Monday, January 10, 2011

What I Take Away From Saturday's Arizona Rampage

I vented my initial reaction to the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords on facebook:

'Alright, I've changed my mind on the border fence: I'll support it, just so long as it goes around Arizona too.'

Viscerally, this was satisfying. It's easy to look for scapegoats, and it's very easy to pin calamity on out-groups, especially when there's--at least--a loose connection. After sleeping on it however, this is where I'm at:

Even if it turns out that this lunatic was a huge Glenn Beck fan, I don’t think it’s appropriate to blame the tea party for this. Crazy, violent people will do crazy, violent things: if it wasn’t some weird ‘currency’ fixation, maybe a Katy Perry song would’ve done it.

If anything should be learned from this incident, it should be the following 3 things:

1) automatic weapons are way to easy to get a hold of in the U.S.
2) We need better mental health services in this country.
3) American students shouldn’t be able to leave high school without some training in psychology and critical thinking: If more members of our society were able to reason clearly, maybe fewer folks would be willing to offer up these ready-made John Birch fantasies for the mentally ill in our society to cling onto, and maybe there would be fewer folks out there ready to cling onto them.

There will be incidents like this in any society. The best thing to do is to figure out ways to make them happen as infrequently as possible.

19 comments:

Andrew David King said...

Kudos to you for this. I dislike the Tea Party and their talking heads as much as the next multi-brain-celled person, but the witch hunt that followed the Giffords shooting was absolutely stomach-churning.

The facts remain that a) Laughner's personal politics remain selective at best, though he did prize The Communist Manifesto; b) there is no direct proof that he garnered his inspiration from any tea party or right-wing sources; c) just because Gifford's dad says "the entire tea party" was her enemy does not make it so nor does it make them guilty of murder; d) Jesse Kelly, the man who ran against Giffords last November, sponsored an M16 shooting event as part of his campaign, but his name is absent from the media in place of Palin's, Limbaugh's, etc.; e) Democrats have used the same "crosshairs/bullseye" icon that Palin did on her map of liberal problem areas numerous times for Republican areas, even labeling one area "behind enemy lines" (http://www.verumserum.com/?p=13647); f) perhaps most damning of all, violent speech is not, in fact, endemic to solely the right-wing (as a Berkeley student I can attest to this, as can right-wing blogger Zombietime http://www.zombietime.com/zomblog/?p=621).

There's this hilarious and terrible notion reeking from the left-wing that we must "stop the hate," which while managing to sound reasonable on the outside appears under further scrutiny to be nothing more than an attempt to indict speech in the same manner as action and stifle dissent in the name of "hatred." This whole "speech has consequences" thing is total bull--no speech, none whatsoever, not even direct provocations of violence, can be guilty in the same way as actual violence itself. To assert otherwise would be utter insanity: Are we going to posthumously indict J.D. Salinger because two assassins had a fetish for Catcher in the Rye?

Andrew David King said...

As an addendum to my previous comment, I thought f) deserved reiteration by means of mentioning typically-categorized "left-wing" causes that frequently resort to violent rhetoric and violence itself, such as the ALF, Earth First Movement, Black Panther Party, PETA, etc.

Lodo Grdzak said...

When you're running for political office, you're supposed to be the best, brightest--someone capable of raising your fellow man to his/her highest level. I dont see how placing your political opponnents in the crosshairs of a gun sight, proves anything except that you're an opportunitstic brownshirt. Palin w/out a doubt has to accept some (some!) responsibility for this attack. Not that she's directly responsible--of course not. But when you create a tone like she does (which adds nothing to the debate of the issues themselves), it encourages fringe elements to take matters into their own hands. Think you're being a tad naive on this one Spencer. She's a terribe, terrible person. Huge sellout--just like old man McCain!!!!

Willie Y said...

I also think that you cannot dismiss the hate speech from the likes of Palin,Beck,Hannity and Limbaugh. It's not that they directly caused this but they certainly set the tone for this kind of violence. Bill O' Riley went on and on every night calling Dr. Tiller "Dr. Tiller the baby killer". Till some nut shot and killed him. It's not just "I don't think the other side is right because........." It's "The other side is so far out in the way they think it's destroying our way of life." Remember the town hall meetings and the hate that was directed at our representatives. I think this kind of rhetoric breeds these kinds of violent actions.

Lodo Grdzak said...

I'd take it a step further Willie and say that when Beck, Limbaugh,O'Reilly, Hannity say these things--they're just TV personalities. Entertainers. When Palin does these things with the gun-scope targeting and whatnot--she's basically the Republican nominee right now; or close to it. In other words, this is the person who was # 2 on the ticket for the Repubs saying these things. That's like...a mainstream call to arms--no?

And lets face it, this guy didn't shoot a crossing guard--he killed a member of Congress (think she was a congresswoman). That's political--end of story. And he didnt shoot a Repub, he shot a Democrat who was in a heated race with Tea Party. Please. This is the end for Palin as real candidate--even Repubs will turn on her now albeit out of sight of cameras. But she'll make even more millions now. And she'll be President Palin...next President of the NRA!

Spencer Troxell said...

Andrew: Thanks for the support.

Lodo & Willie: I'm hardly being naive; I am cutting directly to root issues. If we had better mental health services in this country, more responsible gun laws, and if we taught our kids how to be better critical thinkers (point three is where you seem to have missed that I put conspiracy minded right-wing talkers on the hook), situations like this could be minimized. Jared Lee Loughner--who should be executed--is not the victim of tea party/sarah palin rhetoric. If he wasn't clearly schizophrenic, I think your case would be stronger, but, as Andrew David King mentions in his comment, Loughner was clearly motivated more by mental illness than any coherent political or religious philosophy.

Sarah Palin is no more responsible for what he did than Marilyn Manson was responsible for Columbine; Both Manson and Palin are symptoms of cultural phenomenons,not causes (Manson, I would suggest, represented healthy catharsis, while Sarah Palin...not so much).

As somewhat of a radical individualist, I am more inclined to put the blame on the individual who commits the crime than the person who may have been whispering in their ear. While I agree that it betrays either a deep irresponsibility, or ignorance to perpetuate the tinfoil hat conspiracies that are ready-made to be adopted by wackos like Loughner, the responsibility ultimately lays with him, and with us collectively, for always being so damned reactive. Patton was on target when he forced german citizens who plead that they 'didn't know what was going on' during the world war 2 to tour the death camps. The citizenry of Germany was more responsible for the holocaust than Hitler was; without their compliance, he would've just been some failed artist-asshole with a bad haircut.

Willie Y said...

If you don't think that painting people as dangerous, check out Fox Nation.

Spencer Troxell said...

Here's a link for you, Willie: Like every other important service, Arizona cut the shit out of its mental health budget last year:

http://www.stateline.org/live/details/story?contentId=499181

If the state of Arizona--and the federal government--worried more about necessary human services than whether or not boys were allowed to kiss and the right of every man, woman, child, and household pet to walk around strapped to the teeth was adequately upheld, perhaps we wouldn't be having this discussion right now.

Lodo Grdzak said...

No one (at least on my end) is blaming Palin specifically or saying that this guy isn't responsible for his own actions. What I'm saying is, why did he feel comfortable enough to choose a Democratic candidate to carry-out his plans? There were far easier subjects to turn his rage towards.

Well, maybe 'cause he lives in Arizona where perhaps there isn't as much counter-balance to the kind of rhetoric Palin's eschewing than there would be in someplace like...Ohio. Not really a lot of diverse voices in AZ. (old man McCain's considered a liberal out there). When you surround yourself with this kind of atmosphere, you become a byproduct of it--and if you're mentally unstable, you're even more susceptible.

So yes, as an American I would be very concerned as to this kind of political tone we've seen escalating since about 2000 and that Palin seems to really relish and encourage. It has a definite warping effect. As a psychology guy, you know there's human beings dealing w/ each other 1-on-1; and then there's the human animal in mass form, which is a very different (and dangerous) creature entirely. People act differently when they feel part of a crowd or a movement.

Palin's not an artist. Its not theater--or even political theater for the # 2 person on the most mainstream thing there is in America--the Republican ticket, to place a gunsight over a rival candidate and say "lets remove them." She has a very real, tangible agenda--unlike Marilyn Manson; who's just another version of Hannity or Limbaugh.

By the way Mr. Andrew David King, can you give me a couple examples of Obama or Dems placing crosshairs or gunsights over candidates? You mention that they did so, but failed to provide any examples to support your statement. Please do so.

Spencer Troxell said...

"What I'm saying is, why did he feel comfortable enough to choose a Democratic candidate to carry-out his plans?"

Of course, no one can answer that question precisely at the moment, but the evidence points to it being a coincidence based on schizophrenic delusions:

"Agents believe he had developed a festering and irrational hatred of Democrat Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords after she failed to answer his question – ‘What is government if words have no meaning?’ – at a political rally at his college two years ago."

Read more:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1345895/Jared-Loughner-Mugshot-Tucson-shooting-suspect.html#ixzz1AjxHAZDc

No doubt a lot of fucked up stuff happens in Arizona, and no doubt the tea party and Sarah Palin generally only contribute a whole lot of stupid to the general political discourse. When Hank Hill guns down a senator, I think it will be more reasonable to talk about how cultural figures affected his motivation...until then, I don't think it's appropriate.

And you are the one who decided Sarah Palin was the number 2 republican...she's a fetish item, and a hero to a certain portion of the conservative subculture, but she increasingly has more in common with Glenn Beck than she does with Mitt Romney, or John Boehner. I think my Marilyn Manson analogy was apt.

Lodo Grdzak said...

Palin is without doubt the most popular Republican (most admired woman in this country after Hillary Clinton) and was # 2 the last time they ran 2 years ago. Palin appeard with almost all Tea Party candidates at some point (who whipped Dems butts and who really won the election) as well as many Repubs. Still waiting for Mr. King to support his assertion that Dems and Obama used gunsights in their ads/political campaigns. Pretty bold statement to just toss out there w/out documenting your source. But hey, that's life in the blogosphere!

Spencer Troxell said...

You didn't include any sources in your statement about Palin's popularity, either Lodo. And what, was that from a public opinion poll? Please. It's incredibly easy to lie with statistics, and even easier to make sloppy generalizations.

Also, you know who else has appeared with a lot of Tea party candidates? Sean Hannity. They're all part of the same clusterfuck.

Lodo Grdzak said...

True.

Mr. King, I'm still waiting. Saying I didn't list NY Daily News as my source on Palin doesn't excuse your necessity of documenting a statememnt as bold as asserting Obama and Democrats used gunsights in their campaign ads. I'd be very curious to see the candidate(s) who thought that would appeal to the demographic of America that votes Demoractic.

Spencer Troxell said...

Give Andrew a minute, Lodo. He's a very busy young man.

I'm confident he'll step up to the plate (I would be surprised to see evidence that Barack Obama used gun sites in an ad...did King say that? I'll have to reread his comments...)

Andrew David King said...

Hi Lodo. Nice to meet you, though a shame it's under the circumstances of discussing a mass murder. And so it goes.

I don't want to flat-out say you didn't read my first comments fully, but that's sure what it seems like, because in there, I provided a direct link to a website (http://www.verumserum.com/?p=13647) that offers numerous examples of maps that were used (and are still being used) by Democrats that feature targets over oppositional areas. Plenty enough "examples to support my statement" if you had looked. I did not say that Obama used these nor do I claim he does. However, if you'd so kindly click on the link above, or this link (http://tinyurl.com/69esymg) you'd see that there is a map that still exists today on the website of the Democratic Leadership Committee that features bullseyes over several prominently Republican states and, to add to it, the caption "Behind Enemy Lines" beneath. Far more brash than Palin, I assure you, although the AP and liberal commentators have done journalism a disservice with their cherry-picking of sources. Blaming it squarely on Palin makes for interesting news and quells the left's primal hunger for evidence to support their prejudices, but unfortunately, a more accurate picture is far more depressing and banal.

Please, also, visit this link, which I posted in my first few comments, but again, I assume you didn't click (http://www.zombietime.com/zomblog/?p=621), because it gives you an introductory sampler of how violent left-wing protests can get. As a U.C. Berkeley student and a citizen of the SF Bay Area who's taken part in many such protests myself, to me it is not a matter of opinion but fact that the left-wing's rhetoric can easily escalate to calls for violent abdication and rebellion a la the French Revolution. Ah, but this isn't "hate speech," not out here in the bleeding-blue Bay Area, because it supports the liberal viewpoint. Go figure.

Personally--and this isn't necessarily a dig at you, Lodo--I'm amazed at how utterly blind people are to the fact that this rhetoric exists on both sides of the fence. Just the other day I had this guy on Facebook who was trying to endlessly insist that the Democrats were "fair and rational," always, hands-down, and that the Republicans were a bunch of Cro-Magnon henchman. Such a worldview may make snap judgments easy, but that's about all the good it does, if snap judgments can ever be good, anyhow.

Lodo Grdzak said...

Mr. King:

I had to go to work, which is why I dropped-out of the conversation.

First of all, I went to that site you pointed out and didn't see what they heck you're talking about (did anybody else? Spence--did you?). If there's a particular heading or date of post I should look for, please advise.

Also, there's a difference between using bullseyes within a campaign's staff meetings or a parties strategy meeting and disseminating literature like that to the public at large.

Second (once again), no one's placing the blame at Palin's feet. No one named Lodo anyway. It is simply the gun-nut/"Real Americans" vibe perpetuated by her that people like myself dis-approve and think moves the country backward. And again, she's not an artist (not by a longshot!), she's #2 Republican pursuing very real agendas. So even the most remote suggestion of violence or aggression during this past presidential campaign takes on a different connotation. Especially in light of MLK's assassination, RFK's assassination; and the murder of civil rights workers in the south. She definitely (by design) subconsciously conjures those images in both her supporters and detractors.

3rd, terms like "left" and "right," are meaningless. I certainly don't use them. I dont even know what you're trying to say when you use those terms. That's pundit talk. And I'm no pundit. I deal w/ people all day everyday. From every economic strata and ethnicity. I know people. Palin's a brownshirt. Her followers and supporters are bullies. I dont need to intellectualize it. Just look what follows wherever she's been. Unhappiness. Anger. And the subconscious vibe of violence.

"Mama Grizzly,"--please shut the f**k up!

Lodo Grdzak said...

Okay, Now that I'm back on my Mac, I pulled up King's sites (tried to pull it up using my piece of shit Dell and forget it).

So, no offense, but the DNC doesn't exactly put anybody's name in the crosshairs. Just a State and a bullseye (no gunsight). And besides, even if I accept that it is a gunsight, one example is not a whole campaign's tone, like the Tea Party's.

In regards to those Bush protesters--they're protesting the Iraq War! Yes they threaten the President, but the violence was initiated by the Taliban and Bush. Not by those who eventually hated Bush. They're hatred was a response. Once the war got rolling (despite the fact that Bush/Cheney stole the Presidency and had no real mandate), look what resulted.

This is exactly why you don't want to get violence or hate speech started like Palin and Tea Party does. They pride themselves on a fight, which is the whole point those who hate her and Tea Party are trying to make. Why be so anxious to make aggressive overtones (or undertones)?

With Palin and Tea Party--they're anxious to initiate wars of words and ideologies all the time. And they're aggressive rhetoric (in my opinion) ultimately leads to a climate that could lead to violence. That's why that stuff's gotta be avoided and why Palin will always be a # 2 in every sense of that connotation. Big # 2!

Andrew David King said...

Lodo:

Thanks for responding. No worries about the time delay. I, too, had work throughout the day, or else I would have responded to your queries sooner.

In regard to the link, if you simply scroll down, you will notice the picture that I have been consistently referencing. Because I really want you to see this map, here is the actual page of the Democratic Leadership Council that features the said map: http://www.dlc.org/ndol_ci.cfm?contentid=253055&kaid=127&subid=171. This link may be of no help, though, for it also requires some scrolling down. In any case, to prevent further doubt, here is the image's direct link: http://www.ndol.org/upload_graphics/BP_0405_heartland1.gif.

Your argument about there being a contextual difference in whether or not the map is presented at campaign staff meetings or "disseminating literature like that to the public at large" falls flat on the account of three considerations. Firstly, the differentiation between a map presented at a political gathering open to the public and one posted behind closed doors is trivial: if it's truly capable of inspiring and being responsible for violence, then this has to hold true in any context. Secondly, your statement implies--as has become so common in the past few days--that words can be held responsible for adverse actions. In that case, perhaps we should ban the Bible, or any other work of literature worth reading, and throw their authors in jail on account of disturbing the peace. China's doing it, why not us? Thirdly, as many have pointed out, the language of war is common in political rhetoric, particularly leading up to campaigns. If you cannot fathom examples of this, I will readily provide those, too.

Andrew David King said...

You're correct, terms like "left" and "right" are inherently relative, but they have been loaned specific meanings by the media. In this case, the dichotomy has been made clear. Perhaps no other stereotypically "right-wing" individual's name has come up more than Sarah Palin's in light of the Giffords shooting. So yes, many are placing the blame at Palin's feet. Alexander Cockburn's column in The First Post yesterday mentioned her name in its third sentence. I don't admire nor do I endorse Palin, and I don't feel particularly sorry for her--trust me, it's hard to stop there--but she has, indeed, become the scapegoat that she never truly was all the while she was bemoaning the "lame-stream media."

While I, too, feel much anger and disappointment at individuals like Palin for the type of non-thinking, primal-response activity they propagate, I cannot agree with you that there is this subjective, immeasurable "subconscious vibe of violence." You have made some valid points, but to say that a particular group of individuals feels subconsciously, indirectly violent sounds curiously akin to a lot of what some conservative commentators have to say about Islam. They can't find anything factually or morally wrong with a bunch of grown adults getting together peacefully at a mosque, so they just settle for saying it gives them the heebie-jeebies, like that's a form of legitimate evidence or something.

To put it bluntly, Lodo, yes--you do need to intellectualize it. There is no point in fighting sophophobia among mainstream conservatism if you cannot accept the cure yourself. Simply saying "Shut the f**k up!", though it satisfies some innately atavistic urge to react, paradoxically and sadly locks discourse permanently at the low level you claim to take offense with.