There seems to be no evidence that federal District Judge John Roll was a chosen target for today’s massacre; it’s possible that he was shot merely because he happened to be there. But two years ago he was the target of death threats whipped up by anti-immigrant radio talkmeisters when he ruled that a rancher who had appointed himself as an unofficial immigration enforcer could be sued by some of the people he pointed guns at. For a month, Roll and his family were under Marshal Service protection.
The shooter apparently had more mental health problems than political beliefs, though the hint about possible participation by second, older man leaves open the possibility that the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords was an attempted assassination rather than just part of a random shooting spree. But even assuming that the roots of the shooter’s behavior where psychological rather than intelligibly political, it’s hard to imagine that the violent rhetoric of right-wing talk radio, and of some of the more florid Tea Party leaders and their candidates, has no real-world impact, even on people not in full contact with the real world.
For example, the shooter seems to have absorbed the belief that abortion is terrorism. That, and the slightly more restrained claim that abortion is murder, are commonplaces of right-wing rhetoric. But of course it’s perfectly legitimate to use force, even deadly force, to prevent a murder, or a terrorist act.If you tell people that the country is being “invaded” by Mexican immigrants, you’re not entitled to act all surprised when some of them react in a fashion appropriate to an invasion. If you tell them that their elected officials are tyrants and “domestic enemies,” you’re not allowed to then be shocked at actions appropriate to resistance to tyranny. If you suggest that the President and his party are, traitorously, deliberately helping terrorists, then it’s on you if someone acts as if that statement were true. If you pretend that liberal reforms such as guaranteed access to health insurance are “socialist,” and conflate socialism with Communism, and point out (correctly) that Communism under Stalin and Mao was a doctrine used to justify mass murder, then the logic of your position indicates that killing liberals is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. So don’t be surprised if some of them do it.
When Sharron Angle talked about “Second Amendment remedies,” not a single prominent conservative (in the degraded contemporary sense of that term) politician or pundit – including her sponsor, the former half-term Governor of Alaska – denounced her for doing so. (It’s not as if they’re slackers about denunciation; remember that idiotic “General Betray-us ad”?) To my eyes, all of those folks have forfeited their right to look shocked when someone takes a gun and kills a judge and tries to kill a Congresswoman. [Note: If someone can find a denunciation from a certified right-winger, or even from a GOP “moderate,” I’ll be happy to update.]
Words have meanings; speech is a form of action; and actions have consequences. If you play with fire long enough, someone is going to get burned.