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Monday, January 10, 2011

Placing Blame And Absent Accountability

While prominent conservatives like Michelle Malkin attempt to cobble together disparate "examples of left wing hate" - keeping in mind that her particular definition of "hate" shifts multiple times throughout her meandering and seemingly endless preamble - it should be pointed out that what happened Saturday in Tuscon is clearly a direct act of violence against a specific target perpetrated by a person who has far more in common with the modern anti-government movement in America than a person whom is simply a Palin fan or one that reads Saul Alinsky.

But while it is all too easy to try and pin this on one particular person, there is a shared responsibility within the modern anti-government movement; both on the LEft and Right. This isn't specifically about Palin, Angel, Glenn Beck, Fox"News", or any Right Winger on AM talk radio. This also isn't about those on the fringes of the Left either, be they the Black Panthers, Code Pink, La Raza, or any anti-war group still railing against our continued presence in Iraq or Afghanistan. There are people unstable enough on both sides with the potential to perpetrate heinous acts of violence against anyone with whom they disagree.

The problem on the Right is that they are more concerned with removing themselves from being accountable on any level, no matter how innocuous it may seem to them. The problem on the Left is that they are going to try to make the Right understand that there are consequences to violent rhetoric.

Let's examine this from both sides of the socio-political spectrum, based on the information on Loughner that we have that is of a verifiable nature. I think it is important that regardless of the incident being discussed that the data used can be accurately sourced. Much of what is being used - primarily by conservative outlets across multiple media platforms in order to blur issue - is what could be described as specious. A good example of this is the heavy usage of opinions from people who once knew Loughner but have not had contact with him in a number of years. Recent accounts from fellow students at the community college where he was ultimately dismissed from do paint the picture of a "strange" person that caused others to be concerned for their own safety do have a more credible tone to them.

So, let's take a look at the message coming from the Right.

Despite the fact that virtually all conservative - and more than a handful of self-identifies Libertarian - commentators, bloggers, television, and radio hosts have the same information available to them, there is so much noise being generated around this story that the line between accuracy and speculation has been completely erased.

A good example of this is how, despite a much larger list of books being highlighted on Loughner's YouTube page, conservatives are focusing solely on The Communist Manifesto.

Phillip Klein at The Spectator pontificates.

Liberals who have attempted to exploit the tragedy in Arizona for political gain by trying to connect Sarah Palin to the shooting should be ashamed of themselves. At this point, we have more reason to blame the revolutionary writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels for what happened....

From a pure journalistic perspective, there is absolutely no evidence that alleged shooter Loughner had ever seen Palin's famed target map, let alone that he was motivated by it. Yet in a YouTube page believed to be created by Loughner -- and widely cited in the media as such -- the alleged shooter actually names the Communist Manifesto as one of his favorite books and, unlike the subliminal message liberals attribute to Palin's map, Marx and Engles explicitly advocated political violence.

But when one takes a look at Loughner's "favorites" as a whole, there isn't so much a cogent theme, but a picture certainly taking shape of a person that is attempting to make connections between a variety of belief systems in order to validate an apparent world view.

Here's the list:

Animal Farm, Brave New World, The Wizard Of OZ, Aesop Fables, The Odyssey, Alice Adventures Into Wonderland, Fahrenheit 451, Peter Pan, To Kill A Mockingbird, We The Living, Phantom Toll Booth, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Pulp,Through The Looking Glass, The Communist Manifesto, Siddhartha, The Old Man And The Sea, Gulliver's Travels, Mein Kampf, The Republic, and Meno.

What immediately jumps out is that there are books that both the Right and Left have used as validation tools for a variety of social and political issues. To say that one book, and one book only, was the catalyst for what happened in Tuscon is quite the stretch.

Secondly, the Right are making this more about how there shouldn't be ANY accountability for any rhetoric coming from their side. This is the ultimate narrative that comes from the modern conservative movement - the perpetuation of the culture of their own victimhood status. Rather than focus on the motives behind what Loughner has done, the Right are attempting to shift focus from the crime to what they perceive will be direct attacks against their "freedoms".

I can't but wonder how anyone aligning themselves with the modern conservative movement would be more concerned with the specter of unwritten legislation they perceive will take away a "right" in light of a tragedy of this scope rather than show active concern over the fact that a man deemed too mentally unstable to be in college or be accepted into the Armed Forces could walk into a retail outlet and - despite a background check that didn't even pay attention to Loughner's arest record - could legally purchase a gun.

Moreover, this assassination attempt was motivated by political mistrust, as Rep. Giffords was the intended target. Documents found at Loughner's residence reinforce this. But the discordant noise is beginning to drown out what should be the central focus of this tragic event. From speculation that Loughner was a "Truther" to recent assumptions that he was involved in the occult the Right is gaining more leverage to push their own pre-formatted narrative.

But what of the Left? Are they no less guilty of using what happened to Giffords?

One of the problems of the liberal/progressive movement is that they try to put a very sharp focus on a variety of issues while not realizing that this has always been used against them. This is in direct contrast to the American Right, whom distort and blur better than anyone. The problem with placing direct responsibility on a person like Sarah Palin, Sharron Angel, or even Glenn Beck, is that many on the Left ultimately ignore the fact that they weren't the ones that perpetrated the act. Are they complicit in any way? I am comfortable in saying that they nurture an environment of governmental distrust and are more than capable of understanding that there may be those out there that take what they say to the utmost extreme. But this takes us directly to the second problem that the Left in America face - that they think the Right will stand by what is allegedly one of the keystones of their ideology; calls for accountability.

I'm reminded of a scene from Mark Pellington's film Arlington Road, where Jeff Bridges' character Micheal Faraday - a teacher obsessed with Right Wing extremism - tells his class about how America has a "need" to find "one person" to blame for an incidents that are so large and so evil in scope that we can't seem to bring ourselves to reconcile them on our own. To me, this reflects the consumerist nature of modern Americans. We need a set of iconography to define whom we are and to rationalize specific acts by others. What the Left needs to understand - and this is something that I have struggled with as I have become more and more involved in the modern American socio-political discussion - is that things that fall in parallel with what transpired in Tuscon are much bigger than Palin or Beck or anyone that the Right identifies with. There are those within the Left that realize this, but they aren't going to be the voices you hear on CNN or even MSNBC and most certainly not on Fox"News" - though the later will certainly be sure you don't pay attention to those voices either. They are out there though.

I keep asking myself why the Left continually think that the Right are going to own up to the fact that "free speech" is not without consequence? I also keep asking why the true voices of the Left simply can't make it out there while those that harm our cause more than help it get all the attention. Does the LEft really believe that each and every time they hold a mirror up to anyone on the Right think that they are going to admit that it is, in fact, their own reflection they are looking at?

So who is Jared Loughner?

Is he a Right Wing extremist? Maybe

Is he a Left Wing radical? Who knows.

Who is to blame? Well, Loughner is, of course.

People like Loughner are precisely the ones that succumb to anti-government sentiment and fear-mongering. To this, the modern American Right should be given pause if they wish to continue to deify people like Palin and Beck as "leaders" of their movement. But the Left faces just as many challenges as they are more often than not particularly religious or read and research topics from a variety of sources to gain a deeper understanding of how certain groups act. To that end, the Right has a tool to make almost any Democrat who posts on Daily Kos and doesn't go to church look like a potential violent offender. Both sides will claim that Loughner belongs to the other.

But there are other questions we should look at.

Was Giffords targeted because of who she was politically or simply because of the proximity she had to Loughner? I doubt that her legislative stance had nothing to do with it, as Loughner could have gone after a number of governmental figures in his region.

Why did Loughner wait over three years to enact his "vengeance"? Is it pure coincidence that this happened in a state that has so dominated socio-political discussion over the last year? For those claiming that his original contact with Giffords back in 2007 exempts Palin, Beck, or any highly vocal member on the right should really look at the timing of this incident.

Will this happen again?

1 comment:

boos said...

by far the most balanced assesment of the shooting i've read or heard yet...

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