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Giffords Shooting is Life in the Era of Lock-and-Load Politics

Connecting the dots between extreme rhetoric and real-life violence isn't that hard

A sidewalk altar at the Safeway where Giffords and others were shot (Credit: Getty Images)
Saturday morning we saw one of the most tragic mass shootings in U.S. history. It was the first in U.S. history that was so obviously politically motivated. But the folks fueling this rage with rhetoric are still free, still infecting us with their vitriol and mainstream media is not asking Fox News, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck or any of the anti-immigrant right-wing to explain themselves. Though the mainstream media continues to tip-toe around it, the fact is Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the 40-year-old Arizona Democrat, was targeted for political reasons by a troubled and imbalanced young man with illogical anti-government feelings. Now, six people are dead, including a judge and a nine-year-old girl and Giffords is in critical condition. In all, 18 were shot. The gunman, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner is in custody. On Saturday afternoon Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik called Arizona "the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry." On Sunday, he elaborated upon that original statement, decrying increasingly divisive, discriminatory and anti-government political rhetoric for the violence. "I think that when the rhetoric about hatred, about mistrust of government, about paranoia of how government operates and to try to inflame the public on a daily basis, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, has impact on people especially who are unbalanced personalities to begin with." In his words, Arizona, has become the "the tombstone of the United States of America." Loughner, the alleged shooter, may have ties to American Renaissance -- a white supremacist, anti-immigrant hate group, according to a memo leaked by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Check out for yourself. I have personally been targeted by the site, receiving dozens of threatening emails when I have criticized Glenn Beck, etc. Those folks are unhinged to say the least.

Direct ties to political rhetoric

Back in May, Sarah Palin targeted, using gun sights, 10 Democrats she wanted to see lose reelection on her facebook page. Giffords was one of those Democrats. Giffords and the Judge who was killed were both vocal opponents of Arizona’s anti-immigration law. Back during the health reform debate hers was one of the offices vandalized. The judge, John Roll, had been receiving police protection due to ongoing death threats due to the fact that he recently presided over a controversial immigration case. Giffords herself had previously expressed concern about swastikas appearing in rallies. Click here for a tragic and sadly ironic video where the tea partyers mock Giffords for being concerned about the appearance of swastikas at a recent rally. In a very strange YouTube video, Loughner wrote: “We need a drum roll for those front runners in the election; those illegal teachers, pigs, and politicians of yours are under illegal authority of their constitution. Those dirty pigs think they know the damn year. Thirdly, tell them [email protected]#^%$#@ to count from 0 to whenever they feel a threat to stop their count…” “Those illegal military personal are able to sign into a country that they can't find with an impossible date! How did you trust your child with them fraud teachers and front runners, listener? Did you now know that the teachers, pigs, and front runners are treasonous!” Then, in another video, he accused the government of imposing "mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar." "You don't have to accept the [SIC] federalist laws…A terrorist is a person who employs terror or terrorism, especially as a political weapon. If you call me a terrorist then the argument to call me a terrorist is Ad hominem." Palin, Speaker of the House John Boehner and Sen. John Mccain have all expressed their condolences. But it was just last week that Boehner dismissed the birther heckling with in his own Republican caucus about the President’s citizenship. It was just earlier this week thatMccain, the new anti-immigrant tea-party-light Mccain, said immigrants need to be dealt with before the country addresses reforms. “Close the borders” before considering immigration reform policies, he said. Glenn Beck, of course, has built a media empire off this anti-government, nihilistic rhetoric. He and Palin are literally encouraging these imbalanced and violent people to take action. In her own words, I present you with Sarah Palin. “Is this what their ‘change’ is all about? I want to tell ‘em, nah, we’ll keep clinging to our Constitution and our guns and religion — and you can keep the change,” Palin said. “It’s not time to retreat, it’s time to reload.”

Lone gunman + vitriolic rhetoric = human tragedy

This is not the first time that a target of the right has been assaulted. It’s not the first example of how this “lock-and-load” political environment has resulted in human tragedy. But it’s definitely the worse case we have seen so far. Will Fox News finally get a clue and dial down their rhetoric? I doubt it. In fact, after Dr. George Tiller was assassinated in his place of worship after months of being targeted on national television by Bill O’Reilly as "Tiller, Tiller, the baby killer," Fox News lashed out at anyone who tried to make a connection between their words and other people’s actions. Will our elected representatives be shamed into dialing it down themselves? I should hope so. Or at least I would hope that America wises up and vote them out next time around. 18 shot. At least 6 dead, including a judge and a nine-year-old girl. 10 others wounded. Five critically wounded. Below are some other cases to consider: Click herefor this commentary and additional videos illustrating how the right wing expertly escapes responsibility for the violent actions taken in response to their rhetoric: