MOVING TO FRONT FROM 1/13--A FEW UPDATES OF INTEREST
The Arizona shooter was clearly in the grips of anti-government paranoia of a kind not uncommon on the right in America, though he may simply have been in the grips of paranoia simpliciter. But given the former, it was natural and obvious to point out the role that mainstream figures on the American right--figures like Beck, Limbaugh, and Coulter who speak to millions on radio and televion, and Republican candidates for United States Senate like Sharron Angle and Joe Miller--have played in encouraging and practicing political violence as a solution to political disagreements. The issue, alas, got mixed up with one about civility in political discourse, which wasn't, or shouldn't have been, the issue: the issue is the advocacy, explicit or implicit, of violence against one's political enemies. The American Right owns that rhetoric overwhelmingly, and, of course, they know it.
The American Right, however, is also the political master of "the best defense is a good offense," and so they've gone beserk at anyone's drawing the connection. They can't, of course, deny that the mainstream Right is full of fans of thuggery and violence, so all they can do is try to claim "parity" of violent rhetoric between the Right and the Democrats (there is no mainstream Left in America, so we can put that to one side). But there is no such parity, and the American Right must surely know that too. The far right pseudo-journalist Michelle Malkin--most notorious as an apologist for race-based internment--responded by collecting purported evidence of violent talk and images from the 'left,' and her little collection was widely cited and linked, with satisfaction, by all the little right-wing robots in cyberspace. But what was obvious and striking about her collection was that she had to mostly mine blogs, blog comments and videos of comedians and unnamed street activists; she could find no real liberal parallels to Sharron Angle, Glenn Beck, or Ann Coulter, that is, no one as crazy and rhetorically violent as these folks who are regularly featured as pundits in the mass media and even run as Republican candidates for Senate.
The fact that the mainstream Right is "guilty as charged" probably explains the hysteria of the reaction, for example in the crypto-fascist entertainer Sarah Palin screaming "blood libel" , even though the actual victims of "blood libels"--like Jews in the middle ages, or at the hands of the Nazis--suffered a tad more than the poor former Governor who likes to put rifle cross-hairs on politicans she dislikes. (Matt Yglesias has a funny comment on point.) Glenn Reynolds, the benighted Tennessee law professor, also used the "blood libel" phrase in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece without any awareness of its inappropriateness in this context: but that's the modern right, even those who are allegedly educated are culturally and historically illiterate.
UPDATE: Ben Hale (Colorado) has more pertinent commentary.
ANOTHER: Reader John Gotti sends this apt photo, from a billboard in Arizona.
AND ONE MORE: A nice piece from Esquire about Oklahoma City and Tucson and the morally and intellectually depraved state of public discourse in America (thanks again to Aaron Baker for the pointer):