This was posted as an Opinion Piece in the Marin IJ, and on my Facebook page. It started quite a long back and forth. Very interesting. Comments welcome:
Whether they listen to Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck or other right wing spewers of vitriol or just pick up the vibes through their fillings or beamed to them by aliens via a tin foil hat, it’s hard to believe “lone nuts” like Jared Loughner have not been at least somewhat influenced by the anti-government rantings of professional hate mongers.
When Sarah Palin puts cross hairs over her opponents districts on a map and talks about reloading, and Glenn Beck calls for “shooting them in the head” about media pundits he claims are calling for revolution and Rush Limbaugh and his compatriots continue to denigrate the president, by calling him a Kenyan born Muslim, not a real American, that rhetoric leads to toxic stew that’s in the very air we breathe. Just like second hand smoke can damage and kill, so can words tossed out into the atmosphere incite and inflame minds already on the bring of madness.
Saying that these toxic messages contribute to the actions of someone like Jared Loughner who made a assassination attempt on the life of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson is not the same as “blaming free speech” as a January 13 Marin Voice piece by Sally Zelikovsky states.
It’s a statistical fact that gun violence is more common in red states that blue. A recent study published in the Atlantic shows that “Firearm-related deaths were positively associated with states that voted for McCain (.66) and negatively associated with states that voted for Obama (-.66).” (The Geography of Gun Deaths, Atlantic Monthly, January 13, 2011)
That Jared Loughner was anti-government, paranoid and prone to outbursts are all true statements. When pundits on the right, on Fox news and even in the Congress, are telling you the government is out to get you, to kill your granny and to take your job, that cannot be ignored as a factor in the kind of violence at the Tucson Safeway.
It’s a common ploy of the right to try to equate contentious speech on the left with inflammatory rhetoric on the right. “They all do it, don’t blame us” is a common refrain. Zelikovsky does it in her editorial, equating groups such as New Black Panthers, SDS, La Raza and the Ku Klux Klan.
While the New Black Panther Party may spout extreme rhetoric, they have been denounced by other black leaders and never been accused of killing anyone.
SDS thrived in the 60’s to organize students against the Vietnam War and for recognition of civil rights. It never spouted violent rhetoric. A splinter group, the weather Underground, was soundly denounced for their acts of violence, by other left wing activist groups.
La Raza is dedicated to improving civil rights and improve opportunities for Latinos through lobbying and education. It can hardly be equated with either the New Black Panthers or the Ku Klux Klan, who left a trail and of carnage and death in its wake across the south for decades.
Gabrielle Giffords became the symbol and the target of a deranged young man who feared the government. That the right now claims the left, and the so called “liberal media” is exploiting the tragedies of that day, while themselves pointing fingers and taking no responsibility for their part in creating a climate that can only encourage the paranoid and delusional to act, is shameful.
Dotty LeMieux is a political consultant and attorney. She is also vice chair of the Marin Democratic Party. These are her own opinions.