Sunday, January 09, 2011

Placing Blame

As everyone wrestles with early details of the Gabrielle Giffords assassination attempt, a fascinating blame debate is swirling. Since this was a politically motivated shooting, hard not to eventually move to political considerations in this discussion. Although no ties, even some contradictory "evidence", the tea party, Sarah Palin, conservative talk radio, basically all things wing nut, have been drawn into the discussion.

Not surprisingly, if your a conservative, you dismiss any causal relationship, on my side of the spectrum far more connecting of the dots. I think one has to be incredibly careful, because at the core we are dealing with mental illness, a disease that negates the blame game. For that reason, it may very well be isolated, separate, not instructive to generalize, just see it as another troubled individual doing something insanely cruel and senseless. However, with the climate backdrop, the discussion does require some further examination.

People that are shocked that anyone would connect the "vitriolic" political discourse to this lunatic need to remember that this issue of violence against politicians was part of the conversation in her riding. Giffords herself, in what are now haunting words:
She told the interviewer she wasn't fearful for her life, but that protesters' rhetoric was becoming "incredibly heated". She was asked if the Republican leadership should have spoken out more to denounce the violence. Diplomatically, she said both parties should. But then, she recounted how she was on Sarah Palin's hit list. "We have the cross hairs of a gun sight over our district," she said. "And when people do that, they've got to realise there are consequences."

Giffords warned of consequence herself, so hardly an affront to consider the connection to yesterday's events. Maybe it was the gun some Tea Party protester inadvertently dropped at one of her political rallies, maybe it was the campaign office vandalized, maybe all the death threats, maybe the continual references to SHOOTING PEOPLE that leads to the most easy of connections. Frankly, given the rhetoric, you have to be an idiot or a complete hack to not at least entertain.

Forget what lefties are saying, look no further than the Sheriff Dupnik press conference yesterday, wherein he made all kinds of connections, this from a man who knows intimately how serious the situation had become in her riding, his state, the country as a whole. Did the overheated rhetoric of radio hosts, Tea Party activists, fringe political leaders contribute to yesterday's events? I don't think so, but again, when you have all these violent references, all this hate and bigotry, is anyone surprised that things manifest to real world "consequence"?

I don't have a freaking clue, and maybe we never will truly understand what happened yesterday. That said, when you have a crime, the first thing you do is look for possible motives. Is the hated fueled, over the top, gun glorification, wingnut inspired, somewhat unhinged movement, a possible inspiration? You can't rule it out as this point, so anyone daring to suggest, isn't exactly being unfair or ridiculous. The reality demands some consideration, it's a simple as that.


Jerry Prager said...

here's the ultimate brutal irony

ridenrain said...

Seconds after the event, pro-Dem talking heads were already shouting this was the work of the tea party and violent, right wing kooks. Who are the ones manipulating this for political purposes again?

Steve V said...

Wow, what a leap in logic! Maybe it was the gun sights they used.

You live in a dream world.

Gene Rayburn said...

Ridofbrain is the perfect example of mind controlled conbot isnt he? Stephen Harper could drive a bus through a senior's home and Ridofbrain would find a way to spin it as completely reasonable.

Ridofbrain is the tool of New Westminster. All of us out here who know him, dont know him for his smarts.

Gayle said...

Heh. Over at Adrian McNair's place he is upset that the CBC allowed commenters to speculate on this. When I pointed out this kind of baseless speculation (and at the moment it IS baseless) is no different than making generalized and baseless statements about "supporting terrorists" and "caring more about murderers than their victims", I was met with a number of comments about how the "left is hate", and other such lovely gems of wisdom.

So basically, in complaining about making baseless accusations about the right, they are making baseless accusations about the left.

It is to laugh...

Gayle said...

And may I say it is way too early to speculate at all. If this man turns out to be as mentally ill as he appears to be, you cannot blame tea partiers for his actions. Crazy people do crazy things, and they find their motivation in crazy places.

Which is not to say I do not think tea parties will take a hit if they were his motivation. Which is kind of sad, because they should be taking a hit because they are stupid, and not because some crazy guy agrees with them.

Steve V said...


You are so right. My point, it isn't exactly radical to look at the climate preceding and wonder. That's it, I wait to learn more...

Kirk said...

Crime is often politicized.

Usually in blaming liberal judges, liberal politicians and liberal policies for the crime while touting conservative "get tough on crime" as the only solution even though reality shows better results from liberal policies than conservative ones.

Steve V said...

Just to add, this was directed towards a politician, hard not to move to the political realm at some point. Inherent part of the story.

Gayle said...

It is very possible the climate had something to do with it. That does not mean we can blame the climate.

For example, at one point in my career I worked with mentally ill who were found not criminally responsible for their crimes. Many of them had religious based delusions. We cannot blame religion for those delusions even if religion motivated them.

Steve V said...

I'm not being as absolute as your characterizing. All I'm saying, AGAIN, if people are making the connection, it might have something to do with all the gun sights, violence inspiring rhetoric. Hey, if it's good enough for the Sheriff at ground zero, it's good enough for me.

Anonymous said...

As an American, I have watched one party - and only one party - cater to and adopt the language of guns, warfare and violent revolution increasingly during the past two years. Not both parties . . . one party.

I have watched people stand at political rallies with exposed guns in those states which allow open carrying of guns defiantly declaring that they are exercising their right to do so as guaranteed by the constitution as they put it, "to send a message."

I've listed to countless politicos on the right and their fervent supporters drone on about the illegitimate (nazi, communist, fascist, socialist, muslim . . . take your pick) President they claim is out to destroy our country.

I've heard them spouting countless times in word and in signs that the tree of democracy has to be sprinkled with blood sometimes.

And, now, when a congresswoman is shot through the head and others lay dead including a 9-year old girl, just for participating in an open Democracy as citizens, I'm supposed to sit back, wait for the evidence, understand he was disturbed, and ignore every disturbing thing I've witnessed and heard in the period leading up to the tragedy.

Well, to that I say bullshit. I didn't have to "jump to any conclusions" when this happened. I predicted it over a year ago when the teabag crowd first started spewing their hateful, racist rhetoric in public, proud to spew their ignorant rants for the world to see.

Violent rhetoric ultimately leads to actual violence. History shows it always does. So I'll be damned if I'm gonna sit idly by and let the ranting ideologues get a free pass simply because they offer vague condemnations after fanning the flames for months now.

The party of personal responsibility needs to step up and acknowledge there is such a thing as unintended consequences and that words are powerful and convincing. I frankly don't care that they didn't want it to happen. Their words reached a disturbed individual, who acted out their repeated musings. Anyone fueling violent rhetoric and fearful frenzy played a part in allowing this to happen . . . encouraging it to happen.

And the more good people, regardless of political leaning are willing to call out those who employ drumbeats of violence to advance their political objectives, the better. The madness in the US needs to end . . . now.

Steve V said...

And, that would be the "nothing in isolation" argument...

Gayle said...

I am not trying to characterize your comments.

It is a fine line between saying people need to take responsibility for their words and recognize those words can incite violence and saying the people expressing those words support violence. I am not trying to say you are taking the latter position at all.

rockfish said...

The media has ridden the hate-train for quite a long time and there will be few who do any navel gazing over their role in this, when the dust settles. I dare say Fox Snooze should be put on notice for its use of opinion and vitrol to drive its ratings, with no care for fact or ethics.
This was not a attack of passion, it occurred against an elected official so conjecture that links the motive to those who have attacked lustily the actions and policies of Obama and the congresswoman do have a leg to stand on. Whether or not the guy was insane (who can doubt it -- its probably a factor in virtually all murders) doesn't deny the fact that there's culpability to spread around, and ridofbrain and amcnair can spin in circles for all I care.

Steve V said...


Okay, I'm trying to be careful I hope. There is truth in what you say, but I'm leaving open the distinct possibility, because frankly I've been waiting for this cycle of hate and enflaming to manifest itself.

marie said...

Great thread Steve. great response as well John. I completely agree with you. When one reads the posts of some on these threads, we can see that they are so full of hate towards their own fellow citizens that if they had a gun in their hands like they think its their god given right, they would probably try the same thing if they felt threatened enough by a person who is so obsessed with their leader and there was a chance that he would go down in defeat. Thank goodness here in Canada that our citizens cannot carry a gun at free will. That we do have to register our guns. All of them.They haven't realized as yet that the laws in place are there for their own protection and their famlies safety. If one can become that hateful over politics, I can't image even being in their presence. They are live ticking bombs.

Loraine Lamontagne said...

Back in June 2010, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords's (D-AZ) Republican opponent Jesse Kelly had an event at which voters could shoot an assault rifle with the candidate, promoted as thus:
Get on Target for Victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly

Are there really people who think this is a reasonnable way to conduct a political campaign?

Not that I would want to make a link between actions such as these and the gunning down of the targeted persons, for fear of being labelled as being histerical or manipulative.

Gayle said...

If it turns out he was motivated by the hateful comments from Tea Party types I will be the first to say they should have realized that there are crazy people out there who are apt to take their rhetoric literally.

And maybe we can start talking about the lack of support out there for the mentally ill? Nah - I am being far too optimistic on that one.

Jerry Prager said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jerry Prager said...

the Sherrif is quoted as saying the man was "unstable but not insane."

Barb Miller said...

Anybody who thinks Palin didn't influence this nut job is brain dead or a tea bagger...actions and words matter and Palin knew this...she issues a statement of condolences and then hunkers down from the flack.
Shame on Fox New$ for promoting this idiots

Tomm said...

The Republican's will be forced to calm down their rhetoric. Hopefully the US will move toward a less angry polarization and begin tooking for common solutions.

The video "No Labels" comes to mind.

In Canada the political polarization is at a lower level but it is also a good warning to us to be even more civil and respectful within political debate and commentary.

We should not be demonizing political viewpoints or the people who express them.

Frankly Canadian said...

Good post Steve, I definitely believe it is about time to expose the violent spew that comes from that right wing political base. The violence needs to stop! Recently during the American mid-term elections there were incidents where violence broke out between demonstrators, in one specific incident I recall a lady thrown to the ground and then kicked all because she had opposing “Left of Centre” views then that of the Tea Party Activist that were at that rally. Even in Canada we experienced violence during our last federal election, houses that had Liberal lawn signs had been vandalized and even in some cases cars from those same houses had their break lines cut. I’m not trying to suggest these crimes have any similarity to the scope of violence and I certainly agree with the fact that a person has to be a ragging lunatic to commit that sort of heinous crime. What I am trying to say is that the Conservative/ Republican right wing party and now the “Tea Party” movement definitely attracts to its base that radical revolutionary type of personality. I totally agree completely with the comment that John made “Violent rhetoric ultimately leads to actual violence”. It is time to put an end to the whole Fox News angle that builds hatred upon hatred, and people like Glen Beck need to be exposed for what they are, People who insight hatred and divisiveness only for the purpose of making money. Of course these are only my opinions but I think more and more people are starting to think this way.

Gayle said...

"the Sherrif is quoted as saying the man was "unstable but not insane.""

With all due respect, I am not sure he is qualified to determine whether or not this man has a mental illness.

In any event, there is often a difference between "criminal" insanity and mental illness. Just because an illness is not so severe as to render a criminal act non-criminal (in the sense that one is found not guilty due to mental disorder), does not mean that mental illness has no role to play in criminal behaviour. Proper treatment of mental illness can reduce crime, especially violent crime. We need to start acknowledging that, because right now our society is so desperate to place blame on others that we do not take the time to question what could have prevented the crime in the first place.

Tof KW said...

Sorry, gotta comment on this one:

ridenrain said...
"Seconds after the event, pro-Dem talking heads were already shouting this was the work of the tea party and violent, right wing kooks. Who are the ones manipulating this for political purposes again?"

Right! 'Cause it's all the lefties fault that the unhinged wingnuts out there might take Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, etc, etc, seriously enough to want to shoot people.

By the way ridenrain, do you even know who these lefties in the US are?

I'll give an example, where do you think Stephen Harper fits within US politics?

Well let's see, Harper supports what Americans call socialized medicine, he believes in protecting a Canadian-controlled banking system, he believes in government as a vehicle for transferring wealth between regions, and he's actually muzzled party members who tried to make abortion a campaign issue. In fact, instead of making his Sunday trip to church a photo opportunity, our Conservative leader refuses to discuss his faith in public. (Like many Americans, he's an evangelical Christian).

So in the spectrum of US politics, Stephen Harper is a Democrat, and a pretty liberal one at that.

But leave it to you ridofbrain, to take sides with the Tea Party kooks.