11 January 2011

Blame Game

I will start this post with these words from George Will:

It would be merciful if, when tragedies such as Tucson's occur, there were a moratorium on sociology.
Indeed. I felt this way when I started reading news reports, blog posts, and Facebook updates on the Arizona killings. My wife can attest that accuracy and completeness of information is very important to me. I'm not perfect at it, but I will admit when I have acted on incomplete information and try to rectify it. Paul Krugman didn't wait for accurate information when he blamed the incident in Tucson on conservatives. From The Economist-

In a blog item on Saturday, before any significant details about Mr Loughner's motivations had come to light, Paul Krugman wrote: You know that Republicans will yell about the evils of partisanship whenever anyone tries to make a connection between the rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, etc. and the violence I fear we’re going to see in the months and years ahead. But violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate. And it’s long past time for the GOP’s leaders to take a stand against the hate-mongers.
This struck me as irresponsibly premature, and one might have thought that, given a little more time and information, Mr Krugman would change his tune, or at least turn down the volume. Nope. In today's column on America's alleged "climate of hate", Mr Krugman reports that he's been "expecting something like this atrocity to happen" since 2008, conjures in his fevered imagination a "rising tide of
violence", and spots his hated political foes behind it all:
[I]t’s the saturation of our political discourse—and especially our airwaves—with
eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence. Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right.

A cursory review of the internet and political media can attest that violent imagery and hateful rhetoric come from all sides. Anyone remember this unusual Halloween decoration? Meanwhile no link has been established between the shooter and any right-wing organizations. Interestingly, FoxNews got that story rolling.

Other commentators, such as the New Republic's Jonathan Chait, agree that this shooting does not come from right-wing rage. In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, blogger Glenn Reynolds looked at the implications of playing the blame game:
To be clear, if you're using this event to criticize the "rhetoric" of Mrs. Palin or others with whom you disagree, then you're either: (a) asserting a connection between the "rhetoric" and the shooting, which based on evidence to date would be what we call a vicious lie; or (b) you're not, in which case you're just seizing on a tragedy to try to score unrelated political points, which is contemptible. Which is it?
I understand the desperation that Democrats must feel after taking a historic beating in the midterm elections and seeing the popularity of ObamaCare plummet while voters flee the party in droves. But those who purport to care about the health of our political community demonstrate precious little actual concern for America's political well-being when they seize on any pretext, however flimsy, to call their political opponents accomplices to murder.
Where is the decency in that?
Ross Douthat also wrote a good piece in the New York Times. I'll close with his closing words:
We should remember, too, that there are places where mainstream political movements really are responsible for violence against their rivals. (Last week’s assassination of a Pakistani politician who dared to defend a Christian is a
stark reminder of what that sort of world can look like.) Not so in America:
From the Republican leadership to the Tea Party grass roots, all of Gabrielle
Giffords’s political opponents were united in horror at the weekend’s events.
There is no faction in American politics that actually wants its opponents dead.
That may seem like a small blessing, amid so much tragedy and loss. But it is a blessing worth remembering nonetheless.


A.J. said...

John Stewart's opening monologue from his Monday night show is refreshing and in the same vein of your post. I wish we could all be so level headed in these times.

Jlowryjr said...

I heard it was good. I'll have to check out the video.

Thanks for reading!