Monday, April 23, 2007

Newt Gingrich is a dangerous idiot

By Michael J.W. Stickings

In case you haven't heard, Newt has found the cause of the Virginia Tech shootings. Or, rather, he has found something upon which to pin the blame:

Liberalism.

Yes, that's right. Liberalism.

On ABC's This Week yesterday, he blamed the shootings (and such violence generally) on video games, what he called "dehumanization," and "the fact that we refuse to say that we are... endowed by our creator, that our rights come from God". Stephanopoulos pressed him -- "what does that have to do with liberalism?" -- but all Newt could come up with was a rambling, incoherent mess that included "situation ethics," "the use of language which is stunningly degrading of women," and McCain-Feingold. Yes, McCain-Feingold. While political speech is being restricted, he claims, "it's impossible to restrict vulgar and vicious and anti-human speech". (Crooks and Liars has the video/transcript. So does Think Progress, along with more from Newt's past. For more, see The Carpetbagger Report, The Moderate Voice, PoliBlog, and DownWithTyranny!.)

I would conclude that he's lost it, but I'm not so sure he had all that much to lose. I agree that some video games are violent and that young people should not have access to them, but it is ridiculous to claim that video games were behind this massacre. As well, it's ridiculous to claim that atheism (or, rather, not believing in Newt's God) or the absence of speech codes were behind it.

Let me address three points in particular:

1) Conservatives once argued, and occasionally still do argue, against speech codes on college campuses. Just to show what an unironic theocrat he has become, Newt is here arguing for speech codes, for restrictions on freedom. (As he has before. Apparently the First Amendment means so little to him that he is more than willing to defecate all over it.)

2) Conservatives once argued, or claimed that they argued (for it all mostly spin-happy rhetoric), for personal responsibility -- a culture thereof, in fact. Remember Dubya in 2000? They ridiculed liberals for suggesting that crime was social, not just personal and moral. But here we have Newt suggesting that the culture is to blame for what happened at Virginia Tech.

3) Apparently, according to Newt, there was no such violence and no such crime before liberalism, that it's all a strictly liberal phenomenon. And, too, according to Newt, there is apparently no such violence and no such crime where Christianity, or at least Newt's version of it, is strong. Consider that Newt is a history teacher. Consider how little Newt seems to know about history. I needn't mention what was going on in the world before liberalism and when Christianity was the faith of choice and/or coercion.

Newt may have lost his mind, but he is dangerous because many people still, for whatever reason, seem to pay attention to him. And many on the right obviously share his view that liberalism is to blame for all of society's ills.

If liberalism can be blamed for anything it is for allowing Newt and his simple-minded ilk to speak freely in a free and democratic country. But that, we liberals argue, is what liberalism is all about: freedom. Newt doesn't get that, but it's good that he is free to make such an ass of himself and that we are free to call him on it.

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