Saturday, January 8, 2011, Representative Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, and 17 other people were shot by a gunman during a meet and greet she was holding outside a supermarket. Six of the victims have died. The gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, was captured, wrestled to the ground by people on the scene, and arrested. Authorities say that Giffords was the primary target of the gunman’s rampage. More details here:
Since then there’s been a lot of talk about the violent rhetoric espoused by the political Right and the Right has been pulling out all the smoke and mirrors it can find to redirect that talk away from them. So first some historical facts about the Right and violence:
Palin tells people, “if you see an Obama bumper sticker, stop the driver”
A teabagger attacks a man and rams his car for having an “Obama” bumper sticker:
John Boener tells Democrat Steve Drehouse who voted “yes” on healthcare reform, “you may be a dead man”. Palin says she wants people in Minnesota to be “armed and dangerous”. RNC chairman Steele says he’s getting Nancy Pelosi “ready for the firing line”. Republican George Peterson (Republican) at a political rally reads the defintion of “revolution” as “forcable overthrow”.
The video lists a number of democrat politicians who recieved death threats, including Giffords. A pair of Tea party members posted what they thought was the address of Congressman Perriello’s address, encouraging tea party members to “drop by”. The Congressman’s gas line was severed after that.
Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle discussing “second ammendment remedies” and “taking Harry Reid out”
Tea Party candidate Sharon Angle on whether there will be a violent revolution says “anything is possible”.
Rep Steve Cohen during an interview says Tea Party is violent and dangerous. To prove him wrong, he recieves a number of death threats from Tea Party defenders. The FBI investigated.
Senator Murry was threatened by a man “there’s a target on your back now. … Now that you’ve passed health care bill, let the violence begin”. and “I want to fucking kill you”. Man was arrested for death threats.
Rick Barber candidate for Congress runs an ad showing him talking to the Foundingn Fathers and ends with Jefferson saying “gather your armies”.
Palin also had a political map with crosshairs on pictures of political opponents. The people targeted included Gabrielle Giffords. This map has been taken down since Giffords shooting.
The Right have recently shown a willingness to both spew violent rhetoric and to act on that rhetoric.
Teabaggers may respond to accusations of violence or violent rhetoric in one of several ways. Here are suggestions for how to respond.
Teabagger: It’s just words. We may have posted images of crosshairs on Giffords, but we didn’t pull the trigger.
Response: You’re a teabagging teabagger and you should be teabagged.
When they get upset, tell them it’s just words.
If they call “Teabaggers” hate speech, mock them for equating a name insult with actual violence and calls for violence.
Teabagger philosophy in short: We can call for violence, but don’t call us names.
Teabaggers response: “The Democrats have done it too”. This will often be followed by paraphrasings of things Democrats said. Paraphrased instead of actual quotes so as to allow for “artistic license” to further dramatize what was done.
Response: First, demand quotes and links. Second, check the quotes from a reputable site to confirm. Third look for false equivalences.
Sharon Angle saying people will seek “seconnd ammendment solutions” and suggesting that someone might “take Harry Reid out” is in no way, shape, or form, on par with Obama saying the Republicans are holding some bill “hostage”. One is a metaphor. One is a literal call for murder.
Separate turns of speech from literal calls for violence. Obama said “if they bring a knife, we bring a gun” during a speech. Most sane people would acknowledge that he wasn’t advocating people carry weapons at all. Teabaggers posted the address of a politician they didn’t like, suggested someone should “drop by”, and someone cut the gas line.
Turns of speech like “bringing a gun to a knife fight” is not the same as “here is Rep John Doe’s address” and then cutting the gas line to his house.
Distinguish between groups that show responsibility for their rhetoric and take it down as inappropriate and groups that are taking down violent rhetoric because right now its bad press but in a couple months when people have forgotten this shooting, the violent rhetoric and violence itself will be back.
Distinguish between parties where members self-police their own party, criticize their own party, allow others to criticize their party. Versus parties that can admit no wrongdoing, refuse to allow others to criticize their party, and do everything in their power to shift the attention and blame away from their party and towards anything else.
I have yet to see a Teabagger criticize the violent rhetoric of any of its party members or party leaders.
Teabagger: You can’t criticize the violent rhetoric because the result will be totalitarian cencorship of free speech.
Response: explain to them the concept of Slippery Slope. Hopefully they will grasp it. THough my experience in the last couple days is they will rehash Slippery Slope into many different insane forms.
Tell them that you want the Teabagger party and its leaders to show they take responsibility for their words, that they wouldn’t want someone like Loughner to take their rhetoric literally and go murder some politician.
At this point, they may argue that Loughner wasn’t inspired by Right wing violent rhetoric. Explain to them that this is irrelevant because the idea is to stop the rhetoric of murder before someone is actually murdered.
Teabagger response: Loughner was not inspired by Right Wing Rhetoric to murder, therefore it is OK for right wing rhetoric to advocate for murder.
The best response to this is to get them to state that philosophy directly: It is acceptable to use violent rhetoric, includiing calling for a politicians murder, in political discussions. More likely, they will dance around this idea but will try to avoid voicing it in such blunt terms. Get them to say it bluntly. Their refusal will reveal their hypocricy.
The point is not whether or not Loughner was inspired directly by violent right wing rhetoric. The point is whether or not the Right is willing to admit that it is POSSIBLE that someone might take their rhetoric as a call to action and commit murder. And does the Right care if someone is murdered because of their rhetoric.