Tucson’s Other Victims—Truth and Logic

February 25, 2011 05:22

The Left was clearly hoping that the controversy would have the effect of silencing conservative voices in the media, and shaming the Republicans into backing off of their agenda that they were recently voted in to pursue, including plans to vote to repeal ObamaCare.

By Roger Aronoff

While the liberal media sought to stake out the moral high ground in the first days after the tragic massacre in Tucson, the picture soon changed rather dramatically. Their indignation turned to hypocrisy, their journalistic standards stood exposed, and they lost control of the narrative as more facts became known about the alleged killer, about their own actions and words—on tape, on the Internet and in print—and about who was really to blame for creating a partisan and hostile environment in this country.

The Left was clearly hoping that the controversy would have the effect of silencing conservative voices in the media, and shaming the Republicans into backing off of their agenda that they were recently voted in to pursue, including plans to vote to repeal ObamaCare.

The shootings in Tucson intensified the often overheated rhetoric between Left and Right in this country, though it is quite clear that the alleged gunman was not driven to do what he did because of the comments or actions of conservative politicians or media personalities. The alleged killer, Jared Lee Loughner, 22, was clearly a very disturbed person, whose psychotic state was obviously exacerbated by heavy drug use. Charles Krauthammer, columnist and commentator, and previously a psychiatrist, has suggested that Loughner is a paranoid schizophrenic.

The killing of six people in Tucson on January 8, and the wounding of 13 others, including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, has revealed many fault lines in our modern society. Among the issues that should be re-examined in light of Tucson are these: 1) Should news organizations rely on bedrock principles such as being more concerned about getting a story right than trying to be first?; 2) Should society adopt a more proactive posture on intervening in the lives of those with mental health issues? Think of the Virginia Tech killer, Cho Seung-Hui, who killed 32 people, of Major Nidal Hasan who killed 13 sol­diers at Ft. Hood, and now Jared Lee Loughner in Tucson. In all three cases, in reading about their recent pasts, one wonders what someone has to do to be stopped preemptively. It is a difficult issue when you’re talking about someone’s freedom, but this must be reconsidered; 3) What changes should be implemented so that a Jared Loughner, with an erratic and criminal background, cannot be able to buy guns and ammunition?; and 4) Will our mainstream media learn any lessons about waiting for facts to become known before speculating on the motive and ideology that might have provoked such an incident?

Not likely, though the finger-pointing became more tempered, in some cases, following President Obama’s Tucson speech on January 12th. But for the most part, crass political opportunism from the Left has continued unabated.

Starting in the very first hours after the shootings came the charge that this was likely a politically motivated act, somehow linked to a climate of hate created by the likes of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and the Tea Party movement.

Paul Krugman, one of The New York Times’ most extreme left-wing columnists, wasted no time in of­fering his view of what had just occurred. Within the very first hours, while almost nothing was known of the alleged killer, Krugman wrote in his blog on the Times website that “A Democratic Congress­woman has been shot in the head; another dozen were also shot.

“We don’t have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was. She’s been the target of violence before…You know that Republicans will yell about the evils of partisanship whenever anyone tries to make a connection between the rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, etc. and the violence I fear we’re going to see in the months and years ahead. But violent acts are what hap­pen when you create a climate of hate. And it’s long past time for the GOP’s leaders to take a stand against the hate-mongers.”

Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, called by Time magazine the “dean of the left-wing bloggers” and the “proprietor of Daily Kos,” tweeted “Mission accomplished, Sarah Palin.” According to Matt Lewis in Politics Daily, Moulitsas also previously urged his readers to “target” Giffords and put a “bulls eye” on her district because she “sold out the Constitution…”

On Moulitsas’ Daily Kos website, there was a posting by a contributor who had worked for the re-election of Giffords, and who was angry that she had just voted against Nancy Pelosi to become the Mi­nority Leader in the House. He wrote, just two days before Giffords was shot, that Giffords was “now DEAD to me!”

Keith Olbermann had a special edition of his “Countdown” show on MSNBC the night of the shooting, in which he had a series of guests on who all specu­lated that Loughner was influenced by “right-wing extremists” and that the Right was far more guilty of violent and hateful speech than the Left, creating a climate conducive for this sort of action. In one of his so-called special commentaries that night, he demanded that other journalists and politicians repudiate and apologize for “suggestions of violence.” He said “if they do not begin their broadcasts with an apology, then those commentators and the others must be repudiated by viewers and listeners, by all politicians who appear on their programs includ­ing President Obama and his interview with Fox on Super Bowl Sunday and by the networks that employ them. If they are not responsible for what happened in Tucson, they must be responsible for doing what they can to make certain Tucson does not happen again.”

Then Olbermann said, “Once in a clumsy metaphor, I made an unintended statement of then Senator Clinton. It sounded as if it was a call of physical vio­lence. It was wrong then, it is more wrong tonight. I apologize for it tonight.”

The absurdity is that Olbermann, TV’s worst verbal arsonist, was making demands on others to meet his standards, or face repudiation. Plus the fact that all that he apologized for is one “clumsy metaphor,” after a career of hate-filled invective.

That evening, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik of Pima County, where the shooting took place, fueled the partisan debate when he said at a press conference that “I want to tell you right now that people like myself are very, very angry at what’s going on in our country, and I think that it’s time that we take a look at what kind of hatred that we inflame by all the crap that goes on. I’m a close friend of Gabrielle Giffords, and she is one of the most beautiful hu­man beings that you can imagine. I think it’s time that this country takes a little introspective look at the [inaudible] crap that comes out on radio and TV.” When asked if there was any evidence linking Loughner to talk radio or TV, he said “no.” He added that Arizona had become “the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

We know that Loughner had been fix­ated on Giffords going back to at least 2007, when he was unhappy with how she answered a question he had asked her, said by his friends to be, “What is government if words have no meaning?”

Loughner had an extensive record of bizarre and criminal behavior, with mul­tiple reports from campus police, concerns expressed by fellow students, and a history of drug and alcohol abuse.

We know that Loughner claimed that among his favorite books were The Com­munist Manifesto and Mein Kampf. He posted a YouTube video of the burning of an American flag. According to a New York Times profile, “He became intrigued by antigovernment conspiracy theories, including that the Sept. 11 attacks were perpetrated by the government and that the country’s central banking system was enslaving its citizens. His anger would well up at the sight of President George W. Bush, or in discussing what he con­sidered to be the nefarious designs of government.”

The same Times article made references suggesting he was inspired or motivated by “right-wing extremist groups,” though when writing about his anger at the sight of President Bush and his 9/11 Truth Movement beliefs, those were not char­acterized as the views of left-wing groups. While there is nothing to suggest that he was motivated by Keith Olbermann or Ed Schultz or the far-left Daily Kos, there is certainly nothing to suggest he was in­spired by Sarah Palin or any talk-radio hosts. Any fair inference of Loughner’s politics should preclude the notion that he was influenced by Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh or the Tea Party movement.

And if we want to compare hostile state­ments, one could go tit for tat for a long time, trying to prove which side is more vitriolic. We have been bombarded (if I can still use that word) with the examples of Sarah Palin’s target map (see page 1), “lock and load,” and many others disturb­ing to the thought police on the Left. But they have their own body of statements and images to account for.

First is the use of harsh rhetoric and symbols. There are election maps with targets from the Democratic Leadership Conference and the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee).

There are quotes from recently defeated Democratic Representative Paul Kanjor­ski, now calling for civil dialogue, who said “Instead of running for governor of Florida, they ought to have him [Rick Scott] and shoot him. Put him against the wall and shoot him.” There was a movie during the Bush years, called “Death of a President” that depicted President Bush being assassinated, to glowing reviews. John Kerry jokingly talked about killing President Bush. Jonathan Chait wrote a column, “The Case for Bush Hatred.”

President Obama’s own statements have also been highly provocative: “They bring a knife…we bring a gun!” Referring to ACORN and union mobs going after bankers, he said, “I don’t want to quell anger. I think people are right to be angry! I’m angry!” He told his followers that if they get hit, “Hit back twice as hard!” He told a group of Hispanic supporters to “Punish our enemies.” He said that he talks to people in the private sector “so I know whose ass to kick.”

But all this is just the heated rhetoric of passionate political debate. Politics and elections share a language with war and combat. It is “targeting,” “campaigns,” and “battleground states.” Democratic consultant Bob Beckel claimed to have invented targeting, and said he regularly used targets in ads. He acknowledged that the “rush to judgment” by the Left was “premature” and “unfair.”

What is much more troubling is how the Left just ginned up this controversy, and blamed conserva­tives for single-hand­edly creating a climate of hate and violence, and by implication, for what happened in Tucson. They had no evidence to begin with, and once the facts started coming out, it became clear that there was abso­lutely no basis for this theory. While the case could more easily be made that Loughner was a crazed left-wing­er, conservatives didn’t argue that he was in­spired by the likes of Keith Olbermann or Paul Krugman.The in­cendiary tone promoted by the Left since the Tucson massacre has not only not led us closer to a civil debate in this coun­try, but has ripped us further apart. They know they can throw these accusations out there, and not face any criticism from the mainstream media, who are generally more subtle making the same argument.

As Jonah Goldberg wrote in Nation­al Review, “The Left believes that their people are smart enough to distinguish incitement from metaphor,” unlike those on the Right.

Some on the Left have seen Tucson as an opportunity for President Obama to regain his political footing, much like they argue that Bill Clinton did after the Okla­homa City bombing in 1995.

Jonathan Alter of Newsweek wrote, “The shootings [in Tucson] and the re­sulting debate over the climate of incivility play to his strengths as a calm and rational leader. Just as Bill Clinton’s response to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings helped him recover from his defeat in the 1994 midterms, so this episode may help Obama change—at least in the short term—the trajectory of American politics.”

Keith Olbermann, who parted ways with MSNBC less than two weeks after the shooting, and others on the Left, claimed that those on the Right overreacted and got very defensive, since, they argued, no one really accused them of anything. On January 11, Olbermann told Howard Fineman that “People, myself included, have said that the map and the gun talk was wrong. Nobody has said Loughner ever heard it, let alone was inspired by it, let alone could have comprehended it. So, why did Beck and Limbaugh and Palin and their cohorts—why did they get so defensive so quickly?”

Well, maybe because the accusations and suggestions never ceased. On Jan. 18, Wolf Blitzer interviewed Sheriff Dupnik:

BLITZER: Because a lot of people are ask­ing, Sheriff, if you don’t know that he was in­fluenced by these individuals, whether Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or anyone else, why make the accusation that they helped create this environment that resulted in six people getting killed?

DUPNIK: Well, it just happens to be my opinion based on 52 years in law enforce­ment.

BLITZER: You’re just speculating.


Roger Simon of Politico, said on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” that “What’s too easy to do is to ignore the Sarah Palin ads and say, ‘we can’t know that these ads caused the killings,’ absolutely true, we can’t know, but then say, such ads do not require our criticism, do not require us to speak out against them, as the situation calls for.”

With Tucson, the media have fanned the flames of discord in America rather than cooling them down. They created a false narrative about what led to the Tucson tragedy, causing bitter acrimony. Instead of the nation coming together to grieve and heal, we have become more divided.

Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media. He can be contacted at roger.aronoff@aim.org.

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