Monday, January 10, 2011

Trouble Making Sense of Arizona Atrocity? Let Paul Krugman Put It in Perspective.

New York Times' columnist Paul Krugman has written what, to me at least, seems the most coherent explanation of the Arizona shootings and America's "Climate of Hate."   Here are the guts of it:

there’s not much question what has changed. As Clarence Dupnik, the sheriff responsible for dealing with the Arizona shootings, put it, it’s “the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business.” The vast majority of those who listen to that toxic rhetoric stop short of actual violence, but some, inevitably, cross that line.

It’s important to be clear here about the nature of our sickness. It’s not a general lack of “civility,” the favorite term of pundits who want to wish away fundamental policy disagreements. Politeness may be a virtue, but there’s a big difference between bad manners and calls, explicit or implicit, for violence; insults aren’t the same as incitement.

The point is that there’s room in a democracy for people who ridicule and denounce those who disagree with them; there isn’t any place for eliminationist rhetoric, for suggestions that those on the other side of a debate must be removed from that debate by whatever means necessary.
And it’s the saturation of our political discourse — and especially our airwaves — with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence.

Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

And there’s a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you’ll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won’t hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, and you will.


Beijing York said...

This Der Spiegel article raises similar points as Krugman on the toxic political atmosphere:,1518,738676,00.html#ref=rss

It's unfortunate that the mainstream media waited for a violent event to finally make this analysis. Some have remained consistent in deploring the violent state of US politics, going back to the verbal and physical attacks on peace demonstrators since the start of the Afghanistan invasion. Cries to exact blood from non-patriots were boldly made by talk radio hosts Savage and Limbaugh.

But I don't think this was a politically motivated assassination per se. Reminds me more of Mark Chapman's assassination of Lennon. Mother Jones has an excellent interview with Loughner's closest friend and this young man certainly came undone over a 5 year period if not longer, escalating to self-imposed isolation in this past year.

The issue that is not getting nearly enough attention is how ridiculously easy it is to obtain weapons in Arizona. As for security fallout, I would hope they make carrying a concealed weapon illegal as well as introduce some gun restrictions.

The Mound of Sound said...

Interesting, juxtaposing Arizona and "ridiculous." That place is certainly in the running for the nuttiest state in the US. You can show up to political rallies with automatic assault rifles and it's legal to carry a concealed handgun even in a hospital or at a school. As I mentioned last week, it takes an awful lot of conditioning to make people behave so irrationally. Yet they can't understand why, to outsiders, they appear insane.