A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Conservatives Strike Back

In the hours immediately following the Tucson massacre on January 8, the media and pundits pounced on a few high profile examples of questionable political rhetoric, which the critics claimed could have prodded the killer to do his deed. The critics were, by and large, liberals and Democrats. The target — no pun intended - of their criticisms were, by and large, conservatives and Republicans. In the ensuing week, the conservative right rose in righteous indignation stating that their rhetoric did not in any way encourage any violent acts anywhere.

The end result of their protest — lenient treatment of the killer - may not be what the conservatives had in mind.

The most prominent voices protesting came, as expected, from the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin. Limbaugh, who has made millions over the years ascribing to the old saying “If you can’t say anything nice, then say it on talk radio”, stated that there was no evidence that talk radio prompted the killer to do his deed. While he may be correct about no evidence found (yet), Limbaugh is too quick to dismiss the power of his medium. Perhaps he is being modest if he believes that his words don’t encourage his listeners to action. He cannot deny that his program has not influenced many Americans to vote a certain way in the voting booth, or voice their mutual right-wing conservative views at political meetings.

Sarah Palin released her rebuttal to criticisms about the map on her blog — complete with cross-hair targets — on the day of a public memorial service in Tucson. Palin’s camp denied that the intention of the map was to incite violence, but rather to highlight the Democratic House races in the country most vulnerable to Tea Party victories. The cross-hair symbols were not targets — obviously shooting victim Representative Gabrielle Gifford was wrong when she used this term in a televised interview about the map — but rather surveyor’s symbols.

Of course! Why would I and millions of other Americans not recognize the designations as surveyor’s symbols? Probably because I and millions of other Americans are not surveyors!

Palin’s video statement raised another controversy, and frankly her ability to put her foot in her own mouth is one reason why we liberals love her so much. She described the criticisms of venomous political rhetoric as “blood libel”, resurrecting the widely condemned and disputed ancient belief that Jews killed Christian children to use their blood for religious purposes. Yayyy, Sarah! Way to pour gasoline on the fire!

Palin and other commentators (Charles Krauthammer, for example) dismissed the idea that the overheated political rhetoric caused this “deranged” individual to kill the people in Tucson. Now all of a sudden the conservatives are rushing to pronounce the sanity of the killer before he has his day in court! This is such a wonderful gift for the killer’s defense team. They should have no problem now convincing a jury that he should not get the death penalty! In another rant, Limbaugh voiced the notion that the killer was confident he would get off easy because he had the full support of the Democratic (read: liberal) Party. Hey, Rush, listen to Palin and Krauthammer. With friends like these, the killer doesn’t need the Democrats!

On the other side of the aisle, two prominent voices chose to err on the side of caution. Keith Olbermann was one of the original critics of the hypercharged political rhetorical environment, but he went a step further: he apologized for any statements he may have ever made on his program that could be construed as leading to acts of violence. Now there is a class act! Similarly, Fox News President Roger Ailes — a highly revered figure within the conservative right media — actually instructed his people to tone down their rhetoric! Imagine that!

No such class can be found with Limbaugh and Palin, who are obviously getting a better night’s rest now that they relieved their consciences of any possible guilt with their defensive strategy. Instead of acknowledging the possibility — however remote — that their words and actions might have encouraged the killer, they act like they are the victims. Actions may speak louder than words, but words do matter!

Words like “a day which will live in infamy” encouraged many young Americans to go forth from their comfortable homes to fight against fascism and protect global democracy. Words like “ask not what your country can do for you” likewise prodded the next generation of Americans to promote the wonderful ideals of democracy. A few years later, the words “I have a dream” comforted many Americans that justice within our democracy would thrive and triumph. If words can have such a positive effect, then the possibility certainly exists that they can also have an adverse effect on all of us.

We could not take the killer's gun away before it was too late thanks to the Second Amendment. We could not prevent him from raising hell in the community college from which he was expelled thanks to the First Amendment. None of us has the advanced intelligence to determine which one of the millions of mentally ill Americans will be the next one to pick up a gun for violent purposes. The most viable solution to preventing future tragedies as transpired in Tucson is something we can all do: watch what we say and cool our tempers. Yet we can’t even agree on this simple solution.

Ponder these words Rush, Sarah, and Charles. And, oh yes, sleep tight!

(Thank you for reading. Please remember the wise words found in the TV series Hill Street Blues “Hey! Let’s be careful out there!”)


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