It’s not about guns, and Tucson is not why hateful speech is bad

The “Second Amendment remedy” discourse of the last few years is a near-monopoly of the far right, “crosshairs map” and all.  And  Arizona does have extremely permissive firearms laws, and it’s full of people who really, really, want to be able to play with guns and take them everywhere.  I would love to hang the Tucson massacre on both, the first because the hate/revolution/kill speech is deeply execrable per se and the second because like everyone, I really want there to be a legislative fix for crime and killing.  Unfortunately, neither dog will hunt and they both distract us from the real work.

Here are some thought experiments.
I. A lunatic has reached the stage of fear and paranoia that he wants to kill someone, or some people.  What is the probability that he will find something somebody said that he can take that way?  That after the fact, it can be shown that he read or heard something that could be interpreted as instructions to do it, or that the crime can be portrayed as having similarities to something someone somewhere publicly advocated in a figure of speech or literally? Can any imaginable policy change these much?
II. A public figure, or many public figures, use violent imagery.  What is the probability that, in a world with plenty of crazy, desperate, resentful people and fairly easy access to weapons, fertilizer and diesel oil, vehicles to drive into a crowd, gasoline, and the like, some nut will act out?
How does the probability of an attack change with 10%, 50%, or even 90% less violent public talk?
III. If public discourse matters, we need to think about what proportion of all the input assassins receive is sermons, Ann Landers columns, speeches, and whatnot urging good behavior and being nice to people, or just talking about issues without alluding to any mayhem.  If that went from 98% to 99%, would it make much difference?

The smirking, bloody-shirt language of the far right is despicable, but not despicable because it causes literal mayhem (which is extremely rare), and trying to nail it for that moves the effort to excuse or justify it to the wrong place.  It is despicable because it is intrinsically coarse, crude, heartless, and inhumane, and the people who do it would be contemptible with or without Jared Loughner.  It makes us dumb and angry instead of smart and thoughtful.  Its important consequences for life and limb are many more than the victims of a political or ideological assassin; it’s all the death and suffering caused by vicious policy that denies poor people effective policing and sick people effective medical care and all the rest of it.  There’s blood in the streets because one of our great parties has enshrined its worst self and abased itself before the likes of Limbaugh, but the blood at the Tucson Safeway is the least of it. Accusing Palin and Angle of being the cause of Loughner allows them to defend themselves by a cloud of “I didn’t mean that’s!” and “You can’t prove he did it because of us’s!”.  But they are just as despicable with or without Tucson, and should be attacked for their real evil.

What does make the Tucson event important in this context is not that violence in political talk causes stuff like it, or makes it more likely; it’s that it’s a salient, memorable, horrifying example of what that talk is frivolously using to make cheap points.  Every lout trying to put on the fake toughness of a bully surrounded by a retinue with this kind of imagery can now be called on it with the reality of Tucson: “Is this, or is this not, what you are asking for when you talk like that? and if not, what can you possibly mean, and what kind of person are you to talk that way?”

[UPDATE: Harold Meyerson sheds light in a similar vein here]

As to guns, I take the view of Mark K because he has studied these things and understands them. Arizona’s gun laws are almost exactly the same as those of Vermont, that savage, violent Wild East killing ground. Having more or fewer guns in the hands of the people who will have more or fewer with lax gun laws doesn’t lead to a lot more or less killing with guns. Some more, because a privately owned handgun is most likely to kill a member of its proprietor’s family, but not a lot. There may be some leeway at the margin about large-capacity clips, but even there, it would have been pretty easy for Loughner to have had two weapons instead of one, like the Virginia Tech killer of 32.  Or to have thrown a stick of dynamite, or a bucket of battery acid. Or to have made himself into a suicide bomber; there’s no indication he expected to get away afterwards.
At the same time, we need not be distracted by the completely loony idea that more guns everywhere will make less gun crime.    It’s instructive that even Arizona’s armed citizenry did not make the slightest difference in the body count; in fact, the only other  person on the scene with a gun in his hand didn’t use it, but he did almost kill the citizen who had disarmed Loughner.

If you feel better imagining that you will draw your weapon in time to make a difference when the shooting starts, and you’re sure you won’t blow away the other guy who had the same idea taking him for the perp, you are deluded, but probably not very harmfully.  I admit I am a little afraid that a bar or restaurant will turn into a general shambles sooner or later.  (The idea that a Glock in everyone’s pocket, or even an AR-15 in every coat closet, is what will make us safe against the US government should it choose to oppress us by force is also a delusion. But  for anyone who has seen on TV what five minutes of attention from an Apache can do, never mind an aircraft carrier, it just doesn’t bear discussion by the reality-anchored.)  Less killing by guns or anything else is not available to us by a quick-fix law either way; it requires seeking peace and civility the hard way, changing society in many ways, in small steady steps, at retail, with actual heavy lifting by everybody.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

52 thoughts on “It’s not about guns, and Tucson is not why hateful speech is bad”

  1. Note that the hate talkers stated goal is usually the dismantling of govenment. Chaos in the streets means big profits for the gangster company formerly known as Blackwater, gun manufacturers and all who make their living yammering about the bloody theater our world is degenerating into. And more frightened, angry people means more votes for pols who scream about "second amendment remedies" and "Hell No You Can't".

    When people say the screamers on the right are like nazis it is because they use similar tactics to appeal to a similar audience, poor schmucks who are desperate for simple answers. These folks don't want to hear complicated discussions about policy details. They want some big strongman to tell them he's going to kick the ass of the devil who is wrecking their lives. Trouble is that the screamers are working for the people who are wrecking their lives and when the screamers get into office they start another round of wrecking. And FOX News keeps telling the schmucks how great the screamers are and how awful the policy wonks are.

  2. I must disagree with some of Michael O'Hare's premises, if not his main point. A homicidal lunatic with a gun is substantially worse than one without a gun. There are some people who will murder with a gun, but are too squeamish or frightened to use a knife. There are too many guns around for gun control laws to make a big difference for ordinary gun criminals, but your basic paranoid schizophrenic is a bit easier to stop. They tend not to have networks of armed friends, or any other kind of friends for that matter.

    Also, if enough people play militia and are encouraged to do so, some will act militia. This is the same theory we apply to Al Qaida: concentric circles, with weak sympathizers with many rational points enabling stronger sympathizers with fewer rational points enabling angry irrational people enabling the actual killers. Our foreign policy tries to work on the weak and stronger sympathizers, and with the more violent parts of our military works on the killers. Second Amendment rhetoric is creating a lot of sympathizers. There was a causal relationship between the "jackbooted thugs" rhetoric of the early 1990's and Oklahoma City.

    And a note to yoyo and Dr. Buzzsaw: please do not feed the trolls, even with genuinely witty posts. All Thomas wants is attention from the grownups.

  3. "Some more, because a privately owned handgun is most likely to kill a member of its proprietor’s family, but not a lot. "

    A convenient factoid, in the original sense of the word. To the extent it carries any truth at all, (And that's a very limited extent.) it's due to the fact that, if you decide to commit suicide with a gun, you're probably not going to leave your home to do it. (Oh, and owning a gun doesn't make you more likely to kill yourself, though planning to kill yourself does make you more likely to buy a gun…)

    There exists, or did, anyway, back when the gun control movement had a couple of major foundations funding it, anti-gun research factories. Staffed by the likes of the eponymous Carl T. Bogus, or, in this case, Andrew Kellerman. Churning out convenient, false, factoids for gun control supporters to cite. Their work product persists, despite being refuted, because so many people really want them to be true.

    "The “Second Amendment remedy” discourse of the last few years is a near-monopoly of the far right, “crosshairs map” and all."

    Now, that much I'll admit, (Leaving aside the crosshairs bit, which numerous sites have documented the use of by lefties. Even lefties decrying violent rhetoric…) as you're not likely to talk about Second amendment remedies if you loath the 2nd amendment. You'll probably just talk about bringing a gun to a knife fight, or some such…

    Oh, and just to remind people, since Mark doesn't feel like admitting it: The ban Mark says he wants reinstated would not have even slowed down the killer's acquisition of a large capacity magazine, because it didn't ban anything but the sale of newly manufactured articles, and such magazines existed in huge supply already. So he started out his post with a mistake, and in the days since, has not seen fit to correct it.

  4. Brett, since you've chosen to revisit the issue of large magazines, the reason only newly manufactured large magazines were banned is precisely the sort of "jackbooted thugs of the ATF" rhetoric all you gun fanatics love to spin: any further-reaching effort to diminish the supply of these devices designed with the sole purpose of transforming a handgun with legitimate uses into an instrument of mass slaughter than a ban on newly manufactured ones would have been denounced as confiscation of people's firearms. Your objection to the ban on newly manufactured large magazines is that it wouldn't have cracked down on these mass-murder tools enough, even as you insist that any gun regulation smacks of creeping fascism. Not terribly consistent. Maybe if the sale of new large-capacity magazines had been banned for the last twenty years then it would be harder for a dangerous lunatic to get one, or maybe it would take another twenty years. In any case, that it is excessively moderate a policy is no way to argue against doing anything or against starting now to phase them out through simple attrition.

    PS how do you feel about the Joe Wilson "You Lie" memorial AR15 component currently blazing across the blogosphere? Or, in a rather less timely case, you never did respond to my questions about the TEC-9 case in another thread.

  5. Thomas, did you notice the second time that you sound like an ass? Post it again, but stop posting when you get to the part where it is clear you missed the entirety of the auhtor's point. Your first two words ("I see…") are okay, but the post really falls apart after that.

  6. The German philologist Viktor Klemperer survived Nazi Germany as a Jew in Dresden, documenting his experience in his diaries, which he kept from 1933 to 1945 and were published as I Shall Bear Witness and To the Bitter End. As a philologist, he was an expert in the uses and effects of language, and after the war he wrote a book titled The Language of the Third Reich, an attempt on his part to understand how the phenomenon of National Socialism was able to become ingrained in the body politic of Germany. It is filled with insights into how language, in any day and age, is used to acquire and maintain power. In it he writes: "But language does not simply write and think for me, it also increasingly dictates my feelings and governs my entire spiritual being the more I unquestioningly and unconciously abandon myself to it. And what happens if the cultivated language is made up of poisonous elements or has been made the bearer of poisons? Words can also be like tiny doses of arsenic: they are swallowed unnoticed, appear to have no effect, and then after a little time the toxic reaction sets in after all."

    Elsewhere in the book he speaks of the ordinary Germans he worked with in an envelope and paper bag factory, people who were "not devotees" of National Socialism. One German woman gives him an apple, a simple human kindness that moves him. Sometime afterward she asks him, "Albert says that your wife is German. Is she really German?"

    He writes, "The pleasure in the apple was gone. This Sancta-Simplicitas soul, whose feelings were entirely un-Nazi and humane, had been infected by the most fundamental ingredient of the National Socialist poison; she identified Germnness with the magical concept of the Aryan; it was barely conceivable to her that a German woman could be married to me, a foreigner, a creature from another branch of the animal kingdom…"

    Also, "The poison is everywhere. It is borne by the drinking water of the language of the Third Reich, nobody is immune from its effects."

    Elswhere he discusses the difference between an orator and a rhetor. "People who speak Romance languages…distinguish clearly between oratory and rhetoric. For them an orator is an honorable man, someone who tries to convince through words, someone who in all sincerity strives for clarity and appeals to both the hearts and minds of his listeners….In the West we have the special term 'rhetorical'; the rhetor–this can be traced back to Greek sophistry and the age of its decline–is the patter-merchant, the one who throws up a smoke-screen around common sense."

    I'm entirely aware of Godwin's law, I'm not calling anyone a Nazi, and I don't think that any particular language caused the gunman in Arizona to snap. But language is the sea in which we swim, and my point is that language is powerful, and each of us needs to own the consequences of the language we use, including the environment it helps to create. Certain politicians and professional communicators (rhetors, not orators) in this country are helping to create a toxic environment, and it helps no one but themselves.

  7. Jon Chait and Ezra and Michael have all weighed in that hate speech has nothing to do with this masacre.

    How generous of them. That seems to be the settling consensus. Although you think they might hold off on that opinion until this kid's computer files get scanned.

    But I do fine it incredibly interesting that Fox's president Ailes told his "guys" to tone it down. Why?

    If Fox News is not a handmaiden, why throw on the brakes?

    What does Ailes (Nixon's former media communication director) know about media that these others do not?

    I suspect plenty:

    Ailes understand the power of words and his network.

    And he realizes one or two right-wing copycats could bring lots of wrath down on his politco-business model big time…

    So he says to his troops: Tone it down guys. Let the dust settle and the top-drawer liberals make the analytic argument that our hate speech here doesn't instigate…

    And then, if the kid's computer absolves us, we'll get back to our standard fare after the mainstream liberals's cooing sighs have been absorbed…

    The bottom line here is this:

    You can't be Ailes and the conservatives. This country belongs to them. They understand emotion and motive. Which beats analytics every time.

    Once again I tip my hat to them: Well-played!

  8. Even without any acts of violence, wouldn't it still stand to reason that an increased climate of paranoia and hostility would increase the odds that someone, clinically unhinged or not, would commit violence?

    Without specific evidence, this seems a difficult proposition to prove. How would one? But nonetheless, it seems logical. And if all we can really do about it, to make sure it doesn't happen, is dial back the rhetoric, wouldn't that be a good thing?

  9. Has anyone figured out what Thomas is on about? A precis would be useful. Also, if anyone has the number of his psychiatrist, maybe drop him a line that Thomas's medication needs to be tweaked.

    As best I can tell, Brett feels it's really really important for the deranged to have maximum ease of acquisition of the deadliest weapons possible.

    This is so that he can plink in his backyard without learning how to handle his own equipment properly. Also, based on his previous comments, soon US politicians will have to be shot by somebody, not that this bothers him. Apparently, if Brett wakes up one morning and decides to apply the label "Pol Pot" to a person, then Brett is allowed, nay, required, to shoot dead that person. He's a patriot, you see.

    America, these are your "conservative" philosophers in the year 2011.

  10. Many thanks to pacato for the post about Klemperer. "BUT LANGUAGE IS THE SEA IN WHICH WE SWIM, AND MY POINT IS THAT LANGUAGE IS POWERFUL, AND EACH OF US NEEDS TO OWN THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE LANGUAGE WE USE, INCLUDING THE ENVIRONMENT IT HELPS TO CREATE." I am old enough to remember the environment in which the assassination of President Kennedy looked to various pols to be a rational act. The day after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, boys standing inside the door at the high school where I taught were commiserating with each other over not having been the one to pull the trigger. That kind of thinking is "in the air" and it gets there by the language we use. To me, the point pacato makes in his post (and restated in CAPS above) is the essential point. And somewhere in it is the parallel to "it-isn't-the-gun-that-causes-the-problem, it's-the-shooter" argument that 2nd Amendment rightists often cite as the rationale for why it is ok for as many people as want them to own and carry guns. If we heard as much about social responsibility and what it means to be civil as we now hear about smaller government, lower taxes, and gun rights, would it make a difference? I get it that Michael O'Hare isn't claiming that it would. But I also know I would rather live in THAT world.

  11. Excellent post, Michael, and thanks to pacato for the Klemperer passages.

    I think a lot of the reaction among liberals to Tucson is a reaction to what you describe, accurately, as the despicable, and I'd add, ignorant and dishonest, language that has now become standard on the right.

    As for guns, I'll concede Mark's expertise, but it does seem to me that wider availability of guns reasonably leads to more gun violence, and that international comparisons are somewhat revealing. Just to save electrons I'll stipulate that Brett and Thomas have all kinds of things to say about that.

  12. @Russell:

    It's unfair to respond to Thomas and Brett in the same post. Thomas is a dipshit troll, pure and simple. The best response to Thomas is to ignore him.

    Brett is not a troll. I disagree with him about 75% of the time, but think he generally proceeds in good faith. He's a bright guy, who often keeps the conversation on this blog honest. He certainly is not a reliable parrot of the wingnut line du jour. That being said, I find Brett at his weakest when engaging in gun worship. He does much better as a libertarian.

  13. We need to fix the mental health system. I've read discussion about putting involuntary commitment on the table – with a good mental health system, something like that would not be seen as necessary let alone suggested. Thomas should have been helped years ago – we shouldn't have fear him now.

  14. "Brett is not a troll."

    We'll have to disagree on this one. I would generally agree that he is quite excellent at what he *is* doing, which is well captured in pacatos comment, and this post by Michael.

  15. Got to hand it to the English Bulldog. He gets his choppers on the truth and shakes like hell:

    Here is Andrew Sullivan:

    One would have thought that Palin, like any responsible person in her shoes right now, could have mustered some sort of regret about the unfortunate coincidence of what she had done in the campaign and what happened afterwards. Wouldn't you? If you had publicly defended a map with cross-hairs on a congresswoman's district, and that congresswoman had subsequently been shot, would you not be able to express even some measure of regret at what has taken place, even while denying, rightly, any actual guilt? Could you not even acknowledge the possibility that your critics have and had a point, including the chief Palin-critic on this, who happens to be struggling for her life in hospital, Gabrielle Giffords.

    But no. That would require acknowledging misjudgment. Palin cannot acknowledge misjudgment, as she cannot admit error.

    Meanwhile the outstanding liberal thinker Jon Chait writes a post defending Palin(!). Ezra, has got his back…

    Absolutely stunning. And what does Kevin Drum do? Checks out for the day, too much heat in the kitchen, gotta let the storm blow over.

    Boys and girls, the left over-thinks things to the point of paralysis-analysis…

    I mean really, even JoeScar is giving Ailes and Beck a old school scolding today.

    If ever there was a call for "Dog Pile on Fox News cancer!" this is it…

    If I played you some soothing Glenn Beck elevator music…

    Would that get you in the mood?

    ''I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. … No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out.''

  16. Russell, what's hard about this? The killer is a left-winger. His political beliefs, to the extent they are comprehensible, are the beliefs of the left. To say otherwise is to lie. Why did he believe what he believed? Why did he believe the 9/11 truth lie? Why did he think that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were illegal? Well, I think it's because those were common beliefs on the left, and no one had the courage to tell him and those like him that these things he believed just weren't true. Michael never told anyone that. Mark never told anyone that. For that matter, Obama never told anyone that. We know that the killer hated Giffords, and had complained about her votes to friends. What votes do you think he complained about? Maybe funding for the war–the truthers in Tucson were real upset about that vote. They were also upset with Giffords for not impeaching Bush. Did those things influence the killer? We can't know. But to the extent that extremism did influence him, then that's the extremism to look to–the extremism he participated in, and that found a comfortable home on the left.

    koreyel, what do you think you're going to find on that computer? Are you waiting to see his posts at democraticunderground and dailykos and 911truthout? Or do you think we're going to find something else? It looks like his Trutherism led him to abovetopsecret, and we've seen his left-wing posts from that site. What more do you need?

  17. "As best I can tell, Brett feels it’s really really important for the deranged to have maximum ease of acquisition of the deadliest weapons possible"

    Nah, I feel that the murderously deranged are a tiny fraction of the population, and that the rest of us should not be imposed upon in order to inconvenience them. You got a problem with the deranged? Pass a law targeting the deranged. Leave the rest of us alone. Take what Ack Ack Ack says; Shouldn't the guy who did this have been in a mental institution somewhere? He would have been, at one time, and don't think for an instant that deinstitutionalization didn't have something to do with what happened a few days ago.

    And I feel that a guy who runs a blog named "The Reality Based Community" ought to issue a correction when he posts something based on a factual mistake, such as Mark's belief that the '94 'assault weapon' ban would have prevented this clown from being armed in the fashion he was. When IS Mark going to get around to officially noting that 32 round magazines were legally available during the entire 10 years that ban was in effect?

  18. You fall for the Promethean ideal/fallacy that we are iconic individuals capable of independent action and resisting untoward influence from our social networks. This has been completely disproved via the Framingham experiments.

    But that's exactly the point. All that drama obscures a profound truth about human society. By studying Framingham as an interconnected network rather than a mass of individuals, Christakis and Fowler made a remarkable discovery: Obesity spread like a virus. Weight gain had a stunning infection rate. If one person became obese, the likelihood that his friend would follow suit increased by 171 percent. (This means that the network is far more predictive of obesity than the presence of genes associated with the condition.) By the time the animation is finished, the screen is full of swollen yellow beads, like blobs of fat on the surface of chicken soup.

    Do you understand now? Social networks, like Fox-News and the other right-wing hate groups who constantly spew their vile, toxic bullshit have an effect on their viewers. It is unquestionable that their hate rhetoric is, in part, responsible for this act. They are the cancer that kills civilization. And while this man was "just a nut," the Huteree, the Branch Davidians, Jim Jones and Jones-town, and so many other cults/groups/etc. were not…

    And, you get enough of this toxicity, you eventually have a complete societal breakdown where this behavior becomes the norm, not the exception. And don't pretend it doesn't. Don't pretend people are independent, Promethean actors. They are not.

    The right-wing hate merchants, by the hate they peddle, shook this nut from the tree. And there is no excuse for it. Because the excuse is a lie.

    And for the record, the Unitarian Church shot-up in Knoxville, TN a few years ago. It was our (Nashville, TN) 'sister-church.' We knew those people gunned down thanks to the hate of the hate merchants, like O'Rielly. People who only wanted justice and equality for everyone, gunned down because of the lies told about us… Targeted for being GOOD people.

  19. Heh, you do know that there's some evidence that obesity spreads "like a virus" because a virus causes it?

    Heck, it wasn't so long ago that we thought ulcers were caused by spicy food and bad nerves, rather than a bacterial infection.

  20. It is easy to get caught up in the meaning of words, rhetoric and the rare, but dramatic acts of madmen. The question that weighs on my mind: "will it work?" I think it will.

    Whether the violent rhetoric of the Right "caused" the violence of a madman is a distraction. The propaganda of the Right serves the same basic purpose: to protect the very Rich from the possible outbreak of democracy.

    I don't regard the Democrats as innocent victims. Both Parties have cooperated in frustrating any attempts to have government attend to the interests of the vast majority. Wages are declining; foreclosures are running apace; no merely middle-class man has any rights a corporation is bound to respect. But, politicians still have the institutional levers of power in their hands, and can turn on their plutocratic masters. In that respect, someone like Gifford, who can make populist appeals, reject liberalism, but still vote for health reform, is particularly dangerous. This was not an isolated instance of violence. A message is being sent.

    And, I suspect, received. It is not safe to move toward left-populism.

  21. *Shouldn’t the guy who did this have been in a mental institution somewhere?*

    That wasn't the implication at all. Work on your reading comprehension, please.

  22. Ok, so maybe Brett isn't a troll. But geez he can be really willfully stupid when he wants to be.

  23. New evidence out. The killer was a big fan of the movie Zeitgeist. For those of you not familiar with the movie, it explains that Christianity is a hoax, that 9/11 was an inside job, and that our monetary system is rigged in favor of international bankers. (For those of you wondering, I believe it also addresses some of the same questions that Mark addressed here at samefacts regarding the bin Laden family and their connections to the Bush family. You know, serious questions, not the sort of garbage that one would need to apologize for trafficing in.) It's well-loved on the extreme left. We know that the killer was arrested for spraying CX on a "stop" sign. We know that he was a truther. What are we looking for on the right?

  24. Perhaps those who find such significance in Loughner's recommending the Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf can find equal significance in his recommending We the Living by Ayn Rand?

  25. Based on what we've seen so far, trying to place Loughner on a right-left axis seems to make as much sense as asking whether the moon is Catholic or Protestant. The question is best treated as a koan.

  26. …on grounds that she offended him on a matter of linguistic philosophy, it appears. It's just not illuminating to parse this event that way.

  27. Perhaps it's wrong to blame political rhetoric, but it's also wrong to see this as just the act of an isolated crazy.

    We'll never know whether every incident in this list is part of a pattern, but the pattern itself is hard to deny. What is also hard to deny is that the reaction of the politicians and pundits has been to deny not merely responsibility but the pattern itself.

  28. Yeah, yeah, Ack Ack Ack, I do understand your actual point was, "People who disagree with me should be in mental institutions somewhere."; I was just trying to pretend you were being reasonable.

  29. "It’s just not illuminating to parse this event that way." I assumed you'd end up there once the fact that he is a left-winger became clear. Anyway, I can't square that with what you said above:

    "There’s blood in the streets because one of our great parties has enshrined its worst self and abased itself before the likes of Limbaugh, but the blood at the Tucson Safeway is the least of it."

    Are you retracting that? Or are you comfortable with incoherence?

  30. I'm comfortable with incoherence, but I don't see any way to reconcile "left-winger" with the choice of target in any meaningful way that doesn't lead right back to pure, random "crazy", which is awfully convenient, if you are on the Right or apologizing for the Center.

    A political assassination is "political" because of the target; it's political nature and political effects do not depend on the coherence of the assassin's political philosophy.

    Political Parties, being composed of politicians, have personal self-interest as well philosophy, to motivate a condemnation of violence against their own membership class. I expect the ideological supporters of the Parties, with no skin in the game, to struggle a bit over the "meaning" of it all. But, in the end, far from a koan, I see that both the Right and Center will benefit, and the plutocratic sponsors of Right and Center, benefit most of all, as their grip on power tightens.

  31. Thomas, my understanding is that the blood on the streets being referred to is the "death and suffering caused by vicious policy that denies poor people effective policing and sick people effective medical care and all the rest of it." You can disagree with the point, but it's definitely coherent to argue that coarse and inhumane language have facilitated coarseness in policy. And it's consistent with noting that we can't realistically place Loughner a political axis.

  32. Bruce, I don't think you're trying very hard. If we're going to conjecture, it's easy enough to think that the killer found Rep Giffords to be a disappointment–she didn't take the 9/11 truth seriously, she didn't de-fund the wars, etc. She's a moderate, remember. Think of how angry people get here about Obama, and imagine someone significantly to the right of him.

    John, no, I see that–though obviously that kind of "bloody" rhetoric is over the top and just encourages a violent reaction. What I'm focused on is the next piece, the piece you didn't quote: "the blood at the Tucson Safeway." There's no coherent way to square that with the response in the comments. (And there's no coherent way to square the response in the comments with his prior posts either. I'm beginning to think that coherence is not highly prized here.)

  33. I see. Well, I don't want to go too far into exegesis, but I think I can parse that clause so it's consistent with his point in the opening paragraph: that dog doesn't hunt — you can't put the massacre on far-right rhetoric.

  34. *Yeah, yeah, Ack Ack Ack, I do understand your actual point was, “People who disagree with me should be in mental institutions somewhere.”; I was just trying to pretend you were being reasonable.*

    Strike two.

  35. (Michael): "The smirking, bloody-shirt language of the far right is despicable, but not despicable because it causes literal mayhem (which is extremely rare), and trying to nail it for that moves the effort to excuse or justify it to the wrong place. It is despicable because it is intrinsically coarse, crude, heartless, and inhumane, and the people who do it would be contemptible with or without Jared Loughner."

    (Michael): "Based on what we’ve seen so far, trying to place Loughner on a right-left axis seems to make as much sense as asking whether the moon is Catholic or Protestant."

    1. There are more than one dimension to the political continuum. Reminders of this point might reduce partisan impulses.

    2. The "bloody shirt" is victim theater. This trope occurs more often in advocacy for redistributive policies than in advocacy for market-oriented policies, seems to me, but we all use it because all policies create real victims. Maybe we should only discuss the upside?

    3. To whom does the first quote refer? Example?

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  37. Dictionary dot com

    bloody shirt  –noun

    1. a bloodstained shirt used to incite a mob to vengeance.

    2. any symbol used for this purpose.

    Sorry for your metaphor, but it's Democrats and and their media shills waving the bloody shirt here.

  38. People understimate the power of modern weaponry to spray bullets in a small space. The films of Clint Eastwood "drawing a bead" on a bad guy is not a realistic picture of how these pistols and rifles work. Modern weapons are designed to indiscriminately fill the space in front of the shooter with flying lead.

    Hence the high death count in all these incidents. The killer need not bother to aim, and needs only training to load and fire.

    Like the episode in Virgina Tech, it is impossible to rush a shooter from the front, so in a narrow space, he has all the advantage, unless someone gets him from behind, or is close enough to jump him from the side. And by then, he will already have got off at least a dozen rounds.

  39. "Like the episode in Virgina Tech, it is impossible to rush a shooter from the front, so in a narrow space, he has all the advantage, unless someone gets him from behind, or is close enough to jump him from the side. And by then, he will already have got off at least a dozen rounds."

    Seems like a good argument for more people to carry.

  40. Right. Because no one would ever mistake you for a possible 2nd gunman. Shooting scenes are always so organized and non-chaotic.

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