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Category Archives: Arizona Shootings

How You Helped Rush Limbaugh

Sure is quiet in here sometimes.

Right now it’s quiet because although I’m a pretty liberal guy, I just got through accusing a lot of my fellow liberals of doing exactly what they accuse Republicans of, when they circulated the scathing, vitriolic Wrath of Fools.

As a very liberal guy, the reason that I was speaking up about the Wrath of Fools is that it is destructive instead of constructive, and because it isn’t true.

Sure, there’s lots of truth in it.  No doubt about it.  The right wing spin machine is vicious and efficient and cynical, and yes, frequently disturbing.  Eliminationist rhetoric is the catch phrase these days, and yes, I’ve seen some disturbing examples of it in the right wing. 

I’m wondering why I can’t acknowledge the eliminationist rhetoric, and then still not buy into Pitt’s assertion that the rhetoric eliminated the six people Loughner shot with the weapons in his hands.  Anyone?

For all the truth in the article, it just isn’t connected to the killings in Arizona – there’s not even a whisper of a connection.  And that’s Pitt’s main point, stated clearly over and over and over – the right wing did this.  All of them did this. 

And that’s a lie.  A partisan lie, and it’s embarassing and sad.

It would be one thing if Loughner had a copy of Going Rogue in his pocket, with key phrases underlined.  It would be easier to say, look, he did this because of all these true things.  Even then – quite a stretch to blame it on the whole party.  People have been shooting each other – and at elected officials – a long time.  And an awful lot of people were exposed to the same rhetoric that day, and didn’t kill anyone.

Everyone simply assumed this was a right wing, Fox News gun nut, responding to the rhetoric, and it isn’t true.  So yes, plenty of truth in Pitt’s article and plenty of melodramatic namecalling, too, and all of it packed tightly around a central, horrible lie.

It made me sad, because turning into the right wing is exactly why I spoke up.  I don’t want to be like them.  And spreading such partisan nastiness, dropping a quick sound bite, then putting your fingers in your ears at the sound of rationality – well who does that sound like to you?

An enlightened liberal, or a big fan of Fox News?

Now only a few days later, I found this article by David Corn entitled Worst Things Said This Week: Rush Limbaugh Wins In This Category.

In it, Corn discusses this horrible quote by Limbaugh:

“What Mr. Loughner knows is that he has the full support of a major political party in this country. He’s sitting there in jail. He knows what’s going on, he knows that. . . . The Democrat party is attempting to find anybody but him to blame. He knows if he plays his cards right, he’s just a victim. . . . That smiling mug shot — this guy clearly understands he’s getting all the attention and he understands he’s got a political party doing everything it can, plus a local sheriff doing everything that they can to make sure he’s not convicted of murder — but something lesser.”
Now don’t worry – I know that Limbaugh’s horrible and ridiculous statement isn’t true.  It’s a typical line of crap for him really – he’s been doing this for what, thirty years?  But the fact is it’s got a really skewed, out-of-context truth in it.

A huge swath of our party is definitely trying to blame someone besides Loughner.  The disgusting lie that Limbaugh has stapled to this truth is the notion that we don’t want to blame Loughner at all.  But a lot of liberals are, in fact, engaging in a concerted rhetorical effort to blame the right wing.  And because we’re doing it, Limbaugh has that little sliver of reality he needs to wrap around this poison pill like a bit of cheese for his dog.

That’s in a nutshell the other half of my problem with Wrath of Fools.  It plays right into their hands.  We could have had the conversation about the eliminationist rhetoric without making the clearly invalid logical leap to It Caused Loughner To Do This.

It didn’t, plain and simple.  And the rhetoric is still a very bad thing, even in a world where we admit that it didn’t.  Instead as always, it’s a world where nobody who needs to change wants to listen to us, because we’re in the middle of flipping them off and calling them murderers.

I’m quite sure Rush Limbaugh appreciates it, though.  I’m quite sure I don’t.

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4 Comments

Posted by on January 14, 2011 in Arizona Shootings, News/Commentary

 

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All Of Them Stabbed Caesar

That’s the best way I can put it, and I’m having a hard time letting it go.

Eight people stabbed Julius Caesar.  I’m not going to bother and look up if that includes Brutus or not, because the details don’t matter.  It’s an analogy.  A bunch of guys stabbed Caesar, and then Brutus stabbed him, too.

Caesar was stabbed 23 times, according to Google.  I have a couple of Shakespeare scholars out there, reading once in a while, so corrections on my Shakespeare stuff are welcome and inevitable.  Shakespeare’s barely the point.

The point is, when you talk about who killed Caesar, you don’t really score it up, do you? 

Eight or nine guys stabbed him, but they did it 23 times, so some of them were doing it more than others.  I’ll bet there was one guy who was doing it like crazy.  Like ten of those stabs are probably his.

And then there’s Brutus, who only stabbed him once.  Or if I’m wrong, then we can imagine that there was one conspirator who only stabbed Caesar once.

Either way from a moral perspective, I’m not too impressed by the guy who only stabbed Caesar once. 

I’m kind of thinking, but yeah, you were out drinking beers with these guys all night, and then you all went to Caesar’s house, and then when everybody started really stabbing the guy, you went ahead and stabbed him too.  You kind of said, dudes, this sucks, but that’s it.

Seriously, I would have left, and dealt with not being popular or whatever.  I don’t stab people, that’s my policy. 

No if you were there that day, when everybody stabbed him, and your response was to go ahead and stab him too, then I dont’ need to hear the numbers.  I don’t need to know who stabbed him the most. 

I’m just thinking, what’s up with you stabby motherscratchers?  That guy’s dead.

So let’s say then that a buddy of Brutus wrote a scathing article called The Wrath of Fools, and it was all about how some of the conspirators had been working together, and this was all their fault, and they’d pretty much killed Caesar.

Look at these charts, they said.  They stabbed him 21 times!

That’s a lot.  But then what if old Tommy C. asked about the other two times that Caesar was stabbed.  Let’s say Tommy C. said, hold on.  Don’t forget about our buddy Brutus.  Here’s a picture of him stabbing Caesar, too.

And then you said, that’s outrageous.  The other guys stabbed him almost every single time.  Brutus only stabbed him once.  Maybe twice or there might have been another guy, whatever, not NEARLY as much as the Right Wing, errrr the other guys.

I’m saying, that’s not something to get all cocky about.  I don’t think it’s time to declare some kind of Innocence Victory, by just being the person who stabbed Caesar the least.

That’s the argument I hear the most right now, when I point out that we all had an indirect hand in the Arizona massacre, just like we all have a hand in everything in our society.

The question is, how direct does your influence have to be?

In the case of Loughner, we don’t even have a single knife wound to look at.  We can’t find one solid indication that he got his plan from any particular place in the media.  From say, Fox News or MSNBC or nowhere on television at all (Gasp!).

It’s not like he was a regular commenter on Glenn Beck’s web site or Sarah Palin’s Facebook page.  And even if he were, it still wouldn’t be clear that words and images on a screen passed before tens of millions of eyes caused one out of the vast multitude to shoot people.

If it was clearly the rhetoric, then why only one guy?  

Was the rhetoric special, or was the guy’s particular brand of crazy special?

Really.  You might think that your side contributed demonstrably less than the other side, just like Brutus might think, hell, I only stabbed the guy once, these guys stabbed him at least a few times apiece.  Hell you might even think you did nothing more than own a little stock in the knife company.

I think that’s flimsy.  If you’re so quick to blame the right, then I guess you are pretty confident that the left always structures their messages such that nobody crazy ever receives them, and then continues to act crazy. 

There isn’t even a direct connection between Loughner and the Far Right.  William Rivers Pitt really glosses over that fact in his vitriolic The Wrath of Fools: An Open Letter To The Far Right.  He doesn’t make a single compelling connection between Jared Loughner and the Far Right, other than his own subjective assumptions.

It’s that simple.  Read his rant and show me where he does it.  He makes a crazy ass leap right in the middle in which he declares it to be obviously the Far Right, but he documents it like a Roswell conspiracy theory – barely at all.

But he was shooting the vitriolic leap of logic right at someone who the Far Left hated, so they jumped on board, and cheered their version of what Pitt was claiming to decry.

Fact:  The only person directly responsible for the killings in Arizona is Jared Loughner.

Therefore:  If you’re assigning blame elsewhere, you’re talking about indirect blame. 

Fact:  Indirect blame is very difficult to disprove. 

For example:  Prove that you are not indirectly responsible – you live in our society and support its laws and statutes.  Tell me all about how this has absolutely nothing to do with you.  Prove it.

Response:  Of course in a vague, philosophical way we’re all responsible, being contributing members of the society in which it happened, but look at Fox News, they’re WAY more responsible.

You’re right, is what I think.  Fox News figuratively stabbed this country’s dignity more times than you or MSNBC.  Telling me that there is demonstrably more rhetoric on the right is like telling me that they stabbed Caesar more times than you did.

And let me guess – the acceptable number of times to stab him is somewhere between their number and yours.

I think when we’re standing over the body of Caesar we should all admit what we did, regardless of the sales board.  And if you don’t think you stabbed him at all, guess what, I don’t think you did either.  But if Sarah Palin did it with just the philosophical effect of her cartoon crosshairs, then you did it, to a far lesser degree, sure, but you’re part of this society.  

We end up talking about the political climate, the general air, not specific instructions from the right wing to Loughner.  So if we’re talking about the general air, then we’re all contributing to it.  Here’s an example right here of how you can contribute to the right wing, just by being destructive and nasty with your own left wing rhetoric.

We can’t quantify the contributions everyone’s making to the possible philosophical concept that controlled Loughner’s mind, so I’m not getting how you’re keeping score.  

The media in America is ugly, but it’s not squeaky clean on the left.  It’s cleaner, to be sure, but I can’t see how you believe that the left doesn’t contribute to the vitriolic, divisive, violence air.  They contribute less, almost certainly.  But they’re all kicking in.

All of them stabbed Caesar.  Looks like the plan is, let’s all jump on the guy who stabbed him the most, tell him, hey you, that’s way too much stabbing, you’re only allowed to stab in the moderate way that we do, and that threshold is subjectively up to us.

No, we’ll take that guy and stab him good.  We’ll show him how we handle stabbers.  And then when he’s gone, we’ll extra super definitely stop stabbing – we won’t point our stabby knives at anyone else, right?

Words Matter, says Pitt, and most of the people spreading his post.

Hell yes, they do.

 

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Screaming At The Hate

We’ve all been doing it.  Please, do me a favor, don’t act like it wasn’t all of us.

I know I had my oar in the Hate river.  Just a few weeks ago I wrote a post about members of the House booing at the prospect of working the week before Christmas.  I wrote about the disconnect that’s happening between Them and Us, the Haves and the Have Nots, the People and the millionaires who don’t tend to really Represent us at all.

We are growing to hate you, I told them.  It’s sweeping across the nation, this searing hate.     

And here it is.  Hate came to Arizona in the form of wild-eyed lunatic Jared Loughner, and the innocent died while his guilty ass went down in history, leering at us like a cartoon supervillain from all of our glowing screens.

I took that post down.  Because it’s disrespectful now, not because I was wrong.

No, the hate was real, and it’s still here all around us, and I’m growing fairly certain that screaming at it doesn’t help. 

It drinks the screams, you know.  The screams make it stronger.

Who’s to blame?  That’s what everyone wants to know, even as the man who pulled the trigger packs down three squares a day on our dime, pleased with himself. 

What made this man do this horrible thing, what made him choose it?

And that brings us to the heated political rhetoric, the anti-intellectual climate, the blustering, ratings-chomping media stars and their bully pulpits.  Their global megaphones and hyper-efficient spin factories.  Their gargantuan bank accounts buy them credibility, and then they use it to make more money, so they can talk louder, and make more. 

Change us – that’s what they want to do.  Change what we think – or if we already agree with them, keep us from thinking something else.

A sinister thing for them to want to do, isn’t it?  The question is, how much can they change us?  And why does it work so well?

You can tell me all about what Rush Limbaugh said or what Sarah Palin put on her website.  I’m a liberal, and there’s a good chance it will disgust me.

But look in the mirror, my fellow Americans.  No one’s cooking anything in this nationwide Hate Kitchen that we aren’t eating.

It’s supply and demand, plain and simple.  They keep the vitriolic assembly line rocking three shifts a day because we never get our fill.  You don’t really think Palin and Limbaugh are the only ones who spew hate, do you?

Sure, maybe they’re the best at it.  Maybe not.  And maybe it’s more their fault than anyone else’s.  What do you want to do about it?

Silence them?  Make it illegal to say certain things, illegal to put crosshairs on your Facebook page?

Kill them?  You don’t want to kill them, do you?

Listen – I can’t stand Sarah Palin.  She makes me ill just thinking about her.  But do you really believe that without her Facebook page, Jared Loughner would be sitting at home, watching Two and a Half Men with a smile on his face

It wasn’t any of them in particular.  If it was anyone other than the man who pulled the trigger, then it was all of them, on the right and on the left – the combined voices of everyone we have elevated to talking head stardom.  And it was us, too, sitting in our bar stools and in coffee shops and on our phones and computers, spraying hatred around our own country like cats who need to go to the vet. 

All over the web right now, that’s what I see – diatribes like The Wrath of Fools: An Open Letter To The Far Right in which William Rivers Pitt seems to be fighting fire with fire.  He hates the hate so much that he posted a bunch of hate about it.

Pretty well-written hate, too, though it seems a little long and redundant, and it’s supported at the end by quotes so old, it’s hard to see how they had anything to do with this 22 year-old assassin.  The most recent quote is from 2002, when Jared Loughner was fourteen years old. 

And then there are hundreds of comments, about half of them agreeing with Pitt’s hate, the other half hating him for it.  A sort of Hate Contest ensues, where each side then tries to come up with as many quotes from the other side in which violence seems to be incited.

Your side hates so much that this was inevitable.  No way, man – your side does.  Well, you started it.  Nuh-uh, you did.

What if someone kills Palin next?  Is Pitt going to apologize for his diatribe?  Will he acknowledge having a hand in it when his words end up in quote marks at the end of someone else’s rant?

What if someone kills Pitt?  Do we pin that on the commenters?

All of this while Christina Green lies dead, a beautiful, innocent girl who probably never learned to hate, not for real, and never will. 

Certainly she’s not the only victim, but she’s the one who really stands out to most people, the innocent child born on actual 9/11, a staggering loss of such iconic significance that it has this godless blogger wondering – is she a message from our Creator?  The one I never managed to believe in? 

What are the odds that our hate would boil up into this horrible, festering volcano, swallowing up such a perfect symbol of what this nation used to be, this beautiful girl born on the day we stopped? 

It’s almost like Someone’s reminding us of all of what we stand to lose if we can’t stay united as a People, the way we swore we would that day – remember that?  How we all looked each other in the eye and promised to stand together, despite our differences and our talk show hosts and their sexiest, hate-filled quotes?

Republicans and Democrats, fellow Americans, for the love of God and the sake of our children and the future of our nation – we have to stop.  We have to stop insisting that this brand new slaughter means once again that one side was wrong and the other was right.  We cannot put a saddle on it, and ride it around like mule.

The world is shrinking.  There isn’t room to do this anymore.  This tide of hatred is a living thing, and all we’re doing is feeding it our souls.

We can screw around with the past like a great cosmic Rubik’s cube, struggling to match it up with our own ideologies, or we can pick up our ideologies instead, try to get them to match the future we all desire.  But the witch hunt needs to stop, because we’re all in this together, and either this lunatic killed these people on his own, or we all did, together.

Spewing hate at the people spewing hate is not the answer.  It is merely the same problem with a swank new hat. 

These two dogs fighting in the soul of this nation are not named Democrats and Republicans, but Good and Evil.  Love and Hate.  The one we feed the most will be the one that wins, so what’s it going to be?  Who are we, America, for real?

Be careful, my powerful friends.  I know I’m going to be.

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Earlier:  Taking The Ground Zero Mosque Bait
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And: Consider Blaming America First

 
6 Comments

Posted by on January 11, 2011 in Arizona Shootings, News/Commentary

 

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