In the wake of Saturday's shooting spree in Arizona that put Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in critical condition, blame has now been shifted towards inflammatory political pundits who are being accused of whipping up the masses into a frenzy. While no one seriously thinks that the likes of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are literally suggesting a wave of assassinations to punish politicians who, say, voted for Obama's health care mess, the accusation is that such rhetoric can have an unintended but easily predictable effect on unstable nutjobs like Saturday's gunman.
(An aside--I love when news reports refer to the "alleged gunman". I mean, they caught him in the act. Is he somehow going to prove that he wasn't a gunman? That what he was really carrying on him was a novelty lighter, and the bullets were coming from somewhere else?)
No one can really prove that it was talk-show diatribes that made an unstable person decide to go shooting, rather than simply his mental illness. The shooter supposedly is all over the map politically, influenced by Marx as well as Hitler and from some reports may be schizophrenic. But let's grant for a minute the Palin-ite argument that she obviously never meant for this shooting to happen and clearly no one should have interpreted her statements to encourage this. Even still--shouldn't a person with a bit of sense at least understand that it's in very poor taste to publish photos of targets aimed at your political opponents, and saying things like "don't retreat, reload" when talking about domestic politics?
At a certain point we should tone it down, not because the law requires it and not because anything you say can be interpreted by a nutjob to be a literal call to arms. But instead, simply because we're talking about things like taxes, spending, regulations and subsidies--nothing of a nature that justifies dehumanizing our political opponents. It was wrong for Obama to refer to Republicans as "enemies" rather than opponents--not because they're wonderful people that he should love but because enemies are people you shoot and bomb while opponents are people you try to beat at the ballot box. And the only true Hitler has been for 65 years. It's just bad taste to act as though Democrats and Republicans in power are evil and worthy of assassination. There are plenty of genuinely evil thugs in the world (cough, cough, Chavez, Mugabe) if you really need to aim your vitriol at someone.
Of course, it's nice to see the Palin-ites try and downplay her earlier violent rhetoric. In one exchange, a supporter even argues that the "targets" on her "target list" of Congressman to beat were not "targets" at all, but "surveyors symbols". That's some top notch political spin, there. Obama must be praying that this joker somehow gets the GOP nomination.