Tuesday, January 11, 2011

GOP Blames Mental Health Not Political Rhetoric

Tags: Terrorism Guns Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) Think Progress NY Times Herbert Krugman Brooks CJR

GOP Blames Mental Health Not Political Rhetoric While Allowing Unlimited Distribution of Guns, and Voting Against Equal Coverage of Mental Health

Perhaps the Republicans are afraid that they may lose representatives in the House if mental health becomes a requirement for serving in the House and Senate and perhaps members of the Right Wing Media.

Since no one person, no matter how intelligent and knowledgeable, has the ability to avoid their natural prejudices in how they see things, I will include opinions which I may not completely agree with.

I will skip the Right Wing remarks, but have listened to many Republicans in the House who seem to be much more reasonable than their lack of will to go against the Party in the voting process no matter what they personally think. I included David Brooks who served on the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal and still has that Right Wing mindset, but is able to convince largely brain-washed elites with his nuanced arguments including CJR.

Jim Kawakami, Jan 11, 2011, http://jimboguy.blogspot.com

“As ThinkProgress previously reported, at least two Arizonans have died because they were denied funding for organ transplants that they were promised following Medicaid budget cuts championed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R). The governor called the transplants “optional” and has ignored those who have proposed possible solutions that would fully fund the transplants without requiring any additional revenue.” … http://thinkprogress.org/2011/01/11/az-woman-transplant-state/

“Following Saturday’s tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona, some Republicans have argued that 22-year old assassin Jared Lee Loughner was more affected by his mental illness than the nation’s lax gun control laws or Washington’s divisive and often times violent political rhetoric. “What will solve this problem is removing the politics from it and getting after the crux of this problem and that is somebody who needed mental health services and or legal intervention much earlier in his cycle toward violence,” … http://thinkprogress.org/2011/01/11/rogers-mental-tucson/

More than a Million Killed with Guns Since 1968, 150,000 Since 2000 Bob Herbert, NY Times, Jan 10, 2011 If we want to reverse the flood tide of killing in this country, we’ll have to do a hell of a lot more than bad-mouth a few sorry politicians and lame-brained talking heads. We need to face up to the fact that this is an insanely violent society. The vitriol that has become an integral part of our political rhetoric, most egregiously from the right, is just one of the myriad contributing factors in a society saturated in blood.

According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, more than a million people have been killed with guns in the United States since 1968, when Robert Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were killed. That figure includes suicides and accidental deaths. But homicides, deliberate killings, are a perennial scourge, and not just with guns.

Excluding the people killed in the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, more than 150,000 Americans have been murdered since the beginning of the 21st century. … http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/11/opinion/11herbert.html?ref=global

Surprised at Mass Killings? You Shouldn’t Be, Paul Krugman, NY Times, Jan 9, 2011, When you heard the terrible news from Arizona, were you completely surprised? Or were you, at some level, expecting something like this atrocity to happen? Put me in the latter category. I’ve had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach ever since the final stages of the 2008 campaign. I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 — an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again. The Department of Homeland Security reached the same conclusion: in April 2009 an internal report warned that right-wing extremism was on the rise, with a growing potential for violence.

Conservatives denounced that report. But there has, in fact, been a rising tide of threats and vandalism aimed at elected officials, including both Judge John Roll, who was killed Saturday, and Representative Gabrielle Giffords. One of these days, someone was bound to take it to the next level. And now someone has.

It’s true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled. But that doesn’t mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate.

Last spring Politico.com 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. … http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/10/opinion/10krugman.html?src=me&ref=opinion

Major Political Figures in the Republican Circles Use Violent Political Rhetoric while Similar Ones in Democratic Circles Do Not, Joel Meares, Columbia Journalism Review CJR, Jan 11, 2011, http://www.cjr.org/campaign_desk/room_for_debate_1.php

… Today, the right is coming back at the left for politicizing the Arizona shooting—several pundits, like Michelle Malkin, pointing to the left’s own use of violent political rhetoric over the past decade and crying, ‘Hypocrite!” Her post presents an interesting list of such instances, though most of Malkin’s examples are celebrities or extreme left fringe figures or protesters, not major political figures like those on the right singled out by the press for violent rhetoric in the past few days.

Rush Limbaugh is arguing—with typically little to back it up other than his own superhuman abilities to sniff out a leftist MSM conspiracy theory—that “The list is never ending of incidents like this where the media is damn certain, damn well certain they can give Obama his OKC bombing. They can give a Democrat president some kind of massive murder or disaster caused by conservatives. That remains the number one effort.”

There is a kind of hypocrisy here, too. Limbaugh, Malkin, and the like are clearly politicizing their argument about the politicization of a tragedy, firing back at what they perceive to be the left’s demonization of them and their words, by demonizing their attackers—how dare you pin this on us, you political opportunist! It is, as expected, a dogfight heading nowhere, and will no doubt continue to rush to that end.

More on-point is David Brooks in The New York Times today. While I think it’s folly for Brooks not to at least mention the series of events that tempted journalists to initially link the shooting to recent rhetoric—the office attack, the crosshairs graphic, threats against Giffords and other health care supporters—he makes important points which echo those we made yesterday and Sunday.

David Brooks, NY Times, Jan 11, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/11/opinion/11brooks.html?_r=1&ref=globalThese accusations—that political actors contributed to the murder of 6 people, including a 9-year-old girl—are extremely grave. They were made despite the fact that there was, and is, no evidence that Loughner was part of these movements or a consumer of their literature. They were made despite the fact that the link between political rhetoric and actual violence is extremely murky. They were vicious charges made by people who claimed to be criticizing viciousness.

Yet such is the state of things. We have a news media that is psychologically ill informed but politically inflamed, so it naturally leans toward political explanations. We have a news media with a strong distaste for Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement, and this seemed like a golden opportunity to tarnish them. We have a segmented news media, so there is nobody in most newsrooms to stand apart from the prevailing assumptions. We have a news media market in which the rewards go to anybody who can stroke the audience’s pleasure buttons.

I have no love for Sarah Palin, and I like to think I’m committed to civil discourse. But the political opportunism occasioned by this tragedy has ranged from the completely irrelevant to the shamelessly irresponsible.”

That spectrum feels about right—on both sides.

Jon Stewart, increasingly a go-to voice on matters of national confusion, opened his show last night with a discussion of Saturday’s shooting. Stewart echoed much of what others and we wrote yesterday and Monday—the connection between political rhetoric and the shooting is simply not there to be seen at this point—but nonetheless argued that that lack of connection is no reason to shy away from a debate on the tenor of the national political discourse. “It would be really nice if the ramblings of crazy people didn’t in any way resemble how we actually resemble how we talk to each other on TV,” Stewart said. “Let’s at least make troubled individuals easier to spot.” … Video

Stewart makes a good point: a lack of a connection is no reason not to debate the tone of our rhetoric. But in practice the debate will be tricky. The struggle for journalists and pundits will be to discuss rhetoric while treading carefully around the issue of the connection between that rhetoric and the congresswoman’s shooting—the fact that the shooting has created an opportunity for a debate on rhetoric could easily imply that unproven connection to readers, listeners, and viewers.

The answer might be to deal with it as directly as Stewart does, to be vigilant in acknowledging the lack of a connection before arguing one isn’t needed for the debate to begin and develop. To treat the relationship between Saturday’s bloodshed and the violent rhetoric we have since discussed as an atmospheric one and not one of cause and effect. And to have the debate in some historical context—our current impassioned debate is nothing new; violent political rhetoric is as old political violence. It is the tools of with which we communicate it and the reach of that rhetoric that has changed.

No comments:

Post a Comment