I feel like I've said this before, but trying to make sense of the actions of what by all appearances is a troubled profoundly disturbed crazy person is futile, more or less by definition.

That said...

I'm not saying that Palin's poor choice of metaphors led to the appalling violence in Tucson yesterday. Or that heated rhetoric has no place in place in political discourse...hell, if it weren't for outrage, I'd never write about politics.

But maybe...just maybe certain members of our political and chattering classes could take this moment to examine the appropriateness of...I dunno...phrases like "take 'em out" and "don't retreat, reload" in the context of spirited but peaceful political discourse. Not because what happened to Rep. Giffords makes it in poor taste, but because it always was.

UPDATE: Sullivan, of course, has lots to say on this subject. But this is especially good:

I don't disagree with the sentiment that we should not refrain from robust or colorful or exuberant rhetoric. But constant resort to violent imagery directed at specific and named human targets is not a sign of a lively discourse but of thuggishness. Metaphorically threatening specific people with violence, especially when condoned by established leaders of political parties (like a former vice-presidential candidate), takes rhetoric to a new level. No one is proposing any bans on speech. We are arguing that at this point in time, the rhetoric has become so inflamed and so martial and so violent that the very viability of a respectable, peaceful right is on the table.

That's not a partisan hack trying to score points for Team Blue. That's someone who--like me--wants a healthy, viable, non-batshit-crazy right in this country.


RW said...

In a larger sense, however, I feel that anyone who thinks this is going to help tone down the rhetoric is living in a fantasy land.

Brian said...

No, why would it? There's always money to be made in selling crazy to stupid.

RW said...

"There's always money to be made in selling crazy to stupid."

I swoon.

Gino said...

seems from what i'm hearing, though i'd really rather not... kept TV turned to football, and nothing else, all weekend...

the rhetoric has only gotten louder.

problem with the right is the lootacracy. the left can attain and hold power through certain groups expecting a payoff (unions,etc).
mobilization happens accordingly.

the right doesnt have this payoff to promise. or, not in the #'s that can bring victory, so how else to motivate supporters but through ramped up rhetoric.

as the state grows further, it will only get worse.

Dave said...

There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that this guy was at all motivated by violence-like political rhetoric. So far the only evidence I see that suggests a right-wing connection with the killer is that the congressman is a democrat. And even if he were motivated by violence-like rhetoric, so what? He's clearly a whack-job ... I wholly reject the idea that our political discourse should be regulated by the potential behavior of crazies.

Brian said...

Dave: dictated, no. I'm not arguing that anyone shouldn't be allowed to speak as they damn well please.

I am criticizing them for doing so. And I think that's fair game.

As I said, I don't think anyone in particular is responsible for inciting this particular event by virtue of what they've said or how they've said it. But a specific attempt on the life of a specific political figure (absent some sort of strictly personal beef) is safely assumed to be politically motivated. That it is carried out by a not-completely-rational actor is certainly worth noting (I would argue that given the minimally successful track record of effecting policy change via assassination--particularly in this country--anyone who takes this route is acting irrationally.) But it is obtuse to pretend that the political context of such an action has no bearing at all.

Gino said...

a curious aside, brian: do you think a healthy viable nonbatshit crazy right wing is attainable in this country? or any modern democracy anymore?

i tend to think not.

Gino said...

keyword: viable, by which i mean actually able to affect policy or steer a course of change.

RW said...

gino, that's been my fight for a long time and I've pretty much given up.

The only fun left is to say incendiary things to the wingnuts and watch them 'splode.

Dave said...

B ... I just don't see it. I just don't see any motive for this guy that involves the political ideology of the Congressman. That is, I don't see any reason to think that had she either voted against Obama-care or changed her party identity (back) to Republican that this guy wouldn't have shot her.

Gino ... one notable part of this episode seems to be the relatively muted response by the right to what appear to be totally baseless accusations of this guy's motive. And if we are to take the left's general talking points at face value, I would think that the first thing we would want to do to improve the level of civic discourse would be to avoid labeling political opponents as crazy for not agreeing with your enlightened view of public policy.

Don't get me wrong, there are people on the right that make me a bit uncomfortable (Huckabee, Palin come to mind), but there are plenty of people on the right who reasonably and rationally oppose the expansion of the federal government.

Except those want to restrict the growth military pay ... then it is right and good to call those people crazy. :)

RW said...

"there are people on the right that make me a bit uncomfortable (Huckabee, Palin come to mind), but there are plenty of people on the right who reasonably and rationally oppose the expansion of the federal government"

Who? Or let me ask, who among these enlightened, reasonable and rational people are either not afraid to call down their affiliated loonies from the ledge publicly, or haven't used the vitriol they generate to the advantage of their own campaigns?

The right as it stands today has tapped into a very rich vein of anger, resentment, and mistrust that sees authoritarianism as a positive.

What's insidious is that this quote... "Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country" is exactly what's happening.

Brian said...

but there are plenty of people on the right who reasonably and rationally oppose the expansion of the federal government.

I agree that they exist. I see scant evidence that they are running the show.

I'd *love* to be wrong about that.

Dave said...

My sense is that the rich vein of resentment is largely coming from the establishment Left, which became quite used to establishment me-too Republicans like Gerald Ford or Bob Michel who were quite happy to go along with democrat ideas as long as they got to included and now increasing faces a GOP that is not at all interested in collaborating with the Democrat party's ideology. So until one party or the other accepts junior partner status I suspect that the animus in Washington will continue.

RW said...

"My sense is that the rich vein of resentment is largely coming from the establishment Left" - presumably because they're the ones who march around with snake flags and tell their friends to bring their guns to the rally and did all they could to sweep the liberals out of congress last year?


Gino said...

I would think that the first thing we would want to do to improve the level of civic discourse would be to avoid labeling political opponents as crazy for not agreeing with your enlightened view of public policy.

the right's major debate point is to call liberals stupid, misinformed, idealogically corrupt...

the left's main debate tactic is to call the right racist, bigotted, evil, uncaring... or some other moral inadequacy.

personally, i think stupid can be cured with education/information.

moral corruption/evil is a more serious character flaw, if you ask me. evil is best stopped with violence.

and both throw the nazi word around, lately.

bob michel and gerald ford: what many would conclude as the viable right wing, unless you actually believe in something thats right wing (and that seems to change from time to time.)

Gino said...

which brings us to the problem at hand...

the right wing as it stands today is, by nature, reactionary.

it has to be cause it cant be any other way by defination of the term 'conservative'. nobody tries to conserve was it not at risk of being lost.

its that 'standing athwart history' thing buckley spoke of. he knew the jig was up when he took the feild of battle.

Brian said...

Great points all around. Seriously. I'm not not responding because I don't have more thoughts...I'm just really tired.

I do feel I've gotten sucked into team blue/team red bullshit more than I usually let myself, here. And really, my criticism of the right (here and generally) is more borne out of wanting better from them than from any particular attachment to the left.

Palin is a fucking disaster...her defensive and incoherent (not to mention poorly worded...seriously, does she not have anyone working for her with something more impressive than a GED?) video today being just the most recent evidence of this. I'd love to just think we can ignore her and she will go away. But I don't think we get to.

Gino said...

i thought her video was OK, maybe the best response so far.
but her use of the language doent bother me.
language is fluid, always has been.

i dont give more credence to northeastern-ivy standard language. its out dated, meaning... normal folk dont talk like that in real life any more, not even educated ones, unless they are apearing on cspan and want to impress their peers.

Brian said...

"Blood libel" has meant the same thing for hundreds of years.

But that isn't what bothers me, so much as it belies the fact that she is unwilling to seek and/or heed advice from anyone who knows more about stuff than her, which is something that every president (no matter how smart they are ) has to do, and often. Even W was self-aware enough of his own limitations to bring on a bunch of old guys that knew the ropes of foreign policy and defense.

Temperament matters a great deal more than ideology in the presidency, because regardless of how proactively everyone campaigns, they almost always end up governing reactively.

And you don't need to be Ivy-educated to recognize that claiming violence is solely the responsibility of its perpetator one minute and the very next minute acusing your critics of inciting violence by criticizing you is completely incoherent and self-contradictory.

I'd acuse her of doublespeak if I thought she was clever enough to pull that off on purpose. But actually, I think she really doesn't see the contradiction herself, because she is the center of he own narcissitic moral universe, and thus, can't be wrong.

Gino said...

i know 'blood libel' has a proper hsitorical meaning, but its also been used in this manner as well (even that shapiro guy said as much).

i'll watch her video again, and listen more closely. its a fault of mine. i watch her too much without paying much attn to what she says. its understandable, yeah?

Brian said...

I'm pretty sure that is the secret of her success.

Seriously, I will be ecstatic to stop talking about Palin. Which I will do the minute she confirms she's not running for president.