who seek to believe that they are “the good guys” but it’s true. The rhetoric is often interchangeable.

“Our side” (incidentally, I’m neither liberal nor a registered Democrat – though I’d likely vote for Giffords) does indeed use systematic words that have set up great disrespect for our government and various representatives. It is simply an unavoidable truth. Read comments about Bush or Palin or Bachmann, or about “old white men” in Congress – it isn’t pretty.

Priya Lynn

January 9th, 2011

Timothy said “I’m simply telling what you call the objective truth.”.

Given that you haven’t got a perfect method to assess all the comments made by left and right and assign weights to them, no you are not telling the objective truth – no one can in this situation.

Having said that I agree with Pax.


January 9th, 2011

I have lived in Arizona for 22 years. The last two years have been particularly unpleasant. The hatred towards Mexicans and gays by political figures and conservative Christians is immense here. I don’t know what will happen next.

Throbert McGee

January 9th, 2011

“Oh please. FCKH8 is not “violent rhetoric.” Point to one thing about the entire campaign that is “violent rhetoric.” You are being absurd.”

Well, granted, the FCKH8 campaign doesn’t urge violence against others — but it does make a rather fucking over-the-top accusation that people who support the continued existence of DADT, or who voted Yes on Prop8, **drive gay teenagers to suicide**. Or, in the charming (and rhyming!) words of the video:

“Your anti-gay votes…
…helped slit their throats!”

It’s one thing to say that bullying by school peers is an aggravating factor in gay teen suicide attempts; it’s something VERY different to suggest that everyone who votes against the policy preferences/goals of gay adults is complicit in the suicides of gay teenagers.

And I would call the latter a form of “violent rhetoric” — even though, again, it doesn’t urge violence in a direct way.

Lorenzo from Oz

January 9th, 2011

Consider this list of spree killings and try and find some “political” (or even gun control) link. Or this more comprehensive set of lists. Spree and mass murders from individuals do not have the sort of “general” causes people want to postulate. In a way, that makes them more frightening.

The US does have an excessive political rhetoric problem, but it is a separate problem and it is not coming just from one side of politics.


January 9th, 2011

I’m tired of people trying to defend the GOP by saying “Both sides use violent rhetoric.”

It’s like saying me and my uncle “Both drink alcohol.” I have a few beers maybe once a week, he gets fall on his face drunk every single day.

Throbert McGee

January 9th, 2011

The freepers and townhall commenters engage in bald-faced bigotry and proud declarations of hatred. But so do many on the liberal side of the equation.

We see language like “Rethuglicans” and the vilest of demonization of conservatives, Republicans, Christians, etc. on a number of liberal – including gay liberal – sites. Fortunately, most BTB commenters are far better behaved – and far more likely to think rather than respond with knee-jerk hatred.

Okay, THIS finally motivated me to add BTB to the little row of favicons in my browser (joining such illustrious sites as indegayforum, southparkstudios, blackfive, volokh, and bateworld…)

P.S. The favicon would look much nicer with a transparent background.

Ben in Oakland

January 10th, 2011

Though it might be provable whether or not this tragic shooting is the direct spawn of the violent rhetoric of the hard right,depending on what an investigation of the shooter turns up, it doesn’t really say very much. so far, the shooter is an example of membership in a relatively small club. Political assassination and domestic terrorism are not new things in this country. They are shocking to us only because they are not common. If we lived in Argentina, for example…

There are other things of far greater importance to me, at least until the combination of such lethality and political motivation becomes common. One of these is the easy availability of weapons in this country, with almost no checks or reasonable restrictions on ownership. It may well be that the majority of gun enthusiasts are law-abiding, sane, non-violent (at least if you’re not a wild animal) people. But that has nothing to do with the significant and deadly minority of people who are not. It’s just a distraction.

But I’m not sure about how wonderful that majority– or at least the vocal people that the majority allows to represent them– actually is. The evidence against this is the sheer impossibility of having an intelligent conversation on the subject of gun control in this country. Charlton Heston’s now very cold, dead hands are the symbol of it.

If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. It’s clever, totally besides the point, and basically, wrong.

Likewise, it doesn’t really matter whether right wing vitriol motivated this shooter or not, simply because that right wing vitriol exists regardless. It is poisoning all political discourse, all intelligent thought. I don’t think the left wing is as bad or as vicious. As much as I like Keith Olberman, I occasionally find him appalling. I almost always find Limbaugh and Beck appalling.

And you can’t spell appalling without Palin. (That’s an original).

I wrote this earlier in response to Peter Ould: “I don’t recall ever calling for violence against Christians because they are an offense to decency and morality, a stench in god’s nostrils, or a threat to family, children, marriage, religion, freedom, western culture, education, health…”

It is one thing to disapprove of homosexuality, whether for religious reasons, or simply because you find it (or perhaps yourself) icky, or because you think that being heterosexual is like winning God’s Own Lottery (cf Dorothy Parker on that subject).

It is quite another thing to be called a threat to everything that is decent, to society, to freedom, to family, to children.

It is quite another thing to be labeled as sick, depraved, disgusting, dangerous, molested, addicted, wounded, broken, and all the other bullshit that routinely gets tossed at gay people as if it were either true or relevant.

(It’s funny. If you ask an ex-homosexual, you hear the evils of homosexuality in spades– the addiction, the loneliness, the meaningless sex, the bad and evil this that and the other. I suspect it’s why they never ask REAL homosexuals what their lives are like. but I digress).

It is quite another thing to be blamed for child molestation, accused of wanting, nay, deliberately intending to destroy the family and society, to be an enemy of god, to hold, as it were, a special category of God’s Own Especial Shitlist, as if you were Satan’s Own Buttboy.

To believe this sort of thing you must be either especially ignorant or especially stupid. To not believe it, but to say it anyway, you must be especially evil.
Or especially afraid, as Quentin Crisp so eloquently put it, “that someone might think you’re queer.”

and if you are Maggie Gallagher, maybe you are just sincere, but misguided. Hah.

Pick one, pick two, or three or four. It makes no difference.

In our country, we can’t have intelligent national discussions on drugs, on guns, on gay people, on sex, on abortion, or on any of the things that vex us so.

Part of the problem, of course, cause, effect, and symptom, is that we are in decline. Too many years of believing our own publicity, or wars that other people were too smart to fight themselves, of printing money, are coming back at us. Part of the problem is our insularity. How many people in this country actually have passports, speak a foreign language, even badly? We’re fat, we’re lazy, and we speak of educated people as some sort of snobby elite that don’t understand the REAL ‘murrcans.

So there is vitriol coming from the right, without a doubt, the kind of vitriol that comes only from knowing that you are so right that god himself agrees with you.

And the even greater rightness– and I use the word with full awareness of the irony– that you have is this: your fear.

I am personally of the belief that the reason the vitriol persists is because there is a great deal of power and money to be had from fostering fear and division, encouraging them, insinuating them everywhere.

And winning. Don’t leave out winning, at any cost. Also and American ideal, regardless of cost. That has also been coming from the right, not so much the left. The Contract on America. The soaring deficits under republican presidents. The impeachment of bill Clinton. Two wars that have destroyed our wealth.

And, you might say, the Grand-daddy of them all? That republican senator who unleashed That Woman on this country. Anything to win.

What I loved about Jon Stewart’s and Stephen Colbert’s Rally? It was to RESTORE SANITY. what an accurate diagnosis of the problem. That’s why kings had jesters. They were 100% right. The democrats only second to the republicans in being bad, bad, bad for this country. The left is far from perfect, but if anything, it is the left in this country– or at least, its comedians– that is making some effort maintain the quality of political discourse.

When political discourse and good manners take a dive, it is not too surprising if violence is what follows.

MIhangel apYrs

January 10th, 2011

“everywhere’s home to someONE”

(dohh – Sunday night pre-bed beer, not a good idea to write after)

Peter Ould

January 10th, 2011

Tim K and Throbert,

Thank you for recognising what I thought was obvious – that the FCKH8 campaign does nothing to calm the tensions. I think those of you who can see no aggression in the videos of FCKH8 need to watch them again.

None of that is to excuse some of the language used or actions undertaken by those who oppose gay marriage. But I can tell you this very easily – for those who are “right wing”, the FCKH8 campaign could be perceived as quite scary. Perhaps some on the right need to feel what others have felt for decades, but FCKH8 as a method to move the situation forward positively?


Donny D.

January 10th, 2011

Denigrating rhetoric is not synonymous with eliminationist rhetoric. All eliminationist rhetoric is denigrating, but not all denigrating rhetoric is eliminationist.

The issue here is the eliminationist rhetoric. And in this, the right and left are NOT equally culpable. The right is incomparably worse in promulgating eliminationist rhetoric and imagery.

Calling a pro-Prop 8 voter a bigot is not equivalent to calling for the death of a politician who voted for Obamacare. You can try to connect relatively innocuous denigrating rhetoric to eliminationist talk, but that’s as dubious a slippery slope as the one that leads from marijuana to heroin use.

Is there a “bridge” area of denigrating rhetoric that is almost eliminationist? Yes, though where you see that can in some cases depend on your point of view. Referring to someone as “a cancer on the body politic” strongly implies something so virulent that it must be destroyed in place or removed. I would argue that claiming falsely that some person or group is seriously harming children is tantamount to calling for the destruction, removal or death of that person or group, though many would disagree. But most denigrating rhetoric is not this bad. All denigrating rhetoric is not equal in its dangerousness.

I’m not sure I can see any value in pushing for general civility beyond boundaries where one might expect to have control or influence, like in a debate, an online comments section or maybe a political convention. Political expression was rough and tumble back in the colonial days, and has been ever since the U.S. became independent. Rage-rants and vitriol can destroy opportunities for understanding and political growth, but so can lies, the use of logical fallacies and unadmitted prejudices.

Widening focus is an excellent way to become ineffective. I think that broadening the scope of the conversation to denigrating rhetoric would squander an opportunity to strongly address the violent rhetoric that influential conservatives have been getting away with for the last 15-20 years at least.

Priya Lynn

January 10th, 2011

Peter said “Thank you for recognising what I thought was obvious – that the FCKH8 campaign does nothing to calm the tensions. I think those of you who can see no aggression in the videos of FCKH8 need to watch them again.”.

That’s not what you said characterized the FCKH8 campaign. You said it was characterized by “violent rhetoric” and that’s false. As Jim said, there’s a long ways between potty mouth and violent rhetoric.

Timothy Kincaid

January 10th, 2011


I understand that these trying times truly do bring out the desire to blame someone, but we need to keep our comments within shouting distance of the facts.

I agree that calling for the death of a politician who voted for Obamacare is horrific. But it didn’t happen, or at least not from those you wish to blame.

And your refusal to see the left do the same is bizarre. Have you never read “Palin should just shoot herself” in the comments of a gay website? Or “McCain should just die already”?

I agree that claiming falsely that some person or group is seriously harming children is tantamount to calling for the destruction, removal or death of that person or group. And I’ve heard exactly that rhetoric about the Catholic Church.

I hope that we are capable of opposing such rhetoric from all side and not find excuses or overlook it when it comes from people who agree with us for the moment.

One of the things at BTB of which I am most proud is that we try not to engage in the politics of demonization or direct hatred at broad categories of people. You may long for the dissolution of general civility, but not me. You can find that on a hundred sites… hatred blooms abundantly on the web.

Jim Burroway

January 10th, 2011

I think there is a qualitative difference between comments left on leftwing web sites and the kind of vicious rhetoric that was persistently featured and promoted on Foxand Clear Channel.
Imagine the outrage if Pelosi had put that map outandresponded to the outcry with “lock and load.” Or if Rachel Maddow had put up those billboards that I see around town instead of Rush Limbaugh.

People on both sides are engaging in the vitriol, but that does not mean that there is equivalency in the degree or the nature of the platform. I do not believe, based on what we know today, that Sarah Palin bears responsible for the Tucson Massacre, but as I wrote it’s only because she “got lucky.”

I also do not believe that in the immediate aftermath, that expressing concern that the shooter may have been influenced by extreme right wing rhetoric like Palin’s was out of bounds. It merely expressed the gut fears that many of us have felt for some time, and in my case was loudly expressing.

While the facts today as we know the does not bear those fears out
in this particular case, it does not mean that there is no cause for

Jim Burroway

January 10th, 2011

By the way, commenting using a mobile phone is much harder than it looks.

Timothy Kincaid

January 10th, 2011

I watch Fox News. Frankly, they are significantly less obnoxious, snarky, and dismissive than MSNBC. It isn’t even close.

The vitriol is no worse on the right than the left. I happen to hear it both. And from my observations, I do not see these qualitative differences that justify blaming the right (even though they were “lucky” this time) while giving the Left a pass.

If Loughner is linked to Palin, I’ll readily give her blame. But, I ask, what if we discover that Loughner listed avidly to Olberman and hated that Giffords was a DINO?

Would that still mean that we talk about Palin’s excesses and ignore any on the Left? Would we just stop talking about the subject? Do we apply different standards because of the qualitative differences?

Or can we agree that it’s wrong no matter who does it?

Jim Burroway

January 10th, 2011

I watch MSNBC at home and they have Fox News on at work (unfortunately). I think I can make a pretty good comparison. I guess you don’t watch Glenn Beck. MSNBC is, as you say, obnoxious, snarky and dismissive. They don’t however uncritically spread falsehoods about death panels, or the president being a Muslim or a Kenyan. They never said that Bush “palls around with terrorists.” (And neither has any major Democratic political candidate that I can think of.) They never went on the air asking their viewers to “surround them.” I don’t see large-scale revisionist history on MSNBC on nearly the scale that is aired virtually every day on Fox News.

And I haven’t even gotten started with Clear Channel, partly because I don’t listen to it on a regular basis. Just enough to know that whatever faults Fox News has, Clear Channel is worse.

And both of them have much larger audiences than MSNBC and …. Oh, that’s right, there is no talk radio counterpart to Clear Channel, but there is Fox radio.

Again, I have to say that there is a massive qualitative difference between what goes on at Fox (and on Clear Channel) than what’s on MSNBC. Olberman is over the top. He questions why the previous administration’s use of torture doesn’t qualify as a war crime, but he also does the same with the Obama administration’s policy as well. But I don’t recall him trying to imply that Bush had sympathies with 9/11 terrorosts. There may be a thread of equivalency, but it is a false equivalency when scale and extent is factored in.

If it turns out the Loughner was influenced by Olberman or Moore, I have no problem with discussing their excesses. But it will be much harder, I think, pointing to Olberman’s or Moore’s statements as particularly iflamatory in a violent sense. They tend not to use violent metaphors. “Lock and load” is not in theri vocabulary.

It was Limbaugh who put that billboard up, not Olberman. It was Sen. Reid’s opponent wgo talked of “Second Amendment solutions,” not Mitch McConnel’s. And if Nancy Pelosi had “targeted” congressional districts with gunsight targets and answered criticism about it with a defiant “lock and load,” we’d all be having a very different conversation, wouldn’t we?

Emily K

January 10th, 2011

I watch Fox News. Frankly, they are significantly less obnoxious, snarky, and dismissive than MSNBC. It isn’t even close.

Gee, no wonder you assumed the Park51 Islamic Center was “trying to be offensive” on purpose.

ALL teevee news is GARBAGE. it’s ENTERTAINMENT. It has pretty faces, cleavage, and flashy graphics. It’s GARBAGE.

But the fact that Timothy takes his main form of information from 1) a television cable news channel and 2) an absolutely unapologetic right wing propaganda machine speaks volumes about his credibility on this blog.

Once again I’m questioning sourcing my information from here. If it’s being filtered by someone who gets their information from a propaganda machine, how can I trust ANYTHING they write??

Emily K

January 10th, 2011

The vitriol is no worse on the right than the left. I happen to hear it both. And from my observations, I do not see these qualitative differences that justify blaming the right (even though they were “lucky” this time) while giving the Left a pass.

Are you KIDDING me.

Ok, here’s a challenge, Tim. Please give us current examples of the kind of rhetoric the right is using, but coming from the mainstream left. It has to be mainstream. You can’t cite some unknown anarchist with a blogger account. It has to be a person who has a national stage.

They have to use the same kind of rhetoric, symbolism, and imagery. This includes guns, targets, “taking back our country,” militias, revolution, etc.

Jim Burroway

January 10th, 2011

By the way, Scarborough and Pat Buchannan also agree that Palin was way, way out of bounds and should apologize.

Those crazy lib’rals! ;-)

Timothy Kincaid

January 10th, 2011

If the sole measure of violent rhetoric is the use of gun analogies, you’re right. The Left doesn’t use military themes in communication. What the Left considers “jingoism” or “violent”, the right considers “patriotic”.

So you aren’t going to get the exact same language or exact same imagery.

But if you want to compare hatred, demonizing, or accusations that are beyond the pale (which I personally believe to be far more relevant)? I don’t need to provide examples, they are legion. (So, no, Emily, I’ll not be doing a research project for you. And FYI, the first time I heard “taking back our country” Reagan was in office).

And Jim, as for the “massive qualitative difference between what goes on at Fox than what’s on MSNBC (I don’t think I get Clear Channel), you seem actually to be going for quantitative differences rather than qualitative. That Fox has a larger audience doesn’t make their excesses more egregious than MSNBC, just heard more.

I’m not understanding the need for the hatred on the right to be considered worse than the hatred on the left. While at times like these it is comforting to retract to our “camp” and hate the other guy, it does not serve us well to do so.

Timothy Kincaid

January 10th, 2011

Oh, Palin is over the top and should stop. That is true without this shooting. But that is absolutely unrelated to this incident.

Discussing it in this context creates linking.

Ya know how we hate it when the Catholic Church wanted to discuss gay priests in the context of their Bishop protecting molesters – as though it was linked? Or when Bradley Manning’s sexual orientation suddenly was relevant to DADT?

That’s the sort of thing we shouldn’t do. We are not Pat Robertson. We are capable of thought beyond “what God meant by this hurricane”

Jim Burroway

January 10th, 2011

I was thinking qualitative, but threw in a quantitative as well. But yes, I was mostly thinking qualitative, like this thing here:

What exactly is patriotic about that?

This isn’t Fox News. Instead, it was Gabrielle Giffords’s Republican opponent in the last election:

I think when a shooting victim was alarmed enough to complain about specifically violent rhetoric before she was shot, then it is a topic that begs discussion when she is shot.

Jim Burroway

January 10th, 2011

Here is Gabrielle Giffords warning about the violent threats she’s been getting. Sorry, it’s MSNBC, but I think you’ll find the hosts to be quite balanced.

Priya Lynn

January 10th, 2011

Timothy said “If the sole measure of violent rhetoric is the use of gun analogies, you’re right. The Left doesn’t use military themes in communication. What the Left considers “jingoism” or “violent”, the right considers “patriotic”. “.

I’m at a loss as to how anyone could consider “I want you to come and be armed and dangerous”, “don’t retreat, reload”, or showing up at a rally with a loaded gun patriotic.

Emily K

January 10th, 2011

I find that Glenn Beck picture alarming. He’s not standing guard, he’s not hunting, he’s not even carrying it in a holster. he looks like he’s playing “cops n’ robbers” or some kind or a children’s version of The Soprano’s.

Seriously. He looks like he’s on the lookout to kill someone.


Timothy Kincaid

January 10th, 2011

I think when a shooting victim was alarmed enough to complain about specifically violent rhetoric before she was shot, then it is a topic that begs discussion when she is shot.

One might think so… but that doesn’t make it so.

Again it comes back to whether the incident is related. IF THIS incident is related to violent rhetoric (ie if Loughner was influenced in any way by the rhetoric of her opponent or whomever was using the rhetoric) THEN it is a topic that begs discussion.

As I’ve said time and again, if Loughner’s activity is traced in any way to Palin or Fox News or her electoral opponent, then all of the complaints about Palin and Fox News and her electoral opponent are relevant. Otherwise it is an attempt to capitalize on tragedy to advance an unrelated political goal.

Timothy Kincaid

January 10th, 2011

Okay, THIS is disgusting:

Unbelievable! They deleted the image. Oh no, that doesn’t look like a guilty conscience at all.

Had they not deleted the image it would have been “insensitive” but because they did, it’s “guilty conscience”.

This is an example of the demonization I was talking about. They’ve flat out insinuated that Glen Beck is guilty of Gifford’s assassination attempt.

Who else was offended?

Why not?

Could it be that your lack of offense is based on who it is?

(p.s. And for all of you who are anti-gun, you may want to consider that Giffords was a 2nd Amendment advocate.)

I think I’ve stated my position and I’ll pull back from this conversation. Perhaps in time we can reach the place again where we judge circumstances on what they are, not on what “side” one is on.

Jim Burroway

January 10th, 2011

The web site certainly put Glenn Beck in a no-win conundrum: leave it up, and he’s accused of being insensitive; take it down, and he has a guilty conscience.

No. Wait a minute. That web site didn’t put Glenn Beck into a no-win conundrum. Glenn Beck did.

Where do they insinuate that Glenn Beck is guilty of Gifford’s assassination attempt in that post. (By the way, how do you “flat out insinuate?”)

That is not “demonization” to criticize someone for actively encouraging the very kind of poisonous political atmosphere that has had so many of us alarmed for the past several years.

It. Just. Isn’t.

Seriously, you cannot tell me that if Kieth Olberman had an image of himself on his web site posing with a gun that people wouldn’t be screaming bloody murder.

And they’d be right to do so.


January 10th, 2011

“I don’t need to provide examples”

Well that sums up the argument for the ‘both sides use just as much violent rhetoric’ people

Timothy Kincaid

January 10th, 2011

Olbermann would not use gun imagery. As I’ve said. It’s not a thing the Left does.

So it seems the real crux of this issue is that the Right is evil to use gun imagery in any way. It’s “violent imagery”

You see, when I got in this discussion I forgot the Left’s definition of “violent imagery”. I thought we were talking about “whatever demonization taking place… in terms of both the scope and the influence”, not about which side uses which imagery.

It’s not the heinous accusations, the hate speech, the constant slurs, no it’s gun imagery. THat’s the only thing which is relevant.


Sometimes in the midst of the incredibly hateful and vile things that the right says in trying to destroy the lives of gay people I ask myself, “Timothy, why don’t you just join the Left. They don’t want to take away your rights.”

But invariably something comes along that reminds me. This is one such reminder.

Timothy Kincaid

January 10th, 2011

Like I said, I’m walking away from this.

I’m so very disappointed that this conversation has turned into a right v. left, white hat v. black hat, our camp v. their camp accusation-fest.

I really don’t want to participate in that any longer. I haven’t much use for any of the camps today as I’m pretty much disgusted in the behavior I see coming from all sides.

And I’m finding it increasingly difficult to not over-react, so I’ll take a breather.

Emily K

January 10th, 2011

Seriously, Penguinsaur. Timothy’s all “produce sources” and “be centrist” until his own right wing sentiments are threatened by an inconvenient reality.

Consider also his behavior during the height of the Park51 controversy. He assumed those Muslims were “trying to be offensive” and then backed away when he couldn’t prove it, citing a fear of victimization. PLEASE.

And Jim is right. Nobody said Glenn Beck was guilty of the assassination. He IS guilty of encouraging an extreme atmosphere.

I mean, the image ALONE is worthy of FAILblog. “We must stand together against all violence” set against the backdrop of Vigilante Beck locked and loaded? gimme a break! How much clearer do you need it to be?

Just because the Right sees toting guns, locking and loading, and using militia symbolism as patriotic doesn’t mean they’re a healthy way to contribute to the political atmosphere.

Which would you rather have: A leftist threatening to spray grafitti on your house or a right winger threatening to shoot you?

Emily K

January 10th, 2011

So it seems the real crux of this issue is that the Right is evil to use gun imagery in any way. It’s “violent imagery”

It’s violent imagery to encourage vigilantism and anti-government overthrow in conjunction with firearm imagery. YES.

It’s violent imagery to associate guns with overthrow of specific people. Especially when there are crosshairs pointing to their locations. YES.

An image of a gun alone is not “violent.” It’s just an image of a gun. You don’t know if the gun is being used to stop a violent rapist, or take down a rabid badger. Or maybe it’s a hunting rifle; a completely different context. Or maybe it’s only for target shooting.

The WAY the imagery is being used is what is dangerous.

Jim Burroway

January 10th, 2011

So it seems the real crux of this issue is that the Right is evil to use gun imagery in any way. It’s “violent imagery”

When the NRA uses gun imagery, it is because the NRA cares about the second amendment.

When the military uses gun imagery, it is a symbol of their mission of defending our nation.

When duck hunting groups use gun imagery, it is because they like duck hunting.

But I think that whenever a candidate or a political pundit uses gun imagery, we are treading on extremely dangerous ground. In a political context, what constructive message could that possibly deliver? How can it NOT be seen as belligerent?

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