Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

January 14, 2011

Angry rhetoric was background for Arizona shooting

Stephen Dick
CNHI News Service

— To understand the shooting in Tucson, Ariz., last Saturday, consider the words of Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik:

"When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government -- the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And, unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become the capital."

I wasn’t expecting words this strong and such a succinct definition of the poisoned and rancid atmosphere created by conservative pundits tucked away safely in their television and radio studios.

Jared Loughner, the accused shooter, was apparently fixated on big government and had it in for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords when police say he opened fire with a Glock 9 mm, which he purchased legally. Arizona’s gun laws are notoriously lax, which is just what the NRA demands.

Immediately after the shooting, the Internet lit up with accusations against right-wing blowhards who fuel hate and fear while hinting that violence is the solution against political opponents. Much was made of Sarah Palin’s crosshairs over Giffords’ district and Harry Reid’s challenger in Nevada, Sharron Angle, who told a crowd she hoped people didn’t need Second Amendment remedies against Reid.

Giffords’ opponent last November, Jesse Kelly, told supporters to come out and help him shoot an M16 rifle. A spokesman for Kelly just couldn’t understand a connection between that event and last weekend's shooting.

In fact, conservatives went into overdrive to defend their never-ending demagoguery and blame it all on a lone nut-job who apparently lives and thinks in a vacuum.

What else would they do?

Had the accused shooter been Hispanic or Muslim, conservatives would have tied that person to a hateful worldview calling for destruction of the United States.

Even overlooking the hypocrisy, it would have been nice if a conservative acknowledged that maybe, just maybe, hate speech from right-wing commentators has gone off the charts.

Of course, there is a problem with this. Hateful, bigoted speech is protected by the First Amendment, which it should be. But a boatload of conservative speech overshadows almost none for liberal ideas.

Both sides may blossom on the Internet, but who can read all of that? Cable and radio are almost without liberal voices. Comedy Central's Jon Stewart said rancid right-wing rhetoric wasn’t the catalyst that sent Loughner into the history books. But talk is his business, even though his brand of liberalism is spineless.

Giffords is in critical condition, fighting for her life, and six people are dead apparently because of a young man who once asked a teacher how the community college he attended could exist under the U.S. Constitution.

Whatever conservatives might say about Loughner, his speech was political and sounded much like the anti-government rubbish that characterizes members of the Tea Party.

Like any other political shooting, this one will be forgotten soon enough. Things will get back to normal until the next time, and the conservative vomit that demonizes political opponents will continue unchallenged.

And it’s not even 2012.

Stephen Dick is associate editor of The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Ind. He can be reached at steve.dick@heraldbulletin.com.