That being said, I have to say that I was disappointed in much of the vitriolic and reactionary rhetoric on both sides of the political spectrum yesterday. I don't have a problem with people condemning violent and inflammatory rhetoric, and I think that this should be done every day of the year, including when violent acts like this occur. In fact, I myself have been a huge critic of the St. Louis tea party's vitriolic rhetoric, including their "booting and torching" of a photo of Congressman Carnahan on the day health care reform passed, their carrying a coffin to Carnahan's personal residence the day after, and their calls for revolution and claims that they no longer had any moral obligations to the government. I also don't have a problem with pointing out that Palin's crosshairs imagery, or Angle's "second amendment solutions" language could potentially drive people to violence.
However, what I think does go way too far is to claim, at least when we don't yet have the full information, that these things caused yesterday's shootings. The fact is that yesterday, and even today, we don't really know that much about Loughner, and so it's a major mistake to claim that he was motivated by Glen Beck, Sarah Palin, or by anyone else. It's a crazy world and people's psychological makeups are all over the map, so even if violent political rhetoric increases the odds of something like this happening, it's a mistake to assume for any particular instance that we know the cause of the action when we only have very limited information. So I was a little dispirited to see such a vitriolic reaction from many on the Left saying that Beck or the tea party or whoever was to blame for yesterday's shootings, when the fact is we just don't really know that much about Loughner at this point and are basing our opinions on very limited information.
So, to that extent, I can understand why many on the Right, including the St. Louis Tea Party, were feeling unfairly accused yesterday. And despite my abhorrence for their inflammatory rhetoric, I might have even felt a bit sorry for them, if it weren't for the fact that they were doing the exact same thing they were complaining about! While simultaneously complaining about how evil the left was for daring to suggest that the shooter might be a right-wing extremist, they were claiming that he's a left-wing extremist.
For example, here's tea party co-founder Bill Hennessy claiming that Democrats "called for violence" and saying, based on extremely limited information, that the shooter was an "anarchist" or "markos-style leftist:"
...even while he was screaming about how the "Evil Left" was insinuating right-wing extremism was involved:
But America’s liberal elite turned the tragedy into a national day of shame. They accomplished this by callously and capriciously blaming innocent political opponents for the violence. When confronted with facts to the contrary, liberals, including Paul Krugman, CBS News, the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, Jane Fonda, Sheriff Dupnick of Pima County Arizona, and others, continued to lie, slander, and libel the tea party, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and conservatives in general.
When ubiquitous twitter voice-of-reason @Mizzouatheart tried to ask Hennessy to tone back the bile, here's how he responded:
Now maybe one could claim that Hennessy was just pointing out these alleged liberal "calls to violence," etc. in order to be ironic and point out how badly the Left was reacting. Except for the fact that immediately after the incident happened, Hennessy was already claiming that a random Daily Kos diary was "calling for violence" because the diarist said that Giffords was "dead to me;"
And likewise, Adam Sharp of the tea party called the Daily Kos post a "hit piece" shortly after the news broke of the shooting:
By the way, as pretty much anyone knows, saying that someone "is dead to me," doesn't mean you are planning to kill them: it means that they are beyond the point of redemption or that you are going to ignore them (also worth nothing that there's a pretty huge difference between rhetoric from a random diarist on a site (would anyone like to compare this with the mind-blowingly insane comments on Gateway Pundit's blog?) and a national political figure like Sarah Palin or Glenn beck). But the main point is that the St. Louis Tea Party was out of the gate blaming the Left for the shooting, even as they were complaining about any instance of people calling out right-wing rhetoric. In fact, they were even angry about the Pima county sheriff saying that we need to tone down the anger and hatred in our political discourse:
One other minor point: while he was busy blaming liberals, Hennessy also claimed that Politico wrote that the shooter was a "socialist," which does not seem true based on the link Hennessy provided.
Jim Hoft, aka Gateway Pundit, of course was his usual blatently hypocritical self:
Likewise, Dana Loesch called for people to stop blaming the Right:
...while clearly dropping hints that the shooter was a "leftist" or incited by the Left:
Also, as pointed out on twitter by MattOrtega, previously Loesch pretty blatently tried to exploit the Fort Hood shootings as part of her anti-Islam agenda:
And tea party spokesperson Jen Ennenbach? Well, who knows what the hell she's ever thinking, but she followed the same basic pattern, while including some crazy tweets about how this is the beginning of "civil war;"
Anyway, I think it's pretty obvious that the Right has been just as willing, if not more so, to blame this on the Left, even as they as usual are screaming about how "victimized" they are. In order to have a healthy discussion about this, we need to wait for more facts to come in. However, this is not to say we should avoid talking about the dangers of violent and inflammatory rhetoric. In fact, we (and particularly our local media) should have been talking about that much more for the past two years! Violent political rhetoric creates an atmosphere where things like this are more likely: whether or not it can be directly linked to any particular shooting, it is something that should be condemned and done away with.