While the liberal media sought to stake out the moral high ground in the first days after the tragic massacre in Tucson, the picture soon changed rather dramatically. Their indignation turned to hypocrisy, their journalistic standards stood exposed, and they lost control of the narrative as more facts became known about the alleged killer, about their own actions and words—on tape, on the Internet and in print—and about who was really to blame for creating a partisan and hostile environment in this country.
The Left was clearly hoping that the controversy would have the effect of silencing conservative voices in the media, and shaming the Republicans into backing off of their agenda that they were recently voted in to pursue, including plans to vote to repeal ObamaCare.
The shootings in Tucson intensified the often overheated rhetoric between Left and Right in this country, though it is quite clear that the alleged gunman was not driven to do what he did because of the comments or actions of conservative politicians or media personalities. The alleged killer, Jared Lee Loughner, 22, was clearly a very disturbed person, whose psychotic state was obviously exacerbated by heavy drug use. Charles Krauthammer, columnist and commentator, and previously a psychiatrist, has suggested that Loughner is a paranoid schizophrenic.
The killing of six people in Tucson on January 8, and the wounding of 13 others, including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, has revealed many fault lines in our modern society. Among the issues that should be re-examined in light of Tucson are these: 1) Should news organizations rely on bedrock principles such as being more concerned about getting a story right than trying to be first?; 2) Should society adopt a more proactive posture on intervening in the lives of those with mental health issues? Think of the Virginia Tech killer, Cho Seung-Hui, who killed 32 people, of Major Nidal Hasan who killed 13 soldiers at Ft. Hood, and now Jared Lee Loughner in Tucson. In all three cases, in reading about their recent pasts, one wonders what someone has to do to be stopped preemptively. It is a difficult issue when you’re talking about someone’s freedom, but this must be reconsidered; 3) What changes should be implemented so that a Jared Loughner, with an erratic and criminal background, cannot be able to buy guns and ammunition?; and 4) Will our mainstream media learn any lessons about waiting for facts to become known before speculating on the motive and ideology that might have provoked such an incident?
Not likely, though the finger-pointing became more tempered, in some cases, following President Obama’s Tucson speech on January 12th. But for the most part, crass political opportunism from the Left has continued unabated.
Starting in the very first hours after the shootings came the charge that this was likely a politically motivated act, somehow linked to a climate of hate created by the likes of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and the Tea Party movement.
Paul Krugman, one of The New York Times’ most extreme left-wing columnists, wasted no time in offering his view of what had just occurred. Within the very first hours, while almost nothing was known of the alleged killer, Krugman wrote in his blog on the Times website that “A Democratic Congresswoman has been shot in the head; another dozen were also shot.
“We don’t have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was. She’s been the target of violence before...You know that Republicans will yell about the evils of partisanship whenever anyone tries to make a connection between the rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, etc. and the violence I fear we’re going to see in the months and years ahead. But violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate. And it’s long past time for the GOP’s leaders to take a stand against the hate-mongers.”
Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, called by Time magazine the “dean of the left-wing bloggers” and the “proprietor of Daily Kos,” tweeted “Mission accomplished, Sarah Palin.” According to Matt Lewis in Politics Daily, Moulitsas also previously urged his readers to “target” Giffords and put a “bull’s eye” on her district because she “sold out the Constitution...”
On Moulitsas’ Daily Kos website, there was a posting by a contributor who had worked for the re-election of Giffords, and who was angry that she had just voted against Nancy Pelosi to become the Minority Leader in the House. He wrote, just two days before Giffords was shot, that Giffords was “now DEAD to me!”
Keith Olbermann had a special edition of his “Countdown” show on MSNBC the night of the shooting, in which he had a series of guests on who all speculated that Loughner was influenced by “right-wing extremists” and that the Right was far more guilty of violent and hateful speech than the Left, creating a climate conducive for this sort of action. In one of his so-called special commentaries that night, he demanded that other journalists and politicians repudiate and apologize for “suggestions of violence.” He said “if they do not begin their broadcasts with an apology, then those commentators and the others must be repudiated by viewers and listeners, by all politicians who appear on their programs including President Obama and his interview with Fox on Super Bowl Sunday and by the networks that employ them. If they are not responsible for what happened in Tucson, they must be responsible for doing what they can to make certain Tucson does not happen again.”
Then Olbermann said, “Once in a clumsy metaphor, I made an unintended statement of then Senator Clinton. It sounded as if it was a call of physical violence. It was wrong then, it is more wrong tonight. I apologize for it tonight.”
The absurdity is that Olbermann, TV’s worst verbal arsonist, was making demands on others to meet his standards, or face repudiation. Plus the fact that all that he apologized for is one “clumsy metaphor,” after a career of hate-filled invective.
We know that Loughner had been fixated on Giffords going back to at least 2007, when he was unhappy with how she answered a question he had asked her, said by his friends to be, “What is government if words have no meaning?”
Loughner had an extensive record of bizarre and criminal behavior, with multiple reports from campus police, concerns expressed by fellow students, and a history of drug and alcohol abuse.
We know that Loughner claimed that among his favorite books were The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf. He posted a YouTube video of the burning of an American flag. According to a New York Times profile, “He became intrigued by antigovernment conspiracy theories, including that the Sept. 11 attacks were perpetrated by the government and that the country’s central banking system was enslaving its citizens. His anger would well up at the sight of President George W. Bush, or in discussing what he considered to be the nefarious designs of government.”
President Obama’s own statements have also been highly provocative: “They bring a knife…we bring a gun!” Referring to ACORN and union mobs going after bankers, he said, “I don’t want to quell anger. I think people are right to be angry! I’m angry!” He told his followers that if they get hit, “Hit back twice as hard!” He told a group of Hispanic supporters to “Punish our enemies.” He said that he talks to people in the private sector “so I know whose a** to kick.”
But all this is just the heated rhetoric of passionate political debate. Politics and elections share a language with war and combat. It is “targeting,” “campaigns,” and “battleground states.” Democratic consultant Bob Beckel claimed to have invented targeting, and said he regularly used targets in ads. He acknowledged that the “rush to judgment” by the Left was “premature” and “unfair.”
What is much more troubling is how the Left just ginned up this controversy, and blamed conservatives for single-handedly creating a climate of hate and violence, and by implication, for what happened in Tucson. They had no evidence to begin with, and once the facts started coming out, it became clear that there was absolutely no basis for this theory. While the case could more easily be made that Loughner was a crazed left-winger, conservatives didn’t argue that he was inspired by the likes of Keith Olbermann or Paul Krugman. The incendiary tone promoted by the Left since the Tucson massacre has not only not led us closer to a civil debate in this country, but has ripped us further apart. They know they can throw these accusations out there, and not face any criticism from the mainstream media, who are generally more subtle making the same argument.
As Jonah Goldberg wrote in National Review, “The Left believes that their people are smart enough to distinguish incitement from metaphor,” unlike those on the Right.