Ever tried discussing chess strategies with an iguana? Me neither, but I imagine it’d be frustrating. I see myself saying something about the defensive merits of castling. I then imagine the iguana licking its eyeballs, eating a few flies, and crapping all over its cage floor. When I try getting the iguana to stop crapping and eye-licking, and to focus on the issue at hand, I then imagine him emitting a loud and angry BRAWK! to silence me.*
Like I said, frustrating.
So why does the current debate over the AZ shootings put me in this frame of mind? Is it one side’s seeming inability or unwillingness to engage the facts and evidence? Do they just want to score political points, and so engage in an obnoxious and toxic display of faux outrage? Can they even help themselves, or is crapping all over the floor and screeching their basic response to any horrible situation, a ready-made “answer” regardless of the “question?”
Before pondering that, let’s get some basic Joe Friday stuff out of the way. Here, as I understand it, is the fact pattern in the case:
- At a community event in Tucson, a man shoots many people, killing six. Among the injured, a US Congresswoman, and among the dead, a nine-year-old girl and a federal judge.
- Nothing is known of the shooter or his motives; for a while, his name is unknown. Nonetheless, within hours, a significant portion of the left side of the blogosphere and elements within the mainstream media (e.g., NYT op-ed columnist Paul Krugman) lay the blame variously upon (a) Sarah Palin and a political map (b) the Tea Party movement, in general, (c) conservatives and/or Republicans, in general. Even the Pima County Sherriff engages in such speculation, defending it as simply “his opinion” when pressed in an interview to describe any evidence or proof he may possess.
- Significant figures on the right side of the blogosphere and a number of conservative pundits react angrily and incredulously to the accusations. The “argument” such as it is, seems to split into two overlapping issues:
- Issue 1: Both sides dredge up lots and lots of examples of “excessive” political rhetoric on the other side – rhetoric largely (but not exclusively) containing guns or military imagery / expressions.
- Issue 2: The left continues to insist that right-side “excess” is to blame, whereas conservatives insist that there is zero evidence of the shooter (now identified as Jared Loughner) being influenced by any discernable ideology as we understand left-right political divisions. Conservative anger is likely higher at this stage, owing to the feeling that they or people identified with them are being smeared solely for political gain.
- Pieces of evidence regarding Loughner begin to emerge. While no consistent pattern can be identified, at this stage it appears: (1) He was very mentally disturbed, (2) He was a 9-11 “truther,” (3) He seemed to have a bizarre fixation on Congresswoman Giffords, perhaps as far back as 2007, (4) He was a self-proclaimed atheist, with a skull shrine in his back yard, (5) He also seemed obsessed with currency and language as means of social control, and ranted about mind control and “conscience dreaming,” and put together really clumsy syllogisms.
So there you have it. Charges have been filed, undoubtedly more evidence will filter through.
So for the love of Zod – why, in the absence of any evidence, did the Left begin promulgating a hateful smear, a blood libel if you will, that responsibility for Loughner lay with their political opponents? Is there a single scrap of evidence that Loughner was influenced by Palin, maps with crosshairs, Tea Party slogans, right-wing talk show hosts, conservative politicians, etc? Is there any evidence he was influenced by much of anything beyond the sick little voices in his head?
Don’t strain yourself, I’ve got these: Because they thought they could get away with it. No. And, uh, no again.
“Doesn’t matter,” huff the self-serving self-righteous ones, furiously licking their eyes and evacuating their bowels: “all this political hate you right-wingers spew is too much. It’s gonna send someone over the edge.”
Hmm. Complete non-sequitur. But OK then, related questions:
Is there any evidence (there’s that word again!) that historically speaking, our political rhetoric is in fact “worse than ever?” Even if so, isn’t it easy enough to show with a minimum of effort that both political sides have a lot of what is now being characterized as “excessive political rhetoric?” Has the right produced any Obama assassination porn, or hung politicians in effigy, or come close to closing the “giant puppet with drippy blood fangs” gap? Given Loughner’s views, isn’t it as likely he’d have been influenced by far-leftist messages, assuming there was any evidence of that either?
I’ll handle these as well: No. Yes. Nope. Yup.
“BRAWK!!!” quoth the iguana.
In actuality, of course, the situation is worse than debating chess strategies with an iguana. The iguana has no malice in it, it simply is what it is, and cannot be otherwise.
But you, my blood-libeling leftists drooling to score political points regardless of the collateral damage to the truth, decency or the political civility you occasionally claim to crave, you DO have a choice. You can choose to spread lies and unsubstantiated filth in an effort to cash in on an act of terror committed by a lunatic before the bodies are cold. Alternately, you can choose to exercise the forbearance and decency you consistently urge others to display. Either way, you’re not an iguana, and so enjoy no protection from the dismissive scorn and contempt you will have earned from making the wrong choice.
The choice is yours, but hurry up and decide. Someone’s got to clean up this cage.
*To be fair, I have no idea if this is how angry iguanas sound, but why suspend your disbelief on that small point?