The only thing surprising (not really) about the Tea Party Republican response to the Tucson massacre is how swiftly its spin-masters and ideology-ministers rush to distance themselves and their party from the fact that their constant drumbeat of violent, paranoid, and evidence-free oratory contributes to a political and psychological climate where suggestible people like Loughner are ready to blow. All Loughner needed was a bit of direction—and the far right is there to offer it. To be clear: it doesn’t matter what Loughner believed—“Left” or “Right.” It’s irrelevant whether he knew there was a Tea Party or an American Renaissance, a Gun Owners of America, a Patriot’s Voice, a Glenn Beck, or a Ku Klux Klan—or even (heading back to the 60’s) a Weather Underground.
What matters is that his apparent anger could be channeled into violence, that he could acquire a gun with which to execute his plan, and that both of these are richly available thanks almost entirely to the far right that dominates our current and profoundly degraded political discourse. The very speed with which the TPR-faithful fell in line behind the “he’s just crazy” pitch itself offers evidence they know two things: (1) the vast majority of our current incarnation of vitriolic, hate-mongering, paranoid speech available on the Internet, through talk radio, and on the FOX Propaganda Station is from the Far Right, and (2) that they’ve got to blame someone else—fast—in order to distract us from this fact. It’s thus doubly ironic that pundits like O’Reilly blame the Left for having the audacity to point out the obvious, namely, that there’s blood on the hands of every pundit who has contributed to the ratcheting up, the dumbing down, and the gross manipulation of the American public through fear.
However disturbed, however the Limbaughs, Hannitys, Becks, Palins, Malkins, O’Reillys, Brewers, Rand Pauls, or Editor Sachettis fancy themselves psychiatric experts, Jared Loughner’s targeting of Gabriel Giffords was NOT coincidental, NOT unplanned, and NOT irrational. It is, moreover, morally depraved to call Loughner crazy—AND then insist he’s still responsible and should receive the death sentence.
There’s NO conflict between Loughner’s suffering mental illness and his having, however inchoate, political beliefs; he clearly has beliefs about the government, U.S. currency, guns, immigration—and Representative Giffords. To claim that a diagnosis of mental illness exhausts any need for further explanation of why Loughner chose the location, the target, the date, and the weapon he did is nothing more than an attempt to shut down the possibility of contributory factors—tacit admission that there are just such factors.
TPR hypocrisy: when Nidal Hasan opens fire at Ft. Hood, the far right call it “terrorism”—and dismiss the possibility of mental illness in order to score points against Islamic extremists (despite evidence he was acting alone). When Jared Loughner targets a congresswoman, then opens fire on a crowd of bystanders, the far right call it “crazy” to avoid what connects both tragedies: a political climate so toxic, so saturated by half-truths, outright falsehoods, and calls to insurrection that the only wonder is that this doesn’t happen more often.
The daily ravings of Glen Beck are every bit as incoherent, angry, and fact-free as are Jared Loughner’s. Both, for example, focus bizarre attention on U.S. currency (www.2012-doomsday-predictions.com/14690/glenn-beck-the-world-is-dumping-our-dollar). The difference? One commits a horrific crime that ends the life of a nine year old; the other “merely” helps to foment a climate of hysteria—and gets paid millions of dollars to do it.
Wendy Lynne Lee
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