Saturday, January 08, 2011

Arizona killing: Thoughts on the Gabrielle Giffords assassination attempt


I was out and about this afternoon when I heard a brief report on a local radio station about a shooting in Arizona.

My first thought: Great, another shooting in the U.S. Another sad story from a violent, gun-crazy country.

I pulled out my BlackBerry and quickly discovered what had happened -- and who the target was.

My second thought: Well, we sort of knew this was coming, right, this sort of political violence, likely by someone steeped in right-wing ideology? It was only a matter of time.

This is when Twitter is such a useful tool, and I used it gather as much information as I could from the many reliable sources I follow.

My third thought: Okay, we don't yet know all the details, and we do need to be careful not to jump to conclusions, but the circumstantial evidence is already piling up.

Giffords is an enemy of the Tea Party. She narrowly beat a Tea Party GOP opponent in November. She's a Blue Dog, a moderate Democrat, but she voted for health-care reform and supported DADT repeal. She's apparently extremely well-liked.

But her office had been vandalized and there are reports she had to cancel a recent event because of the threat of right-wing violence.

Sarah Palin and others had targeted her specifically, using the rhetoric of violence in their campaign literature and propaganda. Palin specifically had put her "in the crosshairs."

Yes, it was only a matter of time that something like this was going to happen.

I retweeted a great deal and tweeted a great deal of my own this afternoon. You can find all that, should you be interested, @mjwstickings.

My fourth thought: Perhaps this will be a turning point, a tipping point. Perhaps now the media and others will start paying attention to the rhetoric of violence that animates American conservatism today. You don't have to go far to find it. Just listen to the Tea Party, to Beck, to Palin. They need to be held accountable.

To be fair, not all conservatives are like this, even if so many of them either partake of it in some way or at the very least enable it by not speaking out against it.

Boehner, Bachmann, McCain -- these three and others quickly condemned the shooting, and I suppose I take them at their word, even if their hands are not entirely clean, particularly Bachmann's, who is the spinner of many a right-wing conspiracy theory, among other craziness.

(Update: Not surprisingly, Fox News is protecting Palin.

(Update 2: Remarkably, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik provided some much-needed perspective, pointing the blame in the right direction: "When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on this country is getting to be outrageous and unfortunately Arizona has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.")

My fifth thought: Let's not get ahead of ourselves. As Rachel Maddow tweeted: "There is nothing to be gained from speculating on the motives and affiliations of AZ shooter w/o facts."

True, but, again, the evidence is piling up. See the many tweets I retweeted, including:
-- Digby: "The shooter sounds nuts, but he also sounds like he's influenced by fringy wingnut politics.

-- Peter Daou: "A shooter like this may be mentally ill, but that doesn't mean a stream of rightwing hate has no effect."

And a thought throughout: How horrible.

In all, so far, the shooting left six dead the 12 wounded. The dead include a federal judge (John Roll, who has faced right-wing threats before), a Giffords staffer, and a nine-year-old girl.

Yes, a child.


The shooting took place outside a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Arizona, where Giffords was holding a constituency meeting.

The killer is Jared Lee Loughner. He is in custody.

Giffords was shot once in the head. She made it through surgery and is in critical condition. Doctors are "optimistic" about her chances for recovery.


As FDL's Jane Hamsher reports, Giffords's Tea Party opponent, Jesse Kelly, held an event in June described as such: "Get on Target for Victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office Shoot a fully automatic M15 with Jesse Kelly."

As Politico's Ben Smith reports, Loughner "left social media hints," including a YouTube clip:

The police have named a suspect in the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, Jared Loughner. A person under that name has a YouTube account that includes suggestions of anti-government political views.

"You don't have to accept the federalist laws," the video above says; It also insists on the gold and silver standard, talks of revolution, and suggests that the government is imposing "mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar."

His linked MySpace page, no longer available, included statements about the gold standard and about SWAT teams paying for their equipment with illegal currency.

Among his long list of favorite books in his YouTube profile are Mein Kampf, The Communist Manifesto, Siddhartha.

Loughner also "favorited" just one video on YouTube, which shows the burning of an American flag and is accompanied by an anti-government screed.

No, this isn't just pure Republican extremism, and so I think it's wrong to label him so simply. If this is indeed Loughner, he's an anti-government wacko who is generally on the far right but who is obviously outside of the broad political spectrum of establishment politics.

So, again, we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves. But it's pretty easy to see how the rhetoric of the right, including of the Tea Party and Republican Party right, could have had a great deal of influence on him.

Again, just listen to Beck, listen to the Teabaggers, listen even to Palin and Bachmann, among many others. They may all claim to by hyper-patriotic, but they're all deeply anti-government and especially anti-Washington.

Palin has called the shooting a "tragedy," and of course she's right, but she needs to be held to account for what she has done.

And what is that? FDL's TBogg quotes Palin herself:

Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: “Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!” Pls see my Facebook page.

And also the right-wing (bolding the key parts):

Twenty House Dems from districts that McCain carried in 2008 voted for the health care bill, and Sarah Palin has a target on every single one.

The targets were released on the six month anniversary of Obamacare, and include a lot of familiar names such as John Boccieri (OH), Chris Carney (P N) Gabrielle Giffords (AZ) and Ann Kirpatrick (AZ). The site invites donations, social networking, and the unbeatable Sarah love that has led to a 26:11 win/loss record of candidates in GOP primaries. Granted, some of those were in safe districts, but she’s also pulled off massive upsets that probably outshadow her less successful picks.

Regardless, this site should go a long way towards knocking off the politicians who put their party affiliation ahead of their constituent’s demands. It was announced via a tweet from SarahPalinUSA: "Lies, Damned Lies – Obamacare 6 Months Later; It’s Time to Take Back the 20!"

Here's Palin's map:

Seriously, is it any wonder this has happened?


I'll conclude this post with a comment from Andrew Sullivan:

Giffords was one of twenty members of Congress placed within metaphorical "gun-sights" in SarahPac's graphic. That is not the same thing as placing a gun-sight over someone's face or person. No one can possibly believe -- or should -- that Sarah Palin is anything but horrified by what has taken place. But it remains the kind of rhetorical excess which was warned about at the time, and which loners can use to dreadful purposes. 

We'll have more on this, so stay tuned.

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