Wed, Jan 12, 2011 - Page 9 News List

The Republican right’s responsibility for hatred at the ballot box

The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords may lead to the temporary hibernation of rage in right-wing rhetoric, but such mythology is encoded in conservative DNA

By Michael Tomasky  /  The Guardian, WASHINGTON

It was instructive to read elected Republicans’ official statements in response to Representative Gabrielle Giffords shooting for what they did not say.

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, said: “An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society. Our prayers are with Congresswoman Giffords, her staff, all who were injured and their families. This is a sad day for our country.”

Senator John McCain issued the following: “I am horrified by the violent attack on Representative Gabrielle Giffords and many other innocent people by a wicked person who has no sense of justice or compassion. I pray for Gabby and the other victims, and for the repose of the souls of the dead and comfort for their families. Whoever did this, whatever their reason, they are a disgrace to Arizona, this country and the human race.”

All well and good, and I have no doubt every word is sincere. However, you’ll note that they are silent on the question of the violent rhetoric that emanates from the right wing of US society. You don’t have to believe that alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, is a card-carrying Tea Party member (he evidently is not) to see some kind of connection between that violent rhetoric and what happened in Arizona on Saturday.

Is he a nut? Of course he’s a nut. By definition, anyone who shoots innocent people like that has a screw loose. However, nuts come in many varieties. There are some who think former US vice president Dick Cheney planned Sept. 11, others who believe the CIA has installed eavesdropping devices in their fillings and still others who insist they’re the reincarnation of Mary Queen of Scots.

So what particular type of nut is Loughner? We don’t have a full picture yet. However, we have enough of one.

His coherent ravings included the conviction that the US Constitution assured him that “you don’t have to accept the federalist laws.”

He called a female classmate who had an abortion a “terrorist.”

In sum, he had political ideas, which not everyone does. Many of them (not all, but most) were right wing. He went to considerable expense and trouble to shoot a high-profile Democrat, at point-blank range right through the brain. What else does one need to know? For anyone to attempt to insist that the violent rhetoric so regularly heard in the US had no likely effect on this young man is to enshroud oneself in dishonesty and denial.

I would like to report to you that the US is in shock, and that we will work together to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again. Alas, neither of these things is close to true. Of course an event like this is hard to believe in the moment; but in the context of our times, it’s really not surprising at all. Last summer, a California man armed himself and set off for San Francisco with the express intent of killing liberals at a nonprofit foundation that had been pilloried by Glenn Beck and others. Only the lucky accident of his arrest en route for drunk driving prevented the mayhem then.

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has documented more than two dozen killings by or arrests of right-wing extremists who intended to do serious political violence since 2008. One Tennessee man killed two worshipers at a liberal church, regretting only that he had not been able to ice the 100 liberals named by author Bernard Goldberg as those most responsible for destroying the US. Giffords herself received threats after voting for the healthcare reform bill, and shots were fired through the window of her district office. An event like this has been coming for a long time.

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