Monday, January 10, 2011

On That Whole Horrible Tragedy Thing

So by now you've probably read or seen at least a dozen news stories about the attempted assassination that left a US Representative gravely wounded and killed 6 others, so I'm probably not going to offer much novelty to the thousands of opinions you've already heard, but then again, when do I ever do that?

As it so often does with politically-motivated violence in this nation, it turns out the gunman was probably a right-wing nut job. As I've pointed out often here before, while the right in this country has a long (and recent) history of employing violence, the left appears to significantly more surveilled, even though there really hasn't been any leftist-motivated violence in this nation since the Weather Underground disbanded.

Though I'd like to stress, as many others have pointed out, clearly Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck are not immediately or directly responsible for this happening, just like video games and Marilyn Manson didn't lead to Columbine, or the lindy hop didn't lead directly to WWI.

But I think the big difference between "video games led to Columbine" and "Glenn Beck led to the Arizona shootings" (again, neither of which is really true) is the difference between making violence look fun or acceptbale in an abstract way (like rewarding you for running over hookers in Grand Theft Auto) and repeatedly saying (albeit supposedly as joke) that certain people should be killed.

Because even though this guy was probably mentally ill in some way, it has been happening with increasing regularity that people, whether mentally ill or not, who listen to a great deal of Glenn Beck and that ilk, have gone out and killed people. This is the second such incident in the past 3 months (recently in Oakland a Beck fan got into a shootout in which he killed three officers while on the way to murder ACLU members and earlier in Pennsylvania), and if I weren't too busy to spend the morning on google, I know I could find several more recent examples of a nut job going unhinged and killing people in part because of their paranoid world vision greatly fed by Beck and Co.

So again, you can't really blame someone when something they've said encourages someone who is probably mentally unhinged to go kill someone. But when it happens repeatedly, there becomes a certain point when that person becomes culpable. If not in the legal sense (though you could definitely make an argument for that), at least in the moral sense.

And I also am well aware that political violence and extremely heated and violent political rhetoric are nothing new (hell, they're what this nation was built on), there's still something about people who listen to all of your shows and buy all of your books and then go out and attempt to assassinate public officials or non-profit officials or anyone starting to occur somewhat regularly that should at least make you take pause and potentially re-evaluate what you're saying. Not because of your politics or because of your world view or what have you, but because clearly a small (but highly impacting) part of you audience is clearly receiving the message that they should go out and kill certain people.

And if that is not the message you want them to be receiving (I'm probably granting them way too much here), then you should probably think about it a little bit...

No comments: