Tuesday, January 11, 2011

On denying the connection between words and violence

The selling words of advertisements create action all day, every day. Our society runs on ads and other forms of propaganda. So, saying that heated political rhetoric didn't play a part in what drove a crazy man to commit violent crimes, just because no connection can be proven, is absurd.

Fifty years ago in the Deep South no decent person could deny the connection between heated political rhetoric and targeted violence. (The photo is of Alabama's angry-talking then-Gov. George Wallace.) At the Facing South web site Chris Kromm writes:
The tragic Arizona shootings that left six dead and others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) critically wounded, have sparked debate over an important question: What's the connection between violent political rhetoric and real violence? It's not a new debate, especially in the South, where the bloody civil rights era forced Southerners and the nation to confront how extremist and violent political messages can have deadly results.
To read the entire piece, "Do violent words cause violence?" which is short, timely and worthwhile, click here.

Still, it's probably a waste of time to try to make sense of the senseless actions of a person utterly detached from the concerns of morality and self interest that restrain most of us from shooting our elected representatives. It looks like that's the sort of person we have in this case. Time may prove different.

But if I'm right about him, our frustration with understanding the thinking of the Glock-wielding Arizona shooter is unlikely to go away. After all, we can only guess at his motives, because there's really no reason to believe anything he says. It isn't likely to do him much good to tell the truth ... if he knows it.

So partisans trying to game this tragedy might as well give up trying to find clues to his ideology. But trying to backpedal and say that dangerous words uttered by leaders don't sometimes lead to mayhem is ignoring history. We Southerners know better.


J. Tyler Ballance said...

If you examine the Cho shootings and the Loughner shootings, a common thread is that both were ostracized by their college teachers.

While nobody can say what actions might have changed the course away from murder taken by these two men, we should carefully examine the way in which people are treated by schools and colleges, merely because they look, or act in a way that the leftist professors (based on national surveys nearly all are on the political left) find disturbing.

Cho's dark writings, if channeled constructively, could have led him to become the next Stephen King, but instead he was ostracized and made to lose face before his peers.

Loughner's in-class rants against "big brother" could have been turned into teaching moments, that showed how sound logic and mathematical principles could be used to illuminate his conspiracy theories, and how citizens might plan for economic or natural disasters. Instead of engaging him, his teacher fanned the flames of his likely paranoia, by sending police to his home and banning him from campus.

Instead of becoming a society of, "You can't say that!" we should learn from this episode that engagement in constructive discourse is the best possible route to take.

While there will be cases of behavior that becomes increasingly paranoid, and then require treatment, we should not be quick to confer the power to deem others to be in need of treatment; especially when the power will be wielded by the already, political correctness worshiping Left on our college faculties.

Just an aside, I previously alluded to massive prescription drug abuse by government and politicians in D.C. That was not hyperbole. In a previous position that I held, I had to review the medical records of a large cross section of government workers. The rare exception was the worker who was not on some form of Zoloft, or other calming prescription. Many were on Ritalin, Aderol, and Zoloft, so they had both uppers and downers, all conveniently prescribed and paid for, by their federally funded health care plan.

At one federal office that I briefly managed, all but three of the staff were on some form of regular medication.

While there have been news articles previously published regarding the widespread abuse of prescription drugs in America, based on my observation, D.C. has to be one of the most medicated regions.

It is no longer satire to describe the people inside the Beltway as nuts. Based on what I observed, personnel in the middle to senior levels of our government, are disproportionally habitually on various stimulant or calming prescription medications.

mz said...

I can't attribute the quotation, but I remember it going something like this: "Tell me where the people are headed, so I can lead them there." Angry, defeated Southerners didn't need politicians to give them the idea of behaving violently towards Blacks and Northerners; it was violent acts in the news that gave attentive politicians something to run with. Does the public echo chamber then amplify and, in some sick minds, justify murder? Yes, and the repeaters are therefore partly responsible.

You can see why some non-violent civil rights leaders were made very nervous by Malcolm X's call to achieve goals "by any means necessary." Was Malcolm X (then dead) in some way responsible for (or at least tainted by) urban riots and the ensuing deaths in 1967 and 68? A little, yes, probably. He called for it, right? Would the fires have been set with or without Malcolm X? Yes, probably.

Of course, no one yet knows and we may never know with certainty what set off the AZ shooter. Historically, I'm inclined to believe Reagan would have been shot with or without Martin Scorcese's movie, Colombine would have happened with or without heavy metal music, and the Giffords assassination attempt didn't require Sarah Palin's map. And I'm saddened by how quickly the event deteriorated into partisan sniping and defensiveness.
(By the way, "sniping," like "targeting," is a metaphor, people. No one in their right mind takes it literally, and the right minded can't logically be held responsible for the what diseased minds think.)

The public policy part that most angers me is this: how many of the dead and wounded were victims of an extra large gun clip that was illegal between 1994 and 2004, and illegal by way of legislation that most Americans and even most gun owners supported? The ban's expiration was championed by Tom Delay as a means of extreme right wing differentiation. ("Hey, NRA, who loves ya more than me? Gimme money!") Who in Tucson died from the last bullets sprayed before the gunman was tackled? You know, the 17th, 18th, or 19th bullet? Was it that little girl? If so, some of her blood is on Tom Delay's hands.

F.T. Rea said...

We are all being pushed and pulled by a chorus of voices. Did television or video games make the already crazy man a shooter? The Internet? Was it a humiliating rejection? Did his parents have any role in bending his mind? Were there some words of celebrities also rattling around in his head? Did his dog tell him to do it?

Pretending that people do things, even strange thing, for a single reason doesn't get us closer to the truth.

For good reasons, laws against inciting a riot have been around a long time.