I’ve been ruminating almost the whole evening over the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. I’ve been reading reactions from various political blogs on the web. I’ve been watching bits and pieces of coverage of the shooting on MSNBC. The one thing that has struck me most is the insistence by so many that this was politically motivated.
Those on the Right are expressing outrage (rightly) over what happened and yet at the same time trying to dodge the culpability of rightwing media in this event. They are pointing at the Left and noting that the Left too has had it’s share of extremists and violence. The Left, not surprisingly, has been doing plenty of it’s own finger-pointing today. I’m not quite sure I understand why both sides aren’t seeing their own parts in this.
At several points in the coverage tonight being done by Keith Olbermann on MSNBC it was noted that the Left had it’s share of violence perpetrated in the name of various causes. The Black Panthers, Bill Ayers, etc. were all noted as being examples of the violent Left in the 1960s and 1970s. These are true examples and it was a good idea to mention them to bring some perspective to the situation. In today’s world however the Right is much more responsible for inciting this type of behavior.
In the 1960s and 1970s there wasn’t a 24/7 media constantly pumping out a constant stream of fear. Something needs to feed that frenzy and the media constantly blows up beyond proportion the smallest news items. Don Henley wrote the song “Dirty Laundry” in 1982 about this type of media coverage and boy does it seem prescient. “The bubble-headed bleach blonde comes on at 5. She can tell you about the plane crash with a gleam in her eye.” Never were truer words spoken. The early 1980s saw the start of the spread of cable television and got us where we are today.
So why am I surprised that people are talking about how this is politically motivated? Because even with the constant blow-torch of the rightwing media (Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, O’Reilly, Savage, etc.) only the mentally ill would actually take those things seriously enough to actually act and go out and shoot a member of Congress (my greatest hope is this is true). The politics in play here are the extreme right but the cause is mental illness. If it is not reported in the next several days that the man responsible for this act has been determined to be mentally ill I will be very surprised.
All of those things noted it is pretty clear the rhetoric needs to be ratcheted down on the Left and the Right. Given the resources the Right has at this point in time of getting their message out the onus is on them to get to work and stop with the endless tide of fear and racism being broadcast on a daily basis. Only the rightwing media in the 21st century could have brought us the Birther movement, the success of the Tea Party, etc. on the scale we’ve seen. How else can the success in politics of people such as Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann be attributed to anything else? They have the perfect outlet, Fox News, who is not afraid to lie and cheat and do whatever it takes to get their message out.
It doesn’t stop there. The onus is also on the leadership of the Republican Party to denounce these things when they see them. John Boehner was on the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams the other day noting that while he believed President Obama was born in the United States he couldn’t say anything to members of Congress who appeared to believe otherwise. He said:
Brian, when you come to the Congress of the United States, there are 435 of us. We’re nothing more than a slice of America. People come, regardless of party labels, they come with all kinds of beliefs and ideas. Uh it’s, it’s the melting pot of America. It’s not up to me to tell them what to think.
This is leadership? It’s a dodge at best. Facts are facts and the proof is there for all to see. It is up to him to tell them what to think. I’m astounded he doesn’t think he should say something. Even John McCain finally said something at a rally when confronted by an old woman who firmly believed that Barack Obama was a Muslim despite no proof.
We have to get back on an even keel in our political discourse in this country. We simply can’t continue on the path we’re on with the 24/7 news cycle having the power it does to sway opinion. I’m afraid the shooting today won’t result in any changes. That would be a real shame. A 9-year old girl died today as a result of this madness. It shouldn’t have happened.