Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Yes, it's you

The other day, I wrote that even if it turns out that the murder and attempted murder carried out by Jared Lee Loughner were not connected to the vicious rhetoric of the right, I would still hold the wingers responsible for the climate in which he acted. My grounds werethat
[t]he very fact that you, yes you, have created a climate where the speculation about Loughner's motives and influences, even if ultimately incorrect, was still entirely reasonable is proof enough.
You might have thought that was a bit of a reach. It was not. The rightwingers know they are responsible for that climate. That's why they were so quick off the mark with their "Not us!" yelps and their "We're the real victims here" routine punctuated by their "You lefties are so mean to us!" sniffling. That's why Our Lady of the North was not retreating, she was reloading, making the around the bend and a mile down the road claim that her critics were guilty of "blood libel," a term cheapened by some to mean merely "a false accusation" but more properly labels something as the most despicable lie imaginable. It was all accuse the accuser (Rule #10) CYA, all posturing.

How can I be sure it was not a reach? Simple: Even some conservatives admit, if indirectly, who is really responsible for that noxious climate. For just one example, a conservative commenter at a blog I read fairly regularly said:
Yes, when I first heard about this, I would not have been surprised to hear it was some nutso teabagger spewing some shit about Ayn Rand while firing into the crowd.
Perhaps more importantly, there was this exchange on CNN's "Reliable Sources" on Sunday between host Howie Kurtz and Debra Saunders of the San Francisco Chronicle:
SAUNDERS: You know, I've got to tell you, I'm a conservative. When I heard this story, my first thought was, oh, no, it's a right-wing nut with a gun. And I think that these stories about the Tea Party being a ticking time bomb are crap. I find them offensive, but we know that there are extremists.

KURTZ: But you said, oh, no, it's a right-wing nut with a gun, because you feared that then anybody on the right would, by implication, be blamed for this shooting?

SAUNDERS: No. Because I feared it was true. I mean, that was my first thought.
My own first thought in both of those cases was the question neither the commenter nor Saunders was asked: Why? Why was that your first thought? Why was it that the first thing you thought was that this was "some nutso teabagger," "a right-wing nut with a gun?" What is it about today's politics that made "teabagger" and "right-wing" central parts of your first reaction?

I'll tell you why: Because that seemed the reasonable, the natural, conclusion. More than that, it was an expectation, a reaction of "This was going to happen sooner or later, and now it has." The thought that this was a "nustso teabagger with a gun" may have distressed you - but it did not surprise you. And that is precisely the sort of "proof" to which I referred: It was indeed reasonable to speculate that Loughner is a "teabagger with a gun," who, inspired by the words and imagery of that movement's leaders, became convinced of the necessity to accomplish with bullets what ballots had failed to do. That speculation may, again, prove to be completely wrong - but it was entirely reasonable.

So conservatives, rightwingers, the whole lot of you, I'm calling you out. You knew, you knew and you know now of the risk you were running, the atmosphere you were establishing, the lines you were drawing, the physical threats you were creating; you knew then and you continued to do it, you know now and you still continue to do it, to do the same things, to create the same threats, to restate and reinforce the rancid rantings of the right and your only focused concern is to insure that whatever may happen, you do not get blamed for the results.

As I was writing this I came across the news that
Anthony Miller, who was recently re-elected to a second term as chairman of the Arizona Legislative District 20 Republican Party, stepped down from the post hours after the shooting
in Tucson avowedly because of concerns for his own and his family's safety arising from "verbal and online attacks against him" - attacks which came not from the left but from local tea party members in his own district in the Phoenix suburbs, more than 100 miles from Tucson. Even for GOPpers, the threat of violence comes from those even further to their right, not from their left.

So be honest with yourselves, conservatives and rightwingers, assuming that's possible: When you first heard that a Democratic Congresswoman had been shot, isn't it true that you, at least a lot of you, thought with Debra Saunders, "oh, no, it's a right-wing nut with a gun?" Didn't you? Wasn't that your immediate emotional reaction? You may later have pulled back, even grabbed the life preserver tossed by the wingiest of the wingnuts and convinced yourself against evidence that the shooter was a leftist, but that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about your gut reaction.

And then think about this: If you heard that a Republican member of Congress had been shot, would your first reaction be "oh, no, it's a left-wing nut with a gun?" You know damn well it wouldn't. It would be simple astonishment and "Who how why?" with no instant answer, no instant gut-level guilty party, springing to mind. Again, you may later find some thread of logic to claim the shooter was a leftist, but again that's not what we're talking about.

That difference, right there, tells you everything you need to know about the climate of implied violence in this country's political discourse, who it is directed against, and who is responsible for it. Yes, it's you. And you know it.

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