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If we stop calling each other nasty names, the crazy lone gunmen have won

Jack Shafer writes “In Defense of Inflamed Rhetoric”:

For as long as I’ve been alive, crosshairs and bull’s-eyes have been an accepted part of the graphical lexicon when it comes to political debates. Such “inflammatory” words as targeting, attacking, destroying, blasting, crushing, burying, knee-capping, and others have similarly guided political thought and action.  (…)

Any call to cool “inflammatory” speech is a call to police all speech, and I can’t think of anybody in government, politics, business, or the press that I would trust with that power. As Jonathan Rauch wrote brilliantly in Harper’s in 1995, “The vocabulary of hate is potentially as rich as your dictionary, and all you do by banning language used by cretins is to let them decide what the rest of us may say.” Rauch added, “Trap the racists and anti-Semites, and you lay a trap for me too. Hunt for them with eradication in your mind, and you have brought dissent itself within your sights.”

Our spirited political discourse, complete with name-calling, vilification—and, yes, violent imagery—is a good thing.

And yeah, Sheriff Dupnik is clearly trying to insinuate himself into this story, and it’s unseemly:

Hey, Dupnik, if you’ve got spare time on your hands, go write somebody a ticket.

Legal Insurrection asks: “Does Sheriff Clarence Dupnik have no shame?” (Good comments at that blog, too.)

And now, speaking of “targets,” good catch by Brian Lilley, who quotes the chronically confused Neil Macdonald of the CBC, as saying:

“She was a person whose face was on Sarah Palin’s Facebook page with a crosshair on her as one of the Democrats that should be targeted politically at least in the last election.”

As everyone reading this blog knows, that is an inaccurate description of the infamous Palin map, as you can see at Lilley’s site.

Don’t expect the CBC to issue a clarification or scold Macdonald anytime soon. (Or write you and me a refund cheque…)

Lilley continues:

Did you hear the latest from Canadian Press about Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff? He’s visiting ridings that the Liberals are targeting and he’s taking aim.

Now in fairness to Ignatieff that’s The Canadian Press talking not him. (…)

A search of the Liberal website showed them using the word target 272 times.

Far more damning: yesterday Patterico tracked down a page at the highly influential far-left site, Daily Kos, which, pace McDonald, really does display a target AND a photograph of Giffords’ face.

Better yet, as Tim Blair points out, rightly (I used sticky transparent ones back when I used to lay out a newspaper by hand):

Funny thing about those crosshairs. They ain’t crosshairs. These are crosshairs. The images shown on Palin’s map are crop marks, commonly used in printing.

(But, hey,  leftists who don’t use guns [but nevertheless think they're firearms experts] can’t be expected to know that…)

RELATED — going to my longstanding belief that there’s a connection between heavy drug and alcohol use and a weakness for conspiracy theories:

The crew smoked marijuana every day, and when they weren’t going to concerts or watching movies they talked about the meaning of life and dabbled in conspiracy theories.

For a time, Loughner drank heavily, to the point of poisoning himself, the friends said. (…)

He believed the U.S. government was behind 9/11, and worried that governments were maneuvering to create a unified monetary system (“a New World Order currency” one friend said) so that social elites and bureaucrats could control the rest of the world.

UPDATEEr, huh?

…the YouTube website of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords suggests she subscribed to the YouTube channel of her suspected attempted assassin, Jarred Loughner, at some point before the shooting incident.

UPDATE from Media Myth Alert:

McKinley was fatally shot in September 1901 by an anarchist named Leon Czolgosz, who, according to Hearst’s finest biographer, was unable to read English.

Even so, Hearst’s foes–notably, the New York Sun–sought to tie the assassination to ill-advised comments about McKinley that had appeared in Hearst’s newspapers months earlier.

One especially ill-considered comment helped fuel the allegations: That was a quatrain written by columnist Ambrose Bierce 20 months before McKinley was shot on September 6, 1901, while greeting well-wishers in Buffalo.

Bierce’s column of February 4, 1900, closed with a reference to the assassination a few days earlier of the Kentucky governor, William Goebel. Bierce, prickly and acerbic commentator, wrote:

The bullet that pierced Goebel’s breast
Can not be found in all the West.
Good reason: it is speeding here [to Washington]
To stretch McKinley on his bier.

As I pointed out in my 2005 work,The Spanish-American War: American Wars and the Media in Primary Documents, “The quatrain attracted little notice or comment until Czolgosz shot the president in 1901.”

Timothy P. Carney writes:

What if we could go back in time, six years, and change only our political rhetoric, with the sole aim of preventing this massacre. Can anyone prescribe a course of action with any confidence they could reduce the probability of Loughner doing what he did?

Even if Barack Obama hadn’t promised to bring a gun to a knife fight, even if Sarah Palin hadn’t used cross-hairs in her map, even if the DNC hadn’t used bulls-eyes in theirs, even if Daily Kos hadn’t called Giffords a “target” in the “crosshairs,” I don’t think we could have reduced the odds. The guy, all signs indicate, went from being a fairly normal kid to being a schizophrenic.

There are lots of reasons to watch our tone and our analogies. I’ve regretted my word choice in the past. I’m sure I will in the future. Today, I’ve learned not to use crosshairs and hunting or military analogies, because if the person does get shot, you’ll feel really bad about it.

But the notion that our political rhetoric had anything to do with today’s shooting is unfounded.


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