Why the [shootings] Mean That We Must Support My Politics


The day after 9/11 here on Boing Boing, Cory pointed to this essay: "Why the Bombings Mean That We Must Support My Politics: a bang-on mock-editorial about the forthcoming tide of self-serving chest-thumping over the Current Events."

The essay really is timeless. When the pundit frenzy erupted yesterday, I thought of it again. You may want to bookmark it for the next big news tragedy—whatever it is, someone will surely use it to further their own tangentially related political agenda.

Many people will use this terrible tragedy as an excuse to put through a political agenda other than my own. This tawdry abuse of human suffering for political gain sickens me to the core of my being. Those people who have different political views from me ought to be ashamed of themselves for thinking of cheap partisan point-scoring at a time like this. In any case, what this tragedy really shows us is that, so far from putting into practice political views other than my own, it is precisely my political agenda which ought to be advanced.

Not only are my political views vindicated by this terrible tragedy, but also the status of my profession. Furthermore, it is only in the context of a national and international tragedy like this that we are reminded of the very special status of my hobby, and its particular claim to legislative protection. My religious and spiritual views also have much to teach us about the appropriate reaction to these truly terrible events.

Countries which I like seem to never suffer such tragedies, while countries which, for one reason or another, I dislike, suffer them all the time. The one common factor which seems to explain this has to do with my political views, and it suggests that my political views should be implemented as a matter of urgency, even though they are, as a matter of fact, not implemented in the countries which I like.

Of course the World Trade Center attacks are a uniquely tragic event, and it is vital that we never lose sight of the human tragedy involved. But we must also not lose sight of the fact that I am right on every significant moral and political issue, and everybody ought to agree with me. Please, I ask you as fellow human beings, vote for the political party which I support, and ask your legislators to support policies endorsed by me, as a matter of urgency.

By "jsm," on adequacy.org. (If someone knows a real name behind that handle, I'll update)


  1. Thanks for posting this. It’s fantastic how Cory’s take instantly transfers to the current Twitter-sphere comments from all sides of political the spectrum

  2. “At a time like this, it is terrible that we do have to think about politics, but no matter what the shooter’s motivations were, the left is going to blame this on the Tea Party movement,” Mr. Phillips, from Tea Party Nation, said on his Web site.

    “While we need to take a moment to extend our sympathies to the families of those who died, we cannot allow the hard left to do what it tried to do in 1995 after the Oklahoma City bombing,” he wrote. “Within the entire political spectrum, there are extremists, both on the left and the right. Violence of this nature should be decried by everyone and not used for political gain.”

    1. Of course, I am biased, but who are the left wing extremists who acted out violently in the way that many right wing extremists had?

      Anybody? btw-I mean individuals, so Clinton/Janet Reno and the Branch Davidian conflagration does not count.

        1. a) wrong and not encoraged by anyonr
          b) arguable, but 40 years ago.
          c) arguable, but they dont kill peolle and havent beenrelevant in 15+ yeats
          d) thats a reach and is from abouy 40 years ago.

          i’m not so sure that an argument that is predicated on the reasons one side has learned their lesson and experienced generational change and shunned such tactics really qualifies as the argument you’re trying ro make. in fact, thank you for proving yourself wrong.

          1. Be careful to not confuse the arguments here. The assassin was not an organized political movement. The debate is over the temperature of political speech, and neither side can claim to be innocent of contributing to a global warming trend in political discourse. No one, including this site, is learning any lessons. That said, I think that this was a tragedy.

          2. I very much maintain that if you support policies which decrease mental health care and increase gun access – then you own the results. Also, when you have put cross hairs over someone recently shot in the head – you really ****ing own the predictable results.

            so while it may not be an organized conspiracy – there is clearly a movement of violent thugism afoot from the right lately. Now there are mass casualties. It’s walking and talking like a duck. So, please, see that it is a duck.

        2. The unabomber neither “target”-ed politicians nor was there any extreme political media rhetoric during his reign (if you will) that would have influenced him.

          In fact, did any of these individuals/groups ever assassinate a politician?

        3. Well, I must say, you do have a point. Loughner’s parents have just retained the Unabomber’s lawyer.

        4. Well, I must say, you do have a point. Loughner’s parents have just retained the Unabomber’s lawyer.

  3. And yet, the initial posts on this site seem to try to take political advantage by blaming Sara Palin and her map/rhetoric. Similar maps have shown up on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic Leadership Committee websites (see this post chronicling them here: http://www.verumserum.com/?p=13647 — not my site).

    I wish that when such tragedies occur, people would just sit tight and wait for definitive information. Instead, the current impulse seems to be to get out ahead of the facts in an attempt to frame the news in a favorable light.

    So much about this site seems well reasoned and informed. The leap to blame Palin or the Tea Party was not.

    1. Funny how Palin places actual crosshairs on her targets and talks whimsically about not retreating but reloading, and targeted representative Gabrielle Giffords is now fighting for her life. How’s that false equivalence thingy working out for you.

  4. the reason people are blaming right-leaning media-political personalities is that none of the left-leaning media-political personalities advocate political violence. NONE. Even if you find one to disprove that statement, your counter example will not have their own national tv show and books deals.

    are y’all gefting this yet? nobody cares WHO incited this. just fucking stop in incitng people.

    1. Perhaps not tv shows and books, but progressive pundits DO have websites with lots of traffic and millions of readers (Kos, et. al.) — more, surely, than tv viewers and book readers of the right. There was an article on Kos calling out Giffords and naming her as a “target.” It’s since been taken down, just as Palin has taken down the target map.

      But that’s not the point. The point is that everyone needs to take a deep breath, and let the facts come out before jumping to conclusions. We seem to have lost our national ability to think before speaking and acting.

      1. Name two. compare and contrast book sales/readership. not potential for, but actual book sales. actual advertising dollars spent promoting themm

        then, admit your mistaken assertion that the left supports these ideas.

      2. any chance you’d admi that tje peopke youre talking to are the same ones who asked beck, palin, etc to hold THEIR breaths when the rhetoric started?

        thanks for catching up. we knew you’d make it.

      3. What do you mean, Palin took down her map? It’s still up on her FB. The link in the NYT article takes you to it.

      4. Dear apologists, denialists, disappointed with Xeni-ers,

        Even if Loughner were to come out and blatanly state that Palin and Beck asked him to do it (manifested as voices in his head), in part because of the aforementioned target posting and their vitriolic rantings; we all know it was this man’s mental illness that caused him to go on a murderous rampage. Hell, I won’t even blame it on lack of gun control.

        However, if you golfblogger, Mike44, james etc, think for a moment we are going to back off on our opinions that right wing media hyperbole was not in some way responsible well, it ain’t gonna happen. Especially, just because you say so.


        Yes, I yelled, so technically that means you win. Happy? Now for god’s sake leave us alone, and maybe go play 9 holes, or whatever it is that people do when they “golf”.

        1. “we all know it was this man’s mental illness that caused him to go on a murderous rampage.”

          Actually, that’s not true at all. Mental illness by itself doesn’t usually make people violent: http://www.slate.com/id/2280619/ And anyway, WAS he diagnosed with a mental illness?

          “A 2009 analysis of nearly 20,000 individuals concluded that increased risk of violence was associated with drug and alcohol problems, regardless of whether the person had schizophrenia. Two similar analyses on bipolar patients showed, along similar lines, that the risk of violent crime is fractionally increased by the illness, while it goes up substantially among those who are dependent on intoxicating substances. In other words, it’s likely that some of the people in your local bar are at greater risk of committing murder than your average person with mental illness.”

          1. I concur wholeheartedly and I apologize if my comment read that way. But in this case I would say that was what was behind his decisions.

            In fact, I was irritated when someone suggested that the man was schizophrenic, I really hate arm chair diagnosis as a rule. But then I saw his youtube postings and winced at his apparent disconnect from reality.

      5. golfblogger “Perhaps not tv shows and books, but progressive pundits DO have websites with lots of traffic and millions of readers (Kos, et. al.) — more, surely, than tv viewers and book readers of the right.”
        From thinktanks, TV, AM radio to the internet, the Machine on the Right is far larger, far more heated and far more popular than anything the Left can muster. In other words, it’s not even close:

        1) The Drudge Report: 338
        2) Salon: 754
        3) Time: 802
        4) World Net Daily: 973
        5) Newsmax: 1358
        6) Free Republic: 1,830
        7) The Rush Limbaugh Show: 2646
        8) National Review: 2,989

        70) Daily Kos: 77,766

  5. Indeed, the opinion that we must support is that there needs to be more tolerance for different viewpoints. Stop trying tell people that politicians are evil and want to hurt you and your family. Take issue with their way of doing things, but accept they want to improve society.

  6. I was looking for this essay a few weeks back (I forget why), and not all the powers of Google could find it for me. Gonna Pinboard it now.

  7. From nytimes.com: Mr. Boehner urged prayers for Ms. Giffords and the other victims and also told his House colleagues to persevere in fulfilling their oath of office. “This inhuman act should not and will not deter us. No act, no matter how heinous,” he said, “must be allowed to stop us.”

  8. That editorial by Cory is not timely or relevant here. Critics of Beck and the Tea Party have been warning about EXACTLY this kind of thing happening: an assassination attempt, political violence in general. They have accused Sarah Palin and company of trying to incite EXACTLY this kind of event. This is not the same as using the tragedy to promote concealed carry laws or tougher gun control legislation. I mean, when an island sinks under the waves of a rising ocean, are you going to tell us that it’s a Very Serious Tragedy and it would be “exploitative” to use it as evidence for why we need climate legislation?

    1. I’ve never really liked analogies of the sort you just used:

      when an island sinks under the waves of a rising ocean, are you going to tell us that it’s a Very Serious Tragedy

      because we’re not talking about an island sinking or anything very much like it. The hot-point of contention here is that both the Left & the Right use inflammatory language. Over U.S. history – both the Left & Right have used violent tactics on all levels to push their agendas. However much I or anyone dislikes Palin/Beck/et. al. – when I or anyone confront them head-on – it only serves to vindicate them and stir the hornet’s nest. Why oh why feed the trolls?

      People will use this event to justify more aggressive language, to make stronger accusations…all of which will serve to enflame their political opponents…creating a feedback loop which can only implode upon itself.

      This problem can not be solved at the level of this problem.

      1. User23 @21:
        “People will use this event to justify more aggressive language, to make stronger accusations…all of which will serve to enflame their political opponents…creating a feedback loop which can only implode upon itself.”

        How could calling on people not to use violent rhetoric justify more aggressive language? How is that adding to the feedback loop? Even if, like me, you mainly blame one side for using violent rhetoric *right now* (that the left used violent rhetoric in the 70s is not relevant here, this isn’t the 70s) how exactly is that going to provoke more violence? I mean, “They’re accusing us of promoting violence! Let’s go shoot somebody!!”? I give (even) the Glen Beck and Sarah Palin crowd more credit than that.

        Instead of an analogy, how about a caricature: “Shame on you for exploiting an assassination attempt that was probably incited by violent rhetoric as fodder for your anti-violent rhetoric agenda!” This is pretty much what the BB post is telling us.

  9. I am a big fan of Xeni’s, but I was disappointed that she included in her original post about the shooting that Palin had used a map-graphic on which a target was superimposed over the fallen Congresswoman’s district during the mid-term campaigns. Pictures of targets do not make people shoot, and I am glad Xeni did something of a reversal here, not because I think it is OK for Palin to parlay posturing as a hunter into an any-means-necessary call to get out the vote, but because I don’t think anyone takes Palin that seriously.

  10. There have been plenty of teabaggers with signs proclaiming that it was “time to water the tree of liberty”, and now they’re saying that it was all in good fun?
    I wouldn’t be surprised if jared will be showered in rose petals when he goes to court.

  11. I don’t think you can draw a straight line between the Tea Party and what happened. It doesn’t seem to follow directly. Crazy people will imbibe and regurgitate the crazy-of-the-moment; right now it happens to be Tea Partyesque ramblings.

    I’m a liberal, and I hope to hell the Dems don’t try to use this to political advantage. I hated it when Republicans did it after 9/11 and I would hate it now.

    I really, really don’t like the suggestion that Sarah Palin’s “target map” somehow had something to do with it. The link is so tenuous- and the people making the connection so obviously partisan- that there’s almost no point to bringing it up.

    1. i have a funny feeling the gunman had a hard time drawing straight lines, too. Seems maube nobody was trying to help him draw them either. can we agree that supportong universal mental healthcare is a non partisan approach to the future of crazies and straighter lines?!

  12. The gunman commits murder, sedition and treason. Sarah Palin is only guilty of sedition. Where’s the beef?

  13. “The essay touted by Xeni (and, earlier, Cory), in my view amounts not only to pontificating about sweeping generalities, but sweeping *hypothetical* generalities. The objective of the essay seems to be to draw our attention to the author’s claim to be a voice of reason, completely above the fray, without making any point. It’s feel-good sarcasm intended to call attention to the author’s cleverness, but nothing more that I can detect.”

    Seconded. Why shouldn’t we attempt to understand violent political events, any more than we should attempt to understand any other kind of political event? In fact, I’d suggest that it’s even more important, given 20th century history. Does the scope and causes of September 11th, for which the original essay was written, not deserve serious examination? Why is a vociferous debate about its origins, and, yes, an impassioned statement based on your political understanding of the world, out of place?

    The essay was certainly a great piece of writing, but I don’t think it was correct.

  14. It’s good to see this essay after yesterday’s incredibly ugly comment thread — mostly from people I consider to be on my “side”. Violent imagery has always been around on both sides of the political spectrum, from time to time, people will blame the media for it instead of the perpetrator of the violence.

    I don’t know what critics of Palin’s or the right’s role (or non-role IMO) in this tragedy would want from her. Just to recognize that she’s an asshole? Well, she is an asshole, and she was one before this happened. There you go. Maybe you want to restrict their free speech because they use the word “target”? Why don’t we take Taxi Driver and Catcher in the Rye off the shelves too while we’re at it?

    I won’t go so far as to say the left is taking political advantage of this tragedy, but making this leap from the shooter’s intentions (especially yesterday when nearly nothing was known about the shooter) to making the right complicit with the shootings seems like people letting their hatred of the other side getting in the way of reason.

    1. Violent imagery has always been around on both sides of the political spectrum, from time to time, people will blame the media for it instead of the perpetrator of the violence.

      If a number of right-wing commentators who feature prominently and popularly on television and radio (Beck, Limbaugh, Savage, and so on) advocate violence against people of differing political views, do they not deserve their share of blame?

      I cannot recall an instance in which Maddow, Olbermann, or another prominent, ‘liberal’ commentator called for violence against folks who identify as conservative. You might have read an incitement to violence in a left-wing pamphlet or on a protester’s placard, but on the evening entertainment news? On MSNBC? That seems to be the exclusive domain of Beck, et. al. and is the reason why your false equivalency is just not very convincing.

  15. Cory, you already read jsm’s other work under his own name on another site. I’m not sure he ever came out about his adequacy.org work, though, so I won’t out him.

  16. It’s inconceivable for me to imagine that some conservative think tank personalities have not been enjoying being able to motivate rage filled town hall meetings, and other rage fueled confrontations of unliked politicians, by virtue of the presentation of their political frames. I don’t think they want to see assassinations occur; they just want to develop motivated grassroots movements. I am confident that the rhetoric is directed toward this end.

    In the 70’s the liberals had many grass roots movements, and also as a side effect, their extremist liberals were often the violent radicals. So I see conservative thinkers taking this grassroots “playbook” and attempting to operate with it, I’m guessing in part as a means to get at what historical period they believe are the roots of liberal influence today, and thus as an unintended consequence the conservatives are getting their turn activating the already deeply disenfranchised mentally ill segment of the population.

    Personally I think that this incident will serious hurt that political strategy. This was a particularly grave crime, essentially a mass murder, and yet I also don’t know if the conservative pundits have any other options for the survival of many of their political positions. I mean, if academia is bad and the media is bad, then an argument has to be maintained that there is a systemic liberal flaw in these institutions and well then they must continue to claim oppression, and must continue to attempt to incite and energize grass roots politics that distrust those institutions.

  17. From what I’ve read about the alleged shooter, here’s my 2 cents:

    How about if everybody–left and right and center–stopped promoting the vilification of people we disagree with and stopped creating conspiracy theories to “explain” everything that ever happens, ever.

    THAT shit seems to be what contributed to how this guy’s mental illness played out … FAR more than any particular, clearly defined ideology.

    Both the left and the right have pet conspiracies that have been disproven over and over, but continue to be spouted as “fact” by people who’d rather believe in something clearly stupid, than believe that A) Randomness happens and B) There are people who are different from you and disagree with you, but who are not inherently evil.

    1. How many exclusively left-wing conspiracy theories are broadcast over the public airwaves (TV and radio) to literally millions of listeners every single day for years on end?

      How many?

      1. I’m not sure. I don’t listen to ideologically oriented talk radio or TV on either side of the political spectrum.

        But, however it’s happening, conspiracy theory messages are getting through to both the left and the right. You see them both turn up here in the comments on BoingBoing pretty regularly. I’ve had liberal friends tell me liberal conspiracy theories, and conservative friends tell me conservative ones.

        And, eventually, with conspiracy theories, what is “conservative” and what is “liberal” stops being totally clear, and what you get a giant smear that justifies ridiculous amounts of paranoia and fear. For most people, that’s probably not dangerous. For somebody who is mentally ill, though, having lots of sources (be it friends, Internet, radio or television) telling you that your paranoia is justified and your delusions just might be real … well, that sometimes ends badly.

        1. Interesting. And if “conspiracy theory messages are getting through to both the left and the right,” what do you make of the fact that over the past several years those persons who act violently in the U.S. as a result of this paranoid discourse are almost exclusively right-wing in their politics? Why do you think that during the eight-year Bush administration, left-wing domestic violence almost never occurred?

          1. Either I’m not being clear about what I’m trying to say, or you’re being really reductionist and trying to argue a point I’m not arguing, or both.

            I am NOT talking about politically motivated violence. Or about political rhetoric that insinuates or supports violence.

            I am talking about the damage caused by Americans embracing conspiracy theories as part of the “normal” discourse. That is something that happens on all sides. And no matter who does it, it leads nowhere good. If you want a liberal example, look no further than the anti-vaccine crap. If you want a conservative example, “global climate change is plot to turn us all communist” works pretty well. But it happens on both sides. And it needs to stop on both sides.

          2. Maggie, if your left-wing example is anti-vaccine hysteria–and let’s be generous and add in 9/11 truthers–then doesn’t that pretty much show right there the non-equivalency of right-wing and left-wing conspiracy-mongering? Because anti-vaccine hysteria and trutherism do not play anywhere close to the role on the left that birtherism, death panelism, and all the rest play on the right. Have anti-vaccine activists even so much as hinted at violence against vaccine-makers? I mean, one could be REALLY generous to this argument and throw in Chomskyan notions about how The System is hellbent on destroying our well-being (through globalization, capitalism, &c.), but really, if Chomsky’s thought counts as conspiracy theory, then so should a lot of neoliberal economic thought.

            I accept that, in principle, the left has just as much need to be on guard against its own conspiracy theories as the right does, but right here, right now, left-wing and right-wing conspiracy theories just aren’t on the same level.

          3. I understand that you wish to distinguish from violent political rhetoric in particular and the conspiracy theory in general. IMHO, you are correct in suggesting that when conspiracy becomes part of the mainstream discourse bad things happen, no matter whether that theory is embraced by people who identify as leftist, conservative or whatever. But the equivalency ends there, because as events of the past several years have amply demonstrated, the consequences of right- and left-wing conspiracy-mongering are not the same.

            I do not agree that the anti-vaccine conspiracy is left-wing in its orientation, but even if it were, when Jenny McCarthy claims that vaccines cause autism she does not also suggest that folks who agree with her should wage violent revolution against the companies that manufacture those vaccines. Nor do we see her supporters bombing pharmaceutical plants or killing scientists.

            In contrast, when Beck declares that the non-profit organization Tides Foundation is the driving force behind leftists who want to illegally seize control of the government, destroy capitalism and dismantle organized religion, and is assembling an army to this effect, he supplements his conspiratorial rhetoric with explicit calls to violence. Again, in contrast, his supporters frequently follow-up his comments with violence.

            Richard Poplawski did not murder three police officers last year in Pittsburgh because he thought that 9/11 was an inside job, or some other perceived left-wing conspiracy. He did so because he believed the right-wing conspiracy that the government was going to take his guns away.

            The same goes for Jim Adkisson, James Cumming, James von Brunn, Daniel Knight Hayden, and the host of other people in the past several years espousing right-wing conspiracies while attempting or succeeding to kill their perceived left-wing enemies.

            At what point can we identify this violence as a right-wing problem? Not exclusively, not permanently, but a defining feature of contemporary American right-wing politics? When the next right-wing militant murders someone, will we have to trot out the false equivalency that left-minded supporters are just as bad? Prove it.

          4. “global climate change is plot to turn us all communist” If it were, and workable to boot, I’d be out burning piles of tyres right now.

        2. As a member of the conspiracy theorist contingent of Boing Boing, let me say again that this guy appears to be a paranoid schizophrenic; and, while we have more than our fair share of loons, using him to discredit fringe politics and conspiracy theorists in general seems about the same to me as using him to discredit Sarah Palin and Right Wing Establishment demagogues.

      2. Since nobody has answered your question, maybe you can. There is a world of difference between nutjobs talking about conspiracy theories in their living room and nutjobs given a national audience by a publicly held corporation.

        Please, enlighten us.

    2. You beat me to a comment that pretty much echoed yours. I too wish that people would stop politicising every brain tumour pressing down on the aggression centres.

      As far as the this situation regarding incitement goes, I like to point out how far the G.O.P. has degenerated in this regard. When Barry Goldwater was campaigning against Johnson he wouldn’t tolerate anything like what goes on every day now. In one instance he was making a pretty vehement speak about how the “New Deal” would ruin the country and some nut yelled out that they should take up arms against it. Goldwater stopped the speach right then and there to chew that moron out; pointing out that the true greatness of the American political system wasn’t in any particular decision or policy that it made but in the fact that these decisions and policies were made as the result of discussion and not violence.

      As far as the general incitement situation goes there is nothing much to pick between the Right and the Left. As always they are identical twin monsters. For decades the emblem of the Left was the bloodied fist holding an AK47 rifle. To this day the Left is full of deniers of the assorted instances of genocide, mega-death purges and wars started by the assorted Worker’s Paradises and of the ongoing genocide today. The current demonising conspiracy theories are against the Jews and the Yanks. The Jewish one in particular gets constant daily coverage by the world (and particularly the French) press and is directly responsible for any number of bombings and torchings of synagogues not to mention the kidnapping and execution of Daniel Pearl.

      1. IMHO, the quote from Goldwater is probably the most productive one, in this thread. A conservative politician from Arizona who spoke out against violent rhetoric. Right on!

    3. I don’t think the shooter had anything to do with the right wing. I do wonder, though, if thanks to the actions of the right wing, some other Democrat politicians aren’t a little more frightened for their safety – say the others who were promoted as targets. Would any of the Republicans have reason for special concern?

  18. Frankly, the only person I’ve seen make any sense in the face and wake of this tragedy is Sherrif Dupnik, who made some salient points yesterday, and whom Senator Kyl is now attacking.

    This site certainly hasn’t done itself any favors, both from an editorial and user point-of-view. In the thread yesterday we had an editor attempting to politicize the event while Rep. Giffords was still in surgery, and we had many BB users show their true colors, lashing out with invectives and showing no degree of restraint or contemplation, let alone a base level of compassion for the victims.

  19. This piece is just puerile bollocks.

    Satire is intended to shame us into improvement. This piece seems to want to shame us into moral relativity and apathy at best. Events shape opinion. Bloggers trade on opinion. Opinions are shared and new opinions are formed. Politicians, like bloggers, like journalists, like news anchors, share a responsibility to consider the outcomes of broadcasting those opinions.

    This piece may have made sense on 911 when those events were clearly going to be used by the neo-conservatives for political and strategic gain. In this case a liberal woman who had been targeted by the rightwing for harrassment got shot. I’m not Sherlock Holmes but….

    If the left don’t hold them to account who will? Apparently not boing boing…

    I just don’t get this hollow nonsense.

  20. I was thinking about having some astroturf put in. Somebody said that there was a lot of it in the comment section on BB these days – anybody help me out? I’m looking to get a few buddies together and lay down some thick piles of it, in order to cover up what was there before.

  21. Perhaps someone can clarify the difference between conspiracy theory and political analysis? Any examples?

  22. A good, reasonable, essay appeared in The Tyee today regarding this attack. An excerpt:

    If you know there are mentally unhinged people in your midst, as of course there always have been and always will be in American society as in every other society, would you not employ the precautionary principle in your political rhetoric? Would you not refrain from using violent imagery and extremely polarizing characterizations when sorting the political landscape into friends and enemies? Would you not foster fair-minded debate between fellow citizens with whom you disagree? Would you not take the moral responsibility to carry out your public conversation, available to the ears of all, including the deranged, in a language that gave no cause for the deranged to pick up a gun and act on what they, of all people, were predictably to take literally?

    And would you not make it difficult rather than ludicrously easy for those deranged fellow citizens to purchase and conceal that gun before using it to eliminate the enemies who, you say, were meant to be merely the targets of your euphemisms?

    But America’s militant right and their winking Republican supporters have instead recruited the mentally ill as a sort of shadow army, filling their heads daily with paranoid, angry, violent imagery that relentlessly objectifies and dismisses as worthless those who disagree. And they have armed that shadow army with their crusade to make guns more easily available. Whether they have recruited this army deliberately or simply through reckless disregard really matters little. The tragic outcome is the same.

  23. Does it matter who incited this? No. All that matters is that this gunman was a nutjob, who apparently bought into a lot of loony conspiracy theories purported by the extreme right. You know, just like almost all would-be political assassins and domestic terrorists.

    Frank Conniff said it best. “Hey, Sarah Palin, how’s that hatey, killy, reloady, crosshairsy thing workin’ out for ya?”

  24. According to The Caucus blog @ NY Times, “Representative Bob Brady of Pennsylvania told The Caucus he plans to introduce a bill that would ban symbols like that now-infamous campaign crosshair map.”

    Ironically, two days before being shot, Giffords had read the First Amendment on the floor of the House.

  25. Oh sure, deride extremists all you like.

    Just remember that a pacifist extremist would never commit murder.

  26. Yeah, in the face of total ignorance, false equivalence always sounds wise.

    Here’s a political tidbit, though: Would it hurt so much to stop pushing the politics of eliminationism and the rhetoric of violence?

  27. Here’s a document that suggests a right-wing rhetoric of anti-government violence since 2009, on various levels (and with conflicting attitudes towards Hitler).

    Insurrection-ism Timeline

    If these people are violently anti-government doesn’t that mean they are also violently anti-people-that-vote-for-government? Right now they might aim at health bill voters in congress, what about the American citizens that voted for and support those health care voters? Is it still “if not the ballot then the bullet?”.

  28. As a member of the conspiracy theorist contingent of Boing Boing, let me say again that this guy appears to be a paranoid schizophrenic; and, while we have more than our fair share of loons, using him to discredit fringe politics and conspiracy theorists in general seems about the same to me as using him to discredit Sarah Palin and Right Wing Establishment demagogues.

    That’s just what THEY would want…probably why THEY put him up to it…


    * Proverbs for Paranoids:

    1. You may never get to touch the Master, but you can tickle his creatures.
    2. The innocence of the creatures is in inverse proportion to the immorality of the Master.
    3. If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.
    4. You hide, they seek.
    5. Paranoids are not paranoid because they’re paranoid, but because they keep putting themselves, fucking idiots, deliberately into paranoid situations.

    1. I haven’t read Gravity’s Rainbow yet. Crying of Lot 49 is probably my favorite prose novel though and I’m loving Against the Day so far.

  29. “You one of those right wing nut outfits?” inquired the diplomatic Metzger.
    Fallopian twinkled. “They accuse us of being paranoids.”
    “They?” inquired Metzger, twinkling also.
    “Us?” asked Oedipa.

    1. Oh. Man. I just read that for the first time two nights ago. Beautiful fit with all this talk of conspiracy theories.

  30. things then did not delay in turning curious. If one object behind her discovery of what she was to label the Tristero System or often only The Tristero (as if it might be something’s secret title) were to bring to an end her encapsulation in her tower, then that night’s infidelity with Metzger would logically be the starting point for it; logically. That’s what would come to haunt her most, perhaps: the way it fitted, logically, together. As if (as she’d guessed that first minute in San Narciso) there were revelation in progress all around her

  31. There are around 300,000,000 in the United States. Those people can be politically divided into three groups: liberal, moderate and conservative. So let’s say each group has about 100,000,000 people.

    Now, let’s think about something else for a moment: For two weeks you’re not going to turn on Fox News/MSNBC, political talk radio nor visit any political blogs. Now stop reading for a moment, close your eyes and imagine no politics for two weeks. How does that make you feel? What if it was for a month? Does it make you a little anxious? Do you want to do it? No?

    Day after day Beck, Maddow, Limbaugh, Olbermann or whoever you listen to has to tell you to be angry and afraid of the opposite political group. It’s their job and while doing it they’ve made the kind of money you can only dream of. Even if the other side isn’t doing anything wrong, they still have to find something wrong to put on the air. What’s the result? You’re perception of the other side changes. Every time you hear about a liberal/conservative you’re hearing about wrongdoing. You become constantly angry and mistrustful of the other side. You tell yourself they’re all the same with out stopping to think, “What am I doing?! I just stereotyped a hundred million of my neighbors, coworkers and people I don’t even know.” You tell yourself you’re doing it to “be informed”, even though you’ve never read SCOTUSblog or watched CSPAN on a regular basis.

    Can you stop listening/reading or are you addicted? No, I don’t mean telling yourself you can quit and then not doing it, I mean actually quitting to find out the answer to that question. Do you really want to to be addicted to having someone fill your mind and life with anger, fear and mockery on a daily basis? Don’t tell yourself it’s just the people who watch that other network, you’re no different from them, other than the party you vote for. Everything you think about yourself, they’re thinking about themselves. If you do swear off partisan politics, the world isn’t going to change much, it never does. You on the other hand will feel a little more at peace.

    1. What you characterize as a “liberal/conservative” split appears to me to be in fact only the “libertarian/authoritarian” split in the right-wing: as two distinct flavours of a right-wing philosophy, which is asserted by the media to represent “the whole spectrum of opinion”.

      From what I cans see, the left-wing is wholly invisible in the US media.

      “Libertarian” is not another word for “left-wing”.

      American politics is IMHO unbalanced, due to its electronic media insensibly and inexorably moving the goal-posts over decades, shrinking and defining and restricting the boundaries of discussion in a way which suits the narrative they wish to spin; and thereby excluding from consideration during any subsequent debate those paths which they do not want people to even know exist as political possibilities – much less discuss for possible adoption!

      The media by emphasis and exclusion is effectively blinding people to possibilities, in order to advance the political ends of the owners of that media.

      But this is as it ever was!

      I suppose I feel that people ought to be reminded of this, once in a while.

      I guess it all comes down to what that old sign you could see on some office walls used to say:


    2. And your advice to “turn off the news commentators” would have gone down better in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, rather than at a time when the news seems to be illustrating the dismal results of insult politics as practiced by the American right wing.

      Why should we look away precisely now?

      What is it that you want us to ignore?

      1. I agree with Mad Rant.
        I haven’t been watching the news, or reading news papers for a couple of years now, and the only thing I’ve noticed is that I’m happier. Knowing inflation is rising, or currencies are losing value doesn’t increase my enjoyment of life. Knowing there’s a knife epidemic doesn’t make it more fun to go for walks at night. In my experience, it’s better not to know. Because in the end, we can’t make any real difference. Just look at all the anti Iraq protests around the planet, and how little that did to stop anything. Tune out. Read boing boing. Don’t be afraid or pissed off as much.

        1. The prevalence of that attitude is why those protests accomplished so little. Sure, you can win a prisoner’s dilemma by defecting; just know that’s what you’re doing.

  32. At this point I am looking for justice. Lives have been extinguished or forever damaged. Would incarcerating or executing Jared Loughner bring justice to the survivors and families of the victims? Or would justice require something else?

    In my opinion this is a political act, one can not get away with saying “keep politics out of it” when the central victim is a legislator with known views and when some from the opposing side have used imagery and rhetoric indicating firearms as a means to effect political change.

    So what justice is possible? In my opinion it would be for those who have used their access to the media, whether elected representatives or professional broadcasters to promote hatred and incite violence to experience legal and/or societal retribution. That is not likely to happen. There may be no justice done in this case.

  33. We know something about the media and its role in creating the conditions for violence…


    Some very recent history which is relevant to these matters:

    “RTLM was established in 1993, primarily railing against on-going peace talks between President Juvenal Habyarimana, whose family supported the radio station,[4] and the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front.[5] It became a popular station since it offered frequent contemporary musical selections, unlike the said state radio, and quickly developed a faithful audience among youth-aged Rwandans, who later made up the bulk of the Interahamwe militia.

    The station is considered to have preyed upon deep animosities and prejudices between the Hutu and Tutsi populations. The hateful rhetoric was placed alongside the sophisticated use of humor and popular Zairean music. It frequently referred to Tutsis as “cockroaches” (example: “You [Tutsis] are cockroaches! We will kill you!”).”



    Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

  34. Day after day Beck, Maddow, Limbaugh, Olbermann or whoever you listen to has to tell you to be angry and afraid of the opposite political group.

    I’d leave Maddow off that list. I don’t watch her (or any of them really) regularly but whenever I’ve seen her she has been, if not civil, then at least cogent.

  35. “Libertarian” is not another word for “left-wing”.

    Actually, there’s not that much difference between a libertarian and an anarchist or even a full on Marxist, though getting any one of them to actually admit it about the other two is almost impossible.

    1. Huh? How can (A) someone who thinks the private enterprise should do everything, (B) someone who thinks government run by the people should do everything, and (C) someone who thinks individuals should do everything without regard to the either of the former be considered similar?

      1. All three are ultimately utopian and egalitarian ideologies based on the foundation that people have the right to self determination free from coercion. We differ in how we want to bring about the end game, but the end games themeselves are usually pretty similar. Marxists believe that the best way to accomplish the goal is to centralize government and consolidate its power into the hands of the people. Libertarians believe that natural law is egalitarian to begin with and that markets are an expression of this, government is seen as coercive by nature and so its role must be relegated to enforcing natural law only. Anarchists believe that any form of beurocracy be it governmental or private is a perversion of natural law and reject both in favor of direct self governance. In all three cases the goal is a self governing body of people. I identify most strongly as an Anarchist and so I tend to see both Libertarian and Marxist philosophies as a refuge for crypto-fascists but I also feel much more solidarity between both of them than I do with either Neoliberalism, Mercantilism, or Paleoconservatism.

        1. A limited constitutional monarchy has served to preserve and maintain the individual rights of English-speaking free peoples for centuries now.
          The people living in what has become the USA only revolted because they felt they were not being accorded the full rights due to all Englishmen.

          Those Colonists may have been correct as to that: but they never denied that those British, who continued to enjoy those full rights which the Colonists complained they had been deprived of, were a species or race of free people.

          As a limited constitutional monarchy has worked so well for so long for us, I see little or no reason to fix what isn’t broken.

          And I had always thought that “libertarians” were people who wished to have their way with their farm animals without any fear of prosecution.

  36. I call bullshit on the false equivalences between the Right and the Left, as others have done. Giffords’s teabagger opponent held an anti-Giffords rally where his supporters were encouraged to fire an M16. Find me an equivalent Democratic/Left activity or admit there is no equivalence between the modern Right/teabaggers and the modern Left. It’s bogus and the pundits should start speaking the truth instead of pretending the Left is equally violent in metaphor, rhetoric, and actions.

  37. sensible reaction to this debate:

    What we have here is an attempted assassination of a politician by an insane crank at a political event, in a state where the political discourse has been an unrelenting howl of eliminationist rhetoric and characterization of anyone to the left of Genghis Khan as a traitor and enemy of the state…and now, when six (including a nine year old girl) lie dead and another fourteen are wounded, now suddenly we’re concerned that it is rude and politicizing a tragedy to point out that the right wing has produced a toxic atmosphere that pollutes our politics with hatred and the rhetoric of violence?

    I’m mindful of the fact that most of us think the shootings confirm our own preconceived ideas, but PZ Myers has a point here.

  38. I just want to be clear since some may have misunderstood: Above, I posted a quote from a Tea Party Nation leader, which I found appalling.

    My reasons for posting it was I thought he mirrored the points made in the essay above very well — disturbingly so.

  39. It’s almost believable, except for one thing: it’s missing that all-important phrase, “all right-thinking people”. As in, “all right-thinking people agree with my point of view, and anyone who doesn’t is clearly mentally disturbed, so we shouldn’t listen to them.”

  40. It’s disgusting to see the people who gloried in the rhetoric of violence and vigilantism disavow their own opinions as soon as some nutjob acts on them. It’s part of our national epidemic of cowardice. Fox and Limbaugh should be praising this loon, but of course they are too lily-livered, despite all their tough talk.

    I don’t understand why anyone listens to them at all, honestly. They haven’t got the strength of their (so-called) convictions, or they’d be having a big keg party right now.

  41. …and “anarchists” are too dis-organized to undertake or accomplish anything lasting or worthwhile for people or society in general; and Marx simply did not understand the unpredictability of how technology advances, and how those changes over time would necessarily have profound effects on how things get done, that is to say, on how people work.

    1. Thus, Marx’s predictions are worthless.

      His descriptions, however, have some interest – mostly historic.

    1. Ideology = visionary theorizing
      Utopian = impracticably ideal

      In contrast to such visionary idealism, limited constitutional monarchy as an operating system of governance for free people has been tried – and proven – over centuries.

      And cannot the ideology embodied by the US Constitution with equal justice itself be called utopian? A peaceful society where everybody and anybody is armed at all times?

      1. You’re sounding waaaaaaaaaaaaaay more jingoistic and racist than I’ve come to expect from you ie: not at all. But I’m enjoying derailing this thread from the tired partisan bickering that’s been going on so what the hell? Where’s Cowicide? I want to have sex free from persecution.

        1. IMHO the US really does need a non-partisan King or Queen or Monarch, a unifying National figure, above the factional party fray.

          I know that the Presidential Office ought to play that role, and that it sometimes does, but all too often it seems that it’s just filled or treated as simply another partisan position, post or appointment.

          I do not suppose that there are many Monarchists to be found in either the left or the fright wing of the US political scene now-a-days, eh?

          More’s the pity, says I.

          1. Oh… perhaps I should have said that the American Colonists never doubted that Britain itself constituted a society of free men.

            My prior statement employed a possibly too-archaic turn of phrase, in an attempt to distinguish the British system of limited constitutional monarchy and those who lived under it, from the then-existing other monarchical systems, all more despotic or absolute: I certainly meant nothing racist by its use.

            It is difficult to avoid racism when discussing the thinking of men – and women – of the past. That’s how those old-timey people thought, in their ignorance of the truth.

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