Even violent rhetoric is still free speech

January 9, 2011

Jack Shafer has a great rebuttal in Slate to assertions by the Left that violent rhetoric and imagery are to blame for the mass-murder in Tucson, yesterday. His point is that our political speech is often over-the-top, but only the shooter is to blame for what he did — In Defense of Inflamed Rhetoric:

For as long as I’ve been alive, crosshairs and bull’s-eyes have been an accepted part of the graphical lexicon when it comes to political debates. Such “inflammatory” words as targeting, attacking, destroying, blasting, crushing, burying, knee-capping, and others have similarly guided political thought and action. Not once have the use of these images or words tempted me or anybody else I know to kill. I’ve listened to, read—and even written!—vicious attacks on government without reaching for my gun. I’ve even gotten angry, for goodness’ sake, without coming close to assassinating a politician or a judge.

From what I can tell, I’m not an outlier. Only the tiniest handful of people—most of whom are already behind bars, in psychiatric institutions, or on psycho-meds—can be driven to kill by political whispers or shouts. Asking us to forever hold our tongues lest we awake their deeper demons infantilizes and neuters us and makes politicians no safer.

Be sure to read the whole thing. Violent, even hysterical rhetoric has been part of our political discourse since the earliest days of the Republic. Thomas Jefferson himself once wrote:

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

So, did Jefferson have blood on his hands when John Wilkes Booth murdered President Lincoln and shouted “Sic semper tyrannis?”

No, of course not. Again, the only person responsible for the outrage in Tucson is the shooter himself and anyone who may have helped him. Not Sarah Palin, not the Tea Party, not the Republicans, and by no means their rhetoric.

Not that this will stop many on the Left from exploiting this tragedy in a attempt to suppress free speech.

AFTERTHOUGHT: And where were all these clucking scolds when George W. Bush assassination fantasies were all the rage? Or Bush as a vampire sucking the blood of liberty? Or Sarah Palin, herself? Dollars to donuts they saw no problem at all.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

The disgusting exploitation of a tragedy — Updated!

January 9, 2011

In the wake of yesterday’s mass murder in Tucson, “journalists” and political commentators on the liberal left were quick to offer their considered, reasoned opinions about why this happened. Their conclusion?

It’s all the fault of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party.

No, I’m not kidding. Just ask Michael Daly of the New York Daily News:

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ blood is on Sarah Palin’s hands after putting cross hair over district

Here is what Sarah Palin said on the Facebook page where she depicted Gabrielle Giffords in the cross hairs of a rifle scope: “Don’t retreat! Instead – RELOAD!”

Well, the guy who shot Giffords yesterday managed to keep firing until he killed six, including a child, and wounded 13 .

Palin would no doubt say that she was only speaking in metaphor, that she only meant her followers should work to unseat Giffords and 19 other Democrats who had roused her ire by voting for health care.

But anyone with any sense at all knows that violent language can incite actual violence, that metaphor can incite murder. At the very least, Palin added to a climate of violence.

Here we go again. It’s been a continuing theme among the Left that opposition to Obama has been rooted in racism and incites violence. Only dysfunctional people could stand against the Democrats’ policies. The President himself, when he was campaigning for office, fed this idea with his assertion about people who cling bitterly to their guns and religion, and it goes at least as far back as the “angry White man” smear of those who opposed Bill Clinton. It’s nothing more than an attempt to silence dissent by smearing them as violent racists.

It’s bad enough when presumably intelligent people hold beliefs such as this, but then to exploit a horrific tragedy in order to attack your political opponents is just beyond the pale. Since the shooting, commentators like Markos Moulitsas and Matt Yglesias have leapt at the chance to blame Sarah Palin for the killings. Even CNN joined the “blame Palin and the Tea Party” lynch mob, and a congressman smeared a defeated candidate in another state. Voices of reason on the Left have been sadly rare.

Let’s be honest: the crime only happened yesterday and the investigation is still underway. Precious few facts are available about the shooter and his motives. The judicious, mature thing to do is express sympathy for the victims and otherwise shut up until the facts are known.

Sadly that maturity seems largely lacking among the progressive commentariat and their political allies.

LINKS: Legal Insurrection sees two sicknesses in yesterday’s horror and reviews past occasions when the Left hsa resorted to “smear by association.”  Gabriel Malor calls the partisan exploitation disgusting. Byron York points out the glaring hypocrisy of journalists who called for restraint after the Ft. Hood shootings now hell-bent to blame Palin for Tucson. My blog-buddy Sister Toldjah has a recap of the tragedy and an excellent take-down of the Left’s nauseating behavior.

UPDATE: Good God in Heaven. A Democratic political action group founded by a US Senator is using Representative Giffords’ shooting as a fund-raising lure. Is there no shame?

UPDATE II: Here’s a screen cap of the ghoulish fundraiser email sent out by 21st Century Democrats. Click to enlarge.

UPDATE III: No, there is no request for money in the letter, itself, but the donate and recruitment buttons are prominent on the right, when they could have been suppressed on that page. It’s obvious they’re using this as a lure.

UPDATE IV: Patterico notes the 21st Century Democrats’ letter and reviews the Left’s strategy to exploit this tragedy.