Monday, January 10, 2011

Stop Whipping Up Crazy People

What we need to look at goes beyond just a single shooting, horrific as that shooting may have been. That particular shooting might have been coincidental to the violent, inciting language that's been gathering steam for years. Maybe. Maybe not. But either way, it was made less surprising by all the violent, inciting language, whether that particular one was actually incited by it like others had been in the past.
"...Republicans need to stop whipping up crazy people with violent political rhetoric. This is really not a hard concept to follow. There are crazy people out there. Stop egging them on."
from "Day 2- The Excuse Making Begins"

Gabrielle Giffords about Sarah Palin's gun imagery and about attacks on Democratic offices including hers. A radical blog poster claimed responsibility for inspiring the breaking of the windows with one of his posts inciting people to smash windows in Democratic offices.

We don't know enough about Loughner's motives to be certain of why he did it. The details of the extremist Web sites he is alleged to have visited have not been released. We don't have anything beyond conjecture to go on as to whether he watched TV or listened to the radio, let alone whether he followed any specific media personalities. The challenge of considering "why" has been made even harder by fake pages on the internet claiming to be Loughner's but posted after the shooting. From his actual pages, we know a few things. Loughner posted about wanting a currency on the gold standard. Loughner talked about mind control. Loughner's favorite book listing includes Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto. Loughner rambled about "read the United States of America's Constituti­on to apprehend all of the current treasonous laws" and "Every police officer in the United States as of now is unconstitutionally working". Loughner posted, "Don’t trust the current government, listener!"

Again, we don't really know where he got these things. Here are some interesting points that may be strictly coincidence.
  • Glenn Beck pitches gold regularly, both the gold standard for currency and buying plain old gold directly.
  • Glenn Beck talks about government "mind control".
  • Glenn Beck frequently talks about Mein Kampf and recommends reading it.
  • Glenn Beck talks about Communism quite frequently. While I'm not sure he's actually recommended reading the "Manifesto," he certainly seems obsessed with it.
  • Glenn Beck talks about his political targets allegedly "...doing all these little usurpations of the Constitution..."
  • Glenn Beck talks about broken faith in government and not trusting government.
It isn't conclusive. It's not like Loughner explicitly called himself a Beck follower. But it's not a big leap. And, it has happened before. Does that mean Beck is responsible for Loughner? Maybe not. It certainly doesn't mean as much as the verified influences Glenn Beck has had on other violent people. So why bring this up now? Because it's time -- well past time -- to pay attention to the consequences of Glenn Beck's message. Even if Loughner weren't related, there needs to be more widespread repudiation of Glenn Beck before the next unstable would-be martyr for Beck's causes loads up his guns and drives off to try to start a revolution in a mad attempt to bring down our duly elected representatives. That truth doesn't depend on the specifics of just one unstable man. It has been proven by several including Byron Williams, Richard Poplawski, and Charles Alan Wilson. How many more of Beck's followers must we see attempt or achieve violence to make the pattern clear?

Regardless of what we eventually find out about the motives of Loughner, it is certainly prompting some perhaps overdue thought about civil discourse in our society.
"Last spring reported on a surge in threats against members of Congress, which were already up by 300 percent. A number of the people making those threats had a history of mental illness — but something about the current state of America has been causing far more disturbed people than before to act out their illness by threatening, or actually engaging in, political violence.
And there’s not much question what has changed. As Clarence Dupnik, the sheriff responsible for dealing with the Arizona shootings, put it, it’s “the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business.” The vast majority of those who listen to that toxic rhetoric stop short of actual violence, but some, inevitably, cross that line."
from "Climate of Hate" by Paul Krugman
It's great that people are thinking about the prevalence of incitement and discussing it. But will this cause the hate mongers to truly stop? Or will they just take cover for a bit, pause, pretend to be all peaceful and anti-hate ... until it all blows over and then start back up again?

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