Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Blame Game

I spent some time in the car today, much of it listening to talk radio - everything from NPR to KMOX to 97.1.  The hot topic this morning was Jared Loughner's Saturday shooting spree.  That, of course, is a worthy topic.  Thankfully, it is still an unusual and newsworthy event when a man takes out a gun, starts shooting, and kills six random people while injuring fourteen more, including a member of Congress.  But folks across the dial weren't content to talk about the news - what happened and what we know.  No, the talking heads were aghast over climate of American political rhetoric which they seem to blame for making this Loughner-nut act like the nut he is.

The media's focus today seems to be on Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and Glenn Beck - blaming them (as the sheriff in Tucson did) for Loughner's actions.  Those three, and other conservative voices, are vaguely blamed today and all to often for "divisiveness" or "hatred" or "vitriol" or "negativity".  What that really seems to mean, though, is that they disagree with the media, the Democrats, and the folks who currently hold power in Washington, D.C., and want to keep it and acquire more.

Conservative voices are often discussed by their opposition without any reference to specifics.  Take criticism spouted by Clarence Dupnik (quoted in the story linked above), the Pima County, Arizona, sheriff investigating the rampage:  "The kind of rhetoric that flows from people like Rush Limbaugh, in my judgment he is irresponsible, uses partial information, sometimes wrong information.  . . . [Limbaugh] attacks people, angers them against government, angers them against elected officials and that kind of behavior in my opinion is not without consequences."

What, Sheriff Dupnik, did Rush Limbaugh say that caused this nut to go off and start shooting?  Did he suggest violence?  Have you ever listened to Rush's show?  Or have you just heard your friends second-hand criticism of what they think he said?  What did he say that was irresponsible?

Limbaugh, Dupnik said, "angers" people against government and elected officials.  But anger is not synonymous with violence.  Anger, often - usually even, does not result in violence.  What is wrong with anger in the context of political discourse?  Nothing, of course.

Anger channeled to violence is wrong.  But political rhetoric is not responsible for doing that particular wrong.  Certainly not in this case.

Jared Loughner is - to the best of my barely informed knowledge - nuts.  And Jared Loughner (or possibly his mental illness) is responsible for his actions.

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