The charge: The Tucson massacre is a consequence of the "climate of hate" created by Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, Obamacare opponents and sundry other liberal betes noires.So we lack any sort of evidence that he was at all aware of Sarah Palin, the tea party, or any political rhetoric. That, of course, doesn't stop Democratic partisans from trying to take political advantage over the corpses of the dead in Tuscon.
The verdict: Rarely in American political discourse has there been a charge so reckless, so scurrilous and so unsupported by evidence.
As killers go, Jared Loughner is not reticent. Yet among all his writings, postings, videos and other ravings - and in all the testimony from all the people who knew him - there is not a single reference to any of these supposed accessories to murder.
Not only is there no evidence that Loughner was impelled to violence by any of those upon whom Paul Krugman, Keith Olbermann, the New York Times, the Tucson sheriff and other rabid partisans are fixated. There is no evidence that he was responding to anything, political or otherwise, outside of his own head.
A climate of hate? This man lived within his very own private climate. "His thoughts were unrelated to anything in our world," said the teacher of Loughner's philosophy class at Pima Community College. "He was very disconnected from reality," said classmate Lydian Ali. "You know how it is when you talk to someone who's mentally ill and they're just not there?" said neighbor Jason Johnson. "It was like he was in his own world."
His ravings, said one high school classmate, were interspersed with "unnerving, long stupors of silence" during which he would "stare fixedly at his buddies," reported the Wall Street Journal. His own writings are confused, incoherent, punctuated with private numerology and inscrutable taxonomy. He warns of government brainwashing and thought control through "grammar." He was obsessed with "conscious dreaming," a fairly good synonym for hallucinations.
This is not political behavior. These are the signs of a clinical thought disorder - ideas disconnected from each other, incoherent, delusional, detached from reality.
But even if you believed this blood libel accusation, what would be the solution? What type of speech would you ban? What qualifications to the First Amendment would you make? We do know that Loughner had linked to a video of a flag burning. Would you make flag burning illegal? One Democratic representative, Bob Brady of Pennsylvania, has a bill proposal to ban military symbols and language that could foster violence. Really? Does he actually believe that such a bill would be constitutional? Jonah Goldberg follows this sort of thinking to its logical conclusion.
f the alleged shooter had been inspired by a movie or TV show -- as any number of murderers have been over the years -- would those blaming the tea parties join with social conservatives in blaming Hollywood? Would they celebrate new laws to "shut down" such fare?Liberals who are so swift to blame the language of Sarah Palin or Sharron Angle would recoil from any suggestion that works of art share similar blame for other crimes.
Mark David Chapman, who murdered John Lennon, claimed to be in part inspired by "Catcher in the Rye." Should that be banned? Or if not banned, should we "dismiss" from public life anyone who doesn't denounce J.D. Salinger?
When the subject of censorship or the "chilling" of free expression comes up in other contexts, the very idea that books, movies or TV can be blamed for the actions of the criminal or the deranged is met with unbridled scorn. I actually disagree with that. If books can inspire us positively, surely they can inspire us negatively, too. But we understand that we don't blame books for the rare demons who feed on them.
Of course, deep down, these blood libel accusations are not about limiting speech through a law, Representative Bob Brady aside. They're instead aimed at a different target. (See how hard it is to get away from military metaphors?) The purpose is to deprive conservatives of legitimacy in public opinion. When liberals decry criticism of government as leading to the Oklahoma City bombing or the Tuscon shooting, their true goal is to neutralize conservative political points. This is of a piece with all the attempts to paint Republican candidates as extremists and paint all the Republican candidates in November's election as versions of Christine O'Donnell. Paint Republicans as some sort of monster on our body politic and then try to defang them through by trying to connect them in the public's mind with mindless murders that are wholly unrelated. The ultimate goal: make any criticism of how the government operates or plans to expand the power of government seem to be one step closer to mass murder.
Anyone who has observed high school debaters has seen this tactic in operation. They'll take a proposal of their opponents to reform education and then demonstrate how this is just a few steps away from thermonuclear war that will destroy all mankind. It's a silly jump in logic when debaters use it, but how different is that from saying that critics of government action are fundamentally responsible for the actions of murderous maniacs?
I think that Americans are too smart to buy into this obvious tactic. It's a lot more difficult now with the multiple sources of information that we have now.