This tragedy has prompted not reflection but just another round of sparring. Some liberals quick to point the finger are linking 22-year-old shooter Jared Loughner to the Tea Party—showing the same lack of restraint and tendency to demonize their ideological opponents that they accuse the right of having. Some conservatives, meanwhile, were more concerned with the political consequences of this tragedy than with the possible impact of their rhetoric.
I'M JUST spitballin' here, mind you, but here's something we haven't tried: not writing paragraphs like that one any more.
Some did this (somewhere), Some did that; when will They stop? It's the pundit version of the Celery Diet: it takes more energy to chew the thing than you'll ever get out of it.
But we're not after weight loss, we're after nutrition. (Okay, it's Slate, so I really have no idea. Perhaps Dickerson is employing some subtle, Double-Reverse-With-Half-Twist-Special-Contrarian/Non-Contrarianism designed to make us think he's trotting out some standard Faux Balance bullshit when his real purpose is to trot out some standard Faux Balance bullshit.) What in the world does What Some Said have to do with anything? It's like saying "Oh, of course Slate would put the shooting on its front page".
Did Some immediately "blame the Teabaggers"? Of course. Were they justified in doing so? To an extent; after a fashion. Does this constitute a hypocritical "demonizing their ideological opponents and failure to show restraint"? Did you invite a divorce lawyer to write your column? At what point, ten or twenty or thirty years ago, when the self-perpetuating and self-fulfilling prophecy of this construction--not to mention its patent partisanship--was already evident, when the One Way signs had already been posted--Democrats who return Republican fire are Hypocrites; Republicans who open fire are "Republicans"--did it convince you anyway, Mr. Dickerson? When was it? When the Limousine Liberals desegregated the public schools but sent their own children to private academies? When the House Bank covered some overdrafts? When NOW refused to throw in with the Republican party just because a Democratic president got a blow job? When? Civility of discourse has gotten the Democratic party precisely what that Hands Across the Aisle shit got the newly-minted President Obama. Zero. This added obligation for Democrats--fight back, but do not use any tactic employed by your opponent--is there precisely for the perpetration of Faux Balance and Faux Equivalences. Fer chrissakes, the Clinton Rapid Response Team can hold its twentieth anniversary this year. The self-defense justification for such behavior goes back to the first Congressional campaign of Richard Milhous Nixon, and only because I'm too lazy mornings to consider digging up who said what about FDR. This shit stunk on ice when your nanny was still choosing your wardrobe, Mr. Dickerson.
Are Republicans justified in considering the political ramifications of the Giffords shooting? Yes. More so than "the possible impact of their rhetoric"? Shit, why should one bad Saturday ruin a life's work?
Look, because of the circumstances--Arizona, Democratic Congresswoman who fought off a Teabagger in November, "collateral damage", a weapon designed to kill humans, coupled with years of violent, insane, and insanely violent rhetoric--Republicans do have something to answer for. And this article is just one of many steps which are taken to make sure they won't have to confront anything substantive. Because, you know, Some Guy on the internets may be a hypocrite.
The idea that the left and right have both use violent images suggests a false equivalence. A few scattered examples from Democrats can't match the power of gun imagery on the right or the regular use of incendiary language about tyranny and insurrection. Politico's Jonathan Martin pointed out that Palin herself referred to the cross-hairs on her map as a "bull's-eye." But that doesn't mean Glen Beck or Palin are to blame for this shooting.
Well, now: that only took 550 words and six paragraphs to get to. Do let us know if at some point you decide that False Equivalences might have some negative effect on how we understand things. At this rate, two or three more decades and we might start making progress.
Perhaps the saving voice at this moment will come from a conservative who can make this distinction. Politico found a "senior Republican senator" who said, "There is a need for some reflection here—what is too far now?" What's admirable here is that this senator is willing to broach the idea that heated language on the right can be a problem without validating the idea that it caused the shooting. What's depressing is that this senator would not go on the record. It proves that the political penalty remains high for saying anything—not matter how obvious—that might inflame the armies of no restraint.
Then again, maybe "two or three decades" is a little optimistic. How in the hell can you report this as faint glimmer of hope when it's clearly precisely the problem? A colleague gets gunned down at a shopping mall and you can't find a single Republican who'll allow as how maybe there's some room for fucking reflection unless his name isn't used? Jesus Fucking Christ. I guess if we can get one to utter "semi-automatic Glock" in a darkened parking garage we'll be halfway home.
And the armies of no restraint? Well, there's this, y'know: Representative Giffords is pro-gun. And a Democrat. And she's admitted both, on the record, while you could see her face. There is no equivalency. It's an artifact of forty years of Nixonian complaints about the Librul Media, and the resultant decision by people in your profession, and your mother's profession, Mr. Dickerson, that from then on every issue would be split down the middle between "Conservative" and "Liberal", and that every position would be treated as equally valid, provided it could be ascribed to one side or the other. Subject, of course, to the vicissitudes of ratings, the demands of advertisers, and the whim of publishers and boards of directors, or the requirement that we all wave the flag during Republican wartime. It's gone on so long now that y'all don't seem to know how to analyze a position anymore except in terms of Pepsi vs. Coke. Mass-market journalism is now just the US Senate with advertising space. Then when things turn ineluctably to shit, and it looks like someone might actually be held accountable for it, you all are suddenly hungry for Restraint, for Civility, for Confronting the Issues and Real Compromise of the sort which, of course, doesn't require anyone to admit responsibility. Or give his name.