Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tucson Az. shooting tragedy draws fire to Free-Wheeling Gun laws and 'Divisive' Political Speech

Editor's note:   The final installment of the impact of ipv6 implementation on internet anonymity and freedom of speech has been postponed due to breaking news of these critical current events.  Our hearts and prayers go out to all victims of this terrible tragedy and their families. 

As I watched and read the news in the aftermath of the shooting spree in Tucson Az this weekend by a mentally deranged man with a history of troubling behavior I couldn't help but think "I bet this will be a pretext for more regulation of the right to bear arms and political speech."  

While I am no prophet, sure enough, within hours of this terrible tragedy, there were those who began calling for re-imposition of the "Brady bill" and other laws designed to restrict the rights of law abiding Americans to protect themselves and their families and blaming this tragedy on what they deigned "divisive hate speech" of the center right in American politics.  (And this was so regardless of the fact that Mr. Loughner expressed no political motive for his killing spree, had a long history of behavior indicating mental illness, was not listed as a member of the oft-mentioned and presumably radical group 'American Renaissance' (which has been cited by some in the media as a possible "political" connection to "conservative" political thought), and was not even registered as a Republican but was a registered Independent who didn't even vote in the most recent Congressional elections.   (So much for being motivated by "conservative" political beliefs and/or alleged divisive "hate speech" uttered by certain right-of-center talk radio and cable tv hosts whose public comments have been alleged to instigate such unspeakable acts of violence.  Hmmm, isn't it funny that in 2009 we didn't initially hear anything about the radical beliefs of the Fort Hood Shooter as a possible motive for his deadly acts of violence but rather and for the most part just repeated statements that the motive for the shootings was "unclear" (see http://abcnews.go.com/WN/fort-hood-shooting-army-doctor-leaves-12-dead/story?id=9007938).  This in spite of the heinous actions of U.S. army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan, later acknowledged to have been communicating with radical Muslim Cleric and suspected 911 conspirator Anwar al-Awlaki and having a long history of holding pro-Islamic and rabidly anti-American sentiments, in opening fire on dozens of American soldiers preparing to depart for overseas duty on Nov. 5 2009, (for more info click here http://www.foxnews.com/us/2009/11/12/hasan-called-soldier-allah-business-cards/, here http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/hasan-multiple-mail-accounts-officials/story?id=9065692 , and here http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2009/1118/p02s07-usgn.html).  Examination of such double standards by those in the mainstream media will however have to wait for another day as they are, alas, considerably off topic here, (though  you can consider it a whetting of the appetite for a future post :)   

Nevertheless, and so typical of this vein of thought (attack?) so reminiscent of the political left's use of the politics of personal destruction utilized in employing the logical fallacies of guilt by assocation and ad hominem attack in editorials from the New York Times to the Washington Post from the very beginnings of this case which repeated the same familiar refrain.   Though I'm sure you know it if you are at all politically aware of have listened to (or read) any news media at all in the last 20 years, it usually goes something like this: "Political conservatives, due to their [implied] bigotry and 'hate filled' and 'divisive' rhetoric espousing distrust of big government and daring to question the wisdom of the ever-increasing expansion of the Federal government's power over society in the name of public safety, terrorism, 'internet neutrality' or ___________, (fill in the blank), are somehow to blame for this senseless act of violence and need to be restrained (and/or 'shamed') into silence."  

While unclear just how those who espouse such alleged "hate filled" and "divisive" speech should be lawfully restrained, (as to do so would clearly violate the First Amendment of the Constitution which guarantees Freedom of Speech, and in particular freedom of political speech which the Founders found sancrosanct, see Federalist number    ), tragedies like this inevitably provoke such emotional, knee-jerk reactions and rhetoric which, at least in our view, are neither accurate nor particularly helpful in what should properly be a time of national mourning and healing.   

Therefore, while our hearts and prayers go out to Congresswomen Gifffords and indeed all the victims of this senseless tragedy, (which also included a nine year old girl and a Federal judge), we feel obliged to at least attempt a sane and reasoned response to such flourishes of blame in the hopes it might provide a more rational basis for public discourse and reaction on the part of public officials and all who hope to contribute something of value in the aftermath of this terrible national tragedy.    

First of all, while the accusations of divisive "hate filled" speech by those on the political center-right we feel is way overblown, it is demonstratively false that the political right has a corner on such rhetoric, (comparisons of George W. Bush to Adolph Hitler by Michael Moore and other celebrities and statements of liberal politicians in the 2000 elections and recent political debates, as well as claims that Republicans want people who are sick to "hurry up and die," (famously uttered by Congressmen Al Grayson of Florida), want to "make seniors choose between medicine and food" and want to deny health care to small children from poor families come to mind).  

Indeed, some of the easiest targets in the aftermath of the current crisis appeared to be Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachman, former Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, and Fox news in general, who were almost immediately blamed for somehow encouraging this despicable act of violence for everything from expressing a minority viewpoint to the common practice of using "cross-hair" diagrams in political literature to indicate states and/or Congressional districts to target in Congressional mid-term elections.  (In the case of this last it seems a particularly unfair attack when unions and the Democratic National Committee itself used similar "bulls eye" graphics in their literature for the same purpose!)  

As for Fox news, as a political junkie who gets his news from many different sources including regular doses of Morning Joe and C-span I had to wonder how many people might actually be blinded by such demagoguery without ever having seen one Fox News program for themselves but just believing such seemingly "authoritative" and "factual" statements.   

Or have we truly fallen so far in our country where we can no longer tolerate different perspectives and can so prejudge someone (or a whole tv network!) that we refuse to even first listen to anyone or anything we might think we won't agree with in the self-aggrandizing quest for our own perspective to be validated? Indee, are we that unsure of the truth of our own perspective that dissent is no longer tolerated and we can no longer be open to merely listening to those we disagree with?  How different from admittedly one of the most conservative television hosts on Fox news today, Sean Hannity, regularly hosting Democratic analyst Bob Beckel on his nightly prime time show "Hannity," (and believe it or not actually agreeing with him on the damage such displays of partisanship cause to the social fabric of our democratic republic, as he did this very evening; indeed, Democratic analysts are regularly offered in the interest of balance on that "right wing" network, must be some kind of "conspiracy"! lol)  How sad that such persons, maybe some even dear family or friends, might so distrust their own selves that they might substitute their own judgment for that of "experts" like Paul Krugman of the New York Times or Katie Curic without ever questioning what they are told to believe about public events and without ever once giving the "other side" a chance to explain how they see things?   (Such is not "news" but propaganda, but alas, such is the state of affairs in our increasingly weak "fourth branch of government" in our body politic today... But I digress...).  In any event the progressive left, aided by the mainstream media in this case has certainly seemed to play fast and loose with the facts in their rush to tar and feather their political opponents and take advantage of this tragedy to score "political points" and push their own biases and world view, (no matter how dispicable doing so is to the memory of the dead from this tragedy who aren't even buried yet, and regardless of the actual facts).  Facts, "what facts?" you may ask.

Facts like that shooter Jared Loughner, and the person arrested for this heinous act, had a history of mentally questionable behavior for which he had been expelled from College; that he was politically actually more on the left side of the political scale, (see screen shot of his myspace profile here http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/01/suspected-giffords-shooter-leaves-internet-trail-video.php, citing one of his favorite books as "the Communist Manifesto"); believed in 911 conspiracy theories, (hardly a belief associated with conservatives); and that there exists no indication he committed these crimes for any overt political purpose

 Indeed, such evidence is compelling, if inconvenient, evidence that conservative "hate speech" didn't have anything to do with Mr. Loughner's actions in shooting 19 people in rapid succession outside a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Arizona.  (Of course, why bother with the evidence when you can, in the words of Rahm Emanuel, former Chief of Staff to the present Administration, "never let a crisis go to waste."  Indeed, the speed and glee with which the left seemed to make their politically-charged accusations at a time when the nation should rather be focused on coming together in mourning and assistance for the victims in this tragedy is truly sickening).

Nor has the political left in this country wasted any time in making renewed calls for stricter "gun control" or making it a federal crime to make "statements that could be perceived as a threat" to any federal public official or member of Congress, (a sweeping expansion of law that for its sheer vagueness could have a chilling effect on public speech and political discourse across the political spectrum in this country).  Unbelievably, all such calls have been made in spite of the fact that there exists at present absolutely no evidence that any such laws would have made a difference in this case.

In fact, while perhaps further investigation may reveal otherwise, at present all available evidence indications that rather than "divisive" conservative "hate speech" or lax gun laws being the cause of this terrible event, to the contrary it was caused by a complete failure in the mental health system in the State of Arizona, (which under the law in Arizona in such circumstances allows for just such people as Mr. Loughner to receive free mental health treatment, if necessary involuntarily).  

Indeed, in spite of warnings by professors and others who came into daily contact with Mr. Loughner of erratic and bizarre behavior, (of which there were at least half a dozen public incidents), he was somehow apparently never referred for followup by appropriate public health officials for imposition of involuntary mental health treatment, (clearly warranted here).  

Buy why bother with the facts when to do otherwise can be used to help your own political agenda? 

Indeed, if anything it is such crass political calculations as this in the face of such a terrible national tragedy that fuels the anger of ordinary citizens and movements such as the Tea Party which was so effective for Republicans in the recent Mid-term elections.  One wonders if any on the left are listening or able to put healing of the victims ahead of their own political goals and interests.    For the good of the nation we at the ACLP certainly hope so.   jp

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