Saturday, January 08, 2011

Domestic terrorist attack targets Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords

Jared Loughner, the accused shooter of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson Arizona and accused murderer of a federal judge and several others, posted a YouTube video which the Arizona Republic site captured. It includes far-right rhetoric, including some weird-sounding stuff about currencies. Chip Berlet explains how such talk is used by crackpot rightwing groups in Alleged Giffords Shooter Shares Currency Plot Obsession with Anti-Abortion Killer Talk to Action 01/08/2011. The "shares" in the title doesn't mean the two personally communicated, it means that they had some common ideas drawn from the far-right gutter.

Karoli in Pima Sheriff Clarence Dupnik Calls Out Vitriolic, Hateful Rhetoric C&L 01/08/2011 has a good video with the Pima County Sheriff who has jurisdiction over the case talking about the hate rhetoric from rightwing media. For better or worse, he doesn't actually say rightwing, though that is clearly what he's talking about. If recent history holds, they will not only cheerfully ignore his words but self-righteously attack anyone who suggests they take some moral responsibility for the bile that characters like Limbaugh and Beck broadcast over mass media.

Dave Neiwert writes in an early piece on the shooter, January 08, 2011 01:30 PM
Eliminationist rhetoric and the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords: There were plenty of precursors C&L 01/08/2011:

There will be a lot of hand-wringing in the coming days over the shooting of Rep. Giffords this morning at a constituent event -- some of it, almost certainly, from the folks at Fox, who will wonder aloud how this kind of thing could happen.

It can happen, in fact, because conservatives so thoughtlessly and readily use violent eliminationist rhetoric when talking about "liberals" (to wit: anyone who is not a conservative). They will adamantly deny it, of course, but the cold reality is that this kind of talk creates permission for angry and violent people to act it out.
Dave is careful in his analysis of these things and avoids any simplistic assumption of direct causation between hate propaganda and individual acts of violence. But he's also good at cutting through the rightwing excuse-making that conflates legal responsibility for individual acts with moral responsibility for rhetoric promoting violence and encouraging irrational fears.

Dave includes a video clip of Congresswoman Giffords from last March talking about violent rhetoric and vandalism directed against her, a recording that takes on particular poignancy now. I would point out what is now a bitter irony, though, that she frames her criticism of extreme rhetoric as coming from "both sides", even though what she's talking about there is rightwing extremism. And the guy who allegedly tried to assassinate her on Saturday was also influenced in some significant part for far-right political hate propaganda.

You should be careful about drawing conclusions from things like reading lists. For what it's worth, the following is what Loughner gave as his favorite books, apparently on YouTube, according to Robert Anglen and Brennan Smith, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords shot: Suspect posted anti-government messages on YouTube, Arizona Republic 01/08/2011.

He listed his favorite books as "Animal Farm," "Brave New World," "The Wizard of OZ," "Aesop's Fables," "The Odyssey," "Alice's Adventures in 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."
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